Title: Empire State of Mind
Disclaimer: Twilight and all of its characters and situations belong to Stephanie Meyer; if they were mine they would be having a lot more….fun. I own nothing and am making nothing off of this piece. All songs belong to their respective artists.
Summary: Who knew a trip to New York City could be so life changing? AU/AH/non cannon.
Submitted for the 100 Pictures—An Anon Fanfic Competition
Please check out the other entries here: http:/www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/community/100_Pictures_An_Anon_Fanfic_Competition_Entries/83603/
I took a deep breath of the fresh, cool air, inhaling the slight saltiness and sighing softly. This trip was Charlie's way of placating me. He had been out at the reservation almost non-stop for the last few months, leaving me home alone. That wasn't such a big deal to me since I preferred it that way.
The class trip to New York was supposed to be educational. Ha! I knew for a fact most of my peers were only interested in hooking up and getting trashed. That wasn't exactly my scene. The ferry out to the Statue of Liberty seemed like the lesser of two evils compared to a walk around Times Square and a tour of the NBC studios.
Leaning against the front of the ferry, I closed my eyes and tilted forward as far as I could. I enjoyed the feel of the wind whipping through my long, dark hair. Being there I could lose myself, no thoughts, no worries just me, the wind and the water. That is, until the voice cut through my peace and quiet.
"Don't lean too far forward there, sweetheart. We wouldn't want a cute thing like you falling over now."
I turned around to face the direction the voice had come from and had to fight the urge to roll my eyes at the two meat heads leaning against the hood of gold 1989 Lincoln Town Car.
"A cute little thing likes me, huh?" My voice had an edge of tension. I wasn't in the mood for any bullshit today.
"That's right, sweetie," the taller of the two goons said. He pushed himself up off the car and headed in my direction, not so suavely raking his eyes
over my form. "Do you have a name there, girlie?"
"Marie," I lied. There was no way in hell I was telling this sleaze my real name.
"Well, hello, Miss Marie," he said with a leer. I bit back a grimace, looking around quickly to see if there was any easy way out of this predicament.
"Goodbye," I stated coldly as I slid by him quickly, heading for the inside waiting room.
"Where you going Marie? We're not done here," the second guy, who closely resembled a cross between a hobbit and David the Gnome said, stepping in front of me. Shit.
"I was, ah, I just..." I glanced around looking for any way to get out of there.
"There you are, darlin'," a strong, soft voice drawled from behind me and I felt strong arms encircle my waist.
My senses were overwhelmed by the smell of cigarette smoke and sage, and I stood ramrod straight, desperate not to touch the unknown man behind me.
"Relax chere," the new stranger whispered into my ear, and I obeyed. I relaxed into his comforting embrace, grateful he had taken pity on me. "I've been looking for you," he said as his strong arms tightened around my waist quickly before letting me go and grabbing my hand.
I gave a quick wave to Sleazy and the hobbit before following my rescuer inside.
"Ah, thanks," I stuttered once I was seated on the hard, cold, plastic bench.
"Don't mention it darlin'," my new friend said.
He turned to face me for the first time, and I felt the heat rise in my cheeks. Good God he was beautiful. Thick, wavy, blond hair, topped off by a grey fedora, hung down to his collar, a cigarette tucked behind his ear. His sparkling, hazel eyes gleamed at me and his full lips were twisted into a slight smirk. My eyes took in his weathered leather jacket, white t-shirt, beat up jeans and scuffed black converse that matched my own. Jesus Christ on a Popsicle! The only thing missing was suspenders and I'd be in a puddle on the floor.
"Hello?" he gave me a knowing smirk. I had obviously been caught staring, and my cheeks grew redder.
"I'm sorry what?" I shook my head a bit, trying to regain some composure.
"I asked you your name darlin'. Twice," he smiled. His hazel eyes twinkled as they met my brown ones, and I felt myself warm even more and I felt the warmth in my cheeks spreading again.
"I, I'm Isabella. Bella, that is. Bella Swan." Fuck. I was stuttering again. I reached out with a slightly shaking hand.
"Isabella, is it? Well, Miss Isabella, pleased to meet you. I'm Jasper, Jasper Whitlock." His words had a drawl, and I felt my knees weaken a bit.
Jasper Whitlock. I was in deep trouble.
"Likewise," I stated, forcing myself to keep my voice stable and dropping his warm, rough hand. "Um, thanks for your help out there. I wasn't sure..."
"No thanks necessary, ma'am," he interrupted, slightly tipping his hat. "Glad I could be of service. So, Miss Isabella," my knees quivered slightly at the
phrase, "what brings you to New York?"
"My father is trying to make up for never being around by sending me away," my tone was even, there was no reason to sound upset because I wasn't. "It's my senior trip," I clarified.
"Same here," my companion replied. "I'm glad I'm here - it's significantly cooler than Galveston." He tipped his head out toward the grey, overcast skies and slight drizzle.
"I can imagine. It's actually just like this at home. I'm from Forks, Washington," I said. I could feel Jasper watching me as I pushed my black hood off my head and ran my fingers through my dark, windblown tresses.
"Do you like it there?" His voice held genuine interest, and I bit back my surprise.
"I do, actually. It's a small town, nothing much happens there. It's quiet, and it suits me." I tried to hold back a smile at the memory of my lifelong home.
"Must be nice. I've lived all over. My family has been in Galveston the longest, though. I suppose you could say it's the closest I've had to a home." There was a hint of sadness in his eyes as he spoke, and he smiled at me. "So what did you do to earn the attention of New York's finest out there?" He asked, gesturing to David and Sleazy sitting in the drizzle on the Town Car.
"I have no idea," I replied honestly. "I seem to have a knack for finding trouble," I shrugged indifferently.
Jasper laughed loudly, and I caught my breath. The sound was surprisingly musical. I enjoyed it, and smiled at him.
"That seems like a bit of an understatement there darlin'."
A mischievous twinkle had returned to his eyes and I had to force myself to look away from him.
"It just may be," I stated simply, "It just may be."
Glancing back out, I saw that we had nearly approached our destination, and the boat was beginning to dock as the rain picked up.
"Should we go?" I waited for his response, but he was looking at me quizzically. "What? Is there something in my hair?" I raked my hands through the damp strands again, mentally cursing their length and heft.
"Here," he pulled his fedora off and plopped it on my head at an angle. I opened my mouth to protest but he interrupted, "Trust me, chere; you'll need it more than I will." He winked at me and grinned.
"Well, thank you," I said, internally kicking myself at the stupidity of the phrase, and quickly plaited my hair tucking the mess of it below the hat.
"Shall we, chere?" Jasper stood at the door, holding it open for me, and grinning.
"I think we shall," I grinned and headed back onto the deck, Jasper following close behind.
"So, Miss Isabella, what's your favorite song?" The question came out of the blue as Jasper and I sat, once again, on the hard orange benches on the ferry ride back after leaving the Statue of Liberty.
"My favorite song?" I parroted, taken aback slightly. "Ah...hmmm. That's a good one." I racked my brain and could not think of the answer. I had always loved music of all kinds, and to pick my favorite would be quite a chore. "Can I have some time to think about that one?" I asked shyly.
"Of course," Jasper replied with a grin. "Mine? Dy'er Maker, no contest."
"Really?" I was surprised. "Led zeppelin? I figured you for more of a country boy."
Jasper smiled at me, "Now, now, it's not nice to judge a book by its cover," he teased and, once again, I felt the heat rise into my cheeks.
"I wasn't...I just..." Dammit! I was stuttering again. Fuck all.
My embarrassment was met by deep, throaty laughter. "Oh, darlin', you are adorable," he winked, and I couldn't help but smile back at him.
"Can I give you a top five?"
"Of course, let's hear it," he said, settling himself into the chair and looking at me intently.
"Piece of my Heart, Hey, Jupiter, Sweet Jane – Lou Reed not Cowboy Junkies, the Darling Nikki cover by Foo Fighters, and Closer. That's my top five, for right now anyway," I smiled, satisfied with my answers.
He let out a low whistle, "Janis Joplin, Tori Amos, Lou Reed, Foo Fighters and Nine Inch Nails. I must say, I'm surprised, my dear."
"Why?" I fought to keep the surprise out of my voice that he had pegged all five artists.
"That is an eclectic, and great, list, but I'll be honest, I was expecting something a little more...current," he challenged.
"Please," I scoffed. "I wouldn't listen to seventy five percent of the crap on the radio today." I was blunt, but my opinions on music were strong; I was very passionate about it. I was lost if I were ever without my iPod.
"Explain, love," Jasper encouraged, his eyes sparkling.
"Explain what? My choices?" He nodded slightly, his blond waves falling forward over his eyes. My hands itched to tuck them behind my ears, but I reluctantly controlled myself and began justifying my answers
"My mom, Renee," I began, "she was a...free spirit. Saturday mornings in my house growing up were cleaning days," I smiled at the memory. "Renee would put in Janis Joplin's greatest hits, and we'd get to business. I always cleaned the kitchen while she'd start in the living room. By the time we got to Piece of My Heart, I'd be doing the dishes as she swept. She always sang into the top of the broom. She'd loose the dustpan, every time! Something about Janis's voice, it's so pure and real," I had gotten lost in the memory and started to babble. "Sorry-I'm rambling."
"No, please continue, I like hearing you talk."
"Ah- okay. Hey Jupiter...um...it really hit home for me. I've always felt kind of...lost and that song seemed so real to me, all of Tori Amos' stuff does actually. She is so talented. Anyone who can play two pianos at once is amazing, not to mention the depth of her lyrics." Jasper was watching me intently, nodding slightly. "Sweet Jane? Who can argue with Lou Reed? His voice is amazing; he was so ahead of his time, almost haunting. My dad, Charlie, loves him. It's kind of amusing. Let's see...Darling Nikki, the song itself is so ahead of its time and so charged. Don't get me wrong, I love Prince, but the Foo Fighters cover, the rawness of the guitars...unreal." My eyes were closed and I could hear the music in my head.
"Very true, darlin'." his husky voice cut through my thoughts, and my eyes popped open.
"Sorry, I get a little lost sometimes." I gave him a small smile.
"No apologies necessary. So what about Closer?" he teased with a wink.
"It's Nine Inch Nails," I stated simply. "The beat, Trent Reznor's voice, God, the lyrics - it's the total package. I mean, the song is pure sex," I grinned at him, very surprised to see his eyes widen slightly.
"Well, you're right about that," he mumbled.
The boat docked, and as we meandered onto solid ground, my clumsiness got the better of me. I tripped over a loose stone in the sidewalk and careened towards the ground.
"Fuck," I muttered, squeezing my eyes shut in preparation for the inevitable collision with the ground. Instead, I felt Jasper's very strong arms wrap around my waist and pull me back until I was flush against his very hard, very warm body. I watched the fedora tumble off my head and felt my hair cascade down about both our shoulders.
"Whoa there darlin'," Jasper's voice was soft in my ear, and I could feel the warmth of his breath on my neck causing me to tense immediately, my spine going ramrod straight.
Oh bloody hell. I bit back a moan. My scheming hormones will not get the better of me. I could feel him smile against my hair and chuckle.
"Ah-I- thanks," I sputtered.
God, you're a stupid girl.
"Of course, Bella, I wouldn't have let you fall, no worries." His arms tightened as he spoke, and I sighed slightly, relaxing against him. "You alright there?" He asked, his voice husky and his drawl more pronounced, as a hand snaked down to rest against my hip.
"Y-yes, I'm fi-,"
"Bella!" my words were cut off by a tinkling voice calling my name. Alice. Shit she had terrible timing. I shook my head slightly and turned to face her, as did Jasper. I smiled as I saw my petite friend stop in her tracks and take in the scene in front of her - me, clumsy little Bella, being held up by, not to mention against, a tall, blond, gorgeous man. Alice's eyes sparkled, and a smile graced her red painted lips. I swear her little elfin face lit up with excitement. Fucking Alice. I could feel the heat rising into my cheeks again as she fluttered over to us.
"Sorry," I muttered to Jasper, squirming slightly to release myself from his grip. I heard a low moan in his chest and froze.
"Sorry darlin,'" he muttered, his voice low and sweet in my ear, squeezing me tighter quickly before loosening his grip and allowing me to step out of his warm embrace.
I frowned slightly at the loss of warmth before I was hit by a tiny torpedo loaded with shopping bags causing me to stumble back slightly, Jasper's hands grasping my waist firmly to keep me from toppling into him again.
"You have a lot to tell me, Bella," Alice's words were whispered into my ear, before pulling back and smiling brightly up at Jasper who stood a good foot taller than her. "Hello," she grinned, thrusting her hand out, "I'm Alice Brandon, Bella's best friend. And you are?"
"I'm Jasper Whitlock ma'am," he grinned at her before taking her tiny had, and fuck all if I didn't swoon
"Well, Jasper Whitlock, aren't you a gentleman," she winked at me. "Although, I am far too young to be a ma'am."
"Forgive me, southern manners," he released her hand and, glancing at me, winked. He was going to be the death of me.
"You're forgiven," her voice was playful. "So how do you know my Bella here?"
Alice linked her arm through mine and we meandered to a nearby bench, Jasper following just a pace behind. Alice pulled me down next to her, making sure to leave plenty of room on my other side the aggravating little pixie. Jasper sat next to me, barely brushing my leg with his.
"We met on the boat. I gave Bella a hand out of a difficult situation." Thank God he was good with words. I'd never hear the end of it if she heard the whole story. I was sure she'd drag it out of me in time, though. Alice shot her caramel eyes between the two of us suspiciously; she knew there was more to this story.
"Well, Jasper," Alice said, her voice tinkling with mischief, "Bella, our friend Edward and I are going out to dinner tonight, would you care to join us?" This girl was unbelievable!
He glanced over to me before responding. "I'd be pleased to, Miss Alice," he grinned his sexy half smirk at me.
Wait, sexy? What the fuck?
"If Bella doesn't mind that is," he directed his statement at me.
I shook myself out of my thoughts. "Of course not. That'd be nice," I managed to spit the sentence out without stuttering. Woo-fucking-hoo!
"Great!" Alice jumped up and pulled me to my feet. "Seven o'clock. Do you mind meeting us at our hotel?" her words tumbled out quickly.
"Seven is great, I can meet you there. Sheraton Hotel and Towers?" he questioned, casting a glance at me, as we had compared our accommodations on the boat.
"Yes indeed, sir." Alice grinned.
"Would you mind if I brought some friends? My cousin and sister are staying with me," Jasper gave a sheepish smile.
"No indeed! The more the merrier," Alice gave a sweet smile. "We need to get going- girl stuff you know!" Alice winked at him, and Jasper gave that damn sexy chuckle again.
"Of course," he smiled at her and looked over at me, cocking his head. I glanced at Alice and she gave me a small push towards him and, once again, I careened into him as his arms wrapped around my waist stabilizing me. I could feel my face flaming.
"We've got to stop meeting like this," he muttered into my ear, brushing my hair back off his shoulder. Before I could open my mouth, he placed his fedora on my head, and said, "It looks better on you." He picked up my hand and scrawled his number on my palm before placing a quick kiss on my knuckles. "See you tonight, Miss Bella," he winked again and walked away. I stood there speechless like an idiot.
"Holy shit Bella!" Alice's voice was high and excited and she skipped over to me, pulling on my arm.
"What Alice?" I snapped out of it and looked over at her.
"What Alice?" She mimicked me with a smirk. "I'll tell you what, Miss Bella," she deliberately drawled the words "That boy is beautiful. Beau-ti-ful. And that accent? Holy shit, I almost melted, I can't imagine the effect it must have on you."
"Fuck Alice," I muttered.
"Shush, I'm not done," she chastised me playfully. "He likes you baby, like, a lot. And I know you like him so don't deny it," she said firmly. Alice pulled me back in the direction of the hotel. I followed; it was all I could do. "We, my dear, have quite the evening in front of us. I knew that that dress I bought you would come in handy," she grinned.
"Dress? What? Alice you did-"
"Stop interrupting, Bella! Yes I bought you a dress. Yes, I got you shoes. Yes, you will be borrowing jewelry. I'm going to have fun with you tonight. You'll be my little Bella Barbie!" Her eyes were bright and her cheeks flushed. Alice did love a makeover. I knew better than to argue with her when she got like that. It was always easier to just sit back and wait until she was done. "I can't wait to tell Edward!" she squealed. We were practically sprinting back to the hotel, where our friend waited.
Oh shit, what the hell was I getting into?
Bottle, jars, cases and creams covered every available surface in the large bathroom. It looked like a Sephora store had blown up in there. In fact, it was just Alice. I closed my eyes to the cloud of hairspray she was covering me with and tried not to breathe.
In the last hour, she had tucked, plucked, pulled, curled, pinned and painted me beyond comprehension. And she refused to let me look in the mirror. The little pixie had covered every available reflective surface with towels, blankets and even the shower curtain. This girl LOVED drama.
"Okay," Alice stated, placing the can down on the cluttered counter. "Let me get your outfit." She disappeared in a flash and, I'm sure, went into the closet. I heard a knock on the door and a muffled 'come in' from Alice. Edward! Thank god! Maybe he could talk some sense into her.
"Edward, help!" I called playfully from the bathroom. The door closed with a thump and heavy footfalls headed in my direction.
"Edward Anthony Mason, don't you dare go into that bathroom, or so help me God, I will break your fingers!" Alice's voice was firm, and Edward's musical laugh rang out as I heard the bed springs creak with his weight as he sat.
"Sorry, Bells, I think the sprite is serious," he was barely able to contain his laughter. Traitor.
"Thank you, honey. My, you look amazing," I heard Alice give an exaggerated kiss and then they both laughed.
"As do you, Ali," his smooth voice replied. She did too, with her tiny form wrapped in magenta chiffon, sparkling stones decorating the shoulder straps and the edges of the cutout sides and back. Strappy, black, sky-high heels were on her teeny, tiny feet, and dangling, black earrings hung from her tiny ears. Her face was perfectly made up - black smoky eyes, shimmery cheeks and shiny pink lips. Her black hair was perfectly disarrayed. In short? She looked amazing, as always. She looked at me like her own personal doll whenever she had the chance, which was often. I couldn't say no to her, no one could. She swept back into the bathroom carrying bags and boxes.
"Here," she said, handing me a dress bag and a tiny bag from La Perla. Oh shit. "Put these on, no complaining," Alice didn't even leave the room, just turned her back to me. I sighed and complied, looking into the tiny bag first and groaning. Edward burst out laughing.
"Did she buy you underwear again, Bells?" he could barely get the words out for laughing.
"Shut up, Eddie!" I growled, purposely using the dreaded shortened version of his name. The laughter ceased immediately. Good. I sighed and pulled the scraps of material from the bag, not even commenting on the lacy, plum-coloured strapless bra or ridiculous, matching briefs. I knew better. Quickly struggling into the garments, I unzipped the dress bag revealing a beautiful, lake blue, strapless, chiffon cocktail dress with a lovely twisted bodice and empire waist. It was breathtaking. I grinned at my friend and stepped into the soft fabric, turning so Alice could zip it.
She clapped her hands and squealed with delight, "Okay, sit! Jewelry." She produced a tiny box and removed a beautiful pair of silver earrings shaped like cherry blossom branches that sparkled with tiny white stones and a matching necklace.
I gasped at their beauty, "Alice, they are lovely!" I gently touched the pendant that lay at my throat.
"You can thank Daddy," she grinned, referring to her multimillionaire, music producer father. "And the final touch..." she produced a pair of silver strappy heels from behind her back.
"Alice, you know I can't wear those! I'll fall and break something!" My clumsiness was legendary back home. Most of the emergency room doctors knew me on sight, and I swear I caught the PA's playing rock, paper, scissors over who was going to treat me once.
"Don't worry, sweetie, didn't Jasper promise not to let you fall?" her tone was mischievous as she strapped the shoes to my feet. I fought the urge to blush.
"Who's Jasper?" Edward called, suspicion in his voice. He treated Alice and I a bit like sisters and was very protective of anyone who came near either of us. Alice had no problem fending for herself and told, not to mentioned showed, him so. Fortunately with me, he had very little to worry about.
"You'll see," Alice sang. "Now stand up," she ordered me and I obeyed. "Edward, come see our little girl."
His handsome face popped around the door jamb, unruly bronze locks pointing every which way. He was one of the most beautiful men I had ever seen. Alice and I seemed to be the only two females in Forks immune to his charms, maybe because we had known him since we were all in diapers.
"Wow, Bells...you look amazing," he smiled at me after taking in my appearance.
"Thank you, so do you."
My friend was dressed in head to toe black with a blue tie that matched his eyes. As usual, he looked perfect. "Alice?" he asked.
"You know it. She is my shopping fairy."
Edward grabbed the aforementioned girl and kissed the top of her head.
"Okay, Bella," she squirmed out of his arms, "close your eyes." The girl was practically vibrating, and I obliged. I heard the soft whoosh of fabric being pulled off the mirror. "Okay, open them!"
I was shocked, to say the least. I don't know how Alice did it, but my unruly, tangled, dark hair cascaded down my back in soft curls, pulled back from my face by the sparkling, cherry blossom barrettes that matched the rest of the jewelry ensemble. My skin looked flawless and glowing, my dark eyes were emphasized by soft grey shadow and liner, the dark fringe of lashes longer and fuller than usual. My lips were painted a soft, sheer, shiny berry, and I was shocked. Her dress hugged my curves without being too tight and stopped a few inches above my knees. I looked...beautiful.
"You like?" her voice was teasing.
"You know I do. Alice, this is all too much. I don-" she cut me off again.
"Trust me, it'll be worth it," she leaned closer to my ear, "Jasper will love it." I could feel the heat rush into my cheeks.
"Perfect, a little color is just what you needed," she winked and pulled my hand. "Let's go, we don't want to keep him waiting!"
I sighed and followed her out of the bathroom, giving Edward a hug on the way out.
"Come on!" She grabbed her tiny black bag, stuffing our ID's, some cash and the key card inside. She opened the door and waved her hands at us, "Scoot!" Edward and I obeyed, exiting the room and following her into the elevator. "Edward, I want you to be nice to Jasper and his friends, do you understand?"
What Alice lacked in size, she more than made up for in temper, and Edward nodded. She grabbed my hand and practically pulled me across the lobby, Edward's laugh ringing out behind us.
I took a deep breath as we stepped out of the doors, thankful for the cool night air. I closed my eyes and inhaled, trying to calm my frazzled nerves.
"Holy shit, Bella!" Alice's voice was soft, and I snapped my eyes open to look at her.
"What?" I asked, studying her face and bemused smile. She pointed a perfectly manicured finger behind me and tilted her head in the same direction. I turned and was almost struck dumb. Jasper leaned against a wall, one leg bent and his converse clad foot propped against the other. A light green shirt, that I swear to God, matched his eyes, was tucked into perfectly fitting black jeans. A loose, black tie and jacket topped the shirt. I smiled as I saw the black hat placed strategically atop his honey blond hair. He grinned at me and winked. Fuck he caught me staring - again. I silently cursed my circulatory system and turned back to Alice, who was grinning madly at me. She was going to be no help. I looked over at Edward, and he had a look that matched hers. I fucking hated my friends.
"What do I do?" I whispered harshly.
"About what darlin'?" I jumped again at the soft voice from behind me and glared at them before turning around to face Jasper.
"Ah, nothing," I stated firmly. "Hi." Fucking lame.
"Hello, Miss Isabella," he smiled at me and took my hand, pressing a light kiss on the inside of my wrist.
Holy fucking shit! I. Will. Not. Pass. Out.
"You look beautiful," he drawled, and again I blushed. Fuck!
"Thank you. You look very nice yourself," I smiled shyly.
"Thank you," he tipped his hat slightly and looked over to Alice. "Hello there, Alice, you look lovely, if I do say so myself," he smiled at her lazily.
"Thank you, Jasper," she beamed at him. "You look wonderful. That color is perfect on you," she brazenly appraised him from head to toe, wrinkling her tiny nose up at his Converse.
"Hey, don't dis the Chucks," he grinned, and she playfully pouted.
"You must be Jasper," Edward's voice broke through my thoughts.
"Yes, Jasper Whitlock," he smiled and offered his hand to Edward, who shook it firmly.
"Edward Masen, pleased to meet you."
"Like wise," he grinned and released Edward's hand and casually dropped an arm over my shoulders.
"So, Rosalie and Emmett are waiting for us at the restaurant," Jasper began as we started down the street.
"Who are they again?" Alice's voice perked up from just behind us.
"My twin sister, Rosalie, and my cousin Emmett. They came up with me from Galveston," the explanation was simple. "They arrived early just to assure the reservation."
"I can't wait to meet them!" Alice was quite the social butterfly and dominate the conversation for the rest of the five block walk to the restaurant.
When we arrived, Jasper held the door for both Alice and myself and smiled as Edward followed us in.
"My, my, Bells," Edward's voice was teasing in my ear," you did good, didn't you?"
"Shut up," I growled, not so gently musing his hair, the only thing that would even begin to bother him. Sadly, no matter how much he, or anyone else mused it, it always looked great. Sex hair, Alice called it. I suppose she was right.
"Ready?" Jasper had appeared behind us again after speaking with the maitre d'. We followed him to an area toward the back of the restaurant, a wall that was dominated by booths surrounded by luxurious, burgundy, velvet privacy curtains. The tuxedoed gentleman pulled aside the curtain, and Alice and Edward ascended the three stairs to the platform. I made the first two with no problem before my fucking dreaded heel caught on the third. I felt myself going forward again and sighed when Jasper's hands closed around my waist, pulling me back up.
"I've got you darlin','" the words were whispered into my ear, and I managed to regain my composure long enough to finish ascending the stairs, feeling four sets of eyes on me. I fought a blush and calmed when I felt Jasper's hand rest gently against the small of my back.
"Bella, Edward, Alice - this is my sister, Rosalie Whitlock, and my cousin, Emmett McCarty. Rose, Em – this is Bella, Alice and Edward," Jasper gestured to each of us in turn. I was slightly awed by the two people in front of me, both of whom were amazingly good looking.
Emmett was one of the biggest guys I had ever seen. Brown, curly hair topped his head, and he was a good foot taller than me when he stood to greet us. He had a huge smile with amazing dimples.
"Pleased to meet you all, I'm Emmett," he grinned and shook hands with Edward, Alice and myself in turn before winking at Jasper.
"Very nice, bro," he whispered towards him.
"Jesus, Emmett," Rosalie's voice rang out, soft yet commanding, "have a little class." Rosalie stepped out from behind the table and offered her hand to each of us. "I'm Rosalie, please ignore Emmett, we all do." She smiled at us, and I was slightly dazzled. Rosalie was absolutely beautiful. Her platinum blonde hair hung down to her waist in soft waves. Her beautiful face and figure reminded me of a movie star from the forties, and the black dress she wore hugged and accentuated her curves. Sparkling orange citrons hung at her ears and throat, matching the ring on her finger. I glanced at Edward and saw a look of admiration in his eyes.
"Why don't we all sit?" Jasper drawled, and we all complied. I watched as Edward slid in next to Rosalie, followed by tiny Alice and then Emmett. I sat on Rosalie's other side and gasped slightly as Jasper sat next to me, his denim clad leg pressed against my bare one.
Jesus, keep control of yourself.
"Shall we?" Edward opened the menu.
"Of course, dude," Emmett's smile as he responded was infectious, and we all laughed. It was a great start.
An hour later we all sat, appetites happily sated, eating dessert. Emmett and Alice were sharing an order of profiteroles. The tiny pixie had easily charmed him in a matter of minutes. I could tell from the adoring gaze he sent her, he was head over heels for my friend, and she wasn't too far behind. They were adorable. Beside them Rosalie and Edward talked quietly over coffee.
Edward was no stranger to the ladies, as Alice teased him about constantly, but he seemed to have met his match with Rosalie. She didn't fall for any of his usual tricks. If I didn't know better, I'd think my bronze haired friend was looking forward to the challenge. And they looked beautiful together, too. Edward looked up at me, as if he could sense I was thinking about him, and smiled quickly before returning to Rosalie. I sipped my water and sighed. I had absolutely no room for dessert after my Portobello ravioli, the meal was scrumptious and I had eaten way too much. The same could not be said for Jasper, however. My companion was very happily eating a divine looking strawberry and goat cheese creme brulee that I eyed with envy. He caught my eye and smirked.
"Like what you see darlin'?" he teased.
"Yes, actually, that looks delicious," I grinned and gestured to his dessert.
"Would you like to try it?" his eyes gleamed, and he gestured with his spoon. I nodded and reached for my spoon, stopping when he placed his large hand over mine. "Unh-uh," he shook his head and scooped some of the creamy treat onto his spoon, bringing it to my lips. I bit my lip quickly before opening my mouth. I closed my mouth around the cool spoon and closed my eyes before he pulled it out. Oh my god. This was quite possibly the best thing I had ever tasted. The cool flavors erupted on my tongue, and I swallowed, moaning softly and savoring my treat. The clattering of Alice's spoon startled me out of my reverie, and I opened my eyes, only to be greeted by the stares and bemused smiles of the other people at the table.
"That good, huh, Bells?" Emmett waggled his eyebrows suggestively, and Alice, Edward and Rosalie all laughed softly. My cheeks flamed, and I instinctively turned towards Jasper. He had a small smile on his lips and his eyes were dark as I buried my face in his neck. He chuckled softly and wrapped his arm tighter around my shoulders.
"No worries, cher," he muttered into the top of my head. "I'm glad you enjoyed it."
I nodded slightly and sat up, my cheeks still pink and looked around the table.
"Pink's a good color on you, Bells!" Emmett's cheerful voice thundered through the silence.
I sat at bit taller and smiled, "Thank you, Emmett," I said with a smile and a wink.
Jesus, I was feeling bold.
"That's my girl," the words were drawled into my ear, and I grinned.
"That was the best meal I have had in ages," Alice smiled, the tiny little thing had eaten more than any of us.
"I'm glad you enjoyed it," Jasper winked at her.
"Are y'all ready?" Rosalie's voice was musical as she asked the simple question.
"I think so," Emmett looked around the table. "Looks like it." He stood and said, "Lets get out of here, this tie is strangling me."
Everyone laughed loudly. As direct as Emmett was he was also honest and sweet. I liked Jasper's cousin instantly.
"The bill?" Alice said, rummaging around in her purse.
"No need darlin', it's all set," Jasper's voice was reassuring but firm.
Alice shot him a dazzling smile, "Thanks, sweetie!" She bounced up and pulled Emmett out of the booth with her.
"Come on y'all," He called from his way down the platform, Edward and Rose close behind them. I smiled and stood, following Jasper out of the building. The chilly air startled me, and I shivered slightly, my bare arms prickling with goose bumps.
"Cold Bella?" Jasper looked down at me.
"A bit," I answered honestly, and I suddenly had his jacket draped over my shoulders. I could smell sage and spice and cigarettes. It smelled just like him. "Thank you," I smiled brightly up at him and impulsively gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
Oh shit, what did I just do?
My actions were witnessed by our companions, Emmett and Alice laughing loudly. I met Jasper's eyes, and they were looking down at me intensely.
"Oh, Christ," I muttered, "I'm sorry, Jasper. I don't know-" I was silenced by a gentle finger on my lips.
"Bella, please don't ever apologize for that."
I nodded softly and we resumed our walk, catching up to the rest of our group in a moment.
Emmett was laughing loudly, and Alice was wiping tears from her eyes as Edward and Rosalie looked on, amused smiles on both their faces.
"Stupid, laughing pixie," I muttered under my breath, causing Alice to laugh even more. Emmett dropped an arm over my shoulders on top of Jasper's.
"Jazz, man, I like her! I think she's the first girl I've ever heard apologize for kissing your sorry ass," he grinned and clapped Jasper on the back.
"I'm thrilled, Em," Jasper's voice was dry.
"Bells, you are great!" Emmett reached to ruffle my hair slightly, stopping short at Alice's shriek.
"Emmett, so help me God, you better not touch that hair!" Her eyes were fiery, voice firm and hands planted on her hips. Oh, this was going to be good.
"Whatcha gonna do, pixie?" he challenged with a grin.
Alice's eyes narrowed and Edward caught my gaze, smiling at me and gesturing towards a bench. He knew we were in for a show. I glanced at Jasper and slipped my hand into his as we sat next to Rose and Edward, watching the scene before us unfold.
"This should be good," I whispered, snuggling closer to Jasper and enjoying his warmth.
Alice stared intently at the much larger man in front of her.
"Come on pixie, whatcha got?" Emmett was taunting my friend mercilessly. Little did he know what he was up against.
Alice smiled and sauntered forward toward him. "Now, Em, it's not nice to call me names," she pouted slightly as she spoke.
"Like I said, PIXIE," he drew the word out, overly enunciating it, "what are you gonna do about it?" His dimples were out in full force.
Alice stopped about a foot in front of him and stared.
"What's she gonna do?" Rosalie sounded confused.
"Just watch, there's no telling with Ali," Edward's voice was low, and I saw him wrap an arm around Rose's shoulders. The blond smiled softly, and I swear I saw her cheeks flush slightly.
Good for Edward. I was truly happy that my friend seemed to have someone he could enjoy spending time with, aside from his recreational bedroom escapades.
"Bells?" Alice's voice snapped me out of my reverie and I looked at her. "Catch!" She tossed both her shoes and her purse at me with no warning.
"Shit, Ali!" my response was quick, and I somehow managed to catch all three items flying towards me. Jasper chuckled softly.
"Awwww...wittle Ali can't get her shoes diwrty," Emmett's baby voice was hilarious, and we all chuckled.
Alice stood and glared at him, weighing her options. She took a step back, and I knew what she was going to do.
"This is going to be great," I whispered to Jasper.
"I've no doubt, cher."
Alice took a few more steps back and quickly sprang forward, jumping quickly and wrapping her arms around Emmett's neck before kissing him and wrapping her legs around his waist.
"Holy shit!" Jasper was laughing loudly along with Rose. Edward and i just chuckled, we had seen this several times before, although never on anyone so much bigger than Alice.
Emmet stood stunned for a moment before wrapping his arms around Alice and returning the kiss. I shifted towards Jasper, feeling slightly voyeuristic at the scene playing in front of us.
"You okay, Miss Bella?" Jasper was quiet.
"Yeah, I'm fine, no worries," I smiled up at him, and he squeezed my shoulder lightly.
"Holy shit, woman!" Emmett's voice rang through the small park, and Alice laughed.
"See, what'd I tell you?" Alice wriggled out of his grasp and hopped down landing gracefully with a little plie' and a wave to the rest of us. "So Emmett, are you sorry?" her tone was musical.
He nodded in agreement while looking on in adoration. Alice skipped over to me and grabbed her purse and shoes before leaning and hugging me. "Think you could find someone to stay with tonight, sweetie?" her voice was saccharine sweet, her eyes pleading.
"Fuck, yes," I grumbled. "Edward?" I looked over towards my friend to find him very deeply involved with Rose. She leaned up and whispered in his ear, and he smiled a dazzling smile.
"Sorry Bells," he grinned sheepishly.
That left...oh, fuck, I hated my friends. I swallowed hard and looked up to Jasper. "Um, can I, ah, that is-" stuttering like a fool and my cheeks flaming. Christ, I was pathetic.
Jasper met Alice's eyes. "I'll make sure she's okay, Alice. Go on ahead," he smiled. My friend squealed, bouncing slightly on her toes before kissing me and Jasper on the cheeks.
"Night darlings!" her voice tinkled off as she ran back to Emmett and jumped on his back.
"Later kids! Jasper!" Emmett's voice echoed throughout the small space and Jasper looked up at him. "Have fun, dude! Night, Bells!"
They meandered off, followed by Rose and Edward.
Why did I feel like I had been set up? I looked up and met Jasper's eyes.
"No worries, darlin', I'll take care of you," he smiled softly at me, and I felt my heart flutter. Oh, my.
Jasper and I walked slowly back towards his hotel, taking in the lights of the city. Jasper told me about growing up in Texas, and I simply listened. He had an amazing way with words and I really enjoyed listening to him.
Admit it, Bells, the little voice in my head taunted that's not all you'd like to do to him.
My mind raced with the possibilities as I admired him. God, I wanted to run my hands through that hair and...
"Bella?" Jaspers voice permeated my increasingly dirty thoughts, and I looked up to meet his eyes.
"I'm sorry, what?" My cheeks were flaming, I could feel it.
"Penny for your thoughts, darlin?" his tone was teasing, but there seemed to be something else behind the words, something I couldn't place.
"Nothing," I shook my head slightly and studied my feet like they were the most interesting thing in the world.
"Like I said, darlin, we're here."
I looked up and we had indeed stopped walking in front of the large building. The doorman opened the door and Jasper placed his hand on the small of my back, guiding me easily through lobby towards the raucous crowd of teenagers by the elevators.
"Shit," the curse was mumbled under his breath. "Sorry, Bella, please ignore them," his eyes were pleading.
"Of course," I gave him a reassuring smile and reached for his warm hand just as we reached the group, I was standing slightly behind him.
"Well, shit! Whitlock, where the hell have you been all night? We had a fucking blast!" the short blond kid's voice was extremely loud, and I could smell alcohol on his breath from where I was standing. I wrinkled my nose in disgust.
"Sorry, Mike, I had plans," Jasper's voice was flat.
"S'okay, dude! Did you see Jess tonight? Man, she looks great. What I wouldn't do to- hey, there she is! Jess! Lauren!" the kid jumped up and down waving to some girls behind us.
"Fuck," the word was quiet, and I squeezed Jasper's hand softly as we turned.
Behind us stood two girls, one blonde and one brunette, wearing shiny, satin mini dresses and sky-high heels. The blonde squealed and stumbled slightly as she crossed the lobby, pulling the brunette in tow. Neither looked particularly sober.
"Jazzy!" The blonde stumbled into me, jostling me back a few feet as she and her friend squeezed in between Jasper and I. "Sorry," she sneered at me slightly, before flipping her blonde tresses at me and turning back to Jasper and Mike.
What a sparkling personality.
Jasper pointedly ignored them, "You alright, Bella?" He reached for my hand and gently pulled me closer to him.
"I'm fine, don't worry," my voice was soft and reassuring.
"Jasper, aren't you going to introduce us to your new friend?" drunk Mike's voice was low and teasing.
"Not really, no," the reply was flat and detached.
"Well then, allow me. Hello," he reached his hand out to me, "I'm Mike Newton, a classmate of Jasper's. These lovely ladies are Jessica and Lauren," he gestured to the blonde and the brunette respectively.
I plastered a fake smile on my face. "Marie," I said in a saccharine voice.
Thank God for the elevator, the doors slid open just before Jasper took my hand.
"We should get on," I nodded toward the elevator, hoping my new found acquaintance would get the hint. Unfortunately, he was smarter than he looked, and we all piled into the tiny box. The ride was spent with Jasper and I in silence and the rest of the occupants babbling drunkenly. Jasper looked absolutely pained. We reached the fourth floor after what seemed like a year, and Jasper gently led me out.
"Night, Jasper, Marie. Have fun!" Mike was trying to sound suggestive but only ended up sounding like a scared cow. The other females were shooting daggers at my back, I could feel it.
I grinned slyly and slid my arms around Jaspers waist. "Don't worry, Mike, we will. Goodnight!" I gave a cheery wave just as the doors closed again.
Jasper looked at me in awe. "What the hell?" his words were tinged with laughter.
I shrugged, "They were glaring at me, and I didn't like it." I was pretty matter of fact. We walked down the hall, Jasper chuckling softly.
Stopping in front of room 413, Jasper pulled his key card and quickly unlocked the door before escorting me in and closing it softly behind me.
"Sorry about them, they're assholes."
"Jasper, please don't apologize for someone else. It's nothing, really," I smiled at him and started towards the desk chair. These fucking shoes were killing me. I made it about two steps before tripping over a black boot in the middle of the rug. Jasper's arm shot out and grabbed my left wrist, pulling me flush against his chest to steady me, his other arm wrapping around my waist. I bit my cheek to stifle the moan in my throat as our bodies pressed together.
"You okay?" his voice was husky, and I looked up to meet his eyes.
"Yeah," I muttered, flushing. "I'm sorry, these damn shoes." Pathetic excuse, I know.
"Miss Isabella," he drawled, "please don't apologize."
"Okay," I whispered, I couldn't look away from his eyes. God, he smelled good. He smiled down at me, and I licked my lips nervously, biting my bottom lip. I could hear a slight groan in his throat as he watched me, his eyes silently questioning. I nodded just barely and was met with his lips on mine.
His arm tightened around my waist, and the other gently wound its way into my hair as my own arms slipped around his neck. He gently ran his tongue across my bottom lip seeking entrance, which I quickly allowed. I gasped into his mouth - he tasted like mint and strawberries and sweet and fuckgood. My fingers wound their way into his soft gold hair, knocking his hat to the floor with a soft thud. God, he was an amazing kisser. My head started to swim, and I reluctantly pulled back, breathing heavily. I opened my eyes to meet his and blushed at what I found. He was panting slightly, his eyes were dark.
We stood for a moment in silence, and I sucked my bottom lip back between my teeth. Fucking nervous habit.
Jasper smiled, "Is it wrong that I've wanted to do that all night?"
I shook my head at him, "No." My voice was barely a whisper. He loosened his hold on my waist, and I felt me knees wobble.
"Let's get you out of those shoes, huh?" he grinned and led me over to the desk.
I didn't have the heart to tell him that the wobble had less to do with the shoes and more to do with the amazing kiss we had just shared. I plopped down gracelessly and unstrapped the horrible things before kicking them across the carpet with uncontainable glee.
Jasper sat on the bed across form me and smiled, "Feel better?"
"Much!" I grinned at him and was struck by the intensity of his gaze. "What?" I ran my hands over my hair.
"No, your hair is fine. You look beautiful," the words caused the heat to spring back into my cheeks, "even more so when you blush."
"Thanks," I fought with myself not to meet his eyes. I lost.
"Miss Bella, may I kiss you again?" the gentlemanly question surprised me.
"Please," I breathed. What the hell else was I going to say? No? Fuck that.
Jasper slid closer to me on the bed and gently pulled me into his lap. Our lips met quickly. Good God, he was addictive. I wound my fingers into his hair again and shivered as he hands ran up my arms, gently pushing his jacket off my shoulders and onto the floor, and I gasped as those same strong, calloused fingers ran across the bare skin of my back. I felt him smile against my mouth before he moved his lips down my jaw, to my neck. I moaned as he kissed my throat, tilting my head back instinctively, allowing him further access. His hands continued roaming over my back and through my hair as he gently rained kisses back up my neck and jaw. When he bit down gently, I nearly lost it.
"Jasper," the word was barely a whisper. He stopped his attentions to my throat and met my eyes.
"Yes love?" his voice was husky.
"I, don't, please?" the words were ridiculous, but he seemed to catch the drift and kissed me again, with more passion than I thought imaginable. His fingers lightly traced patters on the bare skin of my back, and it felt like it was on fire. I moaned again, and he smiled against my throat, gently raining kisses down my chest until he reached the top of my dress. He gently nuzzled there, his breath warm on my skin. My hands were running up and down his arms slowly as my mind wandered. God, I wanted to feel the warmth from his skin. I squirmed a bit, and he lifted his head up to look at me.
"Yes darlin'?" his eyes shone. I gave him a little smile and reached for his tie, fumbling slightly with the knot before pulling it off and tossing it behind us. My fingers toyed with the buttons on his shirt, my eyes questioning.
"Go ahead," he murmured, eyes closed.
I proceeded, slowly unbuttoning the shirt, my hands trembling just the slightest bit. I squirmed a bit trying to tug the offending material out of his jeans, and he stifled a groan, his hands tightening on my hips. I quickly froze. Jasper took a deep breath and loosened his grip.
"Go head darlin'," he nodded slightly, and I pulled the material free of his waist band, sliding it off his shoulders with a gasp.
Holy God, the man had a beautiful chest - golden kissed from the sun and perfectly sculpted. I swallowed hard and heard a chuckle.
"Like what you see love?"
Damn that fucking husky drawl. I had lost the ability to form words, so I just nodded.
"I'm glad sweetheart," he leaned up and caught my lips in a sweet kiss that quickly intensified, and I found myself running my nails up and down his bare back, crying out softly as he gently bit down on my lower lip. He met my gaze again, "Did you like that darlin?" His hazel eyes were sparkling and I nodded. "What was that? I couldn't hear you," his words were tinged with laughter, he was teasing me! God, I was enjoying him more every second. I leaned forward and shifted my weight slightly to meet his ear.
"Yes," my voice was breathy, and I knew I was panting. He stifled another groan in his throat and tightly pulled me against his chest.
"Do you have any idea what you're doing to me darlin'?" God, what a sexy voice.
"I- I think so," I could barely get the words out. My companion closed his eyes and sighed, leaning back away from me slightly before opening them. I swallowed hard.
"Oh, Miss Isabella," he gently stroked my cheek, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. I looked at him and gently chewed my lower lip. "Bella," he mumbled again into my hair.
Three months later…..
"Bella!" Alice's musical voice pierced through the rapidly thinning fog of my memories, and I tore my eyes from the photo of the Statue of Liberty I was staring stupidly at, looking up at her with wide eyes.
"Yes Ali?" my voice was sweet, and I knew my cheeks were flushed. I didn't really give a fuck.
"Edward and I," she gave our friend's arm a tug and pulled him over in front of me, "have a little present for you, for your trip." She grinned like a maniac, and Edward handed me a flat, white box tied with a pale green satin ribbon.
"You guys shouldn't have..."
"Don't start that, Bells, just open it," Edward teased me mercilessly, as he had lately, and I glared at him while I pulled the ribbon and lid off the box. I gasped at what was inside. A beautiful 4x4 mini photo album sat nestled in white tissue, the gleaming airport lights shining dimly off its polished silver cover, sparkling over the beautifully engraved cherry blossoms, a matching large frame was below it.
I sniffled and tried, in vain, to battle the tears that sprung to my eyes. "Dammit," I muttered, rising and pulling my friends into a tight hug. "You two are way too much. It's beautiful."
"You deserve it, Bells," Edward beamed down at me, "and now you have someplace to put those damn pictures you're lugging about. "
"Edward!" Alice snapped at him and mussed his hair.
"I'm just kidding, Bella, you know that." I nodded and he embraced me tightly. "You be safe sweets," he mumbled into the top of my head.
"I will, Edward, you know that," I gave him a lopsided grin and stepped back, looking at Alice who proceeded to wrap her arms around me.
"Call me when you get to Galveston, sweetie, you know I want to hear how things went."
I nodded, "Of course, Alice, I'm kind of afraid of what you'd do to me if I didn't." I grinned mischievously at her, before placing my gift into my black messenger bag and draping the item across my shoulder. I placed my dark grey fedora on my head, laughing at the purple ribbons Alice had tacked around it as a hat band. She had made almost two dozen in various colors.
"To match your outfit," she muttered by way of explanation. I wouldn't argue with her, despite the fact that half of the bands bared no resemblance to anything in my wardrobe.
"I've got to board," I bit back tears as I said goodbye to my best friends.
"Take care, baby, we love you, and we will see you when you get home," Edward's words were simple but full of promise.
"It'll work out, Bella, I know it." Alice gave me a mysterious smile and a quick hug.
I refused to cry anymore than I already had. I gave a small wave and headed towards security; refusing to look back at all I was leaving behind.