So I am horrible, there is nothing I can say to make it any better; so I'm not going to try. Just that family issues got in the way and it took all my mojo to write...write anything really.
I give fair warning, this thing is 3,500 words long and none of it is beta'ed, most of it has been pre-read and my lovely pre-reader (who hates the same internet service that I do) likes what she has read... I'm just saying...
I don't own.
After my proclamation of where things were headed with the Maria issue Jasper and I sat in silence, me still straddling his lap with my head on his chest while Jasper's head was tipped back and his arms were wrapped behind my back. There was no way I could have moved even if I wanted to; not that that I wanted to. I was content with the comfort that Jasper could give me and to allow the rest of the world to fade away; even if it was for just a moment. And it was just for a moment.
"Well, isn't this just a sight," Jane said with a giggle as she walked up.
"Don't make me hurt you," I said opening one eye to stare at her.
She just laughed, not at all bothered by my threat of bodily harm, as she sat down in one of the side chairs to our sitting group. "I didn't say anything."
"Slowly and painfully," I said grouchily as I started to remove myself from Jasper's lap.
"Be nice," Jasper whispered against my hair before quickly flipping me around so my back was against his chest as he shifted himself in a more upright position.
"'Be nice', this comes from the man that had a fit when I tried to get ready to leave," I said with roll of my eyes.
Jasper smirked, "I believe I was very nice, especially when I suggested other ways to occupy our time besides sitting here."
"I wonder what he had on his mind," Jane said as she continued to grin.
"Shut up, both of you," I said with a sigh. "I didn't call you down here early to give me a preview of what I am going to get from Demetri and Felix, " I said giving Jane my attention. "I wanted to hear about the weekend, making sure that I wasn't blind sided later."
I knew nothing bad had happened, after all nobody called or came banging on the door. It's just that Jane had contact with the guard this weekend and I had... well I had contact with Jasper; and Jasper's body. I wanted to make sure that the new guard was settling in, that the probational guard that were passed over didn't cause issues, and if anything was said about my Mating.
"Nothing happened with the guard," Jane said with a shrug. For some reason that comment bothered me, but I just couldn't put my finger on why. "I think Ethan is still on cloud nine, Casey keeps looking down at his cloak to make sure it's real, and Scott is sulking."
"So, all in all, it sounds like a normal and slow weekend then," Jasper said with ease. "I told you everything would be fine," he told me kissing my cheek.
"And," I questioned.
"And nothing," Jane replied. "Everything was quiet here, so quiet that I was able to go shopping yesterday."
"Well, that's always good news," I said while rolling my eyes.
"Hey, don't knock me," Jane said. "I was able to check in on Maxine and see if she has had any unwanted visitors; which she hasn't."
"While that is good news," I said, "why do I have a feeling that there is something more."
"I found these great shoes," Jane said kicking out her leg showing the tell-tale red sole of her kitten heels. It was the one thing I never understood about Jane; her choices on shoes. It wasn't her taste in shoes, but when she chose to wear them. There was no disguising the fact that Jane was short, and one would think that she would want to use the heals to strengthen her intimidation level. Not Jane. No, she chose to wear them when off duty and in jeans.
"And," I asked again.
With a huff Jane tucked her feet back under her. "I talked with Suzie for a bit."
"She thought at first I was there to check on a report that her husband had made earlier in the week."
"What type of report," Jasper asked as he started to rub circles with his fingers on my arms.
"It seems that he was hunting near the border of our land and-"
"He was hunting on our land," I asked interrupting her.
"No," she said with a shake of her head. "Suzie was very adamant that he was not on our land."
"She could be lying," said Jasper.
Jane glared at him. "I might not be able to sense emotions or get into people's head," she turned her eyes on me, "but I, just like every other Vampire, can tell when a human lies. The signs are clear; the eyes dilate, the breathing picks up, the heartbeat changes, and their scent changes. None of that happened to Suzie while we spoke."
"It doesn't mean that her husband didn't lie to her in the first place," Jasper said, his voice hard.
"For the moment, whether or not where he was hunting does not matter," I said trying to defuse the argument. "What does matter is what he saw that was so important for him to come in and report it."
"Good point," Jasper nodded and smiled down to me. "What did he see?"
Jane shrugged her shoulders, "I don't know, she got called away by another customer."
"What," I asked.
"She had to go help someone else before she could tell me."
I just looked at her for a second. "And you didn't stay and find out?"
"Why would I?"
I couldn't stop my mouth from falling open. I tried to close it so I could speak, but I couldn't. Jasper was the first to recover. "What did the report say?"
"I didn't check it," Jane answered with another shrug.
Jasper's arms tightened around my waist quickly when he felt my body tense; not sure if he thought he was protecting Jane from my quickly growing wrath, or trying to calm me with his touch.
"Why not," he asked Jane as I continued to stew.
"I didn't think it was that important," she said with yet another shrug of her shoulders.
That was when I had could no longer contain myself.
"It was important enough for the human to walk into a building full of blood drinking vampires to make a report," I said slowly, my hands clenching and unclenching into fists. "Were you or were you not in the Center the other day when I asked the guard to keep an eye out for anything abnormal," I questioned her, my voice hard with anger. "If I were you," I started not giving her a chance to answer, "I would get up and get me whatever he reported. I would do it right the Fuck now." Jane was out of her seat in a flash and was gone.
"Bella," Jasper questioned softly as he took one hand and swept the hair from the back of my neck and kissed where my neck joined my back.
"Not now, Jasper," I said. His lips never left my skin. At the teasing brushes of his lips I started to calm; I allowed my eyes to fall shut and my breathing to slow.
It was times like this that I was reminded of the flaws that was Jane. While her talent was powerful and she was feared by many for the use of said talent, Jane was not known for her leadership skills or taking initiative. Whenever she was left in charge I had to make sure to write everything down; or made sure that I was in easy contact. Needless to say I didn't take vacations away from Italy very often; in fact I could not easily recall when the last time I really left Voltarra proper. With Jane not thinking about following through on whatever Suzie's husband saw, especially now with the Maria thing, I was really contemplating a shake-up within the Inner Circle; maybe it was time to give someone else the position of Third.
I didn't even open my eyes when Jane came to a stop next to me and thrust a piece of paper at me. "This is not the time or place for me to tell you how disappointed I am with your performance in the guard pertaining to anything other than strength and fear," I said as calmly as I could. "However, I will tell you now," I opened my eyes and pinned her with my gaze, "unless something changes your rank within the guard may, or may not, change." I grabbed the report. "Your free night just ended; after this meeting you will be taking my place here for the rest of the shift." I didn't give her a chance to respond, I just turned my head away and started to read. Jane did not move.
"Sit down, Jane," Jasper ordered as he rested his chin on my shoulder and read the paper with me. I couldn't stop the smirk as she stiffly, and oddly, sat on the floor at my feet. It never hurt her to realize she wasn't just given a pass because she had a strong talent.
"I don't understand," I said as I read the paper. A large, white wolf was in the forest around the castle. Was Apollo back? Why didn't he contact me? "I just don't understand," I repeated.
"What doesn't the great Bella not understand," asked Felix as he plopped down in a chair across from Jasper and I.
Demetri sat in the other chair as he said, "And why is Jane sitting on the floor like that?"
I looked quickly at Jasper to see if he was done reading, at my raised eyebrow he nodded quickly. "I think we might have a reunion with a past member of the guard," I said with a sigh as I passed the report to Felix and looked up to see Alec looking worriedly at his sister still on the floor and Ethan looking worriedly at Jasper and the empty seat on the couch.
Ethan had seen other newly mated males; the way their instincts were on overdrive and normally wouldn't allow another male close to their mate. Jasper was doing very well, considering; and I think Ethan could see that, but he didn't want to push Jasper's restraint. This was what I was talking about before earlier in my rooms, using this part of the night would get him use to others being around. I didn't need him losing control and attacking other guard members; not that I wouldn't mind losing some of the probational guard.
"Alec, go get another chair; if your sister won't get up herself, then pick her up and put her in it. And Ethan, either sit in one of the guy's lap," I pointed to Felix and Demetri, "or sit on the couch. I don't care; I'm tired of waiting and want to finish my night." There was only a slight stiffing
"Are we even sure that Apollo is a vampire," Felix asked as we waited for everyone to get situated. "I mean, has anyone actually seen him in a human form?"
Demetri nodded, "He hunted alone or with Bella in the nearby forest."
Our group turned to look at me as one. "We didn't hunt together, if that is what you are thinking. I would go one way and he would go another; we would meet up and then run a perimeter and come in."
"Is there a reason that this Apollo would not let you know that he is back in the area," Jasper asked his hands gently massaging my shoulders.
I shook my head, "None that I am aware of. He wanted to roam, to find peace, to find his mate; I thought we had left on good terms."
"So," Alec chimed in as he picked his sister up and tossed her into the empty chair then perched himself on the armrest, "what are we going to do?"
"Nothing," I said with a shrug. "I'll give him another day or so to contact me if he wishes, then go from there. As it is now, we have other things to deal with first."
"Is one of them why Jane is comatose," Alec asked pointing to his sister who still hadn't said or moved from before."
"That is something between her, Jasper and myself," I answered with a shake of my head. "She'll come to when she is ready, let's just hope her brain is still functioning enough to pay attention now. If not, I'm sure one of you will let her know what was said."
"And take her extra guard duty tonight, so I can have the rest of the night with my Mate," Jasper said calmly looking at each of the guys. "We wouldn't want either of us in a fowl mood come tomorrow, now would we?" I had a hard time suppressing the giggle at the stunned faces that I saw. I think they just remembered that fighting was not the only way Jasper could knock them on the ass.
I reached over and pinched Jasper in the thigh as I said, "Tomorrow we start with the trainees for the guard. We are not going to do the same thing we have been doing the last few years. Some, if not most, of our lax system the last handful of years is my fault. I know that it was me that changed the rule that guard members could leave, and I don't regret that. I want members to serve because they want to and not because they have to," I continued looking at each of them in the eye, even Jane.
"But spending time getting to know someone, only to have them leave after a few years when they realize this was different than they thought, has taken its toll on me. Because I did not want to invest my heart into someone that was going to leave, I stopped most of my interactions with the new members; leaving you all to pick up the slack." Jasper snaked his arms around my waist and hugged me into his chest. He knew what it cost me to admit weakness.
"Instead of just spreading all of our training out, and lowering the bar to just pass everyone along; we are going to go back to the way things were. We are going to put everything into one week," I said with a strong look to everyone. "First thing tomorrow, Felix, Jasper and I are going to test each and every trainee on their hand to hand combat. We will start with a few demonstrations, then some basic sparring. Anyone that cannot last five minutes in a fight will be dismissed.
"After that, Jane and Alec will test those that are gifted," I said looking at them in turn; though Jane still looked a little dazed. "We are not just a guard full of the gifted, nor do I want to be. It's going to sound harsh, but unless they bring something to the guard, I don't want to pack with too many multiples of the same gift. You two know who we already have, and what they can do; use your best judgement and weed them out. If in doubt come get Jasper and or myself to make the call."
I turned to Demetri, "Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to test their tracking skills. They need to have average to above average skills, or they need to be cut. We need trackers with teams, they are important, sometimes more so than those with other defensive gifts."
"What are you going to be doing while the rest of us are working," questioned Jane in a soft voice. Our entire group turned and gawked at her. Was she really stupid enough to question me now? Did she really want me any more angry at her then I already was?
"I plan to be working with each group," I said clearly though what I really wanted to say was 'Are you crazy', but I held it in. "If you were actually paying attention then you would have heard that I was going to be with the combat training, and you would know that Demetri is going to need someone to track. As for you and your brother, do you want me standing over your shoulder, breathing down your neck, and watching every little thing you do looking for a mistake?" Jane's gulp was hard to miss.
I slowly leaned back into Jasper, his arms coming to hold me close, "I am trusting your judgement, the fact that you have been in the guard for so long, to be able to find the right fit for the guard."
Alec's hand came out and wrapped around Jane's shoulder, pinning her into the chair. "She was not questioning you, Bella."
"She was, Alec," I said with a sigh and started to play with Jasper's fingers trying to keep myself calm, "but that is something that we can handle at another time. Does anyone have any questions or concerns of what I want done?"
"I have none," Felix said.
"None here," Demetri shook his head.
The twins answered in unison. "None."
"Jasper," I asked turning slightly and looking up at him.
"I am with you in everything," Jasper replied easily.
"Good," I said with a quick nod and a smile before turning back to the rest. "Then we will start this tomorrow first thing. If everything runs smoothly tomorrow, then Jane and Alec your lessons with start tomorrow as well; if not then your day is Tuesday. I want everything done by the end of the week." I looked at each of them around me, "Is there anything else that we need to discuss tonight?"
"What are we going to do with Apollo," Felix asked.
"'We' are not going to do anything," I said firmly. "I will give him time, if he hasn't come closer or attempted to contact anyone by the end of the week than I will bring him to me. Anything else," I asked, closing the 'Apollo' subject.
When no one said anything I patted Jasper on the leg and said, "Good. Jane, go get changed you are on duty here for the rest of the night; the rest of you are free for the rest of the night."
"I will be right back," Jane said as she pried herself from her seat and fled the room.
"Well, that was quick," Alec said with a chuckle as he got up and moved the borrowed chair back where it belonged, then with a little wave he to started for the door.
"Wait," Felix said as he and Demetri stood, "we'll walk out with you."
"Bella, Jasper," Demetri gave a little nod before following the others out.
I felt Jasper shift before he whispered in my ear, "What are we going to do with the rest of the night"?
I let out the girliest giggle that I think I had ever done and smiled up at him.
There was a clearing of a throat before I could say anything. "With that, I think I will also call it a night," Ethan said all kind of flustered. "Mistress, Jasper," he gave a quick nod and all but ran from my sight.
"We sure know how to clear a crowd," I said with a quick snort as I worked my way lose from Jasper's hold and started to stand.
"May I ask what you are doing? I was already comfortable," Jasper said with a little pout.
"That as it may be," I glared lightly over my shoulder, "I thought it would be a great idea to have my shit picked up before Jane returned; that way we had more time to spend together."
"Could have said that sooner," he said shooting up from the couch and started to hand me papers.
"I got this," I said with a laugh grabbing the stack from him and stuffing things away. "Why don't you go back to my rooms, I will meet you there."
Jasper spun me around to face him, his arms tight around my back pulling me to his chest. "Be quick about it," he said before his lips landed on mine, hard.
"As soon as she gets here," I said breathlessly as he released me.
"Good," he said walking around me, then stopped and leaned down to whisper, "and don't think I forgot about what happened before." Before I could come back with anything, he gave a two-fingered salute and walked away.
"Well, my night just took a turn for the better."
Okay, so more is coming soon...eventually...someday... Really...my Muse is around...somewhere...it just would rather me work on other things and nothing I want to work on.