A/N: This was my entry into the 'Write That Tune' anonymous contest—a collab with the lovely SaritaDreaming. We were both shocked to find we won first place voter's pick! Being in a forest of E/B stories, I fully expected to be at the bottom of the pile. Maybe it was the catchy title? I know I couldn't have done this without Sarita, and I'm so thankful that she agreed to write this with me! I've never written a Jasper and Alice story, and she is also a B/E girl! So this was new to us both!
Thanks to the prereaders, Keye and Sandy, for their input and feeback. Thanks to the betas, wmr1601 and Katmom, for wielding their Sparkly Red Pens. I am so glad Sarita knew such wonderful people!
Sarita is the voice of the little pixie, Alice
Emma (Me) is the voice of the cowboy, Jasper
Go read SaritaDreaming's stuff y'all! It's AMAZING! I'm a big fangirl of hers!
Title: So a Vampire Walks into a Bar...
Rating & Any Warning Needed: M
# of Lyric Chosen: 20 Song: Angels by Robbie Williams
Word Count: 8,120
Pairing: Alice and Jasper
Summary: Jasper is struggling to find his way. Alice has been waiting for ten long years. So what happens when a vampire walks into a bar...? AU
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns; we just decided to play around with some vampire that walks into a bar... hehe.
Dim lighting... dark wood... the buzz of voices. My eyes lit on perfection—perfection that I couldn't see clearly but sensed nonetheless. I willed myself forward and was rewarded by a glimpse of honeyed curls. My nostrils flared as I tried to drink in the aroma, to test out the air around me. The signature scent of another vampire wafted up my nose, and it felt like I'd been slammed hard in the chest—this was the essence of my other half, the love of my life.
Losing sight of the glimpse of hair and pale skin, I moved about the room frantically, searching for what I knew was already lost to me.
"Where are you?" I wailed. "Please don't leave. Not again!"
I spun around and around, searching desperately, but the scent was already fading, and my vision was dimming...
"Alice!" A desperate female whisper hissed in my ear.
Blinking my eyes, I looked around as my surroundings came back into focus. I was partially obscured by a thick, purple velvet curtain, and a young woman was leaning in to stare at me with frightened eyes.
"Alice, for Heaven's sake! You've zoned out again. If Madame catches you, you'll be fired."
I blinked, staring at the girl as though she was speaking a foreign language.
"What? Where is he?"
"The guy in the bar. I finally saw him—at least part of him."
"Alice, a proper lady does not frequent bars without an escort. Surely you haven't been..." She looked properly horrified.
I shook my head, trying to throw off the fog I was in, and looked around carefully. The purple velvet curtain I was currently entangled in belonged to a dressing room. The dressing room of the store where I was supposed to be working.
Throwing on a fake smile, I glanced at my companion, searching my mind desperately for her name. Marcy... Melanie... no, Maggie!
"Maggie..." I began carefully, gauging her reaction to the name to be sure it was the correct one before I continued "...of course I don't frequent bars without an escort. I was simply... daydreaming again." I sighed dramatically, throwing my hands up in the air.
Maggie stared back at me, her cornflower blue eyes wide. "Oh, my..." Her pale skin flushed as she appeared to contemplate me daydreaming about being in a bar searching for the love of my life. "You really must dream on your own time, though, Alice. Unless you want to be living out on the street. It's scandalous enough that a beautiful young woman like you is still single and not being courted." Maggie put a hand up to her mouth, one blond ringlet bouncing against her shoulder.
"I know," I whispered. "But I'm going to meet him someday soon."
"Alice...? Maggie…?" Madame's loud, braying voice barged into the dressing room even though she was clear across the shop. "Where are those lazy good-for-nothings?"
"Go, go!" I shooed Maggie out of the dressing room, so she wouldn't get in trouble.
"But what about you?"
"Don't worry about me."
Maggie grabbed a pile of dresses—the ones Mrs. Rockford had tried on earlier and unceremoniously left in a pile on the floor when nothing fit her ample derrière the way she wanted—and rushed out into the main showroom.
"Right here, Madame! Just trying to make sense out of the jumble of dresses Mrs. Rockford tried on earlier."
"Ach! That old cow. She tries on all my beautiful dresses, rarely buys a darn thing, but manages to make more work for me," Madame complained.
I wasn't sure what she was moaning about, since Maggie and I were the ones who got to clean up all the messes around here—including Madame's.
I'd been working at this dress shop, unimaginatively named Madame's (insert eye roll), for the past three months. I still didn't know Madame's name—nobody did—and it wasn't for lack of trying. Being a vampire had its perks, including the gift of sensitive hearing, but Madame had never uttered her real name, and nobody in town seemed to know it either.
The only reason I still had a job here was because of my gift of prescience. I made sure when Madame was exasperated with me—which was often, because I didn't look or act ladylike enough for her, or dress the way she preferred, and daydreamed entirely too much for her tastes—I would find the perfect dress pattern or bolt of fabric and present it at an opportune moment. She would soften after I offered up my 'find' and retreat to the back room, grumbling about my 'lucky timing.'
Many of the ladies in town were shocked by my bubbly personality, but I knew that most of them secretly liked it—maybe even wished they could let loose and have more freedom. I designed my own clothing, which sent everyone—especially Madame—into a tailspin. She demanded that I wear one of her 'proper dresses' at work, and I complied because I needed to stay in the area just a while longer.
"And where is Alice?" Madame's voice boomed, cutting into my thoughts.
"Here, Madame! I was just helping Maggie gather up the mess Mrs. Rockford left behind. My, but I hope she has a maid at home to clean up after her!" I giggled behind my hand as I swept out of the dressing room and into the main salon.
Madame eyed me speculatively, raising one arched brow. "Hmph!" I wasn't sure who the grumble was directed at—me or Mrs. Rockford—and then she turned away with a flourish, beckoning me with one finger to follow.
We spent the rest of the afternoon going over the new fabric catalog she'd received from France. It was obvious, between her fake French accent, the style of dresses she commissioned, and the constant influx of French catalogs, that Madame wished everyone to believe she was a worldly widow from Paris. I had no idea where she was really from, but I was certain it wasn't from Paris—the woman couldn't read a lick of French—that was my job. She blamed it on her 'bad eyesight,' but we both knew what a load of... poppycock that was. Still, I played along because she was making it possible for me to wait. For him.
Madame had a nice, large house on the other side of town. There were a few rooms above the dress shop, and she allowed me to rent one of them from her. Once the shop closed at the end of the day, she was nowhere to be found, which suited me just fine. She gave me a discount on the rent because she liked the idea of someone being around to keep an eye on things—as if anyone was going to break in and steal all her stock while she was gone for the evening.
My room was small but clean. The walls were white; there was a black, wrought iron twin bed, a small, scarred wooden desk, a dresser, and a garment rack to hold dresses, since there was no closet. The single window looked out over the street, and I could just barely make out the heavy wooden door to 'Braden's Tavern'—the place where I was destined to meet him.
Vampires don't sleep, and it's quite boring to be a single woman in a town that frowns on an unattached young lady doing anything they considered untoward. The men were able to carouse at the tavern and play poker—I was great at poker!—while the ladies were to sit home and knit, take care of children, cook dinner, or whatever other boring things they did.
I briefly contemplated dressing up as a man—I'd sometimes done that in other towns in order to sit in on a poker game when I needed money—but I quickly scrapped that idea. If I got caught, I'd have no choice but to leave the area. A low profile was essential until I found what I came here for. So, instead, I spent my nights dreaming about the love of my life and reviewing the visions that led me here to this place.
As I lay there, my mind drifted back in time.
My first memories are of waking up as a vampire. I'm sure I must have been human at one time, but try as I might, I've never been able to recall anything. The first thing I remembered was opening my eyes and taking in the dim cave where I lay upon a thin pallet. For two weeks, I sat in the corner, hoping that someone or something would help explain what had happened to me, but help never came. Although I had no idea who I was or where I came from, I instinctively knew certain things, and my gift filled in many of the others.
One night, I smelled a scent that caused the vague burning in my throat to flame hotly. Without thought, I ran out of the cave and pounced on a cougar that was roaming the rocky face of the hill. Instinctively I sank my teeth into the cat's neck, holding it easily in the arms of my small frame. It wasn't until I was satiated that recognition struck me—I should have felt fear—I shouldn't have been able to hold down a cougar while I drained its life force.
A brief vision helped me figure out I was a vampire and that I could exist on the blood of animals without the need to kill humans. The thought of taking down a human the way I took down the cougar horrified me.
Eventually, I began spying on the inhabitants of the nearest town so I would be able to fit in. I never stayed in one place too long, or amassed many belongings, because I didn't want to draw suspicion from the locals. That is, until I came to Philadelphia about a year ago.
Philly was a large city, and it was easier to blend in, but that wasn't the reason I was here. For the past ten years, I'd been having visions of the love of my life. His scent was now a part of me, and I would know him by it when I finally came across him. I also sensed that he wasn't ready to meet me, but something began to change recently, and I thought the time might be near. My soul mate was also a vampire, and he struggled mightily with his thirst for human blood. When he was ready for me, we would meet, and I'd teach him there was another way to survive—without killing humans. Eventually, we would join with a small coven of other animal-drinking vampires, finally finding the place we belonged.
Many nights I've lain on the bed in my room above 'Madame's' and allowed the visions—both new and old—to wash over me. He was gifted, as well, although he might consider it more of a curse to absorb the emotions of those around him. It was a powerful gift; one that could serve him quite well if he learned how to harness it.
I knew of his smell, his gift... that he had scars over much of his body. I knew he had a head of blond curls, that he was tall and lanky, his skin was pale, and he was distrustful of the human population. I knew he had suffered greatly; that he would continue to suffer for some time. I knew that, one night soon, he was going to be at the tavern across the street from my room. What I didn't know was what his face looked like, how his hands would feel when they finally touched me, or what his name was.
It had been a few years now since I'd left the company of Charlotte and Peter. They had been my only companions after I finally found it in me to leave Maria and her sick, twisted way of 'living.' Peter and Charlotte had been nothing but kind to me, showing me that I could coexist with humans. But how could you coexist with the very beings that you used to sustain the monster that raged inside of you?
I couldn't stand it. Every time I sank my teeth into the delicate flesh of whatever unsuspecting victim I ran across, I could feel their pain. Not just the agonizing pain of their life essence draining from their bodies, but the pain of knowing it was the end for them. Knowing that they would never see their loved ones again. I didn't see the faces of the ones that they were leaving behind—I didn't have to—I knew the feeling of loss and mourning.
Back when I was held firmly under Maria's wicked thumb, I had gone through those emotions on an almost daily basis. I would train young, fresh newborns, preparing them for battle. Once Maria no longer had a use for them in her vastly expanding army, it was my job to 'dispose' of the unworthy, unsuspecting vampires.
How could their friend, their mentor, do this to them? What had they done wrong? What happens when the damned are destroyed? Where do they go?
Those were the questions that plagued my mind when I was destroying my own kind. I was certain it crossed theirs, as well, in their final moments. I wasn't sure what they were thinking, but I knew how badly it hurt when my iron grip caused their necks to crack, little by little. I was positive that I understood death better than any mortal or immortal around. I lived to feel it day after day.
A feeling that will forever be etched into my being is fear. Fear was always the strongest feeling of all. Fear will make the smartest of men do the most idiotic things, make the bravest of men crumble and succumb to cowardice. Fear was the emotion that fueled my existence. Afraid of what the monster inside would do on instinct alone.
It was instinct that led me to the nearest town on my route through Philadelphia. I'd tried to stay on the most rural path possible, away from humans of any kind; I had exiled myself from anything with a heartbeat. I hadn't had fed in nearly three weeks, and I was growing weak. This had been a dangerous decision on my part, but I couldn't find it in me to feed after my last encounter with my inner demon.
A young girl around the age of twelve had unknowingly crossed paths with the devil himself. She was a farm girl—I could tell by her messy braids, torn and tattered dress, and well worn shoes. She had smiled at me with an innocence I'd never known as she handed me an apple from the basket she was carrying. Her dirt smudged face filled with dread and fear as my teeth sank into her extended arm. I drained her dry, taking away any chance at life she had. As I watched her lifeless body fall into a heap in the wheat grass, the apples rolled out of the basket and stopped at my feet. I couldn't believe what I had done; I was no better than Maria. I was so disgusted with myself, I fled from the field as quickly as I could, and refused to allow that to happen again.
That's what brought me to the town entrance, where I knew I'd seek out my next victim. This time, I wouldn't go after someone filled with so much innocence; I'd find someone whose emotions would be dulled, numbed and sluggish. I braced myself for an onslaught of emotions as I stepped foot into the dimly lit town long after night had fallen. I would be protected by the cover of darkness as my eyes were already a deep onyx. No one would know what I was or that I would be the reason they wouldn't be going home on this evening.
I was surprised how quiet the town was... all except a small tavern, where loud, drunken voices could be heard through the heavy wooden door.
Perfect, I thought. Being inebriated would make taking their lives easier. Easier on the part of me that was still human.
I tilted my hat low over my eyes and entered the building with purpose. I'd been right. The emotions in the room were not as overpowering; however, the aroma of the blood flowing through their veins was intoxicating. I had to use every ounce of control I had not to pounce on the nearest human and drink every last drop they had to offer. My throat was aflame with the agonizing need to drink. I should have known waiting so long to feed was dangerous. If I killed them all, would the townspeople know it was a vampire who took the lives of the drunken men?
By the time I reached the center of the bar, I didn't care. I felt the flames flicker against my throat and venom fill my mouth. I couldn't even see their faces; I could only hear their heartbeats and the sound of blood flowing through their veins—a sound no human could ever detect, but a ravenous vampire could pick up easily.
I had to regain my human façade. I cleared my throat, trying to ebb the burn, and made my way over to a table of men playing poker. I tipped my hat and gave a shaky smile.
"Good evening, y'all. Mind if I join in?" The biggest, drunkest man of the group eyed me up before pulling out the chair next to him and dealing out the cards.
"You're not from around here are 'ya, boy?" he slurred.
"No, sir, I'm just passin' through. Thought I'd stop in for a quick drink." I swallowed the venom quickly as it filled my mouth. I could feel the heat of the humans radiating off their skin.
"Well, you picked the best place around." The man chuckled as he looked at his cards. "Good food, great whiskey, and good lookin' women. What more could a man ask for?"
I simply nodded, pretending to look at my cards. I had no interest in the game, just their blood.
Behind us, another group of men began to get riled up. The whiskey was flowing, and the fists were swinging.
A man stumbled over, crashing into a table, and shattering glass upon the floor. I whipped my head around toward the man, standing quickly when the warm crimson dripped from the small cuts in his arm. It was almost as though everything was happening in slow motion. The first drop of blood fell and splashed against the dirty wooden floor. My eyes zoned in on the succulent red substance, then back up at the man who was pulling himself off the now broken table.
Suddenly, the heavy wooden door swung open, and that's when another aroma hit me. I instantly lowered my stance, a snarl escaping my lips. The drunken men laughed, completely oblivious to what was going on around them.
It was all I could chant in my mind. The blood was mine. I was willing to fight for it, like I'd had to do so many times before. I knew that scent as well as my own. The sweet, familiar scent of another vampire.
When the day came, I had a vision during the early hours of the morning. If I wasn't living above Madame's dress shop, that would have been the day I would have called in sick. As it was, the day was slow, and knowing how frugal Madame was, I offered to leave early without pay. Normally, she would have questioned me, but the thought of saving my wages lit a gleeful spark in her eyes, and I was unceremoniously ushered right out the door.
Smiling to myself, I made my way to the nearby woods to hunt. I had a desperate need to let off some steam and refocus, so I could be ready for this evening. Coming upon a small stream, I stripped off the stuffy dress I was wearing—wondering why women allowed themselves to be trussed up so, when trousers would suit so much better—and laid it on a large, flat rock. Clad only in my unmentionables, I took off running through the woods in search of a meal.
As I zipped through the trees, I wondered what the townsfolk would think if they could see little old me sending the wildlife running for cover as they sensed a predator in their midst. Madame would probably fall over into a faint, and Maggie's blue eyes would bug out. Placing a hand over my mouth, I giggled at the visual. A moment later, I crossed the scent of a buck, and my mouth filled with venom—all amusing thoughts forgotten.
A vision flitted through my mind... if I bit the buck on his left side, the struggle that ensued would leave me with streaks of blood on myself—and it was just unacceptable to me that perfectly good underthings would be ruined! When I made the decision to sink my teeth into the right side of his neck, I saw everything going smoothly.
After taking down two bucks, I laid back on the rock by the stream and looked up at the gray sky. Thankfully today was overcast, and I was able to venture out. If I'd had to spend the whole day listening to Madame pretending to be French or grousing at everyone, I surely would have gone mad. Don't get me wrong; I have a deep love of fashion in all its forms, but I found it difficult to hold back all the wonderful ideas I had for designs that wouldn't become possible for decades due to the ignorance and restraint of the times.
Tonight was going to be difficult. My love was going to be in 'Braden's Tavern' looking for his next meal. A glimpse of his eyes in my vision revealed them to be black with thirst. It was obvious he'd been denying himself, and I suspected it was due to guilt, not lack of a viable food source. When he got a whiff of my scent, it was going to send his instincts to protect his 'food' into overdrive. The vision ended with him snarling at me, but for some reason, it wouldn't go past that. I suspected I couldn't see what happened after that because he hadn't yet decided how to react to me. When I contemplated waiting for the next opportunity, I saw that it would be years into the future. Sometimes you just had to take a chance; I'd already waited a decade for him and wasn't willing to suffer without him any longer.
That night, I left my room, grateful that Madame lived clear across town. The other tenant she was renting to—a young guy that flirted outrageously and drank way too much—had just moved out the week before. His gambling problem rendered him unable to pay his rent, and Madame was very unforgiving in that vein; the first time he was late with the rent, she kicked him out on his ear.
Watching for a quiet moment, I slipped up the road to the alley beside the tavern. A feeling of anticipation and trepidation flooded through me, and if I still had a beating heart, it would be working overtime. Holding my hand to my chest, I could almost imagine the flutters as the muscle would slam against my ribs.
Take it easy, Alice. You're finally going to meet your love; don't muck it up!
The side door opened once, and I ducked behind some crates and held my breath. One of the bartenders leaned against the wall, rolling himself a cigarette. The acrid smoke curled lazily into the still night air, and he took his time smoking every... last... bit of it.
Finally, someone stuck their head out the door, and a gruff voice yelled, "Jack! What the fuck are 'ya doin'? Get your ass in here! It's gettin' busy."
"Yeh," Jack grunted, pushing off the wall as he flicked the butt away. His shoes crunched on the grit in the alley as he shuffled back in the door with a string of muffled expletives which I caught just fine with my vampire hearing. My face would've been burning if I was human; he was very... colorful with his terminology.
A few minutes later, I heard a voice. His voice.
"Good evening y'all. Mind if I join in?" he drawled.
"You're not from around here are 'ya, boy?" someone who'd obviously been imbibing the liquor that flowed asked him.
I'd heard his voice in my visions a few times, but to hear it live for the first time rocked me to the core of my being.
"No, sir, I'm just passin' through. Thought I'd stop in for a quick drink."
I heard him swallow thickly—most likely a huge mouthful of venom—and I snickered to myself. Stopping in for a drink indeed; these yahoos just didn't realize that what he wanted wasn't up for sale at the bar and would likely be taken for free.
"Well, you picked the best place around," the man answered with a chuckle. "Good food, great whiskey, and good lookin' women. What more could a man ask for?"
Leaning against the wall, I listened to the poker game. It was during the first hand that a bit of a ruckus broke out. I could hear the sound of a fist hitting against flesh and bone before the sound of wood splitting and glass shattering reached my ears. Where there was a brawl, there was blood, and I knew he was thirsting. If he massacred half the occupants of the tavern, he would surely hit the streets running, and I might miss my opportunity. I would also have the deaths of all those people on my conscience.
This would be an opportune time for me to enter the bar because everyone would be too busy watching or participating in the fighting to notice me in their midst. Decided, I slipped around the corner and pushed open the heavy wooden door.
The sight I was met with was complete pandemonium. The tavern was dimly lit, just as it was in my visions, and against the wall to my right was the setup for the card game. Between the poker table and the door where I stood, tables were flipping, fists were flying, and glass was shattering. My attention was drawn toward the bar, where the man who yelled at Jack out in the alley was carrying on.
"What the fuck? Someone fetch the sheriff! Jesus H. Christ! I tol' these boys I'm not puttin' up with this shit anymore!" He flung his hands up, turning to a skinny guy next to him who was looking bored. "Jack! Wake the fuck up. Do something about these assholes, huh?"
Jack slapped a towel on the bar top and glared at the red-faced man. "Get the sheriff your damn self. I quit."
A snarl to my right broke into the drama. I whipped my head around, and my eyes met those of my soul mate. His face was twisted, his teeth bared, and his eyes were black as pitch. Some of the men looked at him with amusement. Surely they didn't realize the danger they were in as he crouched in front of them in what looked like a protective manner but was really a possessive one. He was protecting his food source—from me. He smelled me and deemed me a threat. He thought I was there to feed.
He took me in, his eyes gliding up and down my body in an appraising way, perhaps checking to see if I was a worthy opponent. His aggressive demeanor slipped for an instant when his eyes met mine, but his defenses were back up a second later. Apparently he decided that a four foot eleven female vampire was threat enough when he was so parched.
"Please... I'm not here to steal your food," I whispered quickly, loud enough for him to hear, but low enough that none of the humans could. "The sheriff is on the way, and you don't want to be around when he arrives. Meet me outside; I really need to talk to you. I've been waiting for you for so long."
He cocked his head to the side, eyes distrustful but undecided. In a sudden flash, I knew his name.
That was all it took. Jasper's eyes widened at the sound of his own name, and with a short nod he moved toward the door.
Not wanting to be seen together and end up at the center of the gossip mill tomorrow, I slipped out the door once I knew he would follow. I hurried up the alley to the street behind the tavern, which was deserted. My intention was to head for the woods, but I never made it. Jasper slammed me up against the wall between two shops that were long closed for the evening, his large hands easily trapping my petite arms. My enhanced hearing assured me there were no humans in the immediate vicinity.
"Now, how did you come about knowing my name, darlin'?" he drawled, but there was an underlying tension in his grip that let me know I wasn't out of the woods yet.
I barely came halfway up his chest; he was that tall. My eyes moved slowly up his long, pale neck to look at his face for the first time. He had full, plump lips that I stared at for a beat too long because someday I intended to know them intimately. Imagining the way they would feel moving over mine sent a shiver of pleasure up my spine. His face was narrow, with high cheekbones, and his honeyed curls were a bit too wild and hung just a bit too long for the times. When my eyes finally met his—dark as they were—I found a vague sense of amusement there.
"Darlin', you're drinking me in like a fine wine." His lips quirked up into a slight smirk. "What's your story, and how do you know my name, little girl?"
Shaking off the stupor, I found myself insulted by the moniker he'd used. "Wait just a minute! Who do you think you're calling a 'little girl?' Don't let my size fool you, buster." If he didn't have my arms pinned against the brick wall, I would've had a hand on one hip and the finger of the other poking him in the chest.
Jasper raised his eyebrows slightly, a look of true amusement crossing his features. "Feisty one, aren't 'ya?"
Lifting my chin defiantly, I sniffed, "You have no idea."
For the first time, I heard him laugh, and the sound soothed my soul in a way that nothing ever had.
"Oh, Jasper..." I whispered.
The sound of his name coming from my mouth seemed to snap Jasper out of the neutral zone he'd been in, and he let out a low growl of warning. His grip tightened on my arms, and he pressed me harder against the wall. "Who the hell are you? Did Maria send you? I'm not going back to that—ever."
"Never mind that. A better question is: who the hell are you?"
"I'm Alice, and I've been waiting to meet you for ten years." I smiled up at him.
"Is that so?" He didn't smile in return.
"Yes. You're my future, Jasper."
"Your... future." Jasper looked down at me carefully, his eyebrows scrunched up.
"That's right, cowboy. So... you want to stop manhandling me, or what?"
Jasper's eyes narrowed. "Not sure yet. I need answers. You're obviously a vampire, but how do you know who I am, and why is it that your eyes are amber?"
"You bring up some very excellent points, but this isn't really the place for this conversation. Come with me?"
"Darlin', I believe I have you up against the wall—pardon the pun. Why would I let you free? So you can run away?"
"Jasper, I've been looking for you for ten years; do you actually think I'm going to run from you?"
"What's all this 'ten years' shit? Who are you?" Jasper growled, his frustration evident in the tightening of his hands on my arms.
Worried that we would be discovered, I glanced around quickly, listening to the night sounds closely. Still, our luck held, and there were no humans in the vicinity.
"I'll tell you everything, but we need to get out of here. There are some woods over that way." I inclined my head since he still had my arms pinned down.
"Okay, let's go," Jasper relented.
We moved quickly, his hand wrapped around one of my arms like a vice, until we were in the woods. I led us to the rock where I'd stripped my dress off not long ago, and asked him to sit with me.
The night was cool, and the clouds had cleared away, leaving a carpet of twinkling stars in their wake. I rejoiced that I was finally sitting next to my soul mate with his hands on me—even if, for now, they weren't friendly hands.
"Don't the stars look beautiful?" I mooned.
"We're not here to look up at the stars, darlin'. Y'all need to start explaining before I lose my patience." Jasper tipped his hat; it was obvious that polite manners were an ingrained part of him.
"Sorry. I'm just so happy that we're finally here! Okay, I know this is going to sound kind of crazy, but I've been having visions of you for ten years. I've just been waiting for the right time to arrive."
"Visions, you say?" Jasper asked skeptically.
"You, of all people, shouldn't say it that way! You're gifted, too, aren't you?"
"You feel what others feel, right?"
"How do you know all this?" he asked with exasperation. "Maria must have sent you—there's no other way you could know these things."
"I told you that I don't know Maria. You can sense emotions—tap into mine—tell me that I'm not telling the truth."
He looked over at me then, his hand dropping away. Hopping down from the rock, he turned to face me, cocking his head to the side, studying me carefully. I tried to convey the truth through my emotions: how long I'd been waiting for him, how hard it had been to go on while knowing he was out there somewhere, and my excitement that we were finally here, together.
He continued to gaze into my eyes, and I started to quiver and shake with the effort it took to remain seated instead of jumping up and throwing my arms around his neck.
"My God, but you're a little ball of energy, aren't 'ya?" For the first time, I saw a true smile start to spread across his face.
"Sorry. I just can't help myself."
Jasper took a step closer, holding his hand out as though he meant to touch my face while still keeping some distance between us. "I just don't get this," he whispered. "You're telling me the truth—that much I can feel. You have so many feelings inside you, though; feelings you shouldn't be able to have for a complete stranger."
"But you're not a stranger to me, Jasper. I see the future; that's how I knew you'd be in the bar tonight. This must be weird for you, and I know you have a lot of catching up to do, but we're going to be very happy!"
"Whoa, whoa, darlin'. Happy? As in together? You and me?" He gestured with his hand between the two of us.
"Yes, exactly!" My mind wandered to the things Jasper would do to me once he'd accepted we belonged together. His lips dragging across my skin, his finger slipping inside...
"Hey, now!" Jasper exclaimed, appearing to be freaked out. "What the hell were you just thinkin' there? You need to ease up." He backed away a few feet with his hands held up in self defense.
I couldn't find it in me to be embarrassed over the visuals playing through my mind the moment before. I knew it was difficult for Jasper to accept since until twenty minutes ago he didn't even know I existed, but I'd been living with this for ten years. The relief of having finally found him made me giddy.
"Jasper, I'd apologize to you, but I'm not sorry." I shook my head slowly. "You're the love of my life, and I'll wait for you until you realize it."
There. Let him chew on that.
I stood with my mouth agape, staring at the small, beautiful woman in front of me. There was so much to take in, so much I didn't understand.
My first instinct when she entered the tavern was to protect my meal. That went over well. The smell of human blood is still so potent I can almost taste it on my tongue.
When she somehow got me outside, my defensive instincts kicked in. I'd tried to cover it up with witty remarks, but inside all I could think about was Maria and how this spunky lil' lady could have been one of her pawns trying to rope me back into her iron grasp. I wouldn't go back there, not for anything.
But no matter how worried I was that this Alice was one of Maria's pawns, she still brought me some sense of peace. I still had my guard up, and wasn't about to let it down, not right now. But I felt that I could trust Alice to a point.
What was all this talk about her being in love with me? She didn't know me, nor did she know what I had done. If she knew about Maria, she would surely change her mind about me.
However, the thoughts that must have been running through her mind earlier had awakened something deep inside me that I never knew was there—the urge to protect rather than destroy. I'd never felt anything like that with Maria.
I thought what I had with Maria was love... but I was obviously mistaken. How will I know love when it actually happens?
Alice stood there with a smirk on her face. "Well, have you figured out I don't work for this Maria person yet?"
I couldn't find the words, so I searched her feelings again, only to find excitement and a hint of something else she was trying to suppress. Her eyes held a glazed appearance, a distant look overcoming her face.
"Alice?" I questioned, but no answer. "Alice?"
Finally her eyes cleared, and she greeted me with a blinding smile. "I see you've made your decision to trust me. I've waited so long for you, Jasper. I'm so glad we can finally start our lives together!"
I shook my head, dumbfounded by her jubilant attitude. "Again with us spending our lives together... Now I've got nothin' against a pretty lady like yourself, but don't ya think we're movin' a bit fast here?"
"I told you, Jasper; I've seen you coming for a long time. I already know we belong together. Of course I know it will take us bonding for you to believe me, but I have faith that our future is set in stone. You've already decided to trust in me, so let's start here. I'm Alice; it's a pleasure to finally meet you, Jasper." She held out her hand, the smile never leaving her face.
I grasped her hand in mine, and a jolt of something I didn't feel earlier when I pinned her against the wall flowed through me, warming my frozen body. Maybe she was right; maybe she was my... mate? I couldn't be sure until I got to know her. I didn't have anywhere go, anywhere I needed to be. For once, I was in control of my own 'life.' It might be nice to have a companion to spend it with.
I shook myself out of my inner ramblings and smiled back at Alice. "It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Alice. I apologize for the way I manhandled you back there... It's kind of a reflex action, if you will."
"It's all right, Jasper. Just don't think about doing it again." She emphasized her words with a tiny finger jabbing into my chest, her other hand resting on her hip. That right there damn near must have been the cutest thing I'd ever seen. I think I liked this Alice, and she was right when she told me not to let her size fool me.
"Yes, Ma'am," I said with a smile and a tip of my hat.
"Jasper, will you come with me? I have my things packed and waiting for me. I knew this day was coming. I know you didn't, but if you trust me, I know we have others waiting for us; they just don't know it yet," she said with a gleam in her eye.
"Others?" I couldn't help but feel wary. Yes, I felt I could trust Alice, but other vampires? Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.
She approached me slowly and placed her hand on my arm. "There's another way to live, Jasper. We don't have to drink from humans; you won't have to feel their pain. There's a clan that I had visions of when I first awoke as a vampire. That's why my eyes are amber instead of red like yours. I knew there was another way to live, that we were supposed to meet this clan and live their way."
Another way to live? One where I wouldn't feel the pain of my victims, the fear...
"What is this 'other way?' How can one feed but not kill?" I would be lying to myself if I thought I hadn't wondered about the difference in her eye color.
"We can feed on the blood of animals. I know it'll be a difficult transition for you, but think about the positive things that could come of it! You would no longer feel the pain or fear; you'd be able to sustain your appetite and live amongst humans. That's what this clan does; they live like humans, alongside humans. It can be done because I've been doing it since I woke up. I know no other way of life."
We had begun walking without even realizing it. Our fingers now linked, our feet matching in pace, our eyes never leaving each other.
"You always drank from animals? Did the one who changed you teach you that?" If they did, how come she wasn't with her maker?
"I don't remember who my maker is; I don't even remember being human. One day I woke up, soon after, I had a vision of a family I was supposed to meet and knew I had to live their way of life. I know we can trust them. They're more like a family than a clan, and I know they'll accept us as their own."
I took in the information, almost overwhelmed by it all. A family? I didn't think it would be possible to live like a family again. Not after becoming a monster.
Alice doesn't seem like a monster. Far from it, actually.
I sensed a hint of sadness in Alice, but it was overshadowed with excitement and joy. Did I put that joy there? Maybe I was just hoping for too much. I shouldn't 'count my chickens before they hatch,' as they say.
We came to a halt, and Alice went into a crouch. "You hear that?" she whispered. "The fast, steady heartbeat... It smells like cattle. There's a cattle farm not far from here. It won't taste as sweet to you as human blood, but you'll learn to let it sustain you." She urged me forward with eyes of encouragement. Eyes that I couldn't seem to look away from.
"Go on, Jasper; you can do it. Just give it a try."
I nodded and took a few steps forward. Lowering my stance, I swallowed back a hiss. I could smell the blood, hear the heartbeat, and it was close by. I had gone so long without feeding, I could no longer control my animalistic instincts. I pounced on the first cow, sinking my teeth into its thick flesh. The feel of the warm, tangy blood filling my mouth was almost euphoric. One heifer was not enough, so I lunged for the neck of the closest one to me. The rest of the cattle had scattered, sensing a predator nearby. By the time I drained the second cow and dropped it to the ground with a solid thud, the burning in my throat had ebbed but was still present. I felt full, but not the type of full I would feel had the body I just dropped been that of a human. The blood was not as sweet, as satisfying, but I no longer felt as if I was starving. Better yet, I didn't feel the animal's fear when my deadly teeth pierced its veins.
Drinking from animals might not be as satisfying, but if I were to adapt to this life, I wouldn't have to worry about snuffing out the life of another human. I wouldn't have to worry about the fear.
When I finally stood up, Alice was dragging the two carcasses off to bury them in the woods. "When you're done with your meal, you have to get rid of the evidence. We don't want to frighten any townsfolk with blood-drained cattle," she said with a smile, dusting off her hands. "So, how was it?"
"It wasn't as satisfying—as you mentioned—but... I think I can make the transition. You really think we can trust this... other clan?" I was still wary, but if Alice trusted them through her ability, I was sure I could trust them, too. Or at least try.
"I'm positive, Jasper. I've known I was going to meet up with them for a long time. But I had to wait for something... that something was you! Now we can join our family." She clapped her hands together and picked up the sack containing her clothing which was hidden behind a rock next to a bubbling stream.
"Well then, let's be on our way, darlin'." I took the sack from her and flung it over my own shoulder. The two of us then proceeded to run through the forest with me following her lead.
We ran with purpose. Along the way, I learned many things about her, and I revealed many things to her about myself. She didn't look at me with eyes of judgment, only understanding and, dare I say, love?
We would stop to hunt, which I was starting to get the hang of. We stayed away from humans until we could no longer avoid them, finally entering the town where the 'Cullen Clan' resided. Alice promised me things would work out. The more time I spent with her, the more I began to believe her. Maybe her visions of us spending eternity together were correct. I could easily see her filling my once lonely, meaningless life with love, caring, and understanding.
We linked fingers and smiled at one another as we made our way up the driveway of the Cullen house.
I sit back and think of that fateful day, the day that brought me to Alice. She saved me from myself, from the self loathing I endured for many years and surely would have for the rest of eternity if she hadn't come along. I'm so glad she pulled me out of the bar that night, saving me as she has so many times since then.
I thought what I had with Maria was love... then Alice found me. I don't know what I would have become without her.
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