A/N: *Peeks out from behind computer screen* You still out there? Can you forgive me? Stomach flu swept through my house like a slow burning wildfire, and my muse packed his bags and headed for the hills. Then, I got knee-deep in book edits and school plays and animal shelter work to the point that finding an hour or two to sit down and get my thoughts on paper was just WAY too much to ask. On the upside, I have an official release date for MANHUNT - May 1st! I'm so excited! ANYWHO - there's a little bit of smut in here, just so ya know. ;)
Previously on Searching for Lost Souls:
Bella seemed to sense his submission and smiled in victory. She bent down and licked the blood that had dripped on him from her meal. She licked a trail over his abs, then ripped his jeans off when they got in her way. Finding no blood on the newly discovered flesh, she sat back up, grabbed his almost painfully hard erection and slammed herself down on top of him. Bracing herself on his chest with her hands, she set a supernatural pace. She was relentless, clawing her fingers down his abdomen. It was painful, she didn't know her own strength, but it only served to turn him on more. He bent his knees and she leaned back, arching against him as he met her thrust for thrust until they both went over the edge.
Bella curled around him, purring like the cat that got the cream, reminding him just how feral she really was at the moment. Guilt set in hard and fast. Just when he was about to start a round of brooding of Edwardian proportions, Bella kissed his collarbone.
"Bella?" He was almost afraid to hope that her breathy utterance of his name held some sign of her regaining sentience. The questioning hum he got in response bolstered his optimism a little, as did the feeling of utter contentment she was projecting.
"Sunshine, do you know who I am?" He whispered in a tone similar to the one he used when trying to calm down a spooked horse.
Bella hummed again, her voice sleepy as if she had just woken up in the middle of a dream. "Of course. You're my Jasper." She nuzzled her head deeper into the crook of his neck.
Well, he certainly liked that description. "Yes, I am. And who are you?"
"I'm your Bella." For the first time in a long time a word popped into his mind and he felt the weight of the truth behind it.
"Yes you are. Always and forever. Do you remember anything else?" He could feel her brows crinkle against his skin as she concentrated. It was a long, awkward silence as he left her to her thoughts before she bolted upright.
"Ohmigod - Snape! I killed him. Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod..." Bella wrapped her arms around herself and started rocking back and forth. Her obvious distress was tempering his excitement at her return to reality.
"Correction - almost killed him. He's recovering in the research lab, although I gotta tell you, the cat's out of the bag with him and the whole vampire thing." Jasper shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. It's not like they could do anything about it, short of killing him, and he doubted Bella would be too pleased with that idea. Unless she was really hungry.
"Oh shit." Jasper chuckled. That was putting it mildly, but all things considered he wasn't too concerned.
"Yeah. Now what?" They had a lot of decisions to make, not just about Snape, but about their future in general, but Bella seemed singularly focused on the issue at hand.
She puffed her cheeks and huffed out a breath, a determined look on her face. "Well, we just have to convince him to keep it to himself. Circle of trust and all that. He can't tell anyone, ESPECIALLY not his son."
Bella laughed at Jasper's confusion. "Yeah, do you remember Snape's real name?"
"Professor Gates," Jasper replied in a tone that made it clear he wasn't getting it.
"Right. As in Josh Gates, the host of Destination Truth...?" She paused for a second, then shook her head and continued. "Why do you think Snape was so anti-cryptozoology? He felt like his son was trading away any chance at serious success for fame, fortune and storytelling. They don't exactly get along, which is why Snape didn't show up until after Josh left. Although with his new insight into the supernatural, he might be a little more understanding of his son's interests."
Jasper was stunned. "Wow. How had I never made that connection? Who would've thought, I mean, their personalities are polar opposites of one another."
"You only say that because Snape never hit on me."
"Yeah, I knew there was a reason I liked him." Jasper hated to ruin the moment by asking the one question that threatened to send Bella back into a feeding frenzy, but it needed to be done. "How ya doin', Sunshine? Thirsty?"
Bella's lips puckered in an all-too enticing way as she considered the question. "No, not really. I've got a little tickle in my throat, but nothing too bad. Do you think maybe we could go for a walk, get some fresh air?"
"Cabin fever?" Jasper teased.
"Not exactly, it's not like I have a clear recollection of being here prior to about an hour ago... although I'm curious, how long have I been in here?"
"A little over a week."
"Wow. What made me snap out of it?"
"My amazing vamp sex skills." Bella's jaw dropped. Jasper smirked, quirking one corner of his mouth, all smug and pleased with himself.
"Huh. Couldn't have been that amazing if I don't remember it," Bella replied with a smirk of her own.
"Is that so? Hmmm, well then let me see if I can refresh your memory, my dear."
Without further warning, Jasper pounced, pinning Bella to the ground, arms over her head in much the same position she had him in not-to-long ago. He had fantasized about this moment for so long, where he could give her the full power of his love without holding back. He had every intention of showing her all the perks of her new life, starting with his favorite one.
He kissed her with bruising force, his hunger building when she grabbed his hair with both hands. He pulled away from her and ran a blazing trail down her neck, around the curves of her breast and down her abdomen, scraping his teeth along her skin along the way. He stopped just shy of where she was desperately hoping was his destination and flattened his tongue against her skin, retracing the path he'd just taken, licking her venom as it slowly oozed from the scratches he'd made with his teeth.
All the while he blanketed her in waves of love, lust, and need. He sensed when she was on the cusp of ecstasy and backed off just a bit, wanting to draw it out as long as possible.
He sunk his teeth into her neck at the exact moment he slammed into her. Her answering moans and mews were music to his ears. He picked up the pace and she picked up the volume. They were just about to reach a beautiful cresendo together when...
Bang - Bang - Bang
"Hey, can you guys keep it down in there? I'm sure you've scared off all the wildlife within half a mile!"
Jasper's forehead fell onto Bella's shoulder. He was sincerely regretting saving Snape. And, seriously, the man had less self-preservation instinct then Bella did as a human. Maybe it was a required personality trait for the job.
Bella just giggled and covered her head like she'd been caught by her dad.
"So, Bella, tell me, do you plan on maintaining an animal diet, as Jasper does, or the more traditional one?" Bella was really startled by the casualness of Snape's questioning. That, and said questioning inevitably made her vision zero in on his artery.
"Um... well, as you know I've dedicated my life to conserving animals, not killing them. Not that I don't have respect for the whole 'Circle of Life' thing, I mean, I certainly don't think less of the wolves for their diet, but still, it bothers me. Jasper said it's next to impossible to feed from an animal without killing it, and even if I could, there would be scarring. It wouldn't take long before a hunter took down a buck with strange teeth-mark scars and then Josh and crew would be back in town."
"Soooo... people then." Bella smiled at the lack of judgment from her mentor and friend. "Could I make a suggestion? What about blood banks? There would be some minor deterioration of nutrients from storage, I suppose, but it seems like a viable alternative. Plus, no one dies, man or beast."
Bella looked at Jasper hopefully, an image of languidly sipping from Caprisun-like blood bags while sitting by the campfire floating through her head. "It seems worth a shot. It would require some petty larceny every now and again, but I'm cool with that. Besides, I hate animal blood. It's rank."
Snape nodded and marked off the first item on his checklist. "Since we don't have blood samples from a people-drinker, I'm not able to ascertain why a vampire's eye color differs so drastically on that diet from your so-called vegetarians. Scientifically speaking, it just doesn't make much sense. Honestly, I'm not even sure why your eyes change color in the first place. Be that as it may, your red eyes are going to be a problem, especially if you plan to continue working on your fellowship."
"Of course I want to continue working. Colored contacts? If I get blue tinted contacts, my eyes should end up looking violet, right? That'd be cool." Jasper nodded in approval.
"Excellent," Snape enthused. "I'll do some preliminary testing, determine which brands are the most venom-resistant. Moving on. We need to get some field time under our belts, both to determine your control around the wildlife, and to see to what degree the animals fear you. Especially the wolf pack. You can't do observational research if they take off every time you're within 100 yards."
"Traveller and Belle are fine around me," Bella protested.
"Yes," Jasper agreed, "but we all know they are not exactly ordinary horses."
"Okay, well it's neither here nor there, really. If you can do field work successfully, I can leave you to it as planned before this all happened. If not, then Plan B is simple. Either I take a sabbatical and do the field research while you work in the lab, or we hire you an intern. I think the pros and cons of those options are self-explanatory."
Bella didn't even have to look at Jasper to know he was cringing at either possibility, but especially at the idea of a human who didn't know about vampires staying at the lab for any length of time.
"Let's not put the cart before the horse. Let's run under the assumption that I can do it and go from there."
"Very well." Snape checked three more items off his sheet. "Last item of business. There is a press junket planned in a couple of weeks for the release of the Nat Geo documentary. Are you going to be up to it, or should we start forming an excuse now?"
Bella was instantly nervous. Snape had been the only human she'd been around in the past two weeks, and even then only when sitting outside where his scent would not become concentrated, and with Jasper by her side. "I don't know..."
"Well, there's only one way to find out. Let's invite your friends from town up here for a barbeque. Worst comes to worst, we can blame any disappearances on Bigfoot." Snape snapped his notebook shut and headed back to the lab, clearly signaling the end of their impromptu meeting.
Jasper leaned in and nibbled on her ear before whispering in it. "Are you sure I can't kill him?"
A/N: Worth the wait? Show me some love, huh? I gotta tell you, I was surprised I got not one innuendo in last chapter's reviews about Bella sucking on beavers. Must have just been me and my dirty mind lol. ;)