I couldn't believe it had come to this.
Sittin' high in the pine tree, I let out a long sigh. Sometimes protectin' the one you love meant doin' things they didn't like. In my case, it meant choosin' a course of action I'd never be forgiven for. I'd already counted the cost and decided that I'd pay it—there was no other choice.
The girl had to die.
She had to die tonight. She'd cheated death today, and I was goin' to make sure that debt was paid—it had to be. In order to protect the one I loved more than my own life, the worthless human had to go.
Isabella Swan—the very mention of her name grated on my nerves from the first day she entered the student body of Forks High.
The hell that was school had always been a double-edged sword for me. The bloodlust any vampire would suffer in such conditions was only half my burden.
My gift—that was no such thing—was the other edge of the sword. It turned my school time into a prison sentence. The room where we spent each day pretendin' to eat had become a place of torment. On top of that, the emotional upheaval the newest student caused made that double-edged sword twist in my gut. I kept a calm face and continued playin' human.
I'd never let the pain get the best of me.
The agony came to a head on that fateful January seventeenth in the lunchroom.
Ha, if we'd treated it like a lunchroom, no one would live to tell the tale.
I stifled a groan as the errant thought went through my head, and Edward raised an eyebrow at me just before I went through the door—I ignored him. As we made our entrance that day, the waves of lust the males were throwin' off over the new girl hit me hard.
Funny thing about emotions, the reactions they draw out of all livin' creatures are involuntary—unless one possesses strong self-discipline.
My family had me pegged as lackin' in that area, but they were wrong. At least that's what I told myself. I'd spent the first seventy-six years of my immortal life in hell—livin' hard and fast, never knowin' if each sunrise would be my last. I'd fed hard, too, draining humans at will, for the most part. The fact of the matter is that human blood is addictive—a vampire's crack.
Hello, my name is Jasper, and I'm a human blood addict.
Because Edward could read my mind, he labeled my thirst as out-of-control and decided I was weaker than he was. After only two years of "rebellion," as he called it, he deemed himself knowledgeable in the effects of huntin' humans. Naturally, he shared his discovery with the rest of the coven.
After that, I became the sole occupant of the Cullen Watch List.
How could he compare his paltry experience as a human-drinker with my nearly eight decades of complete self-indulgence? So while Edward was able to hear my thoughts, he could never truly know my intentions—a fact he overlooked in his ignorance and conceit. Sometimes givin' in to mental visualization helped me relieve the pressure and ease my burden. Sure, I'd slipped on occasion, most of us had. Me a little more often than the rest, I'll admit. But, unlike the rest of coven, each slip had a price that I had to pay.
And pay I did.
To feel everythin' from my prey—as their final moments faded into death—was far more of a deterrent than the disapprovin' looks I'd endured each time I came home with red eyes. The only thing worse than feelin' my prey was drownin' in the others' reactions when they looked at me. The pity of everyone else was bad enough, but the calm understandin' that Alice covered her disappointment with was nearly more than I could bear. Yet, somehow, I did bear it—repeatedly—because she wanted it all. The family, goin' to school, playin' human…she loved it, and I loved her, so I did it all—for her.
No matter how hard it was.
I've never been one to complain, so I didn't bother pointin' out how much heavier my burden was, that none of them had to fight against the things I did, and that I wasn't as weak as they thought. I let them peg me as the weak link, and on some days, I believed it myself.
January seventeenth, 2005 was one of those days.
Alice must have noticed my eyes darken as a result of the ragin' hormones that flooded the room because she took my hand. I knew she was tryin' to help, but she should've known better. That move was one of the worst she could've made. Instantly, I was locked in battle with my own lust for my mate. I wanted nothin' more than to drag her off that campus and have my way with her. I fought the desire back. Duty first.
My wife's name floated to me on a whisper, snappin' my attention to the fool who chose to ignore my previous warnin'. My anger swelled. Emmett and I made a point when we moved to a new place to make it known that Alice and Rose were off limits. The males of the schools we attended knew better—or they disappeared.
We'd had to move twice because of that.
Jim Thompson thought he whispered too softly for me to hear. "Sure Bella's nice looking, but I still say Alice looks like she knows how to have a good time." My ear caught it all, even the quick "Shut up!" that his friend threw out as he looked at me.
I ignored the smart one, locked eyes with Jim, and reminded myself that I was playin' human. My jaw refused to unlock as I demanded. "Did you say something?"
"Uh, n-no," the fool stuttered.
Takin' a single step toward him to drive the point home, I seethed, "Good, see that you don't."
The visual of givin' him a little reminder to keep my wife's name off his filthy lips came to a halt when Alice spoke.
"Forget him, Jazz. I know I will." She winked at me, and I had to beat back the lust again.
I glared at Jim once more before turnin' to her. "If you say so…" I leaned close "…darlin'." Her soft laugh made my lust spike yet again, so I stepped back, squared my shoulders, and focused on anythin' other than what I wanted to do to my woman.
Between my ire at Jim, the lust comin' from every male in the buildin', and the jealousy shootin' from the females—all on top of my bloodlust—I was hurtin' quite a bit when I first laid eyes on Bella Swan.
By the time we were all seated with our lunchtime props, my thirst was pullin' hard on the reigns of my control. I decided to try my old tactic and let myself fantasize. I knew I wasn't goin' to hurt the girl, but I was hungry—so very hungry. It'd been a week since I'd fed, and while Alice kept tellin' me I should be able to go longer, I knew it was useless. Yet, for her, I'd keep tryin'. There wasn't anythin' I wouldn't do for Alice. She'd always come first.
So I picked out a tasty lookin' girl and imagined what I'd do if I could turn off my gift. I'd stroll over to her, and she'd be thrilled with my attention. We were beautiful to humans for a reason. I'd lean down and speak softly to her…she'd come in close to hear me better…my teeth would slip into her neck so easily…
Edward kicked my chair.
I bit back a growl. I had killed for less in the South.
Back then, I was Major Jasper Whitlock, the feared second-in-command of Maria's army. No one dared look me in the eye for fear of sufferin' my wrath. I'd caused unspeakable pain for the slightest infraction. If anyone, save my sire, had so much as bumped me accidentally, I would've made them pay. I shook myself out of my dark thoughts. I wasn't there anymore, and I was tryin' to be a better man for Alice. Squashin' the desire to hurt Edward, I focused on my shame at not keepin' myself in check.
"Sorry." My muttered apology was the exact opposite of how I wanted to tell Edward to mind his own business. Just because you think somethin' doesn't mean you're actually goin' to do it.
I knew Alice and Edward had been havin' one of their silent conversations about me. They thought they were bein' stealthy, but their emotions gave them away—always did. That little twinge of guilt that came from Alice followed by the same from Edward. Then, dependin' on what he heard from my thoughts and what she saw of my future, the emotions played out. At that moment, they both felt pity and sadness. The sword twisted, cuttin' into my silent heart this time. Sometimes, I longed to feel nothin' at all.
Alice tried to encourage me, but it was too late for that—my pride was wounded. I snapped at her only to instantly regret it. An old fault of mine is coverin ' up my hurt with anger, and little hurt me more than Alice's pity. When she rose to leave, I turned to gaze out the window, takin' a break from it all by wishin' myself somewhere far away from high school.
Very few would ever understand what it was like—my time in the South—or how livin' such a life affected me forever. As it was, I was in a category of my own. To the Cullens, I was a war-torn man, strugglin' to adapt. To Peter and Charlotte, who had shared my life in hell, I was a puzzle. They couldn't comprehend why I'd subject myself to a world of coven life that included playin' human.
I'd tried to explain it to Peter several times to no avail. Bein' a good man, he didn't hold it against me, even though it meant we didn't get to see each other much. Their visits were always too short because bein' nomads, they couldn't stay in one place for long.
Edward's frustration intruded into my thoughts. Keepin' my gaze on the window, I analyzed his emotions. His frustration rose as each second ticked by. Bein' a stubborn man, I refused to scan the room and subject myself to his accusations again.
I could hear Jessica Stanley tellin' Bella that Edward didn't date. Humor trickled from Edward, and I knew he was thinkin' of the time Jessica spent fawnin' over him and how quickly she'd turned cold when he paid her no mind. Then a sudden burst of jealousy caught me off guard. I'd expected Edward to call me out on my snoopin'—he didn't. Sure, my thoughts gave me away when I used my gift, but Edward seemed to be concentratin' on somethin' else pretty hard.
When he told Emmett that the new girl was bein' filled in on the Cullen Clan gossip, I cringed. I'd heard Jessica Stanley describe us in the past. I'd hated hearin' her talk about me. I looked like I was in pain because I usually was—the likes of which she'd never know. The memory drew my attention to everythin' that pressed on me, and the sword twisted again. I kept the grimace off my face. We had a role to play, and I was good at it.
Edward's thirst flared unexpectedly, and I almost let out a growl. Feelin' his thirst added his bloodlust to mine just the way that him readin' my thoughts about needing blood stoked the fire in his throat. I'd never been so glad to get out of that room as I was that day. Walkin' down the hall, I was lookin' forward to gettin' through the rest of the day smoothly so I could hunt and spend some time with my mate, makin' up for my harshness.
Fate had other plans.
After settlin' into my seat in calculus class, I began to seek out Alice. A fact I rarely shared was that everyone has their own emotional blend, a kind of signature. Singlin' out someone was easiest with those I was more familiar with. As in the case of our coven, I could tell what emotion was comin' from who. I found her through her smugness mixed with satisfaction, and I guessed some vision she had told her what she wanted to know.
Some days, my mate liked her gift a little too much.
The teacher was collectin' the homework when I felt Edward. The cocktail that I felt was dangerous. Desire—extreme desire—thirst bloomed into ragin' bloodlust, disgust, no, self-loathin'…connivin'…more bloodlust. He'd chosen a victim and was plannin' on the best way to attack. That explained his excitement. Calm poured over the excitement. Self-restraint warred with patience—he'd decided to do it, but was still plannin' it out in his head.
There could still be time. I had to act fast.
I faked a coughin' fit, earnin' a sympathetic look from the teacher who pointed to the door. "Go get a drink of water."
Edward's thirst suddenly toned way down for a few seconds, as if his self-control would win. Not wantin' to take any chances, I slipped down the hall and made my way as quickly as possible without rousin' suspicion. The desire and self-control began seesawin'; one would rise as the other fell. He was tryin' to fight it—and he was losin'.
Next, a wave of hatred came from him that had me wonderin' just what he was thinkin'. Perhaps his desire toward his victim had turned to hate. That I could understand. I'd often hated my victims, but that was usually after they were dead and I was left with the guilt that their emotional onslaught left me swimmin' in. I was mostly on my own back in the South. No one understood the guilt my ability saddled me with. Maria mocked me for bein' weak, which made me hate my victims even more.
Had Edward killed already? I was just about to enter the science buildin' when Alice came around the corner.
Like the lovesick fool I've been since she first took my hand in that diner, I did as she asked. Seein' her eyes glaze over, I instinctively put an arm around her and looked around. Some of my old habits would never leave. The worst part of Alice's visions is that she was defenseless when they hit, and she had no control over when they came. I hated the fact that we couldn't be in every class together.
The stream of Edward's emotions started to fade. My eyes stayed glued to Alice as she slipped in and out of her gift. I'd learned long ago to wait until her search was complete before askin' her any questions. Bein' the mate of a psychic wasn't always easy. I grimaced when she began to speak between her visions. This often rode a fine line between entertainin' and irritatin'.
"He already ruled out the classroom. Now it's the forest."
I tensed to run; I'd gladly save my brother from the mistakes I'd made.
Alice continued. "…wait…her house…oh, Edward, what are you thinking?" Once Edward's emotions were about half of what they were before, Alice came back to me. "He's fine for now. Let's go before someone sees us." I reluctantly left, because I'd never bet against Alice.
The drive home was filled with more silent conversation and cryptic back and forth between Alice and Edward. While my wife was fairly calm, Edward's emotions were all over the place causin' my irritation to spike. I decided to focus on keepin' myself under control, so I didn't project and make the atmosphere inside in the tiny car worse. Alice would explain.
Edward stopped only long enough to let us out before he sped off—his fear flowin' full force. When his car disappeared from sight, the rest of us turned toward Alice.
"He's leaving for a while," she murmured sadly. I knew Rose and Em were lookin' at me, but I kept my eyes on my wife. Soon they got the hint that I wanted to be alone with Alice and left. After the day I'd had, those few words were nowhere near good enough an explanation.
Takin' her hand a little too roughly, I pulled her to me. "What's goin' on?"
She shrugged and looked down. I could tell she knew somethin' that she wanted to keep from me. Normally, I let Alice have her secrets. I knew she'd tell me what I really needed to know, most of the time. As it stood, I was in no mood to be kept in the dark, so I kept a steady gaze on her and waited.
"He…met Bella today." After peekin' up at me, she quickly added, "I've seen how you're going to react and–"
"Stop right there. How 'bout you just tell me what is goin' on and let me decide how I'm goin' to react."
She rolled her eyes. "You accent is showing." I knew she was teasin' and tryin' to divert my attention. If I let her play her game, she'd divert my attention all the way into bed. To be honest, I often let her do just that—but not this time.
Easily slippin' into what I call my "student speak" I asked again. "I want to know what's going on, my darling Alice, and I want to know right now. Quit trying to keep secrets from me. What did you see?"
Noddin' slightly, she gave it up. "He came very close to killing her today. He still wants to, but he's fighting it. I've never seen him react this way to a human."
I groaned in displeasure. Movin' was never fun. "How long 'till he drains her?" I realized he could be at her house as we spoke. "Or did he do it already?"
"He hasn't and right now…" Her eyes glazed over as she checked his future. "…I can't tell because of him deciding to leave. Everything's all fuzzy." She scrunched up her nose, so I took the opportunity to steal a kiss. She looked up at me. "Maybe if I got to know her…"
"No, Alice." Rarely did I outright tell her what to do, but this was too much. "You know as well as I do that a vampire doesn't resist their singer."
"I never said she was his singer."
"No, I'm sayin' it."
She rolled her eyes. "Whatever, Jazz."
"When Edward comes back, which he will, the girl is dead."
"Promise, Alice," I pressed. "It's not safe. There's also the law to consider."
She stomped her foot, and I suppressed a smile—I had her and she knew it. "Fine," she said with a huff. "I'll stay away from her." I knew she wasn't happy, but her safety came first—her safety would always come first.
After Edward left, peace found us again—as much as could be had playin' human—but I was grateful for whatever peace I could get. With my history, I'd learned the hard way never to be ungrateful for an ordinary day.
That peace went to hell in a hand basket when Edward came back.
Next thing I knew, we're back in that lunchroom, and I was guidin' in my wife by her elbow because she was so deep in her gift, she was nearly blind. I'd done a fairly good job keepin' my rage under control, but seein' Alice like that was enough to push me over the edge.
At that point, I wished he'd just kill her and get it over with.
When we finally sat down, Edward's irritation with everyone's protectiveness was pourin' off him. I thought it was about time the mind reader got a taste of his own medicine, and I couldn't resist gettin' in a little dig of my own.
Annoyin', isn't it?
His answerin' look was murderous, and I grinned widely in response. We were all shocked when he'd told us that he couldn't hear the thoughts of the little human. Good for her. Serves him right not to be so all knowin'. Sure, it may have been a bit twisted to be enjoyin' his situation, but I never said I didn't have a dark side—because I do.
Durin' the next class, I felt Edward's self-restraint slip, and once again, Alice and I met outside science buildin'.
"I don't understand," she whined. "I saw them talking, and everything seemed to be going so well!" She checked the future, and I looked around. What kind of danger I was expectin' in a school, I didn't know, but it made me feel better to scan the area.
"This is ridiculous," I growled. "I told him to go home. Why couldn't he just listen? One human isn't worth so much trouble. Maybe he should just…"
Alice glared at me. "It would crush Edward. Not to mention what it would do to Chief Swan. Then we'd have to move…I like it here, Jazz." Her sincerity was pure and, like I'd proven time and again, I'd do anythin' in my power to make her happy.
The bell rang and I could feel Edward's relief. "Let's go." I held out my hand. "This class is almost over, and he'll be with Emmett in the next one. Let him baby-sit." I leaned closer. "I need to get out of here."
Alice slipped her hand into mine, givin' me the silent permission I needed to take off. I may have sent her a truckload of lust to help—I'll never tell. We spent the rest of the day in a small cabin that we used to keep our marital activities to ourselves. Needless to say, I felt calm and relaxed when we made our way back to the house.
Truth be told, I thought Edward was insane for even entertainin' the thought of pursuin' a human girl, but I kept it pretty much to myself. Hell, my ability gave me a ringside seat to the emotional storm that was Edward Cullen. I knew firsthand the war he was wagin' with himself. In the end, I decided that if he wanted a human then that was on him. There was no need for me to get involved.
All that changed the day Edward went too far.
The ride to school was tense. Alice was upset again—sadness and longin' flowed from her. Unhappiness seemed to be a constant visitor since Bella came to Forks. Not wantin' to add to her stress, I decided not to press for the cause of her state. I wanted to press Edward though—seein' Alice so unhappy made me want to press my knuckles right across his jaw.
If Edward caught my thoughts, he didn't acknowledge them. I chalked it up to his bein' preoccupied with a little human who smelled too good for him to resist. As if on cue, the girl appeared and captured Edward's attention. Alice seemed to be watchin' Edward, and havin' enough of the whole thing, I left with Em and Rose who were as fed up as I was.
We were on the other side of the school when I felt the initial shift in Alice's emotions—a vision was breakin' into her mind. What I was totally unprepared for was the cripplin' horror and fear that crashed down like a bucket of ice water.
Before I could figure out what was happenin', the sounds of breakin' glass and bendin' metal filled the air. Movin' as fast as we dared, we came back to the parkin' lot to find Edward with his arms around the tasty girl, sittin' between two crumpled vehicles. Speakin' at our natural speed, Alice told me everythin' that we missed. Her horror became my own as the implications of Edward's actions hit me. Only a moment passed before she caught my decision.
My eyes snapped to her, and while I did all I could to keep my anger from reachin' her, she still read it on my face. "Please, just wait and see how this all works out."
I shook my head. "You have to see the danger he's just put us all in."
She sighed but didn't try to argue. Alice, more than anyone else, knew exactly what my thoughts were and what drove them. She also knew when I wouldn't be dissuaded—not without one hell of a reason.
Without waitin' to see if the girl survived, I hurried Alice out of the parkin' lot and into a deserted classroom. Rose and Emmett were right behind us.
"That moron!" Even in her anger, Rose remembered to keep her voice down. "When I get my hands on him, he's going to be sorry."
Emmett wrapped his arms around his wife. "Rosie, baby, relax." She glared at him, and he shrugged. "Sure, he's been careless, but what'd you want him to do? Just watch her die?"
"I wanted him to act human!" she shot back. "Just look at what he's done. You know the girl had to notice something is off!" Her eyes shifted to me. "She has to be kept quiet."
I nodded slowly. "There's only one thing to do now."
"No!" Alice grabbed my arm. "Jazz, please, let's just wait."
Rose's rage pulsed at me in swift, hot gusts, makin' it hard for me to keep my composure. "That's not like you—to say somethin' like that—to wait and see." I tilted my head and demanded, "What exactly do you see, Alice? Don't leave anythin' out."
"Edward and Bella in the hospital hallway. He's talking to her, being very mean, and hoping to push her away."
"Not good enough," I declared. "She's got to be dealt with…" I looked at Rose. "…properly."
"Yes," Rose hissed.
Emmett shook his head. "No, it doesn't have to be that way."
My hands fisted with the need to hit something. "Of course it has to be that way! It's her or us, Emmett."
The bell rang, signalin' the start of the next period. My mind was set. "There's nothin' else to talk about. We need to get to class."
When Alice looked at me—her pleading clear—all I could do was look away and take her hand. I lead her to her next class without lookin' her in the eye. I'd rather deal with a sad or angry Alice than a dead one. Because of Edward's selfish action of savin' his pet, a dead Alice was a very real possibility.
The Volturi don't give second chances.
Sittin' in class, I ignored the teacher, and let my mind go back sixty years. Maria had gotten too greedy, and the Volturi came to put us back in our place. Their attack came out of nowhere—their justice swift and final. Even with all my years in the wars, their attack surprised and awed me. I never understood why they let Maria and I live that day. We stood in the midst of seventeen burnin' newborns as we watched our punishers walk away without sayin' a word. I focused on my anger to hide my fear that day. There was little I feared in this world, and the Volturi made that short list.
So did the thought of anythin' happenin' to my wife.
Needless to say, the ride home was tense and quiet, at least to the ear. Judgin' from the bursts of anger from Rose and the respondin' waves of irritation from Edward, I'd say she was givin' him a piece of her mind—literally. Sometimes what we called a gift was nothing more than an extra burden. I didn't feel the least bit sorry for Edward, but tried, rather unsuccessfully, to keep myself in check.
While Edward suffered through whatever thoughts Rose was tossin' at him, Alice was in some kind of silent battle with him, too. By the time we got home, I was on edge, but determined to see things through. Surely, Carlisle would see reason. There was only one thing to be done. Remove the threat before a larger and vastly more powerful one came to crush us all.
If I thought she'd let me, I would've had Alice in another country by sunrise.
We all gathered in the dinin' room where our biggest decisions were made. I quieted my thoughts and calmed myself. Gettin' worked up would do no good here. This wasn't the South, and we had a system of how things like this were decided.
Usin' my gift, I had a good idea what each of us wanted. Not havin' Alice on my side was uncomfortable, and I resolved not to let it come between us. Surely, we could be objective. Edward's apologies and promises of leavin' fell on deaf ears, since none of it would change a thing. Rose agreed with me—the girl had to die.
I could feel Carlisle's doubt and compassion. When his resolve followed, I knew I wouldn't like what he had to say, but I refused to change my mind. Sometimes protectin' those you love meant doin' things they won't like.
As Rose argued, Carlisle gently countered her arguments, and I could feel her resolve melt away. I'd be lyin' if I said I was surprised by it. Wouldn't be the first time I'd be alone in such a dispute. They'd thank me later.
Edward laid down his final word—I was not to harm the girl. His determination was strong enough, but I knew he didn't have the might to back it up. Sure, we'd sparred before, just messin' around. In all our years together, I'd never really tried to hurt him. I'd never used my full strength and skill.
If it came down to it, I'd take Edward apart if it meant savin' Alice.
I made my position clear. Whether he accepted my threat for what it was, I didn't know. Nor did I care. Not one other sittin' in that room had my dark past. There were monsters that ruled our world of monsters, and I'd never let myself forget that. I knew what Aro wanted: powerful additions to his coven. A perfect example of what he prized—wrapped in a beautiful package—sat a few feet from me in the form of my mate.
He could have her over my pile of ashes.
Another silent exchange between Edward and Alice. My well-practiced tolerance of this familiar occurrence was worn thin. When she spoke my name, I'd expected her to tell me how she could take care of herself, as if I didn't know just how capable she was. That was when Alice dropped the bomb—Bella would be one of us, or die. The kicker was that Bella was destined to be Alice's friend, if she lived.
When the hope from the one I loved washed over me, I caved. How could I hurt someone who meant—or at least would mean—so much to the one I'd die for? When she declared my indecision cleared the future, I locked down my thoughts and stilled my mind. I wanted to see what vision came if I choose to abide by my wife's request.
Alice dropped the second bomb. Edward was fallin' in love with the human. When I asked for clarification, Alice remained steadfast. The girl would die or be changed. So I did the only thing I could…
I told my wife I'd leave the girl alone. I lied to keep Alice happy. I lied to keep her safe. Keepin' myself focused on believin' the lie I told, I decided to believe the lie in order to see how things played out.
But I knew, deep inside, that I could only hold out for so long.
Edward went to school the next day, soaked in determination. I kept track of him as he went about his day, doing all he could to ignore the fragile human who'd turned our lives upside down. Though he played his part carefully, his hurt could be felt above all else. He tried to ignore it, but I knew his pain was there—growin' by the day. Stupidly, his confidence in his plan grew at the same time.
Oh, oxymoron of emotion, thy name is Edward.
Alice's frustration steadily increased as well. Between the two of them, I lived on the edge of a knife, ready to snap if someone so much as whined over a flattened kitty on the side of the road.
This went on for over a month. I took to extra huntin' trips with Emmett just to get away from the emotional storm that the Cullen home had become. One night, as I held her, Alice confided that Edward's future had become a tangled mass of possibilities now that he was fightin' so hard to prove the girl meant nothin' to him.
That little revelation did not sit well with me, but I reminded myself to believe the lie I told.
Then, as so often happens, the balance of density shifted. As we sat in the car, waitin' to go home after yet another tedious school day, Edward felt hopeful and jealous—interestin'. His change in emotion was unexpected after weeks of pain and anger. Trackin' his gaze, I found that he was watchin' the girl, who was behind us in her truck talkin' to some guy. Alice was happy, very happy, and I reminded myself to focus on believin' the lie.
By the time Bella had refused her third invitation to the spring dance, Edward was as happy as Alice was. I felt sick to my stomach when Alice declared the future was back to only two possible outcomes; this was goin' too far. True, Alice's gift was powerful, but it relied on the choices of others, and they often turned on a dime.
Edward took off when we got home, supposedly for his run. Even before his car disappeared from sight, I felt him shift. His rising bloodlust told me he was goin' to hunt, and I wondered what kind of blood he was really after.
After persuadin' Rose to engage Alice in a round of clothin' design and online shoppin', I left under the pretense of runnin' an errand. Focusin' on the hardware store until the last minute, I left my car on a side road and took off at a full run.
Time to visit Bella Swan.
Takin' the long way around was necessary. I approached her house through the woods from the far side, so Edward wouldn't cross my scent as he came to her house. I'd allow him one last visit.
It was the least I could do.
Though I couldn't see inside the house from my pine perch, the emotions of the girl and her father let me locate them and told me what I needed to know. She was in her room, doing something boring—homework perhaps. Her father was downstairs, watchin' TV. Even from my distance, I could hear the football game. He was calm, the troubles of the day forgotten.
Too bad this would be the last of his calm nights since I was about to kill his only child.
That's when I realized he'd have to go, too. To leave him alive would be much crueler than endin' him tonight. I shook my head at the thought of sentencing' him to years of grief. My days of cruelty ended when I left Maria. Killin' him tonight would be much better—for him.
Bella's emotions shifted, tellin' me she was asleep. Her father had gone upstairs, he was preparin' for bed. Soon he, too, would be lost in his final dreams.
There'd be a price to be paid for my actions, startin' with what I would feel as death claimed my victims. I shuddered, knowin' how their final moments of dread, fear, and regret—there was always regret—would settle in my heart, never to be forgotten. As bad as the first part of my punishment would be, the other parts would be much worse.
I'd have to face Edward first. He'd want to hurt me and I knew I'd let him. He couldn't best me in a fight, but he'd be entitled to some kind of revenge. Whatever he could dish out would be nothin' I hadn't had to bear before. Maria did so enjoy her punishments.
Carlisle and Esme would be harder to handle. They'd look at me with hurt in their eyes, and I'd feel it all—their sadness and disappointment. Perhaps they'd finally ask me to leave. If I was lucky, they'd let me stay for Alice.
The picture of my mate's face came to mind and I had to push it away. If I thought of her, I'd never be able to do what had to be done. Once I killed the girl and her father, there would be no turnin' back. I couldn't be sure Alice would ever forgive me. I knew the pain I'd feel from her would drive me to my knees, and I'd deserve it. Perhaps she'd ask me to leave, or make me promise to never be alone so I could be looked after. To make things right between us, I do anythin' she asked of me.
Except I wouldn't be sorry—not ever—because I did it to keep her safe.
Edward's scent came to me on the breeze just before I saw him nearin' the Swan house. Longin', fear, and anticipation came from him as he stopped below the second story window that led to the girl's room. My body locked down into complete stillness—I was takin' a gamble. Neither of us knew whose gift reached farther, and it seemed to vary on the situation. My only savin' grace would be that Edward would be too wrapped up in his human to notice me.
After and easy jump, he was hanging from the edge of the roof. Peering through the glass, he hesitated. His surprise revealed that this was his first visit. He hadn't known it was Bella's window. I wondered if he'd have the courage to go inside. A soft mutter came from the girl, and Edward opened the window and slipped inside.
Guess curiosity kills cats and tasty humans alike.
Less than a second after he went into her room, Edward's bloodlust hit me full force. Fightin' the urge to growl and challenge him for the kill, I sank my fingers deep into the tree branches, forcin' my body to stay put. In all my immortal years, rarely did a single vampire's desire for blood affect me so strongly—she was his singer all right. His bloodlust was even stronger then that first day when the sweet-smellin' human girl entered the biology room. His hunger spiked again, helpin' me decide a change in tactics was in order. All I needed to do was wait.
I'd help him clean up when it was done.
I'd help him explain to the family.
I'd endure whatever Alice had in store for me, even if she asked me to leave. Once Bella Swan was dead, then Alice would be safe. Even if it meant only watchin' my mate from afar until she forgave me, I'd do it—for her.
Pulling in a deep breath of the cool night air, I went over my thoughts again.
Sometimes protectin' the one you love meant doin' things they didn't like. In my case, it meant choosin' a course of action I'd never be forgiven for. I'd already counted the cost and decided that I'd pay it—there was no other choice.
The silence of the night was broken by the softest of voices—Bella whispered Edward's name. Her calm stayed the same; she must've spoken in her sleep. Silly humans.
His reaction amazed me. The undercurrent of longin' was still there, but now his bloodlust drowned in an overwhelmin' feelin' of…
No, it couldn't be.
I checked again. Had I been a weaker man, the sheer force of the emotion comin' from my brother would've knocked me out of my perch.
Edward was pourin' out waves of love—deep, unquestionin' love. He was in love with the human.
While my head started to go over my tactical options, I couldn't ignore the burnin' in my soul. Yeah, I still thought I had a soul. The deeds of my past had already condemned it to the deepest pit of hell, but I couldn't deny when my conscience was tryin' to get my attention.
I'd felt deep, lastin' love several times in my life, but human love didn't compare to the love that was shared by my kind. Most of all, I felt the love between Carlisle and Esme…Rose and Emmett…and what I felt from Edward belonged in the same category. Only one love surpassed them all—the pure, sweet, just for me love that had been my savin' grace. The love I felt from Alice.
The pain of the mere thought of somethin' happenin' to her is what drove me to the choice of endin' the two humans in the Swan house. I'd seen firsthand what happens to vampires that lose their mate. The slow death that consumed them from the inside. The dead look in their eyes as they gave up the will to live. Mate? Was that was the girl was to him? No other explanation made sense.
The love that flowed from my brother had my attention so completely that I nearly missed the mix of joy and smugness that told me my wife was near. I caught sight of her just in time to see her leap gracefully to my side.
"Hello, darlin'," I drawled quietly.
"That was a dirty trick, Jazz. Getting Rose to distract me."
I chose to save fessin' up to my deception for later. "He loves her, Alice."
"Very deeply." I looked at her with all the love I could muster. "Almost as much as I love you."
She brushed a lock of hair out of my eyes. "I know exactly how much you love me, Jazz." She turned her head back to the house.
Testin' her mood, I found love, contentment, concern, but no anger. Guessin' I dodged the proverbial bullet yet again, I let out a sigh of relief, glad that my plan never went into action. Things could have gone so very wrong.
Changin' my mind seemed to be the theme of the night. "I came here to end them, the girl and her father." She opened her mouth to speak and I held up a hand to stop her, optin' to get it over with. "I know I said I wouldn't, and I'm sorry for lyin' to you, but, Alice, I just couldn't be sure that things would work out." Feelin' the guilt of my actions, I looked down. "I'm still not sure this is okay, but with the way he feels, I just can't do it now."
Her small hand turned my face to her and she kissed me softly. "I'll always forgive you, Jazz. But, if you had hurt Bella I would have been quite put out because she's going to be very special to all of us someday."
"If you say so. But, just so you know, what I'd planned on doin'…it was for—"
"For me. You wanted to keep me safe. I don't have to be a psychic to know that." She closed her eyes, and I felt her love swirl around me, groundin' me, fillin' in the cracks, and makin' me whole. I sent her my love in return.
Edward's bloodlust hit me again as Alice groaned, mid-vision.
"Oh, Edward, you stubborn man." She sighed after her vision left her. "He's decided to try to keep her human. It won't work, of course, but there's no telling him that now. He's in there breathing in her scent, trying to get himself used to it."
"Yeah," I said dryly. "I can feel it's not workin' so well right now. Let's go."
"I was hoping you would say that." Alice jumped down and looked up at me expectantly.
I joined her in body, but my mind was goin' over how I'd deal with the consequences of my actions. Without a word, I picked Alice up because I knew my choices would set her gift off. Once I'd made up my mind, her vision came quickly. I ran to the tree Edward used to get to Bella's window, touched it, and headed home. I followed my path back the way I'd come, stoppin' on the other side of the ridge I'd crossed to get to Bella's house.
When I came to a stop, Alice jumped out of my arms. "I don't like it, but you're right. He's going to be pretty mad, you know."
"He should be," I replied evenly. "I would be too, and he's entitled to an explanation." I pulled her to me and wrapped my arms around her. "Thank you for understandin', darlin'. I truly don't deserve you."
Snuggling into my embrace, she let out a contented sigh. "No more than I deserve you." She looked up as the first rays of light began to change the color of the sky. "He'll be here soon."
I nodded. "I figured he'd catch my trail and follow it. You need to go, Alice." I kissed her before she could protest. "He and I need to work this out privately." I sent her my determination just to make it clear.
"All right, all right, you don't have to go all empath on me." Her smile faded. "If he wants to fight, don't hurt him. He may be a mind reader, but we both know how it would end if you two…"
"Don't worry. I won't let it come to that."
"I can't see, you know, since he hasn't heard what you have to say."
"You're stallin', woman." I tapped her nose. "Time for you to go."
She stomped her foot and all I could do was smirk—I love her fiery side. "Fine. See you at home."
After givin' her one last kiss—and admirin' the view as she left—I turned to wait for my brother. I made sure to check myself, I knew he'd be angry and rightfully so. I had to be sure I was ready for it and not let it get to me.
He didn't keep me waitin' long. His wrath hit before his scent did, and he came into the clearing right after that. The anger on his face was expected though he tried to mask it when he caught my thoughts.
"I'm sure you'd like an explanation," I started.
"You're absolutely right. What were you doing near her house, Jasper?"
"Look, Edward, I know I'm in no position to ask for a favor at the moment, but I'd like you to listen to everythin' I have to say before you lose it, okay?"
His face took on that look I was far too used to.
"And quit tryin' to pick it out of my head. I'll tell you everythin' if you'll just listen."
He shoved his hands into his pockets. "Go ahead."
Squarin' my shoulders, I prepared myself of the onslaught of rage I was sure to get. "Honestly, I came here to end her."
With a roar that scattered birds for miles, he came chargin' at me full speed. I forced my mind to go blank and let the muscle memory that comes with decades of trainin' take over, remindin' myself not to hurt my brother. I dodged him twice before I had no choice but to pin him to a tree.
"Stop, Edward!" He pushed back against me, so I countered his move, shovin' him forward again—harder this time—crackin' the tree with the force I used. "I was wrong!"
I felt the moment my words registered in his brain because his anger slipped a bit, and his curiosity seeped out.
"Let go," he demanded.
His anger was still runnin' hot and, combined with his attack, began to fuel my own. I really didn't want to have to explain to my wife why I had to bring our brother home in pieces.
"I don't want that anymore than you do. Although I think you're being a bit overconfident."
"Give your word?"
I let go. We faced each other and backed up a few steps. I tried again.
"I said I was goin' to end her." I ignored his growl and went on. "Her knowin' about us is a threat. You know how I feel about that. I don't care that she hasn't said anythin' yet. It's only a matter of time."
"You're not boosting my confidence here, Jasper."
"What I'm sayin' is…well, I can't hurt her now. I'm not that cruel, not anymore." I sent him my serenity.
"It's not like you to back off when you perceive a threat. What changed your mind?"
I drew a deep breath and huffed it out, knowin' he wouldn't like my next confession. Takin' the easy way out, I let my mind go over everythin', startin' with the moment I left my car.
"You were out here the whole time!"
I nodded. "There's no way I'd hurt her now. You love her."
Edward's gaze turned cold. "I wish I could believe you."
His words hurt, but I understood. "I'll stay away from her if that's what you want."
"All right." I crossed my arms and shrugged. "It's was nothin' personal."
He ran his hand through his hair. "I know that, Jasper, it's just that…"
"You'd do anythin' to keep her safe?"
He gazed at the sky with a wry smile—he was finally gettin' it. "Yeah."
I allowed myself a small chuckle. "Welcome to the club, brother. Since your girl is still human, I think it's safe to say your worries are just beginnin'."
Nudging a rock with his foot he seemed to think things over for a while. "She'll never be in more danger from anyone than she is from me."
I looked down. "You're not the most dangerous thing out here."
"Jasper, I know we're brothers, but…if you ever…I'd have to…she comes first now."
"If you get that, then you should understand why I came here."
"I guess I do."
I met his eyes. "She'll always come first now, it's our way. If she's important to you, then she is to me." Sending him more sincerity, I added, "I'll do all I can to keep her safe, even from me."
"Thanks," he whispered.
Having enough sharin', I held out my hand. "We okay now?"
He shook it, but I could feel the wisp of his doubt.
As we ran back to the house, I wondered what Edward's new love would mean for our family. Try as I might, I just couldn't shake the feelin' that all of our lives had just been changed forever.
©2011 Midnight Ariel
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Thanks to the three awesome betas who helped me: JennDurr, who did the rought draft; Plus Jennrosee, and CapriciousC who helped me with the final product. Banner by the talented Christag_banner
This story rides the lines between Twilight and Midnight Sun. While I tried to avoid it, there are two direct quotes from MS. Credit for those goes, rightfully, to SM