I Could Always Make You

Chapter 10

Dappled sunlight filtering through the windowpane stirred me to the edge of wakefulness. After a restless night filled with dreams of blood-red eyes, fangs, and of being pursued across endless golden countryside, I stretched out, seeking the comforting touch of Jasper. Finding the bed empty, I vaguely recalled Jasper saying he had been summoned to a meeting with Aro, his earlier words now sending a chill through me. It was only as I gained consciousness that I started to worry for his safety.

Tired as I was, I couldn't go back to sleep without Jasper nearby. What made the waiting worse was the fact that I couldn't leave his room to search for him. All I could do was stay put, with an uneasy clench in my stomach at the thought of him suffering somewhere in this vampire-ridden palace because he was protecting me. Trying to distract myself, I thought of our time together; the way he'd made love to me last night, the words spoken and unspoken between us. I craved to be with him so much it hurt.

After wandering around his room, restlessly opening drawers, peeking here and there—where I probably shouldn't—I decided to take a relaxing bath. Once in the bathroom though, I quickly showered, reluctantly rinsing off all traces of Jasper's scent and our lovemaking. Refreshed and clean, I headed back to the bedroom with a towel loosely wrapped around my hips.

On hearing movement in the corridor outside, I assumed it was Jasper returning to me. But a light knock followed before the door was unlocked. Bella, with her head bowed, entered bearing my breakfast tray. She placed it on the table and scurried back to lock the door. A pink glow spread across her cheeks when she finally looked up and saw me standing there half-naked. As if in another world, she busied herself changing the bed linen and tidying up while I dressed and then sat at the table to eat. I hadn't realized how hungry I was until I started eating and soon devoured everything on the tray. By the time I had finished, Bella had cleaned the bathroom and was about to leave. Hardly a word had been spoken between us.

"Do you know where Jasper is this morning?"

Bella tensed, gripping hold of the bedding she had just scooped from the floor. "He was with Master Aro and Master Caius, I believe. In the main hall." Her distant eyes, wide with concern, unsettled me.

I stepped closer, noticing her trembling hand. "What's happened?"

Placing my hand over hers, she looked up at me with her sorrowful brown eyes. "I can't say. Jasper will tell you later." She shook her head and pulled her hand from mine. "But they think he is planning something."

I swallowed hard. If Aro touched Jasper, his thoughts of helping me escape would be known. I dragged my fingers through my hair. Sheer panic and a feeling of utter helplessness crashed through me; there was nothing I could do to protect him.

A loud knock on the door made us both jump. Bella moved quickly to unlock it, and in Aro swept, accompanied by Caius. Bella resumed her respectful bow, a look of fierce concentration masking her face.

Stepping back, knowing I had to avoid Aro's touch at all costs, I greeted him as calmly as I could. He scoured the room. "Greetings, Edward. How are you this bright and sunny morning?" A chilling smirk crossed his face. "Is Jasper making your stay a pleasant one?"

Nodding, slightly confused by his pretense of civility, I managed to stammer out my reply. "Yes, thank you."

"I'm so pleased." He walked closer, his arms outstretched as if to embrace me. Short of turning and running, there was nothing I could do to avoid him; Aro's cold hands clasped around mine. If my pounding heartbeat didn't tell him something was wrong, then surely my thoughts gave me away. I tried to clear my mind. I focused on my parents, my home, making love with Emmett—anything and anyone but Jasper.

Not daring to look into Aro's eyes, I glanced at the other two. Bella was statue-like, her gaze fixed on the carpet. Caius looked on disdainfully, his lip curled and shoulders stiffened.

Aro pulled his hands back with a sigh of frustration just as Jasper stormed into the room. He surveyed the scene in front of him, evidently trying not to show his emotions. A wave of relief swept over me when we made eye contact, a slight curve playing on his lips to greet me. He turned to Bella, searching for something from her. A twinge of jealousy stirred within me when Jasper shot Bella an affectionate look. He didn't dismiss her. In fact, he motioned for her to stay in the room. Obviously sensing my confusion, he shook his head infinitesimally, sending waves of calm and love over to me.

"Jasper!" Aro's over-the-top greeting drew our attention. "And Bella! Delightful!" He wasn't making a lot of sense—surely he had recently met with Jasper—but I decided to act as if I knew what the hell was going on.

Aro offered his hand to Bella. She had no choice either but to step forward. Taking her hands in his, Bella eyes twinkled as if mocking him. Frustration riddled his body. He looked from Jasper to Bella to me, perplexed rather than angry. Caius huffed noisily, his annoyance very clear.

"Come along, Caius." Aro beckoned to his brother. "Let's wander around the gardens before the daily visitors arrive." And with that the two dread-inducing vampires glided out of the room, closing the door behind them.

Jasper took me in his arms, unashamedly in front of Bella. "Hey, are you okay?" He squeezed me against his chest.

Tightening my arms around his waist, I smiled at him. "I am now. What was that all about?"

He led me over to the couch, motioning for Bella to join us. We sat down, Jasper pulling me close to his side. "Aro is suspicious of me. I think he knows I'm planning something."

"Surely he knows now that he's touched both Bella and me. I'm sorry, Jasper, I tried really hard to clear my mind so he couldn't read anything."

"Don't worry, Edward. Aro didn't get anything from you." He turned to Bella. "Did he?"

Bella sat perched on the edge of the couch. "No, he didn't." She smiled faintly, a little more relaxed now. "Nor from you either, so it seems."

Jasper smiled at her.

Looking between the two of them, I wondered what the hell was going on.

"We've discovered that Bella has a special gift, Edward. She can project her mind and shield our thoughts from Aro." Jasper stroked the side of my neck with his fingertips. "She managed to do it when I met with him earlier this morning and she wasn't even in the same room as me." He turned to her. "You've been practicing and it's paid off, Bella. Thank you." He smiled at her again. She beamed back at him in delight, the happiest I'd seen her. "I always knew there had to be a reason for saving you, but then, so did Aro."

Not really having a clue what Jasper was talking about, I thought I'd get him to explain it to me later when we were alone.

"Aro has asked me to organize another fishing trip soon. I'm not sure whether it's to get me out of the way or to push me into making my move. Whatever, I think this could be our chance to get you both out of here." Jasper took my hand in his. "I'll have to come back with a coach full of tourists to placate him. That will give you time to get further away before he realizes you are missing."

I gripped Jasper's hand tightly, not wanting to be parted from him. "You said you were coming with me." My shaky voice revealed my fear. "What will happen to you when they work it out?" He squeezed my hand, sending calm and love through me, but my concern for him wasn't quelled. "Bella won't be here to shield your thoughts. They'll know you've betrayed them."

"Don't worry, Edward. I'll be gone again before they've finished their feeding." He gently kissed the side of my head. "I'll set a false trail for Demetri to follow and then I'll find you. It may be several weeks, but I will find you, I promise."

We spent an hour discussing the exact details of our plan, going over possible scenarios in case things went wrong, until all three of us were certain of our course of action.

Over the next five days, Bella hovered in and around Jasper's suite, protecting our thoughts while he planned this next fishing trip and booked our flights. Much to my relief, Aro didn't make another appearance. I stayed close to Jasper, sleeping in his arms after we made love, or talking and finding out more about him. Knowing we might not be together for several weeks tinged my desire for freedom. I worried I might never see him again, and that caused a dull ache deep inside my chest.

Our farewell kiss the following week—on the day of his fishing trip— was bittersweet. We clung desperately together, with Jasper reassuring me it would all work out in the end.

Bella and I waited as planned and mingled with the incoming visitors to the palace gardens while Jasper set off to collect the coach load of victims from a nearby town.

Fortunately, the weather was exceedingly hot. Many of the visitors to the town were being shown around the cool, palace gardens by a human guide. Jasper had known the vampires would make themselves scarce during such a time and not risk being seen. He'd explained that these daily visitors were safe from harm unlike those he rounded up on his fishing trips.

With my passport tucked in my jacket pocket, along with a large wad of Euros, I left the rest of my possessions in Jasper's suite, hopefully to give the impression I was still in residence.

A side gate in the garden wall had been unlocked for us in advance. Partially obscured by an ancient olive tree and vines hanging from the brickwork, it was to be our means of escape. Holding hands and pretending to be lovers, Bella and I slipped out into the street as the crowd passed by. The doors to a waiting taxi were already open, and within seconds, it was speeding away with us slumped on the back seat. It hurtled through the narrow streets of Volterra and out into the open countryside, continuing at a hair-raising speed.

I'd just started to relax when Bella yanked my hand urgently and motioned towards the driver. Until now, I had only given him a brief glance because I'd been looking behind us to make sure we weren't being followed. Her eyes betrayed her fear. Noticing a faint shimmer on the driver's flesh above his shirt collar, I looked to the rearview mirror trying to get a glimpse of his eyes behind the shades he was wearing. Tilting his head, the vampire peered over the top of them with his dark red irises and smirked at me.

"I'm so grateful to Jasper." Bella's eyes widened as she stared at me. "He saved my life and I trust him to look after me."

I blinked back at her. "Yes, he's protected me as well."

"I was frightened of him at first, but Jasper has always been kind to me." Bella squeezed my hand, reassuring me.

Nodding back at her, I continued to go along with her conversation for the sake of the driver. I wondered if this was all part of Jasper's plan. Did he have someone who was prepared to help him? He hadn't told me who would be driving and I felt confused. The driver didn't speak, but he continued to race along the roads, I presumed towards the airport as planned. Perhaps he was an ally after all.

Vast fields of golden sunflowers and tall, straight cypress trees flashed past us, giving the occasional glimpse of isolated farmhouses and terracotta-colored villages nestled on the hillsides in the distance. The beautiful scenery being the very reason why I'd chosen to visit Italy in the first place, I huffed at the irony of it all.

To my surprise, Bella talked incessantly of Jasper. Perhaps she hoped to keep me focused on him in an attempt to calm me down, or invoking his name as a warning to the vampire seated in front of us. She spoke of him with affection, making me wonder if she had fallen for Jasper too. There was an unmistakable connection between the two of them. He'd detected something special in her from the start and that was why he'd kept her alive.

She tried to soothe me by stroking the hand and arm closest to her. It did very little to ease my agitation. I alternated between looking over my shoulder and watching the driver. I noticed road signs for Rome as well as ones for the airport, so at least I knew we were still on the right road, but I constantly wondered if he would make a sudden detour. We could hardly hurl ourselves from the speeding vehicle. Our flight was not for another six hours, but I wouldn't relax until we were on the plane, and even then, I doubted if I would be happy again until I was back in Jasper's arms.

We were on the outskirts of Rome when Bella leaned in close and kissed my cheek softly. Her lips moved slowly towards my ear. "Trust me." Her voice was quiet, yet confident.

I shrugged at her and then nodded.

After a few seconds, she shuffled towards the driver. "Please stop the car here. There's been a change of plan."

Author's Note: Many thanks to Dorchester for the wonderful banner that inspired me to finish this story.

Apologies for the slow update—it has always been my intention to complete all my WIP. I have been working on other FF stories, but my main distraction has been my OF, 'Boys on Film', which took me nine months to write and edit. I pictured Rob as I wrote my writer of gay erotica, Nate, and in fact, called him Edward in the first draft. It's available now on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon, published under the pen name of Lily G Blunt.