Author Note: My apologies for a teaser fail with the last chapter. My computer issues are now under control.


Previously:

I hoped she would always like what we did together. There was no doubt in my mind that I would. I hadn't been prepared for how new everything would seem—how different it would be. Sex as a vampire was neat and tidy. There was pressure and pleasure, but it was an expected climb and peak—smooth and controlled, like everything else in our lives. Perfect. As a human, it was sometimes messy and erratic. There was trembling and fumbling and unexpected stops and starts. Every part was involved, from moist skin to panting lungs to quivering knees. Nothing was by rote, and I thought the trial and error was exhilarating. The herky-jerky passion and the spontaneity of its every detail was a level of perfection I hadn't realized existed. It was quite simply the most spectacular thing I had ever done. It was perfect. She was perfect. We were perfect together.


Chapter 25

I drew slow, gentle circles on Bella's skin and watched as goose bumps erupted in the wake of my finger. I knew, as much I'd been enthralled while making love to her as a human, I would definitely enjoy the experience with her as a vampire as well. The closeness, the grasping, the smooth cadence-like, surging waves—none of those things would disappear. I would love any opportunity to be with her like this, to love her. We had talked once about fate, and for one solid moment of clarity while we were still joined, I believed this—this timeless and universal human act—was the entire reason I'd regained my humanity. I needed to share this moment with her as equals in our flaws as well as in our perfections.

What would she think of such a theory? I wondered.

The first few times I'd thought about being with Bella, I'd had brief flashes of guilt; while I would be her first, she wouldn't be mine. I'd quickly talked that worry away, though, because it would have been ridiculous for me to remain celibate for over a century until we met; not everyone had the truly inhuman patience or seeming disinterest Edward possessed. I couldn't even be certain as to what experiences I'd had as a human the first time around. Regardless, after having experienced making love to Bella, I realized how much of a first it truly was for me. I'd felt nothing like it before—neither emotionally nor physically. What was more, I was grateful for my involvements prior to finding her. I was happy her only experiences in that area would be with a generous and patient lover, which is how I liked to think of myself at least. While my experience as a vampire didn't lengthen the duration of our first time while I was human, I wasn't sure the average mortal boy would have taken such care with her. Bella deserved much more than a clichéd and pawing teenage tumble in a cramped and squeaking backseat.

I wanted to make a new list for us to work through—a list of all the things I thought she did deserve and things I wanted to try with her like this. What fun we would have working through it! My puddle list was officially being commandeered.

We lay in bed, our whole bodies in contact. My hand tangled in her hair, gently scratching at the nape of her neck, while Bella took turns tracing each one of her fingers in patterns on my chest. Neither one of us could stop touching the other, even as my eyes felt heavy. I felt equal parts sated and ravenous for her, though for the moment I was simply content to remain still with my thoughts and her light touch.

Our silence didn't last for too much longer because soon Bella spoke up. "Would you like to continue our game from the living room?" she asked in a dreamy voice.

Her question threw me off guard, especially as I'd thought we were perhaps only in intermission. "That would depend upon what you want to ask," I answered her playfully, raising an eyebrow.

She didn't stop the course of her fingers as I reminded her that she could always ask me anything, but she rose up on her elbow to make eye contact with me.

"I was wondering if you might like to take a trip with me."

Right now? I'd pass, especially if it required clothing. "Anywhere," I said instead, and her face woke up a bit.

"Well, I was hoping you might be interested in coming with me to see my mom on spring break. I'd like you to meet."

"Of course," I said quickly, wanting to do anything to make her happy. But then I remembered that I would be a newborn vampire before the spring came if everything went according to my plan. I'd promised myself a full day at the cabin before I brought up a potentially heavy conversation, though. I didn't want anything to ruin these moments with her.

"But could you do me a favor and table any conversation about your mother until I'm wearing pants?" I asked jovially.

"Sorry." She looked sheepish. "I'm just excited about us,I guess, and I want to share that with as many people who are close to me as I can."

I understood the sentiment perfectly. I could shout how I felt about her from the mountaintops, and perhaps the next day I would, or maybe I would just shout it from right where we were.

What I thought might just be an intermission was actually the end of the evening—for me at least. My eyelids grew heavier as I smiled at her glowing face, her slightly sweat-dampened hair stuck to her forehead. The next time I opened my eyes, sunlight was streaming in through the windows. One particular beam of light was hitting my right eye with the precision of a laser, and when I rolled over, I saw Bella was sitting up on the bed fully dressed with a steaming cup in her hands.

I sat up, slightly confused. I supposed I'd thought we would wake up at the same time, still naked and entangled. Instead, I'd been flopped on my stomach on the far side of the bed, completely oblivious to the fact that Bella had clearly gotten up some time ago.

"Good morning, sunshine," she said, setting her cup on the nightstand and leaning back over to kiss me on the cheek. Sunshine was the apt greeting, as the whole room was illuminated, making me wonder how late in the morning it actually was.

"When did you get up?" I asked her, my voice gruff.

"Hmm . . . maybe an hour ago?"

"What time is it? Why didn't you wake me?" I sat up, letting the sheets and quilt fall to my lap, and rubbed at my eyes.

"It's about 10:30. I wanted to take a shower and make you breakfast before I woke you up."

That was sweet of her. I was still a little put out that I didn't get the opportunity to see her first thing in the morning, but there was always the next day. It would have been nice to have some quality morning time together, but I supposed I should let her initiate the next time. I wasn't sure if she would be sore at all.

I must have been pouting because she said with a laugh, "I'm sorry you're so disappointed I got up. Humans are not as interesting to watch sleep as some would have you believe." My mouth twitched. "Don't get me wrong—I enjoyed staring at the back of your snoring head for a few minutes, but then it became obvious that I needed to go to the bathroom and clean up. Naïvely, I wasn't expecting that."

"I do not snore," I protested. "Plus, you could have waited for me to join you in the shower."

She swatted at me, and I grabbed her, pulling her down so her head was on my chest.

"You may not snore, but you do whine."

"Funny." I pouted.

"And believe me, I needed to clean up on my own."

I grumbled. "Seriously, why are you dressed, though? There are towels you could be wearing."

She pushed away from me to sit up. "It's winter." She was completely ignoring how warm she could have been in bed with me. "Maybe I got dressed so you could help me undress later?" she said with a question in her voice.

I liked that idea. "Mmm . . . why don't we declare it later right now?" I tried to grab at her again, purposefully letting the sheet slip a bit more.

"Because your eggs are getting cold. No one likes to eat cold eggs." She hopped off the bed. "Come on."

I pulled the covers back up a little and hunkered down in the bed. "Humans have this thing called brunch. You could come back to bed now and we can eat later."

"Come on, Jasper." She took a step in the wrong direction.

"You come on," I insisted. She just needed to be convinced.

"You'll need breakfast if you want to keep your energy up later in the day," she said with a wink as she walked saucily out the door.

Hello, Bella the cat. My favorite feline definitely made her appearance known frequently, but it seemed as if the previous evening's activities had woken up a new side of my mate—one I wanted to get to know better, one who was currently sitting alone at the breakfast table.

I tossed aside the covers and climbed out of bed into the chilly air. While the room was quite bright from all the sunshine, it wasn't as warm as my naked body would have liked. I glanced down and realized why Bella had made quick work of taking a shower. I was definitely a bit of a mess.

"I'll be there in a minute," I called out to her, quickly grabbing some clothes and stepping into the ensuite bathroom. I climbed into the shower as soon as the water was warm enough and made a mental note to change the bed sheets after breakfast. After taking the quickest shower since being a vampire, I pulled my clothes on my still-damp body and jogged out to the kitchen.

"At least I didn't eat cold eggs," Bella said, waving her hand at her cleared plate.

"I'm sorry," I said before I walked around to kiss her mouth and then took my own seat. I regretted not taking the time to brush my teeth before leaving the bathroom. The morning hadn't been going as well as I would have hoped.

"I'm not angry, Jasper. I was just hungry. I'll need my energy, too," she explained. "I'm glad you got to sleep in and that you took a shower. Now we have plenty of time for whatever you'd like to do for the rest of the day."

I was ready to push my plate away right then and there and hightail it back to the bedroom. "What did you have in mind for the day?" I asked with what I hoped was a devious grin, but Bella wasn't looking.

She glanced up when she was finished pouring me a cup of coffee and adding the sugar I insisted I needed. "Were there any more hikes you wanted to take?" she asked.

What? Now she wanted to hike? Our earlier hike had really been like an icebreaker or foreplay for getting comfortable at the cabin. Now, foreplay could be foreplay.

"Are you joking?" I asked.

"No." She looked completely innocent. "I was a pain about it yesterday, but I really enjoyed the view, just like you said I would. I just thought if there was anything else you wanted to see, I would be more amenable to it this time."

There was definitely more I would like to see—namely every part of her body without clothes on. Now that we wouldn't be in the dark, I had many things I wanted to explore. Just as I started to open my mouth, I remembered my first goal of taking her away for the weekend. I'd wanted uninterrupted time to talk to her about if and when she'd like to undergo her transformation. I didn't really want to have that conversation in bed or in the nude; I would be way too distracted.

I wasn't sure if the best course of action was to do it while we were in the cabin or to do it during a hike. Maybe an activity would help the conversation move smoothly and take some of the pressure off her.

"You look conflicted," Bella announced, reading me well.

Now was as good a time as any, I supposed. "Do you mind if we stay here for a bit? There's something I'd like to talk to you about."

She glanced down self-consciously and swallowed. The skin around her eyes was creased when she looked up. "Is it serious?"

"Yes, but . . . not in the way you might think. It's a good serious—I hope."

"Oh," she said simply. "That clears up everything."

I rolled my eyes at her as she stood up from the table, leaving our dishes where they lay, and she walked over to the sofa in the other room. It seemed as if I would never be able to avoid sitting on a couch whenever I discussed something serious with Bella.

I walked over to join her, though I chose to remain standing. I felt I needed the ability to move around during the conversation.

"Okay, I'll bite. What is it?" she asked, and I burst out with a loud clap of laughter.

"Sorry," I recovered awkwardly. "If you only knew how apt that intro was . . ." I shoved my hands in my pockets and rocked back on my heels. I was planning to just dive right in, but then I decided I was too nervous. I needed to ease into it; we'd practically just rolled out of bed. I needed to be awake at least a little longer before asking her if she was still interested in burning for three days just to be with me forever.

"Can we play the game again?" I asked. She looked wary, but she gestured for me to go ahead. "If I was going to take you somewhere—" Her eyes narrowed, and I corrected myself, "I mean, if we were going to go somewhere together on a trip, where would you want it to be?"

She paused and thought for a moment, one of her hands rubbing up and down her thigh, making me very jealous of it. "Hmm . . . wherever it was you most enjoyed living."

"Okay," I quickly replied and shifted my weight on my feet.

"Wait!" She held up her hand. "Aren't you going to tell me where that is? Oh, and I don't want you to say Forks just because that's where you met me."

I smiled at how well she knew me. I'd never really thought about which of our homes I'd enjoyed the best. I mentally flipped through images of Texas, Montana, Oregon, Minnesota, Alberta, Alaska, and North Dakota before I realized where I'd been the most happy.

"Less than a decade after I came to the Cullens, we lived in a tiny seaside artist colony in New England for the summer."

"Really?" She looked genuinely shocked.

"We haven't always lived in the middle of nowhere, and we weren't that far away from both the White and Green Mountains," I explained as more details of that summer flooded into my memory.

"It isn't just that. It's just . . . it kind of makes you sound like hippies," she said with a smirk. "Also, I wouldn't think a seaside summer stay would fit well with sparkling in the sun. Oh, and if it's so tiny, how did you not stand out with all of you living together?"

She was right on at least one of those counts, but I laughed at her first error. "The timeline's a little early for hippies, though you definitely could have classified a lot of the colony's inhabitants as beatniks. As for the sunlight, it was completely understandable for us to spend all day inside, as some of the other artists did too, and then come out at night when the streets were alive with conversation and critiques."

She leaned forward a bit, interested. "Were you all really artists?"

I shook my head. It wasn't as if we all hadn't tried at some point, but Esme was the real reason we'd moved there. Apparently, she'd been working on her painting technique for a few years, but there were a few things that had escaped her. I'd been amazed that she felt being around human artists would help. What would they be able to do with their inexact hands and their lesser eyes that a vampire wouldn't be able to do with minimal effort? The family had wanted to oblige her, though, and Alice and I'd had no place to deny them.

"Esme was—is—the artist in the family. We all found our own things to do during the day, though, and even though we were on the water, it wasn't always too sunny to go out. Plus, we rented a boat for the summer, and if we left before sunrise and avoided the fishermen and other pleasure crafts with the help of Alice and Edward's gifts, we could shimmer on the water undiscovered. "

"What else was it that you liked so much about it?" she asked, tucking her feet under her in a way I knew would damage her knees if she made a habit of it. Hopefully, I wouldn't have to worry about her human body much longer, though. At least the conversation was relaxing me. It was a good way to ease us into the transformation discussion.

There had been so many things to like about Rocky Neck, and as I tried to think of them all, each memory fell into line as if I was shuffling a deck of cards. There had been the smell of the salt air—something I hadn't smelled in years until we'd arrived—and the ever-present symphony of boats coming in to the adjacent fishing harbor, the call of the gulls, and the gentle clanking of ship rigging. None of those had been the most enjoyable aspect, though.

"The artist colony had been there for over a century, and the tiny peninsula was stacked with buildings practically on top of one another. It was my first true challenge to live so packed in with humans without the option of having them as a meal if it became overwhelming. I was confident that I could handle it for our brief stay. I guess that's why I liked it so much. I felt really strong living there, like I could have this life." I let out a breath and finally came to sit next to her. "It was actually nice there because every house had people crammed in bedrooms or sleeping on couches and sharing studio space. For the first time—until we all tried going to college together—it wasn't so odd to have so many people the same age living in a house. The atmosphere at night was always a party in the backyards that spilled into each other or on the tiny, narrow streets leading down to the water."

Thinking of my memories, it had definitely been a unique way of life for us. There would have been no way we could have all been successful in a community like that for longer than the six weeks that we'd been there. I wasn't even sure if I could call it living there instead of just an extended vacation in the same house.

"There's actually a story I haven't thought about in years," I said casually when the final memory slid into place. "That summer was tied to the first time we were ever really found out."

"What? That's a pretty big thing to be so nonchalant about." She paused. "I guess for some reason I thought I was the first human to figure out what you are. What happened?" She looked at me with eager eyes.

"It's nothing that exciting, though a touch sentimental," I told her, but she didn't seem to buy it. "You are the first person to figure out exactly what we are, but a gentleman from there knew something was amiss."

I started to tell her the story of how Esme had been taking evening art lessons from a man named Richard, who'd lived a few houses down from ours. She'd appreciated what she was learning and how, for the first time, she might be able to say she had a human friend. She had always suspected that Richard had a bit of a crush on her, though, despite the fact that he was at least fifteen years older than she would have been as a human. During the evenings, and even when we could hear him talking to others from inside his studio, he would always tell people how much promise there was in Anne Platt, the name Esme had been using. She was to be his star protégé.

Bella moved her feet to be closer to me and laced our fingers, holding them against her leg as I told her how, for an exercise, Esme and Richard had once painted each other's portraits simultaneously. We had packed up a few days later, and in the middle of the night Esme had left Richard the painting in his studio as a thank you for his time. It had been because of the sunlight that she couldn't officially say goodbye to him, but she'd hoped he would appreciate her parting gift.

"How did she know he'd found out that you left?" Bella asked, rubbing her thumb along my hand.

"He hadn't then. We never returned to the tiny town, but thirty-five years later, we all happened to be in Boston—for a production of The Nutcracker coincidentally. Esme had decided to purchase a souvenir Christmas ornament from the gift shop, and I waited at the door for her as the others went ahead to the car. As we were walking out of the theatre house, we heard an older man questioningly call out for Annie."

"As in Anne Platt? You're making this up!" Bella accused and dropped my hand, laughing.

"I'm not," I promised.

I continued to tell her the story of how Esme had told him he must be mistaken, but he'd insisted she was Annie, and then he'd confirmed it by calling her Anne Platt. It had taken only a second for Esme to look beyond the wrinkles and hunched posture and see him as Richard, her former Beat-generation art teacher. Still, she'd told him he must have her confused for someone else.

"I would ask if you were related to her, but the way you look is too uncanny, even for relations, he said," I told her. "Esme started to protest again, but he argued that he would know her anywhere. He didn't care if he was crazy or how it was possible, he'd seen her portrait every day for almost four decades. I could instantly feel that Esme was touched he'd kept the painting he did of her, and I thought she would apologize again and that we would leave the old man to his memories."

"She told him instead?" Bella asked incredulously, shifting on the couch.

"No," I laughed. "Not exactly. He certainly never found out what we were, but Esme couldn't stand to see him both so indignant and confused. She grasped his hand and kissed him on the cheek, telling him she hoped he'd also kept the portrait she did of him and that her painting had continued to improve thanks to his lessons so long ago. Without another word, we stepped away from the curb, and we walked to meet the rest of the family."

Bella was silent for a moment, but then said, "I still think you made it up."

"I did not," I insisted. "You can ask Esme—or anyone else—about how it happened."

"I just can't believe I never heard the story from Ed—" She stopped suddenly, and briefly a swell of envy flared in my chest. Not everything was Edward's to tell her, I petulantly thought. Not everything would be his to ask, either. I'd bided enough time, and it was finally the moment when I needed to get down to business.

"You're looking conflicted again. Is it your guilty conscience after making up that ridiculous story?" she joked.

I jumped up from the couch. "I promise I didn't make it up, and I'm not conflicted. I know just what I want." You. I made sure to face her and have her complete attention before continuing.

"I love you," I said solemnly as if I was explaining something heavy to her.

Bella nodded slowly. "I love you," she returned with the same level of seriousness.

Good. We were on the same page. "I know you're my mate," I continued slowly and evenly. "And when vampires mate, it's for life. What I mean to say is that I will love you as long as I'm on this earth."

She smiled at me softly but still prompted, "The heavy part's still coming, yeah?"

I gave her a noncommittal look, and I started to pace but then stilled. This was Bella. I didn't need to be nervous. I crouched in front of her and put one of her hands in mine to steady myself. I wrapped my fingers around her wrist, searching for her pulse. It might have been cheating, but without my gift, I wanted to monitor how she was reacting in some small way.

"I know I've used the word forever, and I've meant it. Every day since I realized how I felt about you, my feelings have blossomed even more."

It was amazing that it had only been a day since we'd actually declared our feelings to each other. When I'd first said Mine to her, I'd done it recognizing her as my mate. But telling her I loved her was another piece of the puzzle. Even if she'd felt the mate pull before, that didn't necessarily mean she was in love with me, so I was immensely relieved yesterday when I realized she was talking about falling in love for the first time with me.

"It sounds cheesy, but I didn't even know it was possible to love someone this much, and I once had the market cornered on knowing feelings." I took a deep breath in, and I was glad she was letting me get it all out. Once I got to the punch, I promised to let it be more of a dialogue and less of a speech I was making.

"I've realized I don't want to be without you—ever. I want to know you're going to be with me every day, however long I—" I stopped talking when I heard her gasp. "What?" I asked. Was she surprised? Did she even know what I was asking?

"Go ahead. Sorry," she said, putting her free hand over her mouth.

I waited for a moment before continuing. "I'm going to repeat myself a bit, I know." I'd run through this in my head so many times I wasn't sure how much I could deviate. "I've certainly used the word forever before, but I know better than anyone that none of us really know how long we're going to have. What I do know is that I want to have as long as I—" I only got to basically the same point again when she let out a small chuckle.

"What?" I asked again, growing a little uneasy.

"I'm sorry," she repeated. Why was she apologizing? More importantly, why was she laughing? I didn't think there was anything remotely funny about this topic, especially if she was going to tell me she wanted us to stay human and breakable. "I should let you keep talking," she said.

I opened my mouth to start, but she spoke up again.

"I just totally didn't think this was going to come up this weekend."

At least she'd expected it would at some point. "When did you think it would come up? Have you been waiting for it?" I asked curiously. She could have mentioned it herself if the change was on her mind.

"I certainly haven't been waiting for it," she asserted. "I guess I thought I would be older."

I was older than she was in human years. The rush she sensed with Edward, I knew, was in part due to his young age. I also knew she'd been worried about losing him, and she'd thought changing would secure their relationship. She didn't need to worry about losing me. My rush was because I was worried about losing her—though her life, not her feelings.

Could I wait longer for the transformation? Could she graduate as a human, go to college, start her first job? How many regular human memories could I give her? I faintly felt her blood pulsing underneath my fingertips and came to the same conclusion I always did; she was just too fragile. Was a college class worth risking her life over? Would she choose high school graduation over the possibility of eternal happiness? No. I had to let her see how important this was to me.

"I know you might have wanted to wait longer. I get that. There are a lot of thing you might have wanted to do first, but I promise you can do them all afterward; it just might take some time."

She wasn't outright rejecting it, but her breath quickened, and she licked her lips nervously. "There are some definite advantages to being older, though," she said.

I had to tell myself she wasn't saying no, she was just proposing not yet. She was indeed right. Carlisle and Esme and many of the older vampires we knew had it easier just by looking a little older. Even Emmett and I saw what our couple of years could do for us in being able to keep up the human charade longer. There were more definite limits to what Edward and Alice could pull off in terms of their age.

"I understand," I told her. "Maybe it's selfish to want everything right now, but I can't help but be greedy about you." She squeezed my hand, and I shifted my position so that my foot wouldn't fall asleep. "What are you thinking?" I asked.

She looked me in the eye and the corner of her mouth turned up. "I always thought I knew how I felt about this, about what I would say. It's just . . ." She looked away for a second but smiled when her eyes came back to mine. "It's different in the moment, though."

I hoped different good.

She sighed and lifted her hair up off her neck. "My parents would definitely never approve."

I scoffed. "I should hardly think so. You are their only daughter, after all."

She scooted closer to me. "You can sit up here by me if you want. I'm sure you didn't plan on being in that position for quite so long."

I obliged her and stiffly got out of my kneeling position, joining her on the couch but keeping our hands entwined.

"I don't want you to think they wouldn't approve of you and me—just not when I'm so young," she quickly asserted.

I was pretty sure that Edward had told her that none of us could ever have any more contact with our families after we'd been changed. "I don't think they would give their blessing, per se, regardless of how old you would be."

She looked completely confused. "Of course they would. They aren't that jaded. Just because it didn't work for them . . ."

Now we were both confused. When would they have ever . . .? "Are we talking about the same thing?" I asked hesitantly.

She quirked her head. "I'm not sure why you think my parents wouldn't want me to ever get married, especially with how much my dad likes you."

I was listening to her, but something glinting off the opposite wall caught my attention. "What?" I asked somewhat absentmindedly before replaying what she'd just said in my head. "Married?" She'd said married. I thought that's what I'd heard. "You want to get married?" That totally wasn't where I was taking this conversation, but making a promise until "death do us part" was, to me, on the same page as making a move toward "death will never part us."

"That's great!" I told her.

"I'm glad you think so . . ." Her voice trailed off and she looked amused. "I'm sorry. I guess I should actually let you get to your question. That's the whole point, right?"

Here goes nothing. I still didn't know the best way to phrase it, and I stalled by looking around, and another glimmer caught my eye. I followed it, but it disappeared and then reappeared in a different spot. I blinked to clear my vision. Maybe human Jasper needed glasses after all. "What I wanted to ask you this whole time was when you—"

Human Jasper couldn't need glasses this badly. Something was wrong with my vision. I swallowed and saw how the spots multiplied in an instant and danced on the surface of the bright wall. Bella was facing me and completely oblivious.

"It's okay, Jasper," she said, and I quickly looked at her face before staring at the wall again. I couldn't even complete my thought. "Yes," she said with a hint of joy in her voice, finally drawing my attention.

My face broke out in a smile, and I leaned forward to kiss her.

"When?" I asked quickly.

"I'm eighteen now, so whenever you want, I suppose."

A huge weight lifted from my shoulders, and I sighed in relief before kissing her again. "Yes? You're saying yes?" I asked, just to confirm.

"Yes, I'll marry you."

Huh? It wasn't that I was enthralled with that news, too, but that wasn't what I'd really been asking. Had she just thrown that part in there, or had we been on two different paths the whole time. I couldn't really focus when I was so distracted by the flashes in my sight. As I blinked to clear my vision again, I tried to run through the conversation when I realized how cryptic I'd been. Kneeling probably hadn't made things any clearer. We had been talking about two different things from the start of our conversation.

I didn't want to worry her because I was genuinely ecstatic about what she was saying. I just wanted to add another dimension to it.

"I'm glad. So happy," I stressed, wanting her to know that before I cleared things up. I never would have imagined I would walk away from this weekend with a fiancée, but I would definitely prefer her to be my immortal fiancée. "I wanted to ask you when you wanted to become a—"

"Vampire," she finished quickly.

"Yes," I breathed in relief. Looking at her face, it wasn't showing the same joy I was feeling. In fact, she looked stricken, though her face was reflecting the same bouncing light I'd seen on the wall. Blinking didn't help this time.

"Vam-pire," she said with a quiver in her voice, and I could barely hear her.

"Bella?" I asked, concerned. We could certainly talk through this.

Her breath started to come in short pants. "Jasper, Jasper, Jasper," she said in an insistent whisper, like it was a heartbeat, tapping my hand hard with her finger.

I wrapped my hands around hers to still them. "What is it, sweetheart?" I was genuinely shocked by her strong reaction. She seemed like she was going to have a panic attack. I never in a million years could have predicted this.

"V-vam-pire," she stuttered. "Vampire in the window. You're human." She looked truly pained. "There's a vampire in the window. Vampire." Her quick words were so quiet I had to rely mainly on reading her lips. It wasn't until the final word when it finally sank in.

Vampire.

I whipped my head around to look at the window on the other side of the room, putting the pieces together about the shimmering on the wall, but there was nothing there. I turned back to Bella and my heart was racing. Had she been wrong?

The dots of light were gone.

I was going to ask her to describe what she'd seen when there was a large bang, robbing me of the opportunity. What happened then was pure instinct.

I jumped up and pushed Bella down to the floor, the sofa blocking the sight of her from the door. I wasn't sure how it would help, but I needed to do something. Even though it was useless, my body dropped down into a crouch, and I could feel a phantom rumble in my chest. The door had been flung open, part of it splintering off and spinning on the floor in the kitchen. For a moment, no one appeared, but then I saw the same sight as Bella.

Vampire, indeed.

.

.

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Author Note: Thank you as always for reading and in advance should you take the time to review. Let me know if you do not want a teaser sent your way.

AU Fic recs:

"Snare" by Raum: The life of Charlie and Bella Swan was devastated when Renée was murdered by a serial killer: The Drainer. Charlie, a former FBI profiler, is convinced that the killer is a vampire, and that those creatures are real. Nobody believes him, till the day he captures one of the undead. (AU, B/E, WIP, brand new story)

"Carnelian and Ice" by Raum: A man struggling to escape from the darkness, and a woman who thinks she doesn't deserve the light. How will an ice sculpture affect their lives? (AU, B-vamp/E-human, Complete)

"Tempt my Tongue" by Savage7289: Bloodthirsty vampire Edward Cullen has but a single goal in his pointless existence – lose his virginity with a human. He will stop at nothing to entice the unusual girl he saves in the street, but can he claim her body without killing her? (AU, EPOV, M, E/B, Complete-This is definitely an irredeemable Darkward, something I'd not come across yet in the fandom.)