The memories ease the pain inside.

Now I know why.

All of my memories keep you near.

Memories - Within Temptation

. . .

The time between the flashes of blue and red lights turned the room black as the night sky outside the metal doors. It smelled sharply of cigarette smoke, cheap perfume, beer, and sweat. Jasper sat in front of a platform stage. His long legs stretched in front of him, a cigarette in his fingers, he paid little attention to the woman atop the stage, who had just crouched down to crawl to the edge opposite of Jasper, thrusting her breasts in a middle-aged man's direction and was instantly rewarded with a bill.

Absently, he let his eyes run over the curve of her ass that was bared by the skimpy, barely there bottoms she wore. A fine sheen of glitter shimmered on her smooth, tanned skin. There was no denying she was attractive, but not exactly Jasper's type. Raising the cigarette to his lips again, he pulled in a deep inhale before lazily exhaling, expelling a nearly perfect circle of smoke. Although they had no effect on him, smoking cigarettes was one thing that had stuck from Jasper's human life. It made him feel more human, more connected.

A blonde woman swaggered - barely, though, as she was about to fall with her heels - out onto stage. He watched her absently, his expression bored, his mind on other things. Of course, these girls were pretty, but there was only one girl on his mind. After a while, the blonde came over to crouch by Jasper.

"Can I help you relax, cowboy?"

Sighing lightly, Jasper plucked a twenty from his pocket and tucked it into her top - if it could even be called that - then crushed the cigarette out. She was very attractive, there was no denying that, but she wasn't her. No one could compare to her.

"No, thank you."

A man down the way was calling for a lap dance in a drunkenly slurred voice, and Jasper chuckled. Humans. Seeing that Jasper was uninterested, the blonde made her way down the stage, going to prey on the poor, drunk men. Better them than him.

Only Jasper would come to a strip club to ignore all the girls. Only Jasper would come to a strip club to think about the woman he loved.

-Flashback: Meeting-

Jasper didn't understand it. How could Edward fall for a human? Was that not impossible? They were hormone-ridden, not too intelligent, weak, helpless - and not to mention tasty - children. How could Edward be attracted to that? It made absolutely zero sense to Jasper, but he would tough it out for his brother. While Jasper skimmed through his book, listening to the polite - and awkward - conversation that went on between Carlisle, Esme, Bella, and Edward downstairs, Alice jabbered to him. Empty reassurances. He just wanted her to be quiet It had been a decade since his last slip-up; of course he wasn't going to kill the girl. She was trying to coax him to take breaths, familiarize himself with her scent so he wouldn't attack her.

God.

Hoping to appease his mate, Jasper took a deep, dramatic breath. Instantly, he was assaulted with a heavenly scent. As much as he would have loved to drain her dry that very second - it was that good - something inside of him was telling him not to. It overwhelmed his vampiric instinct to feed. How strange. Her scent was lovely, though. Not floral, as Edward described. Rather, she smelled of a tantalizing blend of blackberries, vanilla, coffee, and a touch of chocolate. Inhaling her scent almost hungrily, he tuned his ears in. Her voice was soft, and a southern accent, hardly able to be heard, lilted her words in the slightest. More prominently, she was obviously nervous in a house full of vampires. Righty so.

Oblivious to his stunned nature, Alice grabbed him by the hand. Although he didn't need to, Jasper quickly marked his place in the book and got to his feet, following Alice to stand at the top of the stairs.

"Hey, Edward!"Alice trilled enthusiastically as she zipped down the stairs at vampire speed.

The panic that he felt from Carlisle and Esme was unreal, but Jasper was nearly oblivious to it. By human standards, she was nothing special, and by vampiric standards, her plainness was intensified, making her even a bit unattractive. But to Jasper, she was the most beautiful specimen he had ever seen.

Her skin was colored perfectly. Pale, like ivory, but blood flushed her cheeks, turning them a soft rose color. Although she was as old as Edward - physically, at least - childlike roundness still hovered at her cheeks and at her jaw, showing off just how youthful she really was. Innocence and intelligence intermingled in her wide, expressive brown eyes, and he wanted to stare into them, learn every emotion - rather than feel - that passed through them. Lips that matched the blush on her cheeks, slightly too large and full for her youthful face, captivated him, and he wondered what they tasted like. She was stunning. Absolutely and undeniably breathtaking.

Then, he noticed the awkward lull that came over the conversation. Snapping out of his stupor, he was down the stairs in a heartbeat, greeting the gorgeous girl. Bella. It meant beautiful, and it suited her in every way possible. He greeted her, keeping his distance; he couldn't show his favor to her. She returned the words, and he suppressed a shudder. The way she said his name…it made his dead heart flutter.

-End Flashback-

Quietly, he sighed. It hurt even to think about her. He missed her every second, with every breath. It had been three years since he'd last seen her, and he missed her every day. The only problem, though, was that he was too much of a coward to find her, to go after her. He hadn't seen her since the incident with James. Plus, it wasn't like she cared about him as he cared for her. They'd known each other for little over five days. Her human emotions couldn't develop feelings for him as fast as his vampiric ones could for her. A single look and he'd been head over heels in love with her. He really was a pathetic bastard. He was a fucking warlord. Vampires quaked in their boots when his name was said. And yet, a human had completely and utterly turned him into a pussy.

He didn't regret a moment of it.

-Flashback : Ballet Studio-

He could not believe he had let this happen. He could not believe he had let her out of his sight for a moment, been duped by her nervous smile and pretty eyes. When she had asked him specifically to go with her to the restroom, he'd been delighted. As he'd been rather reserved with his power while they were in Phoenix, trying to coax her with words rather than with emotional manipulation, he'd thought that she trusted him, that she wanted to be around him. It was a stupid thought, and she'd been playing him to get to James. To save her mother.

Only a fraction of a second behind Edward, Jasper burst into the ballet studio. Overwhelmed by the scent of her blood, Edward had to stop. Undeterred, Jasper sprinted forward, ripping James off of Bella. Her hand made a sickening noise as it fell to the hard floor. With much effort, Jasper managed to push away the instinct to help Bella (It seemed Edward her regained himself and went to his girlfriend's side.) and Emmett came in to help him dismember James.

Between the two of them, it was quick work. A few rips and the flick of a lighter. The scent of Bella's blood was the only thing on Jasper's mind. She was bleeding. Her heartbeat was irregular. She was dying. Quite literally. It hurt him to his very core. He wanted nothing more than to run to her and help her in any - and every - way possible. However, his approach would seem very very strange, as he was notorious for his problems around blood. It would arouse suspicion as to why Bella was different. That could not happen. Instead, he let Emmett lead him out of the studio, his eyes unable to be tore away from Bella's writhing form.

As the doors closed behind them, Jasper heard her screaming. The sound ripped through him, and he let himself sink to the ground, as if in effort of keeping himself under control. Visibly shaking, his hands clenched into fists, and he stopped breathing. (The latter was mostly for the affect, but all the same.) The bastard had bit her. She was going to carry that mark forever. It sickened him. He wanted to go back in there and put James back together so he could tear his flesh off inch by inch, make him suffer, make him scream. A small shudder rolled down Jasper's spine. Those thoughts hadn't been present for some decades.

Edward came out carrying a hardly conscious, bloody Bella, and Carlisle followed close behind. He looked as though he'd aged a century just by that. His eyes had a slightly hollowed look and he watched Edward's back wearily. He knew something, Jasper was sure of it.

-End Flashback-

That was the day everything changed. Literally everything. When Bella had been dropped off at the hospital, Jasper had been unable to go inside with Edward and Carlisle. He had been nervously pacing the hotel room he returned to with the family, anxious for news about Bella. Strangely, Edward and Carlisle returned soon after dropping Bella off. And just like that, Bella and Edward were over and the family was moving. Everyone was stunned, but no one questioned the decision.

Jasper was livid. He couldn't bear the thought of Bella waking up alone in a hospital bed, broken and hurt, without the person she loved. (Who, Jasper had to accept, was not him.) In a fit of rage, Jasper had attacked Edward.

That had act started a rift between the two.

Questions arose about Jasper's feelings, and Alice, feeling betrayed and confused, had left. The latter had affected him most deeply. Although his feeling for Bella were confusing for him, too - and undeniably something deeper than he had ever experienced - losing Alice had been a hard blow to accept. For half a century, she had been his beacon, guiding him in the right direction, making sure he didn't crash. He hadn't known what to do without her bright personality there. He'd never loved her, that he knew for sure. They'd never gotten married, but always thought themselves mates, as they were inexplicably drawn to each other - or rather she him - but obviously this was just conjecture. Jasper suspected she had developed - or was starting to - feelings for him. That realization had killed him. He'd broken her heart.

He just couldn't do anything right.

That had led into his return to an all-human diet. Mostly, he preyed on scum. Rapists, pedophiles, murderers. Killing them, feeling their pain, seeing light die in their eyes, it was satisfactory on a level he had never known.

It was lonely, though. Occasionally, he would have the company of a woman, but he always felt unsatisfied. He didn't just want sex. He wanted someone. He needed someone. Someone to hug, someone to kiss, someone to cherish, someone to shower in gifts and loving words, someone who would brighten his day just by being there, someone that he could watch wake up in the morning, someone who would warm the coldness of his heart, someone he could make laugh, someone he could make happy. He needed someone to share eternity with. Not just someone. Bella. He needed Bella, but she was long gone.

By now, she was roughly twenty-one, maybe twenty-two. She was getting ready to graduate college. She probably had a boyfriend - maybe fiancé - and possibly a child. Odds are, she didn't even remember him. To her, the Cullens were most likely just a bad dream, a part of her past she shoved away. And Edward? Edward was - or at least he hoped - the scumbag who had left her after she'd nearly died. Or, hell, maybe she had amnesia. That would almost be better, if she literally couldn't remember. In a very twisted way. In a Jasper way.

Vaguely, Jasper was aware of clicking heels fading into the background on the main stage he was seated in front of, and the feeling of disappointment, but none of it was consequential. A new song came over the stereo, one that was slightly louder. Surprised, Jasper realized that he knew the song. Pour Some Sugar On Me by Def Leppard, one of his favorite ands. All evening, they'd been playing rap and hip-hop which Jasper really wasn't fond of, but now his attention was piqued. Why the sudden change? His eyes turned upwards, to the start of the stage where the girls had entered from.

Two women came out, one taller - though that could have been because of the heels - and brunette and the other shorter and blonde. Both wore identical costumes - police officers - though the brunette wore cobalt blue and the blonde wore black. Dresses clung to their curves, ending a few good inches above mid thigh, and a their cleavage peeked out from the zippered neckline. A silver badge was pinned to the left of their dresses, and a black leather belt hung across their hips, handcuffs clasped to them. A silver badge matching the one on the dress adorned the black cap atop their heads, and they wore aviators.

Throughout the duration of the song, Jasper's attention was, surprisingly, held by their swinging hips and proactive movements. Mostly, though, the brunette was his focus. She was absolutely stunning. Or at least, her body was; his eyes never strayed far from her ample breasts, slim waist, perfectly curved hips.

Oh, and her absolutely fantastic ass. Being with Alice for so long, someone who was rail thin and just tiny all around had made him appreciate a fuller figure, actual curves so much more. Jasper didn't really fancy stick-thin figures. Too…bony. Not his thing. Her silky brown hair fall down her back in messy, beach waves, which looked quite good with the color she wore. Had he mentioned how much he loved long hair? Fantastic.

The crowd, too, was captivated by these ladies the way their bodies curved around the poles and each other - mostly the latter - and how their hips swung in the most tantalizing ways. Needless to say the lust in the room had skyrocketed. As the song wore on, the necklines of their dresses were eased lower and lower until their navels were nearly bared and their toned, flat stomachs were on display. The brunette, he noticed, was paler than the blonde, her skin glowing softly in the colored, flashing lights.

The last guitar chord blared through the speakers, and the crowd whooped and hollered. After a moment of silence, the opening notes of Sweet Emotion began playing. Jasper was in a state of confusion and awe. He hadn't felt that attracted to anyone since Bella. Maybe, just maybe, he was getting over her. Wow.

He really was pathetic fuck. Getting over a woman who hadn't loved him, who wasn't even a friend of his. Hell, she probably didn't even like him. Not to mention that he was one of the most feared vampires on the face of the planet. People heard his name and quaked, but he was pining after a girl. A human girl. God. Sighing quietly, Jasper ran his fingers through his hair. At least now there was decent music.

Two shiny, black leather objects came down gently on his table, letting off a quiet click. Jumping slightly, Jasper looked up, wide eyed, completely caught off guard. How had that happened? He really needed to be on his guard. Then again, it was only humans. Seeing the brunette sitting on the edge of the stage, long, toned legs crossed, her feet resting easily on his table, he couldn't help but grin. She still wore the aviators, but now her hat was at a slightly crooked angle, her hair messier than when she'd first started her dance.

"Howdy, cowboy. Care for a dance?" she purred, southern roots drawling her words ever so slightly. There was something familiar about her voice. It was slightly raspy, husky, as if she'd just woken up. Something about how she inflected her words was familiar. How strange.

"Sure, kitten."

Taking a bill from his wallet, he offered it to her. With a smirk, she plucked it from his hand, tucking it into her boot. Slipping from the stage, she sauntered the short distance to him, her hips swinging. Jasper couldn't help but stare.

"Shall I use my handcuffs," she teased, "or will you be good and not touch."

"Oh, I'll be a saint, kitten."

"Good boy," she praised, taking her hat from her head and letting it drop onto Jasper's.

Relaxing back in his chair, Jasper watched, his eyes lidding slightly, as she fitted her slender body between his legs, swaying her hips along with the song. He was mesmerized by how smooth her movements were. Not jerky or forced like most women trying to be sexy. For this gorgeous brunette, it was all smooth and easy. She turned around, her fingers trailing from his chest to his hips, then to his thighs as she gave a languid twist into a loose crouch before making her way back up, her hands sliding along his thighs as she lightly arched herself toward him.

And then her scent caught him. There was no mistaking it. Blackberries, vanilla, coffee, and a touch of chocolate. It was now mixed with cigarettes and some flowery perfume, but there was no mistaking the scent he ached for, craved, for the past years.

There were distinct changes to her facial features - not by plastic surgery, though. The childlike roundness of her youthful face was gone, leaving high, sharp cheekbones, and a smooth, stronger jaw. Her lips, though, were the same. That lovely shade that matched her blush. There was no essence of childhood in her ample curves and long, toned legs. Literally none. But it was her. There was no doubt. It was Bella.

"Bella?" he asked, awed.

Pausing, the glasses were slipped down the bridge of her nose, and big brown eyes peered at him over the rim of the aviators. Confusion flashed through her, but strangely, nothing showed in her eyes. Once expressive and kind, they had turned flat and hollow. Leaning a bit closer, she got an eyeful of him, and her eyes grew almost comically wide.

"Jasper?"

Bella was conflicted. Was she angry? Was she upset? Was she happy? But there was no fucking way. There was no fucking way this was Jasper Hale. Why the fuck was he in New Orleans? Was the entire family there? If so, she had a bone to pick with that fucker Edward Cullen. Ugh. Just thinking his name made her want to spit.

"Hey," he said with a half-smile and a nervous laugh. "Long time, no see."

"You don't fucking say."

Her tone was acidic. And no longer were her eyes flat. They were alive and sparking with anger. Jasper smiled slightly at her. This was not going to be pretty.


A/N: This is my story that I've been promising for quite some time. So, here it is. I kind of left you with a cliff hanger, but the next chapter should be up soon. I wrestled with this fucker for some time, so I hope it's satisfactory. I'd love to know what you think about it so far.

Until next time,

Claire