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I Live is posted on FanFiction, A Different Forest (feed a tree!), The Writer's Coffee Shop (TWCS), and Archive of Our Own (AO3).

A/N: About 6803-ish words. :) Last day of February. When did that happen?

Age 18 and over, please. Thank you

Just Between Us by CayStar on FFn

The Demon's Mate by Speklez on FFn (Jasper – with wings!)

Chap 32, I Growl

Jasper's POV

Rosalie smirked as she opened her door to me and curtsied. It didn't have quite the same effect when the woman was wearing blue jeans and a tailored chambray shirt.

"Did you get clean underwear this time?" she asked.

Emmett was lounging in his armchair, wearing grey sweats, with bare feet propped up on an ottoman. "What?" He stared at me as I walked into their room, and he dropped his Gameboy in his lap

I waved him off. "It's nothing. Why are you still playing with that Gameboy?"

Rosalie got that mischievous gleam in her eye. "I happened to see Jasper's pants fall down after you got on Bella's nerves earlier. He goes commando." She handed me a blue towel and gestured majestically like a game show hostess for me to follow her into her room.

Emmett straightened up in his arm chair. "What are you doin' nekkid in front of my mate?"

"I didn't do it on purpose. Bella ripped my jeans, and I didn't exactly notice right away." I turned right at the corner after the short hall and stepped into the bathroom. "And yes, I do have clean underwear. Socks, too." I set my clean boots and socks outside the door and closed it quietly.

Emmett grumbled. "Jesus Christ. He's not goin' to have any clothes left. And how do you not notice somebody rippin' your pants?" He snorted loudly. "I play this Gameboy because I like the Tetris game, okay?"

"I just want to know how he gets muddier than you do, Em." I heard Rosalie's voice through the door. "Jasper, do you need some more shirts? You can have a couple of Emmett's."

"Carlisle gave me a few," I said as I stripped off the muddy pants, turned on the water, and stepped into the shower stall.

Emmett grumbled again. "I don't want him taking any of my stuff, except for the Forks High shirts. They'll get destroyed."

"Oh, it's not like Bella hasn't ripped any of yours," Rosalie hissed at him.

"Only two."

"And a pair of pants, a pair of socks, and a pair of shoes. Around here, men's clothing should be put on the endangered species list."

Trying to ignore their bickering, I lathered up with Emmett's bar of soap and rinsed as quickly as I could, watching the mud and pine needles gather around the drain. I guess smelling like Emmett's Emerald Isle for a while wouldn't be so bad. It was better than smelling like Rosalie's lilacs.

When the water finally ran clear, I shut off the water and gathered up the pine needles caught around the drain. I tossed them in the little trash can and then tried to dry off as quickly as possible. Grabbing the blue boxer briefs, I grudgingly put them on and slid on my jeans. I didn't bother with a belt. Carlisle's white V-neck T-shirt was snug across my chest, but it would work. Guess I would smell a little like Carlisle's cardamon for a while, too.

I ran the towel over my head again as I opened the bathroom door. Rosalie was waiting with a comb in her right hand; her left was propped on her hip, holding an ash grey Forks High gym shirt.

"Thanks, Rose, Em." I combed my hair straight back from my face while I shoved the gym shirt in my back pocket. "We should probably do some laundry after Bella gets up here."

"You're welcome. You know," Rosalie said with one of her crafty smiles, "since you're Bella's mate, you could move into her room."

Caught off guard, I stared blankly at Rosalie. Moving into Bella's room hadn't even occurred to me.

"Hellcat got your tongue, Jazz?" Emmett snickered as his thumbs moved in a blur over the Gameboy.

"Uh, Hellcat hasn't invited me." They were right. Bella and I were mates. Why hadn't she invited me?

Rosalie looked at me curiously. "Well, aren't you the polite young man," she said as she patted my cheek. "Maybe she doesn't know she can invite you. Perhaps you should mention it." She raised her eyebrow and smirked at me.

"It might not be a good time to make any more changes around here. She's had enough to deal with, and we'll be leaving soon."

"Making excuses, Jazz?"

"No," I answered tersely, hoping she'd drop the subject. I was planning on Bella being in my room in our new home, and I was looking forward to it. Quite eagerly, in fact.

Hoping to distract Rosalie from that topic, I said, "I have a few things left in Alice's room. I'll have to get them. Is she in there?"

"Yes, she's in her room. She's been very quiet." Rosalie took the comb back. "Do you want me to go ask her?"

"No," I said, leaning against the wall and pulling on my socks. "I should go see how she is. Edward and Esme still upstairs?"

"Yes, though they've been pretty quiet, too." Rosalie stepped a bit closer to me and began to whisper. "I hate to say it, but I've had a moment when I almost felt sorry for him."

A low growl started in my chest. "Are you shittin' me, Rose? I thought you wanted to shred him." I glared at her. "For a vampire, he's had it pretty fuckin' easy. He's lucky he's had Carlisle to take care of him all these years." I hissed and jammed my feet in my boots.

Emmett appeared beside Rosalie, an answering deep rumble in his chest. "He's always been taken care of. He went right from his momma to Carlisle, and he never learned how to take care of anything. That's what his problem is," he said, shaking the Gameboy at Rosalie. "He's never really had to grow up. His change into a vampire was no different than anybody else's. And he's always treated Jazz like the red-headed stepchild." Emmett paused, rubbing his chin. "I wonder how he likes it?"

"But what could have happened to him to make him obsess on Bella's blood like that?" Rosalie asked, a bit of worry touching her face.

Frowning, Emmett shoved the Gameboy in his pocket. "I don't fuckin' know, Rose, and I don't care. I ran across my singer and drained her."

I scowled at Rosalie. "I haven't ever run across one, but I don't give a shit what could have happened to him. Tryin' to save Bella's blood like that was fucked up." I hissed again. "He's lucky Bella doesn't want him dead. I'd be happy to oblige her if she ever changed her mind. But I don't think she will," I said, sighing in frustration.

"It's just … I wonder what would happen if I ever ran across my singer? If I didn't drain him, would I want to stay near him? Would I keep looking for him?"

Emmett pulled her into his arms, her back to his chest, and kissed the side of her pale gold head. "I don't think you'd have to worry about that, Babe. The pull is so strong; I think you'd drain'im."

"Emmett, that's not helping." She pushed his arms from around her and stepped away from him, her brows furrowed.

I leaned toward Rosalie. "I don't even have to think about it. If I ever ran across my singer, if I even have one, I'd drain him. Problem solved." Stepping toward the short hall to their door, I turned back to Rosalie. "Rose, I've seen thousands of humans, and never ran across one. I think the odds are good you won't." I started to leave their room, but turned back once more. "Try not to worry about it. And don't waste your time worrying about Fuckward."

After closing the door behind me, I turned left in the hall and knocked lightly on Alice's door.

She opened the door slowly and smiled brightly as she saw me. "Hi Jazz. Come on in."

I stepped onto the pale cream carpet and stood by the door. "How have you been?"

"I've been okay. Working on my designs." She smiled and gestured to the right toward her drafting table in the corner. It was filled with white sheets of paper covered with splashes of color — long-legged females with sky-high heels, dressed in short, ruffly skirts with matching jackets. So typically Alice.

I followed her into her room. Looking around, not one thing that had belonged to me was left, not that there had ever been much. It was as if we hadn't spent the last half century together — as if I'd never been there. Funny, but that didn't seem to bother me in the least.

The rooms we had shared over the years had always reflected more of Alice's Pollyanna-like personality than mine. That had been part of the reason I'd had my own study after joining the Cullens. We had always had our separate spaces. Her love of pink and other pale pastels had a little to do with it, too.

"I came to get my hiking clothes. Not that I'll need the flannel shirts and the long-sleeved shirts yet, but I should get my stuff out of your closet."

"Don't you want any of the suits?" Alice asked as she swung the bedroom door closed and opened the closet door. She politely flipped on the light and stepped back.

"No. I don't think I'll need them, but I'll get them out of here." I went in the closet and was surrounded by Alice's crisp scent — cool, citrusy orange and lemon with a hint of berries. I had always liked it, but it had never called to me like Bella's sensuous scent of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. She smelled so warm. She smelled like home. I couldn't wait to establish our own home together.

I gathered my flannel shirts, a few button-downs, and other cool-weather clothes from the shelves in the back. "Alice, I'll take these to my study and be right back to get my other stuff, okay?" I said as I came back out of her huge closet.

"I can help you, you know. There are just a few suits and shoes."

I nodded at her offer. "Thanks for not throwing this stuff out."

"I wouldn't throw your clothes away, and they're in the back of the closet anyway." She shrugged her shoulders as she took her turn in the closet and lifted three suits from the pole. She scooped two shoe boxes from the floor and turned toward me. She smiled again, but it was touched with sadness. "This is it. The older things have already been taken to Goodwill. You don't want the sweaters?"

"No thanks, Alice. They can go to Goodwill, too." I reached in and grabbed my two navy blue duffel bags from the top shelf.

I followed her out of her room and down the hall to my study. My door, and the door to Bella's room, were leaning against the wall. I didn't think I'd have time to fix them and the door frames properly before it was time to leave.

Alice smiled slightly as she looked over the battered doors, glanced back at me, and shook her head in amusement. "Bella sure tore up the doors. Emmett's lucky she didn't get hold of him."

"Yes, he is. But she did bite him on the leg."

"Oh, she did?" Alice's laugh chimed through the air. "I didn't know about that. But from what I did hear," she peered at me from the corner of her eye, "he deserved it." She chuckled again.

I smiled at her in surprise. I do believe she was teasing me, and I took that as a good sign.

She followed me into my study. "Where do you want these?"

"Just set them on the couch." I dropped my armload of clothes on the cushions and set the duffel bags next to them. "Thank you, Alice."

"No problem." She clasped her hands together, and her gaze fell to the floor. "I really hope everything goes well with you and Bella and your trip to … well, wherever it is you're going."

"I won't forget to call you with the address, but I'll call after we get out of Edward's range even though it's a PO Box. He'll probably read it in your mind, but that's okay. The PO Box isn't that close to the house. My place doesn't have an actual address."

Her hands fluttered nervously, and she put them behind her back as she shuffled from foot to foot. She peeked up at me. "Do you mind my asking why you never mentioned it before?"

"Security for Peter and Charlotte. They stay there now and then. They're nomads, for the most part, but I guess you could say they're nomads that move from house to house. They've never stayed in one area as long as the Cullens have. Sometimes they travel like true nomads, but even then they like to be in a house once in a while."

"That makes sense." She nodded her head. "Jazz, I was a little shocked at first, I guess you could tell, but I am happy for you and Bella. I don't want you to think I'm avoiding you, but Bella does kind of scare me. I thought I should stay out of her way until she calms down." She tugged at the pale yellow scarf she had knotted around her neck. "I mean, I know the newborn instincts are hard to control, and I don't want to make things harder for her. Or for you." Her hand brushed at her hair and then tugged at the collar of her shirt. "I want to be her friend again, but I don't want to make her jealous."

"She can't seem to help herself." I had a pretty good idea what Bella thought of Edward, but it didn't keep me from being a little jealous. I caught Alice's right hand in both of mine. "I know you want to be her friend, and I think you'll be able to again. Maybe when she's past her newborn stage. When I'm not near you both, you seem to get along okay."

"Yes." Alice smiled faintly. "We did well together cleaning up the patio and the living room." Her natural exuberance bubbled up again, and she laughed brightly. "So many things were smashed! Edward's piano was nothing but splinters." Her free hand clapped over her mouth, and her light amber eyes twinkled with her mirth. "I know I shouldn't laugh at that, but it was so funny. The flower petals and greens were everywhere. All the colors were gorgeous!"

I couldn't help smiling with her. "I didn't think so when he threw me into it, but now that you mention it…" Winking at her, I gave her hand a gentle squeeze. "You've been a good friend to me. I hope I can be so to you."

She squeezed my hand in return and then pulled away to lean against the arm of the couch. "I can't see it right now, but I think we will be. We've known each other a long time. We've helped each other over and over. I'd like to think that we'll continue." She walked behind the couch and ran her hands over the top of the cushions. "Of course, I'll be staying with Esme and Carlisle, so if you ever need me for anything …"

"Thanks, Alice." I grabbed one of the duffels and began shoving the long-sleeved T-shirts and the other shirts inside. The other bag would be for Bella's clothes. "It would be safer for you to stay with the family, but if you ever need me, just call."

"I will." Alice smiled up at me again and patted the back of the couch. "Well, I should go back to my room. I expect Bella will be up here soon. She does like to take baths." She moved toward the doorway. "Does your house have a big tub in it?"

"Unfortunately, no. I might have to put one in." If I did that, we'd lose a closet. That wouldn't really matter, though. Bella didn't appear to need the closet space that Alice had always required.

"Remodeling. That should be fun." Alice smiled again. "I'll see you later, Jazz."

I lifted the duffel bag from the couch and started to turn toward the wardrobe. "Thank you, Alice. For everything." It struck me that it felt like I was saying goodbye to her and a feeling of melancholy stole over me. I sent her my gratitude and the love I felt for her.

She took in a small breath and placed her hands over her heart. "I love you, too, Jazz." Then she darted away.

Grabbing the suits from the couch, I went to the wardrobe, dropped my duffel bag on the floor, and opened the doors. I hung the suits on the short pole on the left side and reached for the few remaining T-shirts on the shelves to the right. After dropping them in the duffel, I turned back and reached for my socks and underwear. As I tossed them into the bag, I heard a gasp at the door.

Bella was standing there, staring at me, with her mouth hanging open. Suddenly self-conscious, I looked down at myself and took a quick inventory, running my hands down my chest. Carlisle's white T-shirt, my blue jeans, and brown boots. Everything appeared to be in place. I glanced up at Bella and couldn't help noticing how lovely she was, despite the mud and her tangled hair. Just seeing her again sent a feeling of peace through me, even though she kept sneaking up on me.

"What's the matter?"

"Er, nothing." She stepped slowly into the room. "Uh, is that Carlisle's shirt? It's a little tight."


Grinning at her, I slid my hands back up my stomach and chest, her eyes following their progress. She was blocking me from feeling her emotions again, but it seemed she liked the shirt. I'd have to remember that.

She took another step, stopped and inhaled deeply. She darted toward the couch and began to growl. "She was here. What was she doing in here? I smell her." Her bright red eyes darkened to near black, and she growled again.

Reaching out for her, I walked slowly toward her. "It's okay, Darlin'. I had a few clothes left in Alice's closet, and she helped me carry them in here is all." I touched her arm, and she was nearly vibrating with her emotions. I didn't need to be able to detect them to know she was angry.

She spun to face me. "I smell her. I smell her on your hands … on you." Her glistening black eyes slowly made their way up my chest and to my face.

Oh, shit.

Sensing I was in big trouble with a capital T — and I didn't even know why— I felt the urge to back away from her, but stood my ground. I hadn't ever backed away from anyone and was stunned that the impulse came over me while facing Bella's anger. However, I suppose it was stupid of me to have rubbed my hands over my chest after having touched Alice's hands.

Raising my hands up and speaking softly, I said, "Bella, everything is fine. Alice just helped me carry in clothes, and I held her hand to thank her."

She was practically quivering, and her eyes narrowed to glittering, dark slits.

I probably shouldn't have put my Alice-scented hands right up in front of her face like that, either.

Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

Bella's rage and suspicion blasted outward. I was suddenly shirtless, and the torn remains of Carlisle's T-shirt were clenched in her fist. "Dammit, Jasper, you're mine!" she spat out as she shook the shredded shirt in my face.

Before I could even think, the T-shirt was flung to the floor, her arms and legs were clamped tightly around me, and her teeth were embedded in the right side of my neck by my shoulder.

Damn, she's fast when she's pissed off.

I fell backward, trying to turn to the left so she wouldn't smash her forehead against the floor and thudded heavily to the rug, just missing the chair.

"Oh, fuck me." Getting bitten stings like hell when it isn't part of your foreplay or orgasm. Well, it stings then too, but …

Bella had my left arm pinned down, but my right was free. I began stroking her head and back and whispering, "It's okay, Bella. It's all right. Calm down, Darlin'."

Her angry emotions were spinning at top speed, and she was breathing quickly through her nose. She renewed her furious growls and sunk her teeth even more deeply into the curve of my neck.

"Son of a bitch." I squirmed with the fiery pain, drawing up my right leg. Previously, her bites had been very erotic. There wasn't anything erotic about that one.

Then I noticed Alice's scent was stronger down on the floor. The duffel bag my clothes were in lay just to the right of us, near my wardrobe, and it was saturated with Alice's berry and citrus scent. It had to be her scent on my clothes that set Bella off. As long as she could smell it, I didn't think she would let go. Though I thought I would be able to get up from the floor, I didn't know how Bella would react to my movement.

Her right arm slid from underneath me, and she gripped my left above my elbow and squeezed, pushing my arm down and holding it to the floor. With her newborn strength, she would be able to break it off without too much trouble. I didn't think she would, but I wasn't sure about that. Her jealousy, possessiveness, and rage were pummeling me, and I was having a difficult time not being overwhelmed by it.

I didn't know what to do to calm her down. I was good and trapped. With my left hand's limited movement, I eased up the hem of her still-damp Henley and pressed my fingers against the smooth skin of her back, hoping that would help.

"Bella, you can let go. She's not here," I whispered into her tangled hair. With my right hand, and despite the throbbing of her venom sizzling through my veins, I slowly gathered her hair together, twisted it around and laid it down the center of her back.

"Let go, please? Alice isn't here."

Seems I fucked up again. Bella's growls became louder at the mention of Alice's name. Her venom was burning down through my shoulder, up into my neck, and across my chest, but I couldn't think of anything else to do. I didn't see a way out of the situation without injuring her, or losing a chunk out of the top of my shoulder. If she hurt me like that, I was sure it would upset her.

Holding her in my arms, I whispered to her, "I love you, Bella. You know I love you." Tightening my arms around her, I breathed in her scent. "I love you." I sent all my love to her, hoping it would soothe and reassure her.

"Jasper, do you need help?" Rosalie, speaking quietly and evenly, was at the door. I was sure she wouldn't be able to see that Bella had her teeth in me.

"Yes. Alice's scent …"

Bella growled again, the vibrations going through my chest and arms.

"Do you want me to grab Bella?"

"No!" I barked out. I stroked Bella's hair again as she continued with her low growls. "I love you, Bella." The whirl of her rage and jealousy had slowed, but not enough for her to pull her teeth out of my shoulder. It had to be because Alice's scent was so close.

I spoke softly. "Rose, take both of those duffel bags out of here. I think I'll have to wash all those clothes and the bags. Bella bit me again and she won't let go."

"Pissed her off, did you? That didn't take long. You certainly get yourself into some interesting situations, Jasper." Rosalie darted into the room, snatching up the half-filled duffel from the floor and the other from the couch, and dashed back out to the hall. "I'll take these downstairs and be right back." In a blur, she was gone.

Bella's growling continued intermittently, though it wasn't as loud, and I ran my fingers through her hair. "Bella, the bags are gone. It's okay." It hurt like a bitch, but I turned my head to kiss her. "I love you, Bella." Breathing into her hair, I kissed her again.

She growled louder.

Plying her with kisses and sweet words of love wasn't working, so I tried to hit her with a small dose of lethargy. After a second, it bounced right back to me. Evidently, she decided to block my attempts to influence her emotionally. I was stumped.

Emmett's amusement preceded his appearance at my door. Arms crossed, he was leaning against what was left of the door jam and grinning at me. "So, I see you pissed her off this time."

Not wanting to dignify that stupid remark with any sort of response, I ignored him and stroked Bella's hair with my right hand and massaged the tight muscles in her back with my left. I nuzzled her ear and whispered to her. "You are my mate. I love you."

"Rose gave me a heads up. Ya know, I could open the window and maybe air out the place." Emmett suggested. "It stopped raining a little while ago."

Becoming just a touch frustrated, I hissed at him. "Well, then fuckin' do it. She's bitin' the shit out of me."

Bella didn't appreciate that. Growling again, she pulled her left arm from around my ribs, slid her hand down my side and pinched me right above my hip.

Oh, goddammit!

That hurt almost as much as a bite, and I jerked away from the sharp pain, causing her teeth to shift in my shoulder enough to make that shit hurt even more. I pushed my face into her hair and growled back at her. Clenching my teeth, I ground out, "Oh, Isabella, I love you so goddamn much."

During the pinching, snarling, and growling, Emmett zipped across the room, opened the window, and scooted back out to stand in the hall, cackling like a fool the entire time.

"Do you want me to pinch her nose closed so she can't smell anything?"

Where the hell does he come up with this shit?

In pain, exasperated, and a little more pissed off, I yelled at him. "Don't fuckin' touch her!"

Emmett's booming laugh rang out. "Maybe a bubble bath will distract her?"

I grunted into Bella's hair. At least he'd thought of something that might prove to be helpful. I was clean out of ideas. "Jesus Christ! Just fuckin' do it!"

As he went to run the water in Bella's tub, Rosalie reappeared. "Started the laundry for you, Jazz. Maybe a bath will help," she said happily. "And I'll go open a window in Bella's room, so we get a cross-draft."

Trying to calm myself down, I whispered to her, "Bella, why are you mad at me?" I nuzzled into her ear. "I didn't do anything, and I'm gettin' a little irked myself."

She growled again. She wasn't as angry as she had been, but tendrils of her jealousy were still winding through and around her swirling emotions.

If she was that mad at me because Alice had been in my study, I didn't think I should mention Edward's … attraction to me any time soon. Of course, that could have been a reaction to stress on his part. Though if I could be sure Bella would focus her jealousy on, and direct her anger at him

From Bella's bathroom, which shared a wall with my study, I heard Emmett splashing the water in the bath tub. "Ohhh, Bellzy-bub," he sang. "Mmmmm. Just smell those vanilla bubbles." He made more splashing sounds. "Tub's gettin' pretty full and it is dee-licious." He splashed the water a few more times. "Rose said you liked the water nice and hot. It's just the way you like it."

I could smell the vanilla, so I knew Bella could, and, at last, the light bulb came on in my brain. Trying to explain to her, asking her, kisses, and loving words hadn't worked to make her let go, so I'd have to resort to attacking her back. I held her head tightly against me so her teeth wouldn't shift again, and I rolled until I hit my knees. I cautiously moved to stand. Her arms went around my ribs to hang on to me. A smidgen of curiosity joined the mix I was feeling from her.

"Darlin', I've been wantin' to get in the tub with you," I said seductively as I toed off my boots. "And now seems like the perfect time." I pushed down my sock with my toes, stepped on the end and pulled my foot out. After repeating the procedure with my other foot, I started walking toward the door.

Her legs tightened around my waist, and I felt the first glimmer of worry appear, taking her anger down a notch.

"Don't worry, Darlin'," I said as I carried her into her room. I lowered my voice and whispered into her ear, "I'm sure we'll both have an excellent time." I winked at Rosalie, who was sitting on Bella's bed.

She smiled and waved her fingers at us. "You know, I could get a set of clothes out for Bella while you two are in the tub." With her reassuring smile, wide eyes, crossed legs, and hands daintily clasped together in her lap, she was the picture of guileless helpfulness.

Emmett was still in the bathroom, on his knees by the huge soaking tub, stirring the water and waving his hand through the bubbles. His face brightened when he saw us; he grabbed the bottle of bubble bath from the counter and poured another dollop into the tub. He closed his eyes and smiled. "Doesn't that smell wonderful? Ahhhhhh. Pretty damn sexy, too."

Bella was becoming more apprehensive by the moment, but she still didn't pull her teeth out of my shoulder. At least she wasn't growling anymore and that was an improvement.

Emmett turned off the water and hopped up from the floor, scraping the bubbles off his arm and back into the tub. "Well, since this is the last room you two love birds have with a door, I'll just make myself scarce. Maybe go check on the laundry." He came out of the bathroom and leaned around to look at Bella. He waggled his eyebrows and fist bumped her shoulder. "You two kids have fun."

I stepped into the bathroom, and Emmett quickly pulled the door shut.

"Now, Darlin'…" I said in a cajoling voice as I squeezed her leg near her knee. I ran my hand down her thigh and over her ass. "There's no need to keep bitin' me like that. You need to relax, and I know just how to help you do that."

I didn't know if Rosalie and Emmett had any idea what I was planning, though they seemed to catch on fairly quickly. At least they went along with it. Honorable man that I was, I was fully prepared to go as far as I needed to go to make her pull her teeth out of me. I slid my right hand down over the curve of her ass and reached for the button on my jeans. I paused, waiting to see if Bella would let go, but she didn't. I undid the button and slowly pulled the zipper down.

She yanked her teeth from my shoulder. "Stop, Jasper! What are you doing?"

Sweet relief settled over me. Her bite still stung like a bitch, but at least she wasn't still drooling her venom into me. Not that I really minded that so much. It did blend our scents together and it marked me as hers.

"I'm takin' off my pants to get in the tub," I said innocently. "You need a bath and you wouldn't let go …"


"Since you're blockin' me, and don't seem to want to listen to me, I had to think of another way to … calm you down."

"No! Let me down."

I hooked my thumb in the waistband of the jeans, yanked them down a few inches, and slid my hand over her ass again. "Oh, now you want me to let you go?"

"Yes!" She tried to pull away from me.

"But Darlin', don't you want to get in the tub and clean up? You are pretty muddy." I dragged my left hand up her back, taking hold of her neck, and kissed her throat beneath her jaw. "I could massage and scrub your back for you. You're very tense."

"Ohhhhh." She sighed. "Uh, no. I can scrub my own back. Unless I break another back brush. Get out and send Rose in to help me get undressed."

Reaching between us, my fingers searched for the button on her jeans. "I can help you get undressed," I whispered into her ear.

"No!" She grabbed my hand as I undid the button, and she dropped her legs from around my waist. "Put me down, please?"

Heaving a huge sigh, I said, "If you insist." I gripped her waist and set her on the floor. Her bright crimson eyes dropped immediately to my jeans then flashed up to my face. But they didn't stay there.

"Uh … um."

It was one of those moments when I missed her blush. The little soldier was quite interested in the goings on, straining against the cotton of the boxer briefs, and I was sure human Bella would have been beet red about then. Regretting the decision to put on underwear, sure I would have enjoyed seeing the look on her face if I hadn't, I stepped back away from her.

Having to make a couple of adjustments to the little soldier and my jeans before zipping them up, I sighed again. I believe I was disappointed that she hadn't called my bluff. Not that I was bluffing.

Apparently the procedure was fascinating to Bella, and I asked, "Did you want to help me?"

She blinked and her eyes finally made their way back to my face. "Er … uh, no!" She covered her face with her hands and turned away from me. Her embarrassment flared and completely replaced her anger.

"I'll get Rose." I smirked at her, turned, and opened the door. Luckily, I still had Emmett's T-shirt in my back pocket — I didn't know how — and I slipped it over my head. "Rose, Bella would prefer it if you helped her get undressed."

"I can't imagine why." Rosalie grinned at me. "Bella, do you want the iPod?" She disappeared into the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

Emmett's shirt was huge on me, but at least it was a shirt. "Toss her clothes out here, Rose. We'll wash those, too." I'd take them downstairs and sort them with the rest of the clothes and towels. I hoped I could find some air freshener while I was down there. Spraying those suits in my wardrobe might be a good idea.

There was just a slight breeze coming through from my study to Bella's room, but I was hopeful it would dilute Alice's scent.

I heard little splashes and her happy sigh as Bella got into the tub. Rosalie cracked open the door and handed out the muddy clothes.

"You are such an asshole," she silently mouthed to me as I took Bella's bundle of clothes.

Agreeing with her, I grinned and nodded at her. "I'll be right back."

I made the trip down to the laundry and back in record time, barely pausing in admiration at all when I got to Bella's boy shorts and bra, and even after searching for an air freshener that didn't smell like fucking oranges or lemons.

Back in my study, I doused my wardrobe, the suits, and the couch with an apple and cinnamon spray and then settled myself on the floor in the short hall into Bella's room, across from her bathroom door.

Rose came out after a few minutes, bringing Bella's enticing scent with her, and sat on the floor beside me. She patted my arm propped on my knee. "She'll settle down eventually, you know."

I nodded, closing my eyes and leaning my head back against the wall, breathing in Bella's scent. "In about a year."

Rosalie snickered quietly and patted my arm again. "I helped her wash her hair and now she has the ear buds in. She sure likes to have the music up loud. You'll have to get her an iPod." She sighed lightly. "Do you know why she bit you this time?"

I shook my head. "Mad at me, I guess. It's not like she could tell me with her mouth full of my shoulder, for Christ's sake." I ran my hand through my hair and sighed. "Alice helped me carry some clothes into my study. I took hold of her hand to thank her. Her scent was on my clothes and on me. Bella was pissed off and jealous. That's why I wanted you to get the duffel bags out. I thought she would let go once the bags were out of the room."

"Well, maybe that jealousy thing will calm down after … ahem, well, anyway … how's the bite?" She bumped my shoulder with hers.

"It sealed, but it still stings. She got enough damn venom into me."

Chuckling at me, she said, "You do smell more like cinnamon than you used to. I happened to notice that bite on her shoulder. Maybe you need to bite her a few more times. Do some venom swapping, as Emmett would say."

Barely opening my eyes, I looked at Rosalie from the corner of my eye and grinned at her. "I plan on it."

Settling back against the wall, I listened to the quiet sounds of the house: Bella moving slowly in the tub; water trickling and gurgling, and her soft splashes. Emmett was back in his room — humming lightly to himself, and probably playing with his Gameboy again. Esme and Carlisle were down the hall in his study, talking softly together. I could hear the washer hitting it's rinse and spin cycle downstairs.

Directly above Bella's room was Edward's, and I heard him moving back and forth. He was probably reorganizing his CDs and albums — again. I really couldn't blame him. Vampires tended to be a little OCD. Of course, Edward could be the poster child for obsessive-compulsive disorder. Well, I liked my books in a particular order. His shelves did get smashed the other day. I supposed it was time to rearrange them. I was just happy he was busy somewhere else.

Taking in a slow, deep breath, I drew in the tranquility of the house. I thought that was probably the first really peaceful moment I'd had since I had found Bella in her wrecked truck. I wasn't complaining, but everyone needed some quiet time now and then.

Even vampires who never slept were inclined to be a bit calmer at two o'clock in the morning. Unless we were feeding, of course.

I appreciated Rosalie's presence beside me. The fact that she didn't feel the need to fill the near silence with endless chatter was a blessing. Bella had her moments, but you could never call her verbose. There were times when I wished she would talk and tell me more. Like just a few minutes ago when she had her teeth in me.

Then there was Alice. She had always felt the compulsion to fill almost every moment with some sort of sound.

Bella's contentedness and Rosalie's sense of well-being were lulling me into a relaxed state. It was nice to be still.

Above us, even Edward's continuous self-condemnation, despair, and black gloom had eased up. I couldn't say he was happy; he just wasn't as miserable.

I was thoroughly enjoying the peace and quiet until I felt Edward's surge of alarm.

Instantly, I was on my feet. "Edward, what is it?" I was trying to keep my voice low so Bella wouldn't hear me, but I knew Edward could. I sent my senses out as far as I could, but didn't detect anything unusual.


Oh shit.