Stephenie Meyer owns all things Twilight. I just like playing with the characters. Especially Jasper!

Valentine's Day 2013

Chapter 1 – Leaving, Alone

I struggle to hold back tears as I took my seat in class on my last day of class at school. It wasn't supposed to be this way. But I had made the decision to withdraw, and I was determined to carry it through.

My family needed me at home, and the money I had saved for the rest for my tuition and fees would have to go to them, now. After meeting with the University's counselor, and filling out the withdrawal forms, I decided to attend each class so as to tell each professor personally. After all, some had been very nice to me, the scholarship girl from Forks, Washington.

As usual, I was the first one in the enormous auditorium. Somehow, I had managed to get three classes that met Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. Most people tried for a two-day class schedule, the coveted Tuesday-Thursday classes. But I wanted to spend as much time as possible in those classrooms, as I had been waiting for years to go away to college. Even if they were enormous, echoing stadium-style classes, with several hundred mostly bored freshman.

And there was another reason I came in early on this last day before I loaded my meager belongings into my truck and started the long drive home.

I wanted to catch a last glimpse of him. After all, it was Valentine's Day. A day meant for love, even the unrequited, watch-him-from-a-distance kind I had for the campus hunk named Jasper Whitlock. The guy who had haunted my dreams since the first day I walked across campus.

On that fateful day, so many months ago, I was proudly carrying my bags filled with my new books across the grassy areas of the quad, taking a shortcut instead of using the sidewalk. I saw some guys throwing a football as I stepped off the pavement, but I was too focused on the map I held in my hand to think about the fact that I might walk into their passing lane.

I was knocked to the ground by a running body that came at me from the right. Almost immediately, the ball player was lifted off of me, and when I looked up, trying to clear my head from the impact, I saw a hand extended towards me.

"Are you all right, Miss?" The question came in a velvety voice, paired with a southern drawl that made me go weak in my knees. I had to pause, because suddenly I was not all right. I was a quivering mess from hearing that voice! Taking a deep breath, I nodded as I reached for the extended hand, and started to get up.

But when I looked up, I was even more not all right! There in front of me was the most gorgeous guy I had ever seen. Blond hair to his shoulders, a strong face, angular jaw, and oh those cheek bones, that hollowed out into cheeks almost too delicate for a man. He had long eyelashes over…truly weird, topaz colored eyes. But they went with his hair, so OK then! And that voice was being uttered through plump, bow-shaped lips. Suddenly I realized that he must be aware I was staring at his mouth.

"I'm…fine," I stammered out, blushing. "Really."

After gently pulling me to my feet, we were standing quite close, as the stranger still hadn't let go of my hands. He was towering over me, as he must have been at least six feet to my five feet zero height. He seemed to be staring into my eyes, hungrily.

"Hey, Whitlock, is she OK?" someone yelled.

The gorgeous stranger shot a look over his shoulder at his questioner, and suddenly I heard catcalls and whistles from all around us.

Studiously ignoring them, he just smiled at me. And there went my balance again, as I nearly toppled over. "Maybe I should give you a ride home," he said softly.

"That's OK. I'm just clumsy. I fall down; I get up. Happens all the time. I have class right over there, I think…" I pointed at the towering, gothic style building to my left.

"Chemistry?" he asked, looking down at the class schedule I was clutching in one hand.

"Yeah," I answered, incapable of phrasing an elegant sentence.

He looked back at the building. "You'll have to climb up some stairs. I'll go with you, as you still look a bit shaky."

More catcalls, as he gracefully bent to pick my books up from the ground. As he reached for the books that had fallen from the bags, I got a chance to look at his body, not just his face. And it was awesome! He was long and lean, and I could see muscles rippling under his shirt as he bent to leaned over to grab a binder that had fallen further from the others. And his small, tight derriere looked quite fine under those jeans, too!

I blushed at these thoughts, and as he turned, I noticed he was smirking.

"I'm Jasper, Jasper Whitlock," he said quietly as he handed me my stack of books.

I took my books, still looking down and blushing. Suddenly I realized he was waiting for me to answer.

"Bella. I'm…Bella," I finally said.

The football crowd let out another round of cheers, and comments like "Go Jasper, got another one?" were lobbed our way like footballs.

I could have sworn he snarled, but he must have just been clearing his throat. Turning his back on his friends, he put his hand under my left elbow, and walked me to the chemistry building. It was a good thing he was holding me up, because when he was close, my knees got shaky.

We climbed up the twelve long entrance steps to the front door. Once inside, I turned to say "thank you," but he cocked an eyebrow at me.

"Seems to me we've got a few more to go. I haven't quite executed my escort duty yet," he said.

As my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw the imposing set of stairs in front of us. It was the height of two normal staircases. The steps were very long, meant to accommodate what type of situation, I wondered. Twenty people walking side-by-side? I'm sure it looked quite grand on the architect's drawings, but for students to haul themselves and their books up every day, it looked quite imposing.

I nodded. "Onwards," I said, "though I could probably make it on my own."

"Not many of us are cut out to make it on our own, lovely," he replied in a far-away voice.

Now I really needed help walking up those stairs! I thought.

But once he got me to the top of the staircase, he simply bowed, and gracefully sprinted back down the stairs, effortlessly.

Leaning over the banister from the landing, I watched him passing through the doorway onto the brightly lit quad outside. I wondered if I would ever see him again.

As it turned out, I was to see him at least three times a week. In my 8:00 English Class.

That day at lunch, I confirmed with the girls in the cafeteria that he was one of the jocks. They appeared enraptured to hear how he had helped me up off of the ground, and they quickly filled me in on his story. He was a sophomore, pre-med, and he played baseball, though he appeared quite handy with a football. There was a lot of chatter about why he wouldn't go out for the football team. It seemed to come down to the fact that he was a pre-med student, and his father, who was a surgeon, had discouraged him from football, due to the injuries inherent in playing the game. Still, Jasper liked sports, so he went out for baseball, and so I quickly learned the baseball schedule so that I could attend the games. And practices.

But, even though he was pre-med, he still had to endure the same freshman English classes that we all did. Apparently he hadn't taken his required humanities course as a freshman, as the class had been full, so he was now completing the required course his sophomore year. As a baseball player, he sat with the other jocks and their inevitable followers. He always seemed to have his arm draped around a girl, someone who sported a pink or blue tight sweater showing off their full bosom to advantage. But I noticed there was a different girl each week. He seemed to change them constantly, like part of his wardrobe. The only consistent part of in his appearance, other than his striking blond hair, was his letterman jacket.

Something that really set him apart from his jock companions, though, was that he looked awake and focused in this early morning class. Everybody else in the jock crowd yawned, and a few even snored. Professor Higgins even hiked up the stairs mid-lecture one morning, all the way to the back of the auditorium to their row, walked down the aisle and rapped a snoring student on the head to wake him up.

So I sat and waited, on this final morning, to see him walk in one last time. He showed up at his usual time, but I was surprised when I saw his head whip around in my direction as he entered, and he appeared to look at me with a worried look as he passed. I just ducked my head, pretending to review my notes. Once Professor Higgins walked in, I went up and gave him my assignment, then explained that I was withdrawing. He expressed sympathy for my situation and encouraged me to return to school as quickly as my family situation would allow. Fighting back tears at his kindness, I returned to my seat.

Later that day, I met Angela in the library coffee shop. That's when I told her I was going home.

She was quite upset, of course, and tried to talk me out of this course of action. I fought my tears, but I remained determined. The odd thing, though, was that throughout the conversation I had a funny feeling Jasper was there, though I couldn't see him. I told her my plans to pack and leave that night, right after my last class, and we hugged one last time after exchanging home addresses and phone numbers.

As I trudged my way home to my studio apartment at the edge of campus after my last class, I held my head up. I was doing what I was supposed to do, putting family first. As for my college crush, well, he barely seemed to know I was alive, other than his strange behavior before class this morning. Then again, if I managed to re-enroll in two years, he would be a senior. I might still see him. I could always follow the baseball teams in the news, and possibly get a picture of him that way.

Climbing up the steps that ran along the outside of the back of the house to the second floor of the apartment I was renting, all I could think about was how I would be carrying my stuff back down these same steps in an hour. Fumbling with my keys on the back porch, I finally opened the door.

And immediately froze in place, with the door open behind me. My tiny studio apartment was filled with roses. There were bouquets on every table, and even two box arrangements were balanced on the lumpy old sofa. None of the usual mess of my apartment had been straightened, and there was even a bud vase with a single rose on top of one of my stacks of books.

What? Who?

Stepping inside, I pulled off my jacket then shivered as I felt a breeze from an open window. Glancing around the room, I saw that the glass door to the balcony was open. Just as I was wondering what this meant, Jasper Whitlock stepped in from outside, wearing a tuxedo!

Smiling at me, he walked towards me. "Surprised?" he asked.

I nodded. Dumbfounded would be a better word.

"Happy Valentine's Day, love. I just couldn't let you go…" he said softly.