Hello all! This was my contribution to this year's Valentine's Day Countdown organised by breathoftwilight. Always a lot of fun to do, the collab piece at the end is always fun. I got some brilliant reviews! So a massive thank you to dolphin62598, jennayg123, Sunsetwing, Koshivuh, mommymac0508, annaharding, debslmac, Prillylove25, fanfictionalcolic and tawelephant, so glad you enjoyed it!

The link to it is:

s/8916847/1/Countdown-to-V-Day-2013-prompt-challenge

Disclaimer: I own nothing. More's the pity...

Valentine's Day Countdown 2013-01-11

Of Pizza and Proposals.

By PixieH

February 14th. Seattle, Washington State.

It was a rare day when Emmett McCarty was anything less than happy. It was an even rarer day when he was panicking. Today was one of those days.

For four hours he'd been searching. Two malls, five boutiques, three outrageously pretentious speciality stores, even a WalMart -not that he'd dare go for anything he found there...he's not THAT stupid – and still nothing.

So it was with sheer desperation that he called his best friend to rescue him from the crisis he found himself in.

"Thank God you're here!" he bellowed as he saw his savior strolling round the corner.

Dark sunglasses did not hide the amused grin that only spread further as they took in his dishevelled and frazzled state. Emmett was not amused.

"Don't grin at me like that. You're supposed to be helping me!"

"I can't help it. For once, you're not infuriatingly chipper. It makes a nice change. But if you'd rather I leave..." they turned with a shrug and began to walk back the way they came.

"You better not, or so help me..."

"Relax, you big baby. I said I'd save your dumb ass, and I will. But you owe me."

"Aw, come on. Don't be like that."

"I'm not being like anything, Emmett. Now quit your whining so we can get this done. I don't think I'll be able to handle another day of this, and there's only an hour and a half before the stores close. Lucky for you, I know exactly where to go."

They walked in companionable silence for a few minutes, before Emmett could hold his tongue no more. He stopped walking and waited for his companion to notice.

"I thought you'd be happy for me."

"What are you talking about? I am happy for you. You know that."

"Well, you said you were; but you don't seem like it right now."

"You're an idiot. You know that? I've known you my whole life, of course I'm happy for you! Rose is the perfect woman for you. If I believed in all that soul mate shit, I'd say she's it for you."

"Then why is this like pulling teeth for you to be here?"

"This isn't like pulling teeth for me. That would be a phone call from my mother."

As if a tiny light bulb had been switched on inside his head, the confusion disappeared. It was quickly replaced by a wince.

"Oh. I take it you told her about this?"

"Oooooh yeah..."

"She give you the talk, again?"

"What do you think?"

They continued on their way once more.

"When are you going to find someone to settle down with, dear? I haven't known you to have been out with anyone one since you were in high school! You don't have to marry them, darling. It could just be a quick fling. Goodness, even one night with a stranger would be better than nothing. I just need to know that you're okay. I feel like you're going to call me in a few years, saying that you're so lonely you want to move back in with me."

"She did not say that! Nice impression, by the way. The best yet."

"Thanks. And yes, she did."

"Holy hell. That woman is something else. Did she go there again?"

"She did."

Gut busting laughter erupted from Emmett, causing anyone in the surrounding area to look at him as if he were having some sort of episode.

"Happy to help you escape the deer-in-headlights panic you were in before. But could you try not to laugh so hard?"

"Well, at least I know why you're in a pissy mood," he smirked as he dodged a sly punch to his ribs. "But this isn't anything you haven't heard before."

"I know. But once she got through gushing about you, then lamenting the lack of any romance in her only child's life, she goes on to list all the people I know who have just gotten married or engaged. At least she didn't drone on too much this time. She managed to hold in all the latest baby news from 'whoever's-sister's-daughter's-whatever'. "

Emmett was chuckling silently as he was regaled with their home town's latest gossip courtesy of his annoyed friend's slightly eccentric mother.

"What's the rush anyway? We're twenty-seven. Plenty of time to do all that shit. I'm too busy to settle down, right now."

"I'll say. This is the first time I've seen you in person, since Christmas," he huffed.

"I saw you for New Year's."

"Yeah, for about a half an hour. You came in time to see the Ball drop and wish everyone a happy new year, then you left again!"

"Are we really getting in to this? Here and now?"

"No. All I'm saying is that there's no wonder your mom is convinced you're going to end up as a crazy old weirdo that hates everyone and only speaks to their pets. You need to ease up on the work and live a little. Do I have to bribe you to go out sometimes?"

"When I have time, I will go out. I may even talk to someone other than you and Rose. But right at this moment, I have absolutely no inclination to date anyone and no time to worry about it."

The pair had apparently reached their destination, but he stopped his friend before they went through the door.

"Wait, wait, wait. Nobody? At all?! Come on!"

"Emmett. I've only been in love once. And when I finally worked up the nerve to tell that person how I felt, he promptly went and fell in love with my best friend."

His face dropped.

"Bella."

She was smiling, but it didn't reach her eyes.

"Whatever, Emmett. Don't be weird. It is what it is. You wanted to know why I don't date, and now you do. I don't love you that way anymore, but I did for a long time. I've gotten to where I am in my life by not making dating a priority. I have enough pressure at work without having to worry about making time for a boyfriend."

Seeing that Emmett still looked upset, she continued in a more light-hearted manner.

"Look, Mom just doesn't get that I put on my Big Girl Underoos a long time ago. Her wishing me into a wedding dress isn't going to make me do it any quicker. I'm fine being on my own. It's like I'm like Batman."

"Batman?!" The absurdity of the comparison seemed to snap him out of his funk, which was the point.

"Yes, Batman. Now come on, you big bear. Inside this little antique store are three rings that Rose and I were sighing over just before Christmas. We found this place when we were shopping for a Christmas present for your folks. Apparently, they're well known for selling furniture so few people ever go there looking for jewelery. When you called me earlier, I phoned them to see if they'd sold them, and the owner said they hadn't."

"Really? You're sure?" He was almost bouncing with hope.

"Yes..." she answered, as if he were a small excitable child.

She laughed as he engulfed her in a crushing hug.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome. Now, come on."

Wanting to make sure they were okay, he reached for her hand as she made to open the door. In a gesture dating back to their childhood, she squeezed his hand to show him she was fine, then tugged him impatiently through the door.

Meanwhile, somewhere across town...

Jasper sat staring absentmindedly out of the window, ignoring the exasperated eye-roll form the blonde bombshell in the chair to his left.

"You don't have to be here, you know." The blonde sighed, as she examined her freshly painted nails.

"Oh, really?!" Jasper chuckled as he turned away from the window to look at her. "The bitchy text I got from you earlier, saying that if I didn't come and meet you today you'd take a bat to my car was just you asking politely?"

"Don't overreact, oh brother of mine."

"I'm not. That was word for word what you said."

"Well, maybe." She smirked "But I haven't seen you since Christmas, J. Where the hell have you been?"

"I told you I was going to visit Garrett for a few days." He rolled his eyes at his sister before slumping back into his seat.

"Yeah, you said a few days. Not a few weeks. It's been nearly two months!"

Rose loved her brother. He was only a year older than her, but they had always been close. His unexplained absence had worried her.

"It's not like I didn't call you, Rose."

"I know. I just missed you."

"Aw, shucks," he laughed, feigning embarrassment. "You have a heart after all. Who knew?"

"Ass," Rose muttered as he made to muss her hair.

"Forgive me if I didn't feel like sticking around to see the mushy, love-sick chick-flick that is your relationship with Emmett. Your PDA makes me want to vomit."

"We are not that bad."

"Oh, really? Is that why you were asked to leave when you went to the movies last week and that Italian restaurant on New Year's Eve?"

The look of shock on her face made Jasper smirk as she quickly composed herself. Finding the humor in it, she grinned.

"We were not asked to leave the restaurant. We just can't go back for a while."

"Look, I'm sorry I took off. Work was slow, so I decided to stay on there and help him work on his house."

She sighed and leaned over to rest her head on his shoulder.

"I thought you said business was booming?"

"Oh, it is. But the woman Pete hired to manage the day to day stuff is so good that I have nothing to do. I've spoken to her twice since she joined the company, and that was to give the go ahead to switch suppliers because – and I quote – 'we clearly didn't know what the hell we were doing when we decided to use them'. I swear she must never sleep."

"Why haven't you put your foot down?" she asked, raising her head to look at him. He'd never been a selfish man, so she couldn't work out why he was letting this woman take on so much without at least offering to help.

"Oh, I tried. Believe me, I don't exactly like the fact that someone is running my business, and running it better than me!" He laughed, "The last time I suggested she let me or Pete help, she refused. She said unless we were unsatisfied with her work, she would continue as she was. If you ask me, she wants to work so much to avoid something."

"Sounds like it."

At that moment, the stylist called Rose to the chair and Jasper pulled out his phone to pass the time until Rose's hair was finished.

"So Jasper, you got any plans for tonight? It's Valentine's Day after all?"

"Me? Nah."

"How is that possible? What about-"

"Do not talk to me about that whore. Let's just say that I'm not seeing her anymore, and leave it there."

"Okay..."

Rose wanted him to elaborate further. She rarely ever approved of anyone her brother dated. But she'd not liked this one in particular, though she could never put her finger on why that was. However, it was clear that the bitch had done something horrendous.

"So you and Emmett have a romantic evening planned?" Jasper asked and it was clear he was trying to change the subject.

"He has something planned. I have no idea what it is though."

Jasper had an inkling as to what Emmett might have planned for Rose. He felt it was slightly clichéd to do it on Valentine's Day, but whatever. She'd say yes, so he supposed that was all that mattered.

"Hey, are you staying in town this weekend?"

"I don't know, hadn't really thought about it. Why?"

"Well, I have a feeling we'll be spending the night in a hotel tonight, so our apartment will be empty. You can crash at ours if you don't fancy driving all the way home later."

"Thanks, Sis. I might just do that. But what makes you think you won't be coming home tonight?"

She laughed, " Emmett sucks at hiding anything. I can read him like a book. Plus, he left the reservations page open on the laptop."

Rose and Emmett's apartment later that night...

It was nine pm and Jasper was relaxing on their huge leather recliner with a beer in hand, waiting for his pizza to be delivered. One thing about staying in town was being able to get a pizza from his favourite pizza place.

He'd taken advantage of the empty house to have a long hot shower without a roommate to complain about him using all the hot water. The powerful spray had worked out all the kinks in his muscles from the long drive into the city followed by sitting in a salon for three hours.

Only for his sister...

It was the first night in months that he'd been alone. He'd been staying with Garrett for the last two months, and he'd been with the Bitch for four before that.

It was with great pleasure, therefore, that he found himself with this unexpected solitude. The peace and quiet was welcome.

The apartment was warm despite the dismal weather outside, so he had decided to forgo a shirt after he emerged from the shower. He'd merely pulled his jeans on and gone in search of a beer. After all, the only person he would be seeing that night was the pizza delivery guy.

A knock at the door pulled him away from channel surfing. He padded across the room to answer it after grabbing his wallet from his jacket pocket. However, it was not the delivery guy that greeted him when he opened the door.

A petite brunette with chocolate brown eyes stood there looking as if she was trying to catch her breath while clutching a stitch in her side.

"Er...Can I help you?"

"God, I hope so! You must be Jasper, Rose's brother?" the little brunette asked, still gasping.

"I am. And you are?..."

"Oh! Sorry, I'm Bella."

"Well hi, Bella. What can I do for you? You look like you've run a marathon or something."

She chuckled slightly as she replied.

"Actually, that's not too far from the truth. Emmett called me in a blind panic as I was heading home from work. Apparently the big idiot can plan a big romantic evening, but forget to bring the reason for it in the first place. Sorry, do you mind if I grab a drink of water? "

Jasper had been too distracted the random beautiful woman to notice that she needed to sit down or something.

"Oh, no. Sorry, come on in. Go take a seat, I'll get it for you."

Breathing a sigh of relief, she stumbled to the kitchen counter and hopped up onto one of the high stools.

It was only after she had sat down and attempted to catch her breath did she really see the stranger that had let her in to her best friends' apartment.

He was shirtless.

She swallowed.

Shaggy, dark blonde hair fell across his face as he reached into the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water. She spotted a tattoo on his right shoulder blade, but didn't have time to decipher what it was.

"So, Bella. You said Emmett called you in a panic? What exactly did he forget?"

Jasper was amused. He didn't know his sister's boyfriend well. They hadn't spent any real time together, but Jasper thought he was a cool guy. In fact he liked him a lot and thought he was good for Rose. Though, he suspected that the big guy was making an effort to hold himself back in front of him.

He suspected that Emmett was a lot less put together than he made himself out to be. From some of the stories Rose had told him, he thought Emmett actually sounded a lot more fun than he seemed.

"Well, I probably shouldn't tell you. I only know because I helped him find it in the first place." She sounded apologetic, but he could tell she was trying hard not to laugh.

"Aw, come on. I mean it is Valentine's Day. He's taking Rose out on the town and they're staying at a hotel instead of just going out to dinner and coming home. It doesn't take a genius to guess that he's going to ask her a very important question. But he's not stupid enough to go out without the ring, so what else could he have left behind. Was it his wallet?"

She bit her lip and stifled a smile as she shook her head.

"His phone? Nah, he wouldn't really need that."

She shrugged.

No. He wouldn't. Surely not?!

"Oh, God. He did forget the ring, didn't he?"

The resulting laughter ringing out from the woman in front of him told him that he had.

"Damn. I hope he realized before he popped the question?"

"He did. Apparently, he took his wallet out to pay for the cab, and as he put it back he checked to make sure that he hadn't dropped the ring box in the car. It was then that he knew it was safe, because he hadn't even picked it up from where he was hiding it here."

"Okay. I get why he called you to come get it. Why did you arrive like you'd run a mile to get here?"

"Because I had, actually," she had a straight face as she said it, so he had to believe her. But the questioning look he gave her prompted her to elaborate.

"I was on my way home from work when he called. I had to turn round and head back to the city. Only my car died, so I had to run the rest of the way here. Wasn't so far, or so I thought."

"Shit. Where's your car?"

"I'd stopped at a gas station to check my bag for my keys – I have the spare set for this place – but they're at home. I called him, and he said that you were here so I'd still be able to get in. I made to set off again, but the car wouldn't start. It's locked and alarmed. I'll call Triple A after I rescue his dumb ass."

"I can just picture his face when he realized he didn't have it." Jasper chuckled.

"If his high pitched hissing down the phone to me as he called me from the bathroom is anything to go by, I wish I'd been there to see it."

It was then that Jasper really noticed how pretty she was. Her eyes shone brighter the more she laughed. He enjoyed her laugh. It was mellifluous.

"So here I am, disturbing your night. Sorry. I'll just grab the ring and go."

"You're not disturbing me, honestly. I actually thought your knocking was the pizza delivery guy."

"Sorry to disappoint,"she grinned.

"Oh, you're not a disappointment at all, ma'am." His smirk made her blush.

He liked that.

She held his gaze.

He liked that, too.

Their little moment was interrupted by the buzzer.

"That'll be my pizza." He said, making no move to answer the door.

"Yep. I'll just go find the ring..."

Still, neither moved until the buzzer rang again, and for longer. That seemed to snap them out of their trance, and they both scuttled off in opposite directions.

By the time Bella had returned with the ring box tucked safely in her bag, Jasper was perched on a stool at the kitchen counter with the pizza box open and a beer in one hand. He'd cleared two slices already.

"You want some?" He asked as he pulled the rest of the individual slices apart.

"Oh, I don't know. I should probably get going. I'm going to have to grab a cab."

"Nonsense. I'll drive you there. I want to see what happens."

"Are you sure you want to go out? You look comfortable."

"I am. But chivalry is not dead, and I don't intend to let you go jogging through the city and hailing passing cabs if I can help you myself. So sit here, grab a slice and have a minute while I get dressed."

Bella thought it was a shame he was going to be putting on more clothes, but she reasoned that it was necessary. Damn it.

He was only gone for five minutes. In that time, Bella had eaten a slice of the most delicious pizza she'd ever had and resolved to get the number from him so she could order from there again.

"Ready to go?" he asked as he pulled on his leather jacket.

"Yep. And thanks, that pizza is delicious."

"No problem." He winked and led her out of the apartment.

They exited the building and Bella followed him to a black pick-up parked next to Rose's cherry red BMW.

They pulled into a parking spot down the street from the restaurant Emmett had told Bella he was taking Rose to. Conversation had flowed smoothly between the two during the drive and continued as they walked down the street, passing bars that were filled with loved up couples.

When they reached the covered walkway that led to the door to the swanky restaurant, the only member of security staff present grunted and stepped in front of them, blocking their passage into the place.

"Excuse me, sir? Would you mind letting us by?" Bella began, placing her hand on Jasper's arm. "You see, our friend is in there. We don't intend to stay, as you can see, we're not dressed for a night on the town."

Jasper thought she looked just fine, as far as he was concerned. But he heard her fake 'let's not rile the door staff' tone in her voice and kept his mouth shut. The hulk of a man in front of them remained silent, but let her continue.

"All we need to do is speak to him for a few seconds. He's forgotten something rather important. You know, something that you'd give to someone after you ask them a certain question?"

The Hulk raised one eyebrow, but still did not comment.

"...And we are wondering if you could please let us see him? For just a moment?"

Nothing.

"In that case, perhaps you would be so kind as to get a message to him that we're here?"

Still, The Hulk did not move.

Jasper took in Bella's look of exasperation and defeat and decided to have a try.

"Listen, man. My sister Rose and her boyfriend Emmett McCarty are in there. He's supposed to be proposing to her as we speak, but he forgot the damn ring. We're just here to give it to him. That's it. If we call, my sister will know something is up. So we're asking if you, or someone else, could please get a message to him to come to the door and get it so we can leave."

The Hulk remained stoic for a few more seconds before reaching up to grasp his lapel and mumble something into it. After a second, he nodded to himself then pointed to a spot away from the walkway and motioned for them to wait there.

He was still to utter a single word to either of them.

"Unbelievable." Jasper muttered to her as they moved to stand away from the selectively mute doorman.

"Don't worry about it, Jasper. This place just screams 'douche'. Why in the hell would he think to bring her here?!"

"Emmett probably booked it months ago, and I doubt they'd turn Rose away." He shrugged, as he turned to face her.

At that moment, the heavens opened, and it began to rain. Heavily.

In seconds, they were soaked to the bone. Bella's cotton jacket did nothing to keep her dry and she was soon shivering. Jasper grabbed her hand and began to pull them towards the covered walkway, but The Hulk shook his head.

"Oh, now you decide to communicate?!" Bella screeched at the behemoth of a man.

"Sssh, darlin'. Here, get in here."

She looked quizzically at him as he unzipped his jacket and opened it to her. In other circumstances, she'd think twice about snuggling against a relative stranger, no matter how handsome he was.

But it was wet and cold, and she was frozen. It was simply too tempting.

She flew to the shelter he was offering. They still stood in the rain, but he'd wrapped his jacket around both of them. She worried that she was getting his shirt wet, but he was warm.

So was she, though not just from his body heat. She was sure her cheeks were burning. She wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her face into his chest, hopefully hiding her blush.

"Better?" he asked, chuckling as she cocooned herself inside his coat. Truth be told, he was enjoying the closeness a little too much.

She lifted her head from his chest and looked up at him.

"Much, thank you."

They stayed that way, him looking down at her and her looking up at him for a long time. Raindrops fell from the hair that hung across his face, but she didn't notice. He was too beautiful.

Holding his jacket closed around them with one hand, he reached up with the other to push a lock of hair away from her face. She smiled and leaned into his touch.

It was at that moment that Emmett emerged from the restaurant.

Seeing his best friend, a woman he'd known his whole life, cuddled up to his fiancé-to-be's brother stunned him for a moment. She didn't know him, as far as he knew.

However, the longer he looked, the more he had to admit, they seemed to suit each other.

"Bella!" he hollered as he passed The Hulk and waved for them to come over. "What the hell are you doing standing out there in the rain? Why didn't you shelter under here?"

"Hulk, over there, wouldn't let us." Bella replied, a little too loudly. "Anyway, how's your night going? Does she suspect anything?"

"Not so far, I don't think." He said as he bent to kiss her cheek after she'd extracted herself from Jasper's coat. He turned to the man in question, "Hey man, good to see you."

"You too, Emmett. You nervous?"

"I wasn't until I realized I'd forgotten the damn ring."

"Here you go, Em." Bella smiled as she pulled the little box from her bag and handed it to him.

"Thanks, Bells. I owe you two, now."

"And don't think I won't hold you to it! Now, go in there and get it done. I still need to call Triple A and get my car picked up from the garage. No! Don't ask, just go. We want to be toasting you and Rose before midnight."

"Bella's right, buddy. I'm watching out for her, no need to worry. Just don't tell me how you two celebrate the occasion. There are certain things a brother doesn't need to hear about his sister's life."

"Okay. Well, I guess I'll talk to you both soon. Wish me luck!"

He turned and walked back through the doors. They watched him go before Jasper turned to Bella, offered her the inside of his jacket again and said, "Shall we?"

She giggled as she resumed her position under his arm, though it was slightly less easy as they had to be able to walk this time.

As they began to walk away, Jasper turned back to The Hulk who nodded to him giving him a discreet thumbs-up before returning to his previous position.

He smirked to himself at the game the doorman had been playing. Thanks, man.

Inside, Emmett decided to tell Rose about his little observation.

After he'd asked her to marry him, of course.

Two hours later, back at the apartment...

By the time Jasper had driven Bella to her car, waited for her to call Triple A and for them to pick up the car and tow it to the nearest garage, it was almost eleven pm. They were both still soaked, as the truck's heater only did so much, good as it was.

Jasper had shouted down her offers to go home and told her they were driving back to Rose and Emmett's place. After all, it was close by and there was a shower, spare clothes and food. Bella had no desire to argue. She was enjoying this most random of nights, so any chance to prolong it was fine with her.

Jasper had called the pizza place before they set off from the garage and made sure to pick the food up on the way back to the apartment. He'd enjoyed his brief period of solitude earlier in the night, but he had no desire for it now. He liked Bella and didn't want their impromptu night to end so soon.

He insisted that she take the first shower when they got back, and while she was in there, he grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge and set them on the coffee table in front of the tv. The pizza and two cans of coke accompanied them. He popped into his sister's bedroom and grabbed some sweats and a t-shirt from her chest of drawers and set them out on the bed in the guest room. He knew Rose wouldn't mind. Rose had mentioned her 'best friend Bella' to him often enough.

When she came out, Bella was surprised to see Jasper leaning against the wall across from the bathroom door. He, on the other hand, was not expecting her to emerge from the bathroom clad only in a bath towel. It covered her well, but it was hard for him to ignore the swell of her breasts or the way her skin glistened with moisture.

He had to swallow a few times before speaking.

"Um...I've left some of Rose's clothes on the bed in the guest room for you. I hope you don't mind. I figured we could put our clothes in the dryer. I have a change of shirt, but I'm going to have to borrow a pair of Emmett's sweats." He was rambling, he knew it, but he couldn't seem to stop.

"Thank you, Jasper. For everything. I'd have been royally screwed without you tonight."

"You're welcome, Bella. I've set the pizza out in the living room. I'll be out in five."

With that, he winked and disappeared into the bathroom.

Suddenly aware of her lack of proper clothing, she scuttled into the guest room and finished towelling off. She thought Jasper had done well finding her some clothes, though she was glad he hadn't thought to find her any underwear.

The long plaid pajama bottoms were a little long for her, but still a good fit otherwise. The tank was great, but without a bra, she felt a little on show so she picked up a sweater she'd spotted on the chair by the window. It smelled good. She assumed it was Jasper's and hoped he wouldn't mind her borrowing it.

Soon, Bella found herself sunk into the plush leather sofa flicking through the channels trying to find something they'd both enjoy watching. She settled for some cop drama and traded the remote in her hand for a beer. Laying her head back, she waited for him to come back from the shower.

Jasper spotted her lounging on the sofa and thought she'd fallen asleep until she lifted a beer bottle to her lips and took a long pull. He realized she was wearing his sweater. Oddly, though she hadn't asked to borrow it, he found he didn't mind.

"Nice sweater," he joked as he walked into the room. He plopped down next to her on the sofa and reached for his own beer.

"Mmhmm. Sorry for stealing it, but it looked so warm and comfy. Do you want it back?"

"Nah. I was only joking. Are you not hungry?"

"Oh, I'm starved. I was just waiting for you."

His answering smile warmed her heart, and she reached for a slice of pizza so he wouldn't see her blush.

Neither paid much attention to whatever was on the TV as they ate, talked and reminisced about their pasts and their relationships with Emmett and Rose. Nor had they realized that they'd gradually moved closer together on the sofa. It wasn't until Bella shivered slightly, and Jasper reached behind them to grab the throw, that he realised she was close enough that he could cover them both with it easily.

As he threw the blanket over them both, it also occurred to her just how close she was actually sitting to him. She hadn't noticed until then, but it didn't seem to be an issue. He'd made no move to pull away. After all, they'd shared a jacket for a good hour earlier on in the night, and she'd certainly enjoyed that.

Jasper had rested his arm across the back of the sofa behind her. And while she didn't know if it was a subtle sign or invitation, she cautiously leaned back and settled herself under his arm.

He was surprised, but quite a happy about that turn of events. He was attracted to her after all.

They continued talking as they were before, until the conversation turned to why the other was originally going to be spending Valentine's Day alone.

She chuckled, "I don't date. I'm too busy with my job to meet anyone. I was in love once, years ago. But by the time I'd plucked up the nerve to tell him, he'd fallen for my best friend."

"You loved Emmett?" Jasper was a little confused. Surely his sister would have mentioned some odd love triangle if there was an issue?

"I did. For years. We grew up together; I've known him my whole life. But I was young, and I thought he was it for me. He wasn't though, and it only took seeing them together for five minutes to see that they had a connection he'd never had with me. I knew then that I did love him, but that it was a platonic love. It was the idea that I'd missed out on having something special that stuck with me, I think," she sighed, and hoped that she hadn't spoiled anything by revealing that little truth. She was definitely feeling something for her handsome couch companion.

She took solace in the fact that his hand had moved from the back of the sofa to being slung over her shoulder. That was a good sign, right?

Jasper was relieved that she no longer felt that way about Emmett. Not just for her sake, and Emmett and Rose's, but for himself, too. He wanted to know this woman. and he was glad that she had no feelings for another man.

"What about you?" she asked, as she sipped her beer.

He was thankful she wasn't facing him at that moment as the anger flashed across his face.

"Let's just say that my last girlfriend wasn't who I thought she was, and because of her, I was ready to swear off relationships all together."

"Was?"

"Yeah. I don't really enjoy the bar scene, so I don't go out a whole lot. Up until recently, my work took up all my time; which was the reason my ex gave me as to why she felt the need to sleep with as many men as she did behind my back."

"She sounds like an idiot."

Jasper laughed. He liked that she didn't offer sympathy.

"She's a bitch."

Bella turned on the sofa to face him, mirth dancing in her eyes. "So you've sworn off women because your last girlfriend was a slut? That seems a bit extreme. We're not all bad you know."

"Oh, I know that. I'd even go so far as to say that I'm currently enjoying the company of a very lovely lady, right now," he grinned, and it was sinful.

"Is that so?" She didn't know if this was playful banter or real flirting, but she was having fun, regardless. That was more than she'd done with a man for a long time.

"Well. Good to know," she smirked and settled back into his side. Only this time, he pulled her closer and settled his arms around her properly.

He had turned slightly sideways so that her back was pressed against his chest. His chin rested on her shoulder making his breath tickle her neck as he spoke.

"So your job keeps you busy then?"

"It does, but that's mostly my decision. I wanted the distraction. Plus it aggravates my mother to know I put work before settling down and having babies. The woman drives me crazy, so I like to repay the favor."

"I have the opposite problem. Rose gets all the grown up questions thrown at her, but I suppose after tonight, the parents will lay off her a little. She'll be one step closer to all that stuff, after all. As for work, I've just been made redundant by the new person that was hired to run the company."

"Oh, that sucks. I'm sorry you lost your job." She sounded genuinely sorry for him, and he felt the need to clarify.

"Oh no, not in the literal sense; it's my company, so my job is safe enough." He joked, "Me and my cousin built up the business together. But he recently hired some wonder woman who has basically rendered me useless. I mean she runs it better than I ever did, even in the short amount of time she's been there, so I'm not complaining at all. I just find myself a bit bored now."

Bella turned to face him again, a slightly puzzled expression on her lovely face.

"How long ago, did this woman start working for you?"

"Um, three months ago. Why?"

"And your cousin, the one who hired her. What's his name?"

"...It's Peter. Why?"

"Peter Whitlock?"

"Yes. Bella, w-" but he was cut off by her laughing.

"Oh my god, this is too strange."

"Strange? Why, what's so funny."

"Well, it seems I'm Wonder Woman. Pleasure to meet you."

Jasper was shocked, but was soon laughing along with her. "I'm Chopped Liver, and the pleasure's all mine." He picked up her right hand and kissed the back of it, before clasping it in his own and pulling her to him.

She rested her head in the crook of his neck. She loved the smell of him. His sweater had smelled a little of him, but being this close it was heady. "I'm sorry I took your job."

He laughed. "Aw, that's ok. You're way better at it than me. Pete's been telling me that since you started. Though, I have to say, I'm not sure what to do now. Maybe I'll go back to writing."

"You write?"

"I did. I studied Journalism and English in college. I only stopped writing to help Pete, but I wasn't getting any work anyway. Journalism is shifting away from the printed media, and I have neither the time nor the patience for blogs and whatnot."

"You sounded so old when you said that!"

"Yeah, I guess. But give me a book over a Kindle, any day."

"I get that. So why don't you try writing one? If you enjoyed writing in any capacity, what's stopping you?"

"Nothing, I guess. I certainly have the time, now." He teased.

They chuckled quietly with each other, but as their laughter quieted, their eyes never left each others'.

Slowly, he leaned down and captured her lips with his own. She slid one hand up over his shoulder and threaded her fingers through the hair at the back of his head. As their kiss deepened, he let go of her hand and wrapped his strong arm around her, drawing her as close to him as he could.

Bella could not get close enough though, and she pulled away to position herself on his lap. She hadn't meant to be as forward has to straddle him, but their kisses had become so urgent that neither felt it to be a bold move.

Her fingers were woven between locks of his still damp hair and his were holding her hips so tight she was sure she'd have bruises in the morning. Not that she'd care if she did, it felt too good.

His hands moved from her hips after a while. One on her lower back and the other between her shoulder blades, holding her gently he began to kiss down her neck. She bucked involuntarily as he hit that magic spot on her neck that always sent her reeling.

She felt his hardness growing beneath her, and fuelled by lust, she pulled his head away from her neck and slammed her lips against his once more. Her hands moved to grip the hem of the borrowed sweater and pulled it up over her head, no longer embarrassed that she wore no bra under her tank top.

His shirt was the next to go, and it soon joined the sweater on the floor behind them. Her hands skimmed the muscled plains of his chest and ran over his broad shoulders. She could feel the heat from his body; his skin was still so warm from his shower.

He shuddered with pleasure as he felt her little fingernails dragging down his back and let his own fingers slide beneath her top. Just as he began to drag the material slowly up to expose her toned stomach, her cell phone rang.

"Fuck," he panted, dropping his head to her shoulder.

"I know," she whispered, breathlessly. "But it's probably Emmett telling me how it went."

"Right. You'd better answer it then."

He groaned as she wriggled in his lap, trying to extract herself from his embrace. Then scowled playfully as he caught the smirk on her face as she walked away to retrieve it from the kitchen counter.

He didn't have time to sulk, as his own cell began to vibrate in his pocket.

It was Rose.

"Did you know?"

"Well hello to you, too, Rose."

"Did you?"

"I may have guessed. I've been known to be quite observant at times."

"I see."

"Well, aren't you going to tell me how it went? Didn't you say yes?!"

"What? Of course I did! What I meant was did you know he asked Dad for permission first?"

"No, I didn't. But I respect him for it. Dad isn't the most approachable person."

"I know, right?"

"Why aren't you more excited? I thought you'd have deafened me with your squeals of joy."

"Have I ever been the squealing type, brother?"

"Ha! No, never, thank God."

"Exactly. Anyway, I'm sitting at the table in the restaurant still. So I'm trying to be quiet. Emmett told me he was going to the bathroom, but I think he's on the phone to Bella."

"He is."

"And how would you know?!"

"Because she's here."

"As in with you, in my apartment?"

"Yes...did the rock on your finger dim your intelligence, Rosie? It's not that hard to grasp."

"Dick. Don't ever call me Rosie. I just didn't know you knew her. Is she okay? What is she doing there?"

At that moment, the woman in question came back into the room and sat down next to him on the sofa. Jasper wasn't having that though, and with one arm pulled her back on to his lap.

"She's fine, Rose. It's just a long story that can be explained to you tomorrow. Just relax and enjoy the rest of your night with your fiancé."

"Thanks, Jasper. Have fun, whatever it is you two are doing."

"Oh, we will."

Laughing at the indignant expression he was sure would be on his dear sister's face at the moment, he cut her off before she could ask anything more.

Wrapping his arms around Bella once more, he kissed her softly and smiled.

"Now then. Where were we?"

AN: Hey guys. Hope you're enjoying this Countdown, I know I'm happy to be back writing for one. Big thank you to Kelli for inviting me to contribute once again, and a massive thanks to by beautiful beta, Mambomama. She rocks, and I love her! Happy Valentine's Day!