a/n: This mess got rehabbed by Bigblueboat and Twilightmom505 from PTB. Any continuing issues are due to my being in love with my own writing flaws.

"Alcoholics don't have relationships, they take hostages."

So I'm up a tree, staring at this delicious enigma of a woman; this gorgeous thing with no thoughts, this image of female perfection whose only apparent flaw is that she maybe doesn't love hygiene as much as I might wish. I mean, vampires don't sweat, but it's good to take a shower every once in a while anyway, right? Of course, I'm basing this all on her seeming to wear two weeks worth of eye-liner all over the upper part of her face and her raggedy hair. Maybe it's the style. Who am I to say? I'm, like, a century old. I was shocked when women started showing ankle and not wearing corsets.

Oh, and the other potential wrench is that she's apparently with Whitlock. But that's really not a deal-breaker. Whitlock goes through women like Emmett goes through sunglasses: quickly and without mercy.

I'm so excited I want to rub my hands together like a cheesy horror villain. So, I do it. I'm in a tree, for Christ's sake! Like I'm worried about what people might think?

Then, I decide to get down to business. I jump down from the tree and am about to sashay back to the house to make her acquaintance, when it occurs to me that I might need a plan.

I mean, I haven't stolen a woman away from someone since I was human. Stuff may have changed since 1917 in terms of the gentle art of persuasion. I can't read her mind. How am I going to know whether my tactics are working?

Plus, I'm sharing a room with Emmett. With a single bed. Above the garage. I'm not exactly negotiating from a position of strength.

I walk in a circle for a minute, rubbing my head. It's a thing I do when I'm thinking. Emmett says he can tell when I've been struggling with something because I look like one of those troll dolls.

Emmett! I could kick myself for not thinking of it immediately. He's the most resourceful guy I know. He'll have an idea. I text him.

NEED YOUR HELP. IN WOODS.

I think for a second and then add:

COME ALONE.

Then I think of something:

WAIT. BRING WOLF-BOY.

My phone beeps with a message from Emmett.

MAKE UP YOUR MIND.

I reply:

GET OUT HERE. NOW.

Emmett and Sir Smells-a-lot show up about five minutes later. They look thoroughly confused. Actually, Emmett looks confused, and Seth looks thrilled. I am glad to see it as I plan to leverage his awe of us to serve my evil scheme.

"What's this about?" Emmett says. "It was a little awkward to try to get out of there while greeting Jasper and his girl. It might have been a little bit rude."

"I don't care what Whitlock thinks," I say. My voice is getting high pitched but I manage to get it under control. "What did you think of her?" I ask, trying to pick up anything interesting from their memories while sounding casual. I fail.

"She seems cool," Seth says as Emmett simultaneously asks, "Why?"

"Why what?" I answer, trying to appear nonchalant. But Emmett knows me.

"Why the sudden interest in Jasper's mate?" Emmett asks.

I snort. "His mate? Is that what he called her?"

"Yeah," Seth interjects.

I shake my head.

"Whitlock's had at least four 'mates' that I know of," I say, annoying even myself with the air-quote thing. "You're only supposed to have one," I add as an aside to Seth who nods.

"He calls them all mates; right up until he bails on them," I go on.

"So what's your interest in this one?" Emmett asks. "You never ask about girls unless it's to find out when they're going to go away."

"It's not my fault you have had the most annoying girlfriends in the world," I say.

"It's not my fault you have a problem with niceness," Emmett adds.

"Nice isn't how I would describe your type, Em. I would use 'simpering' or 'banal.'"

"Beth wasn't simpering." Emmett names his most recent girlfriend.

"She was the worst! How'd you meet her? Place a 'Vampire seeks Oatmeal' ad on Craiglist?"

"Are you mad because she tried to fix you up with her brother?" Emmett asks.

"No. I'm mad that I'll never get the two hours back that I spent looking at her vacation photos from the furniture museum."

"You're immortal," Emmett counters.

"Two hours of historically important dining room chairs made me wish I wasn't!"

"So why are you asking about Bella?" Seth interjects.

"Right," Emmett says, remembering the point of all this. "What's the big emergency?"

"Bella," I say her name out loud, savoring it. "Nice."

"You know what else would be nice?" Emmett asks. "Knowing why we're out here in the woods."

"I can't hear her thoughts," I say, waiting for Emmett to get the importance of this.

"You can't…" He realizes what I'm talking about. "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure," I say, triumphantly. "Not even a peep."

"What…" Seth is confused.

"Romeo here can't read her mind." Emmett gestures toward me with his big head. "That makes her his dream girl."

"I thought you guys didn't sleep," Seth says. I start to sneer at him and then remember why I wanted him to come out here. I catch myself mid-sneer.

"Seth, you've got a room in the house, right?"

"Yeah," he says. "Esme even got me…"

"I need it," I cut him off.

"I thought you guys didn't sleep," he says. Again.

"We don't," I say. "But being in your room will put me closer to Bella and her dirt-bag boyfriend. Not to mention giving the appearance of not being a total weirdo sharing a single room with Emmett. No offense, Em." I nod at him.

"None taken," Emmett says. "But how can you be sure of splitting them up?"

"I don't even think I have to split them up." I shrug. "I think Whitlock can do that on his own."

THE ROMANTIC ADVENTURES OF JASPER WHITLOCK OR, THE SOURCE OF EDWARD'S CONFIDENCE

Edward first encountered Jasper Whitlock in Mexico in 1930. It was Edward's first rebellious period, and he reveled in throwing off Carlisle's restrictions and world-view and feeding on whomever he wanted.

Jasper and his creator, Maria, were living in Mexico City, and Whitlock invited Edward to join them. Edward had never been part of a coven of vampires before. It was fun for about three days. Then Jasper left - on an errand - and Edward got to see what Maria was like without the sedative effects of Jasper's gift.

In a word-crazy.

She raged throughout the house, tearing things from shelves and cursing servants she had already killed. She was mercurial, vainglorious and delusional.

To exacerbate the situation, Whitlock didn't return. Edward quickly realized that he had been invited to join them to give Whitlock an "out."

After destroying his things, Maria turned her attentions to Edward, who rebuffed her, sending her back into a frenzy, attracting the attention of the Mexico City police, all the neighbors and generally necessitating a daylight escape to avoid the attention of the Volturi. Then, Edward had to find a way to distract Maria long enough to escape from her.

It was so traumatic, he returned to Carlisle just for the peace and quiet. It made him feel as though he had failed in being rebellious and that his maker had been right about the volatility of those who didn't adopt a diet of animals. It was embarrassing and Edward hated being embarrassed.

So, it was doubly embarrassing when Edward fell for it a second time.

He encountered Jasper again, in 1969. It was in San Francisco, and the continuing, degenerating party that had been the Summer of Love made a surprisingly good place for a vampire to hunt. Children from all over the country flocked to the burgeoning scene, and if some of them disappeared, most people would just assume they had followed the spirit of the age to a commune, Canada, gotten drafted, overdosed, gone home or to India, on and on; an infinite number of fates awaited the long-haired free spirits, including getting drained by a handsome vampire after leaving a party at one of the run-down Victorians or sleeping in the park.

Plus, no one dared judge you for being pale, wearing sunglasses at all times or refusing to be seen in sunlight. Honestly, that probably just meant you had a good connection.

Jasper had–-on a whim-hanged a pretty redhead named Victoria that he met at a party in Berkeley. She had left her parents' farm in North Dakota, following a young man who turned out to prefer other young men. She was feisty-that seemed to be Whitlock's type-and she seemed to prefer hunting the dull, middle-aged businessmen who came to her part of the city to sightsee or pick up feckless young girls. She would lead them on a frolic in Golden Gate Park before surprising them with how distinctly un-helpless she was.

They had fun together-the three of them-for about a year. Whitlock had apologized profusely for abandoning Edward with Maria and had convinced him that Victoria was his mate.

Victoria was convinced of it, too. Which is why she was so surprised when Whitlock hopped a ship to Harbin one day, leaving them a note sincerely apologizing and wishing them well.

Edward wished Jasper didn't like his women so feisty. In a scene now familiar to him, Victoria went on a murderous rampage, attracting the prompt attention of the Volturi guard, who had to step in and maintain order, by which they meant immolating Victoria and almost doing the same to Edward.

The only thing that saved his skin was his gift for reading minds,and he had to give up ten years to the guard. He liked hanging out with Aro most of the time, but it was one thing to enjoy the city as a guest and another to be forced to stay there with all of its intrigue, gossip and pettiness. Plus the dust.

The only upside of his ten years in Volterra was meeting Emmett.

"Whitlock is a serial monogamist," I tell Seth. "He goes through mates like you guys go through clothes. Tell him, Em." I gesture to Emmett, whose heard my Whitlock-related rant for forty years now and will agree just to get me to shut up.

"It's true, man," Emmett says. "He's kind of a scumbag when it comes to women."

"Well, I do sleep, and I don't really know about sharing a room with you," Seth speaks carefully. "No offense, but you guys smell like rotten butterscotch."

"Em will stay out of the room," I say.

Emmett starts to protest. I hold up my hand to him. "Plus, we'll introduce you to Tyler Crowley." I figure dropping the name of the director of Viking Zombies will do the trick. Even if it was a shitty movie and the guy's an asshole.

"Really?" Seth's face lights up. "That'd be amazing! I totally have this idea for a movie where these werewolves battle cyborg dudes and…"

"It sounds great," I cut him off. "Just add some gratuitous sex and Tyler will love it. So, we have a deal?"

Seth nods eagerly. "Yeah, man. You can totally use my room."

"Cool," I say. I look at Emmett. "So, how do I look?" I brush the foliage off of my clothes and run my fingers through my hair. Emmett looks at me carefully.

"As a heterosexual male, I have to say you look…like a guy?" Emmett says, shrugging his shoulders.

It's going to have to do.

I practice my best charming smile as we walk back to the house. I am incredibly nervous, what with all the stuff they say about first impressions and all.

"You know, this Bella seems pretty…straightforward," Emmett mentions as we walk back. "You know, kind of no-bullshit?" He pauses and then continues. "Maybe it would be best if you were…less scheming? I think she'd appreciate that."

I nod at him. "That seems like good advice." I never have been what you would call "honest" with women, but then I am way, way out of practice. Women are different now. Maybe being more genuine would be the best approach here.

We get to the house, and I take a big, completely unnecessary breath before walking in and following the voices to the living room. Fucking Whitlock is standing there talking to Esme, and Bella is looking at a piece of weird sculpture.

"Eddie," Whitlock gives me a big smile that makes me want to punch his fangs out and extends his hand. "It's great to see you again."

"Whitlock," I say, smiling sarcastically at him. I think about dropping a "It's been years since you abandoned a woman with me," but I don't want Bella to think I'm rude.

"Let me introduce you to my Bella," he says, gesturing over to the vision of loveliness examining bad art across the room from us.

She turns and I am, again, stunned by her beauty, the pristine silence of her mind and the filthiness of her clothes.

"Bella," I say, in what I hope is a really sincere voice. "It's a pleasure."

Her red eyes examine me, flickering from my head down to my shoes-Italian, of course. I hope she's checking me out.

"Nice to meet you," she says. She has a low, somewhat quiet voice that belies her tough exterior. "You've got, um, leaves in your cuffs," she adds, gesturing down to the foliage on my pants.

Emmett snickers behind me. Fucker.

a/n: It seems disingenuous for me to continue to apologize for taking so long to update this. But I am sorry.

Thanks so much for reading and reviewing! xoxo JuJu