Bad Boys, Marlboro Reds, and Bud Light

Summary: He is a good-looking Southern boy, from his cowboy boots to his signature smokes. She is a smart Southern girl, drowning in a toxic relationship. A September party in a field, a keg of cheap beer, and a two-man tent ... Recipe for true love, or just a passing fling? Rated M for language, and mild mention of recreational drug use.

A/N: Hey everyone! This story was an unexpected plot bunny stemming from a random question someone asked on Facebook. It wouldn't leave my brain, so here I am. This is the almost-true story of how my hubby and I got together in 1987, so it takes place in an era of no cell phones, no internet, and three clear channels on the singular den television via antenna with a rotary dial. My best friend in this story, and my husband's favorite cousin, Michelle, passed away in her late 30's from a rare blood disease a few years ago a few weeks before Christmas, so this stroll down memory lane is in memory of her, as well as in honor of my upcoming 25th wedding anniversary in March. When I pitched this story to my hubby he laughed and said, "I like it, but I don't want to be Edward. I'm more of a Jasper kind of guy." So, because I'm a good wife, I'm doing this his way, as Alice and Jasper. Mostly told in APOV, but there may be a few thoughts from Jazz as we go along. MANY thanks to darcysmom, cilie80, and kare831 for holding my hand, being honest, and for whipping this little story into shape. See you guys at the bottom for a short A/N.

Chapter One

"So, my cousin is throwing a keg party tomorrow night out close to the lake, and I want us to go. I've got the perfect place to set up a tent for us to crash afterwards so we can drink until we are stupid. You know the drill, your mom thinks you're staying the night with me, and my mom thinks I'm staying the night with you, yada …yada …yada. It's the perfect cover! Are you in or are you going to ditch me and subject yourself to yet another weekend being HIS pathetic, straight-laced girlfriend bored off her ass, while he smokes it up in the basement with his loser friends?" Bella asked in her typical snarky tone.

I stretched the phone cord as far from the kitchen as possible so I could have the most privacy that was available on our single, wall-mount house phone. My mom was cooking dinner, and cut her eyes over at me as I slinked into the adjacent dining room before moving her focus back to the potatoes she was dicing.

"Would you shut up? Dammit, Bella! If my mom thinks something is up, then I won't be going anywhere! We've got to play this cool, okay? You know I'm not speaking to James right now, so yes, I plan on going out with you as long as we can make the story believable, " I whisper-shouted to my best friend.

Bella was funny as hell, but she had a short tolerance for bullshit. She'd had a dysfunctional upbringing, but her mom did the best she could after Bella's dad died when she was barely thirteen. She rarely asked permission to do anything, and pretty much did whatever she wanted-when she wanted. We had been friends for years, and I loved her family. I'd met her mom and grandparents, but had no clue as to who this cousin she spoke of was, but as long as she had a solid invite to the party, I really didn't care. I needed a night out to relax and unwind. James had been a jackass for the past few weeks, and it was going to take a lot of ass-kissing to get back on my good side anytime soon. I wouldn't be out on the prowl, but I wouldn't be opposed to finding my soul mate either. James most certainly was not mine.

"Are you listening, Alice? I said we'll park your car at the apartment, and drive mine to the party. We need to make an appearance at my place anyhow, so if your mom calls mine, which you know she might, my mom will have seen us together. Mom has a date, so she will probably won't come home until late, if at all, but I'll make sure to lock my door and leave my bedroom window unlocked, just in case we have to sneak in Saturday morning," Bella said with confidence. I knew we'd be safe when she explained to me that she and I would go after school and set up the tent at her Pa Jones' gravel pit. It was remote, so no one would drive by it and see us there, and if her Pa did see us, he wouldn't tell anyone. He used to make and run moonshine in the hills of Trigg County, so he wasn't one to rat us out.

"Sounds like a plan. Your Pa is so cool, and I'm glad we have a place to crash. I just hope Mom believes me when I tell her my plans. "

"No worries, Allie. Your mama loves me. Put her on the line, and watch the Master at work."

"Okay, but don't lay the crap on too thick. Mom will know you're lying. Trust me."

I walked back into the kitchen to hand Mom the phone and, as always, she ate every word Bella fed her with enthusiasm, and when she handed the phone back to me I knew that Operation Party was engaged.

"So, I'll pack a bag, and throw my sleeping bag in the trunk and meet you in the school parking lot at 7:30 a.m. tomorrow. I've gotta go do my chores. Talk to you later," I replied after Bella confirmed our cover story. Even though I was eighteen and in my senior year of high school, I still lived with my conservative parents. Mom ruled with an iron thumb, with Dad agreeing to whatever mom said, and I didn't want to risk my weekend freedom by not doing my expected chores. I hung up the phone and without being asked made my way to the laundry room to iron some clothes.

Friday morning came with the usual chaos of a family of five sharing one bathroom. Mom was in the kitchen fixing breakfast, and Dad had already left to tend to things on the farm, so it was imperative to get the bathroom first in the mornings. If you were the fifth shower, well, you better like ice water. I woke early so I could shower, shave and fix my hair before my younger siblings demanded entry to the bathroom. It takes time to create an artfully crafted poof of bangs. Time and a lot of Aqua Net Pink. You could drop a brick on my head, and it'd break or bounce off.

"Come on, Alice! I've gotta pee!" Jane yelled while banging on the door. Jane was three years younger, so at almost fifteen she was a huge pain in my ass. Always following me around, and spying on my phone conversations. In fact, she was the one who ratted to Mom when "someone" had been smoking cigarettes out behind the barn. I had dodged a bullet on that one when Dad said he'd started smoking the same brand a few months prior. No one questioned me about the smokes, even though it was his open packs I'd stolen them from. Needless to say, I covered my tracks much better these days.

"Keep your legs crossed, Jane, and don't think about waterfalls or fountains. I'll be out in a second,"
I taunted with a chuckle. She made an easy target, and I was almost finished with my hair. Just another shot of hairspray should hold it …

"Please hurry!"

When I was done and opened the door Jane darted past me in a blur, slamming the door behind her. My eleven year old brother, Alec, stopped before passed me in the hall. He looked like he'd just rolled out of bed, and slept in what he was wearing.

"What time are we leaving for school?" he asked.

Ah, yes. Since I was the only one of the Brandon kids that was old enough to drive, I'd become the family chauffer, school most especially, and since my parents had actually bought the car for me, I couldn't complain much. The high school and junior high were in the same parking lot, so unless I had plans before school it wasn't much of an imposition. I'd leave early enough to drop Jane and Alec off before hopping in with one of my friends to sneak in a cigarette or two, because the little narcs would tell Mom and Dad if they caught a smoke in between my lips. I'd already cleared the free morning with Mom, citing a meeting with the guidance counselor before school to discuss college scholarship applications. Not exactly a lie. I was meeting with Ms. Cope during my study period later in the day.

"You guys are riding the bus today. I've got a few things to do before school. Before you beg, Mom already said it was okay. Just tell Jane as soon as she comes out so you guys aren't late to catch the bus. Got it, Alec?"

"Aw, man! I hate riding the bus. It smells like farts and rotten cheese," Alec mumbled.

I couldn't help but laugh as I started up the steps to the room I shared with Jane because, well, what Alec said was totally true. Mr. Foley's bus stunk, but it was the only bus that passed our rural home. I grabbed a light jacket and an extra outfit to put in my bag, and when I had everything else packed I bounded down the stairs to grab a piece of toast for breakfast.

"So, do you and Bella have plans tonight?" Mom asked as I scarfed down my toast and a glass of milk.

"Just hanging out with some friends."

Not exactly a lie, but vague enough to cover my tracks and I let out a slow breath when Mom nodded her head in approval.

"Good, I'm glad you are getting some separation from James and his band of degenerate friends. I know you don't like to hear this, but he's no good, Alice. Mark my words. He stifles you with his agenda every weekend, and you never spend any time with your friends. I have no doubts that he'll be in the penitentiary before he's twenty-one, if not before. I'm not blind, you know, and would rather he not take you down with him. With that being said, have a good time tonight, sweetheart. See how good life could be if you'd let it. Be safe, and don't be too late coming home tomorrow. We have a family reunion in the afternoon."

That was the end of the conversation, but I'd heard her loud and clear. Mom was a good Christian woman, with the morals of a saint, and eyes like a hawk. Family meant everything to her, as she'd grown up in the 1940's with eight siblings in tough times, and didn't have the option of going to college. She'd given up on dictating my life, but always spoke her mind, and truly wanted the best for me. I'd fought her repeatedly about James, even lying about his character, but I was about done with that crap. Most of my friends hated him, especially Bella, and he rarely took me out in public, choosing to sit around his house most of the time. It was getting old, thus our current hiatus. I knew he was on the road to destruction, but we'd been together for a year and a half. It was what I knew, and I didn't know how to change it.

Bella was waiting in the parking lot of the school, just as we'd planned. I transferred my duffle and sleeping bag into her trunk, and hopped in. Hank Williams, Jr. was blaring from the speakers of her off-white Mercury Zephyr.

"Need a smoke?" Bella asked as she pulled out of the lot. Our town was small, but there were a few places to hang out before school. The local Super America being the closest and most popular.

"Yeah, I'll take one," I answered, and took the Marlboro Light and lit up. "So, who is this cousin throwing the party tonight? I've met a lot of your family, but never a cousin old enough to organize a keg party."

"Remember Jasper Whitlock? He was in junior high with us."

Jasper Whitlock. Jasper Whitlock. The name rang a bell, but I couldn't place him. A name like Jasper was kind of unique, so I deduced that was the reason it sounded familiar. He wasn't in our graduating class that much I did know. Something in the back of my mind triggered as I pondered his name, and a distant memory surfaced. What I was thinking was not good at all.

"Was he the dude who almost died when his three-wheeler flipped over on his head? Looked a lot like Ricky Schroder. Gosh, I barely remember him. We were in, like, seventh or eighth grade when that happened," I asked with my eyes wide. If that WAS him, and I was all but certain that it was, he had to have a lot of problems after that wreck. He was in CCU for a while, and then I lost track of his status as kids do when something new comes around to think or gossip about. Like when Angela Webber found out she was pregnant by her senior boyfriend, Ben Cheney. She was cute, blonde, and the captain of the junior high cheerleading squad. He was a football star on the high school team and we all heard the rumors of the pregnancy just after Christmas Break of our eighth grade year. Hell, I barely knew the semantics of sex at that point, so needless to say, I was in shock!

Anyhow, back to Jasper. I had always figured he didn't make it, didn't recover back to normal, or that he'd moved away before we went to high school. I honestly had no idea, but now I was curious as hell.

Bella turned the volume on her cassette-radio down, while Hank continued to sing something about a family tradition. She eased her car into a parking spot at the convenience store, and flipped her cig out the window before she addressed me. I knew by her expression that I'd hit the nail on the head.

"Yep, that was Jasper. It was the first week December of our eighth grade year. We thought we might lose him, but he's too stubborn and spoiled as hell. He's okay now, but had a hard road to recovery. His inner ear was shattered, and he has permanent nerve damage on the left side of his face. It's paralyzed, and I think that bothers him the most because everyone can see it, ya know? He's a good-looking guy, so I can see why it bothers him, although I don't really notice anything different about him anymore. I've never known him to get serious with any girl, and I guess he feels like he can't for whatever reason. Jasper is my closest and favorite cousin. You don't ever see him because he transferred to Eastwood Christian School when he was fourteen. Something about smaller classes and more one-on-one teaching ratio. After his wreck, he had to work on his attention span, and he had horrible headaches. Still does. He hangs out with an older crowd, and is kind of a 'country boy will survive' guy who hunts, fishes, and goes off-roading in his pickup truck. Anyhow, he's already graduated, and works for his dad. I'll be sure to introduce you two tonight."

"Cool. Glad he's okay, Bells. Oh damn! It's almost eight. We better get back. All I need is a tardy, and a call from Mr. Dunn to my Mom. The weekend will end before it starts," I said as I flipped my cig out the window. I noticed the parking lot was almost empty as the other cars slowly made the trek back to school.

Bella smirked at me as she backed out of her spot to join the caravan.

"We can't have that. You're coming with me tonight if I have to hog-tie you to the Zephyr. Don't test me, Brandon, because you know I'll do it, too."

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

Our plan was executed flawlessly, and as soon as we made a brief appearance at her apartment to let her mom know I was staying the night, we were off to set up our campsite. We were both country girls, being raised in rural Kentucky, so pitching our two-man tent, and gathering firewood weren't complicated tasks. By the time it was dark, we had everything in place. It wasn't cold yet, but the autumn nights tended to get chilly, so we changed into old jeans, plow boots and sweatshirts and headed to the party.

Bella seemed to know where we were going, and I sat back and enjoyed the ride with bottled excitement. Dust flew from the back of the Zephyr as we left the main road, and made the slow winding drive down a farming access road until we could see where everyone was parking. We found a spot, and joined the crowd as we crossed the field.

What had started out as a small gathering blossomed by word of mouth quickly into more than two hundred people not long after we arrived. Just about everyone we knew was there and there were two kegs of Natural Light, plenty of homemade hooch, and an assortment of liquor, most likely stolen from someone's parent's stash. With our paper cups filled with cheap beer, Bella and I made our way through the throngs of people, and took a place standing by the huge bonfire. We talked with our friends, and laughed at the drunken antics of several of our classmates. I was having a blast.

"Bella! What's up, cuz?"

I turned to the sound of the masculine voice, and my eyes widened when I focused on the young man who appeared from the shadows. As the light from the fire illuminated him, I had to work hard not to stare, or drool. He was all things male, with a tall and lanky physique, shoulder length blonde hair with a slight curl at the ends, and a crooked smile that fully reached bright eyes that glimmered like diamonds in the firelight. His untucked, plaid button up shirt showcased his defined chest, and well-worn denim encased a set of long, muscular legs attached to cowboy boots. The guy was hot, and my first thoughts were is he single, and why the hell had Bella not introduced us before?

Damn my life, and my unstable teenaged hormones. I wasn't single, so why should I care if he was? There was no way he was single anyhow. Not with looks like that.

"Hey, Jazz. Quite a party you've got going here. Where have you been hiding all night? Alice and I have been here for over an hour."

"Oh yeah. I've been over there, um, knocking the edge off with Emmett. Sorry, I didn't know you were here, Bells. Wait, who'd you say was here with you?" Jasper asked smoothly, a Marlboro Red dangling from his full lips.

"Let me introduce you. Alice, this is my cousin, Jasper Whitlock. Jazz, this is my best-friend, Alice Brandon. She was in junior high with us," Bella said over the din of too many voices surrounding us as she pointed to me.

Jasper followed the line of her finger, and then looked down until his baby blue eyes met mine. Yeah, I'm short, barely five foot tall when I stretch, just over one hundred pounds, and kind of plain, with my long brown hair and brown eyes. Nothing really for guys to look twice at. Jasper, however, was sexy as hell and I couldn't keep my eyes off his body. He had to be close to or over six foot tall and probably out-weighed me by seventy-five pounds.

"Hey down there. Sorry, darlin', I don't recall us ever meeting back then, but it's nice to meet you now, Alice," Jasper drawled with a crooked smile and an outstretched hand, and my heart skipped a beat when our fingers touched.

Dammit, Alice! Get your shit together. You are not single. Sad but true.

"Nice to meet you too, Jasper. Don't feel bad. I wasn't a social butterfly by any means back then, and I barely remember you. Guess we didn't run in the same circles. "

"Yeah, that was a long time ago, so don't sweat it. Listen, my buddies and I have a couple of truck parked over near the woods. We have a smaller fire built, and there sure as heck aren't as many people to step around, just Emmett, Edward, and me. Why don't you two come over there and hang for a while? I've got a partial case of Bud Light, and some Jack Daniels, so you won't have to fight to get to the cheap beer in the keg. I'll even pop the tailgate so y'all can sit where it's dry. Sound good?"

"Hell yes! Lead the way, cuz."

Jasper led us through the ever-growing crowd, and soon we were on the fringes of the open field. I could make out the forms of two large, obviously male bodies standing near a small fire, their voices echoing into the near darkness. As we got closer, I could hear less of the chaos we left behind and more their colorful conversation.

"Come on, Edward. You can't tell me you haven't thought about tapping that ass. Tanya isn't exactly the 'wait for marriage' kinda gal," a big burly guy with curly dark hair bellowed, as he passed what looked like the faint orange glow of a joint to the tall guy next to him.

"Nah, she ain't my type, Em. Too fucking skinny and artificial. I like more meat on my girl, and besides, I don't want my dick to rot off," the tall slender guy retorted in a softer voice before taking a slow drag from the offered smoking material.

"Hey assholes, there's ladies present. Show a little respect, got it?" Jasper scolded as we stepped into the dim light. "And put that shit out."

Two bodies turned to face us as we neared the fire. Two attractive and very male bodies.

"Jasper! Dude, where'd you run off to? I thought maybe you'd gotten lucky already," the big guy asked as he looked us over with a huge grin.

"Fuck you, Em. I told you my cousin was coming tonight, right? Well, guys, this is my cousin, Bella Swan, and her friend, Alice Brandon. They're gonna hang out with us for a while. Girls, these are my best buddies, Emmett McCarty, and Edward Cullen."

Introductions were made, and I couldn't help but notice the way Bella's face lit up like a freakin' Christmas tree when Edward shook her hand and his megawatt smile when she held his hand a bit longer than necessary. Bella didn't date much, citing her Mom's revolving door of asshole boyfriends and short-term marriages as the main reason, but I knew different. Bella wasn't overweight, but she wasn't a small girl either, and felt that she wasn't attractive to any guys that were into more than a quick screw. She was striking with her long dark blonde hair, dimples, curvaceous body, and infectious personality. The weight issues were genetic in her family, evidently, because the girl ate like a bird, but she was beautiful inside and out to me. It looked like I wasn't the only one who thought that way too.

We laughed, and told crazy stories for hours, drinking by the fire. It was the most fun I'd had in, well, forever. Jasper was a funny drunk who never seemed to have an empty bottle of Bud Light, or the lack of a lit cigarette. Emmett was pretty cool as well with his boisterous laugher and quick wit. I noticed he stopped drinking way before I did, but didn't think much of it. However, Bella and Edward seemed to hit it off, and that was an unexpected bonus. Edward was quieter than the other two guys, and seemed to be into whatever Bella was talking about. He hardly left her side, unless he was getting a beer from the cooler.

"It's been fun, and I hate to run off on y'all, but I promised Rosalie I'd pick her up around midnight. She had to babysit for her aunt and uncle tonight, so she couldn't be here," Emmett said to Edward, Bella, and me as he shut the tailgate on his four-wheel drive. He slapped Jasper on the back before climbing into his truck. "You threw one helluva good party, man. I'll holler at ya tomorrow when I get up and going and we'll sight in our bows so we're ready for season."

"Will do, man. Deer season opens Sunday, and I aim to get me a big buck this year," Jasper replied, and I noticed his slur was getting more pronounced.

With Emmett gone and the group down to four, two of which seemed to be awfully chummy at the moment, Jasper decided he needed to roam awhile and make his appearance to the rest of the crowd. I was perfectly content in our little bubble, so I waved him off when he asked me to tag along, and he stumbled back across the field. It was his party after all, and we'd dominated most of his evening. A small part of me knew James wasn't here. This wasn't his kind of scene, but some of his coke-head cronies could be, and I sure didn't want to cause any trouble for Jasper or myself. An hour or so later, the alcohol from earlier in the night and the chill of the autumn night caught up with our trio, and Edward stretched with a loud yawn.

"Ladies, I think I'm gonna call it a night. My house is just a few miles away, so thankfully it won't take me long to get there. When Jasper gets back, tell him I'll call him tomorrow. He rode here with me, and mentioned coming home with me in case his dad was on one of his holier-than-thou kicks tonight, but I guess he changed his mind. It was nice to meet you, Alice. We all need to hang out soon," Edward said as he slammed his tailgate shut before turning his attention to Bella. "It's been a fun night, sweet Bella, and I'll be talking to you soon," Edward said. The new couple walked to the driver's side of the truck and shared a brief but sweet kiss, and with the rumble of a souped-up Chevy truck motor, Edward was gone in a cloud of dust and red tail lights, Bella waving until he was out of sight.

"So, you and Edward, huh?" I said as I bumped into her shoulder. "And don't think I didn't see that lip lock, Swan. He's hot, and you are one lucky bitch."

"Yeah, I am. God, I think I'm in love," Bella replied dreamily. "Come on. Let's go find my drunk-ass cousin so we can say goodbye and head out. It's got to be one in the morning, and I'm beat."

"Me too. Ready when you are."

It didn't take long to find a staggering, and totally wasted Jasper. Most of the crowd had left already, and the few stragglers who remained looked like they weren't going anywhere tonight.

"Bellllaaaa. Where da fuuuck is Edwwwarrd?"Jasper drawled as he swayed on his feet. "Heee was supppposed to beee my riiiide!"

"Um, he left about fifteen minutes ago, you loser. I can drop you off at your house on our way to Pa's gravel pit. Let's get on with it," Bella answered with an eye roll.

Jasper shook his head and his lack of equilibrium caused him to lose his balance and fall right into me. I somehow caught him before the guy face-planted in the dirt. Damn, he was heavy, dead weight, but I managed to return him to his upright position.

"Nooooo! I can't go hoooome like thissss. Dad will killll meee! You've gottttta take meee with you, cuz! I wannna go to Paaaa's gravel pit tooo!" Jasper whined.

"Oh hell no! Alice and I only have my two-man tent, and a couple of sleeping bags. There's no room for your drunken ass," Bella fumed with her arms crossed over her chest. "Why don't you find some blonde bimbo to go curl up with for the rest of the night? It's not like you haven't ditched me with that shit before."

I felt like I was watching a tennis match as the retorts went back and forth. It was causing me whiplash. Then Jasper dropped the bomb that ended the argument.

"Bellls, you wouldn't leave your faaaavorite cousin cold and homeless for the night. Pleeeeease? You knoooow I love you, annnd I promissse not to beee any troubbbble."

There was deafening silence as Bella stared at Jasper, who was looking adorable with his lower lip stuck out in a dramatic pout. I wasn't getting involved in their familial showdown, but really, Jasper looked like he'd be passed out before we hit the highway. He could sleep in the car if space was an issue. I doubt he'd even notice.

"Okay, jackass. I'm too freaking tired to argue with your ass, and I'm not packing you around either. Alice and I are leaving, now, so follow along quietly, or you'll be left here in the chilly September night with nothing to curl up with but your huge ego. You owe me BIG time, Jasper Dale Whitlock. Got it?"

"Yesss ma'am. I'll be a gooooood little soldier… lead the way."

We loaded the car without incident, Jasper opening my door for me even, and soon we were on the meandering country roads that would lead us to Pa Jones' gravel pit. Much to my surprise, Jasper rambled on and on from the backseat, chain smoking his Marlboro Reds and singing loudly to every song that came on the radio for the entire twenty-five minute drive. He didn't pass out, and I began to wonder exactly how the three of us were going to fit in the pup tent if he didn't. When we arrived everyone exited the car and without preamble, Bella, Jasper, and I crawled into the confined space.

"It's late, so just fall out where you have room," Bella said in a no-nonsense tone.

"Bella? Maybe we could open one sleeping bag to lie on, and cover up with the other? That seems like the best solution. Otherwise, Jasper will be on the rocky ground," I asked, thinking that I wouldn't want to be sleeping on the cold, hard earth.

"Yeah, Bella. I don't want to freeze my nuts off."

Bella groaned, but did as I mentioned. Soon we had a nice pallet to lie down on. I wondered if we put our pillows in a line…

"Now, your precious balls are safe, Jazz, but this pillow is mine, so don't even go there, Alice. I know what your little mind is spinning. Good night," Bella grumbled as she rolled to face away from Jasper and I.

Oh damn. This is awkward. At least Jasper doesn't seem to be slurring as much. That's good, right?

"So, um, do you want in the middle, or on the outside?" I asked Jasper, who seemed to be deep in thought.

"Huh? Oh yeah, lemme on the outside, in case I gotta take a piss. Besides, I can snuggle up to your cute little ass and keep you warm, baby," Jasper drawled, his voice was thick like molasses, then he leaned in close to my ear to whisper, his hands snaking around my waist before squeezing both cheeks of my butt. "And maybe, if I'm Iucky I can get up close and personal with this tight little ass later on."

"What the hell?" I stammered and pushed him away in the confined space, shocked at his forwardness, and also by the feeling deep down in my belly when his warm breath ghosted across my face as he spoke those innuendo-laced words in my ear. "I don't really even know you! Why would you think I'd screw you?"

"Now, darlin', don't get your panties in a twist. I wasn't asking you to marry me. I guess I've been reading your vibes wrong all night. Just let me hold you. You know, keep ya warm and all …"

"She has an asshole, douche of a boyfriend, Jasper, and you SURE as hell aren't having sex in my god damn tent tonight with MY best friend if I had to let MY Edward go home solo! May I remind you of your girlfriend, Jasper? Lauren will be pissed as hell if she knew half the shit you are doing tonight. So, both of you, shut your traps, keep your clothes on, and go to fucking sleep!" Bella yelled, her patience wearing dangerously thin in her hung-over state.

"Bella! Shit-fire! Lauren isn't my damn girlfriend. I only see her casually, and you know it," Jasper answered Bella, and then looked me square in the eyes. "You have a boyfriend? Damn girl. What dick-wad guy let you out of their sights, Alice Brandon?"

"He's not important. Let's just go to bed, Jasper. I didn't mean to lead you on. No harm, no foul, okay? We can talk this through in the morning, when we are sober," I plead, cursing myself on the inside because Jasper had a girlfriend, and for falling head over heels for James Hunter.

James was a junior when I was a shy, awkward sixteen year old sophomore. I had plenty of friends, and had a few boyfriends "on paper", but I had barely been kissed on the cheek, and certainly no farther around the bases than that. When I first saw James, it was just after Christmas Break, and I was in total lust. He was tall, and tan, with long legs, light brown hair that brushed his shoulders, and ice-blue eyes. There was a bad-boy James Dean vibe about his aura that made my girlie-parts tingle. I was a good girl, and he was way out of my league, so I was content to drink him in from afar. I had an assigned area to wait after gym class was over, usually for about ten minutes before my lunch since I didn't do all the frou-frou things like some girls. I figured out James had lunch while I was in gym, and he was in the same assigned area before the bell rang for change of classes. Jessica, one of my good friends, had gym with me, and knew I thought James was cute. She was much more forward than me, so I had to keep shooting down her grand plans to get James and me to meet. Weeks went by, and James never paid me any attention. Why should he? I was just another girl in a school of 1,200 students. One day, I was fumbling with my book bag when, all of the sudden, Jessica ran into my back, inertia knocking me forward into the back of an unsuspecting James Hunter, and he into the block wall in the secluded hallway. I was scared to death when he righted himself, and turned to see who'd plowed over him so violently. From my peripheral vision, I saw Jessica dart quickly into the locker room. I'm pretty sure I hate her now.

"What the hell?" James growled, looking for the culprit.

"Sorry!" I squeaked, trying to slink away before the minions of Hell descended upon me for manhandling one of their dark angels.

"It was you, Stalker Girl? Hells bells, a 'hello, my name is' would've worked as well, don't ya think?"

Kill. Me. Now. There is no way I can talk to him now.

"Look, let me make this easy. I'm James, and this is where you insert your name."

"Alice," I whispered in humility. "And I'm so sorry I fell into you like that. I wasn't watching where I was going, obviously." Adding the Jessica equation was fruitless now. The damage was done.

"No problem. A little thing like you couldn't hurt a fly. Calling you Stalker Girl was getting old, too. Now, what's a good girl like you doing eye-fucking a guy like me, huh? Trust me; I've been watching you, Alice."

Do what? I could feel my blush from my toes to my scalp. Someone save me from myself!

"I, um… what I mean is…"

And I was interrupted by a shrill buzzing sound, Thank God! Saved by the blessed lunch bell. I guess I'll hang out in the locker room from now on.

"Listen, you're sweet, and I like your innocent look, Alice, so why don't you meet up with me at the bowling alley Saturday night? We'll see what kind of trouble we can get into. Yeah?"

"Really? Sweet! Yes, I'll see you then, James!"

And the rest is history. James lured me into his web as the attentive, attractive boyfriend, and owned my first real kiss at sixteen. Unfortunately, he owned everything else I had to give too. There wasn't anything left. James Hunter wasn't patient, and sure as hell wasn't romantic. Sadly, this point was made when he told me in no uncertain terms that he had waited four months, and that was plenty long enough, before I felt guilty and gave him my virginity in the cab of his truck on my seventeenth birthday. And he took it, roughly. Blood and pain was my gift from him, and I cried myself to sleep that night … the first night of many more. James was nothing like the Prince Charming I'd dreamed of. He was selfish, had a violent temper when he was crossed, smoked pot and popped pills like Tic Tacs, and all he wanted from me was to use me however the mood struck him, more so the last few months. Sadly, James was all I knew, and I didn't want to be alone. Mom was right. He was nothing but trouble, and I swore to myself that if I ever got the courage to break up with him, I'd never be anyone's plaything ever again.

"Okay, Alice, if that's what you want. I'll keep it all G-rated," Jasper replied coolly.

I kicked off my shoes, and crawled in behind Bella, making sure I faced her back. I didn't know what was coming over me. James would beat the shit out of me, and then go after Jasper if he knew anything about tonight, even if we aren't on speaking terms. But there was a part of me that could see that Jasper was so very different than James, and I wanted to give him a chance. Why not? Why couldn't I be happy too? As I relaxed I felt comforting warmth behind me. Gentle hands wrapped around my waist, drawing me back into a safe and solid wall of flesh and muscle. It wasn't sexual, but it was the most intense, calming feeling that I'd had in a long time. As I drifted off to sleep, these softly spoken words carried me into peaceful slumber.

"Sleep well, angel."

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

Morning came, and I woke warm but alone in the tent. The sound of hushed voices not far away, but far enough that I couldn't discern what was being said, and by whom. I wiped the sleep from my eyes, and slipped on my shoes. I needed something to drink that was not of an alcoholic variety and soon. My mouth tasted like ass. As I crawled from the tent, the voices ceased.

"Good morning, guys," I croaked. "Anyone have a coke or something?"

"Morning, Alice. Yeah, I've got a can of diet soda in my cooler," Bella replied. "Jasper, can you go ahead and roll up the sleeping bags and pack up the tent?"

Jasper nodded then disappeared where I'd just immerged, with not so much as a glance in my direction.

"What's up with him?" I asked, pointing over my shoulder, wondering what I'd done to piss him off in my sleep.

Bella looked at me for a few seconds, and motioned for me to follow her. When we were far enough away from the tent to talk, she stopped walking and turned sad, knowing eyes on me.

"Listen, Alice. I know fate has dealt you a shitty hand with James. Hell, I think I'd kill him myself if I got the chance. He's ruined you… made you a shell of who you used to be. You deserve so much more. With that being said, you don't need Jasper right now. He's not in the right place in life for a steady, committed relationship, and he doesn't need your baggage either. He's been through so much. I mean, I love him, and I love you too. I don't want to see either of you hurt. You both need to get your shit together, and not string each other along. Got me?"

I got her, loud and clear. If I wanted to pursue a relationship with Jasper, then I had to finally get the nerve to send James packing. I wanted to be free, but I was scared as hell as to how he'd retaliate. Besides, who knew if Jasper even wanted me the same way? I was probably nothing more than a drunken hook-up, and somewhere to wet his dick. I took a long drink of my soda to solidify my resolve.

"Yeah, I understand. Tell me, why is Jasper upset with me? He kinda blew me off when I first woke up."

"Nah, he isn't mad, Alice. I really don't think he remembers much about last night, and he is a little embarrassed that he showed his ass. I tried to talk to him about what he wanted from you before you woke up, but all I could get from him was that he needed me to take him to Edward's when we left here. Don't take it personally. Just let it be, for now."

I nodded in agreement. When I looked over my shoulder, and saw Jasper putting the tent and sleeping bags into Bella's trunk my heart ached longingly. He was a nice guy, easy on the eyes, and I could see myself falling hard for him. I'd play things safe. Let him lead, and see what happened.

When everything was packed, Jasper drove us back across the county to Edward's house, since he knew the way. After the initial coolness between Jasper and I had passed, conversation flowed easily. We never had "the talk" but it didn't seem necessary anymore. He was as funny sober as he was drunk, and I found myself feeling lighter in his presence, even though there was a slight undercurrent of UST between us. Maybe it was just me, I had no clue. When we arrived at Edward's house, Bella hopped out quickly to have a few moments alone with her new boyfriend. Jasper turned to me with a small grin on his lips.

"Well, Alice. I guess this is goodbye for now. It's been real nice getting to know you. Maybe I could call you sometime?"

My heart skipped a few beats.

"Sure, I'll write my number down for you."

I pulled an old receipt and a pen from my purse, and proceeded to give him my phone number. He took the paper, and slid it into his jeans pocket before he unfolded his lanky frame from inside the Zephyr. I watched out the window as he left the car, hugging Bella and waving at me, before he and Edward disappeared into behind the house.

Bella and I didn't mention Jasper again for the rest of the morning. He had my number, and I knew he'd be calling soon. I needed to get my house in order. First on the list, break up permanently with James Hunter.

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

October

November

December

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

"So, what are you wearing to the New Year's Eve party at Rosalie's tonight?" I asked Bella as we descended the back steps of the school. She and I didn't get as much time together as we used to, but significant others seemed to have that effect. I couldn't and wouldn't deny Bella any happiness, and she and Edward were made for each other.

"Probably my black jeans, blue V-neck sweater, and black boots. Edward likes me in blue."

I rolled my eyes and laughed.

"Edward likes you in most anything or nothing at all," I joked as we arrived at our cars.

"Yeah, you're right, he does. Oh, I remember what I'm supposed to tell you. Edward said we'd be by to get you around eight."

Ah and there it is. The subtle, yet unintentional jab of a knife into my heart. It wasn't meant as pity, I knew as much, but still, it hurt.

"Okay, I'll be ready."

Jasper Whitlock never called me. Bella wanted to kick his ass, but I wouldn't allow it. He obviously didn't like me as much as I thought he did, and I didn't need a family fight on my conscious. Edward told me to keep my chin up, and that Jasper wasn't seeing anyone as far as he knew. He offered to give Jasper my number again next time he saw him, because he might have lost it or whatever, however, I'd forbidden him from mentioning me to Jasper at all. In fact, after a few weeks of mulling around like a kicked puppy, I told them not to mention his name to me again. It hurt too much, and I had to move on. I wasn't invisible or a no-name hookup. I was best friends with his cousin, who was dating his best friend. It would be simple to say, 'Hey guys. I lost Alice's number. Can ya'll hit me with her digits?' In all truth, Bella hadn't seen or spoken Jasper since we'd left him with Edward in September, and Edward was with Bella all of the time, so he hadn't seen him but a couple of times. It was deer season, and Edward said that Jasper was all into hunting. Maybe he'd call after season was over.

Whatever.

I am happy to say that I had made several positive strides within my life in the past three months. James was history. Our relationship was on the rocks anyhow, and I steeled my nerve and told him to take a hike the week after I met Jasper. James just laughed at me, and said he could get pussy anywhere and had been for months, and that I wasn't that good of a lay anyhow. Not great for my wounded ego, but I wasn't going to dwell on any of it. Not anymore. I was done being ANY guy's doormat.

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

A/N: **wipes brow** Writing that was harder than I'd planned, but lots of fun. Everyone still with me? The story is far from over, so please give me some review feedback. I'm anticipating three to five chapters, depending on how I break the story up. Love you all!