Disclaimer: Nope. Not now. Not ever.
She shifts uncomfortably on the stool, and hopes he does not notice the slight difference in her mood as she surreptitiously watches him through her eyelashes.
There's something about him – something dark and more than a little dangerous – that makes her shiver despite the warmth of the July sun streaming into the kitchen through the open window.
A moment passes before the corners of his lips tip upward into a wry smile, and he inclines his head slightly in her direction. Something indecipherable flickers across his face – gone in an instant, she's not sure if it was ever there at all or if her imagination is playing tricks on her again. With Jasper, she can never really tell.
His ocher eyes flash up to meet hers and she feels the breath still in her chest. Smoldering and intense, his gaze locks onto hers and she feels herself melt into the warmth flooding from his smile. Her bones go mysteriously soft and all coherent thought turns to ice in the span of a single heartbeat.
Her heart stutters wildly in her chest and his pale hands clench into angry fits on the countertop. His gaze shifts – the ghost of a memory flickers uncertainly across liquid gold, so much anger, so acutely ingrained – and his eyes narrow, face hardens. His body tenses – severe, frozen, and statuesque – and she notices for the first time that his breathing has stalled completely.
The intensity of his gaze sends a chill winding down her spine and she swallows the lump that has caught in her throat. There is a look in his eyes, almost as if he's trying to see through her, down into the very depths of her soul.
Seconds – perhaps moments – tick by before she realizes she it holding her breath – waiting for something to pass between them that is better left undefined.
Unsure why, but unable to curb the urge, she reaches out to brush her fingertips across the pale flesh of his clenched hands. He pulls back instinctively and her fingers close on empty air.
When she chances a glance up at him, his face has gone blank, completely expressionless as he folds his hands across his chest – well out of her reach.
"I—I'm sorry, Jasper, I don't know – I didn't mean…" she stutters, the words tripping over themselves as her brain finally decides to start working again.
He shakes his head and his expression softens to some extent. "For what?" His voice is calm but the level of ice infused within it is not lost on her.
She's shaking her head, back and forth, suddenly feeling dizzy. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable." The words tumble from her lips and she regrets them instantly, but she cannot take them back.
His eyes flash and he's gone in a blur. She's left to stare dumbly at the empty space where he had been only seconds before, her hand still hovering lamely over the countertop, and her mind spinning wildly as her heart drums out an erratic rock cadence in her aching chest.
She watches the shadows dance across the wall from her position on Edward's couch. The blanket she's stolen from his bed is tucked up to her chin, her body coiled into a tight ball in the small shell of warmth.
Sleep has evaded her, her mind occupied with swirling thoughts of faint crescent scars and honey-blonde hair. She knows it's wrong, there's more than one heart on the line, but she can't make herself stop.
Don't be foolish, she chastises herself; self-disgust filling the ache in her chest as she sees his face lingering tantalizingly behind her closed eyelids every time she blinks. This isn't just about you anymore.
But even as her eyelids become heavy with the onset of sleep, she could swear she sees a new shadow slide across the wall – one that has no corporeal form to cast it outside the glass wall behind her. Something stirs in her lower abdomen – a small spasm of fear mingled with a probing curiosity that is not customary of her temperament. A quick glance at her watch tells her it's a quarter past two in the morning. Edward and the others won't be home until after dawn, having gone too long without hunting.
Closing her eyes once more, she snuggles deeper into her small burrow – dead to the world within seconds.
And then she's entrapped – mind, body, and soul – in the throes of the familiar nightmare.
Blazing red eyes float before her in the darkness – bloody rubies in a near godlike visage – murderous stares cast in her direction. Her breathing is loud – ragged and frightening – and she almost wants to strangle herself to make it stop. She's running, a twisting labyrinth of corridors with no exits, and an expanse that spans forever into the distance as the darkness closes in from all sides. She can hear the pounding of footsteps behind her, gaining with every beat of her heart, and she knows this is the end. The game of cat and mouse is drawing to a close, and the hunter has found her at long last.
Tracker, she reminds herself, he's a tracker. This is what he lives for.
So what if she just stops? Just quits running and huddles in a corner, begging for mercy or a quick end at least. Would he be too disappointed that his prey is such a push over as to let her live after all?
Mocking laughter echoes after her as she turns yet another corner in the winding hallway and burst through the first door she's seen yet. She doesn't care where it leads as long as it's away from the encroaching shadow of the predator hot on her heels. It's almost as if he can read her mind the way he knows just what she's thinking; just what she'll do before she knows herself. Maybe he's just following the allure of her thrashing heart against sensitive ribs, her scent luring him onward like an infrared trail lingering behind her in the darkness.
A spine-tingling scream is torn from her as his body collides with hers and they crash across the floor. His momentum sends her face first into a wave of splinters and broken glass. She feels a sharp prick as a thousand tiny shards bite into the unprotected flesh of her hands and forearms and she cries out in surprise and pain. The glass burns a scathing line of agony up her arm until she comes to a halt, her entire body protesting the brutal treatment of the fall. Seconds later she can smell the blood – like an ocean of salt and rust pouring from a fresh set of scars – it washes over her and her stomach heaves violently.
White-hot agony rips through her as frozen hands tangle in her hair and yanks her head upward. Her scalp tingles where the cold fingers lace lovingly into her brown hair, jerking it out by the roots as her head collides painfully with something immovable.
"You owe me another scream." The words whispered into her ear send shivers of panic surging down her burning spine and she suddenly finds herself in the air, flipped over as a few strands of hair disconnect painfully. And then, she's face to face with the predator – hovering over her – the weight of his body pressing her into the floor. Tears cascade over her flushed cheeks, salty in her mouth as she tries vainly to form a coherent plea. Something, anything, but she knows her words fall on deaf ears.
His teeth gleam eerily in the darkness, inches from her face, as his eyes lock onto hers. Cold as ice, she feels his hands wrap around her body, crushing her to him, but try as she might she can't break free of his lethal gaze – deep within those crimson pools she sees the inevitability that she's been running from for so long. She sees her death written in every line of his face, in the flicker of fire that flashes through his eyes moments before he moves in for the kill.
But it's no longer the face of the hunter, and his arms are no longer unfamiliar territory. His face melts into another, but the certainly of death remains in the cold clutches of this new face – the scarlet eyes still ablaze with an anomalous intensity that makes her heart sputter traitorously. She struggles to inhale, no longer remember how, as his lips curl upward into a crooked smile.
"But this is what you wanted, remember, love."
Her screams die in her throat as Edward's face dips forward, but is ripped from her as his razor sharp teeth descend towards her neck.
Cold hands, arctic on her scorching skin, shake her with fierce yet measured force.
The screams inside her head echoes with startling zeal around the darkened room. She pries her eyes open, her screams lodging in her throat before dying away – the face suspended before her is different, the ocher eyes indicative of the Cullen's vegetarian diet sending her into spasms of relief.
She flings herself at his chest, headless of his instinctive withdrawal as she clings to his shirt, her hands fisted in the smooth ivory as her tears being to fall in earnest.
"You were screaming," is all he has to say to justify his intrusion, but it's more than enough for her.
Glancing up through tear-filled eyes, she thanks him wordlessly with and a wave of calm washes over her shaking body, but she does not relinquish her grasp on his shirt. If anything, she clings to him harder than ever – afraid that if she lets go he'll disappear and the dreams will ensnare her once more.
"Shh, It's okay now, Bella. Everything's gonna be fine. You're safe."
His gentle touch and calming presence sooth her in ways his words never could. She feels him reluctantly place his hand on the small of her back, moving in small circles as he tries to calm her with more than just waves of tranquil emotion.
It's awkward at first. She hangs to him like a frightened child, still curled up on the couch, and he's half sitting half standing, trying to keep as much distance between their bodies as she'll allow. She can fell the tension in his body in the way that he holds her, his chest as still as the heart that no longer beats, and she knows she's making him terribly uncomfortable. But she can't bring her desperate hands to let go of him and he makes no move to leave. Instead, she closes her eyes and buries her face in the soft fabric of his shirt and he finally settles onto the couch – the change in pressure sliding her closer to him – and he draws her to him until the shuddering stops.
"Are you alright?" He asks at last, his voice quivering slightly as he inhales her pleasant scent.
She nods, too unsure of herself to speak. The dream seems so real, so painful that she is surprised to find her arms completely unscathed from the experience. The sound of breaking glass – the only thing that truly sends her into convulsions of fear these days– rattles numbing around in her mind.
He sighs weakly before gently prying her fingers off his shirt. Reluctant to be alone, she frantically searches for a reason for him to stay.
"Jasper," she begins, her voice nothing more than a broken whisper.
He stops, something in her voice drawing him back down onto the couch, though he makes sure the blanket is tucked securely between them.
The look in his eyes steals the breath from her chest and the lies she had been conjuring up fade away. His stony expression softens as his eye brows furrow together.
"Bella, I don't think this," he gestures to her and then to himself, "is such a good idea. I just—I just wanted to make sure you were alright."
Her heart flutters, his hands tighten into fists on his knees.
The rigid line of his jaw sends a swift ache through her heart for reasons better left undefined, and for feelings she would do well to leave unacknowledged.
He inclines his head towards her marginally, and she does her best to ignore the way his honey-blonde hair falls into his eyes. Ignores the urge to reach out and brush those few errant strands away from his flawless, boyish face. The tightness in her chest bothers her in ways she never knew it could, and she wonders briefly why she's never felt this way before about a certain bronze haired vampire.
She feels Jasper's finger under her chin as he lifts her face up until they are staring at one another again, an unfathomable look in his eyes. She reaches out and brushes the trendles of hair from his face with shaking hands and he pulls away slightly, but the damage is already done.
A moment of uncertainty as he struggles – torn by some internal battle – the silence hangs heavy between them, unbearable and intoxicating at the same time. Then – without warning – his lips are crushing against hers – suffocating a strangled cry of surprise. Cold and yet deceptively warm, the hunger in this kiss forces her to respond. Her hands fist into his hair, trying vainly to pull his marble body to her – to close the insufferable gap between them – but he does not allow her such a luxury. He reaches up and captures her arms, pulling them down to lock them by her sides as he taunts her with a shower of kisses along the curve of her neck.
He's careful with her – a porcelain doll in his viselike grip – and yet driven wild by her implausibly devastating scent as it saturates his nose. Recapturing her mouth, the kiss deepens with a passion bordering on violence and a gasp escapes her as his hands slide around to completely encircle her abdomen. He pushes her back onto the couch, his body coving hers but she feels none of his weight as his hand slides up her side, pushing at the fabric of her shirt as he goes.
His lips are perusing her neck again – a line of fire crashing over her jaw to her pulse point – and she's lost in his clutches. One hand breaks free – intent on investigating the knot of muscles through the thin silk of the shirt pulled taunt across his back – warm fingers raking down cold granite.
She knows she should stop him, what they're doing isn't right, but it feels so good that she won't stop him, she can't. Logic and reason have fled out the window with all conscious thought and moral obligation. Her body is tingling where his smooth hands glide over her skin, the ache in her heart indistinguishable from the pleasure caused by his deft touch.
His chest heaving with breath he does not require, his lips find hers again. A shiver of pleasure races down her spine as his cool tongue traces the curve of her lips. His cold breath ghosts across her sensitive skin, and she wiggles loose from the grasp he has on her wrist to fist her hands into the tangle of curls falling around his angelic face.
She knows this is wrong – it's more than one heartache in the making – but she doesn't want him to stop.
He seems to feel the same way because he abruptly pulls away with something like an apology glowing in his eyes, and before she has a chance to voice what she is feeling, he's gone.
Blinking rapidly, she stares at the empty space before her, the heat swiftly evaporating from her cheeks, her eyes stinging with the pressure of angry tears.
And she knows she was wrong before – there is only one heart ready for the breaking. Hers.
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