Peter watched the human girl Jasper had introduced as Bella settling inside the truck's cab with open curiosity. She had cranked the engine as instructed and was now climbing into the back seat and looked to be making herself comfortable under several jackets. She seemed to understand without being told that Jasper would be several hours, not minutes. She kept glancing out at them, all the while avoiding looking them in the eye. It was clear their presence made her nervous, but she obviously trusted Jasper's word that they would guard her – and not harm her – because she soon closed her eyes and drifted off to a fitful sleep.
Speaking low enough not to disturb the girl, Peter asked, "Well Char, what cha make of her?"
Charlotte gave her assessment, "Judging from her scent… that's the same girl we smelled traces of all over the Cullen house on our last visit. Edward spent more time then hanging around her than his piano for once. She plainly meant something to him. The Cullen's expend a lot of effort on protecting the humans from our nature. I can't imagine any of them – especially Alice – would want to hurt her."
Taking up where she left off, Peter shareed his observations, "She evidently knows about us. She's comfortable enough around us that she's not screaming her head off or fainting dead away after that chase, even with the knowledge that it wasn't Yogi you were slurping down back there. She's familiar enough with their eating routine that she's not looking for Jasper to come right back – as she's clearly settled into her bedroll for the night.
"Yet she's still human… I would assume Jasper meant to end her for it regardless of what the Cullen's think, except he made it so obvious she's to be protected that a monkey would understand. Hell, more than just protected – he named her family and threatened me in her defense – his brother! And he meant it!
"And then there's who we are guarding against – never thought I'd see the day when Carlisle would condone harming a human. And a fool Jasper ain't – he would never believe that I would spare a human who knew of vampires. Not with you involved Darlin'. He brought her to us with no doubt what my take on the matter would be."
"Your right, Jasper knows you better than that. I would say the same about him when it comes to protecting Alice so I can't say as I understand it either."
"If this happened fifty years ago, I'd say he'd finally lost his marbles, but then he'd have drained the girl, not protected her."
"You don't think that's it do you? That he's just toying with the girl before he eventually drains her?"
"Nah. I 'poose it's possible he may one day tire of a rabbit diet, but Jasper ain't cruel. Even at his lowest point with Maria, he was never cruel. He did what had to be done and that was it. If he'd chosen to kill us that night, rather than let us run, he'd have made it quick. And if he's chosen to kill the girl, dead she'd already be. He don't condone suffering without cause. That's Jasper. And ya know it."
"I do know it. I just can't make any other sense out of this."
"My gut tells me he's planin' on turnin' her – else we'd be as in the dark about her knowledge as we were on the last visit. 'Cept if that's the case I can't explain why Carlisle ain't already turned her. Whatever is goin' on, my guess is Jazz will tell us when he returns."
After that discussion, Charlotte and Peter fell into silence while they waited for Jasper to return from his hunt. They kept watch over the human girl as she slept through the night curled in the truck, taking turns checking a five mile perimeter for scents. Jasper had chosen his parking spot well. Not only was there no sign of his family, but there were no human scents that headed anywhere near the truck. They stewed in curiosity as to why she was there and still a breathing human.
Trusting in Peter and Charlotte, Jasper wasted no time leaving the truck behind and heading up into the mountains with no goal other than distance from Bella. He had really been pushing the limits of his control to be so near her when he walked in on Char's hunt. Just the thought of all that fresh blood… he'd had to keep reminding himself that it was Bella who would pay if he lost control of his bloodlust. The breath of air he took after placing her in the truck had not helped much either, it may have been blood free but it was still filled with traces of Bella's sweet scent.
So before he allowed himself to slip into hunting mode, he stopped halfway up a peak and took the time to enjoy the fresh mountain air. Rubbing his chest, he longed to hear Alice's voice. Prudence dictated he toss his phone after that last conversation with Carlisle to make it harder to track them… assuming Alice continued to keep her knowledge of their whereabouts from Edward.
With his bloodlust under control enough that he didn't fear he'd wind up hunting Bella, Jasper tuned his senses to the wildlife around him. It wasn't long before he heard hooves clumping up the mountain, about a mile ahead of him.
Several goats and a mountain lion later, Jasper finally felt he'd satiated his thirst enough to continue the drive with Bella. Turning around, he retraced his steps to the truck.
Hours had passed when Jasper returned. His golden eyes showed he had hunted well. He checked on Bella before speaking with his friends. She was sleeping, but he could feel her emotional pain far more easily when she did so. It seemed she had made a strong effort to keep her thoughts free of Edward while she was awake. It was just like her to try to spare him from the hurt she was suffering through. How could one little human heart continue to beat under all that agony? Edward had really stepped in it this time. Someone needed to help that boy get his priorities straightened out. Damn, but he was going to enjoy tearing Edward to pieces when all this was over. Assuming, of course, that Emmett hadn't already finished what he'd started earlier.
Charlotte came up behind him and put her hand on his shoulder, "She's alright Jasper, she settled down to sleep soon after you left. We've checked the perimeter throughout the night, no one has even come close let alone attempted to take her."
Jasper raised his arm and laid his hand on top of hers, "Thank you Char. I didn't doubt I could trust you both, but it's reassuring to see her sleeping safely."
"What's all this about Jasper?" Peter queried.
Turing around, Jasper looked them both in the eyes before stating, "She's Edward's mate and every bit a sister to me as you are Char. She's absolutely just as much a Cullen as Esme is. However, Edward stuck his foot so far into his mouth that his toes are sticking out the back of his head. So now I need your help to save her life."
Deliberately scanning the area, Jasper continued with, "We've been stopped in one spot for too long. Edward won't hesitate to take advantage if we leave him an opening. I intend to take her to our cabin in Kootenai. Let's gas up and hit the road. I know I'm not making much sense but I'll explain it all on the way."
With Bella curled up in the back sound asleep, Jasper tossed the center armrest upright, allowing Char to sit up front between Peter and himself. Cranking the engine over, he headed back to the gas station at the highway exit. Once that chore was done, they hit the open road. As the miles fell behind them, Jasper told Peter and Charlotte the story that would have made Shakespeare proud.
"Shit man. I can't get over the fact that this little girl actually walked willingly into that viper pit just to save a vampire! No wonder y'all are all so enthralled with a human. " Peter was still shaking his head after hearing the whole story.
Poor Char had venom pooled in her eyes and was rubbing Jasper's shoulder to soothe him, "Why do you think Edward and Alice kept the truth from the rest of you?"
"Honestly Char? For one, because I don't doubt Edward realized he fucked up with Aro. And for two, he intended to get as much human time for Bella as he could. He loves her – as much as Peter loves you – so he's trying to protect her. Returning from Italy, that still meant protecting her body and soul, but Bella has since been making some headway on getting him to see he doesn't truly believe we are soulless – something to do with how he first reacted to her in Italy – before he realized she was alive. Now it's mostly about protecting her heart. He knows how much she loves her folks. The moment she transitions, she'll never see them again. So the longer he could put her off, the longer she would have had with them.
And I think it also has to do with me. Had we known the full truth of Italy, not only would I have voted to change Bella, I would have been pressing for no delays beyond what was necessary to protect our cover story. For every time Edward tried to convince Bella to hold off, I would have reminded her of the risk to Alice – he wouldn't have had a chance to convince her."
Rubbing his aching chest again, he continued, "As for Alice, it hurts that she kept this from me, but I think she did it because her vision of Bella being one of us has never changed. She has said it is as strong as the first vision she had of me. I'm assuming she figured there was no harm in placating Edward with his request, or if there was, she'd see it in time to prevent it."
Peter chuckled darkly, "Your little human learns faster than Alice figured. So what's your plan? Char and I know you too well – if you intended to kill Sweet Treat here for changin' her mind, you'd have already done it. I also know you're no yeller belly. Tired as you are of killin', you didn't expose Char to her knowledge, hopin' I'd do the deed for you."
Jasper's hands tightened on the steering wheel in anger, "Ya know Peter, I'm gonna thrash you later just for having the gall to even say that."
"Alright boys, play later. What's the plan for Miss Bella back there?" As usual when they got together, Char was the one to bring them back on task.
"As I told y'all just now, I convinced Bella to give my way a chance. It's exactly what she originally suspected with one very important difference. Every one of us Cullen's knows Edward loves Bella with everything he is. I just happen to have the advantage of feeling the truth as well. So I'm going to give Bella my word. Bella accepts the change and should the day ever come that she can no longer cope with unending immortality, I'll give her my word that she can come to me and I'll end her. The same promise I forced from you the day I set out on my own."
Peter was shocked, "You're going to make her a Whitlock!" He remembered that day with full clarity. When he had gone back for Jasper, he was so far emotionally gone that Peter failed to convince him of a better life. In the end, Jasper had left because he knew the day was coming that Maria would turn on him. Jasper had eventually given Peter and Char his human surname. Both in gratitude for returning for him and a reminder of Peter's promise. Those were the days before Jasper knew Alice was out there. Back when he thought killing humans to feed was his only option, with each death bringing him that much closer to his own.
The key difference here was, until the fateful day that Jasper walked into that diner, Peter and Char knew without a doubt the time would come when Peter would be forced to keep his word to Jasper. With Bella, Jasper knew for certain that day would never come. For Edward would now have the opportunity to prove himself to Bella.
Jasper swung his head around to look Peter dead in the eyes, "We're going to make her a Whitlock. She'll have my promise, but I don't have the self-discipline necessary. One taste of human blood, especially Bella's blood and I will drain her. I need you to make her immortal for me Pete. And I need you to be absolutely certain you have the control to do it. She's far too precious for us to screw this up."
At the start their acquaintance, the human in the backseat of the pickup truck meant absolutely nothing to Peter beyond the novelty she presented. Yet Peter now understood just how much she meant to the Cullen clan. How much very she meant to Jasper. Jasper didn't realized it but he projected the waves of protectiveness he felt when speaking just now. Jasper had always been Peter's oldest friend; he'd become a brother to him the night Jasper let Peter and Char run. The Cullen's had become extended family when they accepted Jasper and Alice into their fold with open arms. Bella's life was important to them; to Jasper. That made her important to Peter. So rather than just reassuring Jasper that he could turn her, he gave the question its due consideration.
Char was not the only one who had hunted tonight. Peter's thirst was well satiated, even with Bella's slightly sweeter-than-most scent permeating the truck cab. Peter thought back to the few vampires he had created in their human days. Jasper had taught him well. Always be fully fed before you set out to turn someone. Following that rule, he had never failed. So was Peter absolutely certain he would be able to bite Bella, but not drain her? He found the answer was yes.
"I give you my word Jasper, she won't be in any danger with me. I wouldn't recommend waiting too long, or I'll need to take a precautionary feeding trip. From how you described her, that will more than likely make Miss Bella refuse."
Smiling now, Jasper said, "You've got that right. From what I've seen, I don't think Bella is capable of putting her life above anyone's. Heck, I told you she apologized to me for getting that papercut on her birthday, right?"
Gently socking Jasper in the arm, Char piped up, "She sounds certifiably crazy to me. I think she'll fit right in with our ragtag group."
After they all enjoyed a laugh, Jasper went back to the previous subject, "We won't wait Pete. That just increases the danger of Edward intercepting her. We're getting close to the cabin. When we get there, I'd like it if you and I check the perimeter while Char watches over Bella. Just in case Alice let the location slip. Once we know she's secure, the four of us will sit down and talk this through. As soon as she gives her final agreement, I'll have you turn her Peter."
Glancing in the backseat, it was Charlotte who asked the hard question, "I saw it in her eyes earlier Jasper, she's been badly hurt by this. What if she refuses? What is your plan then?"
"Your right Char, she's hurting something awful, but she doesn't have a death wish. She'll agree."
"But if she doesn't?" Char persisted with playing devil's advocate.
Jasper's face locked down hard, "Carlisle already offered to change her regardless of what Bella wants. He said he would come alone, no tricks. I believe him. When it was just myself, there was no way I was going to risk Edward finding out and taking advantage of that. With the three of us…maybe I would allow it." He had to force the next words out, "We would need to plan it meticulously though, I'll kill her myself before I'll risk Alice."
Peter understood what Jasper wasn't saying. Peter knew Jasper could accept Carlisle turning Bella against her wishes, because that decision was on Carlisle. Jasper was asking Peter to turn Bella in his place, and Jasper had sworn never to turn another human against their will the day he walked away from Maria's wars. So for Jasper to ask Peter, meant Bella needed to be willing. He couldn't help scoffing. Bella's decision on the matter presented no problem for Peter. Taking the risk of bringing Carlisle in to change Bella would never be necessary. Peter trusted Jasper implicitly. If Jasper said his gift told him Edward's love for Bella was true, then that was good enough for Peter. He would have to be careful to position himself between Jasper and Bella though…if Jasper wasn't anticipating the smell of her free-flowing blood, he could be setting them up for a replay of the girl's birthday. Perhaps if it came to it, Jasper might be convinced to let him and Char talk to the girl without Jasper present. One thing was for certain, whether Miss Bella gave the go ahead or not, Peter would be getting himself a taste of Sweet Treat very soon. Char was too important to him, and both Alice and Bella too important to Jasper, for Peter to leave anything to chance.