When Carlisle returned from his night shift, he went straight to the living room to check on his family. He hadn't wanted to go to work, yet it was vital now that they keep appearances up while they could. Surveying the room, is was obvious no one had bothered moving much since he had left. Edward was much as Carlisle imagined he would have been in Rio. An unmoving statue, hunched on the floor, his arms wrapped around his chest in agony, his gaze drilling into Alice.
Alice herself laid curled in a ball on the same loveseat where she and Jasper had sat for Bella's meeting. Her legs were tucked up and someone – Esme he presumed – had covered her with an afghan. Her eyes were blank at the same time and a look of serious concentration was etched upon her face. He surmised she was still on a continuous search of the future and blocking Edward at the same time.
Emmett sat on the couch, his eyes filled with venom and his face a mask of unrelenting anger. No doubt he was still planning retribution for both Jasper and Edward. Esme laid curled next to him, her head on his lap. Incongruous to the look on his face, Emmett was gently stroking her hair in an attempt to soothe her.
Carlisle's heart broke seeing the look of utter anguish etched on her face. In all their years together he had only seen it twice before: when she was first turned, and when they believed Bella drowned. It was the look Esme wore when she lost a child.
The only one not in the room was Rosalie – she and Emmett had been distant since her insinuation that Bella was a coward. Emmett loved her dearly but he was not ready to forgive her. Rosalie herself needed time to sort through her thoughts. So she had been in the garage tinkering since returning from dumping Bella's truck.
Walking over to the couch, Carlisle bent over, picked Esme up into his arms and then sat down. Holding her against his chest he turned to Alice, "Anything new?" When he had left for work, Alice had shared with them that Peter and Charlotte had joined Jasper and Bella.
Alice's eyes refocused and she shifted her gaze to Carlisle, "They are still driving, though Jasper plans to stop to pick Bella up food soon. He's explained everything to Peter and Charlotte and asked Peter to turn Bella in his stead. Peter's taking his time thinking it through."
"How about your vision of Bella as one of us? Any change?" A week ago that vision had been absolutely solid, but since the day of upheaval, Alice had described it murky at best. She said it wavered in and out between something solid and smokey. Since Bella had agreed to trust Jasper's plan, she said the vision tended more towards solid form.
With sadness in her eyes, Alice answered, "No, no change. I suspect both Peter and Bella need to make their decisions before it does."
"How are Bella and Jasper both holding up?" It had been harrowing for some of them to listen to Alice narrating the chase between Jasper and Peter, all the while knowing Bella was hanging off Jasper's back.
"Bella's still sleeping. Jasper – it's hard to tell. I think he's manly focusing on getting Bella through this for now. But I can tell he's hurting… I hurt him keeping this from him." Alice responded in sorrow.
Looking at the remains of a marble bust near Edward, Carlisle changed the subject, "What caused that?"
Emmett actually snickered at hearing the question. It was Edward who answered, "Peter had the poor taste to nickname Bella 'Sweet Treat'. Yet Jasper is still going to entrust her life to him". Rocking now, his hands went to his hair and pulled. Carlisle felt himself actually crack a smile. Peter always did have a sense of humor, and he suspected Bella would find her new moniker funny.
Alice seemed to take pity on him, "Edward, Peter may be a joker but Jasper's always had his absolute loyalty. He won't agree to do this if he's not 100 percent certain he can."
"True Alice, but you and I both know Char's the one thing that he puts before that loyalty. Peter's even more certain to kill her if she refuses than Jasper. He won't give Bella a chance to rethink it like Jasper has." The words were wrenched from Edward. Carlisle knew them to be the truth, yet he suspected Alice may be withholding something from them all as she hesitated just a fraction of a second and looked in his direction before nodding her agreement. Had Alice suppressed some of the discussion between the three Whitlocks?
The room lapsed into silence, all waiting to hear the outcome of Peter's reflection. Reaching behind him, Carlisle pulled Bella's favorite blanket off the back of the couch and wrapped it around his mate, settling in for the wait.
Fifteen minutes passed in what felt more like a lifetime before Alice spoke, "He's agreed! More than that, my vision of Bella is rock solid again!"
Edward, having be unable to break Alice's wall, resorted to begging, "Please Alice!"
Closing her eyes in concentration, Carlisle assumed Alice was attempting to show Edward her vision of Bella as a vampire and only that. Proof that Edward was finally changing his thoughts on their souls - or at least accepting Bella's change - came when what Alice allowed him to see resulted in him visibly relaxing. He breathed out, "She's going to make it through this."
It was Emmett who questioned, "How can that be Alice? Doesn't Bella still need to agree as well?"
Alice's spirits had so improved with the recent vision that she actually smirked, "Jasper would never break his promise to not change another unwilling human. Nor would he ask it of someone else. But if said individual made the decision themselves" here she sneaked a glance at Carlisle "he wouldn't be above allowing it. I would suspect Peter understands how much Bella has come to mean to Jasper and has decided on his own to turn her regardless of her answer."
The sound of tearing metal came from the direction of the garage, leaving no doubt that Rosalie had heard.
Shocking them all, Esme said, "I always knew that boy was a smart one" before promptly burying her head into Carlisle's neck and dissolving into shuddering cries of relief.
Closing his eyes, Carlisle bowed his head over hers and sent a prayer of thanks heavenward.
Jasper pulled the pickup off the highway at an all-night truck stop. It was just after dawn, and Bella's last meal had been hours ago. She was more than due for another he was certain. Pulling up to the pumps, he figured it was good habit to keep the tank topped off. Hitting the tank release button as he hopped out, he shut the door, pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and proceed to gas the truck up. Once the fuel was flowing, he headed inside, leaving the sleeping Bella with Peter & Charlotte.
In the store, he walked up to the restaurant counter and ordered Bella chicken tenders and sweet potato fries – he knew she was partial to those. Once the food was handed to him, he tossed plenty of ketchup, honey and napkins in the sack. Spying freshly made brownies, he purchased a couple on impulse – she deserved a treat for her last human meal. Besides wasn't chocolate supposed to be medicinal for heartbreak in human women?
Stepping over to the goods portion of the store, he invested in several prepaid cell phones, and headed back to the truck. Jumping into the cab, he handed his haul over to Char and got them back on the road. Smelling the food and glancing at the still sleeping girl, Peter asked, "Do human's normally sleep this long?"
"Actually, yeah about 8 hours or so for most I think. Bella's had more than that since we set out on this escapade, but it was pretty clear she didn't get much the two days she spent thinking Edward's folly over." Glancing at her in the review mirror he said, "She needs to eat though, and I'm pretty sure she'll want that food while it's still hot."
Raising his voice, he gently called to her, "Bella…Sweetheart…time to wake up".
They were pulling up to the cabin by the time Bella finished her meal.
Jasper parked the truck, stepped out and opened the back door for Bella. Holding out his hand to her he assisted her down. He looked at his friends, "Peter, Char would you run inner and outer perimeter checks and prep the cabin while I speak with Bella? All should be well but on the off chance Alice let our location slip…"
Peter responded with a salute, "Better safe than sorry. See you in a few Sweet Treat!" With that Peter and Char took off together.
Jasper spoke to Bella, and then gave her his back, "This is as far as the truck can go, we haven't taken the driveway up to the cabin yet to deter curious humans. You'll have to ride with me again."
Once Bella was secured piggyback style, Jasper took off. When he stopped, they were at a cliff edge that overlooked a beautiful valley. Jasper gently set her down near a stone they could share while they admired the view before them. It was aglow with the early morning sun, making for a beautiful display.
Turning to her, Jasper said, "I thought you'd enjoy this view while we talk darlin'."
"It's beautiful Jasper! I can see why you found this place so peaceful."
"Figured you would appreciate this," Jasper said with a gestured to the rock, "Have a seat."
Bella sat as instructed, Jasper sitting next to her. Catching her hand in his, he rubbed his thumb in soothing circles over her palm.
Taking a deep breath, Jasper began to speak, "You're a bright woman Bella, I suspect you've figured out most of what I have planned."
Nodding, Bella replied, "You weren't the only one to turn humans when you were all with Maria were you?" At Jasper's shake of the head Bella continued, "I suspect Peter didn't make the same vow as you to avoid turning unwilling humans, that's why you truly brought them in isn't it?"
Jasper felt the disappoint settle over Bella. She thought he had lied. He gave her hand a squeeze before continuing the soothing motion with his thumb.
"Yes and no Bella. I did partially bring Peter in to turn you at my request. But to honor my vow, that means you need to be willing if I am going to ask Peter to take my place in this. Your trust in me wasn't misplaced Bella, I do have a third option for you – rather an egress is more accurate. You remember when I parted ways with Peter & Char to roam on my own?"
Bella nodded and Jasper continued, "I didn't believe I would find any peace, rather, I knew was just prolonging the inevitable when I left them. I made Peter promise to end me when the time came that I could no longer force myself to endure feeding – soon after that point I would become an uncontrollable monster the Volturi would have needed to put down. So he gave me his word."
"I would grant you a similar pledge Bella. If eternity truly becomes too long for you, come to me. I'll be honest with you though," Jasper released her hand, wrapped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her into him, "I don't ever believe I'll have to make good on that promise honey. I know you don't know what to believe when it comes to Edward right now, but I profess to you his feelings for you are just as true and deep as Carlisle's, Emmett's, Peter's and my feelings for our mates are. On the off chance you do come collecting know I will keep my word but I don't promise not to try everything in my arsenal to change your mind."
Jasper paused to let Bella absorb what he had said. "Alice and I are and will always be members of the Cullen coven. So too are you. But Peter, Char, Alice & I make up the Whitlock coven. I am offerin' to make you a Whitlock darlin'. What do you say?"
Bella looked at Jasper with tears in her eyes. He sensed she was overwhelmed. Bella opened her mouth to speak several times but finally just nodded her acceptance.
Jasper felt such relief. He gave her a brief hug (he didn't dare push his control for a longer one) and released her. "Would you like Carlisle and Esme here when you awaken to this life? You have my word Edward will not be allowed near you until you ask for his presence."
Bella gave his question a few seconds thought, "I think I'd like that. Carlisle especially."
Turning to her and cupping her cheek, he said, "It's time Bella. Any delay would leave an openin' for Edward. I'd like to stay with you though, you have my word I won't breathe at all."
"I trust you Jasper. It would be more of a comfort to have you there."