What? An update that is actually on time for once? What is the world even coming to?! Since it usually takes me a lifetime to update, I advise anyone who has been following this story for a while to double check that you read the previous update from last week first before delving into this one, just so there isn't any confusion.
Thank you, everyone, for all of your kind reviews and well-wishes! And thank you to everyone who has added this story to their alert/favorite list! I appreciate the support, and I hope everyone is enjoying the story!
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Twilight, only the OC's.
Life in Forks had gotten shockingly normal.
Now that she had graduated, and with no plans to go to college for another year, there was no schooling to keep her busy during the day. Furthermore, now that the wedding was finished, her days were no longer crammed full of planning, as had been the case for the entire summer. Life was back to being plain and simple, and Danielle was pretty certain these had been some of the most quiet, most uneventful weeks she had experienced since moving to Forks, Washington.
She wasn't going to complain, though. There had been no drama and no psychotic vampires trying to kidnap her, nor had she found herself in any life or death situations as of late, which she was certainly very happy for. Even her bad dreams about Victoria had faded away, which she strongly suspected was due to the fact that Jasper hadn't left her since his hunt with Edward. Danielle went to work at the bookstore four days a week, hung out with her family and friends, and had happily settled into a peaceful, domestic life with Jasper.
She hadn't thought that married life would feel all that different, seeing as she had already been living with Jasper beforehand, but she was pleasantly surprised to discover that she had been wrong. Though she had never once thought that Jasper would ever leave her, being married to him made her feel a new sense of security and it had brought a new level of intimacy to their relationship. It felt like they were stronger and closer than ever, and she found herself loving everything about their new life as husband and wife. She loved that Jasper would read the morning paper while she ate her breakfast. She loved turning on some music and cleaning the house together. She loved it when he threw on some casual clothes and mowed the grass in the front yard, which he had planted himself when he'd built the house, and she loved the way his laundry looked mixed in with hers. Hell, she even loved looking over the bills with him.
Things were just good. Really good. And after the rollercoaster year they had all had, she was very much enjoying the simple life, and she sincerely hoped things stayed this way for a long time to come.
On this particular wet and rainy Saturday afternoon, Danielle found herself standing in front of a shelf of decorative crystal bowls in some department store in Port Angeles. She picked one up, then glanced around for any sign of her shopping companion. "Is this what you're looking for?" Danielle asked, holding up a small, crystal bowl for inspection.
Alice, who had been on the next aisle over, came around the corner to see what Danielle was holding. She took the bowl from her and turned it this way and that, inspecting it closely, before nodding with satisfaction. "This is perfect," she said, setting it into the basket next to Danielle. The vampire turned back to the shelves, which were stocked of more crystal bowls of all shapes and sizes, and rubbed her hands together with a smile. "Let's grab the rest, then we need to go find candles. Lots and lots of candles."
Danielle watched as her sister-in-law started taking every bowl available for purchase and put it into their shopping cart, unable to help shaking her head with amusement. The purpose of this shopping trip was to buy decorations for Bella's birthday party, which was on Tuesday. Though Bella had informed them that she hated celebrating her birthday and had insisted that no parties be thrown in her honor, Alice wasn't having any of that. Being a vampire who lived for party planning, she had decided to put together a celebration for Bella whether she wanted it or not.
"You don't think you're going a little overboard?" Danielle asked as Alice took cleared out the shelves.
Alice smirked at her as she grabbed the last one and put it in the cart, which was now very full. "Is there such a thing?"
"I guess by your standards, no," Danielle said with a laugh.
"Exactly," Alice said matter-of-factly, before grabbing the cart and continuing on.
They trailed around the department store for a little while longer, picking up tons of candles and little odds and ends, then went to the check-out line. While they stood there perusing the little knick-knacks set up by the register to tempt people into buying more stuff, Danielle felt her phone buzz in her back pocket. When she looked to see who had messaged her, she smiled upon seeing that it was from Tom.
On my way to the first football game and saw this. Made me think of you. Miss you!
Attached was a picture of a bumper sticker on the back of a car, which read 'COWBOY BUTTS DRIVE ME NUTS!' Danielle giggled, thinking that accurately described how she felt about her own cowboy's butt, and immediately typed back.
I should get that printed on a shirt. Jasper would just LOVE it! Miss you, too, Pickles!
As she shoved her phone back into her pocket, she noticed that Alice had not so discreetly been eyeing her screen. The vampire quickly looked away and became very interested in some travel sized perfume. Danielle stared at her sister-in-law, noticing the frown just barely visible on her lips, and sighed quietly to herself.
When Tom had told her what had happened between him and Alice, she had promised she wouldn't get involved, and so far she had done just that. But Danielle had definitely noticed the way Alice tensed anytime Tom came up in conversation, and it was pretty obvious by now that what had happened was still bugging the vampire, even if she hadn't voiced it aloud.
Maybe the time had come to finally say something about it.
"That was Tom, in case you were wondering," Danielle said casually.
Alice looked at her with a surprised expression that Danielle didn't buy for even a second. "Oh? How is he doing?" she asked.
Danielle nodded. "He's doing fine."
Alice smiled a bit. "That's good," she said, before looking back to the perfume.
Danielle moved closer and put a hand on Alice's arm to grab her attention again. "Alice." The vampire looked at her once more, her expression a little guarded. "Tom told me what happened between you two," Danielle said bluntly.
Alice blinked, then sighed, looking confused, embarrassed, and sad all at once. "Of course he did," she said quietly. "What did he say exactly?"
"That he tried to kiss you and you freaked. He was pretty upset when we talked about it. He felt really bad, felt like he'd crossed a line. And, well…he's sad you guys don't talk anymore. He misses you, Alice," Danielle explained gently.
Alice sighed again. "I miss him, too," she admitted. "I wanted to kiss him. I really did. But…" She trailed off and shook her head.
"I was scared," Alice admitted. "I didn't know what would happen, and I didn't want to hurt him," she said with a shake of her head. "But even if I hadn't been scared, I still don't think I would have gone through with it."
"Why not?" Danielle asked with confusion.
Alice looked at her sadly. "I just don't see how it can work, Dani. We're so different and so far apart. He has his whole life in Houston. He was so excited to start college and so excited for the future. I feel like I would just be an interference, a complication. I don't want to hold him back from any of that," she explained with a shake of her head. "All I want is for him to be happy, and I think he'll be a lot happier without me in the picture."
Danielle sighed and shook her head. "That's where I disagree. I think he'd be a lot happier with you in the picture. I know Tom better than anybody. Trust me when I say that he doesn't fall for girls on a whim. If he likes someone, he likes someone. For him, it's all or nothing," she explained. "He really cares about you, Alice. And I know you really care about him. So why not give it a chance and see what happens?"
Alice shook her head. "It's not that simple, Dani."
"In case you've forgotten, I know a thing or two about complicated relationships," Danielle reminded. "It can work, as long as you both want it to work."
"Tom and I aren't you and Jasper, Dani," Alice interjected. "I saw you with Jasper before you even came to Forks. I knew you were meant to be together." Alice glanced around to make sure no one was close enough to eavesdrop, then leaned a little closer. "But like I told you at the bachelorette party – I can't see Tom in my future. I've looked. I've tried. He's just not there."
"Maybe this isn't something you should be relying on your visions for," Danielle suggested quietly. "Maybe your visions – or lack thereof – are wrong."
"My visions are rarely wrong, Dani," Alice countered. "Look, I've given this a lot of thought, and I just don't think we're meant to be. He's a great guy, and I wish things had been different, but…they're not. I hate that he's hurting, but in the end, I truly think this is what's best for him. Best for both of us," she added with authority.
Danielle frowned and shook her head. "I still can't help but think you're both getting short-changed in this scenario."
Alice, however, just gave her that same sad smile. "Maybe," she agreed softly. "But I've made up my mind, and I'm not going to change it. So can we please stop talking about this now?"
Danielle pressed her lips together. She wanted to persist, wanted to tell Alice that she shouldn't give up on Tom so easily when she clearly still had feelings for him. If nothing else, Alice and Tom could at least be friends – she didn't have to cut ties completely. But she took one look at Alice's pleading expression and felt her determination slip away. If there was one personality trait the Cullen's had in common, it was stubbornness. If Alice had made up her mind, it would be pointless to try to get her to change it.
"Alright," she finally agreed.
Alice smiled gratefully. "Thank you."
They were pulling back into the driveway of the Cullen house in just over thirty minutes, thanks to Alice's ridiculously fast driving. Now laden down with numerous bags, Danielle followed Alice inside, careful not to knock the bags against anything and risk breaking any of the fragile items they had just bought. She didn't think Alice would be pleased if the decorations were ruined before the party even happened. Once upstairs, she found Jasper and Carlisle sitting on the couch watching a baseball game, while Esme was trimming a bouquet of flowers she must have bought while they had been out.
"Well, it looks as though the shopping trip was successful," Esme commented when she saw the many bags they were carrying.
"I'm pretty sure we cleaned the place out," Danielle said with a laugh. Her eyes turned to Jasper, who cheered with Carlisle when one of the teams apparently did something good. "Hello to you, too, love of my life," she greeted dryly, since he was too wrapped up in the game to acknowledge her. "And don't worry, this isn't heavy or anything," she added, grunting as she started to lug the bags into the dining room.
Jasper was off the couch and in front of her in the blink of an eye. "Sorry, darlin'," he apologized with a lopsided smile. "It's a very good game," was his excuse.
"Uh huh," Danielle grunted.
Jasper took the bags from her hands with ease, then kissed her cheek. "You look very lovely, by the way," he said, before taking the bags into the dining room for her.
She wasn't really mad, of course, and his compliment made her smile. Still, she couldn't resist giving him a hard time. "Suck up," she said around a fake cough.
Jasper just chuckled as he walked away.
Danielle went over to the couch to plop down next to Carlisle, who smiled as she let out a weary sigh. "Alice tire you out?" he asked knowingly.
Danielle nodded. "She gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'shop til you drop'," she said, which made Carlisle chuckle. "Bella's gonna flip a lid when she sees everything Alice bought."
Carlisle shrugged. "It's the first real birthday we've had to celebrate in a very long time. You cannot blame her for being excited," he reasoned. "Expect the same treatment when your birthday comes around, because I can assure you she will be just as enthusiastic."
Danielle wasn't at all surprised to hear it. "Well, lucky for her, I actually like celebrating my birthday."
Carlisle grinned. "She'll be positively thrilled."
Danielle opened her mouth to say something else, but before she got the chance, there was suddenly a voice in her ear. "Boo."
Danielle shouted with surprise and jumped off the couch as if it were on fire. She turned quickly, heart hammering away in her chest and eyes wide as saucers, only to see that there were not one, but two vampires standing behind the couch. One was beautiful and blonde, and the other was humongous and currently laughing his head off, looking very pleased with himself for scaring her. It was Emmett and Rosalie, and as the shock of their appearance wore off and it finally sunk in that they were actually back, a huge grin spread across her face.
She raced around the couch to jump into his waiting arms. He hugged her tightly, lifting her off her feet in his enthusiasm, then smiled broadly as he set her back down. "Damn, is it good to see you," he said, ruffling her hair affectionately.
"I could say the same!" She turned a friendly smile on Rosalie, who made no moves to hug her. Not like Danielle had expected she would, anyway. "Hi, Rosalie. I'm happy to see you."
"Hi, Dani," she said back, offering a small smile. "And…likewise," she added.
Jasper chose that moment to reappear with Alice. He came to stand next to Danielle, a smirk playing on his lips as he looped an arm around her waist. "I see you found Emmett," he commented.
"More like he found me," she corrected, before poking him in the side with her finger. "You could have told me he was back."
"But then that would have ruined the surprise," Jasper countered.
Danielle gave him a look, then shifted her attention back to Emmett and Rosalie again, her eyebrows raising questioningly. "I had no idea you guys were getting back today. When did you get in?" she asked.
"Just a few hours ago," Emmett said. "As fun as Africa was, we couldn't miss Bella's birthday. And I mean that literally. This one threatened bodily harm if we weren't here for the party," he explained, jerking his thumb toward Alice. Rosalie, she noticed, didn't look very enthused about the fact that they had left their romantic getaway – if hunting in Africa could be considered romantic – just so they could partake in the birthday festivities.
"You'd hurt your own siblings?" Danielle asked Alice with amusement.
"I wouldn't hurt them. But I'm sure I could find some savage werewolves out there to do the job for me," Alice said with a sweet smile.
Emmett rolled his eyes again. "Even if there were wolves still around, I'm not afraid of them," he scoffed as he flexed his enormous muscles.
"But you are afraid of Alice," Jasper pointed out with a knowing smirk.
"I am not," Emmett immediately denied, though the look on his face and tone of his voice hinted he wasn't telling the truth.
Danielle laughed and patted his solid shoulder. "Don't worry, Big Foot. We're all afraid of Alice."
Everyone laughed but Rosalie, who merely smiled in amusement instead. As for Alice, she just looked mighty proud.
"So tell me about Africa!" Danielle encouraged to change the subject. "Where did you go? What did you do?"
Emmett waved off her questions. "Forget that. Tell me about the honeymoon," he countered. "Did you guys have fun?" he asked, before wagging his brows suggestively. "Did you sex it up all over the island?"
"Emmett!" several voices chastised at once, though none quite as loudly as Jasper. "Is that necessary?" he asked, his expression full of disapproval.
Emmett held his hands up in defense. "What? There's nothing to be embarrassed about! It's a natural part of life!"
"And absolutely none of your business," Jasper growled.
Emmett huffed and shoved Jasper's shoulder. "Dude, you're such a prude."
Jasper scowled and shoved him back. "Better shut your mouth while you're still ahead, Emmett," he warned.
Emmett suddenly got a competitive gleam in his eye as he shoved Jasper again, this time even harder. Danielle could see where this shoving competition was going already. "Make me, cowboy."
And just like that, Jasper lunged at Emmett and they were soon wrestling around on the floor, snarling unthreateningly and tossing out colorful insults as they fought for victory. Danielle looked at Rosalie and, in synch, they rolled their eyes. There was nothing to really be done once Jasper and Emmett got going, so Danielle turned to the rest of the family, who barely even looked fazed by what was going on.
"Wanna go organize some of those decorations and leave the wild animals to their business?" Danielle asked Alice.
"Absolutely," the vampire readily agreed.
"I think I'll help as well," Esme said, shaking her head disapprovingly at her sons' behavior. "Just don't break anything," she warned the two, before following Danielle and Alice out of the room.
Now it was official – if Jasper and Emmett were back to acting like immature idiots with each other, then life was definitely back to normal.
Once Jasper and Emmett were finished horsing around – Jasper won, much to Emmett's annoyance – everyone was able to settle in and actually have a pleasant evening together. Danielle and Jasper told Emmett and Rosalie of their time in Brazil, who reciprocated by detailing their own little getaway in Africa. Esme insisted on making dinner for Danielle, and since she just didn't have the will-power to say no to her mother-in-law, she agreed. After a generous helping of homemade spaghetti and meatballs, they hung out for a little while longer to just lounge in the living room and chat, before finally heading back home.
"You know something? Rosalie was actually pretty pleasant tonight," Danielle commented as she changed into an oversized shirt that she had stolen from Jasper. "That getaway with Em seems to have put her in a really good mood."
Jasper, who had been content to lay on the bed and shamelessly watch her change, nodded in agreement. "She does like you, darlin'," he insisted. "I've been telling you this for months now."
Danielle shrugged. "She has an interesting way of showing it."
"Yes, well…she is still Rosalie," Jasper said, as if that was all the explanation needed.
Danielle finally crawled into bed and settled down next to him. She checked her phone to make sure she hadn't missed any calls, then set her alarm for the next morning, so that she wouldn't oversleep before she was due to go to work. When she was finished, she set the phone aside, before turning over to face Jasper. When she saw the thoughtful expression on his face, she looked at him curiously.
"What's on your mind?"
Jasper looked over at her. "I was thinking that with Emmett and Rosalie's return from Africa, the whole family is back in town now," he said slowly. "You know what that means?"
Danielle did know what that meant. When she and Jasper had come back to Forks, they had debated when would be the right time to reveal to the family that she had decided she wanted to become a vampire. They had agreed to wait until Emmett and Rosalie were back, so that they could tell the whole family all at once. She had been a little glad for the delay, simply because she was actually rather nervous about telling the family of their plans. But now that all of the Cullen's were present and accounted for, there was nothing standing in the way of them making the announcement anymore.
"It means it's time to tell the family I want to be turned," she said, fiddling anxiously with the corner of the pillowcase.
Jasper place a hand on top of hers to stop her fidgeting. "We don't have to. If you're not ready, if you want to wait a little longer – " he started to say, clearly sensing her nervousness.
"No," Danielle interrupted gently. "We should tell them. They deserve to know."
Jasper nodded, then released her hand to tuck her hair behind her ear. "There's no need to be nervous, darlin'," he said as a wave of calm swept over her.
"I can't help it," she admitted. "This is a really big deal, Jasper. This is a decision that effects the whole family. I know a lot of them have said they would be supportive, but…" Danielle shook her head. "What if they've changed their minds? What if they won't approve? What if they think it's a mistake?"
Jasper smiled encouragingly. "All they want is for us to be happy. They will understand," he reassured. "They'll be supportive of you being turned, I'm sure of it."
His confident reassurance chased away what was left of her anxiety. Danielle took a deep breath, thought about it for a moment longer, then nodded her head. "Okay," she said, with a bit more resolve now. "Let's do it then. Let's tell them."
"You're sure?" Jasper asked. Danielle nodded. "Alright, then. When?"
"How about tomorrow? After I get off work?" she suggested.
Jasper nodded. "Okay. I'll let the others know you want to have a family meeting."
Danielle nodded, then turned on her back to look up at the ceiling, her mind racing with thoughts. As much as they had talked about this, as much as she had thought about this, now that they were about to tell the family it just made everything seem so much more…real. Her days as a human were numbered, which meant that soon enough, everything would change. There would be no more working at the bookstore, no more going to the diner with her friends on Friday nights, no more going to the movies or a concert like normal people her age did. But, most importantly of all, things would likely never be the same with her mother.
Danielle sighed heavily at that. Carlisle had told her that he would try to find a way to keep Lynne in her life if she decided to become a vampire, but no matter which way she looked at it, Danielle just didn't see how it would work. As a newborn, she would be too bloodthirsty, too unpredictable, too unstable to be around any humans, even the ones she knew and loved. She could not – and would not – put her mother at risk just because she selfishly didn't want to let her go.
But even once Danielle was semi-normal again, how could she possibly reconnect with Lynne? There wasn't a chance in hell that her mother wouldn't notice how drastically different Danielle would be once she was a vampire. Lynne would know that something was going on and would ask questions that she wouldn't know how to answer. It just couldn't work. This was just not the sort of scenario where she could have her cake and eat it, too.
A cold touch on her cheek made her look at Jasper. "Are you still worrying about the meeting?" he asked, his brows raising.
"No," she denied, her lips pulling into a frown. "I'm thinking about my mother."
Jasper tilted his head. "What about her?"
Danielle turned to face him again. "Carlisle said he'd try to find a way for me to keep her in my life once I was over the blood-lust phase, but…I don't see how it'll work. Once I'm turned, I'll never be able to hide the truth from her," she said with a shake of her head. "She'll see right through my lies."
"Your mother is extremely perceptive," Jasper agreed with a slight frown. "It does complicate things a little."
"Why can't I just tell her the truth?" Danielle asked. "If it's secrecy everyone is worried about, my mom isn't gonna go around town shouting that there are vampires on the loose. We could trust her to keep it a secret, I know it."
Jasper shook his head. "That's not possible, Danielle," he said regretfully. "This is much bigger than just us and our little secret here in Forks. If your mother knew the truth, it could put her in danger."
Danielle frowned. Carlisle had said something similar when they had talked before the wedding, only he had declined to go into detail as to why. "What's so dangerous about it?"
"There are many vampires in this world, Danielle. And the only reason we have gone so long without being discovered is because we all abide by strict rules," Jasper began to explain. "These rules did not just appear from out of nowhere, though. They were put into place by a very large, very powerful coven. Our version of royalty, if you will."
"Vampire royalty?" Danielle repeated with interest.
Jasper nodded. "The Volturi. They have been in charge for over twenty-five centuries, and they are not a coven to be trifled with," he said with a serious look. "They are very firm in their decision that no humans know that vampires exist, and any vampire who breaks that rule or does anything to expose our kind to the outside world could pay a very dire cost for it," he said.
Danielle frowned deeply. "But I know. And Bella knows."
"Which I imagine the Volturi would be quite unhappy about if they knew," Jasper answered, which made alarm shoot down her spine.
"So we've been putting the entire family in danger this whole time?" she asked incredulously. "Why didn't you say anything sooner?"
"Relax," Jasper said soothingly. "The Volturi are far away in Italy, and they rarely venture from their domain. They have no idea that the two of you are aware of our situation," he reassured. "Even if they did come, all we would need to do is assure them of our plans to turn you and they would likely be placated."
He sounded so calm and sure about it, but Danielle was still worried. "And if they're not placated? If they decide they're pissed off that y'all let us in on the secret? What then?"
Jasper shook his head. "It's nothing to worry about, because they won't be coming here," he said. "Not without good reason. And as of now, they have none."
She relaxed a little at those words, but still let out a long breath. "Well, even if we aren't in danger, that definitely seals the deal on my mom," she said with a frown. "Her daughter being a vampire is dangerous enough. If her actually knowing the truth about it puts her in even more danger, then there's no way she can know. I won't do that to her." Danielle ran a hand over her face and turned onto her back again to stare at the ceiling miserably. "That's it. I'll just have to say goodbye for good," she said sadly.
Jasper slid an arm under her neck to pull her closer, so that she was snuggled up to his side with her head resting on his hard, cold chest. "You don't know that yet, darlin'. Carlisle has the most brilliant mind I have ever encountered. We still have a lot of time, and if there is a way for you to be a vampire and have your mother in your life, he will find it," he said with confidence. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "Everything will work out. You'll see."
Danielle told herself that Jasper made a good point. It would still be a few years before she was turned, and who knows? Maybe by then Carlisle would be able to find a way for Danielle to still have Lynne in her life. It was a long shot, yes, and this new knowledge of the Volturi certainly threw a wrench in their plans, but if there was anyone Danielle trusted to make everything work, it was Carlisle.
"Okay, what's wrong with you?"
Danielle, who had been in the middle of shelving a new order of books that had just arrived, looked to her right and saw her mother standing there with her hands on her hips and a determined look on her face. "Huh?" she replied quite ineloquently.
"You've been weird all day long," Lynne said, her eyes searching hers intently. "What's wrong?"
Danielle hesitated at first, then forced on a smile. "Nothing's wrong. Why would anything be wrong?" she asked, internally cringing at how unconvincing that sounded even to herself.
The truth was that even after having a night to sleep on it, even though Jasper had reassured her more than once that she had no reason to worry, the impending meeting with the Cullen's had left her on pins and needles. She was a nervous wreck, and not even work had been enough to distract her from her fretting. And now, because she had no poker face whatsoever, her mother knew something was up.
Lynne lifted a brow, then wrapped a hand around her wrist to pull her between two shelves for privacy. "I'm your mother, Danielle. I know when something is wrong," Lynne said. She frowned, her brows furrowing together as she leaned a little closer. "Is everything alright between you and Jasper?" she asked.
Danielle nodded immediately. "Of course. Everything's fine. Perfect, actually," she said. She wracked her brain for an excuse for her behavior. "I just…didn't sleep all that well last night. That's all," she fibbed with a shrug. "I'll be fine once I get a little more coffee in me, I swear."
Lynne eyed her for a moment, looking a little unsure as to whether she should believe Danielle's excuse or not. "You would tell me if something was wrong, right?"
"You know I would," Danielle said, trying hard to ignore the guilt that suddenly swarmed in her belly.
Lynne finally nodded. "Okay, then," she said, smiling a bit.
The bell over the door dinged as a lady her mother knew arrived. Lynne smiled and waved, then, after patting Danielle on the shoulder, she went to go talk to her. Once her mother was gone, Danielle sighed and ran a hand over her face, her shoulders slumping a little. God, she hated lying to her mother. But this was one situation she couldn't tell her mother about, especially so now that Jasper had told her about the Volturi. It just wasn't even an option.
Danielle got back to work and told herself to stop being so strange, otherwise her mother would keep asking questions and, really, she could only dodge them for so long. The rest of her shift went by quickly enough, and thankfully Lynne didn't seem suspicious anymore, which was a relief. A big rush of customers around four kept her so preoccupied that she actually did manage to forget about everything that had been bothering her for a bit. But when her shift ended and Jasper returned at five o'clock sharp to pick her up, her nervousness returned with a vengeance.
They did not drive straight to the Cullen house. Instead, they drove to their house first and then continued on to the Cullen house on foot, taking the walking path that Jasper had cleared between their two houses, which was more for her benefit than for his. They were walking at human pace, which she was grateful for – the fresh air was doing her good, and the extra time was helping her sort her thoughts.
"Do they know what we want to meet about?" she asked as they walked hand in hand toward the house.
"I think it safe to say Alice does," Jasper said, which wasn't all that surprising given Alice's abilities. "Edward knows, too. I asked them both not to mention anything to the others, though."
Danielle nodded in understanding. "I don't even know what I'm gonna say," she admitted. "I've been so anxious about their reaction to the news, I didn't even plan the delivery of it."
Jasper squeezed her hand encouragingly. "Don't overthink it and you'll be fine. And remember," he added, releasing her hand to slide an arm around her shoulders instead. "I'll be right there with you," he reassured, pressing a kiss to her temple.
She wasn't sure if it was what he had said or if it was because he was using his powers on her again, but the nervousness in her belly subsided.
They arrived at the Cullen house soon enough and helped themselves inside without bothering to knock or announce their presence. As they climbed the stairs up to the main floor, Danielle could already hear the voices of her new family talking amongst themselves as they waited. When she and Jasper finally stepped into the living room, they found everyone waiting for them there. Alice, Danielle noticed right off the bat, had a huge, happy smile on her face. Carlisle, Esme, and Emmett smiled at her in greeting, as usual, but Rosalie seemed a little unsure as to why everyone had been called together. As for Edward, his expression was rather blank, making it impossible to tell what he might be thinking or feeling.
"Hi, everyone," Danielle greeted. She glanced around as they called out greetings in return, then frowned a little when she noticed Bella wasn't around. "No Bella?" she asked, since she had expected that Edward would bring her along, too.
"Jasper said it was a family meeting," Edward answered. "Bella isn't technically family."
"Yet," Danielle heard Alice mutter, which had Edward shooting his sister a look.
Danielle nodded, feeling fairly confident that Edward had ulterior motives for not inviting Bella along to the meeting. Bella had told her that she and Edward had talked about Danielle's plans to be turned after their slumber party, which had led to a lengthy, yet unsuccessful, discussion about Bella's own mortality. Edward was still firmly against Bella being turned, it seemed, and likely hadn't brought her along so she wouldn't get any ammunition for future discussions.
"Can I get you anything before we start?" Esme asked.
Danielle shook her head. "No, thank you, I'm alright."
Esme just smiled. A moment later, Emmett gave an upward nod of his head, his brows creasing together curiously. "So why'd you call us here, Dani?" he asked, getting right to the point.
"Yes, I would say we're all rather curious to know," Carlisle said from his seat beside Esme. "Is everything alright?" he asked with slight concern.
"Yes, everything is fine," Jasper reassured.
Danielle looked at Jasper, who gave her an encouraging smile and guided her a little further into the living room. She cleared her throat and shoved her hands into the pockets of her pants. "The reason we called you here is because I, or rather we," Danielle corrected, motioning toward Jasper, "wanted to discuss the future."
"The future?" Emmett asked, looking a little unsure.
Danielle nodded. If she had thought she had been nervous before, she was doubly so now that all the Cullen's were staring at her so intently. "Before Jasper and I got married, we…had to come to a decision about something. Something very important. But this decision doesn't just affect us – it affects everyone." Danielle sucked in a breath, then just came out with it. "The decision was whether or not I was going to become one of you, or stay human."
Several of the Cullen's perked up at those words. "And what did you decide?" Esme asked.
Alice was practically bouncing in her seat by now, while Edward's expression had turned rather serious. Danielle reached for Jasper's hand to lace her fingers with his, then nodded her head. "I want to do it. I want to be changed."
There were several different reactions to this news. Edward's expression didn't change much, since he'd already known, while Emmett grinned so big she thought his face might split in two. Esme smiled, Carlisle seemed unsurprised, and Rosalie frowned deeply. Alice, however, let out a massive sigh of relief.
"Ugh, finally!" she said, making everyone look at her. "I knew it the second you made the official decision. It's been torture to keep my mouth shut about it!"
"You knew and didn't say anything?" Emmett asked incredulously. He then swung accusing eyes toward Edward. Before he could even ask, Edward nodded to confirm that he had known as well. Emmett clicked his tongue in disapproval. "Et tu, Ed?"
"It wasn't my secret to tell," Edward said.
"And we're grateful you didn't say anything to anyone before we were ready," Danielle quickly said. "Both of you," she added with a look toward Alice. "But we didn't just call all of you here to tell you about our plans," she continued, glancing around at the family again. "Like I said, this is a decision that impacts everyone. You're my family now, and I want y'all to tell me how you really feel about me being turned…even if it's not necessarily something I want to hear."
Emmett was the first one to speak. "Well, I don't know about these guys," he said, jerking his thumb toward his family, "but I'm freaking stoked you wanna be one of us!"
Danielle immediately felt a small smile tug at her lips. "Really?"
"Duh," he huffed. "You're family, Dani. I kinda want you to stick around for a while."
"I agree with Emmett," Alice quickly pitched in. "You're my sister now, and I don't want to even think about there ever being a time when you're not with us."
Danielle felt some of her previous anxiety starting to fade away. "Well, that's good to hear," she said with a smile, before shifting gaze to Carlisle and Esme. "Carlisle? Esme?"
Both immediately gave her supportive smiles. "Do you really have to ask?" Esme asked. "You know how much we adore you, Dani."
"And I already told you once before that Esme and I would support whichever path you chose," Carlisle added. "We are already honored to have you in this family. Nothing would make us happier than to have you around forever, as one of us," he reaffirmed, while Esme nodded in agreement.
The doubt that had been hanging over her since the previous afternoon was starting to filter away now. She looked at Jasper, who smiled at her and gave her a look that plainly said I told you so. When she looked at Edward in the next moment, however, the relief she had been feeling faltered a little. He merely sighed, though, and inclined his head.
"My position on the matter hasn't changed since we spoke at your wedding. If this is what you and Jasper want, you have my support," he said simply.
Danielle smiled, feeling herself relax again. Until, that is, she realized there was one last person who had yet to speak up on the matter.
Every eye in the room turned to the blonde, who was still frowning. She glanced around at her family, who were all waiting for her to say something, before looking to Danielle again. It took a few seconds, but finally she sighed and stood from her seat. Danielle snuck a quick look at Jasper, who was staring unblinkingly at his sister, then looked back to Rosalie as she opened her mouth to speak.
"I've already told you what I think about you living this…life," she said slowly. "As much as I hate to be the one negative voice in the crowd, my feelings haven't changed since then. I still don't think this is a life anyone should willingly choose. You are giving up so much, and you might not realize how much until it's too late."
There was a sinking feeling in her stomach at those words. It was what she had been worried about – that Rosalie still wouldn't agree with her wanting to be a vampire. Disappointment washed through her as she nodded and looked down at her shoes.
"That being said," Rosalie continued, making Danielle look up again quickly. "I suppose I can understand why you want to be one of us, and I know what it would mean for you and Jasper." She hesitated a moment, looking as though she was waging an internal battle of some kind, before she finally let out a long breath. "If this is what you want, what you truly want…then so be it."
Danielle blinked in surprise. That was not what she had been expecting to hear, not at all. "Wow. So you…don't have any objections?"
Rosalie shook her head. "No."
Danielle smiled at Jasper, who looked just as happy to have Rosalie's approval – reluctant as it was – before they both looked around at the family again. "So…we're all in agreement?" Jasper asked. "Everyone is alright with Danielle becoming a vampire?"
The Cullen's glanced around at one another, before Carlisle stood and nodded. "Yes, we are."
That was it then. The Cullen's knew what she wanted and everyone was actually okay with it. Danielle felt a huge sense of relief and smiled widely as Jasper pulled her into his side to kiss her temple, looking just as pleased. Soon Danielle found herself being wrapped up in eager embraces from Esme and Alice, before Emmett barged his way over and gave her another bear hug. Rosalie, she noticed, had slipped from the room.
"So when's the big day?" Emmett asked enthusiastically, whacking Jasper on the back.
"Not for a while yet," Jasper answered. "Danielle and I would like to enjoy married life first. We plan to wait another few years before she's turned."
Emmett looked disappointed. "You're gonna make us wait that long?"
"If we can do it, you can do it," Danielle said. "Besides, I wouldn't be so eager to have me as a vampire if I were you," she warned.
Emmett frowned. "Why?"
"Because the first thing I'm gonna do once I'm a vampire is kick your ass, Big Foot," she said, poking his shoulder. "After all the hell you've given me since we became friends, that's the least you deserve."
Emmett scoffed and rolled his eyes, while Jasper chuckled heartily. "Darlin', I will be the first in line to watch that beating take place," he proclaimed.
"I think I'll be in line for that, too, actually," Edward contributed as he came to join the conversation. "It gets boring watching these two fight. A new opponent will be a refreshing change."
Danielle grinned at Emmett evilly, but Emmett didn't look afraid. "You're nuts if you actually think you can kick my ass, Red. Newborn or no, I can take you."
"Keep telling yourself that," she said, giving him a smug look.
Emmett huffed, wagged a threatening finger, then walked away. As he left, Danielle looked at Edward, who offered a small smile. "I suppose congratulations are in order. Officially, that is," he said. "I truly am happy for you both, despite my…reservations. I think the two of you will have many happy years ahead of you. I'm glad for that," he said with a nod.
"Thank you, Edward," Jasper said with a smile.
"Yeah, thanks, Ed," Danielle added.
"You're welcome." Edward smiled a little wider then, the seriousness of his expression lessening. "It'll be interesting, having a new vampire in the family. We haven't had a new addition since a certain southern gentleman and a bossy little freak turned up out of the blue and invited themselves into the family," he said with a teasing smirk toward Jasper.
Danielle looked up at Jasper in amusement, who merely shrugged in response. "Well, that's some pretty tough competition there. Hopefully I won't disappoint."
"That is not even a possibility," Carlisle stated as he, too, joined the conversation. "You are a wonderful addition to this family. That will not change once you are a vampire," he said matter-of-factly, which made Danielle smile with a hint of bashfulness. "I heard you tell Emmett you intend to wait. I think that is a very wise choice," he said approvingly. "Not only will it give you time to enjoy your marriage, but it will also give you plenty of time to plan, so that your transition is as smooth as possible."
Danielle pressed her lips together as she considered what he had said. Her change wouldn't be as simple as just biting her and calling it a day. There would be a lot to do to prepare for her transition from a human to a vampire, including tying up a lot of loose ends and making sure they had a damn good reason for why she would suddenly drop off the face of the planet for however long it took for her to be sane again, since she was against the idea of faking her own death. As she thought about everything they would need to do, she couldn't help but feel a little overwhelmed by it all.
Jasper must have sensed what she was suddenly feeling, because he gave her a reassuring squeeze. "It'll be alright. We have plenty of time to think about all of this. We'll figure everything out."
"And you are not alone in this," Carlisle added with a nod. "I will help you in any way that I can, as will the rest of the family."
Danielle smiled gratefully at Carlisle. "Thank you. It means a lot to know that we've got you on our side."
"And speaking of helping us," Jasper said, which had them both looking to him. His eyes briefly met Danielle's again, before he gave Carlisle a serious look. "There was something else we wanted to discuss with you. Perhaps we could go to your office for some privacy?" he suggested.
Carlisle nodded, then motioned for them to follow him out of the room. Once they were in his office, he shut the door and turned to face them. "What is it you need help with?" he asked, glancing back and forth between the two of them.
Danielle shared a look with Jasper. Though she had asked him to be the one to turn her, he still had not given her an answer as to whether he would do it or not. Despite her encouragement and many reassurances, Jasper was still unsure if he would be able to handle such a dangerous task without putting her in grave danger. He hadn't completely ruled out the possibility, but he did still think Carlisle was best for the job. Now they just needed to make sure he would actually be willing to do it, if need be.
"When the time comes, I really want Jasper to turn me," she said, which had Carlisle shooting a look at Jasper, who merely looked back at his adoptive father with a slightly uneasy expression. "But he's not sure if it's the best idea. So if he can't do it, then we kind of need a contingency plan."
Carlisle nodded once in understanding. "You would like me to do it in his stead," he deduced easily enough.
"Only if you're comfortable with it," Danielle quickly interjected. "I know it's a lot to ask, so don't feel pressured."
Carlisle gave her a gentle smile. "Dani, I view you as my daughter. As I told you already, I will do anything I can to help. If Jasper is unable, then of course I will turn you," he said with finality.
Danielle immediately smiled with gratitude. "Thank you, Carlisle," Jasper said before she got the chance, looking enormously relieved.
Carlisle smiled. "You are welcome." He looked at Danielle again. "And just so you know, I have not forgotten what I promised you before the wedding in regards to your mother," he said seriously. "I will do my best to find a way for you to keep her in your life."
Danielle sighed at the reminder. "Might be easier said than done, considering how pissed the Volturi would be if they found out a vampire was keeping her human mother around."
Carlisle blinked in surprise, then glanced at Jasper. "You told her about the Volturi, then?" Jasper nodded in confirmation. Carlisle sighed as he turned his gaze back to Danielle. "Their rules do complicate matters," he admitted. "Even so, there is still time, and I have not given up hope yet. I do not want you to, either."
His optimism made her feel a little more hopeful. "I won't. I trust you, Carlisle."
Carlisle gave her shoulder a squeeze. "Good." He then smiled and glanced to the door. "We will discuss this matter more in the future. For now, let's rejoin the others. If I'm not mistaken, Alice is putting together an impromptu celebration."
Danielle wasn't surprised to hear it, and as soon as those words left Carlisle's mouth, the door opened and Alice poked her head in. "If you three are finished talking business, your presence is requested in the living room!" she chirped, before disappearing again.
Carlisle gave her a knowing look, then smiled and left the office. Danielle merely looked up at Jasper, who grinned down at her and kissed her forehead, before they, too, went to rejoin the family again.
Danielle meant to get out of bed a little early come Tuesday morning. She had planned to wake up at a timely hour, get in a little cardio, and then get started on the house chores she had neglected to do over the weekend while she'd been busy fretting it away. The alarm woke her up, as planned, but she didn't actually get a chance to make it out of bed after she turned it off. As it turned out, her husband seemed to have other ideas about how they should spend their morning.
Danielle sighed with pleasure as Jasper kissed his way down her neck and tightened her arms around him, trying to pull him closer. He felt her insistent tugs and pressed his body a little firmer against hers, settling comfortably between her legs. His lips found their way back to hers, drawing a quiet moan from her and making her fingers dig into his back. They only parted when she desperately needed some air.
"I had plans for this morning, you know," she said, even as she tilted her head back to make room for his roaming lips. "I was gonna try to be productive."
Jasper pushed down the neckline of the large shirt she wore – which was actually his shirt – so that her shoulder was exposed. "You can still be productive…later," he said in a husky voice, his mouth moving over the skin of her shoulder and collar bone.
Danielle let out a breathy laugh and threaded her fingers into his golden hair. "Alright, you convinced me," she said, even though she hadn't really needed any convincing at all.
Jasper lifted his head to smirk at her, then kissed her again. She shivered with anticipation as his hand found her thigh, sliding along the length of it, until he reached the hem of her shirt. He immediately grabbed hold of it and started to pull it upward, intending to take it off, and then –
Knock, knock, knock.
They both froze with surprise, partially because the knocking had been on their bedroom door, which was odd, and partially because it seemed Jasper had been too caught up in the moment to hear anyone coming, which almost never happened. Jasper pulled away far enough to glare at the door, as if it had done something to personally offend him.
"Who is it?" Danielle whispered.
"It's just me!" a familiar voice called through the door before he could answer the question.
Danielle relaxed upon realizing it was only Alice, then felt both annoyed and disappointed for her untimely interruption. Jasper grumbled under his breath, looking as though he shared her sentiments, and got up to go to the door. Danielle sat up in bed and quickly fixed her shirt just as he yanked the door open.
"Did you forget to knock?" he asked.
"I did knock," Alice pointed out.
"On our bedroom door," Jasper retorted. "Generally it's considered polite to knock on the front door."
"A knock is a knock. And it's not my fault you didn't hear me coming," she quipped, before stepping past him so that she was in the bedroom, ignoring Jasper's huff of annoyance. "Morning, Dani!" she said cheerfully, acting as if she hadn't just nearly walked in on them getting frisky.
"Er, morning," Danielle said back, feeling a little awkward to have Alice in the room after what had just been taking place. "What's up?"
"I just came by to remind you that the cake I ordered for Bella will be ready at noon, so if you could go and pick it up, I'd really appreciate it," she said quickly. "It's all paid for already, so just make sure it looks how it's supposed to and you're good to go."
"Yeah, okay," Danielle agreed.
"Great!" she said with a grin. "The party starts at seven o'clock sharp, so don't be late," she instructed as she headed for the door. She paused next to Jasper to look at Danielle again. "Oh, and Dani? Wear that blue dress hanging in your closet. It'll look nice with what Jasper picks out." Then she smiled at them both and glided out of the room. "I'm off to school! Toodles!"
Alice was gone as quickly as she had arrived, leaving Danielle to stare at the empty doorway in befuddlement. Finally she looked at Jasper and frowned. "What blue dress?"
When he just shrugged uncertainly, Danielle got out of bed and went to the closet to start rifling through her clothes. Finally, she located a midnight blue cocktail dress that she had definitely never seen before, but could only assume Alice had snuck in at some point or another. Danielle shook her head and put the dress back so it wouldn't get wrinkled.
"I think your sister needs to be enrolled in Shopaholics Anonymous," Danielle stated as she left the closet.
"And I think I'm starting to regret building our house so close to the family's," Jasper huffed as he went to sit on the foot of the bed. "They have no sense of boundaries whatsoever."
Danielle smiled and leaned over to press a kiss on his cheek to make him stop frowning. "Don't be too hard on them. They're family. There's no such thing as boundaries."
She patted his shoulder and turned like she was going to leave the room, but Jasper caught her around the wrist and immediately pulled her back to him. His annoyance with Alice seemed to be quickly forgotten as he moved his hands to her waist and pulled her close, so she stood between his legs. "And where do you think you are going?" he asked, a slow smirk pulling at his lips. "I believe we were in the middle of something before Alice so rudely interrupted."
The fire that had been doused by Alice's surprise visit immediately reignited. Danielle smiled and slid her hands onto his shoulders, then leaned down to press a long kiss to his lips, drawing a sigh of contentment from him. "Yes, I believe we were," she muttered against his lips, before kissing him again.
By the time she and Jasper dragged themselves out of bed, she decided she had gotten plenty of cardio for the day. She shot a happy birthday text to Bella the first chance she got, tended to the chores, then had Jasper drive her to the bakery at noon to pick up the cake. After closely inspecting the cake, per Alice's orders, they took it back to the Cullen house and stuck it in the fridge for safekeeping. Danielle thought about asking Esme if they should start setting up some of the decorations for the party, but when she remember how strict Alice was about making sure things were done exactly as she had envisioned, she thought it better not to bother. Alice would be home after she was done with school, and considering she could move at vampire speed, Danielle had complete confidence that her sister-in-law would be more than capable of decorating herself.
She was making something to eat for lunch when Bella called. Judging by the amount of chatter Danielle could hear when she picked up, she would guess Bella was at lunch, too. "Why hello there, birthday girl!" she said upon answering.
She could practically hear Bella cringing on the other end. "I told you not to tell me happy birthday," she grumbled.
"Did you? Must have completely slipped my mind," Danielle said innocently, which made Jasper chuckle under his breath. She motioned him closer, and once he was by the phone, she said, "Oh, and by the way, I almost forgot!"
With that she and Jasper sang a quick rendition of Happy Birthday, to what she assumed was likely Bella's utter horror. Once they had finished and she could hear Bella again, her friend was sighing helplessly. "You don't give up, do you?"
"Never in a million years," Danielle chirped happily. "Come on, Bella, you're eighteen! This is a big birthday! Be happy!" she encouraged.
"I'd be happier if everyone stopped making such a big deal out of it," Bella replied blandly. "But I have a feeling that's not gonna happen today, since I'm pretty sure Alice has something big planned for tonight," she added.
"Oh?" Danielle asked, feigning curiosity.
Bella snorted. "Don't even bother trying to pretend she doesn't have something up her sleeve. I know that you know what's going on," she said matter-of-factly. "So, just tell me – how bad is it?"
Danielle shared a look with Jasper, who shook his head in a signal not to give anything away. They had been sworn to secrecy about the details of the party because Alice was concerned that Bella wouldn't even step a foot in the direction of the house if she had any idea what was waiting for her. Better not to ruin the surprise, Danielle reasoned, or else she was going to be in serious trouble with a very bossy vampire.
"Bella, my friend, I'm afraid I have no idea what you're talking about," she denied.
"You're a terrible liar, you know that?" Bella retorted dryly. She started to say something else, but then stopped. "Edward's coming, so you're off the hook for now. But if I get blindsided by some obnoxiously over the top party tonight, know that I blame you."
Danielle laughed. "Whatever you say, Bella. Tell the gang I said hi! Have a nice rest of your day!"
She hung up before Bella could say anything more, then shared an amused look with Jasper. "She doesn't sound pleased," he commented. "Why exactly is she so against birthdays?"
Danielle shrugged. "I think she just doesn't like being the center of attention," she guessed. "That, and I think she's weirded out by the fact that she's older than Edward now."
Jasper gave her an odd look. "Edward is one hundred and nine," he stated.
"Technically, yes. But he stopped aging at seventeen, which means in Bella's eyes, she's older than him," Danielle explained, which had Jasper quirking a skeptical eyebrow. "She's just very against aging now that she's dating an immortal vampire, especially so considering said vampire refuses to accept her wishes to become a vampire herself."
Jasper thought that one over, then nodded slowly. "Understandable, I suppose. But I do think Edward will come around to the idea eventually. Perhaps it will take longer than Bella will like, but…if she is patient, I think she will get her wish in the end."
"Lord, let us hope so," Danielle said hopefully. "All the brooding they've been doing is starting to get a little too dramatic for me. I don't know how much more I can take."
Jasper smirked. "You and me both."
She finally started getting ready for the party around six o'clock. After fixing her hair into a cute style and applying just a little bit of makeup, she slipped on the dress Alice had bought for her. The knee length, short sleeved dress fit her perfectly, and when Jasper walked into the room just as she slipped on the same silver high heels she had worn to the Spring Fling, the smile he gave her sent butterflies flapping through her stomach.
"You look absolutely beautiful, darlin'," he said, stepping close and sliding an arm around her waist. "Though it'll be a little unfair of you to look better than the birthday girl at her own party."
"Thank you for the compliment," Danielle said, leaning into him. "And since the birthday girl in question didn't even want a party to begin with, I can look however I so please," she added with a firm nod.
Jasper chuckled, then leaned in to kiss her, which was even easier thanks to the added height from her heels. When he kissed her longer than she had expected and she felt his hands start to roam, Danielle abruptly pulled her lips away from his to wag her finger at him sternly. "Now's not the time to get carried away, Hale. The party will start soon, and you know Alice will murder us herself if we're late."
Jasper lifted an eyebrow. "It's not as though we have to travel far. We live two seconds away," he stated.
"And you still haven't changed for the party, which means you need to start getting ready yourself," she pointed out.
Jasper looked at her for a moment, smirked, then disappeared into the closet before she could blink. Approximately three seconds later he was back in front of her, having changed into his party clothes and sporting a very smug expression. "You were saying?"
Danielle just laughed and rolled her eyes. "Show off."
In the end, Jasper kept his hands to himself so that she wouldn't be preoccupied while she made quick work of putting Bella's gift together. When she was finished, it was close enough to seven for them to leave for the party, so Jasper picked her up so that her shoes wouldn't take a beating from the forest, and then they were off.
Alice greeted them at the door, looking far too excited for the festivities to come. "Perfect timing! Quick! Come in!" she urged, motioning them forward rapidly. "Bella and Edward will be here soon!"
Jasper set her back on her own two feet, and together they followed Alice up onto the main floor. When she stepped into the living room and saw all the work that Alice had put into the decorations, she stopped and looked around with amazed, wide eyes. Candles adorned every flat surface in sight, accompanied by all of the crystal bowls they had purchased, which were filled with red roses, giving the room a pleasant, flowery smell. A table had been set up near the piano and had been draped with a pretty, white tablecloth. On top of it was more candles and bowls full of flowers, as well as a stack of presents intended for Bella.
Danielle made the rounds and greeted the family with hugs, then smiled widely as she approached Alice. "This place looks amazing!"
Alice smiled proudly as she looked over her handiwork. "It does, doesn't it?" Danielle laughed at her blatant lack of humbleness. "You look amazing, by the way. The dress fits you perfect!"
"Yes, it does. Thank you for getting it," Danielle said. "What do I owe you for it?"
Alice huffed and waved her question away. "Nothing." Danielle started to protest, but Alice merely held up a hand to silence her. "Your money literally means nothing to me. Now go into the kitchen and grab the cake from the refrigerator," she ordered, giving her a gentle shove in that direction.
There was no use arguing with her – she knew she wouldn't win. Danielle gave her sister-in-law a look, which Alice ignored, and went into the kitchen to retrieve the cake. There was a fancy looking cake stand on the table with the presents, so Danielle took the cake out of the box it had been transported in and set it atop the stand. The cake looked delicious, and she was selfishly glad that the Cullen's didn't eat human food – maybe she'd be able to take an extra slice or two home with her after the party was finished.
"I must admit," Jasper said as he joined her at the table and deposited Bella's present with the others. She thought he was going to compliment the set up of the party, but instead he smirked and said, "I cannot wait to see Bella's reaction to all of this."
Danielle smiled, glanced toward Alice, then leaned in closer. "She's gonna be horrified," she muttered with a conspiratorial grin. "It's gonna be hilarious."
"What are you two whispering about over here?" Emmett asked as he appeared behind them.
"Oh, nothing," Danielle answered aloofly. It was then that she noticed Emmett was holding what looked like a new stereo system for a vehicle, which had her lifting a questioning eyebrow. "What's that for?"
"My present to Bella," he said. "After they come inside and start making the rounds, I'm going to run out to her truck and install it so she can't even try to take it back," he revealed with a smug smile.
"You can do that that fast?" Danielle asked.
Emmett puffed his chest out. "Course I can. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy." Emmett suddenly cocked his head to the side, then grinned broadly. "Alright, I can hear that monstrosity coming down the road. Show time!"
And with that he disappeared to go and hide the stereo system, before reappearing only a few moments later and dropping an arm around Rosalie's shoulders, his expression giving nothing away. Alice began clapping excitedly and gathered everyone close to the stairs, looking beside herself as she did one last quick check to make sure everything was as it was supposed to be. It took a few more minutes, but finally Danielle could hear the loud rumble of Bella's old truck outside, which had her smiling eagerly at Jasper. He smiled back and looped an arm around her waist, then turned his attention to the stairs as the front door opened.
When Bella and Edward finally appeared at the top of the stairs, everyone shouted, "Happy Birthday!"
While Edward smiled at his family's enthusiasm, Bella froze with surprise, her wide eyes taking in the decorations, the cake, and the many presents on the table. "Wow," she breathed, her eyes glancing around at all their smiling faces. "This is…"
It seemed for a moment that she was going to say it was too much, so when Bella's gaze suddenly met hers, Danielle did her best to silently convey just how much work Alice had put into everything and how eager everyone had been to celebrate. Bella seemed to understand the message, because she smiled instead. "This is really nice."
Alice leapt toward her first and wrapped her in an enthusiastic hug. "You have no idea how happy I am to hear you say that," she said, which had Bella and Danielle sharing a quick look over the vampire's shoulder. "So, what do you want first?" Alice asked as she pulled away. "Cake or presents?"
"Alice, she just walked through the door!" Esme said as she stepped forward to greet Bella. "Let the rest of us at least hug her before you pull her in a million different directions."
With that Esme hugged Bella and wished her happy birthday again, then moved aside so Carlisle could drop an arm around Bella's shoulder. "Sorry about this, Bella," he said with an easy smile. "I know you didn't want a party, but there was no reining Alice in."
Bella nodded in understanding and gave a small smile. "Honestly, I would have been more surprised if you had been able to rein her in," she said with a shrug.
Carlisle laughed, then released her as Emmett and Rosalie stepped up to greet her.
"You haven't changed at all," Emmett commented, feigning disappointment. "I expected a noticeable difference, but here you are, red-faced as usual."
"Thanks a lot, Emmett," Bella said with sarcasm, even as her cheeks reddened more.
Emmett laughed and ruffled her hair. "I'm just messing around with you. You're such an easy target." Bella didn't say anything to that, just rolled her eyes a little. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to step outside for a second. Don't party too hard while I'm gone."
Emmett brushed past Bella and Edward, turned to shoot a wink at Alice and give Danielle a thumbs up, then disappeared without another word. Once he was gone, Bella turned to Rosalie, looking nervous all of a sudden.
"Hi, Rosalie," she greeted. "And welcome back. I'm glad you guys could come."
Rosalie gave a small smile, which Danielle was relieved to see – when she snuck a look at Edward, he seemed pleased, too. Rosalie and Bella's relationship, while somewhat improved after all the time they had spent around each other during Danielle and Jasper's wedding, still wasn't stellar. It was definitely a work in progress, but at least Rosalie was significantly more tolerant than she had been in the past.
"Thanks. And…happy birthday," Rosalie said back.
Bella nodded, then finally turned her eyes to Danielle. Danielle immediately broke free of Jasper's hold and went to crush her friend in a hug, which made Bella laugh at her enthusiasm. "I said it already, but I'll say it again – happy birthday!"
Bella patted her back and had a much bigger smile on her face when they separated. "Thanks, even though you didn't even need to say it the other times."
Danielle huffed. "And what kind of friend would I be if I didn't tell you happy birthday?" she asked incredulously.
"A friend who did what the birthday girl asked?" Bella offered.
Danielle rolled her eyes and looked at Edward, who looked amused. "Has she been this mopey all day?"
"Afraid so," he answered.
Bella nudged Edward with her elbow, then turned a friendly smile on Jasper. "Hi, Jasper," she greeted.
Jasper moved forward, his arm finding its way around Danielle's waist again. "Hello, Bella. Your birthday hasn't been too torturous, I hope?"
Bella shrugged noncommittally. "There's been a little more fuss over it than I'm used to," she admitted. "But I guess it hasn't been as bad as I was expecting," she added with a smile.
Edward looked at Bella with exaggerated shock. "Are you saying you're actually enjoying your birthday? Are you feeling well?" he then asked, pressing a hand to her forehead. "Should we have Carlisle look you over?"
While Danielle and Jasper laughed, Bella rolled her eyes. "Ha ha, very funny," she retorted.
That was around the time Alice decided that she'd had enough of all the chitchat. She practically skipped her way back to Bella's side and snaked an arm around one of Bella's, effectively pulling her away from Edward. "Okay, since you won't decide what to do first, I'll make the executive decision. I say we start with presents!" she announced.
"Alice – " Bella started to protest.
"Oh, hush," Danielle interjected, leaving Jasper's side again to follow them to the table. "We love you and we're going to spoil you, so just shut it and open up your gifts!"
"Thank you, Dani," Alice said, looking glad for the reinforcements. "Now," she said, turning to the table, "which one should we start with?"
The rest of the Cullen's wandered a little closer now that the present opening was commencing. Edward rejoined Bella and whispered something in her ear that made Bella smile. As Alice grabbed the first present and turned to give it to Bella, Bella leaned over to Danielle and handed over a camera, which Danielle hadn't even noticed until that moment.
"Mom wanted me to take pictures of the party tonight," she said. "Would you mind?"
Danielle took the camera. "Sure."
Bella smiled thankfully and turned to take the present Alice was offering her. Just then, Emmett reappeared by Danielle's side, looking proud. "Four minutes, twenty-eight seconds," he muttered.
Danielle smirked. "Good job, Big Foot," she said, before turning the camera on him to snap a quick picture. She wasn't at all surprised that he struck a goofy pose, which made her laugh.
Danielle refocused her attention on Bella as she shook the box that Alice had given her. She seemed confused, though Danielle wasn't sure why. "It's from Emmett," Alice announced, practically bouncing up and down. Danielle bit back a laugh at her sister-in-law's obvious joy.
Bella glanced at Emmett, then ripped the pretty wrapping paper off. Danielle snapped a picture while she was in the process. The empty stereo box made her look even more perplexed, before she raised uncertain eyes to Emmett. "Er…thank you?"
"You're welcome," Emmett replied with a grin. "The stereo is already installed, so don't even bother trying to return it." He stood taller, looking pleased. "It's about time you had a decent system for that hunk of – "
"Hey," Bella interrupted. "Don't hate on the truck," she warned.
Emmett held his hands up in surrender and went quiet.
"Okay, ours next," Danielle declared, stepping forward to grab their present from the table. She motioned Jasper closer and passed the camera to Alice, who happily snapped a couple of pictures of Bella and Edward while she had the chance. Once Jasper was by her side, Danielle handed Bella their gift. "This is from me and Jasper."
Bella gave her a mild look. "I told you not to get me a present, you know," she reminded.
"I know. So we didn't get you a present. We got you two presents!" she said with a grin.
As Bella sighed and began digging around in the bag that Danielle had stuffed the presents into, Danielle shot a wink at Jasper, who winked back. Bella pulled out the first gift, a dainty, golden bracelet with a single, malachite gemstone attached, which they had picked up in Brazil. Bella smiled when she saw it, then looked up at her.
"It's from Brazil. Do you like it?" Danielle asked hopefully.
"It's really pretty. Thank you," she said. "And thank you," she added, looking at Jasper.
"You're welcome," he said back.
As glad as Danielle was that she liked the bracelet, she still motioned to the bag. "Don't forget the second present!"
Bella nodded, slipped the bracelet on her wrist, then dug into the bag again. This time she produced an envelope, which contained two concert tickets to a live performance from a band they both liked. Bella's eyes widened with surprise, then she looked at Danielle with excitement. "Seriously?"
"Seriously!" Danielle confirmed. "They're playing in Seattle in a few months. We'll have ourselves a little girl date and party the night away!"
Bella smiled widely and finally moved to hug Danielle. Danielle heard Alice snap another picture. "This is great! Thank you!"
"You're welcome!" Danielle said, squeezing her for good measure.
"Alright, ours next!" Alice said once they separated. She handed the camera back to Danielle, grabbed a small package from the table, and handed it to Rosalie. "Give it to her," she encouraged.
Jasper stepped back a few paces to make room for Rosalie as she moved to give the box to Bella. "It's a necklace," she blurted out before Bella had a chance to even open it. "Alice picked it out. She said it should match the bracelet Dani and Jasper gave you."
"Oh," Bella said, looking a little taken aback by the fact that Rosalie had ruined the surprise. "Okay. Thanks."
Rosalie nodded, then retreated back to Emmett's side. Alice heaved a little and shot Rosalie a look, before taking the box back out of Bella's hand before she had the chance to open it. "Well, since Rosalie already told you what it is, we'll move on to Carlisle and Esme's," she said, before grabbing a different present.
"Just a little something to brighten your day," Carlisle said as Bella accepted the present.
"We thought you'd been looking a little pale lately," Esme added, sharing a knowing smile with Carlisle.
Bella nodded, then stuck a finger under a fold in the wrapping to jerk it open. As she did, however, she hissed and shook her hand. "Ow," Bella said, cringing as she held her hand up higher for inspection.
Danielle frowned and moved a step closer. "Did you slice your finger?" she asked with concern.
What happened next happened so quickly, Danielle didn't even have time to register what was going on. One moment she was standing next to Bella, frowning at her friend's now bleeding finger with concern and doubting there would be any band-aids nearby – then, the next thing she knew, there was a vicious snarl behind her and Edward was shoving Bella back so forcefully that she soared over the table housing the cake and presents and crashed into the wall behind it.
Danielle stared at Bella in shock, then whipped around as there was an all too familiar sound of boulders crashing together. When she saw Jasper, her heart dropped into the pit of her stomach. Jasper, her Jasper, looked rabid. His eyes were pitch black and his teeth were bared, his face contorted with ravenous, murderous hunger. Emmett and Carlisle were holding him back, though it looked like it was taking all of their strength to do so. Jasper's eyes were locked on Bella, who was now bleeding more from a cut that had opened up on her arm when she had collided with the mirror that had been hanging on the wall, which had shattered and sent dangerous shards all over the place.
Finally, Danielle caught up to the situation at hand and realized what had happened.
Bella's blood. The scent of it must have made something in Jasper snap, and now he was completely overcome with hunger.
She had never seen him like this. She remembered what he had been like when he and Edward had killed James. He had been enraged, and he had been brutal as he had fought to save her life. But he had still been himself. Yet now…now he was different. He was wild with hunger to the point of incoherency. This wasn't her husband. This wasn't her Jasper. She felt she was finally seeing a glimpse of the vampire he might have been before he had found the Cullen's, the vampire that had fought and killed under Maria for so many years.
"Jasper, calm down!" Carlisle was instructing in a stern voice. "Jasper, enough."
But he wasn't listening. The scent of Bella's blood was too strong, too alluring. If there was ever a time to be afraid of him, it was probably now, when he was far beyond rational thought and ruled by his thirst for blood. But Danielle wasn't afraid. All she wanted to do was try to help him.
Danielle suddenly surged forward with determination, and between Bella's freely bleeding wound and Jasper's sudden savageness, the rest of the Cullen's were too preoccupied to pick up on what she was doing. Before any of them could stop her, Danielle was right in front of Jasper and placing her hands on either side of his neck, so that her face was the only thing he could see.
"Dani, no!" Carlisle shouted, looking alarmed by her closeness.
"It isn't safe!" Emmett also argued, his expression one of horror.
She ignored them both and kept her eyes focused on Jasper. "Jasper," she said firmly. "Listen to me. You need to stop. Now."
She honestly hadn't known if it would work or not, but to the surprise of everyone in the room, it did. Jasper ceased to struggle against the firm hold of Emmett and Carlisle and his snarls died in his throat. His chest heaved a few times, and his nostrils were still flaring as he smelled the scent of blood, but as his darkened eyes focused on hers, she could see clarity coming back to them again.
Danielle smiled gently, her thumbs tracing his cheekbones. "That's it," she said soothingly. "It's okay. I'm here. Just…calm down."
It was eerily quiet now, save for the comforting words Danielle continued to murmur to Jasper as he came back to himself. After a few moments, Carlisle glanced back and forth between the two of them, then finally seemed to decide that Jasper was in control enough for Emmett to handle alone. He gave Emmett a look that plainly said not to let Jasper go, but he released his own hold and took a step back.
"Why don't you take Jasper outside?" Carlisle suggested gently. "Fresh air will do him some good."
Emmett nodded. "Come on, Jasper."
Danielle let her hands drop from Jasper's face as Emmett pulled him away and led him to the stairs that would take them outside. Jasper did not put up a fight, nor did he look at Danielle as they left. She watched their retreating backs until they were gone, then looked at Carlisle, who stared back in wonderment for a moment before hurrying to Bella's side.
Now that Jasper was under control again, she was remembering how badly Bella had been hurt. She turned to rush to her friend's side, watching as Carlisle looked over the nasty gash in her arm. "Are you okay?" she asked.
Bella grimaced and looked paler than usual, but still nodded. "Yeah, I'm…I'm alright," she said.
Danielle couldn't feel too relieved, since it was clear her friend was in pain. She glanced back to see that Alice, Esme, and Rosalie were all leaving the room, apparently too overwhelmed with the palpable stench of blood to stay. When her eyes landed on Edward and she saw the look on his face, a sense of dread immediately filled her stomach. He looked deeply upset, perhaps even more upset than he had been during the incident with James.
"This will need stitching," Carlisle said to grab her attention again, his handsome face pulled into a frown. He looked at Edward, noted the look on his face, then sighed. "You should leave the room for a bit," he suggested. "I can take care of Bella." When Edward didn't respond, just continued to stare at Bella with that look on his face, Carlisle tried again. "Edward." That finally caught the vampire's attention. "Go. She will be fine."
Edward finally nodded, then turned and swiftly left the room, his spine stiff as a board.
"Dani," Carlisle said, making her look back to him. "You should go to Jasper," he suggested gently. "I imagine he is quite upset with himself right now, and it would appear you are the only one he will listen to. He needs you."
Danielle didn't need to be told twice. She nodded, then reached down to squeeze Bella's shoulder. "I'll be right outside if you need me," she said.
Bella nodded and tried to smile, but it came out more as a grimace.
Danielle started to leave, but a cold hand on her arm made her look at Carlisle again. "Keep Emmett close, just in case," he instructed, his expression serious again.
Danielle nodded, then hurried for the door.
As she stepped outside and was hit with the moist, night air, she did not see Jasper or Emmett anywhere. She glanced back and forth, trying to figure out where they had gone, a bad feeling sinking into her gut as the seconds ticked by and there was nothing to see but the swaying trees of the forest around the Cullen house.
"Jasper?" Danielle finally called, her heels clacking against the pavement as she walked down into the driveway. "Jasper?" she called again, this time cupping her hands around her mouth to make herself louder.
The only response was the rustling of the leaves in the trees and the whistle of the wind in her own ears.
Danielle sighed heavily and was about to go inside to ask one of the other Cullen's if they had seen or heard which direction Jasper had gone, when a figure suddenly emerged from the bushes on the other side of the road. Danielle felt a swell of hope, then quickly deflated when she saw that it wasn't Jasper.
Emmett's expression was uncharacteristically grim as he strode toward her. Danielle glanced past him, just waiting for Jasper to appear, but he didn't. Her attention shifted back to Emmett, who crossed his massive arms over his chest as he stopped before her. There was a weird vibe coming from him, and Danielle didn't like it one bit.
"Where is he?" she asked quietly. "Where's Jasper?"
Emmett hesitated to answer. "He was…really upset," he said. "I tried to talk him down, I tried to stop him, but…I couldn't."
That feeling of dread in her belly intensified. "Emmett, where is he?" she asked again, this time more forcefully.
Emmett frowned deeply, then finally said, "He left. Jasper's gone."
*quickly runs away before people start throwing tomatoes and rocks*
Hope you enjoyed the chapter! See you soon! And as always, stay safe and stay healthy!