Hey guys! The first four chapters of this story have been uploaded to Stars and my WP. The wonderful 4padfoot also created an amazing banner for it, so check it out when you have the time.
Before you sink your teeth into this chapter, I just wanna remind you all that newborn Bella is going to be a lot different than the one from the books. That Bella was surrounded by a loving family and an overprotective husband. She ultimately felt happy and safe. This Bella is not happy. She's grieving and she feels very alone. And she definitely does not feel safe. Even though she's seen Jasper and reacted positively to him, she's extremely cautious of who he is now. She trusts him on an innate level, which she proved during the last chapter, but her conscious mind keeps warning her to be careful and guarded around him.
Her frame of mind going into the change is extremely important because it's going to impact her behavior. She was also very determined to prove she wasn't weak when Peter bit her. As we all know, vampires find it nearly impossible to change and Bella's no different, so expect a fiercer version of her from here on out. While some things about her will remain the same because she's still our Bella at heart, she's going to come across as a lot tougher and more predatory than she did in Breaking Dawn. The circumstances of her change pretty much guarantee that.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. The Twilight Saga belongs to Stephanie Meyers. I'm just a fan who prefers her Bella with a little more bite.
Deciding not to risk allowing any of the others around Bella until after she lost her human scent, Jasper left Peter in charge of guarding her throughout her change. To Peter's amusement, Bella never screamed, not even when Jasper finally stopped sedating her and they had to remind her of where she was. She stopped responding to his taunts an hour into the second day, so Peter just talked to her, passing the time by telling her stories of battles he'd fought at Jasper's side. He wasn't sure she could even understand him by that point, but he thought a familiar voice might help keep her calm.
What really surprised Peter were the random times Jasper dropped in. The emotions of newborns were often exhausting and it wasn't unusual for him to take small breaks throughout the day, but Jasper was starting to spend less and less of those breaks alone. Instead, he'd sit next to Bella for a couple minutes at a time, his eyes closed and his back resting against her cot. He hadn't spoken to her directly since he'd torn off her shirt, but he always said something to Peter whenever he visited loud enough for her to hear.
It took Peter a while to understand just what the man was up to before he finally figured out that the sound of Jasper's voice made Bella's emotions shift into something lighter. Whatever she was feeling whenever he spoke was soothing to the empath. Though he was careful to never reveal it to Bella or their soldiers, Jasper was drawn to her emotions and Peter couldn't decide if that was a good thing or not. While he was glad that Jasper could find some relief by focusing on her, those emotions were likely triggered by memories of Jasper in the future. He wasn't yet the man that he would be in Bella's time and Peter was concerned about how she'd react to him once her training started. He was equally concerned about how Jasper would react if Bella stopped feeling those positive emotions around him.
Most of the newborns were terrified of Jasper. Even Peter had been afraid of him for the majority of that first year. Like most soldiers fighting side by side in a war, the two of them had eventually developed a strong bond of brotherhood, but Jasper didn't treat the new recruits the same way he treated Peter. After over two decades of fighting at the man's side, Peter had become an equal in Jasper's eyes. He'd earned that respect and when nobody else was around, like the night Peter brought Bella back to the barn, Jasper treated him like a brother.
Bella had only ever heard Jasper speak to Peter, so what would happen when she finally saw Jasper in his normal role, the strict, unyielding commander of Maria's forces? How would she feel about Jasper then? And how would Jasper handle sensing it?
At the end of the second day, Maria visited the barn with Jasper at her side, deciding she wanted to take a look at the new recruit. Peter scrambled to his feet when he scented her approach and was standing at attention by the time they walked through the door.
"Capitán," Maria acknowledged as she glided into the barn. There was always a seductive edge to her voice that he would never get used to, turning every word she spoke into a sensual purr.
"Mistress," he formally replied, bowing his head in greeting.
"So this is the new recruit," Maria remarked as she stopped at Bella's side. "Major Whitlock tells me you had one of your intuitive feelings about her," she said casually, gazing at Bella's trembling body with calculating eyes.
"Yes, mistress," Peter confirmed, glancing at Jasper. Though he didn't know what his brother had ultimately decided to share with Maria, he strongly suspected that Jasper mentioned nothing of the long talk Peter had with the girl before he changed her.
"Why is she so quiet?" Maria demanded, her flawless face twisting into a look of severe displeasure. "Are you helping her, Major? Sedating her? She needs to be able to handle pain if she's to survive in our world."
"I'm not sedatin' her, Maria," Jasper defended irritably. He never liked it when she questioned him.
As if Bella could sense the look of doubt on Maria's face, she groaned loudly in pain, her teeth audibly grinding with the effort it took to keep a scream at bay. Maria's attention snapped back to Bella with renewed interest while Jasper explained, "That's all her doin'. She refuses to scream, even when Peter moves her. I've heard her cry out just once and nothin' more."
"Que fascinante..." she breathed and the two men shared an uneasy look. "I believe you were right to change her, Capitán. She will be useful to me."
Peter felt his stomach twist at those familiar words. She'd said something similar about both him and Jasper back when they were changed, which meant she was already making long term plans for Bella. Though he and Jasper never actually voiced the thought, they'd been hoping Maria wouldn't take a special interest in her. It would be safer for Bella if she didn't, especially after they learned she was from a different time.
"She's a pretty, little thing," Maria commented offhandedly. "Una chica hermosa, ¿no? You may have to remind the others what happens to soldiers who take a mate, Major."
Peter forced himself not to react to the sudden undercurrent of tension that swept through the barn. A tension that Maria, thankfully, seemed oblivious to. He had no romantic designs on Bella, but he definitely had a soft spot for the girl and wanted to protect her, as much as it was possible to protect a recruit anyway. Jasper, to Peter's surprise, had also shown signs of an urge to protect her and he knew Jasper was feeling every bit as tense as he was. They both knew all too well how instinct driven the male newborns were and Maria was right, Bella was extremely attractive. They were going to have to keep a sharp eye on the other newborns anytime they were around her.
The brown eyed beauty really hadn't been much to look at when Peter first met her. He'd even told her so. Her blood had smelled clean and delicious, but she'd looked weak and unhealthy. She was unnaturally pale for a human, almost sickly, her clothes hung too loosely from her thin frame, and her face had looked tired and drawn. A dark, garish bruise in the shape of a handprint had started to develop around her mouth and the circles beneath her eyes were so dark that Peter almost thought they were bruises too.
Now that his venom had been running through her veins for two full days, her appearance had changed drastically. Her skinny frame had already filled out. Instead of looking unnaturally thin, her body now possessed a whole wealth of sensual curves. Her skin had begun to lose its imperfections, taking on an entrancing ivory tone that would look nearly luminescent by the time she was finished. The harsh lines of her thin, heart shaped face had also softened and her dull brown hair was starting to darken into a rich sable color with burgundy lowlights. She was an entirely different creature now and she wasn't even done changing yet.
Peter hadn't realized just how beautiful Bella must've been when she was healthy and well fed, because she was downright gorgeous now and that wouldn't have been possible unless she was a natural beauty. All vampires were attractive, yes, because the venom enhanced their best features and erased their flaws, but enhanced was the key word. The venom couldn't create anything that wasn't already there, it just built upon what was. The breathtaking beauty that Bella now possessed meant she must've been quite stunning at some point. It made him wonder why she'd been so gaunt and frail looking the night he met her.
He also knew he wasn't the only one who'd been surprised by the changes in her appearance. Halfway through her second day, Jasper had come in to sit with her again, only to freeze mid step the second he laid eyes on her. His gaze had darkened almost instantly and coasted downward, hungrily roaming over the rest of her body. Seemingly in a stupor, Jasper only snapped out of it when Peter loudly cleared his throat.
Despite his telling reaction to her changing appearance, Peter wasn't overly concerned about Jasper's attraction to Bella. He knew Jasper wasn't stupid enough to take her as a mate, not when Maria had mates put to death. The only thing that really concerned him was the risk that Maria might pick up on that attraction somehow. Jasper and Maria hadn't been lovers for five years now, but she was still abnormally possessive of him. She'd created him and thought that made him hers, body and soul. It didn't really matter to her that Jasper no longer visited her bed, he was still her Major.
"We'll remind them, Maria," Jasper agreed.
Maria nodded and tilted her head curiously as she scanned Bella's face once more, "The youngest newborns are just over a month old, ¿sí? Will you be able to catch her up to their level before our next engagement?"
"It depends on how much control she has when the change is complete," Jasper said honestly, deciding not to sugarcoat it. "The Captain and I can work with her one on one if she can focus long enough."
Maria turned, catching Peter's gaze, "And what do you think, Capitán? What does your intuition say?"
"That she won't be the typical newborn, mistress," Peter admitted. "What that means, I ain't sure."
Maria nodded thoughtfully and gestured for Jasper to join her as she started towards the door, "Keep me informed."
Jasper returned three more times to sit beside Bella over the course of the last day. Peter was still uneasy about it, but he kept his concerns to himself. Nothing about their behavior during Bella's change had been normal and they both knew it. Jasper had never visited the other changing newborns like he did with Bella, unable to handle the immense levels of hopelessness, misery, confusion, and fear they often felt, but Peter's actions were no less unusual. He'd never tried to distract the others from their pain and he did that with Bella. He wanted to offer her the comfort and reassurance of a familiar voice and he'd never cared enough about any of the others to do that before.
She was different and neither man wanted to acknowledge it. Instead, they'd come to a silent agreement not to point out just how oddly the other one was acting.
When Bella entered the last stage of the change, they waited together for her heartbeat to die. Impatient for her to wake up, Peter was pacing excitedly, his body practically buzzing with anticipation. Jasper watched him with thinly veiled amusement from the wall he was casually leaning against, his relaxed stance projecting a calm aura that had always served him best when dealing with waking newborns. Appearing too threatening would set them off, but acting submissive would only make it harder for Jasper to assert his authority later on.
Peter finally came to a stop about five feet away from her cot when her pulse started to race, a sign that the venom was attacking her heart. Bella's heart beat faster than the wings of a hummingbird for a split second before her back arched. A tortured scream ripped through the air, chilling him to the bone. Her heart gave one last, resounding thud before it stopped beating altogether and Bella finally collapsed back onto the cot.
Peter couldn't help but be a little awed by the girl. That was the one and only time she screamed during her change.
Instead of opening her eyes right away, he and Jasper watched in fascination as her fingers twitched before she slowly inhaled, tasting the different scents in the air. She appeared to be taking her time, waiting as long as she possibly could to open her eyes. Her obvious reluctance to do so was familiar to Peter, who observed her behavior with an expression of pure entertainment, a slow smile spreading across his face.
"Keepin' your eyes closed ain't gonna do you an ounce of good, sweetheart," he drawled when his patience finally ran out. "I thought I told ya that already."
Startled by the sound of his voice, Bella reacted immediately, springing up at an inhuman speed. She landed gracefully on the middle of the cot in a very catlike crouch, her bright red eyes trained on Peter with a preternatural intensity.
Peter hadn't exactly been in motion to begin with, but all movement instantly ceased the second she trained that predatory gaze on him. He suppressed a shudder as he stared back at her, unnerved by her singleminded focus. Most newborns had a hard time focusing at all after the change, but Bella clearly didn't have that problem. The calculating manner in which she studied him, as if she were lazily running through all the different ways she could take him apart, stole the very air from his lungs. There was an undeniable intensity to Bella, a certain animalistic lethality, that made her unlike any of the newborns they'd dealt with in the past.
Peter could still clearly remember her as the fascinating human girl he'd met, could still picture the lively flush of her cheeks and hear the beat of her heart, which made the inhuman change in her behavior so incredibly eerie. The venom had burnt away her humanity, like it did in every human allowed to complete the change, but Peter had never been so aware of that fact before. The differences in her were stark and unyielding. There was no mistaking her for anything other than a predator now.
Thoroughly unsettled, Peter didn't so much as breathe as Bella's darkening eyes roamed over his body, her muscles tensing noticeably at the sight of his many battle scars. Jasper shifted in reaction, prepared to interfere if she attacked or tried to flee, and Bella's predatory gaze snapped in his direction. Just like Peter, the man stilled as the newborn studied him from head to toe. Then her attention was drawn to his face and something in her demeanor shifted. The black started to recede from her eyes and her muscles relaxed one by one until every muscle in her body was at ease. She then slowly straightened up and casually stepped off the cot, her feet hitting the ground with a gentle thud.
"Well, I'll be damned," Peter murmured in astonishment. He'd never seen a freshly risen newborn override the fight or flight instinct before.
"How did you do that?" Jasper demanded as he took a cautious step forward. Though he managed to keep his expression neutral, Peter knew the man was every bit as astonished as he was.
Bella tensed on reflex and they both watched her intently as she willed her muscles to slowly relax all over again. Her reaction assured them that it wasn't a fluke. She was actively forcing herself to ignore the need to fight or flee. Whether she was consciously aware she was doing it, however, was another matter entirely.
Bella unknowingly gave them the answer to that question when she tilted her head curiously, her confusion obvious. Her eyes trailed over Jasper's scars once more as she asked, "Do what?"
Jolting in surprise, Bella touched her throat with her fingertips. Her eyes widened in amazement over the change in her own voice. Peter chuckled at her, but was secretly just as amazed. It was a rich sound, but lower than he remembered, reminding him of the beautifully low tones his sister used to play on her viola back home. It was a shockingly sensual voice, sultry sounding, and oh so very smooth. Even Jasper paused in appreciation, though he didn't let it distract him from what he wanted to know.
"Ignore your instincts," Jasper clarified as he drifted closer, watching her muscles tense and relax with every careful step he took. "How are you doin' it? You're too controlled."
Bella's lips twitched and Jasper's eyes narrowed at the sight. A tension started to seep into the air that made Peter squirm uncomfortably. He wasn't sure who was the real danger in that moment, Jasper or the allegedly volatile newborn.
"You find me amusin'?" Jasper asked darkly. Peter internally cringed at the undisguised anger in his voice.
"No," Bella replied as she lowered her hand back down to her side, unknowingly pissing Jasper off even more. Wincing, Peter nearly bit his tongue to stop himself from asking why the hell she ever thought it would be a good idea to lie to an empath. Jasper could no doubt feel her amusement and would know she was lying straight to his face.
He was just beginning to fear the girl was dumber than she looked when Bella explained, "I'm amused that you think I'm the one who's too controlled. Every move you make is calculated, Jasper. Measured." His sire twitched in surprise at how casually she uttered his first name, as if she'd said it countless times before. "I bet your mind is racing with plans and contingency plans right now. You know the location of every exit in this room without even looking and you know exactly what you'd do if I made a break for one." Raising an eyebrow at him, she asked sardonically, "Do you really think I'm the one who's too controlled?"
Peter wanted to laugh so badly it hurt, a fact that would've undoubtedly earned him a dark look from the resident empath if the man's eyes weren't currently glued to their baffling newborn. He'd been concerned about how Bella would react to learning that Jasper was a different man than the one she knew, but it turned out that he didn't need to be. She already knew Jasper wasn't the same man and it reminded Peter of what she told him the night he bit her, that Jasper wasn't "a friendly type of guy." His voice might've triggered warm emotions, but there were no blinders on her eyes and she wasn't fooling herself into believing Jasper was anything like the one she'd met in her time.
Even so, Bella was incredibly perceptive, which was an extremely unusual trait for a newborn to have. Instead of being easily distracted and unfocused, she was hyperaware of everything around her, especially Jasper. It cracked Peter up because she'd barely spoken to the man and, apparently, she could already read him like an open book.
The Jasper she knew was a man of peace. This one was a man of war. Bella saw the difference easily.
"She's identified you as the biggest threat to her, Major," Peter noted with an amused grin, subtly explaining why she was analyzing his behavior. "Bella knows she'll never make it past ya."
It was incredibly impressive. Bella had somehow suppressed her fight or flight instincts in favor of studying Jasper's actions. One look at him was all she needed to see that fighting or fleeing would only end badly for her. At the same time, she wasn't behaving defensively, so she'd also somehow come to the unlikely conclusion that he wasn't going to attack her unprovoked, and Peter found that even more intriguing. He honestly wasn't sure if she'd arrived at that conclusion because of something she'd seen or because she recognized Jasper from the future and was letting her memories of him influence her decisions.
"He is," Bella confirmed, bravely risking a glance at Peter, "but that's not why I'm still here." Her gaze darted back to Jasper. "I'm not going anywhere," she stressed, her voice firm and uncompromising.
Jasper's guarded expression hadn't changed, but Peter could see the surprise in his eyes; she'd blindsided him. He'd warned Jasper that she wouldn't be the typical newborn, but even Peter hadn't expected things to go quite like this. Bella wasn't acting like any newborn they'd ever met before and neither of them were sure how to treat her now. She hadn't made even one threatening move towards either of them, but her eerie self control made her seem infinitely more dangerous than the typical newborn.
"You're sayin' that you wouldn't run for the door if ya thought ya could make it?" Jasper challenged, taking another cautious step towards her. "You've been changed for the express purpose of servin' in an army. Most newborns need a lesson or two before that sinks in."
Normally, they took advantage of the typical newborn's fight or flight instinct to bully them into submission and teach them who was in charge, but Bella hadn't given them that opportunity. She hadn't tried to run or attack and neither man would punish her unprovoked. They were in the business of war, not senseless torture, and attacking her to prove a point she already understood, that it was not okay to run from or attack her commanding officers, would've been senseless torture. As incredible as her ability to overrule her natural instincts was, it meant that they weren't sure what to do next. She was the first newborn they'd ever met who hadn't attacked or tried to run after completing the change.
Bella's face briefly flickered with sadness before she schooled her features and asked, "What would be the point? Where would I even go?" She let out a dejected laugh, "I'm a vampire now." Jasper raised his eyebrows skeptically and Bella pointed out, "I'm not from here, Jasper. I was dropped in the heart of your territory. Even if I wanted to run, I don't know where I am or anyone around here."
"Or when you are, right?" Jasper asked knowingly. Her eyes hardened in response and his lips started to lift into a darkly amused smile.
Refusing to answer that question, Bella watched him carefully in return, her brow creased in confusion. She obviously wasn't sure how Jasper knew that. If her expression were anything to go by, it left her feeling unbalanced, like she'd been caught flatfooted on uneven terrain.
"The shirt ya were wearin'," Peter hinted, drawing Bella's gaze, "it had Established in 1945 written on the back. That's why we had to destroy it."
She threw a brief glance at her shirt in surprise, belatedly remembering that someone had changed it. A brief flash of sadness and loss flickered across her face as she registered what that meant, that they'd destroyed the last physical tie she had to her father. Before she could become too overwhelmed by the loss, Peter pressed, "What year are ya from, Bella?"
"What year is it now?" she countered, not giving an inch. Peter glanced at his irritated sire, amused that she wasn't going to let him hold that over her.
Before Jasper could interfere, Bella seemed to sense his building displeasure. Looking at him earnestly, she compromised, "Look, I swear I'm not trying to be difficult, Jasper, but you have information that I clearly need and I have information you do. How about we trade? A little quid pro quo." Peter could tell she was trying not to smile when she looked his way again, sensing that he was more likely to give her answers than Jasper was. With a wink, she damn near purred, "C'mon, Peter, show me yours and I'll show you mine."
"Shit," Peter coughed out in surprise, something he could confidently say he hadn't done since he was human. She had no idea just how seductive she sounded and he was a little afraid she was going to get his ass kicked. He hadn't missed how quickly Jasper's eyes had darkened when she used that tone. "Do women really talk like that in your time? Liable to give a man a heart attack with language like that."
Bella laughed and the musical sound made the lingering tension in the room fade. Despite his frustration with her, Jasper looked hypnotized by the sound of her laughter. Peter had heard her laugh a few days back, so he wasn't as enthralled as Jasper was, but he definitely still enjoyed it. It'd been years since either man had heard a genuine laugh, especially back at camp. For so long, their lives had been nothing but pain and death. A laugh like hers was a rare and beautiful thing.
"It's 1896," Peter finally offered, watching warily when Bella's face fell and her muscles tensed. He could tell that it was hard for her to hear and looked over at Jasper, noticing the matching tension in his shoulders. Whatever emotions Bella was working through were obviously intense.
"2005," she said finally, her voice so soft that Peter almost asked her to repeat it. "I'm from 2005. I was born in 1987." Her eyes took on a distinctly hazy, distant gleam. "Damn," she murmured, looking so utterly lost that Peter couldn't help but pity her, "my parents won't even be born for another 70 years."
There was a significant pause while Peter and Jasper absorbed that. They hadn't expected her to be from a time that far in the future. Hell, a part of Peter hadn't truly believed Bella was from the future at all. He wanted to believe there was an entirely different, logical explanation for the shirt she'd been wearing and the things that she knew. He knew she was telling the truth, though. His gut, which Jasper and Maria were convinced was a key part of his gift, told him that she was being honest.
Peter shared a quick look of surprise with Jasper when he realized a beat later that she was only eighteen. They'd expected her to be older for some reason and had just assumed that Bella had aged well, that she looked younger than she actually was. She behaved so rationally, like someone with years of life experience, that it was hard to believe she wasn't in her twenties. Bella was more than old enough to be considered an adult with a family of her own by society's standards, but most women her age weren't as calm as she was. They were more impulsive, rasher, less poised. It wasn't often that someone so young showcased her level of maturity and control.
With a small shake of her head, Bella sighed heavily and looked at Jasper with a beautifully sad smile, "It looks like you're stuck with me, Jasper. I've got nowhere to be for at least a hundred years."
"What about that coven ya wanted to join?" Jasper asked, not quite ready to believe her. "Am I gonna turn around one day and find out you've taken off to look for 'em?"
Bella leveled Peter with an accusing look, quickly realizing he'd shared everything she'd confided in him with Jasper. Peter shrugged sheepishly and she glared at him for a second longer before sighing in defeat, "That's unlikely. They haven't been born yet either."
"None of them?" Jasper challenged, stepping closer. He was just three feet away from her now. Though he'd been subtle about trying to close the distance between them, Peter was sure that Bella still noticed. He had a feeling very little escaped her. Even so, she didn't appear to feel threatened. Surprisingly, she'd even stopped tensing every time Jasper moved.
"All but two," she said quietly, looking down at her feet. "Carlisle, the coven leader, was turned in the 1600s. I'm not sure where he is now, but I know he lived with the Volturi for a while. Probably best if I stayed away from Italy, don't you think?" she asked, glancing up at him before dropping her gaze again. "Hate to see what they would do with the things I know."
It was a logical argument, one that even made sense to a large degree, but the dejected look on her face told Peter that there was more to it than that. The coven she'd met, for all their peace and compassion, had left her behind in the future. For whatever reason, they didn't want her anymore and that rejection had left its mark on Bella. Jasper might've played a part in that decision, but it was obvious that he didn't feel that way about her now. Sure, she thought Jasper only wanted her to stay because he wanted to add her to the ranks, but that was enough for Bella. He wanted her around and that was all that really mattered to her. It was all she really needed.
It was a saddening realization to come to, that Jasper's desire to add Bella to the ranks would've been enough for her. It made Peter realize just how badly Jasper's future coven had torn apart her self esteem. He didn't know why they abandoned her, but he made a silent vow to himself that he'd never do to her what they did. Peter liked Bella, he had from the moment he met her, and he'd never leave her behind.
"And the other one?" Jasper asked and Peter was stunned by the gentleness in his voice. He wasn't sure if Jasper had come to the same sad realization that he had, if he was being affected by an emotion that he was sensing from her, or if it was her submissive stance that had gotten to him, but something about her made him soften. Maybe it was even a combination of all three.
"I'm already with him," she whispered, raising her head to look him in the eye, "but you know that already, don't you, Jasper? You can probably feel it. I loved everybody in that coven. Still do, if I'm honest with myself, and that means you can sense it. I knew you the least, but you're still the only family I've got left."
Her eyes darkened a shade as she closed that last bit of distance between them, an action that stunned them both. Boldly approaching a vampire with Jasper's scars wasn't something a normal newborn would do, especially one that had just given off such a submissive vibe. It was a calculating move, one that said she was aware that he'd been trying to get closer to her and that she wasn't afraid of him, "So if you're really determined to stay and play soldier, then don't worry about me trying to escape, because I'm not going anywhere without you."
The sheer vehemence in her tone took them aback. Peter didn't need to be able to sense her emotions to tell how strongly she felt about it. Three days ago, he had to persuade her into letting him change her and bring her back to camp, but now she was determined to remain there until Jasper decided to leave. Clearly, something had shifted over the last three days.
Peter couldn't say what was responsible for the sudden change, but it sent a thrill of anticipation running through him all the same. She'd just set something into motion with that declaration and he had a very good feeling about it. While he wasn't sure what it meant or what changes were heading their way, he was excited to watch it all play out.
"You plan to stay willingly solely because I'm here?" Jasper clarified, a hint of his amazement finally slipping through. They now understood why she didn't try to flee. "Even though that means goin' to war?"
Bella wasn't like their other newborns, which made her decision to stay so much more significant. She already knew that there was more to the vampire world than the territorial wars that defined their way of life. The others didn't leave because they didn't know any better. They mistakenly believed that the whole world was divided into feeding territories like theirs. Even Peter and Jasper hadn't known that covens outside of the South coexisted peacefully, which was something neither man had fully processed just yet.
Bella, on the other hand, had seen how northern covens lived with her own two eyes. She knew that a peaceful life awaited her if she could just find a way to escape, so deciding to stay with them instead was something that they both found difficult to wrap their heads around.
Bella's gaze shifted to Peter for a second before she locked eyes with Jasper again, "You don't know me yet, but you're family to me. I won't abandon my family."
The glance she'd given Peter was quick, but he got the message and it meant the world to him. For whatever reason, Bella had decided that he was family too.
Jasper's jaw visibly tightened, his tense reaction reminding Peter of the conversation they'd had when Bella was sedated. Bella wasn't accusing Jasper of anything and hadn't meant to hurt him, but Peter could tell that her words still stung. Jasper didn't like the idea that he would abandon her in the future, especially since it was obvious that being abandoned had wounded her deeply. It'd made such a big impact on her that she was willing to fight in a newborn war just to prove she wasn't like the family that left her behind.
"If that means waging war, then so be it," Bella decided, taking half a step back. "Just know that I'm not fighting for more feeding territory. I don't care about Maria's never ending desire for blood. That's not a worthy enough cause for me... but I'll fight for you, Jasper. I'll fight to keep all I have left of my family alive. As long as you keep risking your neck, I'll be right here, risking mine." She swallowed hard and glanced at Peter again before adding softly, "Honestly, I can't really think of a better cause to fight for than family."
Jasper stood so still that he resembled a marble statue, not even daring to breathe as he tried to process her words. Peter had no idea what was going through the man's mind or how he felt about it, but he could feel his own respect and affection for Bella growing by leaps and bounds. She honestly couldn't care less about expanding their territory or the tempting blood that would come with it, but she was determined to stick around anyway. She wouldn't fight for blood, but she'd fight for the people she deemed kin.
Obviously, Jasper meant a lot to Bella back in her time and Peter found himself envying him in that moment. Not only had she just claimed Jasper as family, a rare connection neither man could say they'd truly experienced since they were changed, she was declaring her loyalty. Peter wished he knew what Jasper had done in the future to deserve it, what he'd done to earn that kind of loyalty from a woman like Bella. He had no doubt that it must've been something extraordinary.
Oblivious to the speechless state she'd left them in, Bella glanced down at the bite mark on her wrist and murmured, "It might be hard for you to believe that you'd ever risk yourself for a human, but you fought for me once too. Or, rather, you will." Meeting his eyes again, Bella wet her lips nervously and said in a low voice, "So listen closely, because I'm only going to say this one more time... Looks like you're stuck with me, Jasper."
Suppressing a snort, Peter quietly studied his sire's reaction. Jasper stared at her hard for a long moment, his eyes searching for something in her own. Bella didn't shy away from him, evenly holding his gaze. Whatever signs of submissiveness she'd shown had long since fled and, for a second, Peter truly wondered if he'd imagined it all. He could see now that it wasn't in her nature to give in easily, not when she felt truly passionate about something. He'd been right about her all along, she had the spirit of a natural born fighter.
For the first time in Peter's life, he watched Jasper look away first, finally breaking eye contact with her. He couldn't say he blamed the man, though, since he probably would've done the same if he were in Jasper's shoes. Bella's conviction was so strong that even Peter could sense it in the air around them. It'd been a long time since they'd met someone with a sense of conviction like hers and it was damn near impossible not to buckle in the face of it.
What amused Peter was that he doubted that Bella truly understood the significance of what she'd just done. In less than an hour, she'd managed to turn Jasper's world on its head. For decades, their lives had been centered on feeding and fighting alone. With the exception of the bond they'd developed as brothers in arms, family was a foreign concept to them both.
He knew from experience that Jasper needed time to wrap his head around the situation. The empath wasn't often surprised by people, but when he was he had to take a step back and analyze the situation from a distance, separating himself from the emotions involved. He took great pride in his ability to read people, it was his gift after all, but Bella was unlike anyone he'd ever dealt with before. Jasper could read her emotions all he wanted and he would still be no closer to understanding her.
Even Peter's ability wouldn't help them with that. All it told them was that she was different and that was something they could see quite clearly for themselves.
With that in mind, Peter wasn't really surprised when Jasper headed for the door, tossing out over his shoulder, "Take her to hunt, Peter. I need to report her level of control and lack of bloodlust to Maria."
"Lack of bloodlust?" Peter repeated, looking at Bella with sudden realization. She hadn't once mentioned her thirst and that definitely wasn't normal. "Your throat doesn't burn, sweet pea?"
"No, it does," Bella disagreed and gingerly touched her throat, "but it isn't as overwhelming as I was told it would be. I can think around it." She looked at Jasper again, who was already across the barn by then. "Jasper," she called out and he paused, his hand on the door, "that coven you join? They feed on animals."
Jasper whipped around in surprise and Peter asked in a shocked tone, "Why the hell would he ever drink animal blood?"
Bella's eyes never strayed from Jasper while she explained, "Because Jasper feels every emotion the people he drinks from do. He feels their fear, panic, and desperation. He can sense their regrets and their pain. Emotionally, he feels their deaths as if they were his own. From what I heard, animal blood isn't nearly as appealing as human blood, but it works. And it changes your eye color. Feed from enough animals and they'll eventually turn golden."
Peter stared at Bella, stunned. He knew Jasper had to take breaks from the overwhelming emotions of the newborns they trained, but he'd never given any thought to the emotions of the humans Jasper drank from. Bella obviously had, though. She understood what he went through every time he fed and wanted him to know that he had another option. Peter could tell it wasn't a purely unselfish act, she was hoping to benefit from animal blood too, but she still wanted to help him, to ease his burden.
With a nervous glance at Jasper, he knew immediately that this wasn't going to end well. Jasper kept things close to the vest, especially anything that could be perceived as a weakness. It was going to be hard for him to handle someone like Bella, someone who saw through his masks so easily. She understood him on a level that Peter hadn't known even existed and he couldn't see Jasper reacting well to that.
"You want to feed from animals," Jasper surmised, reading her emotional state. "Do ya know if there are any side effects? Would it weaken you?" He could sense the answer before she voiced it and dismissively shook his head, "We don't have the time it'll take to find out. Gotta have ya at your strongest."
Wincing, Peter turned to look at Bella as Jasper stepped out the door, letting it slam shut behind him. Stricken, Bella lowered her gaze as her eyes started to well with venom. She'd been hoping she wouldn't have to kill any humans and Jasper had shot down that hope before it'd even fully formed. What made it worse was the feeling Peter had that it had less to do with the possible side effects and more to do with how easily she'd gotten under Jasper's skin. Like a cornered animal, he'd lashed out and now Bella was suffering the consequences.
Looking at Bella, whose bright red eyes were brimming with tears that would never fall, Peter got the sense that she didn't fully comprehend what just happened. All she really understood was that Jasper was going to force her to feed from humans. If she wanted to soothe the burn in her throat, she'd have to kill and that was something she hadn't been mentally prepared for.
Peter felt her grief like a punch to the gut and gently touched her arm, his voice soft, "Bella."
Her eyes snapped up to his and he watched with a sadness all his own as she whispered furiously, "I'm going to survive this, Peter. I'm going to survive this because I have a date with a petty redhead a hundred years from now. And when that day comes, I'm gonna make her suffer for every human I have to drain."
Capitán - Captain
Que fascinante... - How fascinating...
Una chica hermosa, ¿no? - A beautiful girl, no?