Bella just stared at me, gaping like a fish for a long moment. I didn't realize it would take this much time to decide whether she wanted to marry me or not. She already agreed to it before her birthday; what had changed since then? Why couldn't we do it right now? Was it because I hadn't protected her correctly? Didn't she trust me?
"Jazz, it's not that I don't want to marry you, because I do. I just…" Bella looked around the room and then back at me, "Do you think we can finish this privately?"
"No, Bella, let's do this, now." I stood my ground and refused to let her to hide away in our bedroom.
She had tears in her eyes, and they started to spill over. I wanted to go to her and wipe them away, but I couldn't. She was about to break my heart. "Jazz, I want to wear your name proudly. I want to be Bella Whitlock, not Bella Hale, and I wouldn't be able to do that now, not with school."
That bullshit line wasn't going to fly with me. I knew for a fact that I could spin any lie toward the student body, and the rumors would fly no matter what anyone said. We could re-spin the adoption story, and I could be a Whitlock if that was what she wanted. Besides, she wore my name across her neck every day and no one said anything.
"Bella, please, I know I didn't protect you when I should have, but I'll do better. I'll always be there. I promise." I wanted to get on my knees and beg.
"Jasper Whitlock, you don't beg for anything, so don't start now. You did everything you could for me; don't do this to yourself." She grabbed my face and held it between her hands, "Jazz, don't ask me this because you are afraid."
"And don't tell me no because you are." I retorted.
"I'm being very serious when I say that I want to wear your name proudly. I'm not afraid that you can't protect me." She looked at me and looked around the room to the others. "If that's what it takes for you to believe that I trust you, then I'll marry you."
I moved to stop her rant, but she just continued, "Well, go on, get a preacher, let's do this. I'll call Angela. She'll have her daddy on the way. We'll do this in our jeans and flannels. Come on, Jazz, that's what you want, right?"
"Bella, stop," I urged. "Shh, sweetheart, I'm sorry." I grabbed
her and held her tightly against my chest.
Alice decided to be the one to speak for the family. "Just so you know, no one notices the Whitlock necklace, so you could pull this off if you wanted."
I looked at Bella and I could see her heart breaking as well as feel it. It was killing her to say no to me, and I had put her in that position. I hated myself for it and vowed to make it better as soon as possible.
"I don't want to talk about this anymore, Jazz. I think we need some time to ourselves or why don't you go hang out with the guys. We'll cool down and talk about it later." Bella gave me a, half smile, and I knew it wasn't a genuine one.
I just nodded and watched as she practically ran out of the room and up, the stairs to our bedroom. I heard the sobs she had coming from her and moved to chase after her when Peter put a hand on my shoulder, stopping my movements.
The girls all moved to go up the stairs except Alice. She stopped in front of me and said, "It'll all be okay, Jasper. I know it will."
"You've seen it?" I asked.
"No, I just know you guys are strong, and you will overcome anything that's thrown at you." She smiled softly and then moved toward the stairs with the other girls.
Emmett rubbed his hands together and shouted, "Poker night boys, basement, now!"
Edward and Charlie followed him dutifully but Peter and hung back for a few moments. Carlisle was expected to be home soon, and I suspected he'd join in our game soon enough.
"Pete, I gotta make this up to Bella somehow," I said running my hands through the ends of my hair.
"Jasper, I don't know man. She seems really upset. I think, that she thinks, that she disappointed you," he shook his head back and forth, "like that could happen. Bella couldn't disappoint you if she tried to."
I nodded in agreement before sighing and asking for my favor, "I still have to get her Christmas present, do you think you could go pick it up for me? I know you have to hunt, so I figured you could get it for me." '
"Of course I can, give me the address, and I'll be on it, like strippers on a pole." He laughed at his own joke, and I pushed him towards the door after telling him where to go.
Charlotte came down the steps after announcing to the girls that she was going with Peter for a hunt. She gave me an evil glare and stomped out behind her mate. I shook my head at the two of them and made my way down to the basement with the men.
After a few hands and a few threats toward Edward and myself from Emmett about cheating, the man-gossip started. It started out with what we were doing for Christmas and then about what happened after Bella's birthday party.
"Boys, I need to put my cop face on for a minute," Charlie said laying his cards down on the table.
Emmett, Edward and I each perked up. I looked at Edward for any kind of a heads up, but he was full on panic. Bella must have him blocked, dammit.
"I need to know what happened with that Newton boy." Charlie eyed us all suspiciously.
"Whatever do you mean Chief? Mike Newton, overdosed on drugs, just like the ones he gave Bells, and crashed his car. At least that's what the coroner said," Emmett said with a goofy look on his face.
I rolled my eyes and just watched all of this play out. Charlie obviously didn't believe him, and even without his gift Edward knew it. "Charlie, I think what Emmett was saying was, that the Volturi found him changing and snapped his neck. They killed Tanya first and then dealt with Newton. Dem and Felix brought him back and Emmett and I staged the car accident, so Mrs. Newton could bury her son."
Charlie wasn't satisfied through and kept pestering, "And you are sure he's dead? He's not going to come back as a, half vampire zombie or something right?"
Emmett busted out laughing and I bit into my fist to keep my laughter at bay. I looked toward my future father in law and said, "No Charlie, no zombies. He was still human when they killed him."
"Alright, if that's what you boys say happened. I'll believe you. I'm just so tired of Mrs. Newton's accusations." Charlie picked up the deck of cards and started shuffling.
We played for a few hands when Carlisle came down to our man dungeon and joined in. "Can I talk to you boys?" He asked.
I looked at Edward, then to Emmett and we each busted out laughing. "What is it interrogate the boys night or something?"
"No, Emmett, I just need to know why you let James go. Surely, he will come back." Carlisle eyed me suspiciously.
"No, he'll be killed. He was basically just a messenger bitch. He will let Cortez know I am not to be fucked with and neither is my family." I glanced around the room and felt the pride rolling off of Charlie, so I decided to add, "Especially my mate."
Carlisle just stared at me, as if he wanted me to continue, so I did. "Alright, if this had happened in the Southern Wars, he would have been captured as soon as he stepped foot into camp. The missing arm is very noticeable and shows that he obviously was captured. Cortez will think he gave up information and have him killed. Easy as that."
The room was completely silent. I'd never really spoken of my time in the Southern Wars. Everyone knew that's where I came from, but we didn't speak of any encounters I may have had. I clicked my tongue and laid my cards down and said, "Full House."
Still no one reacted. I kicked my feet up on the table and watched them all in their frozen states. It was actually quite humorous in many ways, but the look of confusion on Emmett's face was enough to take the cake. I decided to take a picture with my phone and send it to the girls. They might get a kick out of it.
They all came back to life with the flash of my camera, each blinking endlessly. Charlie looked around the room and asked me, "Where's Peter tonight?"
I just smiled and told him, "He's running an errand for me."
Again I had suspicious eyes on me, and I was starting to feel like a criminal. I grabbed my winnings off the table, stood up and called over my shoulder, "I don't know about ya'll but I'm going to get my woman."
I ran excitedly up toward the bedroom to find it completely empty and Bella rolled into a tiny ball on her side of the bed. When I looked at the clock, I realized it was almost two in the morning, no wonder she was already in bed. I removed my clothing and crawled into bed behind her. Immediately, the tension in her body was released, and she sighed in contentment.
"Jazz," she mumbled in her sleep.
"I'm here sweetheart. Right here." I kissed the back of hair and wrapped myself completely around her.
I watched her the rest of the night. Several times during the night I wanted to wake her, the dreams she had were so realistic, at least from my standpoint. She was sometimes really scared, or really sad. When the early rays of sun started to come through the window, I'd had enough. I saw a tear roll down her face and decided it was time to wake her up. I heard everyone else leaving for a hunt and mentally thanks Alice and Edward for clearing the house out.
"Bella, wake up, sugar." I kissed along her jaw line and rubbed my hands down her arms.
"Hmm, I like this kind of wake up call," Bella moaned.
I positioned myself between Bella's legs and kissed her softly on her lips, then moved to her eye lids, her nose and again settled on her lips.
"Jazz, stop, everyone's down stairs," she protested.
"No they aren't. They've all gone to hunt." I kissed her again, pushing my hands up the sides of her shirt so that I could feel the curve of her hips.
"Jazz, please." Bella arched her back pushing her breasts closer to my face.
I slowly removed t-shirt she was wearing, leaving her only in a small pair of panties.
"I love you, you know that right?" I asked kissing down the valley of her breasts.
"Always," she whispered back in a breathy voice. She reached down to my waist and gasped in shock. "You're naked."
"I am," I smirked, "before I got in bed with you, I took all my clothes off. That's okay, right?" I asked grinding myself into her.
"Oh, that's perfectly alright," she said as she shimmied out of her panties. "I want you close, Jazz, please?"
I aligned myself with her and slowly made love to my mate. Bella and I were lost in each other for most of the morning. Physically and emotionally we were reconnecting, apologizing, reaffirming the fact that we loved each other no matter what.
When the family came home, Bella decided she wanted to speak to everyone all at once. Everyone gathered in the living room, and Bella sat in on top of the coffee table in the living room, looking around at all of us. "Where is Jane? And Aro? Dem and Felix? What are they working on?"
I took a step closer to her, but she shook her head no for me to stop where I was. I bent down to my knees, so I was on her level and spoke directly to her. "Bella, sweetheart they are going after Cortez right now. They think that's the best course of action. I don't agree with them, but they out rule me."
"But they could get hurt Jazz, call them back!" She exclaimed.
"I would if I could. They call and check in often, but they want to scope out his camp, see what gifts he has, and if they can stop them now." I moved even closer and gripped her hand in my own. "Bella, if they take then out know, it will be so much better. We won't have to fight. We'll all stay safe. I promise."
Alice's voice called out to me, taking my attention away from Bella. "Jasper, they have someone."
"They captured someone?" I asked her.
"No, they have a talent. He can hide their scent. Jane just called it the 'anti-tracker,' her and Dem are having a heated decision about it." Alice's eyes glazed over again, and I knew she was trying to see something else.
"Alice, come on, tell me," I urged her on.
"I…can't see anything else. James….he's…." she trailed off before rocking with her arms wrapped around her knees holding her up. Edward moved to help her and took her to hunt. The use of her gift drained her more when she was flustered, and even though she had been hunting earlier. It was needed again.
Bella could barely keep her eyes open thoroughly exhausted from our early morning activities, so I opted to take her to bed. There was no love making, just some serious snuggling. She kept trying to get as close to me as she could, and it never seemed close enough.
"Let's do it," she mumbled.
"Do what, sugar?" I rubbed the top of her hair the way she liked that always put her to sleep.
"I changed my mind, let's get married. Soon." Her breathing evened out, and I knew she was asleep, but I was ecstatic to hear her say the words.
A few hours later I heard Alice and Edward come back from their hunt, so I decided to see if she could see anything else. I disentangled myself from Bella's hold in the bed, giving her the pillow I was leaning against to snuggle with instead. I made my way down to the living room to find Alice on the couch and Edward standing speaking to Carlisle. He heard me approach but didn't block Alice quick enough.
"Alice, come on. Tell me what you're seeing." I coaxed sending her all kinds of trust and happy feelings.
"James….Bella….Charlie….Kate…fire….bite…." She whimpered. "I can't see it's going too fast."
I looked to Edward and said, "Look in her mind. You do it with everyone else. Tell me what she's seeing."
"No, I can't. She has to sort it out first before I can do anything with it." He shook his head from side to side.
"Yes, you can. Do it!" I yelled loudly.
Then I moved back to Alice and tried to get something else out of her. "Alice, come on. Can you see anything? Tomorrow's weather? Bella said she wanted to marry me, Alice, and soon can you see that?"
Edward's anger started to increase the move, I spoke to his mate. "Jasper," my name came out with a warning hiss.
"Alice, come on," I begged.
"Can't see anything," she whimpered, "pain, lots of pain."
"Who's in pain, Alice?" I asked
Edward was walking in small arched lines in front of Alice's rocking form. "Back off of her Jasper, she can't see everything."
"Well she should," I countered, needing to know what she saw.
"I'm warning you, Jasper. You need to back off. What would you do if I was in Bella's face demanding she use her gift to help me?" Edward taunted.
"I'd rip your fucking head off," I growled.
"Exactly now back off, last warning," Edward's voice was filled with dread, but also an eerie calm that proved he meant business.
I looked around him and down at Alice, "Ali-bear, let me know when you see something I can use okay?"
She let out a whimper, and Edward growled in my direction, so I soothed him with some calm and looked to Alice again, "Alice, don't rush it. Let it come to you. I'd rather it be right than fast right now."
Bella came down the stairs and bolted directly toward Alice. Edward growled at her and bared his teeth. I tried to move to intercept him, but he was too fast and Bella was suddenly pinned to the wall by her throat.
As fast as he had his hand around her throat, Edward was pushed away from her. Bella must have put up her shield. Her hand went to her throat, and she slid down the wall to sit on her butt. I raced toward her and wrapped her in my arms trying my best to pull the pain from her emotions.
"Jazz," she struggled to say, "what's wrong with Alice?"
"Nothing's wrong with Alice, sweetheart, I promise. Her visions just aren't helping right now, and she is getting upset," I cooed into Bella's hair and ran my hand along the already forming bruise on her neck.
I looked at Edward and snarled, "You're lucky I don't kill you for this."
"You pushed me too far, Jasper. I just snapped. I didn't mean to hurt Bella." He was honest, and very repentant, but I still didn't want him near Bella for a good period of time.
"I suggest you and Alice go to that cabin into the woods, hunt together, stay together. Don't go anywhere alone." I ordered in my strong voice. "You are to stay away from my mate. If you even come within a hundred feet of her, I'll kill you."
Bella tried to protest. I heard cries of Alice's name, but they were in vain. I was going to put around the clock security on her and make sure whenever I couldn't be around someone was watching to make sure Edward didn't get close.
It wasn't that I didn't trust him. He just was too pent up in his anger to handle being around a human. They made their way out of the house and toward, what I assumed was the cabin in the woods.
I looked at my mate's neck, seeing the bruising becoming darker by the minute. "Come on, let's get you back to bed."
"I don't want to go to bed Jazz. I want to make sure Alice is okay," she whispered.
"Does it hurt badly? Do you need Carlisle to look at it?" I questioned urgently.
She nodded her head and I called for Carlisle to come and look. He said the injury wasn't life threatening, but Bella should keep her talking to a minimum. Bella mouthed ice cream to me, and I busted out into laughter. I remember when she was twelve and had to get her tonsils out, all she wanted was ice cream and I happily obliged her.
The sun started to set, allowing the pinks and purple colors to make their way through the windows of the house. Kate and Charlie arrived not long after, each fussing over Bella endlessly.
I called for everyone to gather into the living room and announced, "Last night. Bella changed her mind, and she decided she wanted to marry me after all."
Bella let out a gasp, and everyone turned to stare at her. I shrugged my shoulders at her accusatory stare. "What sweetheart? You said so, just as you were going to sleep."
She smiled and nodded her head, "Yeah I guess I did say that. Is it time to plan it then?"
The family all started shouting out things to do, and I heard Bella's small giggle. I was still agitated by Edward's uproar earlier and how he hurt her, but I knew I was going to need to go hunt soon.
I saw Rose standing on the outskirts of the circle our family had made around Bella. They were all asking millions of questions, and it was comical. As if Bella could sense my turmoil, she turned to me, nodded her head in Rose's direction and gave me a giant smile. I shook my head at her and moved closer to Rose.
"Wanna get outta here twin?" I asked my arms crossed against my chest.
She nodded her face showing nothing about how she was feeling, but her emotions were almost giddy. She walked over to Emmett and told him she was leaving with me. He gave me a look and spoke in a deadly voice, "Watch her like you would Bella."
I nodded my head in Bella's direction and matched his voice, "The same to you."
We ran out of the door and chased each other through the woods. It was a good way to bond with my sister. She thought she could hide from me, hell, she was an excellent tracker. Emmett had taught her everything he knew, and was always on my tail. I'd send her some mirth and hear her burst out into giggles, and then chase her down.
We ended up in a clearing; we liked to play baseball in and just sat down to talk. Rose was a usually quiet person and didn't really talk about her feelings. Since Bella had been here, we've kind of drifted apart. She still held some resentment towards me for hiding Bella away for so long.
When Rose spoke the words out of her mouth were a complete surprise. "You know. I thought if you ever found your mate in a child, you would bring her home and either Esme or I would raise her."
I stared at my sister in disbelief and asked, "You thought about my mate being human and a child?"
She shrugged and didn't elaborate for a few minutes. "I'm just saying you knew how badly the both of us wanted to be parents, and you stole that from us. Bella should have been with us from the beginning. You said her mother was worthless, why would you leave her there?"
Rose stood up and wiped the grass from her pants. She picked up one of the large boulders in the clearing and smashed it into dust. "Did you not love her enough? Didn't you want her? Why were we not good enough of a family for her?" Rose spat in my direction, the venom flowing down her chin.
"Rose…I'm…" I tried to apologize but was interrupted.
"Don't you dare say sorry," she growled. "Now Kate, Kate gets to be her new mother. How fair is that Jasper?"
"I didn't know Rose." I stepped closer and put my hand on her shoulder. "I didn't know all these horrible things would happen if I left her where she was."
"You should have," she snarled. "You claim she's your mate, but you could have put an end to all of this. These people wouldn't be after her. She wouldn't have scar marks from being used as a blood bank, and she would have been home, with her real family."
I was starting to get angry, and I couldn't differentiate my anger from Rose's. "Don't question my love for Bella."
My anger filled growl filled the clearing and Rose flinched back. "First of all, Kate is mated to Charlie, so they would have been connected anyway. Second, if I had known any of this would have happened. I would have sought them all out and killed them."
"You would have known, if you had the sense to ask Alice," she spat back.
"You're right! Is that what you want to hear? You are right! I should have taken Bella that first night, and we never should have looked back," I admitted and automatically felt better from the admission. I picked up my own boulder and smashed it, instantly reveling in the feeling of smashing something.
"No, not really, but you might." Rose's smug voice spoke. She analyzed her nails and I struggled not to wring her neck.
"You did that on purpose?" I accused.
"Maybe, maybe not. I've missed you, Jay," she whispered, even if we were the only ones in the clearing.
I pulled my sister into a hug and whispered a thank you in her ear. She beamed a smile that was only reserved for Emmett at me, and I knew things would be okay.
"Do you think, maybe, that Bella and I could have some alone time together?" Rose asked. Then she backtracked, "I just mean, that Alice and Charlotte and Kate are always around. I'd like someone on one with her."
"I think she'd like that," I paused when I felt her curiosity spike, "something else you wanted to ask?"
"Are you sure they didn't….that That they…..was she…" Rose stuttered, and I knew it was a sore subject for her.
"They didn't touch her that way Rosalie. I promise." I clasped her hand in mine and started to walk out of the clearing.
"But that James, the things he said, about Alice and Bella both." She shook her head as if to clear the thoughts.
"I can't vouch for Alice. You'd have to ask Edward, but I know he didn't touch Bella that way." Rose nodded and that was the end of conversation.
We made our way to the house, stopping off to each take down a few small animals for a hunt and found Bella and Emmett teamed up against Charlotte and Peter on one of the game systems. Rose just shook her head and took her spot next to Emmett. I decided to stand behind the couch and observe. Bella turned around and flashed me a smile that would have had my heart doing flips if I was human. Instead my eyes rolled back into my head from the feelings of love rolling off of her. It wasn't just love for me, but for everyone in the room. Bella amazed me. Everyone seemed to underestimate her, but not me. I knew she'd be special, and I wanted to spend the rest of eternity showing her just how special she was to me