Disclaimer: S. Meyer owns Twilight Banner by Lady of Spain
. . . . .
Jasper helped his new friend with her umbrella, and like a gentleman, held it over her head, while they sloshed through the rain to the waiting vehicle. He opened the car door for her and allowed her to sit in the driver’s seat. When he got in on the other side, he inquired, “Might I ask where we are goin’?”
“I’m staying at a nearby hotel. I thought we could spend a few hours there and get to know each other a little better.”
“I reckon, I’d like that, but do you think it’d be wise for me to accompany you. Bein’ a gentleman and all, I wouldn’t want to soil your good name. I can always rent another room; I do have the means.”
Alice reached out and patted his hand. “That is so sweet of you, Jazz. Oh gosh, I can’t believe I called you that. Do you mind?”
“I tell you what—you can call me anything you dang well please.”
“Okay, then. Jazz, it is. But as to what you said, I don’t really care what other people say about us. I’ve been talked about my whole life. It’s nothing new.”
“No need to worry about that.”
In the next few minutes the only sound was the wiper blades as they slapped against the windshield. Jasper finally cleared his throat. He had to ask her why she wasn’t frightened. It was very unusual for him not to extend his powers to calm any human—or non-human for that matter—that got in close proximity to him. Curiosity got the better of the tall Texan.
“If you don’t think it too bold of me, do you mind explainin’ why you’re in this car with a strange man, and don’t seem to be even a bit worried?”
The tiny woman beside him grinned in response. “Don’t let my size fool you. I can take care of myself.”
His mouth went dry. “But ... do you realize what ... I am?”
Alice pulled off her right hand glove with her teeth—one finger at a time. She stroked his inner wrist with her fingertips. “You worry too much. We’re the same temperature see? What do you make of that?”
Jasper scratched his head. “I don’t rightly know.”
“Look, I’m well aware of what you are, and it doesn’t scare me ... We’re both alike, Jazz. I’m a vampire, same as you.”
Jasper’s brow furrowed in confusion. “But, your eyes—”
“Yeah, I know. I don’t drink human blood, so my eyes don’t stay dark red like yours. When it’s time to feed again, they’ll change to black.”
“Well, criminee sakes, how do you feed?”
“There’re lots of animals.”
In a serious tone, Jasper commented. “Sure nuff? I tried that once or twice, and it liketa killed me.”
Alice glanced at him for a moment. “You get used to it after a while. And you won’t have to wear those tinted glasses anymore. I have never fed from a human; not even once.”
His eyes darted away from her, and lowered in shame. He was quiet the rest of the way to their destination.
. . . . .
They pulled into the hotel parking lot. Jasper lost no time in grabbing her wrist. He had barely opened his mouth to speak, when Alice put a finger to his lips to silence him.
“You don’t need to say anything, Jazz.”
“Yes, I believe I do. I truly do.”
“I know what you’re about to say. Are you certain you want to be seen walkin’ into this lobby hangin’ on my arm. I told you I have the means. I’d be duly mortified if I was the cause of sullyin' your reputation.”
For the second time today, Jasper’s mouth dropped open. “How in tarnation did you know that?”
“May as well tell you ... I have visions of the future. How do you think I knew where to find you? I could see you with two others of our kind. It was lucky that the woman you were with had the power to receive my image if you will. Then, as soon as I saw you looking at my portrait, it was a certainty that we would meet here.”
“Well, I’ll be ... You are quicker’n a hiccup.”
Alice smiled at the colloquialism. “I guess that was a compliment.”
He shook his head smartly, and winked at her. “No, Ma’am. That’s a fact.”
Opening his door, Jasper ran to the opposite side of the car to let her out as well. He kept a respectable distance from Alice, much to her disappointment. While they walked to the entrance, Alice said, “You don’t have to act so proper. I wouldn’t mind it one iota if you’d put your arm around me. Actually it’d be kind of nice.”
His mind was in a whirl. Alice was a little forward, but not in a seductive manner like Maria. He could feel himself falling bit by bit—even in this small amount of time. They just seemed to click somehow.
With his arm slipped about her trim waist, they stepped over the threshold. She procured the key at the desk and they rode the elevator to her room.
. . . . .
Jasper stood awkwardly, just inside the doorway once they entered. His easy Texan manner suddenly up and left. He hadn’t been in a lady’s boudoir since 1889, and it felt strange. It was even stranger being here with a woman he had met just minutes before, yet he had no desire to leave her. It was surreal.
Alice sat down on a blue tufted settee, and patted the spot beside her. “Now, don’t be shy. Come sit down; I won’t bite you.” She giggled, then added, “At least, not today, anyhow ...”
He glanced at her almost shyly. “Maybe if you’ve a mind to, I’d feel a might more comfortable. I’d gotten kinda used to bein’ bitten.”
“Well, maybe later. In the meantime, would you like to tell me about yourself, or shall I tell you all about me?”
“I reckon I’d like to hear your story, first. If I go tellin’ ’bout myself, you might just up and go a-runnin’ to your momma. I would sorely hate for you to leave my sight, now that I set my eyes on you. Anybody ever tell you that you’re cute as a possum?”
“Not recently. You’re the first.” She had never even seen a possum before, and wondered what the critter looked like.
The tale of Alice’s life, her being turned while in the asylum and how her talent had profited her now, took up most of the night. Jasper sat entranced as she spoke and interrupted only occasionally.
. . . . .
“And that’s the whole story. I’m lucky I guess, since I can predict if stocks will go up or down. I sometimes feel a little guilty gaining in that way, since it’s a sure thing, but my bosses in several of the brokerage houses didn’t seem to mind.”
Jasper reached over and placed his hand on hers. Something she said earlier on, struck a nerve in him. “Now, hold on a minute. Just so’s I get this straight in my head, you said your very own father had you put away in a mental institution because of your visions?”
“I can rightly see how you’d be branded as a witch, as I am sure as shootin’ under your spell right this minute. And for some reason, I reckon I do like it.”
“Jazz, I need to tell you something else. I saw us together years ago. You’re my future. We were meant to be together. I’ve known it for far too long.”
“I know ... Lottie told me when she showed me your portrait. I’ve had that image of you hauntin’ me for goin’ on some foty odd years, now. That still doesn’t make it any easier for what I’m ’bout to tell you. When you hear it, you might well rethink the future. It’ll surely break my heart if’n you do, but you need to know who Jasper Whitlock really is. I’m heartily sorry that my life is not as unblemished as yours.”
She sat a little closer, staring at the serious expression on his face. She realized that he never had cracked a smile in the hours that she had known him. “I’m not an angel, Jazz. I’m bossy, and have a bad habit of budding into other people’s business on occasion. And I should warn you—I love to shop. So, it’s a good thing that I know how to get the money to pay for my splurges.
“Go on, I’ll listen to anything you have to say.”
The crimson eyes in his head took on a faraway expression. “All right then ...” He paused to pick the best words to convey what needed to be said. “I’ve done some terrible things ... in war, and even after.
“I was turned by a woman named Maria; she taught me how to hunt, and soon I became the head of her army. We were the scourge of the South. I trained all her troops, and after they fought for a year, I dispatched them directly to hell. The thing is—I have a power too. I can feel the emotions from the people around me, and can temper those feelin's. It comes most natural to me. Anyways, you might could tell that I’m responsible for the death of many unfortunate souls. But that’s not all ...
“I’m sorely ashamed to fess up that she tutored me in the ways of the flesh. Understand now, that I never truly loved her, but I was too weak to resist her charms and became a slave to my masculine needs.”
Jasper choked out the last few words, and standing, looked away from her. “I reckon, I will understand if you’ve a mind to have nothin’ to do with me. I wish I could change my past, but what’s done is done.”
He started toward the door; his shoulders slumped, and his head hung in defeat.
“Jazz, wait,” she whispered. “Don’t you see? This is your chance to begin a new life. I don’t care about the wars or Maria. I only care about you. My visions don’t lie. I can’t let you walk through that door. You and I were meant to be together, forever. Besides there’s an old saying: There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.
“I admire you for sharing what you just did. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for comfort and help when we need it.”
Jasper looked down at the floor. “Yeah, well maybe I shouldn’t have. Now you know what a monster I am.”
“There’s no should, or shouldn’t when it comes to feelings. They’re part of who we are. We have no control over that. There’s not one single life that’s free of pain.
“Please ... turn around and look at me. I forgive you for your past, but it’s gone, so don’t throw away the future. You don’t want to wander alone for the rest of eternity, do you?”
He stopped, and pivoted to see her. Could it be true? Could she forgive him for all the atrocities he had committed? He inwardly was disgusted with himself, yet he felt the anguish she shared with him. And something else—not pity, but concern, and unfeigned compassion.
Alice bounded toward him and flung her arms around his neck hugging him to her chest. “Oh god, please don’t leave me. I need you, Jazz.”
She needed him? That nailed the lid on his coffin. No one had really needed him like this before. One of his deepest longings was to feel needed by someone. He couldn’t leave her now, even if he wanted to. If he was still human, his eyes would be filled with tears. His heart, for so long numb and distant, was full to bursting. This tiny pixie had already changed his life.
His power to calm other people had always been so one sided. His own feelings were trapped inside him eating away at him since the vampire wars. The time had finally come for him to free those emotions, and it looked like Alice was that catalyst; his dear Alice. Now here was a woman worth fighting for.
Jasper closed his eyes and kneeling down in front of her, laid his head upon her breast. Alice stroked his hair and cradled him tightly. A new road had just opened before them—a road they would travel together.