Chapter 8: Texas Toast

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. . . . .

 

Jasper watched helplessly as Peter went forward to investigate the area around the cabin. He was tempted to surge ahead, but knew that Peter was right. If Maria escaped, he might lose Alice forever. And so he and Charlotte waited patiently downwind so they wouldn’t tip her off.

 

He was always used to being in charge, and it was so hard to stay behind. Peter got all his learning from him though, and Jasper knew he could trust his judgment.

 

The tracker returned about fifteen minutes later, and the news was not very encouraging. “Yessiree, there rightly are three vampires in there. No sign of your Alice though. They didn’t mention her name, and I couldn’t detect her scent no how.”

 

“What did they say?”

 

 “This ’n that.  One of them males was a-braggin’ about his powers, and Ria was dressin’ him down.”

 

Peter rubbed the back of his neck. “Criminee, but it was downright spooky to hear Ria’s voice after all this time, especially since she is supposedly dead. I wonder if the I-talians accidentally left her without lightin’ that match.”

 

With her brows knit together, Charlotte stared at the sketch and protested, “That can’t be! Why would she be troublin’ herself to send me this here picture if’n she wasn’t there?”

 

Jasper folded his arms, leaning against a tree. “Lottie’s right. Doesn’t make a lick of sense.”

 

“I’m a-tellin’ ya. There was no sign of your Alice.”

 

“She’s gotta be there, she’s just gotta be,” Charlotte reiterated.

 

“Well, let’s make another sweep; this time you and Lottie go.”

 

“Yessir; c’mon, Lottie. We come all this way, so’s I reckon another look see won’t hurt us none.”

 

They started forward, and Charlotte stopped short.

 

Peter furrowed his brow. “What is it, girl?”

 

“I just got one of them pictures agin. She’s in there all right. There’s some kind of misty shield around her, so’s she can’t speak, nor move. I do believe maybe that vampire in there wasn’t a-braggin’ after all.”

 

“Whadda y’all want me ta do?” Peter asked.

 

They both looked to the ex major for their battle plan.

 

Jasper thought for a moment. “Lottie, you and I’ll stay back a little ways while Peter circles the cabin. I’m countin’ on Ria sending one of them out to see what’s what, and we can take care of him. Then when he doesn’t return, maybe Ria will send the other one to look for him. Got a lighter with you, Peter?”

 

“Yessir, I never leave home without the dad-blamed thing.”

 

. . . . .

 

While Peter circled the house, Charlotte and Jasper moved in closer. And sure enough, Peter heard Maria tell one of her companions, “Why aren’t you paying attention, idiota? Go check outside. Can you not smell him? Clovis and I will guard the little chica. When you come back, put up your shield around her again, por favor.”

 

“You want me to take him alive?”

 

“No, no. That is not necessary.”

 

“But, Ria, what  if’n it’s that Whitlock fella?”

 

Maria’s temper was rising, and something hit the wall inside, clattering to the floor. “Do you think I am stupid? Do you think I would not remember his scent after spending so many nights in his arms? Now go take care of the intruder, or I will take care of you. Comprende?

 

As the first vampire exited the house, Peter heard a musical small voice say, “You won’t get away with this, Maria. Jasper will find me. And when he does, the lot of you will be nothing but purple smoke billowing in the air.”

 

“How very poetic, little one. You have no idea what my plan is. I want Jasper to find you. He loves you, no? Well, I still love him. I will most gladly forgive him his abandonment of me if he will only come back. I think he would do that to see you live. So you see, the only escape for you will be to lose your love, like I lost mine so many years ago.”

 

Her eyes glanced at the remaining vampire. “Clovis, hold her head still, while I find something to stop her tongue from wagging.”

 

Maria’s guard found Peter quickly, and the chase began. He followed speedily right into the ambush awaiting him in the nearby shrubs. The guard was so intent on catching his prey that he failed to notice the two vampires lying in wait. He was dismembered in a flash, and reduced to ash in a matter of moments. Maria was right, this guy was an idiot, or at least careless in his duties.

 

“She’s there, Jasper. I heard her this time. You want I should do the same to the other one?”

 

“If’n it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

 

Grinning, Peter said, “One down, two more for a butt whuppin’,” and lit out for the cabin.

 

As expected, Maria was in a rage that her idiota hadn’t come back yet. Peter heard her shouting. “Where is he; how long can it take? I smell the smoke from in here. Madre de Dios! Must I do everything for myself?”

 

“Clovis, go find Henry—now!”

 

“Yes, Ma’am. You can depend on me.”

 

. . . . .

 

Peter guided Clovis straight to him and led him on a merry chase also. Poor Clovis met the same fate as his partner. He was added to the smoking embers that remained of Henry.

 

As the pyre crackled and popped, the three avengers trekked back to Maria’s hideout. Charlotte and Peter stayed out back while Jasper charged through the front door.

 

Maria was standing in the middle of the room with her hands on either side of Alice’s head, ready to snap it off at a moment’s notice. Alice was still, a crumpled up, red bandana wadded in her mouth.

 

“I should have expected you. My compadres would never have failed me unless they had met up with someone as clever as you are. Ah, mi querido. How I have longed to see your face once more. You came because I have something you want. Is that not so?”

 

“Let her go, Ria. She’s nothin’ to you.”

 

“But ... she is el mundo de ti. I can see it en tus ojos. She is such a little thing, not a mujer like me.

 

“I see by that pained expression on your face, that you are wondering how it is that I am alive. My scouts warned me that the—how you say—Volturi vampires were on the way to put a stop to our wars. I could not let them kill me, so I left. I sent a nomad with the message that I was dead, fully aware that someday he would find you—or an amigo. I knew you could not resist returning to the land of tu familia. With me gone, there was no reason not to go home.”

 

Jasper peered into Maria’s eyes, pleading with her. “If you ever loved me, let us go in peace.”

 

Maria tossed her head. “If I ever loved you? If I ever loved you? I love you still, and I want you back at my side. She is the only one preventing our happiness.” 

 

Maria narrowed her crimson eyes. “Just a small twist of her neck, and she will be out of our way.”

 

“No!” Jasper shouted. He fell to his knees. “Please I’ll do anythin’. Say the word, Ria, and I’ll be yours again.”

 

“Ha, I knew you would come to your senses. You always were so rational, carino.”

 

He rose to his feet and stepped closer, touching the hands that were still trapping Alice’s head. “You win. I have only one condition for my surrender.”

 

Si? Que quiere usted, mi amor?

 

“Might I just kiss Alice goodbye one last time? Then you can release her. I promise I’ll stay with you.”

 

“How can I be sure you are not lying to my face? I trusted you once, and see how you betrayed me?”

 

“I want her to live, Ria. I give you my word.”

 

Maria nodded, but did not remove her hands away from her petite prisoner. Jasper pulled the bandana from Alice’s mouth.

 

As soon as the cotton gag was gone, Alice screamed, “Jasper, no—don’t do it. She’s crazy!”

 

He reached up, pulling at Maria’s hands. “Please,” he begged.

 

When Maria dropped her hands, Jasper yelled, “Now!”

 

Charlotte and Peter instantly crashed through the back wall, surprising an extremely startled Maria. They grabbed both of Maria’s arms, ripping them from her torso. Jasper finished the job, removing her head from her shoulders. Her ruby eyes stared at him now, lifeless. Together, the party carted her remains to the funeral pyre and watched, making sure that this time she was truly dead.

 

After sifting through the ashes several times, they buried the residue, satisfied that their work in Texas was done. Jasper turned to Alice all at once, and ignoring his audience, kissed his prisoner over and over and over.

 

Charlotte raised her eyebrows and nudged Peter. He tapped Jasper on the shoulder. “Hey, pardner, time for me and my woman here to git on back to the ranch.”

 

Without breaking the kiss, Jasper reached in his pocket and handed Peter the keys to the car. Then lifting his lady love, he carried her into the car, plunked her down and slid in beside her. Peter commented, “I reckon our passengers won’t be addin’ much to the conversation this evenin’. Looks like it’s just you ’n me, Lottie.”

 

. . . . .

 

Jasper and Alice were oblivious to the other couple in the car, along with the scenery as it passed by in a blur on the way to the airport.

 

In between kissing and caressing each other, Jasper whispered, “I almost lost you, darlin’. I’m never doin’ that again. I’m in love with you, and I want you with me forever. I can’t stand the thought of goin’ on livin’ for eternity by my lonesome. I never feared anything as much as losin’ you. You won’t ever leave me, will you?”

 

Her hand was immediately at his cheek. “Never,” she whispered back.

 

When they arrived at the airport, Jasper reluctantly loosened his grip on Alice and helped her out of the car. He handed the luggage to Peter and Charlotte and shook their hands. Suddenly he rethought it, and gave them each a bear hug.

Looking down at his shoes, he remarked, “I reckon I don’t know how to thank you two. You saved her life.”

 

“Seein’ ya happy is thanks enough,” Charlotte answered.

 

Alice moved in closer and kissed Charlotte’s cheek. “Jazz couldn’t have done it without your help. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

 

There was a smile on Charlotte’s face as she said, “I wish you and the major all the best. Take care.”

 

Peter hoisted their luggage and waved as he and Charlotte headed toward the terminal doors.

 

He looked back over his shoulder. “Y’all go on ahead now. I can see ya got a lot on your mind. And don’t be a stranger for too long. We’d welcome your company anytime, pardner; you too, Miss Alice.”

 

Jasper watched as his two friends walked through the terminal entrance. When they disappeared from view, he turned to his future. “C’mon, darlin’. Let’s find us a nearby motel. We truly do have a lot to talk ’bout.” He grinned at her then, and said, “By the way, did you remember to buy me some toothpicks?”

 

Alice deadpanned, “Well, I just plum forgot ’bout it. Kin ya find it in your heart ta forgive me? I’d be much obliged.”

 

“You makin’ fun of the way I talk?”

 

Smirking, Alice teased, “I reckon if the boot fits, cowboy.”

 

“You are gonna pay for this directly, gal.”

 

She turned, pretending to start toward the rear of the car. “Let me get my purse. It’s in the trunk.”

 

She was instantly caught about the waist. “Nah, I don’t think so. I’ll take it out on your hide.”

 

Scooping her up in his arms, Jasper sat her down on the hood of the car. With his hands in her long dark hair, he proceeded to lick his way up her throat, and past her chin, stopping long enough to assault her lips.

 

“That’ll teach ya to be messin’ with a Texan,” he drawled, as he pulled away from her.

 

“More, more ...” she groaned.

 

He looked both ways as if someone was coming after him, then winking, said, “Criminee, we best be gettin’ to that motel afore the posse catches up with us, for displayin’ lewd behavior in public.”

 

“Well, Tex. Let’s git on down the road apiece, then.”

 

“Why you little dickens.” Jasper dove at her, as she lit out running around to the other side of the car.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: Drama, Jasper/Alice/Maria, suspense

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