Raised by Wolves
~0~ Raised by Wolves ~0~
With a trembling hand, Alice smoothed her hair and replaced the hood of her parka, though she wasn’t covering up against the frigid chill. “Edward, I can’t see a way to fix this. I’ve been so worried.”
“I know you have.” The lanky youth smiled kindly at her. “We’ve all been concerned about Jasper.” He brushed the powdery snow from a large, flat boulder, and offered his sister a seat. “Go ahead and ask. You didn’t lead me all the way out here just to hunt.”
Gracefully, Alice sat and folded her hands in her lap. “Ever since we left … you know.”
An instant of anguish crossed Edward’s face as he joined her, bowing his head. “Yes.” He sighed forlornly. “Ever since we left Forks.”
“I’m sorry, Edward. I know you miss her.” Alice gave his arm a sympathetic squeeze. “But, Jasper has been distant ever since we came to Alaska. At first, I thought it was just guilt even though it wasn’t really his fault. And I told him, over and over again, it wasn’t.” Her wide eyes grew bright with tears. “A few months after that, he became worse. It was like he shut down completely.”
Edward patted her hand. “I remember. Since then, he stays in his study most of the time.”
“Yes.” Alice lowered her head, staring at, but not seeing, the snow at their feet. “He rarely comes out to hunt. He hasn’t been to my room since—” She quickly turned away, embarrassed, bringing her fingers up to stifle a sob.
“Five years,” Edward finished sadly.
She pushed the hood from her head again and tugged at the fur trim with agitated movements. “What … what has he been thinking?”
“It’s been very indistinct. It would honestly be helpful if he would project his emotions. Like you said, he’s been completely closed off.” Edward leaned back, crossing one ankle over the other. He looked absently at the dense cloud cover above the evergreen forest surrounding them, searching his memories. “Otherwise, he hears what is said around him and it seems to repeat. If someone is listening to music, he thinks about the lyrics, and so on. I would suspect he’s been doing that to block me from reading him, but it doesn’t seem so. It’s very like a muffled echo.”
“Does he … has he thought about me?”
Her dejected tone caused another aching twist in Edward’s chest. “No. Not that I’ve heard, Alice. I’m very sorry.”
The petite woman studied her twisting fingers for several long moments as the cracks in her heart broke open a little wider. Edward had only confirmed what she already knew to be true. “I-I’ve seen no future with him in it,” she admitted, her words barely audible. “I’ve seen nothing with—”
Hastily, she stood from the lichen-covered rock and brushed at the back of her pants. “He’s so unhappy. I don’t know what else to do. I-I think I have to let him go.”
Edward hurried to her side and clasped her hand in both of his. “Are you certain?”
Alice inhaled a deep breath of the frosty air and let it out bit by bit. “Yes. He’s already gone.”
Chapter 2: Raised by Wolves chapter 2
Derivative work. I make no money.
Raised by Wolves
Jasper sat at his wide desk with a yellow-paged tome lying open in front him. Sometimes he sat in the wingback chair by the south-facing window, cradling an unread book in his large hands. Other times, he ignored the words on the pages while seated on the leather sofa.
He got up from the desk, moving as if every one of his one hundred and sixty-six years had caught up with him, and made his way to the window again—yet another heavy volume resting on the wide sill.
Alaska was renowned for its untamed beauty. He’d always admired the majestically rugged mountains, the snow-frosted pines, the crystalline waters, but all had lost its appeal. He gazed out at the pristine landscape, not actively searching for anything but always looking, not knowing what he hoped to find there. All he saw were a multitude of greys and white—all color had been leached from his world.
A timid knock sounded behind him. He knew it was Alice from the veil of sorrow that drifted over him. Oddly, a tendril of conviction wove throughout it.
“Come in, Alice,” he called softly to her.
As the thick wooden door swung open, he didn’t turn to face her, sure that she was only going to ask him to go hunting with her. He couldn’t remember the last time she had. One day had blurred into the next, and they all had been the same—one was indistinguishable from another.
“Jasper, I know you’ve been … out of sorts for a while, and I’ve tried—” Halting her own words, she took a steadying breath. “That’s not what I came to say. I came to tell you—”
Again, tears welled in her eyes and the words clogged her throat. Convinced she was doing the right thing, she carried on—the last resort after everything else had failed. He’d kept his emotions from everyone, but they had all been aware he was suffering.
She took another step into the dim room and examined the tall form of the man she had spent the last half century with—his golden blond hair, the wide strong shoulders, well-formed hands that were hard and roughened from his time as a human, but somehow always so gentle with her. He hadn’t even been so disconnected—from everything—when she’d first met him in that little diner in Philadelphia.
She didn’t need a vision to know he was lost to her.
The reluctant words left her in a rush. “I’ve tried everything I can think of to help you. I don’t know what else to do. You can’t or won’t tell me ...” She paused for another quick breath. “I think you don’t even know what’s wrong. I don’t blame you for our leaving Forks, Jasper. I never have. But something changed. I can’t see what I, or any of us, can do to ease the obvious pain you must be feeling. All I can do now is let you go. You don’t have to leave, but if you want to, you can. If you want to come back, you can do that. If you want to call, or write, or email … or … or come back …”
Jasper shifted only enough to look over his shoulder at her. “It’s not pain, Alice, it’s … emptiness. It’s … there’s nothing.” He finally turned to face the bright, colorful, hope-filled woman who had miraculously pulled him from the edge of a bottomless abyss, and he felt nothing. She was as delicately beautiful as she had always been, but it had no effect on him, didn’t stir him any longer. He couldn’t even find it within himself to feel the guilt he thought he should.
He was … empty.
“I’ll leave,” he finally stated, his deep voice flat and devoid of all inflection. “I never wanted to hurt you, Alice. I’ve caused you, and the rest of the family, enough heartache.”
“Where will you go?”
“I … don’t know.”
Chapter 3: Raised by Wolves chapter 3
Derivative work, yo.
Raised by Wolves
He glanced over the sheet-covered furnishings throughout the house. It seemed as barren and lifeless as he. He’d briefly visited a few of the other Cullen properties, and a couple of his own, but he hadn’t stayed long in any of them. He’d made his way to his property in eastern Texas and checked to see if the old Chevy pickup in the precariously leaning barn would start.
Hands resting on the faded steering wheel, feeling the rhythmic vibrations of the engine, he pulled out of the barn and away.
He hadn’t known what drove him to return to the house in Forks after five years of aimless wandering, but after not feeling anything for so long, when the urge to move on again struck he had followed.
He soon found himself in Carlisle’s office and flipped through the address book lying on a corner of the desk. Finding the number of the Chief of the Quileutes written in Carlisle’s precise hand, he pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed.
It was only common courtesy he inform them a Cullen had returned. He didn’t want to inadvertently cause problems. Though he no longer thought of himself as connected to them, he had no intentions of undoing all the hard work put into the treaty made between the unconventional vampires and shape-shifting protectors. It had been one of the first calls Carlisle had made when they’d all moved to Forks before.
After several rings, Jasper was about to hang up when someone answered, blurting out a breathless, “Hello?”
“Hello, I’d like to speak with Chief William Black if I might?”
“This is his son Jacob. He passed away a few years ago. Who is this? Maybe I can help you.”
Jasper was uncertain of the hierarchy of the tribe, or how the leadership was passed from one generation to the next. He did know his own coven leader had spoken to Billy Black. Back then, Carlisle had thought the ability for any of their tribesmen to turn into wolves had died out, but it was the proper thing to do to call.
Did they even think their legends were anything more than fanciful myths any longer?
“My name is Jasper … Hale, and I’m calling—”
“Hale?” the rough voice interrupted. “You’re one of the Cullens that used to live here?”
“Yes. I believe it’s my responsibility to inform the Chief of the Quileutes—”
“That would be me. Meet me where Three Rivers Road comes into the one-ten.”
Chapter 4: Raised by Wolves chapter 4
Derivative work. No money is made by me.
Raised by Wolves
Wearing a travel-worn navy blue parka, Jasper waited at the side of the road, leaning against the fender of his truck. He ignored the fat snowflakes drifting lazily from the pearl grey clouds above.
Since Jacob Black had known who he was, and as much as ordered him to the treaty line, Jasper had to assume the new chief was well versed in the ancient legends and the agreement shared between the two groups of supernaturals. It made him wonder if any in the current generation had gained the ability to transform into the reportedly giant wolves?
It wasn’t long before Jasper felt the unmistakable sensation of suspicious curiosity. Uncrossing his arms, he took a step away from the old Silverado and lifted his nose to the slight breeze. He hadn’t heard anyone approach, but if the so-called Spirit Warriors were the natural enemy of the Cold Ones, their abilities would have to be comparable.
A most unpleasant odor of wet dog wafted by. The instincts he’d assumed were long dead came awake, and he stiffened to alertness. From between the densely growing pines a very tall, heavily muscled, and shirtless, Native American man stepped lightly through the thin layer of snow at the side of the road.
He stopped several feet from the edge of the trees, his coffee brown eyes assessing every inch of the vampire.
“I’m Jacob Black. You’re a Cullen?”
Jasper noted the young chief's grease-stained jeans and bare feet. Mere humans had to wear much more than that in the winter. And humans usually weren’t quite so disagreeably aromatic. The only conclusion—Jacob Black was a wolf. “Actually, my name is Jasper Whitlock, but I went by Hale when I lived—”
“You’ve been gone over ten years. Why’d you come back? Are the rest of them with you?”
For the first time in that ten years, Jasper was feeling annoyance. “If you would allow me to finish a sentence, Jacob Black, I’ll tell you.”
“That’s Chief Black to you since I’m the alpha of the pack. I guess you’ve heard of us?” A gleeful grin spread over his face. “A car’s coming. Why don’t we retire to my office?” He bowed and gestured regally toward the trees. “It’ll be more private.”
Jasper had heard the vehicle approaching. Apparently, Black’s hearing was as acute as his own. Following at a cautious distance, he could just make out the quiet whisper of Jacob’s footsteps. No human would have. That the snowflakes melted a full hand span above the Quileute’s skin was intriguing.
Warily, Jasper entered the dim forest. He perceived no deception from the young shifter, but he remained vigilant for any sign of attack.
In a wide open area amongst the trees, Jacob faced the vampire and planted his feet in the snow-dusted pine needles. He cocked his head to the side and indolently crossed his arms over his broad chest, a look of expectation on his face.
“We did leave just over ten years ago,” Jasper began. “I don’t really know why I came back here. I left the Cullens five years ago. None of the rest of them are with me.”
Jacob raised his head and peered down his nose at Jasper. “You left them? Your eyes are yellow.”
“I did, but I still only drink animal blood.”
“What do you mean you don’t know why you came back?” Jacob asked his voice harsh.
“Just what I said. I lived as a nomad for a time. I got my truck out of storage, and then came here.” Jasper’s irritation at the antagonistic young chief was growing at an alarming rate, and he struggled to force it down as he scanned the surrounding woods. The hair was standing up on the back of his neck. Someone else was nearby. He wondered how many others in the tribe had shifted and might be hidden in the thick evergreens.
From Jasper’s left, a flash of purple, brown, and white streaked across the clearing, and Jacob let out a howl as what appeared to be a female vampire collided with him. They hit the ground and rolled for several yards in a spinning tornado of arms and legs, disappearing beyond the thick undergrowth.
Jasper lowered into a defensive stance, prepared for an assault from any direction. He’d sensed another, but he hadn’t realized it was another vampire. There didn’t appear to be anyone else around. He momentarily considered assisting the shifter when the sound of their irate bellows finally broke through.
“Jake! I told you not to be an ass!” Every other word the female shouted was punctuated with a resounding slap.
“Bells, quit bein’ a bitch!”
The vampiress hurtled backwards into the clearing, and Jacob was right on her, pinning her to the ground with one thick forearm and clamping his free hand over her entire face.
“When you douchebags snuck out of town like the pussies you are, you left a hell of a mess behind,” Jacob managed to bark before he was abruptly flipped onto his back. The female—Bells—leapt up and stomped her booted foot down on his neck.
“Ha!” she cheered triumphantly as she flipped her long tangled hair out of her face. “I won that one, alpha-boy!” she taunted.
She finally looked up at Jasper with a beaming smile.
He was frozen in shock. The female was Bella!
Before Jasper could think to say or do anything, Jacob latched onto Bella’s denim-clad leg with one hand, and walloped her backside with the other, sending her flying directly at him. He did the only thing he could. He threw both arms around her in a protective cage as they smashed through a small tree and tumbled across the wet ground.
They came to a sliding stop with Bella on top of him, her delighted laughter ringing through the forest as she slid to Jasper’s side. His arm still around her back, she propped herself up on one elbow and pushed the mop of hair out of her face, before dropping her hand to his chest. She grinned at him in an almost manic way.
Jasper could only marvel at the beauty draped over him. He didn’t care that there was dirt on her face, or that they were lying in slushy mud, or that there were bits of forest debris stuck in her wild curls. She was the loveliest woman—human or vampire—he’d ever seen.
Her emotions were beyond happy—she was thrilled. Her hand resting at the center of his chest created a warmth like he had never experienced.
Ensnared by the rich, sparkling garnet of her irises, his mind went completely blank.
He had no idea how long they stayed like that, gazing at each other, but Jasper would have easily lain like that for the next ten years.
Their mutual regard was disrupted by an obnoxiously loud throat clearing. Jacob Black stomped into view just beyond their feet, thumbs hooked in the waistband of his bedraggled jeans.
“Not real sure, Bells, but I think he’s glad to see you.” He scratched at his closely cropped hair. “That’s kinda what it felt like.”
Jasper hadn’t felt anything for so long, he was struck dumb at the notion he had projected anything. Jacob’s intrusive presence reminded him there had been some kind of trouble. His first clue was lying right next to him, biting her lip and tracing circling lines over his coat.
“What …how?” was all Jasper could manage to stammer.
Jacob blew out an exasperated breath and sauntered over to a wide-trunked fir. He leaned one arm against the tree and crossed one ankle in front of the other. “Well, let me tell ya, bloodsucker.”
“Jacob,” Bella warned, the beginnings of growl making itself heard. “I told you about the bloodsucker thing.”
“Pffft. I call you that all the time.” He flapped his hand like he was shooing her away. “Yeah, you chickenshits left a shit-ton of crap here that we had to clean up.” Jacob jabbed at himself with his thumb. “Remember the leech with the dreadlocks? Laurent. Right, Bella?”
“Laurent?” Jasper scrambled to his feet, hauling a squawking Bella up with him.
“Ease up, Jas, you’re going to rip my coat. I like this one,” Bella complained, brushing at the royal purple nylon.
When he snatched his arms from around her and stepped away, Bella immediately followed. “I don’t mind the hug, just don’t tear it. Of course, we could take them off. It’s not like we need them.” She peered coquettishly up at him as she fingered the tab to the zipper of his parka and started to inch it down.
So far, she was nothing like the girl he assumed she was when they’d left. Was she flirting with him?
Sheepishly, Jasper patted the puffy sleeves covering her arms. “I’m sorry.” In the next instant, Bella was attached to his side again, and his arms were around her. He didn’t even mind that she smelled so much of dog.
After they’d left Forks, and Bella, he’d been a desolate, empty shell for ten long years. He’d not even been in a deep depression—he’d felt nothing, hadn’t cared about anything. After the first few months, it was as if he’d shut down, deactivated. He’d never connected it to the loss of the human girl. None of them had. Was it because she had been human at the time?
He looked down at her, belatedly realizing she had unzipped his coat. When his astonished eyes met hers, she pressed her body more firmly to his, and her hand slid up his belly and chest until her fingertips brushed the skin at the open collar of his flannel shirt. That feather-light, skin-to-skin caress filled his hollow heart with happiness until it overflowed, and his body was flooded with contentment. Like his very cells were jolted back to life. The feeling grew and spread; heating and enlivening him, bit by bit.
Edward had loved her, or the idea of her, and she returned his feelings. Had she been turned all those years ago, Jasper began to suspect the youth would have been tossed aside.
A loud oof and a squelching thud wrenched their attention away from each other. The mighty chief was sprawled on the ground and just starting to roll to his side to sit up.
“I was wrong. Hard to believe, I know.” He propped his elbows on his bent knees. “Bells, this is the guy that feels all the feels, right?”
When Bella gave him a puzzled nod, Jacob slapped his thighs and heaved himself up from the ground with a grunt, ignoring the dripping muck. “He’s not just glad to see you, he imprinted. Knocked me right on my ass. If I didn’t know you were such a snotty brat, I’d think I was in love with you. Or him,” Jacob said with a leer.
“Imprinted?” Jasper was even more confused.
Bella’s strangely warm hand inched its way from his neck to his cheek. “It’s what happens to some of the wolves. It’s how they know they’ve met their mate.”
Everything was suddenly becoming clear. On some level, had he recognized the human girl as his partner and been mourning her loss? It was the only explanation for his years of utter detachment. He’d thought he’d found his love in the petite Alice, and she had brought him out of a gloomy melancholy, and showed him an easier way to live, but who knew there could be so much more? He’d been aware of the love and caring concern the mated Cullens had for each other, but he’d never before known the bewildering and magical physical aspect of it. He felt the radiance of Bella’s touch into the marrow of his bones and soon understood it was something that couldn’t be described with words—it had to be experienced.
Was the building adoration he was feeling love? How could he be in love with someone he barely knew?
It didn’t matter. He wanted her.
Impulsively, he clutched her to his body and buried his nose in her hair at her neck, longing to breathe in her scent without the distraction of the wolf.
She was Bella, but not the shy, withdrawn girl left behind—she was so much more. Her youthful, sweet perfume had matured to a more womanly fragrance, and he couldn’t get enough. Before he could stop himself, he licked her throat from her collarbone to her ear and sighed. Perfect. Sweet with a hint of earthy spice he couldn’t identify.
“Ew. Did he just lick you?”
“Shut up, Jacob,” Bella hissed.
When her lips touched Jasper’s jaw, he would have sworn his heart leapt, and he was filled with a comforting peace. Had he been yearning his mate all those years?
He had felt Bella’s sheer happiness earlier, but when it blossomed within his own being, he knew it for what it really was—joy. He longed to bask in the feelings, but he wanted to know what had happened after he and the Cullens had left Forks. What did Laurent have to do with Bella? How had she been turned? All his questions were shoved to the side when Bella burrowed into his chest. Without a thought, his right hand slid to the center of her back and the left down over the curve of her ass, pulling her into him more securely.
A little voice in his head chastised him for overstepping his bounds, but he couldn’t help himself. He needed to be in contact with every part of her—feel her entire body against his. It pleased him immensely to know she felt the same way.
“Oh, God!” Jacob exclaimed in mock despair. “You guys are worse than Sam and Emily ever were! At least I can’t feel their fuck me vibes.”
Bella jerked away from Jasper’s hold and let out a rippling snarl. “I’ve been waiting a long time, Jacob. I told you to—”
Jasper grabbed her arm and cautioned, “Don’t” while Jacob wiped some of the mud from his arms.
“Look, you guys, I get it.” Jacob extended his hands toward them. “But you, Whitlock,” he said, pointing one thick finger directly at him, “need to know the shit-storm you left behind. That I, and the rest of the pack, had to clean up.”
Jacob’s anger and frustration bled through the giddy haze of romance surrounding them. A low rumbling sounded in Jasper’s center, and he embraced Bella in the safety of his arms. “Then tell me what happened.”
“Quit feeling her up for five minutes and I will.” Jacob began pacing back and forth in front of them.
“You’re such a pig!” Bella frowned, but then tried to placate her friend. “I’ll tell him later, Jake.”
“No, ya won’t. You wouldn’t tell him how fucked up it was because you wouldn’t want him to feel bad! You’d blow it off like it was nothing. I know how you are.” He punched the bark from a fir and glared at Jasper. “After your asswipe brother broke up with her, and you guys left, in about the crappiest way you could have, she was a damn mess—not that I wasn’t glad you were gone. The stupid idiot got lost in the woods chasing after Mr. Perfect, and Sam, the first Alpha, found her hours later. Then it was like she shut down. Nightmares, wouldn’t eat—she looked like hell. Out of the blue one day, she showed up at my house, we started hanging out, and she got better. Not much, but better. I even managed to put some meat back on her bones. Then the little whiny asshole decided to take a stroll through the woods by herself. Guess she didn’t learn her lesson the first time.”
“Asshole?” Bella exclaimed. “Who’s the other asswipe that broke up with me?”
“Look, you know that wasn’t my fault.”
Bella was trembling with a rapidly escalating rage, and Jasper renewed his hold. “Are you two going to argue, or are you going to get to the point?” There wasn’t any real animosity behind the bared teeth and snarls, and he was starting to think the verbal sparring was a regular thing with them.
“Okay,” Jacob griped with a slight whine. “So I turned into a wolf, and Sam said I had to stay away from her, but then she slapped … Never mind.” He threw his hands up. “Anyhow, little Miss Grizzliette Adams went on a nature hike and got herself bitten by a vampire.”
Jacob rambled on despite Jasper’s rising growl.
“Me and the pack killed the leech—Laurent,” he sneered, “But then I had to protect Bella from them! They wanted to kill her because she was turning into a vampire.” His voice grew harder and sharper. “I said I’d watch her and make sure she didn’t kill anybody. Do you know how hard it is to keep a newborn vampire from slaughtering people while you’re trying to keep her from killing you? Thank Christ she remembered who I was!”
“Well, that was mostly Paul that wanted to bite my head off—guess I shouldn’t have slapped him—and you do kinda stink, Jacob,” Bella replied.
“As a matter of fact, I do know how hard it is,” was Jasper’s cutting retort. How close had he come to losing her forever? An involuntary shudder raced through him.
“That’s not all Paul wanted to bite. Heh, heh, heh.” Jacob chortled with a lecherous smirk. “Anyhow, that’s where you got all them scars from, blondie? Bella mentioned something about that. In fact, she mentioned you a lot. Edward, she wanted to flambé, but you she wanted to talk to.” Jacob let out a gusty, long-suffering sigh. “I guess I can see why now.”
“That’s not it, Jacob. Or I didn’t think it was.” Bella smiled up at Jasper and ran her hand over his chest. “I didn’t know much because Edward didn’t tell me shit, but I knew Jasper had had something to do with training newborns.” She reached up and kissed Jasper’s throat. “If only I’d been allowed to speak to you, maybe my formative years wouldn’t have been so difficult. I’m so glad you’re here now. Jacob told me about the Cullens being here before. I was hoping you’d come back some day. If I could wait that long.”
“Difficult? Difficult!?” Jacob’s voice jumped an octave. “Screaming like a banshee, running all over the damn place like she was out of her mind. Thank the spirits Embry came to help me. There’s no way to keep up with somebody who never goddamn sleeps!” He loomed closer to them.
Jasper bared his teeth. “Back the fuck up, Jacob Black.”
“Sorry!” Jacob held his hands up as he took a few steps back. “Forgot the new mate thing. Sheesh! Don’t need you or your little girlfriend taking a bite out of this fine ass.”
Keeping one distrustful eye on the shifter, Jasper nuzzled Bella’s cheek and whispered in her ear, “I didn’t know, Bella, or I’d have been here sooner. I’d have never left. I’m so sorry.”
“You’re here now.” She breathed him in, closing her eyes. “I wanted to look for you, but I had no idea where to even begin. Jacob and Embry did help me. When Seth and Leah phased, they were a big help, too, even when Leah was kicking my ass. Every time I went a little crazy and wanted to take off, they convinced me to stay a while longer.”
“A little crazy?” Jacob scoffed. “Animal blood just wasn’t doing it. She didn’t calm down until she drank a human.”
At Jasper’s sharp intake of breath, Bella growled again. “You have absolutely no tact whatsoever, Jacob Black! That’s why I said I’d tell him later!”
“It’s not like he can’t see your hideous demon eyes, Bells. He’s a Cullen moron, but he can’t be that stupid.”
Bella sprang at Jacob but Jasper caught her mid-shriek and hauled her back. “Ex-Cullen,” Jasper amended. He held Bella to his chest, murmuring huskily in her ear, “I did notice your eyes …” To him they glistened like rubies.
“The first human she ate was a drug dealer we caught on the Res. He was passing through and nobody even missed him when he was gone.” Jacob chuckled. “She was quiet for three whole days—finally being full and all mortified and shit at herself for taking a human life,” Jacob said in a mocking tone. “Somebody who would sell that to kids is subhuman, as far as I’m concerned.”
Bella was still growling. “What about the pot you guys smoke?”
“We’re not little kids, and it’s not the same as the shit that guy had on him, and you know it!” Jacob snarled back. “It was kind of an accident. Sam, the alpha then, caught the guy by the school and dragged him into the woods to beat his ass. The fucker pulled a gun and shot at him but missed. Of course, Bella came running.”
“I do protect you guys,” Bella said, rolling her eyes. “He shot me twice, and then I ate him. The bastard ruined my damn T-shirt.”
“I told her not to feel bad because she ripped his head clean off. He could have killed Sam, and she kept him from the kids.” Jacob ran his hand over his head, flicking melted snow away. “After that, we went dealer-hunting, until Bella decided she wanted to sip on pedophiles.”
At the stunned look on Jasper’s face, Bella lunged again. “Jacob! Convicted pedophiles!” She slumped in Jasper’s arms. “Oh, God,” she groaned. “You must think I’m such a failure, killing all those people.”
Jasper finally found his voice. “No, I don’t.” He turned her to face him. “I don’t,” he reiterated. “You’re a vampire. I only stopped drinking human blood because I couldn’t take their emotions when I killed them any longer, not because I think humans are some divine creation more worthy of life than any other.”
“Yeah, because people suck, and it seemed like a workable compromise,” Jacob added with a shrug. “It calmed her ass down, and she’s doing the world a favor. It’s a win-win.”
At Bella’s renewed snarl, Jacob ducked behind a tree. “Well, she helped us, too,” he admitted, peeking around the trunk. “She’s got five vamp kills and five assists. Not including the red-haired vampire.”
It was just one mind-numbing shock after another. “What!?” Jasper’s head jerked up. “Red-head? Victoria?”
“We got her, Jas.” Bella said softly. She cupped his cheek and peered into his eyes. “She kept teasing the pack. They’d chase her, and she’d jump into the trees or dive into the ocean and get away.” Bella’s eyes darkened. “Until I was waiting for her.”
The out-of-character smirk that spread across Bella’s face sent a jolt of desire up Jasper’s spine.
“She couldn’t smell me underwater,” Bella went on. The deep burgundy of her eyes flicked to midnight with the memory. “She didn’t spot me right away because I was wearing a ski mask and black gloves and clothes. That and I was hiding behind some rocks. It was Quil’s idea.”
“Damn if it didn’t work.” Jacob was shaking his head in amusement. “It helps that you vamps don’t have to breathe. We get down to the beach and Bella the sea-ninja is walking out of the waves, Vic’s head in one hand and dragging her by the foot in the other.” He laughed out loud. “That bitch made a beautiful bonfire!”
“We burned her head last,” Bella finished with smug satisfaction.
Jasper couldn’t contain the new growl erupting from his chest. His heart ached with the thought she’d had to face a vengeful, centuries-old vampire, and he hadn’t been there to protect her. He knew he should have gone after that nomad. If Bella had been on her own …
He was overcome with relief and gratitude. “Jacob, I want to thank—”
“No need to thank me, leech.” Jacob bounced up on his toes and waved him off. “We handled it. Taught Bells everything she knows. We sorta had to since she was abandoned. You might even say she was the orphan raised in the forest by wolves. She sure acts like a wild animal sometimes. Uh, most of the time.”
“Jacob, that’s enough,” Bella said through clenched teeth. “If you don’t shut up right now I’ll—”
Swallowing back his own venom, Jasper seized her and buried his nose in her hair, cutting off her words. He wasn’t especially fond of the arrogant alpha, but he and his pack had saved Bella’s life. She was the tribe’s mortal enemy, but they had allowed her to stay on their lands, had worked with her, and made sure she hadn’t taken innocent lives. Without them, she’d have been lost to him. If they had killed her when she awoke, would he have spent eternity as less than half a man, or would he have gone insane? He hadn’t known she had become a vampire, but something deep within had been aware of the tenuous connection and was profoundly affected by her absence. What would he have done without her?
“Bella,” he croaked around the constricting knot in his throat.
“Jasper, I know. It’s okay.” She hugged him with as much reassurance as she could put into it. “Come home with me.”
Jacob couldn’t resist running his mouth. “Yeah, we set her up in a cabin not far from here.” He began to back away from them. “I’ll let the guys know you have company, Bells. Don’t forget to put a sock on the doorknob!” He waggled his eyebrows at her and bounded away.
Chapter 5: Raised by Wolves chapter 5
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Raised by Wolves
“Wait!” Bella held up a finger in front of Jasper’s nose and very carefully hung her beloved purple coat on the doorknob, before slamming the door shut. One sleeve got trapped between the door and jamb, but she didn’t give a shit.
Jasper pounced, taking Bella to the floor and knocking over a small table. The two baskets that had sat on top, and their contents, bounced and scattered across the floor into a large dining area.
Jasper blinked, stunned again. “Is that …?”
“K.Y. jelly and assorted lubes.” Bella flipped him onto his back and straddled his thighs. “Different flavors, too. One is bacon.” Her hands coasted over his shoulders and down his chest.
“Do … do you mind me asking …?”
“Why so many?” She leaned forward with a smile until her nose was almost touching his. “Paul throws them on the porch when he runs by. His version of romance.”
“Oh?” Jasper swallowed thickly. Her lips were so close. “I thought he wanted to kill you?”
“Uh, it’s kind of a love-hate thing.” She shrugged, licked his mouth, and sat up before ripping the plain white T-shirt from his body. His flannel shirt, and her own over shirt, had disappeared somewhere along the path through the woods. She had no idea where their boots and socks were. “Oh,” she breathed.
Jasper stilled and remained motionless under her intense scrutiny. He wasn’t ashamed of the battle scars that crisscrossed and slashed his torso, but he’d spent years covering them so as to not unduly alarm others, unless the situation required it. Most females had shied away from him when first seeing them—including Alice. He couldn’t decipher Bella’s expression and her emotions were suddenly blank to him.
At least she hadn’t run away.
With the tip of her finger, Bella drew a faint line from the thick scar above his heart and down. She paused at the fine, golden brown hairs marking a trail from his navel and disappearing beneath his belt buckle. When her eyes snapped up to his, they glittered like faceted obsidian.
He held his breath in wary anticipation, not having the first clue what she was thinking or feeling. “Bella, I—”
“Stop,” she commanded. “I’ve got a few of my own. Each and every mark is a battle you won—a bitch that tried to kill you and lost.” She peeled off her long-sleeved grey shirt and flung it across the room. “You’re the sexiest, most lickable fucking man I’ve ever seen.”
He never got a chance to look her over for any scars, or anything else, because her left hand had a fistful of his hair, and her mouth was hungrily devouring his. Her right hand was unbuckling his belt.
He was momentarily dazed when a wave of her needful lust and craving broke over him. He soon caught up with her, hooking his thumbs in her jeans and tearing them away.
“Bed?” he gasped into her hair. He almost cried out when her hand wrapped around his dick.
“Up in the loft,” she answered between licks and nips at his jaw.
He rolled them until he was on his knees above her, but she never stopped her rhythmic strokes on his cock. When her teasing fingers gathered his precum and spread it down his achingly hard length, he couldn’t hold back. It had been so long.
Jasper groaned and grabbed her hand. “If you keep doing that, I’m—”
“Jasper.” Her voice was a sultry purr that sent a shot of blazing heat straight to his dick. “Cum on me.”
On her? Bella Swan certainly had changed.
With his face buried in the hair at her neck, he let go and shuddered with each pulse of his orgasm and caress of her hand.
When he regained his senses, he was flat on his back, and Bella was kneeling beside him, trailing kisses down his throat to his chest. When she reached a nipple, she took it between her teeth and tugged, grinning at him.
He sat up, catching her face between his hands. He could hardly believe he was there with her. He’d spent a decade yearning for a mate he didn’t know existed, and she’d been there the whole time.
“You waited here for ten years.”
“Yes,” she whispered.
“You waited for me to come back for ten years.”
She reached to smooth the worried lines that formed on his brow. “Yes.”
He swallowed, suddenly unsure, and searched her dark, passion-filled eyes. “But there’s a history here.”
She raised one eyebrow in challenge. “Yes, there is.”
Wrapping one hand around the back of her neck, Jasper brought her closer. “Not Jacob Black. I know how you feel about him. But you’ve entertained several different shifters here in your cabin.”
“Mr. Nosy, aren’t you? I feed them, and I make salsa and stuff to sell,” was her nonchalant reply. “They’re my food tasters.”
Jasper kissed the corner of her mouth and held his lips there. “But there’s one in particular … Paul?”
“Well …” She lowered her eyes. “That’s really more of a lust-hate relationship.”
“That’s over now,” he demanded, his tone deepening.
A secret smile spread across her lips, and she kissed him lightly. “If you’re vampire enough to handle me.” The smile grew wider. “Raised by wolves, remember?”
Nuzzling her jaw and cheek, Jasper paused at her ear. “The little wolf girl is more of a vixen. Don’t wolves mate for life?”
“Typically.” Bella’s breath quickened. “He’s not—”
Jasper tightened his hold on her neck and nudged her over onto her back, sliding smoothly in between her thighs. “I think I can be vampire enough for the wolf girl.” He pressed the head of his fully aroused dick at her slick opening.
Her breath caught as he entered her deliberately, inch by inch, and then she sighed in pleasure, a fire burning in her eyes. “At least you smell a lot better.”
The fierce hunger in Jasper’s eyes held her transfixed as he gradually withdrew. “I’ve waited my whole life for you.” A muted rumbling vibrated through his chest as his other hand slid down over her ass and gripped her as he thrust forcefully into her, causing her to cry out in ecstasy. “I’m vampire enough to tame the wolf.”