A/N: Michael Bolton’s Soul Provider was quite helpful.
Bella went to check the private patio of the villa. The water was running languidly in the deep, bowl-shaped fountain that was so large two people could sit in it. The door that led from the patio to the pool area in front of the hotel was secure. The guest, and his guests, would have no trouble getting to the pool or the flowing “lazy river” that circled it. She even inspected the palm trees and checked for trash in the potted tropical plants. After adjusting the colorful, striped cushions on the wooden outdoor furniture, she flipped her long ponytail to her back and wiped the sweat from her brow. It was so hot and humid; she didn’t think anyone would be sitting outside, but if they wanted to, it was ready.
She swept through the bathroom that was twice the size of her bedroom back in Forks. Two thick, white robes were on hooks by the door that led to the enclosed patio. There were enough big, fluffy towels in the open cabinets around the double sink for the separate glass-walled shower; the huge white-porcelain, claw foot tub; and about a dozen people. Unfortunately, Bella knew every single towel would be used and need to be replaced the next day. She was glad she didn’t do the laundry for the hotel.
In the bedroom, the king-sized dark wood, four-poster bed was neatly made and the deep red bedding was tight enough to bounce a quarter on. She fluffed the four pillows and made sure the mints were placed exactly in the center of two. She tweaked the sheer curtains on the French doors that also led to the patio and tested the latch to make sure it was locked. The heavier, cream-colored, room darkening drapes were pulled back to the sides to let in the light. She peeked under them to see if any dust bunnies had escaped the other housekeepers.
She propped her hands on her hips, gave the room another sweeping look, and nodded in satisfaction. She actually liked the color scheme. Khaki walls, cream trim, and red accents. If she ever got her own place, she thought she might copy it.
She left the bedroom and quickly went through the little kitchenette and bar. The granite counters gleamed, the little sink sparkled, and the mini-bar and refrigerator were properly stocked. She thought it was funny that including a microwave let them call it a kitchen.
Last was the living area and then the foyer, and she would be finished.
She left the kitchenette and immediately turned to the right to cross the room and make sure the remotes for the TV and sound system were on the dark wood cabinet beneath the large flat screen. Seeing they were in place, she turned and adjusted the fresh bouquet on the coffee table; straightened the stack of guides, brochures and menus; and then reached to turn on the red ceramic lamps that were on the end tables flanking the creamy beige couch.
She headed back toward the small round dining table, nudged the vase of colorful flowers into the center of the table, prodded each of the four upholstered chairs, and stood back to survey the room.
It all looked pristine, neat, and tidy. She sighed as she turned, knowing it would all have to be done again tomorrow. There was no telling how the new guest might treat the room. He might be just a CEO who wanted to be left alone to relax before his next meeting or he could be one of those who might find a few other guests to continue their good time after playing in the casino. One never knew how it would turn out.
She decided the room would do and completed her turn to head for the separate entry foyer to gather her cleaning cart, go find whatever it was that smelled so appetizing, and leave. It was nearly time for her to clock out, too. She was looking forward to getting back to her tiny apartment and soaking in her own tub.
Movement in the dark foyer caught her eye and she jerked to a stop, nearly falling over. There was a tall man standing next to her cart by the door. She hadn’t heard anyone come into the room.
His face was in shadow, but she knew he wasn’t one of the bell boys. He was wearing a cowboy hat, a solid black western-style shirt, black jeans, and worn black boots.
All black? In this heat?
“Oh! I’m sorry, sir. I was just finishing up the suite and getting ready to leave. I’m sorry, really.” Nervously, Bella wrung her hands together and tugged at her uniform. She didn’t realize it had gotten so late. The housekeepers were supposed to be out of the rooms before check-in time at 4:00. And why wasn’t one of the bell boys with him? “I was just making sure everything was in place and—”
“It’s all right,” said the deep voice. The man stepped farther into the light from the living room. “I’m a little early.”
He reached up to remove his black hat and ran his fingers through his hair. She couldn’t help noticing his wide shoulders and how his blond hair curled just above his collar.
After taking off his hat and lowering his arms, she saw his red eyes.
Her hand flew to her mouth as she choked on her sudden inhalation and stumbled backward, bumping into one of the chairs she had just straightened at the table.
After so many months without seeing any vampires, she had been lulled into a false sense of security. She never forgot about them, but because it was so sunny in Louisiana, she had thought she was fairly safe.
If he had wanted to gamble, why hadn’t he gone to Vegas?
The blond vampire dropped his hat on a table in the foyer and stepped slowly toward her, his pale hands extended in front of him. “Bella,” he said quietly.
He knew her real name! Her heart was hammering in her chest, and she couldn’t catch her breath. What if he knew Victoria? Was he working for her? She’d have to leave! If he didn’t kill her.
He must know Victoria! Why else would he be there?
With one hand clutching her uniform at her chest, the other flew to her forehead as she began to feel lightheaded and dizzy. She couldn’t get enough air.
She knew she was going to die, but she staggered away from him, hoping to reach the French doors in the bedroom, knowing she’d never be able to outrun him.
Of course, she tripped.
Before she could crash to the floor, her body was being held firmly against the vampire’s, with his cool, hard arm around her back. His right hand moved lightly across her brow, over her head and rested gently on the hot skin at the back of her neck.
“Bella, it’s me. Jasper. I’ve been looking for you for a nearly a year.”
His face was so close to hers, and the spicy scent of his breath was filling her senses. She pushed against his chest with her closed fists and blinked rapidly, trying to clear her vision.
“Jasper?” She pushed against him again, leaning back away from him. His face finally came into focus, and she finally recognized his firm jaw with the slight cleft in his chin and the hint of five o’clock shadow.
Her eyes moved over his full lips to the smooth plains of his cheeks and up to eyes framed by dark lashes. They weren’t the tawny gold she remembered. They were definitely a vivid red.
The red of the well-fed human drinker.
Wait. He’d been looking for her? “What?” At the realization of what he had said shot through her mind, her entire body went rigid. He’d been looking for her!
“Okay. Okay.” Tears welled up in her eyes and poured down her face. She should have known she was living on borrowed time, and she did. She really did, but it had been so calm the last several months, she had become complacent and just hadn’t given it a lot of thought lately.
At least she had spoken to Charlie the week before and told him she loved him. She had even called her mother a week before that and had a good talk. She hadn’t told either of them where she was, but they knew she loved them.
Because he didn’t have the golden eyes of the vegetarian vampire anymore, it was obvious things had changed. All the Cullens had left Forks because of her. She hadn’t thought he wanted to kill her then, but with his crimson eyes …
Because it was Jasper that had found her, she didn’t think she’d have to worry about her roommate Nessie; despite Jasper’s change in diet. Her friend would be safe, and she knew if Bella disappeared, she was to search Bella’s truck for the money that was hidden there.
As she accepted the fate she had managed to cheat for so long, all the strength left her, and she went limp in Jasper’s arms, her head falling back and exposing her neck to him.
Jasper’s eyes were fixated on the thrumming pulse in front of him. He couldn’t resist the pale, smooth skin and lowered his mouth to press his lips to the tempting sight, making her flinch in his arms. He had known he would find her eventually, he wouldn’t have ever stopped looking, and when he had caught her scent two weeks before, he couldn’t believe his luck and could barely restrain himself from taking her immediately. But he had waited and watched, and formed his plans to ensure everything was in place.
He couldn’t resist the urge to taste her and licked her smooth skin with a broad sweep of his tongue from her collar bone to her ear where he inhaled her intoxicating scent.
“You don’t need to fear me, Bella.” He kissed her beneath her ear and trailed his lips over her jaw and to her cheek, tasting the salty tears. “You feel … resigned. Why?” His mouth traced lightly over hers as he moved to her right cheek, kissing away those tears and brushing his cool lips over her closed eyelids.
Taking in a slow breath, she couldn’t help noticing how good he smelled. Something about his scent tickled at the back of her mind. “Because … because at my eighteenth birthday … I knew you didn’t really want to hurt me, but everyone had to leave because of me …” Her voice trailed away, and she choked in another breath. “You have red eyes now. You came to … you came to kill me.”
“I may be ending your human life,” he said as he lifted her and slipped his left arm under her legs, picking her up. “But I won’t be killing you.”
The next moment, Bella was standing unsteadily next to the bed, and he was toeing off his boots. His scarlet eyes had darkened to a glittering black and were traveling at a snail’s pace down her body.
In an instant, his shirt was off. He flung it across the room and then his mouth was on hers. He had longed for those soft, pink lips and they would be his. While his fingers pulled the elastic band from her hair, loosening the long curls so he could run his fingers through the silky length, he ran the tip of his tongue over the seam of her mouth. When she gasped in surprise, he plundered her mouth, finally able to taste her at last.
Her sweet spice burst over his tongue and a deep, rumbling growl worked its way through his body. She tried to back away from him, but only managed to bump into the side of the bed. He held her head with both hands but broke the kiss so she could breathe.
“I thought you had drowned. I finally woke up when I heard about your death, but then it was too late.” He’d been searching for her too long to waste any more time. He released the hold on his emotions and let them flood into her—all the yearning, the pain, the sense of profound loss that had nearly crushed him when he had thought she was gone forever.
She cried out at the force of it and her hands clutched at his biceps. “Oh, Jasper!”
“I had to go to Forks—to be near the last place you had been alive. Then I heard you hadn’t died—you had left town.” The joy that filled him when he learned she was still alive swept away all the heavy, dark pain. “I’ve been looking for you ever since. I had to find you. Two weeks ago I did.”
His hands ghosted down her neck and over her shoulders, and he let loose the longing he’d felt for her. “I’ve waited too long for you. I nearly lost you.” His finger sketched a delicate line from her shoulder to the plastic name tag above her heart. “We’ll keep this, Mildred.” The corners of his mouth curved upward and the tag was unpinned and tossed to the bedside table.
His lips were on her throat again, and he whispered, “Feel what I feel … when I touch your skin. The power … the sense of rightness. I never touched your skin before and I should have.” He licked her again. “This is what I feel for you.” He dropped the wall that had been holding back his love, and the fear that had pinched her features was wiped away.
She shuddered and a breathy “oh!” escaped her.
“You do. You feel it.” His fingers moved deftly, unbuttoning Bella’s grey shirt-dress uniform as he peppered her lips, chin, and jaw with quick kisses. He tugged the coarse material off her shoulders and down her arms, letting it drop to the floor. “Money belt?” He quickly unsnapped the buckle and pulled it away from her waist.
She could only nod until she sucked in enough air to speak. “Uh, money, IDs, birth certificate.” Her wide eyes were on his. A flash of fear escaped her.
He smiled at her foresight. “For a quick get-away. You won’t have to worry about that anymore. You’ll be with me.”
His hands skimmed up her waist, and then over the simple cotton bra covering her breasts. He grinned when her nipples hardened against his palms. In the blink of an eye, she was lying on the bed, naked, and his sparkling eyes examined every inch of her.
“Beautiful,” he breathed. His jeans were gone, and he was hovering over her, panting, gazing at her with more love than he had ever felt before and a craving like he’d never known. “That’s what I feel for you, and this is how much I want you.”
He released the smoldering desire he’d kept buried. Her eyes snapped shut and her lips parted in a silent moan. Her fingers spread wide as she reached up for him, wanting him.
His lust swept over and through her like a raging forest fire. She’d never experienced anything like it before. The desire she had felt for Edward was nothing compared to the hunger Jasper had for her, and she couldn’t stop her hands from roaming over every inch of skin she could reach.
“J-Jasper,” she said, stuttering. “It’s you. You’re the cinnamon I smelled. You were in the hotel.” Her hands fluttered over his strongly muscled chest to his shoulders, and her fingers followed the curve to his neck. She was nearly overcome with the strength of his desire and need, but she clung to the longing and the love. It reached to the deepest, hidden part of her heart, and broke loose that door she had slammed shut so many months before.
“I was.” He lowered his body to hers and let out a guttural groan when his swollen dick was pressed between them, and grunted when she whimpered and squirmed beneath him while his hungry mouth covered her face and neck with wet kisses.
He gasped loudly when her arms went around him and she embraced him and his love. He nearly cried out when she returned it, multiplied, with her own. “I want you so much.”
“But, Jasper, I never …”
His heart leapt at her words. “You’ll be mine,” he said snarling. His right hand coasted over her body and his fingers slid into her heated folds. “You were always mine. I was a fool not to see it.” When his fingers entered her, her hips rose to meet his hand. “Yesss. You’re so ready for me. I’ve been ready for you.” She moaned into his mouth as his fingers slid gently into her again and again. “I want you. I need you.” He slowly removed his fingers from her slick warmth and drew them across her body and over her hip until his hand covered her ass. With his knee he pushed her legs apart and settled between. “I’ve waited so long.”
A sliver of fear arced through the love she was radiating. “But I thought … I thought a vampire couldn’t—”
“Edward told you a vampire couldn’t make love to a human? He lied.” Jasper shifted his hips so the tip of his dick was at her entrance. Bracing himself on his left elbow, the fingers of his right hand caressed her clit and glided to her entrance to gather the evidence of her arousal. His eyes closed in pleasure as he smoothed her juices over the head. “I’ll make love to you. I’ll fuck you. I’ll make you mine.”
He sank into her unhurriedly, his body shuddering at the scorching heat of her while she tensed beneath him, and her fingers dug into his back. He was nearly overcome with the urge to pull back and slam into her, but he fought it, clenching his teeth and forcing himself to be still. Being inside her felt so good, it was almost more than he could stand, but he didn’t move until her hands relaxed and began to hesitantly drift down his back.
He bathed her with his love and building lust as he eased back and gradually pushed into her again. Her liquid brown eyes squeezed shut, and she groaned out his name while her hips rose to meet his.
He’d been desperate to find her and claim her as his own, and he knew he wouldn’t be able to control his release. He raised his body and reached for her clit again, stroking and circling it—watching for the minutest change in her reactions. She mewled and whined as his own pleasure, his skilled fingers, and short, steady thrusts brought her closer to her orgasm.
Her lust tangled and knotted with his, and he didn’t hold back the swirling emotions, wanting her to experience everything she made him feel. Her skin was as hot as fire against him and around him, and he groaned again as he sank into her. He couldn’t resist dragging his mouth from the corner of her shoulder to the crook of her neck, sucking and licking at her, tasting her, but still not being able to get enough.
When her breath caught in her throat and her inner muscles tightened around him, he knew she was about to come and he quickened his pace.
“Yes, Bella. I want to feel it,” he breathed, shoving his nose into her hair at her ear. “I want to feel it when you come. I want to know how good I make you feel while I make love to you and make you mine.”
A surprised “oh” escaped her and her body went rigid. It was beautiful to hear her panting out his name as her hips worked against his with each deep pulse of her orgasm. Her legs locked around his, trying to pull him closer, and her hands gripped his biceps. Her constricting muscles drew him more deeply into her, stroking and squeezing him, and he thought he was going to die from the exquisite pleasure.
When she screamed out his name, her lust and euphoria exploded within him and he came. He snatched his mouth from her neck and planted his hands on the bed on either side of her shoulders, fearing he would lose complete control and crush her. He struggled to hold himself as still as he could as wave after wave of the painfully erotic sensations raced through his body.
He let out a moaning growl as the throbbing in his dick slowed to match the surrounding spasms. When they had ceased, and Bella had caught her breath, he eased carefully away from her. He lay on his side next to her, lifting her legs over his, and curled around her.
He tenderly kissed the crown of her head when she let out a long, satisfied sigh. When her breath hitched and she began to cry, he propped himself up on his elbow and bent over her, nuzzling her face while his hand stroked her back.
“What is it? Did I hurt you?”
“No!” she wailed. “I could feel it! You love me so much!”
“I do. More than anything or anyone,” he murmured into her ear, reinforcing his love and pulling her closer to him. “I’m so glad I found you.”
He tugged at the red comforter until he could reach the corner and used it to dry the joyful tears from her face. Resting his palm against her cheek, he kissed her brow. “Let’s get in the tub. You’ll probably be sore and it’ll help. Wait here. I’ll be right back.”
Before she could even form a reply, he was gone from the room, knowing he was just a bright flash to her. He darted to the entry foyer to grab the bag he’d brought before going to the bathroom.
He started the water in the extra-large tub, checked the temperature, and poured in some vanilla shower gel. He’d bought it thinking it would complement her scent.
He dashed back to her and enjoyed the look of stunned surprise on her face as he stood naked in front of her.
She blinked, gulped, and her eyes moved slowly up to his face.
“Um … you’re, uh …” Embarrassed, she covered her face with the comforter.
“What?” Jasper asked, stepping toward her, holding his arms out to her.
She peeked around the blanket. “You’re so beautiful, Jasper,” she whispered, barely loud enough for him to hear even with his exceptional hearing.
He smiled at her, his face softening at the reverent way she had said it. He’d been concerned about his many scars, though he knew she wouldn’t be able to see them very well until she was a vampire herself. He’d worry about that reaction later. Until then, he was pleased she thought he was attractive.
“C’mere, darlin’. There’s enough room in that tub for both of us.”
She was embarrassed again, but he didn’t let that stop him. He scooped her up in his arms and let out a contented sigh when her body molded to his. He couldn’t help projecting his exultant, contented emotions to her, and she snuggled against him.
When they reached the bathtub, he stepped in and slowly sat down. “Is the water all right?”
“It’s perfect. I love the bubbles—they smell so good.” She slipped to his side, laid her head on his chest, and settled into his arms. “You’re hitting me with the emo power, right?”
Slightly chagrined at being caught, but not enough to stop, he smiled in her hair and replied, “Yes. Almost since I walked in the room. You just don’t know how happy I am to have finally found you. You turned out to be so much more important to me than I could have imagined.”
“I think I can feel that, too,” she murmured. “I kinda figured you were influencing me because … because I just … I mean, I wouldn’t have just jumped into bed with you, or anyone, like that.” She shifted around until she could wrap an arm around his back and lightly touched her lips to his throat. “But I don’t think I mind. It feels so good.”
“Bella, I’ve only shown you my emotions, and I’ve taken what you’ve felt and given it back to you. If you hated me or were terrified of me, I couldn’t make you love me.” He urged her face up so he could enjoy her fresh blush and kiss her. “Don’t be embarrassed. I wanted you. I had to have you, and I wanted you to want me. I hoped you would. I was praying you would. I’d been without you long enough that I didn’t want to wait. I’m too selfish and impatient to woo you the old fashioned way. I could make you feel lust, but I had to find out if you would love me.” He kissed her lightly again. “And you do.”
“It’s so fast but …” she said softly, looking up at him, her eyes full of love.
“Vampire speed and vampire impatience.” He smiled down at her. “Enough time has been lost … wasted on bullshit and people—and vampires—that didn’t deserve it. I’m not waiting anymore for what I want. I’ll do whatever I have to do to get it.”
“It … it’s such a surprise. It all happened so fast.” Bella’s hand brushed over her forehead and settled on his chest again. “But, I feel … I feel like I belong right here.”
A strong awareness intruded on his and Bella’s shared bliss, and he sent his senses out, searching for the source. He relaxed as quickly as he had tensed up. He would recognize the tenor of his brother’s mind anywhere.
Stealing another kiss, he smiled. “You do belong with me. I love you.”
“I’m glad you found me.”
“That’s a good thing because I’m hoping you won’t be too mad at me when Peter shows up.”
“Peter?” She raised her head and nervously looked him in the eye. “Who’s Peter?”