She's bone weary of her job, but someone has to keep the peace, so Chelsea stays tucked behind a yew tree, brushing a coiled cottonmouth aside as she studies troop movements… if you can call them troops. It's a ragged pack of newborns, many of them healing from injuries, a few missing limbs, and all of them wild-eyed and too blood-starved to listen to their commanders. What a mess. She's been down here near Laredo watching this group fight almost-daily skirmishes with a rival faction out of Monterrey that's trying to cross the border and take control of San Antonio. As if there weren't enough blood to go around.
During the war years, deaths often went unreported, but the Union won in '65, and things are mostly peaceful now. All the Volturi ask is that the covens show a little discretion, but with the sheer number of newborn soldiers that are created and killed off every week, they can't even manage that.
It's nothing new; confrontations pop up everywhere like weeds, but this particular conflict has gotten out of hand so she's been sent to decide how best to end it. Sometimes a simple warning will suffice, but Chelsea has seen enough of the general who's running this show to suspect that Maria won't back down until she's dead. She's too free; she cares for no one and nothing other than power, so her choices aren't limited the way they would be if she had something to lose. She's been fucking two of her officers - a long haired, lanky young man and a stocky dark vampire named David that Chelsea has had to handle before – but Chelsea's talent for understanding bonds shows her that Maria feels less than nothing for either of them.
The sun will be up soon. She's about to leave when she feels a sharp sting against the base of her neck, and then breath, moist in the arid night air.
"Don't turn around."
Her assailant has a lazy Southern drawl, but that doesn't hide the intensity behind it. He's not a newborn, because she would have heard one coming. Whoever he is, he's good; it's been over a hundred years since someone last got the drop on her. He's leaning against her, and she waits to see what he'll do. She looks young and slight, despite her men's clothes and tight, auburn braid, and that pretense of softness often works to her advantage. If he tries to take off her head with the blade, she'll probably have time to react. She thinks he's alone, and the fact that he's not calling for the others leads her to believe she may be able to get through this without alerting Maria.
"You're spying for Graciano?" he asks.
Chelsea's not wearing her Volturi robe, of course. Out here in the field, she's in long pants and a grey shirt.
"And if I am?" She uses an American accent, because in a situation like this, she doesn't want to present him with anything unexpected, no matter how insignificant. She's learned that rule the hard way.
"If you're his spy, you should be afraid."
"Maybe I am afraid," she says, and she lets her voice crack, hoping it will make him underestimate her.
"No, you're surprisingly calm. I sense almost no fear. Are you that sure of yourself?"
Apparently he has a talent, and he's reckless enough to let her know what it is. He may be stealthy, but he can't be all that old if he hasn't learned to keep his gift a secret. His admission and her curiosity cause her to turn until she's face to face with him, and she realizes he's one that Maria takes to her bed. She can see why. Beneath his scars and his tangled hair, his features are so delicate that he's almost pretty, though he's a good bit taller than she is, and well muscled. His knife is now pressed just under her jaw, but she's not all that worried about it. For their kind, hands are just as deadly. He may wield the knife to feel safer, or he may just have a thing for knives. She's more concerned about the way he's glaring at her. Graciano is the leader of the rival army, and if this man thinks she's a spy, she may have to fight him, and if they fight, others will hear, and she'll be outnumbered. It's a good bet Maria will kill her if she figures out that she works for the Volturi. Maria's the type to start negotiations by sending a guard's head back to Volterra in a box.
To tip the scales in her favor, Chelsea uses her gift to make this man feel connected to her. She envisions herself pulling him closer and away from Maria. She's not turning it on all the way; she doesn't want him to notice anything out of place, but it's enough that the blade quavers and then moves back half an inch. If they were alone, this would be the moment when she'd neutralize him. As it is, she simply speaks.
"I'm willing to give you information on Graciano."
He looks doubtful, but it's actually true. She's been watching the Mexican army as well, and what does it matter if she gives their secrets away? She doesn't care which side is winning, only that suspicious deaths and disappearances stop covering the front of newspapers. To give him an extra push, she heightens her gift. It's been a while since she's had sex, and her last partner left her less than satisfied, so it's not hard to envision having this man very close.
"Tell me your name," she says.
"Jasper Whitlock." His mouth hangs open, as though he can't believe how easily he told her what she wanted to know. His parted lips don't make him look slow; they make him look a little wanton. She can just barely see his tongue in his mouth before he snaps his jaw shut and his free hand reaches up to grip tight around her throat. "What the hell did you just do to me?"
He shouldn't be able to sense her gift, and now she does feel her first flutter of anxiety, which grows when he smiles.
"Am I frightening you?" He leans in, and his voice is a whisper. "Answer the question."
"Not that question. Tell me why I feel like I know you, like I should be on your side."
It's her turn to smile. "Maybe your conscience is speaking to you."
"I'm not playing around. Or would you rather head into camp and explain yourself to everyone?"
"To Maria, you mean."
His eyes narrow. "What do you know about her?"
"I know that you aren't enough for her. I know David gives it to her whenever you're out in the field."
The strong hand around her neck is shaking, and she wonders if she's pushed him too far. He's watching her face intently. He probably already suspected Maria's infidelity, but being faced with the truth could make him unpredictable. With few options left, she uses the full force of her talent. You're mine and I'm yours, she thinks, though of course she doesn't really believe it. It helps with the visualization. She imagines Maria growing smaller, fading into the distance until she disappears and only Jasper is left. You're bound to me and only me.
His eyes go soft and unfocused, and he drops the knife.
Although the August heat doesn't bother her, the water of the Rio Grande feels good anyway. The moon lights up the current as she swims laps back and forth between the US and Mexico. She'd like to feel tired out by the exertion. Then her body would match her mind, and there wouldn't be the odd disconnect she's been feeling for around fifty years. It's not that she doesn't believe in what the Volturi do; like her fellow guards, she doesn't want a world where humans start a war on vampires. They have technology, and there are billions of them, and things are better off the way they are now. Caius can be a pain in the ass, but he's got that much right. So it's not disillusionment. It's just that the job never ends. When this latest mission in Texas is over, it'll be time to put out a fire somewhere else. Always the same, though in truth this particular mission seems different because of the man who has approached the shore and started to strip off his clothes. His boots and his pants get tossed to the ground alongside his shirt.
Jasper's body is beautiful. She's discovering that she likes the contradiction of it. He's long and lean and fair, and yet he's stronger than he looks. Ever since she singled him out, she's watched him on the battlefield. He single mindedly destroys his attacker while being aware of the next threat in his peripheral vision. His economy of motion is a thing of beauty, and she's thankful that – for the moment at least – he believes himself to be on her side. She underestimated him the first time they met, and if he hadn't succumbed to her gift she might have died at his hands.
As it is, he's been spying on Maria's army from within for almost a month now. It makes Chelsea's job much easier. He knows what special talents Maria's army possesses (nothing really, besides Jasper's ability to read emotion and a female vampire's knack for knowing a lie when she hears it), and he knows their numbers (around eighty at last count). She can spend more time in Monterrey and come back to Laredo every few days to get reports from him.
"Evenin'," he says once he's swum out to her. The river is low from lack of rain, but it's still deep enough that they're both treading water.
She smiles at him and for safety's sake, she takes a moment to renew the bond he feels. When she imagines pulling him closer, he responds by swimming into her personal space. He's tried to kiss her a few times, but it would feel wrong to let him, and anyway, if he gets carried away by the bond and tries to force her, she'd probably kill him or die trying.
"What news do you have?" she asks.
He doesn't move back, but his face falls, and for a moment he stops swimming and sinks below the water. When he surfaces, his hair is plastered across his eyes, and he kicks with both legs while he brings his hands up to slick his hair back.
"You were right," he says. "Maria's got a second army in Carrizo Springs. It's new, but she's creating vampires one after another, hoping to have enough of a force to flank Graciano's army from the north if he makes another move on San Antonio. There are around twenty newborns that we'll need to take out up there."
He says "we" now instead of "you" when he speaks of her mission. She nods, but feels a twinge of remorse when he looks pleased as a schoolboy to have offered her information she can use.
"Could I…" he says, but he stops and ducks below the water again. Water splashes her face when he comes back up. "Listen," he says, "I know you feel bad about something, and I know you want me. If you let me, I can make you feel better."
It's true. Just the promise of what he could do to her makes her excited for the first time in years. Of course, if she lets him, then later on, when she's stopped using her gift to control him, he may feel the need to tear her limb from limb.
"Why do you worry whenever I get close?" he asks.
"Soon, you won't want me."
"What do you mean?"
She doesn't answer, because too much truth about what she's doing to him could weaken the bond. His mind would start to war with his emotions, and though he couldn't fight his feelings, he would start to grow resentful and erratic. She's seen it happen before.
"Give me something," he says. "Anything."
She wants to. Since she can't offer words, she brushes her thumb over his lips, and he closes his eyes. She kicks harder to keep herself afloat while she reaches around to the back of his neck and pulls him close enough that she can press her lips to his. It's just a soft touch. She hasn't tried to get him to open his mouth, but he does anyway with a groan that's deeper than it ought to be for such a little thing. Maybe she's pushing the bond too much. His hands move around her waist, and then one drops lower to lift her a little. They're so close that she's kicking his shins as she swims, but he doesn't seem to mind. He has taken the initiative, pushing his tongue into her mouth, and instead of fighting him, she lets him move in and out in a rhythm like sex.
When she finally pulls back, he leans forward for more, but she needs to remember why she's here, not get lost in some haze of lust with a man she needs to set free soon.
"I have to get back," she says.
"You don't want to go."
It's strange to be with someone who knows what she's feeling. Her fellow guards know they can count on her, but she's not one for talking, and she doesn't spend free time with them. Jasper reads her emotions without her having to tell him anything. She can't decide if it's a luxury or an invasion. It's probably the latter, but since she's manipulating him, she can hardly complain, and anyway, he makes her feel like someone understands her, and that's not something she's had before.
"No," she agrees, "I don't want to go, but I need to."
"When will you be back? When do we end this war?"
"Meet me at Hester's Cave in three days. By then we should have help."
He nods, but she has to pry his arms from around her so she can swim away from him and gather her clothes on the Mexican shore.
Jasper is a shadow backlit by the setting sun, and he looks like he wants to kill her. That's because Felix ruined everything yesterday with his usual inability to keep quiet. She's glad to have the help; the only reason she's been unable to move in on Maria is that there are a limited number of guards, and most of them were caught up in an even bigger conflict in southern China. Now that that's been handled, Felix, Corin, Eleazar and Alec – a veritable boys' club – have arrived to end the trouble here. Which would be great, if Felix hadn't felt the need to antagonize Jasper less than an hour after he'd arrived. Felix's idea of subtle is to spit out the truth and expect the other person not to get it. He's not the sharpest tool in the shed. So when Jasper appears at the mouth of Hester's Cave, he's angry as hell.
"What the fuck have you done to me?"
Instinctively she tries to renew the bond, but it's the wrong thing to do. He's on her before she can really visualize anything, and her head knocks hard against a rock as he takes her down. She reaches a hand back to feel venom matted in her messy French braid. The fact that Jasper doesn't look at all concerned about the hit she just took is worrying. Alec and the rest are supposed to meet her here soon, after they've finished observing the situation for themselves, but they may be too late.
"What have you done, Chelsea?"
At least he hasn't grabbed for her hands to pin her further. She tries to sit up, but he doesn't let her. He's lying on top of her, and she fights down the panic that comes from being unable to get any space between them. He can feel her fear; she knows he can, but even that doesn't make him take it easy on her.
"Tell me," he says.
The smart move would be to lie and then lie some more, but she gives in to him, because she's not thinking it through, and despite common sense she has wanted to tell him for weeks.
"I can… I make people feel connected to others. I made you feel connected to me." His brows come together like she's speaking a foreign language. "Remember how you felt when you first found me outside your camp?"
Jasper opens his mouth, stops, closes it again. His breath is coming in quick bursts she can feel on her face, and his pupils dilate.
"You convinced me to switch sides, to turn on Maria. I'd just come from a meeting where she'd shot down every strategy I offered. I needed to get some air so I wouldn't say something that would get my head torn off, and then I saw you…" He stops for a moment and frowns down at her. "Only you didn't convince me, did you? It was as if I had always been on your side."
"It's my gift. The same as your ability to read emotions."
He shakes his head. "Not the same. I can feel what you feel; I don't go messing with your mind." He's angrier now, and when he reaches for her wrists, she thrashes. Once he has her arms pressed to the cave floor, she's almost completely immobile. All she can do is turn her head, and she finds herself shaking it from side to side, just to move in the only way she can.
She thinks she may be about to die, and it feels eerily similar to the first time around, in an alley behind a pub in Blackpool. There was that same feeling then of stopped time and the inability to move even an inch from her attacker. In Blackpool, she'd noticed an insect drowning in a puddle in the cobblestones, and now she sees a tangle in Jasper's hair as it falls onto her face. That first time, she noticed the straight collar of Eleazar's dark cloak just before he saved her, and now she is hoping to be saved by him again today.
Jasper says something, but she can't hear it over the rushing in her ears. It sounds like a squeezebox, and she realizes that she is both hyperventilating and keening at once. She tries to quiet down so she can make out his words.
"Breathe. Slow down." Jasper lets go of her arms and pushes himself up and back so that he's on his knees at her feet. He still looks angry, but he sighs and shrugs as though someone's asked him a question he can't answer. "You're having a panic attack."
She wants to tell him that she's not, because any soldier worth her salt knows that's the last thing you do when you're under attack. Then again, the evidence is pretty solidly on his side.
"Okay," she says. She sits up and scoots backwards until she hits the side of the cave.
He cocks his head as though he's listening to her. "Better," he tells her, "but you're still tense."
"Yes, well I thought you were going to kill me."
"No. I'm angry, but… no." He sits down on the wet floor of the cave. "Will your friends try to kill me?"
"No, that's not…" but she stops, because it depends on him. "If you go back to Maria, they'll fight you when they fight the rest, and Alec doesn't lose." Jasper is silent, and the fluttering trapped feeling is making her breaths come out short again. "Don't go back."
"It was never about territory for me," he says, "and I won't stand by someone who doesn't have my back."
She thinks he's talking about Maria. She hopes he is.
"You've really done a number on me." His laugh is bitter. "I thought I had a purpose in Maria's army, and then you made me feel like I had a place in yours. Bullshit, all of it."
She almost tells him about keeping the status quo and staving off a war with the entire human race, but the Volturi's mission is not what he'll want to hear right now. She doesn't tell him that she can't get enough of the ways he can be sometimes stronger but other times softer than she is. 'Soft' is probably not a word that will diffuse anything.
"I'm sorry," she says.
He's scowling, but his shoulders have dropped and whatever tension made him seem implacable before has deserted him. Maybe he was lonely when Maria found him. Maybe he needed to feel like part of something. Chelsea filled him up with that feeling, and now that it's gone, he looks thinner for it, and a little lost. It doesn't seem like such a good trade – lessening Jasper for the sake of the greater good.
"I am sorry," she says. "You must be able to feel that I am."
"I feel something. You could just be sorry that I'm not under your thumb anymore."
He looks away, and it gives her the courage to crawl forward until she's right in front of him.
"Jasper, if I wanted you under my thumb, I would do it again."
He snaps his head up, and she's reminded that he's not soft if he doesn't want to be. The look on his face says, Try it and die. She holds up her hands.
"I'm not… I wouldn't…" Why has she never been good with words? "Feel what I feel," she says, and she leans forward to press her mouth to his neck. She puts one hand on the middle of his chest to brace herself. Though their hearts don't beat, it's still the place where she feels want and need, and she hopes he feels it too. He won't move at all, so she leans farther in until she's almost sprawled in his lap. She starts to envision him pulling her close, not to force him, but because she wants it so much.
"Don't," he whispers.
"I'm not trying to make you give in. I just want to be near you."
"Do you even know how to be near someone without bending them to your will?"
That one hurts, but she can't really say anything about it.
She hears the others coming, and Jasper must too, because he stands and she follows him out of the cave. He probably doesn't want to let them block his only exit, and she can't say she blames him.
No one says anything, but Alec looks to Chelsea. He'll want to know if Jasper's still under control. She gives a small nod, and he relaxes.
"I need to get back," Jasper says.
She has no idea what that means. He's joining Maria's side? He's going to spy voluntarily? She wants to ask, but she can't do it in front of her fellow guards without putting Jasper in danger. Though she's the one who laid all the groundwork here, everyone knows that Alec is in charge once any real battle begins.
"Alright," she tells him, but he's already gone.
They strike the following night, though Chelsea has yet to find Jasper. There's sheet after sheet of rain blowing sideways in a strong wind. The storm doesn't last long, but neither does the fight. It's not so much a battle as a chore.
They take out Maria and her closest officers quickly. Alec gets into the main tent and immobilizes them by stripping all their senses. Maria is swaying on her feet, eyes blind. He pushes her over, and she falls without a sound. Corin steps up and, on the third try, manages to twist her head completely off. Felix starts in on the officers. It will never seem right, how quiet they are while they die. Aro calls it humane, since they can't feel anything, and probably he's right, but there's not much dignity in it.
Once that's finished, they start in on the newborns who have only just been alerted to the threat. Alec subdues them in batches, and then it's time for Chelsea to play her part, following Eleazar as he looks for anyone with a useful talent. He finds nothing. Chelsea would have used her gift to bring them into line, but there's no need for her tonight. Despite the fact that no one will be saved, she feels a small and secret relief; after everything with Jasper, she doesn't want to pull anyone else close right now.
Felix has already brought wood for the bonfire. He's going to have a hard time getting anything to light in this rain, but he's pouring on kerosene by the bucketful. Soon the whole place is a smoky, sodden mess that stinks of hot venom.
They aren't done. They need to do it all over again in Monterrey. Graciano has far fewer soldiers, but unlike Maria's green troops, there aren't many newborns. It's more of a fight, and Corin and Felix seem to enjoy it. Alec can only immobilize at a certain distance, and maybe they've heard, because they've spread themselves thin. It's a good plan, but Alec simply immobilizes anyone who comes close enough for an attack. It's not long before the small Mexican army sees what's happening, and almost all of them are smart enough to head for the hills. Only a handful end up dead, including Graciano, out of about forty. There's no point in trying to run down the rest. Five guards can't track them all, especially without Demetri's skill to aid them. The ones who survived can spread the word that the Volturi will end you if you turn humans into newborn 'cannon fodder' in large enough numbers to get noticed.
They build another fire here, and though the rain has stopped, it's harder to get the flames going. Felix got carried away and used almost all the kerosene the first time, so now they've got a pile of limbs dumped by a little camp fire that hardly warms Chelsea's hands. She looks over the rippled air and sees Jasper in the distance, beside a tree. He's watching her the way she watched his camp on that first night. Maybe he wants to see how they work so that he can plan his revenge. Maybe he's just curious.
She tells the others that she's heading back to Laredo to pick up the pack she left in the cave there. They can handle Carrizo Springs without her, and she agrees to meet them at the shipyard in Corpus Christi tomorrow night. Eleazar comes up and squeezes her shoulder. Neither of them is demonstrative, usually, and the fact that he touches her makes her think he knows the truth. He can sense Jasper is near, because he can feel his talent. It doesn't matter. He's not going to stop her, and Alec doesn't seem suspicious. For all his ability, Alec often looks like he's only half in this world. It's probably the seed behind his gift.
"Watch yourself, my girl," Eleazar says.
She's not sure what he means, but she smiles at the man who gave her a second life. "You too, my oldest friend." It sounds formal and awkward, but she needs to say it, and that's as close to sappy as either of them will get with one another.
Her pack is where she left it. Farther back into the cave, where the underground river starts. Jasper was following her at a distance, but she's lost track of him. If he's still following her, he's doing it very quietly. She sits down to wait. Her pants get soaked, but it doesn't matter. She listens to the echo of condensed water falling from the top of the cave into the shallow pool. In the distance she can hear the deeper water rushing into darkness.
"You want me," Jasper says.
He's only a few feet away. His voice is flat. He's not going to let her know yet how he feels, but she doesn't get nervous about being alone with him. After what she's done, maybe she should, but fear seems to have deserted her. She doesn't say anything, doesn't think he needs the confirmation.
"Why do you want me?" he asks.
It seems obvious to her. "You're scarred and beautiful. You're loyal. You always –"
He laughs, and it isn't a nice sound. "Loyal. I turned on Maria."
"She didn't care anything for you." It occurs to her that he would have felt that every time he was near her. "Why did you stay as long as you did, when you knew she didn't love you?"
"Why did you stop using me?" he says. "You didn't try to make me feel close to you again."
She could tell him that it wouldn't have worked all that well, not after Felix had thrown the facts in his face. Instead she swallows hard and manages to give him the truth.
"Nothing's lonelier than knowing the one you want is only with you because he's not himself."
Silence. His eyes are almost black; he needs to hunt soon. This area has been over-hunted already, but she supposes one more missing person won't change the headlines much.
"You slaughtered over a hundred tonight," he says.
She's not sure how that's related to the conversation, but she can play along. "You turned scores of humans just to throw them into a fight that had nothing to do with them."
"Do you think my start in this life was any different?" he asks. "I lived through it, that's all."
They're quiet again after that. She wonders if he's trying to tell her that he can't forgive her or that he doesn't respect her. She's afraid to ask. She sits there worrying the frayed edge of her pack, and when she looks down at her hand she sees a smear of venom across it and doesn't know whose it is.
He's so quiet. He has moved again, and now he leans down and his right hand covers hers. His fingers are long and bony; even the knuckles are slim. How does he manage to fight so well? The skin is almost translucent and there's a half moon bite across the back of it. It's the color of a pearl and slightly raised. She flips her hand over so that they're palm to palm.
Does he hate her? She doesn't think so. He's straight forward enough that if there were no way she could redeem herself, he wouldn't have come here at all unless it was to kill her, and if that's what he'd intended he would've tried already.
"I don't like being used."
"Okay," she says.
"I have no feud with the Volturi, but fighting in their name doesn't give you the right to make decisions for me."
"I don't know if I can trust you."
"Do you want me?" she asks.
He huffs out a breath and pulls his hand back, but he sits down beside her. "Yeah," he says. "I do."
"Can you feel the difference between wanting me now, and what you felt when you, when I…"
"When it was fake, it felt… too comforting. There's something reassuring about the rough edges now, about the way this feels real and maybe a little fucked up." He shakes his head. "If that makes any sense."
She's not sure it does, but she nods quickly to agree with the fact that he seems to be giving her another chance.
"I'll make it up to you," she says, and the quirk at one side of his mouth is the first bit of playfulness she's seen since that night in the river.
"How were you planning to do that?"
She puts a finger to a scar on his jaw and drags it across the silvery ridge and then down across his neck, tracing his throat and leaning in slowly to give him a chance to push her away.
He doesn't. She finds herself on her back as he rolls toward her. It's close to the position that made her panic before, and though she's edgy now, it's for different reasons. The stakes seem just as high though, even without death on the table.
"I want," she says, "to make you come so hard that you forget your name."
He laughs at this. She knows her eyes narrow and that he can feel the prickle of her irritation.
"I'm sorry. It's just, that sounds so good."
Relieved, she pushes her fingers into his hair at the base of his neck and scratches her blunt nails along his scalp. He flexes his length like a cat and purrs.
"That's a nice start," she says. "I've barely even touched you."
"Don't get cocky now."
"That's exactly what I'll –"
He cuts her off with a kiss that's not nearly as gentle as she'd expected. Either he's still a little angry or he really does want this too, because his mouth is rough and her lips get caught between the pressure of him and her own teeth. She doesn't care. It shows that he's feeling something. It's like having a little bit of Jasper's talent, because she can feel his want as he pulls back enough to let her open her mouth, and he dives back in, all force and neediness. His erection is pressed against her thigh, waiting its turn, and she wishes she knew what she did to inspire this in him. She wants to know how to do it again and again.
She groans into his mouth and she can feel him smile against her, or maybe it's a smirk, because he knows he's made her clumsy with desire. She's grabbing at his elbows, his shoulders, nudging a hand under his arm and trying to caress his neck in the almost non-existent space between them. Her heels dig into the rocks, and she moves herself against him for the friction of it and the way she can feel his cock rub against her.
"Wait," he whispers. "Slow down."
"You're one to talk." But she stops her frantic movement and doesn't whine when he rises up on his arms to put some space between them.
"Take this off," he says, ducking his head toward the neckline of her shirt. She slides back and sits up enough to raise it, and she hears his intake of breath while she has it half way over her head. The scars. She's forgotten that he'll see all the places that give away her line of work. There's the bite on her shoulder and the jagged streak where her arm was almost torn off once. Old puncture wounds from a werewolf that came close to finishing her off. She throws the shirt aside and looks at him, and it's not disgust she sees. He's looking at her breasts and her stomach and, of course, because why would scars be a turn off for this man?
"Yours too," she says.
He gets her meaning, and reaches behind his neck to rip his own shirt up and off, while she stands and pulls at the button fly on her muddy pants and gets rid of those as well. She's not wearing anything underneath, and neither is he, so suddenly there's all of him and he's looking up and down all of her. She doesn't turn away - he'll either like what he sees or he won't – but she's surprised to catch a flicker of uncertainty in his eyes.
"You know you're gorgeous?" she asks. It seems to her like a ridiculous question. How could he not know, when he looks like he does, all spare and lean muscle and with that still-innocent face and a hard, solid cock that he's lazily palming as he watches her.
"Come here," he says.
She moves right up to him until his erection is pressed to her stomach, and he pulls her even closer when he wraps his arms around her back and tugs her forward. She stumbles into his chest, and he manages to bring them to the floor of the cave again. The rocks and the water are a sharp contrast to the feel of his flesh above. He's palming her breast, and then he pulls at her nipple with sharp quick movements that make her arch up into the slight, lovely sting of it.
She's trying to reach between them so she can feel the weight of his cock in her hand, but there's no room at all, and then she can't think it through, because he's brought his other hand down between her legs.
"Jesus," he whispers.
She knows she's wet, and she loves the way he closes his eyes and almost looks a little in awe as she moves her knees apart to let him fall into place between her thighs.
"I want you," she says, though he's well aware. "I want you now."
He shifts down and moves his cock right there, just at the cusp of where it needs to be, and she hasn't even had a chance to get her hands on it yet. Next time, she thinks, and she's struck by a sudden, sharp fear that there won't be a next time.
Jasper must sense it, because he stills and looks down at her.
"Hey," he whispers. "I'll be easy."
It's not that, of course. He can't hurt her without really trying to, but now is not the moment to start a conversation about whether this is a one-time offer or if she'll be allowed more of him.
He pushes into her slowly, and between that and the wholly unguarded look that passes across his face, she is sure that this is what she's always needed. This is a closeness that she can handle, because he's holding nothing back from her, and it's all freely offered, no pretense or force.
"Yes." It's a low hiss through his teeth.
Her body agrees and lifts up to meet him until he's all the way inside her and she's linking her ankles together behind his back. He pulls back and thrusts forward and then sets a pace that has her sliding against the rock as she tries in vain to bite his neck. It's a little too far to reach, but it doesn't matter because the rest of him is so close, tight to her, inside her, moving with her. They're both breathing hard and his voice breaks on a string of obscenities – fuck oh fuck yes, you're tight, so tight your pussy just made for… filled by me… - so filthy and sweet.
She says nothing. She'd rather listen to his string of syllables that are fast devolving into nonsense. She shifts her hips up to meet him on each downstroke, and then the rhythm changes and a sob breaks past his tightly closed mouth.
"It's okay," she says, because she knows he's holding back. "Come on, come in me."
He does, in a long shudder that makes him cry out. It becomes a low hum as he slows and presses his chin to the top of her head. She can't see or feel anything but him and the floor, but it's fine. It's better than fine.
"You didn't..." he says.
"I never do. Don't worry." Maybe it's just not in her, or maybe she can't let go enough.
"Screw that," he says, and he moves down her body with a hand on her thigh, and he's looking at her right there. She resists the urge to close her legs. She thinks she knows what he's going to do, and she's right. He presses his face to her, and she hears him take a deep breath and groan as though he hadn't just been sated. He curls a hand behind first one knee and then the other to shift her legs over his shoulders. She doesn't complain. She doesn't want their time to be over yet.
He lifts his head long enough to look at her through his tangle of hair. "I could eat you alive," he says.
She smiles. "I think you are."
Then he's licking and sucking on her, and it's almost too much sensation. He adds a finger, or is it two, pushing into her, and it's gorgeous. She lets her head fall back with a crack and doesn't make any attempt to be quiet. With his other hand he reaches up and flicks at her nipple, then tugs on it, his nail digging in, and the small pain of that is like a match setting fire to the much larger pleasure between her legs. It's only been a minute, so her mouth is an O of shock when sensation takes over everything, and the thought enters her head, I'd let this man do anything to me. It's that thought that actually sends her over, a thought she's never had before. Heat and intensity bundled beneath Jasper's mouth, and in a moment the pleasure's changed from a tight circle to a roar over her whole body, and she sees black and rides the feeling until it's fading out. Though he's slowed, he hasn't stopped, and she has to press her hand to his head and then curl on her side to rest in the peace that comes after.
She's still moaning, she realizes. It almost sounds like she's crying. She turns her head to the side to glance at Jasper, and he's looking quite pleased with himself. He runs the back of his hand across his mouth and crawls toward her. She thinks he's going to spoon up behind her, but he climbs over her so he can lie in front and face her.
"You never come, huh?"
She doesn't have the energy to bat her hand at him, so she just lies there, wrung out and happy.
"Don't get cocky," she murmurs, but he probably can't understand the words. She's never felt so loose-limbed and fluid, and she floats in the feeling for a long while.
"The other guards are expecting you?"
His voice brings her back to the cave floor.
"It'll be a long wait," she says. "I've never taken time for myself. I'm due for a rest. Lie on a beach somewhere, go night swimming." He doesn't say anything, so maybe she needs to be blunt. Her orgasm has given her a hell what could go wrong feeling that's open and reckless. "Would you come with me?"
He rolls onto his back, and now they're touching in fewer places. It makes her chest feel hollow, but he moves his hand over until he's holding hers.
"Yeah," he tells her. "Maybe you've done your voodoo on me, but I need to be near you."
"I haven't done anything. It's all you." She closes her eyes.
He's moved yet again without her hearing him, and he's pressing soft kisses on her brow and her hair and then her eyelids.
"If you're lying, I don't want to know," he says. "Don't ever let me find out."