The Swans had just moved to town, and my father, being the mayor, set out to welcome them while I tagged along on my own horse. We had just turned the corner to their property when I saw her. She was running around a field of wildflowers, her hair blowing in the wind, dress pulled up so she could run freely without tripping. I was mesmerized by her laughs and squeals, the happiness radiating off her. She was young. Definitely younger than me.
I walked over to her as my father spoke to her parents. I didn't realize I was smiling and laughing along with her until she stopped and turned, surprised by my appearance.
"Who are you?" she asked timidly.
"Jasper Whitlock, Miss," I replied, nodding my head slightly.
"I am Miss Isabella Swan," she said, curtsying. "Will you be my friend?"
"I would be delighted, Miss Swan."
I woke up to the small shove to my shoulder. I looked up into the eyes of my second-in-command, Edward Masen.
"Jas ... Jas. MAJOR!"
"You told me to wake you up in an hour. We were gonna move out, head to the next field. We have orders coming in."
"Ok, thanks Ed," I said, smirking slightly, knowing he hated the nickname.
After a slight huff of annoyance, he walked away as I stood up, working out the kinks that sleeping on the ground left in my overtired body.
"Dreaming of your girl again?"
I turned to the voice behind me, seeing my best friends Peter Swan, Bella's big brother, and Emmett McCarty.
"Why would you say that?"
"Because you had that silly little grin on your face you always have when you think of your Miss Swan," Emmett said.
"Yeah ... yeah. Stop making fun of me and get ready to move out. I want to get some grub before we have to leave."
I watched her from across the room, trying to get up the nerve to ask her to dance.
A punch to my shoulder brought me out of my nervous musings.
"You're staring at her again. Why don't you just go ask her to dance?"
"I don't know. What if she doesn't want to dance with me?"
"Jasper, I know my sister. I know every time you look away from her, you miss her peeking from behind her lashes at you. Go ask her to dance. Get over the fear of rejection, because I know for a fact she will not reject you. She wants to dance with you just as much as you want to dance with her."
I looked at him closely, seeing the sincerity of his words before turning back to the girl of my dreams. I slowly made my way over to her, avoiding the gaggle of women who were trying to get my attention. I had no interest in them.
When I reached her, she was facing away from me. I cleared my throat, and she turned to look.
"Could I have this dance, Miss Swan?" I held my hand out to her, both hoping and dreading her taking it.
"Of course, Jasper. And how many times have I asked you to call me Isabella?"
"Too many to count, Miss Swan," I replied with a smirk.
"Then why must you always call me Miss Swan?"
"Because you are a lady, and you should be treated as such."
I pulled her close to me when we made it the middle of the dance floor. I held her as close as was respectable, only wanting to pull her as close to my body as I could possibly fit her.
She looked up into my eyes, staring into me, seeing all of my secrets, all of my desires, all of me. She saw right down to my soul as I saw into hers. That was the moment I fell in love with Miss Isabella Swan.
My eyes opened to the dawning sun. It was a beautiful sight and always made me think of my girl. She was as beautiful as the sun, shining over me and everyone around her. She was my sun, my light, my everything.
I stood up, looking around the camp. Seeing I was one of the few awake, I walked over to the smoldering campfire, stoking it to a small blaze. I pulled out the ground dirt they passed as coffee and started the pot heating.
I remembered the last time I saw my girl. It was the morning before I left for war. She snuck out of her house, though I know Peter knew what she was doing. He knew she would be safe with me. We rode together on my horse to the far field that bordered our parents' properties. I spread a blanket out before helping her down. We sat cuddled together, her between my legs, her back resting against my front as the sun came up, talking about her fears for me, our love for each other, our hopes for our future. I told her as soon as I was back, we would marry and start our lives together.
I couldn't wait to get back to her, to hold her in my arms, to tell her I loved her, to ask her for her hand. I had already asked her father and written to my mother, asking for my grandmother's wedding ring. I even talked to Peter about it; he just laughed, saying he expected it sooner. Everything was set, I had it all planned. I just needed to get home to her.
"Major Whitlock!" I heard Riley shout as he ran towards me. "We got new orders, sir. We are going being sent to the front lines."
I grabbed the paper from his hand, reading it for myself. The news was devastating but not all that unexpected. Our brigade was still fully intact, no casualties, no losses. We hadn't even gone to battle. Our unit had been used, thus far, to move civilians out of harm's way.
We had a week before we had to be at Palmeto Ranch.
Reading the letter, I noticed we had three days furlough before we had to leave for Houston. We could spend the time at camp or travel home. I decided this would be the perfect time to see my Isabella.
I packed my stuff quickly and started walking through our camp, notifying the men. Knowing Edward, Peter, and Emmett would be together, I found them last. They were sitting off to the side playing poker for tobacco.
"Hey boys, we got new orders." I said, getting their attention. "We have to be in Houston by next week. They are giving us a few days to go home before we head out."
"So are you heading home to see my sister?" Peter asked me.
"I'm gonna go home see my momma and daddy and visit Isabella as well, yes. I was wondering if you three wanted to ride back with me?"
Edward jumped up, gathering his own stuff; I knew he had a wife back home he would want to see as well. Emmett and Peter stood and collected their belongings, ready to see their families.
It was almost supper time when we made it into town. Edward split off first, going to the house he shared with his wife, Alice. Emmett followed shortly after, riding down the long drive to his family's farm house. Peter and I rode in silence the last few miles, quietly taking in the peace of our town.
"You're gonna ask her while we're home, aren't you?"
"Ask who, what?"
"Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. You're gonna ask Isabella to marry you, right?"
"Yeah, I would like to. Are you still okay with us?"
"Jasper, you have been my friend since my family moved to town. You and Isabella have tip-toed around each other since ... I don't even know when. You have been in love with each other so long, who am I to tell you that you can't be together? I wouldn't do that. I am happy for my little sister and my best friend to find that happiness together."
I listened to Peter in quiet amazement. "Thank you, Peter. That means a lot to me."
"Are you coming to see Isabella tonight or will you wait until tomorrow?"
"Can you actually do something for me? The night before we left, you helped her sneak out of the house so we could watch the sunrise. Could you do that for me again? Tell her I couldn't make it home, and then in the morning, wake her up and get her out of the house to meet me."
"There you go being all romantic again. You're gonna make all the rest of us look bad," he said, laughing at the slight blush creeping across my face. "Yeah, I can do that for you, Jas."
"Of course. I'll see you in the morning."
We parted ways, going to our own houses to greet our families.
I slowly trotted into the front yard, dismounted my horse, and walked up to the house. I opened the door, seeing my childhood home exactly as it always looked.
I walked towards the kitchen, following the scents and sounds of dinner, pausing just outside the door, watching my mother and father move around each other.
I cleared my throat quietly, getting their attention. Before I knew what was happening, I was surrounded by my mother's arms. Dinner was postponed by tears and questions. After dinner I made my way upstairs, excited to sleep in a bed for once, and dreaming of tomorrow morning when I would finally see my Isabella again.
I wasn't able to sleep well that night, my thoughts filled with seeing my beautiful girl. I got up early, preparing a little food to bring with me and packing a blanket. Saddling my horse as quietly as possible, I pulled myself up and trotted off around the corner to the Swan house.
I saw Peter walk out of the side of the house, pulling a visibly half-asleep Isabella behind him. She didn't notice me or my horse until I cleared my throat.
She looked up at me and I watched as her eyes filled with tears.
"Hey, Darlin. Wanna come for a ride with me?"
She nodded slightly, reaching for my hand. We headed off toward our spot in the field in silence, Isabella resting against me, her face pressed into the crook of my neck.
Spreading the blanket, I sat down and pulled Isabella with me. I opened my bag, pulling out the bread and apples, laying them between us.
"So what are you doing here? Peter said you weren't able to make it home."
"I told him I wanted to surprise you, so he lied for me. Don't be mad at him. I wanted to bring you out here again to watch the sunrise."
She cuddled up to me, and I held her close.
"Thank you. This is perfect."
We sat in silence, eating our breakfast and waiting for the rising sun.
When the first rays shone, I pulled the ring from my pocket and took a deep breath.
Isabella was staring at the sky, watching the bright colors preceding the sunrise.
Pulling her between my legs, I held her close and brought the ring in front of her. She lowered her head, looking at the ring in my palm, and I heard her quiet gasp.
"I haven't even asked you yet."
"I love you."
"I love you, too."