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another life

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Beginning again is relatively easy. Easy like replacing an old item of clothing that has been worn to rags or starting a new book. It’s something simple, like switching tasks when the former was finished or otherwise impracticable. Beginning again is anything but difficult.

It’s what you’re leaving behind that’s hard to swallow.

You are more than aware of the old sweater that’s littered with holes, practically falling apart at the seams. You know you have to toss it and find something else. But that doesn’t mean you’ll miss the comforting warmth it had once provided. And you understand that a novel can only go so far before it’s reached its last sentence, pushing you to move on to the next story. Yet, you can’t help but think of reading it again, if only for a sense of familiarity. As for switching from one burden to an alternative, there’s not much that can be done. Most things aren’t impossible for you, but there have to be limits or you’ll keep pushing and pushing until all that’s left is emptiness. You can’t force everything or nothing will be honest. Nothing will be true.

And you most certainly cannot stay here, in the doorway of this loud, blaring parking lot where many sights are set on you. This space where the majority of acknowledgment you can usually withstand, even ignore. But not those specific pair of golden gems. Gems that had once been precious, hazel fractures and something of a miracle in your long since lived life.

You didn’t have to will yourself to know that he had yet to fully recognize you. There was a chance of redemption yet but only if you left right then. Everything would collapse into ruins if you let him remember—if you let him reminisce that night nearly two centuries ago. His humanity may be gone, but you can’t risk letting someone in again. Not even if it’s that same, southern gentleman major.

Running away is normal, a frequent pastime if you try to make light of it. You’re used to doors closing and rapid footsteps. Used to labored breaths and long strides. You were fairly new to nearly running someone over. That just didn’t happen with heightened senses.

Your hasty apology is cut short when you see her eyes—a fading gold just like his. Just like yours. It won’t be long before her thirst will rear its head, greedy and painful and unequivocally monstrous.

The woman, she stares at you with a wary expression as if she knows everything—as if she knows you. You don’t comprehend her face and that worries you even more. Because an old face can be dangerous, but a new one can be your downfall.

“Excuse me.” You breathe the words out like they are noxious gas trying to decay your lungs and push past her. Unfortunately, icy fingers grip your wrist to keep you from straying far, and you know it will be a bit problematic to try to loosen them. You will get away as long as you will it. You always do.

“I’ve seen you coming for decades,” the stranger says and your throat clenches. It’s a talent so deadly in the possession of a complete stranger. “Why are you running away?”

Her eyes look down at your joined limbs in confusion and you know she feels it. Your warm, pulsing heartbeat.

“Let me go, please,” you beg, eyes darting to the double doors behind you down at the end of the hall. Why couldn’t you have gone faster? It wouldn’t have mattered if she’d seen nor if someone else had. You could’ve fixed it. It will be moments before he chases after you. Before he remembers.

“You're not...” she whispers, drifting off before shaking her dark haired head. Hurriedly, she leans closer to you. “No, he was happy. Confused, maybe even scared, but he was happy when I saw you together. Nothing else matters.”

“He can’t see me.” You stare deep into her innocent eyes, heartbeat drastically climbing. “Let me go.”

She does and she doesn’t have time to be befuddled before you’re out of her sight. The trail you leave behind is easy enough to follow, but she senses Jasper materialize beside her and knows she’d have to take care of him before she could even think about you.

“Did you see her?” he entreats, honey blonde hair falling into his face as he tilts his head down to look at Alice. “She was horrified when she saw me.” He isn’t sure how to continue his description and he feels he doesn’t have to as he looks at his beloved companion. “You’re worried...confused. You didn’t see this coming?”

“No.” She stares at the floor and her small hands clench into fists. “I still see the same thing.”

He hums something short and bittersweet, jaw ticking in deep thought. “She looked different, but it’s her.”

“Something’s wrong,” she whispers and Jasper raises an eyebrow. “I told you something seemed off about her in my visions when you saw her again. But having just run into her… You can smell her, can’t you? That’s not a normal scent for one of our kind.”

“How else would she have lived this long?” His voice weighs itself down now that there seems to be a problem. He’s been waiting for this reunion for what feels like forever and now he has to question your nature? Back then, you had only ever been a kindhearted girl and he a man with a heart on his sleeve. Now, he isn’t sure what to make of you.

“She was warm when I touched her and I can smell her blood. But it doesn’t…”

“It’s not strong,” he comments, eyes dilating. “I’m not the best around humans, but her scent… It’s not like Bella’s. I don’t feel like I have to control myself.”

You smell divine, but it isn’t something that triggers his inner monster. It’s almost like a saturated perfume—something one wouldn’t mind tasting if the smell was tangible. He knows not to partake in it because there is an underlying scent that reminds him this individual is still a part of his kind. You aren’t meant to be devoured.

“All the more reason for you to go get her. Your choices have already been made,” Alice states, smiling. “Edward is still gone and someone has to look after Bella for the remainder of the day.”

“Are you sure?” he murmurs, eyes narrowing in tumult. He’d come to pick both of the girls up, but it seems they’ll be leaving without him. “I can—“

Alice suddenly chokes as her pupils focus on something he can’t see. Before he can ask she sputters, “I can’t see her anymore.”

If he still had a heartbeat it would’ve dropped like deadweight. “What?”

“She’s about to cross the treaty line!” she gasps.

One moment he’s there, the next he isn’t. Alice waits, keeping her emotions calm and collected until he’s at a length he can no longer sense her. There is a concern for your wellbeing, but there is more under that she can’t risk him picking up on.

She knows when she can let the last bit of heartbreak fill her as she goes off to find Bella. It has been a long time coming, but she’s seen his future tangled with yours long before she’d met him. Her choice had been made in that little dinner she’d strolled into to find him waiting, oblivious and broken.

Because while he would have loved her and been just as happy with her as his mate, Alice knows what is best for him.

And you are the good he needs, even if it took a century or two for you to get here. Even if it makes her breaks her glass heart in the end.

There are limits and you tell yourself this every day, but you’ve yet to remember. Tiring yourself out is dangerous with this many vampires around and werewolves as well by the smell of things. You are stronger, faster than either was; however, you are restricted at the moment.

It has been some time since you’ve partaken in animal blood to sustain your sinful side. The lack of it leaves you vulnerable and prone to finally losing a battle you’ve fought for who knows how long. You would have to stop eventually and refill or else you’ll be treading dangerously into a human skill set once more.

Willing yourself to ignore the lethargy that begins to seep into your bones, you push yourself harder. The ground is constantly shifting beneath you as your legs work, arms bent at the elbows as they swing back and forth in opposite directions. Your hair ripples atop your head, the wind keeping it out of your eyes and your view clear.

The sound of your heartbeat pulses loudly in your ears and you will yourself not to run into anything and to make it to safety. It’s a tricky business, your talent, but it left you alive for this long so you have no reason to doubt it.

The scent of the air takes a nosedive into the musky odor of lycanthropes. It’s a strong smell, but not overly unpleasant if you try to remind yourself that it is, technically, a dog. The original creatures you adore, but their human hybrid counterparts had been a thorn in your side when you’d ran into a pack a decade or so ago in California.

The scent only seems to be getting stronger and you slow, afraid you are getting close to one of their kind. Just as you notice a dark form at the edge of your peripheral view thundering towards your form, something rams into your back.

Your breath is knocked clear out of your chest as your legs crumple. Cold arms wrap around your waist and for a moment you’re airborne, your bodies spinning from the force of the hit. A snarling muzzle gnashes at empty air, narrowly missing your shoulder as you are wrenched back.

You don’t have a moment to fight your captor or, perhaps, thank them as your feet hit the ground. Their grip remains on you, one arm swiftly hooking under your legs. Your dominant hand falls over their chest to try to balance yourself and a flash of their face has your racing heart stumbling in its cavity.

Jasper carries you easily, avoiding the wolf as it tears after the two of you. He rebounds off a tree, leaping over the pissed off mutt and back into the clearing you’d run through.

You think he’ll keep going, but he sets you down right then and there, turning to glare back over his shoulder at your attacker.

“Stand down!” he spits venomously. “She wasn’t aware of our treaty.”

The wild dog proceeds to snarl, the tuffs of dark fur on its shoulders rising out of animosity. As Jasper stares down the beast, you step back trying to catch your breath. The wolf seems to pause at that, eyes befalling you.

“She’s none of your concern,” Jasper warns, eyes wide and dangerous.

Appraising him for a moment, the wolf shakes its head. Swiveling on its hind legs and jumping into a gallop back the way it had come.

You tried to do the same but a body of marble blocks your way the moment you run. His hands seize forearms, golden eyes boring into your drained expression. You can’t bear to look at him, so you keep your eyes trained on the ground to your right where moss creeps over a few stones and roots sprouting from a nearby tree.

“‘I willed we would meet again,’” he murmured and your brow furrowed in puzzlement, “‘but in another life where I can live out my days alongside you and not fear the future to come. May you find peace and forgiveness in your heart for my leaving you, Major.’”

Silence drifts after the words echo from your letter left long ago on a vacant spot on a bed. Yes, you remember. It had killed you to leave him there, hair mussed and expression absentminded in a night of tranquil sleep. But now it destroys you to know he’s been out here all along, cursed to live a life you only know in moderation.

“Well, ma’am,” he says, southern drawl pulling at your heartstrings as your eyes moisten with tears, “I think we’ve stumbled into another life, albeit not a kind one.”

“I didn’t want this to happen,” you whisper, closing your eyes to shut out the sight of his pale skin. The image of his eyes haunts you behind your eyelids. “I couldn’t change you.”

“Couldn’t or wouldn’t?”

“Both!” Your eyes snap open in horror at his question and you suck in a breath at his face. “I-I’m not like you. Can’t you tell?”

“You’re still human,” he murmurs, eyes pulling you in like they did all those years ago. Their color may have changed, but the heart behind them hasn’t. “How?”

“I’m an amalgam,” you laugh humorlessly, stepping back away from him. His fingers slip from your arms but they hesitate, still reaching in fear of you disappearing again. “My mother was human.”

“That’s impossible,” he mutters, gaze falling as he nods once. “Or it’s supposed to be.”

“I’ve had to hide my entire life. I was supposed to be nearly fifty years old when I met you, but nothing was changing.”

“Does the Volturi know you exist?”

“No.” You swallow, crossing your arms. “I’ve done my best to avoid them.”

“You don’t need to hide from me,” he says, looming closer. You glance at him as he raised his hand, knuckles gliding up your jaw. His icy skin makes you shiver. “I have a family here. They won’t be a danger to you.”

“Jasper,” you urge and his lips thin out at the fear that courses through you. “I’ll be the one endangering you. If others find out what I am—“

“I won’t let that happen.”

“If I’d known,” your voice cracks as you turn your head away from his touch, “if I’d known someone was going to change you I would’ve stayed, but this wasn’t a life I wanted nor could give to you.”

You sigh, eyes burning. “I don’t have venom like you and the others. There’s a lot of human qualities I still have from my mother.”

“You’re tired,” he notes and you shrug.

“Yes, that’s one of them. I have to sleep every once in a while and, depending on my diet, I’m not as strong.”

“What do you eat?” he asks and you can hear the slight awe in his tone.

“Blood from animals, but I can live off human food, too.” You crack a smile as you meet his gaze. “You and the brunette were the first gold-eyes I’ve seen since my father.”

“Your father didn’t drink from humans?”

“I’m sure he did, once. But meeting my mother must have changed that part of him…”

He feels the heartache that fills your chest as you frown, head bowing in despair.

“He was killed.” He says it for you and you just nod in agreement.

“The Volturi gave him a choice and he couldn’t find the will to change her. He never returned and my mother had me in secret.”

“And you’ve been alone all this time?” His hand ghosts against yours and you let him pull it into his grasp.

“My mother died of a fever two months before I found you,” you say, voice quiet. “And after I left, I…” The tears come in silence and he wipes their warmth away from your face.

He feels the lost love you still hold for him and he knows he shouldn’t be this happy while a girl is crying, yet, he is.

“I couldn’t look at another man after you, Major,” you murmur, sniffing and casting him a weak smile.

“That’s how it is with mates,” he utters and your eyes widen with curiosity. “Once you find yours, nothing else compares.”

“How would you know I’m yours?” you whisper, teasing him. He takes a step forward and you take just the right amount back to keep his chest a centimeter from touching yours. “You weren’t turned when we met.”

“Feelings pass over whether you want them to or not,” he grumbles and you laugh. It’s bittersweet and a reminder. “I’m not the same man you met in the south, not even close.”

“I don’t expect you to be, not after all this time.”

He takes another step and a tree at your back keeps you closer than you would have allowed. His front brushes yours and you suck in a breath as his gaze bores into you.

“You don’t know the things I’ve done,” he whispers, “how many I’ve killed.”

“That doesn’t matter.”

He picks up on the sound of you swallowing as he looms over you, and he can’t help it when his eyes flicker to your throat.

“See?” you say in acerb amusement. “I’m a danger to you.”

“Even if you were—which you’re not,” he stated with a simper, “—I’d be the dangerous one in this situation.”

“Perhaps from another point of view, but from mine, I’m threatening your conscience.” Your hand finds where his heart is and you nudge him in warning when his nose brushes yours.

“You’re very tempting,” he admits and you shudder despite the dark implications, “but I know my limits.”

“So do I.” You try to say it with emphasis but it comes out weaker than expected. Your eyelashes keep fluttering as more of him encompasses you. His lack of warmth sends goosebumps across your skin, leaching from your body heat as you’re pressed into the bark of the tree.

“You’re wavering because you’re scared of what’s out there,” his eyes flicker away from you, “but you don’t need to. Not with me, darlin’.”

You’ve missed that pet name. Missed the affection behind the syllables and the mouth that pronounced them with a sweet drawl.

“Please. Let me leave?” It shouldn’t be phrased as a question but it is nonetheless.

“I can’t do that,” he says against your lips, your decision to vanish from his life for good tittering on the edge of your morals. “I’ve been waiting for this day for too long.”

His mouth is nearly covering yours when you feel your inner turmoil give one last tug. Just push him and you can find a way to escape. You can’t outrun him but you can will it if you so choose.

I need to leave, you tell yourself as his nose rubs over your own. I need to…

The thought topples over the edge into a bottomless pit as your eyes close, then you’re gripping his shirt with gusto as you close the sliver of distance between your lips.

His hand holding yours trades it for your waist as the other cups your jawline, his front pinning you. You’re helpless against him, hands sliding up his chest and wrinkled shirt to find his honey-hued hair and bury your fingers in it. He feels the same, you can’t help but think. Still rough around the edges but soft on the inside no matter what.

When you tug, you feel him tense as his hands leave you and rest against the tree. He keeps his mouth pressed to yours and you open your lips to swipe across his bottom one. He grunts, chest practically crushing your own.

Eventually, he pulls away and you take in breath even though you can hold it a hell of a lot longer.

His forehead is cold as he rests it against your own. “I don’t know how much you can take,” he says huskily and you lose any oxygen you’d previously taken in.

“More than that,” you choke out and he chuckles, shaking his head and his eyes close in pure mirth.

“What I mean is,” he backs up and you hear crackling before bark rains over you as he yanks his hands from the tree, “I don’t know your strength capacity with you still partially human.”

“I don’t break easily,” you clarify and his lips purse in amusement before a finger trails from the edge of your eyebrow to the tip of your chin.

“We’ll see about that.”

And by the way he says it, you are sure it’s a promise.