It had been nearly a year since I had seen him last. I remembered in startlingly clear detail the calculated calm in his face as he and his companions realized that I was, indeed, human rather than a vampire playing baseball with her family. Now, he had the same calm demeanor, but something else behind his eyes. Humor, perhaps, or amusement?
“Jasper,” I spoke before I could think too much about my actions.
He tilted his head to one side as he observed me. His eyes were still red, though their current hue was darker than I had seen them before. I knew that meant he hadn’t recently hunted, but I couldn’t bring myself to fear him when I remembered him coming to warn us about James.
“Bella. Have the Cullens gone?” Right to the point. I winced, and his voice appeared in my head, telling me to lie. Yet, when I opened my mouth the truth tumbled out anyway.
“Yes. Nearly three months ago.” I cleared my throat as my voice began to waiver. “What are you doing here?”
Jasper crossed his arms and glanced behind my shoulder into the trees. “Initially, I came to warn them against Victoria.”
My eyebrows shot up at the familiar name. I wasn’t necessarily surprised, but I had always thought she wouldn’t go after the Cullens who destroyed James after understanding the power behind their numbers.
“But now, knowing that you’re here alone...” I felt my pulse quicken as he trailed off. His face transformed into a smirk as he, too, heard my reaction. “I have to give it to you, Bella, you’re not as scared as I thought you’d be.”
“No?” I willed my voice to stay strong and sure.
“It is generally overwhelming when a human realizes they are in trouble.” Suddenly, Jasper looked quite angry. Maybe angry wasn’t the right word. Bothered? Irritated?
“Overwhelming how?” I narrowed my eyes. I had heard the Cullens tell stories of how human-drinking vampires often enjoyed the kill, the fear only encouraging their actions. I knew I was probably pushing my luck, but I didn’t have much to lose.
“It is something like Alice’s visions or Edwards telepathy.” A shiver ran through me at his name. “I can feel, and manipulate, others’ emotions.”
Unsurprised, I nodded my head thoughtfully. “Have you been manipulating my emotions, then?”
Jasper shook his head, a blonde curl falling onto his forehead as the calm facade returned to his features. “No, I have yet to test my abilities on you.”
“Having fun with my minimal fear, then?” I cocked my head, unable to control my sarcasm in the moment. It gave me confidence, and I didn’t particularly want to control it.
“I’m not trying to scare you, Bella.” He stated, firmly, “I’m just observing that you’re not as scared as most humans would be.”
I felt a smile pulling at the corner of my mouth. “I’ve heard that one before.”
Jasper stared behind me for a few moments, causing me to turn to gaze into the trees, trying to see what was pulling his attention. Of course, I saw nothing, and by the time I turned to ask Jasper his eyes were back on my face as if they never left.
“Regardless, I wanted to warn you. Victoria is coming after you.” He must have seen the confusion in my face, as he continued with very little pause. “A mate for a mate, kind of thing. She wants to make Edward’s life a living hell because she sees him as the reason her mate is dead.” He finished darkly, and I swore I could see his eyes darken.
I was still at a loss for words when Jasper took a few steps toward me.
“I’m going to leave now because you have some friends heading this way,” my eyebrows pulled together as I tried to figure out who in the hell would be out this far into the forest aside from me. “Stay safe, Bella. If you need anything, I’ll be around. Someone has to take care of the red-headed problem since the Cullens clearly aren’t going to.” And, with a wink, he was gone.