The Long Road Home, Chapter 13: Lover's Lane

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Chapter 13: Lover's Lane

APOV:

Jasper stared at the envelope in my hands with wide eyes, his mouth half-open in shock and something very close to dread, as if I were trying to hand him a poisonous snake or a loaded gun. His gaze shifted up to meet mine. "Where..." He stopped, took a deep breath, closed his eyes for a moment. "Where did you get that?" His voice was strangled, breathless.

I bit my lip anxiously. "In South Dakota. From-from your niece."

He blinked in surprise. He still didn't take the envelope, which I still held out to him. "My niece?"

"Yes. Her name is Margaret. And I also met her children, your great-niece and nephew." I had to stifle an urge to laugh crazily at what I had to tell him next. He was already close to the edge, I didn't want to push him over the brink into a true breakdown by laughing, I had to proceed with caution. "Their names are Jasper...and Alice."

He still went over the edge.

Jasper went completely still, as we do when things just get to be too much: he was suddenly a marble statue of a gorgeous naked man sitting in the middle of the bed, staring helplessly at me. I sighed and put the letter down on the edge of the nightstand, reaching for my robe. As I shrugged into it and tied the sash, I scanned the future, hoping his interlude as a sculpture wouldn't last too long.

After a few minutes he thawed, shaking his head as if to dispel the remains of a bad dream, turning to look again at the inoffensive envelope. With visibly trembling hands he reached for it, took it as if it might shatter into a million pieces, holding it with both infinite care and infinite reluctance.

"Do you know what it says?" Jasper finally asked, looking up at me. I leaned against the bedpost and crossed my arms, shaking my head no. "Really? You...you didn't look for this moment? To see? Out of curiosity or something?"

I rolled my eyes. "I don't want to know everything. I could have. But I didn't. I wanted to respect your privacy." The whole thing was beginning to irritate me, actually: here was a message from beyond the grave, from the sister he'd spoken of with such love. Here was proof that she'd never stopped thinking of him. And there he was, acting as if he'd been struck by lightning, or was terrified of something. As if this might be bad news.

He licked his lips and looked down at the envelope again. "South Dakota?"

I nodded. "Yes, I was up that way a few years ago. I didn't know why at first; I thought it was to meet another vampire, a man named Charles, but I had no idea why. But once I met your niece and her children, and she knew I was coming, and gave me that letter for you...Well, let's just say that the purpose for my needing to go there became evident."

His head snapped up, eyebrows raised in surprise. "Charles?" He touched his chin. "French guy, blonde, with a beard and a bad attitude?"

I had to laugh then. It was so true. "Yes, and a big old gun."

Jasper actually chuckled, which filled my heart with relief. Then he sobered as something occurred to him. "So...Does he know my...my relatives?" I said yes, to which he nodded to himself in satisfaction. "I wondered why he seemed so shocked by my last name. And why he didn't tell me anything. I left right away. I thought he was very odd and more than a little rude."

I took a moment to remember Charles and his strange vow, his strange commitment to defend the humans' land. It wasn't until many years later that everything came out, and then all I could do was shake my head in wonder at how small the world truly is, how so many things are connected.

He sighed and carefully slipped a finger beneath the edge of the envelope's flap, pausing for a moment, his eyes stormy. "I don't know if I want to read this, Alice. The last thing Ginny ever sent me, before I was changed...she was angry. Very, very angry at me. For leaving. It hurt my family more than I had ever thought could be possible." He looked at me, his whole heart laid bare and vulnerable in his face, and my whole body throbbed with the sight of his anguish. "It was my fault," he whispered.

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