Like torture sometimes, seriously.
The first thing I do every morning is make Jasper lunch.
It’s been this way for years, a process that has become as comfortingly habitual as my old bathrobe. There’s something endearing about the early mornings when everything has gone grey and blue and purple. Something about the moment when everyone else around you is sleeping, as though there’s suddenly so much extra space just sitting there untouched by all those blissfully slumbering people.
I typically started my day by using some of that extra space to decide what Jasper was going to eat later on in his.
Today, it was turkey and smoked gouda on grainy bread. Avocado and tomato and sprouts.
Jasper had a thing against mayonnaise. Which was odd. Really odd, all things considered. I, on the other hand loved it and could not understand where his hatred stemmed from, always carefully licking my knife clean. I packaged his sandwich with an apple and a granola bar, which he would hate even more than mayonnaise, so I hid a packet of fruit snacks in his briefcase to make up for it. He would probably find them some time mid-afternoon and then feel bad about the few hours he spent cursing me under his breath for trying to make him eat healthy.
I briefly thought about drawing a heart on the paper bag, but he was already going to be grumpy enough about the granola bar.
Jasper appeared in the kitchen just as the sun was starting to rise, freshly showered and smelling like cedar. He had used the cologne I got him for Christmas, the one that reminded me of my childhood home and I couldn’t help but lean into his morning hug to get a good whiff of it. He kissed me lightly on my hairline and plucked my second cup of coffee from my hands.
“Morning.” He gulped deeply before handing the mug back to me and holding his arms out to the sides for inspection. “How do I look?”
He had a big meeting today, one that he’d been worrying over for weeks like a marble caught hot and damp between his palms. I could tell he took care to dress the part this morning. The Aubercy shoes, for starters, shiny black leather stamped with a boxy pattern and probably one of the more expensive items in his closet. He was in his grey Armani slacks, the ones that made his ass look sophisticated yet completely indecent, and had been going through a green kick lately, apple-hued button down working wonders on his eyes. He’d forgone the tie today, which only I knew was a sign of now nervous he was; he would strangle himself with it by the end of the day out of nervous anxiety. Instead he’d left the top button of his shirt undone and was wearing his grandfather’s vest, the one he swore was lucky. Chocolate brown leather with shiny brass buttons. The only flaw I could find was that he needed a haircut. His blonde curls a bit wild around the ears, but it only served to make him look a little more devilish than normal.
“You look like a million bucks,” I told him honestly, making a mental note to book him an appointment with Rose as soon as possible and kicking myself for not doing it sooner.
“Well, this meeting is worth far more than that.” He turned to rummage around in the freezer and eventually emerged with one of those horrid breakfast sandwich contraptions he made me buy him, an indulgence I only begrudgingly allowed. I loved him too much to say no to everything.
That’s why I was getting him back with granola bars.
“I’ll pick you up at six, then? What are you wearing?” He tossed the sandwich into the microwave and turned to steal another hot mouthful from my cup. We were supposed to make an appearance at a black tie business dinner tonight, the mood of which completely depended on how this mysterious meeting of his went today.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” I teased, getting a whole entire eye roll out of him.
“I would, actually. So that we don’t end up clashing, like last time.”
“We didn’t clash. We just didn’t . . . harmonize,” I faltered, trying not to cringe at the memory. While separately we’d looked great, together . . . not so much. Jasper leveled me a skeptical stare.
“Sweet Pea, just tell me what you’re wearing and I’ll dress accordingly.”
“Long. Black. Pretty scallopy stuff up here.” I fluttered my hands in front of my chest and he made a face at me.
“Scallopy? Is that a word?”
“I don’t know, I made it up. Rose picked the dress out. I’m sure you’ll approve.”
“Did she pick that out too?” He grinned and licked his bottom lip, eyeing my current ensemble, which I have to admit didn’t amount to a whole darn lot. Figures. One mention of his sister’s influence and he seemed fully appeased. I think he found some sick satisfaction in handing me over to her like a giant rag doll. While I generally looked a million times better than I would have without her, I sort of felt like the floppy plaything of a particularly fashion-conscious monster. Much of my time with Rose was spent being dragged along on yet another endless shopping excursion for yet another one of Jasper’s dinners, or parties, or company outings.
Like torture sometimes, seriously.
“No. I did,” I said defensively, stretching out to give him a good view of my handiwork. It was the color of deep wine red, sheer and spangled with grey stars, falling just long enough to cover enough of my crotch to be sort of decent but cut way too low to be modest.
“That outfit can’t have been sold exclusively to sleep in.” Jasper smirked at me. “Most husbands would command you back to bed and call in sick to work.”
“Yeah, well . . . You’re not most husbands, are you?” I shot back and watched his smirk twist sideways, lips puckering around something that looked sour while his teeth ground together.
“Unfortunately, I’m not.”
The microwave alarm distracted him for a moment and soon enough he was gathering himself to leave. Briefcase and heartless lunch sack. The grey suit jacket that hugged him in all the right places was slung over his shoulder. That horrid sandwich/thing clutched in his hand. He took one last sip from my mug before turning on me.
“How about a kiss to send me off on my big day?” He angled his mouth at me and I leaned away with a coy smile.
“No way, handsome. That’s a privilege you have to earn.”
His lips quirked to the side in a weak smile, trying not to look rejected. “Then wish me good luck?”
“You don’t need me. You have the vest,” I reminded him, fingering one of the buttons.
“I do need you. Say it, please. I need to hear it,” he practically begged, looking unusually anxious. That was the moment I started to panic, wondering if he hadn’t told me the details of this particular meeting because it really was make or break. Maybe everything was hanging in the balance, teetering just before it plummeted, and he didn’t want me to worry. Our life, as it was, depended completely on his job and we were both well aware that he held our golden ticket, either up or down. I flung my arms around his neck, gripping him tightly with my lips to his wild hair and whispered in his ear.
“Kick ass. Take names.”
Jasper hugged me close for a moment before pulling away, shaking his head at me with that wistful smile on his face. “See? This is why I love you.”
With a solid, stolen kiss to my mouth, he was out the door.
His behavior worried me all day.
I thought about how drawn he’d looked while begging for my good wishes as I was sorting our laundry. He never did that. Thought about the way he had asked me how he looked as I was loading the dishwasher. He never did that either. He hadn’t peeked into his lunch bag or whined about granola bar and he certainly hadn’t given me the full detailed rundown of exactly how his day was supposed to go, as he normally did.
This meeting wasn’t just any old meeting.
Carlisle would never fire Jasper, that much I knew for certain; they were almost as close as father and son. Carlisle’s eldest son, Emmett, accepted Jasper wholeheartedly and together they created a trifecta of perfection that I knew none of them wanted to fuck with. Taking their market by storm. Tripling profits in the first year alone. Steadily inching toward the summit of clearly defined success. I had never climbed a mountain before, but I was pretty sure that the slide from the top wasn’t a fall that any of them wanted to consider. But while Jasper’s job was built on an increasingly solid foundation, it wasn’t exactly set in stone; there was rumor that the ‘second son’ was returning from some extended stay in Africa or some such nonsense, and I’m sure that the reappearance of the person whose role he had stepped into had Jasper especially nervous.
I thought about him while I watered the plants and mopped the floors.
Thought about him while I lounged on the couch and tried to read.
Thought about him while I wandered my freshly watered greenhouse in my bare feet, pulling weeds and plucking flowers. Jasper had the greenhouse built the year we moved in and it was where I spent most of the time he was at work, but even the joy that I got from finding a single half-ripened tomato on my struggling plant was tainted with worry. I knew that he was likely right in the middle of the meeting that had him strung so tightly this morning and I spent most of the afternoon trying to send him all the good vibes I could muster.
Launching them out into space and hoping they found him in that big skyscraper downtown.
Rose came over around four to do my hair and makeup, and proved to be no help at all in relieving my anxiety. She didn’t know what was going on either and had always kind of sucked at reassuring me anyway. Instead, she spent most of her time lecturing me on the fine art of wearing heels, which I sucked at just as badly as she did at the whole reassurance thing. My hair was flat-ironed nearly to its death, pretty face deftly applied, and she left to meet Jasper at the tailors only after she deemed me suitable for the evening.
I spent an hour trying not to mess up my face or hair before I got dressed, still worrying.
I actually liked this dress, which I rarely admitted to.
It was long and black, heavy fabric that fell clear to the floor. The bodice was tight and structured, cupping my breasts and overflowing with a fluff of soft laser cut silk. There was a delicate flowery pattern stamped into the fabric that concealed just enough of my cleavage so that I didn’t feel as though I was giving away the farm. My hair gained a good couple of inches without the curls and Rose had done my eyes up dark and heavy.
I looked younger, thinner, and a bit more tortured than I had in a very long time.
Jasper appeared like an apparition behind me, hair slicked back and his new suit fitting perfectly, as expected. It was cut from a light grey fabric that bordered right up on silver, single-buttoned and cut slim around his torso. Rose put him in a black shirt, left open at the collar again and he was wearing his ‘special occasion’ shoes, the wing tips that were the exact same color as pure clover honey. He grinned at me over my shoulder, a heavy hand on my hip, our reflections staring back at us in the mirror.
“You look beautiful, Bella.”
“You’re not so bad yourself.” I smiled back at him and watched as he lifted something over my head, settling it against my neck with his fingers on my back to clasp it. A heavy pendant rested on my breast bone and I picked it up to get a good look at it. It was a massive chunk of amber, easily the size of a walnut, the color of Jasper’s favorite whiskey and the honey-shoes he was currently sporting. There was a fine silver filigree of sparkling diamonds all around the edges and I’m sure it cost far more than he’d ever admit to.
“My god, Jasper. What’s this for?”
“I signed the deal today.” He fixed the clasp and pressed a kiss down over the top of it, lips warm on the skin at the nape of my neck, eyes locked on mine through the mirror. “And, you deserve it.”
“You’re not getting any tonight, you know? You can’t buy me expensive jewelry and expect me to hop into bed with you.” I smirked at him with my reflection, fingering the pendant and he shook his head at me with his own smirk playing on his lips.
“I am well aware of that misfortune, Dearest.” He shot me one last smile through the mirror before heading for the door. “The limo is waiting outside, but we’re already fashionably late so don’t rush. Oh, and by the way,” he paused, his hand on the door jam. “Thank you for the fruit snacks. After that granola bar, I was starting to think that you hated me.”
“Impossible.” I shook my head at him, fingers still on the heavy stone at my chest and heart hammering like a tripwire under the cage of my ribs.