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Grim Reaper's Release

Summary:
When the gruesome murder of a pastor is mysteriously caught on tape, what will happen to the vampire race? Suddenly, the world knows about vampires. The Cullens need to get out of Forks. And fast. But what will happen when the Volturi wants to interfere? Or the Southern Armies? And, more importantly, who are these strange vampire twins? Photobucket


Notes:
...I've been away for a seriously long time, haven't I? O.O

Well, I'm back with a new story and I still haven't decided if I should continue my other stories. A lot's been happening in my life and I'm sure my feelings on all of my other stories have changed drastically. Anyway, this is just an idea that's been floating around my head for probably a year now but I've never really developed it into more than just a smidge of an idea.

Just a few warnings before I continue: This story is seriously...morbid. It's not really a good story at all. There's violence, world domination, chaos, and the world kind of goes insane...but it has a happy ending! Promise!

Also, the chapters are gonna be really long on this. Like, seriously long. It's not that I want to get this done in less chapters or whatever, it's just that in each chapter, a few different character's point of view's on different things need to be included to add other factors of the story. I mean, if I had each new point of view a chapter, we'd probably be up to 50 chapters by the time I get to the middle.

That being said, I guess a few things you should know is that I don't know when I'll be getting new chapters up. I hope, with winter break here, I'll have this story done by the middle of February, maybe? I was planning on having this only 7 chapters at the maximum, but the farther I get into this story, the longer it seems. And, I hope, I'll be getting each chapter up each week. I've already written chapter 2 and 3 but I'm gonna post them weekly.

Next, I seriously need to thank my best mate Kira with this story. She gave me a HUGE idea for it and has been such an amazing supporter of all my stories from the start!

*breathes in relief* Alright, I think that's all for now. Now that I've gotten it all out, go read. I'm sure the story is much more interesting than my babbling. *snort*


27. Just Like That

Rating 3.9/5   Word Count 11184   Review this Chapter

Jasper's Point of View

It became obvious after just one hour of being in the city that Philadelphia had changed. Drastically.

Not only had it become like any other modernized city, but it was crime ridden. Infested by homicidal fools and panicking citizens. I came close to actually missing the ghost town of Washington D.C. At least there you didn't have to glance over your shoulder in fear of someone coming to mug you. Even through the recent chaos of the world, Philadelphia remained lively. Just not in the way you would want it to be.

Driving through in my sleek Cadillac was like automatically taping a big red target on my powdered forehead. Heads turned, eyes narrowed, and it was obvious I was an outcast; someone to be picked on, someone of the upper class. I turned down onto Logan Square, searching for the hotel and even when I handed over the keys to the valet, I could feel the greed and envy coming off of him.

Simply, the two cities were polar opposites. While the capitol at least was warm and hospitable, Philadelphia was distant and cold. You were lucky to see one person on the streets in D.C. while here, people were swarming. There was looting at every shop, angry or desperate mobs breaking the windows to get in and fill their pockets to the brim. And I was in the good part of town. This was where, during regular times, you'd see busy businessmen and kind tourists strolling about. I hated to think what it was like in worst areas of Philadelphia.

As soon as I checked in, I went right up to my Royal Suite and threw my bag on the bed and sat down next to it, turning my head to look at the clock. It was only 9:25 in the morning. It felt much later to me, though I suppose that was only from the early morning I had started off with.

I had ‘gotten up' at about 5, checking out of the hotel and driving out of its pillared garage. I had driven past the old colonial house once more before leaving the city behind and found the place strangely vacant. Hopefully, Christian had talked Brandon into leaving the capitol behind and joining the others' rescue mission.

With my speed, it hadn't taken very long at all to reach the old city of Philadelphia. The highways were empty, leaving nothing but open road for me to drive on with a speed limit of at least 120 mph. The closer to Philadelphia I got, the less cops there were on the roads. I presumed it was because they were busy making rounds in the city. I had put on the radio in the car and switched it to a news station, growing wary at the many fires that were ravaging the city and gang fights that were breaking out.

After driving around the city a bit, just to get a feeling for the place and its occupants, I had unloaded at the hotel. And now I was...well, I suppose I was stuck. I needed to come up with a game plan, a strategy. I already knew how to get to the orphanage from here and, believe it or not, I had some sort of idea of what I would do once I got there. It was after this was said and done that I felt quite hopeless.

I felt into my pocket and pulled out the key to my apartment in Annapolis and turned it around in my hands. I could go there afterwards, wait for some sort of sign that all was well in D.C. Or I go skip over that and go back to the Williams Building and figure out what was going on. I sighed and dropped my head in my hands. I had told Christian I would be there after my job in Philadelphia was done. But could I? A part of me wasn't so sure I even wanted to.

He said everyone would be there. Every vampire. That included the Volturi, which I knew would create tension between my family and theirs. And then there were the Southern armies, which, undoubtedly, included Maria. Somehow, the idea of me being around her didn't sound so good. Bring Alice into the room and you've got yourself a catfight, for lack of a better term.

And then there were the ‘originals'. The twins Brandon had spoken about. I rubbed at my temples, urging my ancient memory to remember something that would clear this all up. Never in my existence had I heard about twins. Maria was an extravagant storyteller, always telling stories of our people and of the Southern wars. She had never mentioned twins. Tanya was even historically inclined. She knew so much about our past, about the Volturi. Nothing from her either.

And Carlisle! His knowledge left everyone else's accounts in the dust. He, who had actually spent years living with the Volturi, never spoke about the beginning of our species or twins, except for Jane and Alec. And surely it wasn't them who Brandon had spoken of. Aro had created them, they weren't the firsts. For so long I had been intrigued by Carlisle's tales, listening to ones I even knew already and had heard many times over. If he had even hinted at twins, I would have remembered or asked him about it on the spot. I could even recall Carlisle mentioning no one knew where we came from, not even the Volturi.

That was what chilled me. If not even our royalty, our rulers, knew where or who or even what we descended from, who did? Certainly not Maria and her stories of Benito and the bloodthirsty wars. Neither was it Tanya with her tales of heartbreak and immortal children. And it wasn't Carlisle, either, with his endless experiences. Was there anyone who knew who these twins were? Or were they simply ghosts from a time before the Volturi, come back to help? Where had they been all these years? Not dead, of course, or else they wouldn't have been able to return.

I groaned and stood up, shaking my head to clear my thoughts. Whoever they were, they were surely going to shake things up in the vampire world. I could only imagine Carlisle's reaction when he meets them. Knowing him and the scientist side he often showed, he'll most likely pull out a clipboard, sit the twins down, and interrogate them for hours.

I walked into the large bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. Dissolving contacts resulted in Tyrian purple eyes, like a merge of maroon and violet. Definitely unnatural. I plucked the contacts out and threw them in the trash can before taking another pair out from the case. Before I pushed them in, I took a second to lean in closer to the mirror.

They were still red, I realized with a disappointed sigh. They were a light burgundy from the recent kill, only days ago though it seemed so far away, with tiny black flecks shining here and there around the irises. I slid one contact in and blinked, turning my head to the side in wonderment. It was weird to see yourself with two different eye colors. It was just one of those things I didn't think I would ever get used to.

I hastily put the other in and lifted my chin a bit, watching my reflection. I had yet to lose my artificial tan though you could begin to see a small line where it ended on my flesh. It probably wouldn't be easy to spot as a human but it still concerned me. I squirted some of the greasy liquid onto my palm and rubbed it on; I wrinkled my nose in quiet aversion.

When I was done, I looked like any other blonde hair blue eyed man. There was nothing spectacular about me that would set me aside from anyone else, except maybe my reckless style of clothing that appeared as if I had just put on whatever I could find. I ran my fingers through my hair twice, messing it up a bit more before leaving the bathroom and going towards the door.

Before leaving, I checked my pockets for anything I may have missed. Car keys, license, wallet, and cell phone. In the other pocket was the tiny golden locket, weighing me down every time I took a step. I couldn't wait to get rid of it, though I meant that as nicely as I could. I wanted to be free of the sins I had done. Never, in all my years, had I tried to make up for a murder. I had never attempted to tie up the victim's loose ends or do something for them. This would be the first time I ever went out of my way for someone.

And, hopefully, the last time I had a victim to help.

I breezed past the receptionist's desk down below and even ignored the antsy doorman. According to the address, St. Jerome's Orphanage was on the other side of town. Which meant North Philadelphia.

I stood in front of the entrance for a few moments, debating on whether to grab a taxi or use my own car. Using the Cadillac could be unpredictable. Someone could try to steal it with or without me inside. But if I drove myself, it'd mean one less human would get a good look at me, one less person to worry about noticing something different. Taxis were common, though. Expected, even.

I ground my teeth and stepped out to the bustling curb, waving my arm out for a taxi. Several passed without even a glance at me. I cursed under my breath, knowing they were all empty. So much for working, I thought.

One finally stopped and I stepped off the curb and walked around to the other side, flattening myself against the car for a moment when another taxi drove too close. The driver eyed me suspiciously as I got closer to his door.

"Hey, man, what are you doing?" I opened the car door and reached in, unbuckled him, and lifted him out, flailing arms and all.

"I'll give you $500 to borrow this for the morning," I told him, reaching into my pocket with my free hand.

"What the hell? It's not for sale. Look, this is property of the city. You can't just-"

"$1,000?" I hated giving so much of my loose cash away but it was worth it. I couldn't risk losing my car, my only means of transportation, to a bunch of gang members. Even if I did know I could take them all. I knew it was just mostly because I didn't want a scratch on the paint anywhere if I drove it myself to the orphanage.

The driver took a moment and pondered. "You'll get it back by noon?"

I rolled my eyes and placed the cash in hands with a flick of the wrist. "Sooner, even. Look, you're getting more here," I waved at his tightly clutched hand, wrapped around the hundred dollar bills, "then you will all this week. Just let me take it-"

He shrugged out of my grasp and took a few step backs, hands in the air. "Hey, man, take it. Just get it back here by noon. And there better not be any dents or scratches! The repairs come out of my paycheck and if I even see one-"

I blocked the rest out as I slid into the front seat, closing the door on him and slamming my foot down on the pedal. I pursed my lips, not daring to breathe in the stench of cigarettes and fast food wrappers that littered the ground.

I glanced at the dashboard; 9:37. Not too bad at all. I had almost two and a half hours to get this done. I bet I'd be back by 11 with an hour to spare.

I wove the car in and out of traffic, ignoring the shouted curses that came from other drivers as I cut them off or came close to smashing the vehicle into their own. It wasn't hard finding my way around the city. Surprisingly, not many of the roads had actually changed. Yes, they had been paved recently and the street signs were in different locations but it was still the basic layout with the same names.

The skyscrapers were obviously newer with their glass walls and office windows. As were the shops along the streets, some closed down, some broken into, and some surviving the surrounding chaos by functioning properly. Historical Philadelphia was just how I remembered it; the Liberty Bell hanging in the center, the Independence Hall and Constitution Center bordering around it. I drove near other historical sites, like the Betsy Ross House and all of the famous Churches. I even took a moment to glance out the window as I passed Benjamin Franklin's grave.

I drove through the Old City, ignoring the several heads that turned as I recklessly drove down the street, veering off into other lanes when a person was crossing in front of me or I was in fear of catching a red light. The legendary Elfreth's Alley came up on my right and I looked out at the quaint little homes and brightly painted shutters.

I guess you could say I was stalling by driving by all of these important locations. I was a bit nervous about finding the orphanage and actually meeting Brianna. And so I momentarily lost myself as I drove through a city I hadn't visited in too long. Everything about the city was a bit enchanting, even with the angry mobs of people storming around, looking for trouble. I quietly wondered to myself why I hadn't returned in so long.

The former me that had walked these streets decades ago had fallen in love with the city of brotherly love, as they called it. I had found its historic sites refreshing from the modern towns and cities back then. It was like a part of the city would always be stuck in the past, telling the tales from a time where I was living and breathing.

Back then, I had never wanted to leave. After finding Alice, however, she encouraged departing from the city and leaving it all behind. I wouldn't have denied her that, I couldn't have. So we had left and had yet to return. I think for a while I refused to remember the moments I had spent here because I knew Alice disapproved of coming back. To her, this city held our former selves and our pasts. And she wanted more than ever to forget how her life had been before me.

I took a sudden right, directing myself out of the colorful stores of Philadelphia's Chinatown. I couldn't procrastinate anymore. The clock had already somehow switched to 10:45 and that left only a bit over an hour to get this done. I couldn't believe I had been driving around for over an hour, rediscovering the sites I had once cherished.

I drove past the University as I circled around the city, heading towards North Philadelphia and the orphanage. I was lucky not to be spotted by an officer as I sped well over the limit and drove rather impulsively. If I had been pulled over, I don't know what I would have done. It was already getting too late and with the sudden break in the clouds, I knew the cursed sun would be out within the next two hours.

North Philadelphia was a mess, to say the least. I even passed one blazing building as I studied each house number, scanning the area for the orphanage. Little children walked down the sidewalks, unsupervised, with torn clothing and smudges of dirt and blood on their round faces. I gulped down the venom, clenching my jaw against the bloodlust.

Most street signs hung haphazardly, making it harder to find my way around the area. Adults rammed into each other and into stores, grabbing random objects and stuffing them into their pockets. Teenagers fought along the sidewalks, fighting over items or maybe just fighting for the fun of it. I flinched at the site of an exposed gun, lying on the side of the road.

It amazed me. All of it, even the hostile locals and violent brawls. How one city could change so severely in just a week was beyond me. I knew some parts of the city were dangerous anyway but nothing like this. It certainly wasn't common to see the homeless lying about, some in the street, and brawls breaking out at every corner.

I finally spotted the orphanage, perched on the corner of the block, with a blue and white sign swinging back and forth near the stone stoop. I grimaced at the poorly kept place and pulled the car over along the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road.

Shrill screams could be heard from inside, coming from the numerous children. Their website listed 35 children in their care but once seeing the building, I couldn't comprehend how that many children could possibly be crammed inside. An iron fence wrapped around the minuscule backyard where brown grass sprouted and weeds lined the gate. I could hear children playing behind the house and then a red rubber ball rolled into my line of view.

I took a deep breath and got out of the car, leaning against the door for a moment or two. This neighborhood was no place for an orphanage. There were broken bottles scattered up and down the street, people wrapped in rags stumbling down the sidewalk, and shards of glass from cracking windows everywhere. Down the street there was a commotion and deep shouts arose as two gangling teens came into view, fighting and cursing.

My hand involuntarily sunk into my pocket where I grabbed onto the locket. That was why I was here. Not to judge the neighborhood. I shook my head and closed the door with a slam and jogged across the street before another guzzling car could pass.

The second I stepped onto the opposite sidewalk, something crunched underfoot. I lifted my foot and glanced down at the large piece of glass and frowned. It was so dangerous here, I suddenly realized. Too dangerous for little kids.

I passed the swaying sign and made my way up the stoop, taking an unsteady breath before lifting my hand and knocking on the rotting wooden door.

A chorus of childish screams echoed from within the walls as I patiently waited. Eventually, the door swung open and a dark young woman stood before me, holding a crying baby in her arms.

"What can I do for ya?" She asked as she tried to tend to the baby. I gulped and looked over her shoulder into the filthy inner rooms of the house.

"I'm here looking for a child," I said and regretted the questionable tone of my voice. She frowned for a minute before shrugging and moving out of the doorway.

"Come on in. Don't mind the toys, we can never find enough time to clean up." She closed the door behind me as I looked around.

It was chaos inside. Absolute pandemonium. Kids scampered around, up and down the creaking staircase, as they chased each other. Other children were at the top of the stairs, giggling as they played with some sort of toy. For the most part, though, they watched me from behind the few pieces of furniture, curious as to whom I was.

To say I didn't have much experience with children was an exaggeration. I didn't have any. I knew Renesmee, yes, but she didn't exactly count. She was smarter, more advanced. She talked like the average adult before she was even out of infant clothing. Being around her was like being around an incredibly small, incredibly infantile adult. When it came to human children, I knew nothing. The last time I had probably even seen a human child up close was most likely when I was human. I hadn't had any reason to be around any before now.

"You lookin' to adopt?" The woman asked; the one who had opened the door. I looked at her blankly for a moment, at her coarse black hair and red puffy eyes. She couldn't have been much older than 25 and yet she already appeared 10 years older by the wrinkles forming from exhaustion and overwork.

"No, no," I told her hastily as I tried to keep my staring subtle. "Like I said, I'm here to see Brianna-"

"Shelley!" The woman abruptly cried out and I paused. Shelley? I was stumped. That was a first, I had to admit.

Suddenly, a large woman emerged from a doorway, rubbing her hands on an apron tied around her waist. She took a moment to squint at me darkly, her beady brown eyes suspicious. I didn't even need my talent to know she was wary. Ah, was this ‘Shelley'?

"What d'ya want, Hannah?" Shelley asked in a rough, deep voice. I looked between the two in wonderment. Were these the women who run the orphanage? All by themselves? Though the kindness on Hannah's face was evident and her eyes shone with compassion, she appeared tired and worn out. One was aloof and remote as the other seemed strict and harsh. Poor kids, I thought.

Hannah gestured at me with her free hand as the other clutched the sobbing baby tightly. "He's looking for a Brianna. We got one of those here?"

Shelley took a moment to think and I gaped at the two of them. How would they not know if there was a Brianna? They had online files but still. I would have thought they would keep better track of the children.

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure there's one here," Shelley eventually said and I felt a wave of fresh relief wash through me. Thank God. If she hadn't of been here...well, I wasn't sure of what I could have done. There had been nothing in her file about leaving St. Jerome's. I knew her grandparents were in New Jersey but that was as much as I knew. "She's that little brown haired girl, you know? Always up in the bedrooms with that doll of hers," Shelley continued, turning on her heel and beginning to waddle away.

Hannah's eyes lit up for a moment. "Oh! Her," came the exclamation and she gave me a small smile. "Of course, Brianna. Come on, I'll show you to her."

I followed Hannah up the steps, ignoring the way they sagged every time I set my foot down. Kids scurried out of our way, shooting me stunned looks over their shoulder. I ignored their glances, not really knowing what to do anyway, and kept my head bowed as Hannah led me down a narrow, badly painted hallway.

"How do ya know Brianna?" Hannah asked, pausing in the hallway outside a chipping door. I stopped and looked down at her.

"Family friend," I automatically responded. "Is it always so crowded here?" I asked, changing the subject as I gazed down the hallway. There couldn't be more than three rooms up here and they all seemed so small. Too small for so many children.

Hannah's cheeks flushed a bit and she looked at the ground. "No, usually we have about 25. With all the news, though - well, you've seen how it is out there. It's a battlefield."

My eyebrows raised in slight surprise. "You mean all these kids; they're only here because their parents died recently?" Of course I had seen it outside. You'd have to be blind not to see what was going on out there.

Hannah nodded sadly. "It's awful out there. Me and Shelley, we don't go out much because of it but it seems like every day we're finding kids on the doorstep."

She turned away from me, reaching for the doorknob, and leaving me in shock. What had vampires done to the world? People were fighting for survival and dying which meant more and more parentless children. Orphans stranded in a city full of violence and panic.

The door opened and Hannah walked in, waiting for me to follow her inside the lightly painted room. I paused in the doorway, uncertainty crashing over me. What if she didn't like me? What if she became scared? What if she asked where her father was? I couldn't take those questions, knowing I had taken the only family member who cared away from her. And I also wouldn't be able to lie to her if she asked me those things.

Of course, all of these thoughts flashed in my mind before Hannah had even sensed my hesitation. I gave her a half hearted smile and stepped into the bright room, my eyes flickering around quickly.

The room was quite unlike the rest of the house. With freshly painted walls, it looked clean and new. It had a spring-like sense to it with the walls a pale green and the numerous cots covered by pale yellow and pink blankets. New toys were on the floor like dolls and stuffed animals. Few pictures were hung on the walls but those that were present depicted fairytale mansions and princesses.

"The government funds for this," Hannah explained the tidy décor, unlike the messy, filthy rest of the house. "We try to spend as much as we can on the bedrooms, toys, and other necessities. Children under 10 are kept in here and once they get that age, girls are down the hall towards the left, boys to the right." I nodded, only half listening as my eyes fell on the only other figure in the room.

She was perched next to the window on a small chaise, looking down at the hectic street below her with her back to us. I roughly estimated her to be about 6 or 7. Excellent. She wasn't too young to forget this but wasn't too old to ask many questions.

She was a little thing, I realized, reminding me of what Alice probably would have looked like as a small child. She didn't look malnourished, not in the least, she was just very petite. Her hair was a dark shade of brown, closer to black, and fell just past her shoulders in loose curls. She was just like any other child, I thought. There was nothing spectacular about her, nothing different. She was cute, I suppose, but what child isn't?

I guess I felt a bit disappointed, as horrible as it may sound. I didn't know what I had been hoping for but she was a bit below my expectations. Maybe I thought I would feel an instant pull towards her, like she would immediately touch me in some way and change me forever. Looking at her, though, I couldn't imagine anyone so ordinary having any sort of great affect on me. She was a child, not a miracle worker.

She turned her small head to the side as I got a glimpse of her profile. Freckled button nose, long black eyelashes, creamy skin, fair eyebrows, rosy cheeks, and cherry lips.

"Brianna, honey, this young man is here to see you," Hannah cooed, walking closer and smoothing down Brianna's thick hair. The baby in her arms had long been silent, staring at me wonderingly with wide eyes from across the room.

Brianna turned and looked at me and I stopped at my first sight of her bright blue eyes. They reminded me eerily of her father's. They were the same shade, same shape, and had the same look to them. I gulped down any nervousness and continued closer.

Her feet swung back and forth as she turned to sit and stare at me. Hannah placed her hand on her back and rubbed it soothingly. "Do you know him, Brianna?"

"Nope," Brianna replied, popping the p in a sugary sweet voice. Hannah's forehead creased and she looked at me, eyes narrowed.

"I thought you said you were a family friend," she accused. I glanced down at Brianna, who watched me curiously, eyes large and even a bit excited.

I turned back at Hannah and shrugged. "It's been a long time since I've seen Brianna," I lied easily. "She was just a baby the last time I saw her."

Hannah hmphed and turned back to the little girl. "You want me stay, baby girl? I won't listen if you don't want me too. It's up to you." I watched as Hannah combed through the girl's hair, her fingers like a brush, and gazed down at her tenderly. Brianna looked between Hannah and me before shaking her head.

"You can go," she said, grinning up at Hannah. Hannah frowned for a moment before clearing her expression.

"Alright, you just call me if you want, sweetheart," she told Brianna before casting me a hesitant look and then walking towards the door behind me. She strolled through the aisle between the cots before pausing in the doorway, glancing back once more, and then leaving, closing the door with a quiet click.

I gulped at the sound of her exit, my head turned away from the little girl at my feet. Now what? The only emotions coming from Brianna were raging curiosity, which wasn't surprising, and even a bit of giddiness. What could she possibly be thinking?

"Who are you?" she asked in her soprano voice, full of marvel and awe. I turned back to her and looked down as she craned her neck back to watch me. Her eyes were wide, almost the size of quarters, with lips parted.

I sighed and reached up, combing my fingers through my own hair. Where to begin? I glanced around the room and walked up to the nearest cot, sitting down on it lightly. The springs creaked under my weight but she didn't seem to hear. Or maybe she just didn't care.

"I knew your parents," I told her softly. She cocked her head to the side, her feet momentarily ceasing in their swinging, before she started up again.

"How?" Her question was innocent enough but I couldn't shake the feeling off that she was testing me. Making sure I was legitimate. And what do I say now? Lie and tell her I'm her uncle? Perhaps a distant cousin?

"I worked with your father," I lied, again. For a moment, I thought she was going to call me out on it. Her face scrunched up in confusion and concentration and it was tense. Her eyes flicked over me, staring, and studying my every move. Finally, her face cleared.

"Ok," she said, accepting. I blinked in astonishment; it had been so easy to gain her trust. She surprised me furthermore by jumping down off the chair and skipping closer, stopping at my kneecaps. "Are you here to take me home?"

Speechless. I didn't know what to say. What do you say to a question like that? How are you supposed to look into those clear blue eyes, completely naïve and pure, and tell her no, you wouldn't be saving her from this hellish orphanage? Shelley and Hannah seemed nice enough but, really? What child wanted to spend their life being confused for other children, being forgotten, and fighting for toys and maybe even food? My jaw dropped at her question and I sat there, feeling simply awful about myself. I shouldn't have come. I should never have even considered coming to this wretched place. I couldn't tell her no; I couldn't deny her a good life. Maybe years ago I could have, could have killed her on spot for her blood, but not now. Not now, after becoming a warmer person, could I crush her dreams.

My throat tightened as I felt the unfamiliar tingle of invisible tears surfacing. A vampire beginning to be reduced to tears by a child. How strange.

I reached down without a second thought and picked her up, lifting her onto my lap. She was so small, I realized, as my hands wound their way around her waist. So fragile. Just a bit more pressure and she'd be dead. Her flesh was feverish against mine and it caused venom to bubble into my mouth. I shut my eyes, willing the bloodlust to go away.

"No," I whispered, not daring to open my eyes and look at her. "No, I'm not taking you home."

There was a moment of silence and then, in a second, her happiness plummeted to grief. I should have known my refusal would hit me ten times as hard from her emotions. No wonder she had felt so giddy before, I thought glumly. She thought I was coming here to adopt her.

"It's alright," she said, so quietly even I almost didn't catch it. A big sigh escaped her lips, a defeated, hopeless sort of sigh, and I peeled my eyes open.

She was looking at the wall next to us, her lips puckered and eyes downcast. Once again, my throat tightened at the look on her face, utterly heartbroken. "I'm sorry," I whispered and she glanced over at me. She did nothing but shrug her tiny shoulders in response.

"What's your name, anyways?" She wondered aloud, turning to look at me, after a dejected few minutes of silence.

"Jasper," I automatically replied. She nodded and reached up, touching my face with her tiny fingers.

"Jasper," she repeated slowly and then smiled hugely, a missing tooth along her bottom row of teeth. Somehow, it only made her more endearing to me. "That's a pretty name," she told me, her smile growing.

I attempted a smile in return. "Thank you." I couldn't quite understand how suddenly she had gone from being like any other child to being so special. It was unfamiliar to me, to feel this paternal rush and adoration for someone. Maybe I was getting ahead of myself, my judgment being clouded by her sweet voice and even sweeter face.

"What are you here for? Your Mama and Papa didn't leave you, too, did they?" I would have laughed at her sincere, horrified expression if her question hadn't of been so touching. She had been cheated of life, taught that her misfortune was probably common and happened all the time. The fact that she believed this was almost too much for me.

I forced a chuckle out of me and shook my head. "No, Brianna, my parents didn't leave me."

Her tiny brows furrowed and she looked at me through narrowed eyes. "Where are they, then?" Ah, difficult. They were dead, I suppose. They had never left me, though. I had left them.

"Far far away," I said, "in a land called Texas." Accurate enough. They probably were buried there, somewhere in a dinky little cemetery along with my siblings and their spouses, if they ever married, which I predicted they had.

She instantly straightened up, her lips pulling into a smile. "I've heard of that!" She told me, excitement pouring off of her. "It's a long ways away," she mumbled, her tone somber. "Do you ever miss them?"

I froze. What an odd question. Did I miss them? Do I ever miss them? I thought about it for a moment, wanting to give Brianna a truthful answer. For so long, I had been on my own. Either I was fighting alone or living alone or wandering alone. Alice swept in and gave me reason, gave me comfort. She gave me company. And from then on my life had been a whirlwind. A new family took me in, replacing the one I had lost a century ago, complete with two loving parents and consoling siblings. For a while it had been a monotonous routine of living with my family. It had been perfect, actually, when I looked back. And once Bella completed us, it had been nonstop action. But during all of this, even during my silent moments where all I did was reflect on my savage years, I couldn't remember ever thinking back to my human years. No, I hadn't of done that since I was a newborn.

And who was my family? It seemed so long ago, I could scarcely remember their names and faces. Remembering back to the painful 1800's was like living a different life. Few human memories resurfaced. Running with my older brother, Laurence, through the wheat fields, and chasing each other while wrestling under the blazing summer sun. Trying to teach the youngest son, Clarke, how to read by the fire when I was in my late teens. Volunteering to help my sister, Cordelia, as she cooked for family meals. Memories of being with my siblings were the strongest. I could picture their faces, all blue eyed and fair skinned. Most were blonde, except for Clarke who took after our father with his dark hair. And then a year before I went off to war, the newest addition to the Whitlock family had been born, Violet.

But memories of my parents were few and far between. I could remember the scent of cigars in the summertime and my father rocking in a chair, Cordelia on his lap, as the sun fell and Laurence and I would emerge dirty and bruised from wrestling out back. Brief memories of my mother baking in the kitchen, humming under her breath, and telling me stories as a child while putting me to bed recurred. And the clearest memory of my parents was the day I left for war. My father stood, proud and stiff, while my mother sobbed into a lace handkerchief as my siblings stood off to the side, awkward and miserable. I suddenly remembered Laurence telling me how angry he was at me for going to war. As the older brother, I suppose he hated watching me go into danger in his stead. But he would have never of lasted long in war with his bad leg, broken from a fall out of a tree. I couldn't remember that incident, though, for some reason.

So, in the end, I had to ask myself. Did I miss them? My siblings and my parents? Did I miss the hot summer nights, helping my sister with catching fireflies and putting them in jars? Did I miss playing games with my brothers in the nearby creek? What about my mother's sparkling blue eyes and home cooking? Or my father's tales from the farm?

"Yes," I croaked, realizing for the first time how desperately I actually missed my human family. I had never thought about them much before, never remembered back to when we were one big happy family, living on a peaceful estate in the South. Now that I had, I found it impossible to stop thinking about them. I had never even checked to see where they ended up, what they did and where they went. I suddenly felt ashamed at how I had abandoned them so.

I felt warm fingers poke at my cheek and opened my eyes. Brianna was staring at me, eyes glassy and sorrowful. She frowned, her bottom lip jutting out. "I'm sorry, Jasper," she murmured, leaning forward and wrapping her slender arms around my neck and hugging me.

At first, I wanted to push her away. I wasn't used to such physical contact. Alice was really the only one who ever touched me. It felt strange to feel someone else, and even stranger when that person was breathing with a beating heart. Through the fabric of her shirt, I could feel her tiny heart pounding inside her ribcage like a drum. It distracted me for a moment, as did the slurping pulse rhythmically flowing through her veins, but I shook the feeling off. I decided right then and there that I would not be killing little Brianna.

"I have something for you," I mumbled, suddenly remembering the reason I was even here. Her tiny head lifted from the crook of my neck and she peered up at me. Slowly, her mixed feelings of sadness and loss escalated to sheer joy.

"For me?" Her voice was breathless and soft, like she had never been told the words before. My heart jolted in response to her quiet shock.

"Of course," I said, giving her a crooked grin. I jostled her in my arms a bit, straining as I reached down in my pocket and hooked the golden chain around my finger. I pulled it out and enveloped it in my hand, keeping it from view. She leaned forward curiously, her round fingers prying at my own as she tried to peek inside my fist.

"What is it?" She wondered, glancing at me. I chuckled as frustration began spreading through her.

"Hold on," I laughed as I lifted my hand and her eyes followed it, like a dangling mouse in front of a cat. "Brianna, listen to me," I said seriously and she tore her gaze from my hand reluctantly. "What I have for you is very, very important. You mustn't lose it or give it away or let someone take it. Alright?"

She nodded eagerly. "Can I have it now?" She chirped.

I smiled at her impatience. "Not yet. I'm not done." I ignored her deep sigh and continued, "This is something really important, Brianna. Something your parents wanted you to have."

Her head snapped up at this, her eyes wide. "My - my parents?" The word sounded forced on her lips, like she wasn't used to saying it. Her bottom lip trembled slightly.

"Yes," I told her, "your parents. It was for you and they wanted to give it to you as soon as you were old enough."

"Am I old enough now?" Worry and fear came off of her and I hugged her closer.

"I think you are," I told her, "but you have to realize how important this is. It's not a toy, Brianna. You can't just get break it and hope Hannah puts it back together. It's something you need to love and take care of for the rest of your life."

Her mouth fell open into a little round ‘o' as she nodded gravelly. "I understand, Jasper, I really do," she stressed, eyes flickering to my closed fist when she thought I wasn't looking.

"Are you sure?" I asked, teasing her. I knew she was ready, somehow. Maybe it was the mature look in her eye, reminding me a bit of my own niece.

She gave me an exasperated look. "Yes."

"Alright then," I grinned, opening my palm in front of her and exposing the glittering gold locket. She gasped, her face lighting up. I could see the bliss erupt in her eyes, feel the glee that overflowed from her. She tentatively reached forward, stroking the smooth metal with one fingertip like she was scared it would break under her touch.

"It's beautiful," she cooed, simply staring at the piece of jewelry.

"Here, I want to show you something." With my free hand, I picked up the locket and unlatched it. It swung open, revealing the family picture from Christmas. The three looked like one happy family, I thought, complete with presents around the tree and glowing faces. Brianna ogled it; almost like she was afraid it would vanish any second.

"Is that my...are those....-"

"Yes," I whispered, leaning in closer to her. "Those are you parents. And that's you." I pointed at the little baby in the picture and she gasped, even louder than before.

"That's...me?" Her voice was awed, as if she couldn't believe it. Her eyes raked over the picture almost hungrily. "And that's my Daddy? And Mommy?" She was shocked, purely shocked at the picture. She reached out and touched the picture carefully, placing her fingertip on top of her parents' faces.

"Do you want me to put it on you?" I asked her quietly. She glanced up at me and gawked.

"What do you mean?" Her face was blank. Completely confused. I frowned, had she never seen a necklace before?

"Well, it's a necklace," I said to her as I took both ends of the chain and brought them behind her neck. "That means it hooks in the back and you wear it around your neck." I clipped the ends together and let go, letting it settle against the base of her neck. Her eyes bugged out so far, it reminded me of a cartoon almost. She reached up and touched the chain around her neck.

"And it's mine?" Her voice sounded doubtful and small. My lips pulled down at her refusal to believe any of this.

"Of course. No one can take it away from you. It is officially yours," I said, smiling slightly. Her head was bent in concentration as she turned the locket over in her hands.

After a moment of silence, her inspecting the locket and me watching her, she looked up at me and I became concerned as tears spilled over. "Thank you," she said simply.

It should have been then that I felt some sort of redemption. I should have felt suddenly free of all of my wrong doing. I should have been basking in the life of a free man. Instead, I felt no different. Disappointment seeped through my bones. There was no change within me. Yes, I had suddenly grown attached to little Brianna. Yes, she had reminded me of what it had been like to be human, to live, and to love my family. But redeem me? No, she hadn't done that.

I don't know why I said the words I did following her simple thanks. Maybe I was searching for forgiveness, something I knew she could not give me. My sins were too strong, the list too long. She couldn't possibly give me the salvation I required.

"I killed your father," I blurted, not thinking. Like I said, I don't know what made me say it. She most likely didn't even understand the words, or had misheard them. The second they were out, I regretted it. I wanted to cover my mouth and run from the room, disgusted in admitting it aloud.

Her brilliant blue eyes clouded in bewilderment. "What?" She asked, her forehead creasing.

I could have just brushed her off then, told her it was nothing and to forget it. I could have convinced even myself that it had never happened and gave her a swift goodbye and be on my way. But I didn't and once again, my big mouth got in the way. Possibly it was the searching look on her face that caused me to explain.

"Your father. I saw him just three days ago. I killed him." I had never cried as a vampire. Not once in my existence. I had come close to it, but never really cried. Of course I had my low moments, sunken into a depression so deep that nothing, not even I, was worth my time or thoughts. And here I was: dry sobbing due to a 6 year old girl with a cherubic face and a syrupy voice.

She was still at first. I bowed my head as my shoulders shook. All of those people, all of those souls and lives I had snatched. The sins of a century and more suddenly came crashing down on me. Why had I ever done those things? Why had I ever followed Maria and her trail of death? Why was I me? Why couldn't I have been Carlisle, never tasting human blood? Or Esme, sweet Esme, never hurting a soul? How was it fair that I was such a monster? What made me deserve this life? I wanted to forget this life and start over as someone new. Someone pure.

A little finger hooked under my chin and struggled to lift my face up. I obliged, knowing she would never be able to do it on her own. Her eyes were glistening with unshed tears, the tears I wanted to be falling from my eyes.

"Why?" She asked, her voice full of anguish. I cringed and squeezed my eyes shut, willing this all to somehow go away.

"I couldn't help it. I tried, so badly. I didn't want to do it. It was almost impossible to not do so." I swallowed a large breath and breathed out, "I'm sorry."

I couldn't stand to look at her. I didn't want to see the hatred on her little face, an emotion that should never be felt by someone so young. I thought my heart would break to see such repulsion directed towards me from little Brianna.

"Jasper," she sighed sadly and I felt both of her little hands tug on both sides of my face. "Open your eyes."

I did as I was told, momentarily ceasing my breathing in fear and nervousness. Instead of abhorrence, though, I saw a serene sadness. A type of look you often saw when someone was coming to terms with disastrous news. The type of look that was beyond children, reflecting an emotion that usually only adults could feel.

"Are you sorry?" She asked. Like it was so simple. Like just by admitting you were sorry, it made everything right.

"I wish more than anything that I could take it all back. Yes, I am sorry. More than sorry, I'm-"

She placed a finger on my lips and silenced me. I stared at her, begging her to at least let me properly apologize. She shook her head, her little brown curls bouncing slightly.

"Then you're forgiven." And just like that, with those few words, it somehow did make everything right. It somehow took all of my wrongs back and swapped them for freedom from my sins.

I think it was then that I realized it had all been worth it. That being captured, being poked and prodded at like animals, being separated, being emotionally tortured, and being put through hell had all been worth it. I wouldn't have traded anything for this moment. I wouldn't have taken back the last week. I would have even declined the chance to trade it for her father's life. It was like I was a small boy confessing my sins to a priest. Her four words turned my world upside down. I felt like everything in my life had occurred, leading up to this moment. Every sin accounted for had been building up for this single hour.

There was no shining moment where I physically felt all former sins evaporate as I accomplished redemption. There was no bright light where everything in my life seemed to make sense as the universe came together. All I knew was this crying child, this orphaned little girl, had somehow saved me from myself. There was a certain sense of inner peace, of acceptance for myself. I suddenly realized it was ok not to be as perfect as Carlisle. It was alright to be myself, to make mistakes, to learn from them. For as long as I was sorry afterwards, as long as I regretted it more than anything, I had been forgiven.

Of course this didn't mean I felt the need to go on a massacre, killing anyone and everyone as long as I regretted it later. No, of course not. I just felt that all of my murders had not been in vain. They had been preparing me for the true life of a vegetarian. For the first time in my life, I did not frown upon my past. I did not feel ashamed. I didn't even feel the need to cover it up. It was simply who I was, and that wasn't a monster.

I crushed Brianna to me in a hug, letting a strangled breath fall from my lips. "Thank you," I murmured against her hair, "Thank you, thank you, thank you." She squirmed against me, giggling into my chest as I rocked her back and forth. Whoever had sent me such an angel, such a - a miracle worker - was forever in my debt. No feeling could compare to this, no sensation or emotion. This was pure liberation.

She pulled back from me and grinned, her eyes twinkling in delight. "Thank you, silly goose. You gave me my parents back." I felt my heart melt even more at her words. Had I really done that? Could such a small object, a little trinket, affect her so much? To me, that object had more meaning that I think she would ever understand.

A clock on the wall caught my attention and I glanced at it and immediately cursed. 11:46. Less than fifteen minutes to get back. Brianna followed my gaze and frowned.

"Do you have to go?" It amazed me how even though she most likely couldn't tell the time, she knew what the object's purpose was.

I reached forward and tucked a bouncing curl behind her ear. "Yes," I said, deflated. "I'm sorry but I have to."

"Will you come back?" So innocent. So trusting. I hated the fact that I had to leave, that I had to abandon her. It made me just as bad as her parents, deserting her here. But as long as vampires were being hunted down, I would never be able to come back. Maybe someday, when vampires were accepted for what they were, I would track her down and find her and tell her all that I knew about her family. Until then, though, I would never return to the shabby orphanage in North Philadelphia.

"I hope so," I told her as honestly as I could. "Someday, I hope I can come back. Promise me something, though?" I twirled the thin little chain around my finger and tugged lightly.

"Anything," she replied. Her emotions were a mix of sadness, most likely due from realizing the chances of me coming back were slim, and slight happiness. She could tell, somehow, that she had helped me. She just didn't know how she had done so.

"Remember me," I told her, "don't ever forget I came here. Don't forget me like I forgot everything else." And it was truth. Over the years, I had forgotten what it was like to live. It felt like the past few decades had been spent in a fog. My family had been there, but had I ever really paid any attention to them? Had I been the best husband towards Alice? Or had I neglected everything and everyone, reserved and quiet? I had practically pushed everyone away, clinging to Alice for guidance and comfort but never returning the favor. I hadn't of loved her back like I should have. I almost felt like I had taken advantage of her feelings for me.

Brianna frowned deeply but nodded nonetheless. "I won't forget you, Jasper from Texas." She then grinned, clearly pleased by remembering that. I smiled despite myself.

She jumped off of my lap, standing on the floor in her ruffled shirt and crumpled jeans. Her necklace hung from her neck, the locket hidden by the collar of her shirt. Maybe that was best, I thought. Who knew what some of the other children here would do if they saw such a pretty gold object.

She took me by the hand, not shivering at my cold touch, and led me over to the door. "I'll walk you out," she declared, swinging the door open and tugging me into hall at the same moment Hannah scurried out of another room, a child hanging off of her leg as she carried a pile of what I could only assume was laundry.

"Oh! All done?" Hannah asked, huffing and puffing. I nodded as I glanced down at Brianna.

Brianna ignored her, brushing past Hannah without so much as a glance, but I politely smiled at the woman as I passed her. "Thank you," I mouthed over my shoulder as Brianna pulled me down the steps. Hannah gave a weary smile in return.

I paused at the front door, cringing as a glass object shattered in another room and shrill screams of play and laughter erupted. I looked down at Brianna, who was staring at me with a tiny smile on her lips.

"Promise me something?" She asked, perfectly repeating my words from before. I looked at her in confusion.

"Of course," I replied as I crouched down, becoming eyelevel with her. She reached out and touched my hair, almost like she was trying to memorize me.

"Don't forget me," she whispered; her voice was tight and eyes watery once again.

And how could I ever forget her, my savior? I could live to be a million years old and still never forget her. I would never forget her azure eyes and the way they sparkled. I would never forget her soprano voice or her overwhelming scent of magnolia and sugar.

"Never," I told her, hugging her once again. She sniffled into my shirt and a part of me wondered how I had even gotten here. How had I gone from a cold, remote man who detested the presence of others to this?

I let go of her and straightened, my hand on the doorknob. Hannah was nowhere to be seen and neither was Shelley, though I was sure they would hear all about this from the intruding eyes of the other children who watched us closely.

Brianna let go of my hand with reluctance and took a step back, watching me through miserable eyes. I gave her a halfhearted grin as I opened the door, sending her one last look as I walked out and pulled the door closed behind me. Just like that.

For a moment, I stood on the little stoop, leaning against the door with my arms crossed and my eyes closed. I ignored the aggressive shouts down the road; they didn't exist to me. The thick smoke that wafted from a second burning building blew right past, not affecting me in the least. Nothing out here mattered to me. I was a free man, free of the chains of a former life.

I was ready to begin again, to start a new life.

I suddenly remembered the time and jumped from the stoop and sprinted across the street. Damn, it'd be nearly impossible to get to the other side of the city, with or without traffic. I jumped in the driver's seat, violently turned the key, and slammed my foot down. With the force I used, I was lucky not to snap the key or break the pedal.

The car sped off down the empty street as it climbed towards 90 mph. Unfortunately, the car wasn't equipped to go much higher. In a city where you were lucky if you went higher than 10 mph, no one would need top speeds. I growled under my breath at the people crossing the streets, making me lose precious time. It wouldn't be the end of the world if I got there at 12:01, I just worried the original driver would make me pay him another thousand for my tardiness.

To say I drove recklessly was an understatement. Half the time, even I wondered how I was doing all of this. The car swerved carelessly through the roads and more than once, I had to jerk the wheel to the side as I zoomed past the turn. People darted off the streets as I rammed through, traveling down all the local roads.

Someone must have been looking out for me because at exactly 11:59, I rolled up to the front of the Four Seasons, ignoring the shocked glances of people passing by. The driver was seated at a bench by the front door, arms crossed over his protruding stomach, and eyes glaring at his watch. The commotion I caused by my driving resulted in him glancing up and his eyes narrowed.

"You!" he screamed, standing up and rushing forward. I sighed and pulled the rusty key from the ignition. I pushed the car door open, glancing at the clock on the dashboard as I left the car; 12:00 exactly.

"Me?" I asked, feigning innocence. He poked me in the chest in anger but cursed vehemently when his finger met cold marble.

"You said noon! Sharp!" He exclaimed.

I waved at the clock, signaling it was just that. "And it's here, as promised." He glowered at me and stomped his foot angrily.

"You said it would be early! Not so close to noon," he accused differently, realizing his mistake.

"I don't see what the problem is," I told him, glancing back at the taxi. "It's here without so much of a dent, scratch, or chipped paint-"

"I think you should pay me more for putting up with you," he spat and suddenly it was clear. He wanted more money. I rolled my eyes and shook my head in irritation.

"Fine," I sighed, surprising him. His thick eyebrows rose considerably. I reached into my wallet and pulled out more bills. "$500 for causing such trouble," I said sarcastically as I shoved the wad of money into his greedy hands. "No more."

He gawked at the money as I left him there, placing the keys on the hood of the taxi before strolling back into the hotel lobby. Someone greeted me from the main desk and I looked over and smiled distractedly. I couldn't even describe the immense euphoria I felt. It was like walking on air, almost. Like I was weightless and had no worries.

I made my way to the room soundlessly, piling into the suite eagerly. Once in the bathroom, I took out the contacts, close to dissolving anyway, and threw them out in the waste bin before walking into the main room. I tossed my jacket on one of the sofas and stretched out on the other before taking my phone out of my back pocket.

I wanted to do something for Brianna. Something she wouldn't know of now, exactly, but later in life, would. I wanted to do something she would always remember me for, along with the locket.

I pressed in the keys for one of my many financial agents, Scott Jefferson, one who I had called before for aide and who had graciously helped me, going above and beyond what I had asked for him. In short, I trusted him. Maybe even with my undercover status.

He picked up on the third ring, sounding a bit breathless and irritated. "Scott Jefferson here, how can I help you?"

"Ah, Scott, good to hear your voice. It's Jasper Whitlock." On the other line, I could hear him suck in a large breath of air and smiled to myself.

"Mr. Whitlock? My God, how are you? You're everywhere on the news, you know, simply everywhere!" In the background, I could hear the faint buzz of a playing television and nodded in agreement. I had seen for myself already, my face plastered on everything in the media.

"I know. You have no clue what it's like to see your face on every front page of every newspaper-"

"Are you alright? Where are you?" He asked, panicky.

"Of course I'm alright. Why wouldn't I be?" I chuckled to myself briefly. With the current lack of vampires around, not much could bring me harm. "I'm currently in Philadelphia but leaving quite shortly. I need to ask you a favor, though." He sounded relieved on the other line and clucked his tongue.

"What is it, sir? Anything you need, I'll do it right away."

"This is quite a big job," I warned him, "A long term task." Longer than even your life, I added silently. He'd have to pass it down to someone else when he retired.

"Anything!" He urged and I could hear the scribbling of pen on paper as I assumed he was jotting down notes.

"From now on, at the closing of each year, I want you to take-" I paused, thinking of a reasonable amount, "five hundred thousand dollars out of my personal accounts and place them in a separate, already existing file."

Scott grunted into the phone. "Done and done. What account shall it go into? An alias of yours?"

"Oh no," I laughed. "No, I want it to go into an account for a Brianna Wilkinson. She's a young girl here in the city and I wish to financially aide her."

There was a brief silence. Maybe he was simply stunned. "For how long?" He asked.

"Her life," I said simply. Scott sucked in a deep breath and grumbled under his breath.

"But Mr. Whitlock...do you know how much that will add up to over the years? In just two years, you'll be out a million dollars! That's absurd! And say she lives to be an old woman, that's millions lost!"

"A million is nothing to me," I told him calmly. "I'll gladly give it to her. In fact, maybe I'll just bump it up to a million now. What do you think of that, Scott?"

Of course I was joking. I wouldn't have gone that far. I just wanted Brianna to be able to live a comfortable life without financial worries since her grandparents had quite obviously deserted her. And hopefully, she wouldn't need the orphanage soon. She'd be able to go off on her own.

Scott gasped. "A million dollars?! Every year? Mr. Whitlock, you're-"

"I'm joking, Scott, calm down," I laughed quietly. "No, for now, five hundred thousand is good enough. Maybe by the time she becomes an adult, I'll increase it a bit but until then, I'm sure this will be good enough."

Scott blew out a large breath and I could almost see him shaking his head with a bulging vein. His voice was soon replaced by the clicking of keys on a keyboard and I waited patiently.

"Brianna Wilkinson has one banking account set up by a Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson - her parents, I presume? - which has one thousand and seventeen dollars inside. The last transaction took place six years ago," he informed me. I nodded. Perfect.

"Alright, send the money into there. Oh, and Scott?"

"Yes, Mr. Whitlock?" By now, he almost sounded scared of what I had to tell him.

"Make sure she somehow knows it's coming from Jasper Whitlock. No aliases or cover-ups. I want my name on the paychecks." At least now, somehow, she knew it would be me.

Scott stammered on the other line. "Fine!" He finally surrendered, typing more into the computer. "Anything else?"

I smiled slightly. "No, Scott, that'll be all. Thank you, really. If you want, feel free to take a bonus out of my account for yourself. Your work for me has been deeply appreciated."

"Mr. Whitlock, I can't accept that," he stuttered. I rolled my eyes.

"Yes, you can, and you will. It was nice speaking to you, Scott. I hope to be talking to you sometime soon and please, don't forget to send Brianna her money the second the clock ticks midnight come this December 31st."

I snapped the phone shut and sighed, sinking into the plush cushions. It warmed me further to know I would be doing something more for Brianna, and helping her for the rest of her life. I wouldn't let her be trapped in that ungodly neighborhood for the rest of her life.

I eventually got off the couch and walked into the master bedroom, unzipping the large suitcase and pulling out a second shirt. I quickly changed; throwing the formerly worn wrinkled shirt inside and zipping it back up. Before I left, I inserted a second pair of contacts in and took out a pair of sunglasses, slipping them on as I headed out the door with my luggage in hand.

By 12:30, I was in the hotel parking lot, no longer checked into the hotel after using the excuse of a death in the family for my sudden departure. I started my Cadillac, smiling to myself in slight giddiness as the engine purred beneath me, before speeding out of the lot and onto the open road, heading towards the interstate with the destination of Washington D.C. in mind.

And that was the beginning, the beginning of the new me.