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Welcome to Camp Cullen

Summary:
Bella takes a vacation with the Cullen's during the perfect summer after her junior year. new chapters are up, and more on the way. Thanks for reading. ")


Notes:
This story takes place during the summer between Twilight and New Moon. It is light and hopefully amusing, I was aiming to ease off the angst and portray the characters "happy". There will be some conflict, and it wouldn't be Edward without a little angst remission,so look for that in future chapters


12. Chapter 11

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2014   Review this Chapter

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Alice’s fiery little mare, Nymph, caught up with Zephyr and I a little too quickly for my liking. Alice leaned out of the saddle and grasped the reins, slowing my reckless gallop to a more manageable speed. Zephyr seemed relieved.

“Whoa back there cowboy,” Alice laughed as we drew abreast,” We have a ways to go yet, pace yourself.” She eyed me knowingly, her words holding another meaning all together. I grinned at her tacit understanding, and turned my eyes back to the trail in satisfaction. I was having a GREAT time on this vacation. Too bad Edward couldn’t say the same. I glanced over my shoulder to see him riding slightly in front of Jasper, his face grim.

Jasper, however, was grinning ear to ear, and urged his gelding, Stonewall, forward to ride three across with Alice and I. There was room for Edward and Aries as well, but he lagged behind sullenly, his eyes lowered to the trail. I grinned at Alice and Jasper and proceeded to ask Jasper an endless series of questions about riding. He answered animatedly and descriptively. He was a marvelous, patient teacher, reaching across Alice to shorten my reins so I had better contact with Zephyr. Showing me where to position my leg, how to turn my heels down, all with that warm southern drawl and his soothing demeanor.

Alice kept up a running commentary on Jasper’s horsey accomplishments, being so effusive that with a furtive glance over his shoulder at a glowering Edward, he shushed his impish wife with a warning glare. But she just laughed and tapped her forehead with a sly wink. He could only shake his head resignedly and wish Edward luck. He would need it when Alice and Bella joined forces.

Jasper mentioned a spot he and Emmett had found earlier , where there was a lovely pool, with an equally lovely glade where we could rest for a bit. Gallantly ignoring the fact that vampires didn’t need to rest, and that the stop would be for my benefit alone. He glanced at me, then said,” The horses could probably use a breather and a drink by that time.”

I didn’t turn my head, but a grateful smile graced my lips, and Jasper acknowledged it with a slight nod.

I was really beginning to like Jasper.

He was well aware of my affection, but he could feel the difference between what I felt for him, and what I felt for Edward. Strangely, it seemed that Jasper was much more comfortable with my feelings, than he was with my physical presence. If Jasper and I had met online in a chat room, I think we would have hit it off from the git go, and become fast friends in no time. It was only the minor detail of his vampirism, which kept us at a distance. That and the fact that he didn’t trust his self control like the other Cullen’s did. But he was making a concerted effort for my benefit, and I really loved him for that. I felt surrounded by allies, and it gave me strength.

The forest was lovely and cool. The thick carpet of pine needles that covered the path muffled the horses hoof beats, and they plodded forward contentedly, feeling at home on the trail. The conversation had dwindled to the periodic remark on a tree or landmark, and the occasional offering of an activity choice at some point in the future.

Edward did not contribute to the conversation, and the wet blanket of his angst was starting to affect us all. With a pointed look at Alice, as if to say, “I told you so”, Jasper dropped back and tried to engage his brother. Edward shot him a venomous glare, and shook his head sharply. Jasper sighed, shrugged his shoulders and was about to urge his horse forward, when the forest suddenly went very still. We simultaneously drew our horses to a standstill and warily sensed the air.

Abruptly, the vegetation parted ahead on the trail, and an ethereal vision stepped out to confront us. Zephyr snorted and tossed her head in agitation as I tried to register this new vampire. And vampire she certainly was. Her scarlet eyes glittered, even in the shadows, amid a face so stunningly beautiful, that it astounded me.

Tall and lithe and pale as a willow sapling, she swayed with barely concealed aggression as she caught the warm invitation of human blood, pulsing through my veins at an alarming rate. I might not fear MY vampires, but strange vampires are a whole nother kettle of fish.

I could see the quivering anticipation she barely held control of, as her eyes swept rapidly over the assembly. When her gaze found Edward, she stilled into motionlessness. Her eyes widened and the pale blond eyebrows arched high on her forehead in recognition.

“Edward?” she breathed softly, her voice like stone and velvet. It made the hair on my arms stand on end, and Zephyr shifted agitatedly beneath me.

Edward didn’t speak, and I never got the chance to see the look on his face, but his answering growl reverberated through the quiet forest, and completely undid poor Zephyr’s control. With a startled snort, she bolted, fleeing headlong down the path, shying as she drew abreast of the new obstacle and nearly unseating me. I threw my arms around her straining neck, and held on for dear life.

Pandemonium erupted behind me as everyone threw themselves into action. But I was oblivious to their efforts as I focused on NOT hitting the ground that blurred beneath me nauseatingly. Branches tore at me,leaves slapping stingingly against my face as Zephyr pounded down the trail. My panicked eyes searched for the reins, which flapped wildly to either side. I would have to let go to reach them, and there was NO way I was letting go.

Suddenly a clearing appeared in front of us, and the foliage disappeared to be replaced by boulders and a narrowing path. It was then I realized that Livvy’s off hand remark about riding Zephyr off a cliff, was about to become a self fulfilling prophesy. The land fell away in another 50 yards, into a chasm of thin air.

My heart stopped, and with my last gasping breath I shouted “whoa” into Zephyr’s pinned ears. The mare responded with remarkable alacrity, but as she slid back on her haunches, I felt my tenuous grasp on her neck, torn loose, and when I felt my backside leave the saddle, I began to pray.

In slow motion, my desperate fingers scrambled for a handhold but slid uselessly across her silky hide unable to find purchase. The world turned and tilted, I began the somersault over her head, and my brief life began to replay behind my closed lids.

Unexpectedly, I was snatched out of gravity’s grasp by a strong hand that snagged my belt as it tumbled past. I was yanked back against a marble chest, and folded into a granite embrace. The arms that held me trembled, but not with exertion, as evidenced by the shaky breath that stirred against my face. Surprise was lost in the rush of gratitude as Jasper’s soothing voice whispered, ”Whew, that was a close one.”

With a sob, I turned in his arms and threw mine around his neck trying to burrow into his chest. For one brief moment, he comforted me, then abruptly thrust me from him, his breath a sharp gasp.

“Bella,” he groaned in pain, “too close…too” and suddenly I was on my butt in the dirt.

Dazed I glared up at him accusingly, until I registered the expression on his face and I was instantly contrite. I scuttled back away from him like a crab, apologies tumbling from my lips as he struggled to control his instincts. I scrambled to my feet, nearly fell again, then steadied as I moved toward Zephyr who was trembling and twitching . I patted her awkwardly, my high tight voice doing little to sooth either of us, but trying my best. All the while shooting furtive glances at Jasper over her neck, trying to gauge the outcome of his inward battle.

Several strained seconds passed, but finally Jasper’s eyes opened, and he started to draw air into his lungs again.

“Are you alright Bella?,” he whispered, ignoring his own pain.

Feeling nothing but gratitude and sympathy, I could only nod affirmatively, unable to find my voice. I swallowed hard against the lump in my throat, and tried again. “Yeah…yeah Jasper, I’m ok….thanks to YOU.” I smiled at him then, relief causing me to begin chuckling.

His lips twitched slightly in response, but his eyes were still very dark with thirst and sorrow. Poor Jasper, I could see that he really wanted to be my friend, it was just so hard for him to be in such close proximity to extreme temptation. It was a testament to his love for Alice, and his dedication to his family, that he should try so hard to fight his nature. If anything, it was harder for him than for Edward and the effort he had to expend, made my heart ache for him.

That feeling must have registered, because his gaze softened, lightened and became almost tender in its gentle regard.

“How about you?” I asked, my question ambiguous only in so far as it addressed several issues at once.

He did grin then, a natural and easy curl of his lips and he replied in an almost normal tone,” Better now that you are on solid ground. If I had a heart, it would still be pounding”

I smiled at him affectionately, all my warm regard for him issuing from it and said sincerely,” Jasper, there is no doubt in my mind that you, have a heart.”

He sniffed, and I wondered at that moment if, could he produce tears, would they have pricked his eyes then. The look he gave me was so full of appreciation and warmth it made my heart swell.

Just then the sound of rapid hoof beats registered as Alice and her mare thundered into the clearing and skidded to a stop next to Jasper. Her wild eyes snapped from me to her husband, loaded with demands. Soothingly, Jasper reached out towards her, mumbling too rapidly for me to follow his monologue. It was apparent in Alice’s rapid relaxation, however,that he was being concise in his explanation.

Alice threw herself off her horse and flitted over to me, enfolding me in a too tight embrace. I squirmed and gasped, even as I hugged her back fervently,”Alice?!...breakable human here….ughhhh…”

“Sorry,” she snorted, abruptly releasing me, only to hold me away at arms length, her scrutiny penetrating. “Are you ok then?” she asked skeptically.

I grinned and patted her forearm reassuringly,”Yeah, I’m ok thanks to my knight in shining armor over there,” I laughed indicating Jasper with an airy wave.

Had he been able to blush, I’m fairly sure he would have. As it was, he squirmed a little under the brilliant smile his wife bestowed upon him. He looked at us with a “Shucks ma’am, it weren’t nuthin,” expression, making us both dissolve into relieved giggles.

Alice draped a cold arm around my shoulders, using just a bit more strength than was strictly necessary, and said,” We’d better get back. Edward will be frantic, and very impatient.” Her expression went slack, and I knew she was sending him an “all’s well” signal. But she was right, I could feel his anxiety from here.

Now that the crisis was over, my mind was suddenly focused on the new vampire, the fact that Edward had stayed behind with her instead of affecting a rescue himself, and my sudden realization that she had known him.

Even as Jasper courteously dismounted and we began to make our way back down the trail on foot, it occurred to me that the up coming reunion was going to be VERY interesting.

To say the least.