Friday, April 27, 2001 | By: Drotuno

Blood & Glory Chapter 23

There was no way to wrap my head around the feelings that went with seeing Twilight Tower again – from the air or not. I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly, but Rose looked over at me, clearly hearing it over the headset. She said nothing – she didn't have to – but she did take my hand in hers as Edward set the chopper down gently on the helipad of my father's building.
My building.
I snorted, shaking my head at that thought, and looked over where Carlisle – already dressed impeccably in his business suit, even after driving for two days – was coming out of the rooftop door. Jasper followed him, wearing black dress pants, a black T-shirt, and his handgun in a shoulder harness, just like Edward and Emmett. We wanted them – and they had agreed – to look like hired bodyguards, which they did. All three exuded power and no-nonsense.
Both men stood away until Edward shut his chopper down.
Rose and I, on the other hand, were not dressed for work; we were in jeans and T-shirts. I was fairly certain there was something I could find in Charlie's apartment from my last stay there, and Rose knew for a fact that she had left some dry cleaning in her office. We were going to change in Charlie's office before we saw anyone.
Once the blades slowed down, I unbuckled my seat belt and slid the side door open, only to be met with a stern-faced Edward offering me a hand down to the helipad. As much as I wanted to cling to him with everything in me, I let my hand slip from his the second my feet touched the roof. After grabbing my bag and slinging it over my shoulder, I let him guide me toward his father with a hand at the small of my back.
Carlisle immediately took my bag and wrapped an arm around my shoulders, his lips at my ear. "Just remember, you've been out of state on business. Out of contact. Rose has been with her parents in Oregon on leave. You both were contacted by me with the news of Charlie's death. Make sense?"
I pulled away when he did, nodding. "Yeah, no problem, Carlisle."
Luckily, the employees didn't have access to the roof, so Charlie's personal elevator sat open and waiting for us by the time we left the helipad behind us and descended a short flight of steps. Jasper and Edward took the far corners, and Emmett stood in front of us as Carlisle turned to face me and Rose.
"Bella, besides the...obvious," he started, sounding completely uncomfortable, "we have to sit down with Charlie's lawyer today, too. He has to go over your father's will."
"'Kay," I whispered, swallowing thickly. "Don't you take over here?"
"If that's what you want," he answered, taking my shoulders. "Charlie left it up to you in the end, Bells. If you wish to hand it to me, I would be honored, but paperwork has to be signed first. We'll set that meeting up later this morning before the press conference."
"It's going to be a long fucking day," I sighed, shaking my head.
"My suggestion," he said, just as we came to a complete stop at Charlie's office, "is that you keep it in your name until this is over. Temporarily. It will have an element of surprise. That way, you can change things as you see who's in security," he urged, tilting his head at me. "Like how many guards you want and what measures you want to take for the memorial."
"Perfect," Rose said with a snort. "My best friend is now my boss. For real!"
I grinned over at her, totally and utterly grateful for her wry sense of humor because I needed it.
"Also," he continued before letting us out of the elevator, glancing around at all of us, "Charlie's office – and I assume the apartment, too – are the only security camera and audio-free zones for now." He kept his voice quiet as he said, "Watch how you interact with each other in front of employees, lawyers, and the press."
"Yes, sir," we all muttered, following him out into the executive office.
That was when my heart broke because memories upon memories flooded me – times my mother had brought me here as a child, times I'd visited after school, times I'd visited when home from Quantico, and times I'd fought with him. It still smelled exactly the fucking same, like leather and furniture polish.
I barely registered Alice, Makenna, and Mickey sitting in Rose's reception area because suddenly, I needed to see my dad's office. Pulling my keys out, I rushed through the dark, heavy wooden doors, inhaling deeply the smell of my father's office. It was Old Spice, tobacco, and leather.
To my right was his bar, with crystal decanters gleaming in the morning light from the wall of windows directly in front of it. Next to that were heavy, dark wood bookshelves, filled with everything from tax reports to whatever John Grisham novel Charlie was obsessed with at the moment. On the other side of the room were a black leather sofa and a couple of matching chairs situated around a large oval glass coffee table. It was there that my father would read the newspapers. In fact, there was a stack of them there now. My breath caught at the thought that the dates on that newspaper would be forever frozen from the last day he was here.
And finally, my father's desk. It was heavy and antique, the stain matching the bookshelves across the room. Behind it sat Charlie's big leather chair – a chair I'd spun in more times than I could count as a little kid.
"Dad," Edward growled low from behind me, "I'm asking you nicely to just give her a fucking minute."
I heard the doors shut behind me, and I spun in one spot to see Edward leaning against the closed doors. He looked heartbroken for me and wary, but he stayed quiet.
I walked slowly around my dad's desk, noticing that there were still files open, his computer was still on, and his favorite pen lay on the desk pad. My fingers glided over the soft leather of his chair before turning it around to sit down hard in it.
"I used to come here after school," I started, staring out over the busy city of Seattle. I swallowed thickly, trying to keep my emotions in control. "It was easier for Aunt Jane to pick me up from here because she didn't have to fight the PTA moms, and she liked the little grocery store right around the corner..." My voice trailed off for just a moment, but I swallowed again. "I don't know how many times Charlie would call her, tell her that she didn't have to because he'd bring me home with him, and he would stop and pick up Chinese. Or how many meetings he'd come back from, and I'd be camped out in this chair playing GameBoy or doing my homework at his desk, no matter how many times he asked me to sit on the...sofa..." My voice cracked, and suddenly, Edward was kneeling in front of me, his thumbs wiping away tears I didn't even know had fallen.
"The last time I was in this office," I sobbed, "I accused him of cheating on my mom. I swore to him that I would never speak to him again..."
"But you did, baby," he soothed, tucking my hair behind my ears. "You spoke to him at the beach house. You've read his letter, love. He knew what he was doing by letting you think he was the bad guy. He had no choice because he didn't want you to hurt. Of all his faults, I can respect him for that the most, Bella."
I fell into his arms at that point, letting out the grief that I'd fought so hard against, grief that was easy to not feel unless you were looking at the pure images of what you were trying so hard ignore. I couldn't ignore it here; my dad was everywhere.
He let me cry for a several minutes until my tears ran dry, finally pulling back to look at me. For the first time, I realized that if anyone knew what it was like to lose a parent, it was the man currently kissing away the last of my tears. His eyes were bright green due to the light from the window, his sadness for me written all over his face.
"How did you know that I'd need a minute?" I asked, taking a deep, cleansing breath.
He smiled warmly, kissing my nose. "Because I could see your face the very second you got off the elevator. You looked like the little girl you just described to me...only so sad."
I nodded, kissing his lips. "We'd better get this weird-ass day started," I sighed, shaking my head. "Your dad's probably pacing a groove in the floor out there."
He snickered, cupping my face and kissing my forehead before standing up. He offered me a hand to help me up.
"Yeah, let's get this shit started," he muttered, pulling me in for a brief hug and placing his mouth to my ear. "Just for the record...not touching you when I want, be damned of who is looking, is going to be fucking torture for me."
I smiled but stepped out of his embrace to open the door to see several worried faces. If they saw the redness in my eyes, they made no sign of it.
"Come on, let's open up the apartment, Ro," I sighed, pulling my keys out of my pocket.
Walking to the bookcase, I reached behind the stack of tax reports on the third shelf and twisted the lock.
"Shut up!" Mickey chuckled, rushing forward to peek behind it. "Fuck, I haven't seen one of those in person. Ever. That's fantastic. My father always wanted to build one, but no one ever asked for it."
I snickered at her, shaking my head. "Well, then, you'll love this..." I pushed on the side of the bookcase, sliding it to the left to reveal a door. "My dad was a nerd to his very bones," I giggled, pointing to not only the key lock, but the pin pad, as well.
Mickey looked like a kid at Christmas as she studied the whole mechanism. "Oh, now I wished I'd asked Charlie more questions..."
I entered the code and turned the key, finally opening the door to let everyone in.
"Yeah, he didn't just run the company... He played with every fucking toy," Rose explained with a laugh, waving everyone in to follow us.
"I think it would be best if Charlie's office door was closed before anyone enters or exits the apartment," Carlisle warned, making sure that we all acknowledged him.
"When you're inside the apartment, you can see what's outside this door," I told them, closing the apartment door; the bookcase on the other side rumbled back to its original position. Pointing to a small CCTV monitor mounted on the wall, I said, "You can see anyone moving around on the other side. Just press this lever—" I pushed down on the small lever next to the light switch "—and you can get out."
"Damn," Edward said, his eyebrows rising high.
"No shit," Jasper chuckled, shaking his head. "Charlie was cooler than I originally gave him credit for."
Carlisle laughed, patting his son's shoulder. "He was an original, that's for sure. Ladies," he said, still snickering, "it's time for you two to get ready. Once we've seen the lawyer, we'll call for the press conference, and then you can set up security the way you see fit."
I nodded and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "Make yourselves at home. There's plenty of room," I said, walking down the hallway to the room that had been mine since I was like three years old.
"This isn't an apartment; it's a freaking penthouse," Emmett muttered, getting chuckles from everyone.
I opened the door, dropping my bag down next to a few boxes of my things from the house Jake and I had shared. I'd stored them here because Rose didn't have room at her place, and I'd been pressed for time to get out. As I looked around, warm, strong arms slipped around me.
"That's a lot of purple, baby." He laughed, looking around my room.
"Shut it," I giggled. "It was pink."
"Um, no. I can't see you doing pink," he said, kissing the back of my head before exploring my room. "What's with the boxes?"
"Stuff from Jake's," I mumbled, walking into my closet to look for something appropriate enough to wear for all the shit I had to do. "I stashed them here."
"Are these like...full of fucking pictures of you two?"
I smiled, hearing the jealousy loud and clear. "Nope, left that shit with him."
"Good," he grumped and then muttered something about, "That's all he fucking gets."
When I walked back into the room carrying a simple black dress and heels, I saw that he was already rummaging through my stuff.
"Nosy much?"
He grinned and shrugged but completely ignored me, pulling out my gray FBI sweats, only to drop them and move on to the next box. "Not nosy; just...curious."
"I suppose that's only fair," I snickered, turning toward my dresser. "You let me pilfer around your house." I smiled at his deep, sexy chuckle. "Careful, may find things you don't want to see," I warned him, knowing damn good and well that he was zeroing in on a box of items of a...personal nature.
"What? Sex tapes?" He laughed, cracking open another box.
"Nope, got rid of those," I countered, raising an eyebrow at him when he gasped, his head spinning like it was on a swivel.
"Really?" he asked, his mouth hanging open, and I couldn't tell if he was disappointed or shocked.
"No, you ass," I scoffed, rolling my eyes at his hearty laugh. "Like I would let someone tape me."
"Even me?" His face was turned away from me, but I could hear the quest for knowledge in that question.
"Huh..." I laughed out loud, unable to stop myself, because there was a part of me that would do anything he asked, and just the thought of his sexy self on DVD had my mind racing, my hands sweaty, and my girlie parts tingly. When he looked up wearing his cocky, crooked smile and a raised eyebrow, I couldn't help but laugh. "I don't think so..." I sang, walking into the bathroom.
I knew the very second he found a specific box because, "Fuck me!" came out of his mouth from the other room in a combination growl and whisper.
"Something wrong, Edward?" I asked innocently from the bathroom.
"Um, no," I heard him mutter before I heard the slamming of a box lid.
I pulled on my underwear and bra, picking up my nine mil and securing it in the waistband of my boy shorts on my way out of the bathroom; I would need to hide it somewhere on my person on a day like today because Edward had made me promise that I keep it on me at all times. I leaned in the door, watching Edward run hand through his hair as he stared down at my box.
"Do sex toys scare you, Edward?"
He just about jumped clean out of his skin but froze when he saw me in the bathroom door. "Jesus, Bella. You're killing me here!" he groaned, shaking his head. "Th-These..." he started, pointing to the box, "a-and y-you...l-looking l-like th-that!"
I fought my smile at the stutter coming from him because by God, I loved it. It was sweet, sexy, and so perfect that I could barely stand it. It didn't help that his eyes were drinking in every inch of me.
"Those," I snorted, rolling my eyes at the box at his feet, "were from before Jake. They're kind of a joke between Rose and me. Her collection is frightening. You should ask her because we tried to out-do one another with each one. Do they scare you?" I asked again, and this time, I couldn't stop the giggle.
"No," he said, recovering quicker than I expected; his eyes darkened, his tongue dragged across his bottom lip, and he gave one last look at the box before walking toward me. "I'm not threatened by them, if that's what you mean, love," he crooned, tilting his head at me. "Have you used them?"
"Some," I told him, feigning an innocent expression.
"Do you have a favorite?" he purred, placing his hands on my waist as he continued to ogle me unabashedly.
"Nothin' beats the real thing, baby."
"Hmm, true..." He licked his lips again. "What are you wearing? And are you gonna wear it all day underneath that?" he asked, pointing to my dress hanging on the back of the bathroom door.
I looked down at myself, realizing it was the first time he'd seen me in something other than cotton, something other than WalMart since we'd been in hiding. I had quite an addiction to lingerie, which meant I had an extensive collection. I was currently wearing a set in black with hot pink lace.
"You don't like it?" I asked, stepping closer to him so that my body pressed fully against his.
He swallowed thickly, his hands ghosting down my back to my ass. "I w-wouldn't say th-that, love," he sputtered but chuckled at the same time. "I wouldn't say all," he growled, skimming his nose down my cheek and neck. "Uh uh, not at all..."
His mouth opened to my skin, his tongue swirling and licking the sensitive spot behind my ear. His hands roamed my body, over lace, over skin, and finally, my thighs and up to my stomach.
"Not a good place for this, though, sweetness," he whispered softly against my flesh, wrapping his fingers around the butt of my gun. "You can't get to it..."
Chills rose up over my whole body as he pulled me closer, trapping his hand and my gun between us.
"I know," I whispered, nuzzling his amazing-smelling neck.
He pulled back to look at me, a frown darkening his features. "You have to fucking wear it, Bella. I want you armed at all times."
"Relax," I snorted, rolling my eyes and pushing him back. I reached into my bag, pulling out a holster that wrapped around my thigh, and then strapped it to my leg and attached my gun.
He grinned, shaking his head and letting it fall back as he sighed at the ceiling. "This is going to be a long-ass day," he groaned, looking back up at me. "So fucking sexy, Bella... I swear to fucking God, I could tear you the fuck up right now looking like that...and I can't even imagine what it'll do to me to see you in those." He pointed to the heels I had tossed onto the bed.
"Edward," I groaned, wanting nothing more than for him to do whatever had popped into that deviant, sex-god of a mind of his. "We can't, and I'd be willing to bet that all I'll want when we get done is a beer, a bath, and you snuggled in bed."
His eyes went from completely carnal, to warm and sweet and sympathetic, pulling me back into his arms. "I love you," he sighed, burying his nose in my hair.
I closed my eyes, letting the feelings he always brought out in me take over. He was the essence of calm and sexual energy combined, and he was my safe haven. I fed off of it, and he let me, preparing for all the shit I was about to do – Charlie's will, press conferences, employee assemblies, security, not to mention a sit-down with my girls and Edward's crew, but for that brief moment, I just melted into his arms.
"So much, Edward."
"Isabella," Mr. Wendell, my father's lawyer started, his voice obnoxiously smooth and filled with what seemed like false sympathy, "your father made sure that you were completely taken care of and wanted you to know that you have a choice when it comes to Twilight Technology. He was pretty certain that you'd turn it over to Mr. Cullen here but wanted you to make that decision."
He went on to say that Charlie had left me pretty much everything – the house in the suburbs, a boat that I'd never even seen, and more money than I'd ever know what to do with. He'd left Carlisle his old Camaro that he'd had for as long as I could remember; I didn't even know if the thing even ran. He'd also left him an open-ended contract concerning any equipment, software, or weapons that he needed for his "outside hobbies," as it was worded in the will. Rose, Billy, and Jacob were also remembered; all three received money.
It didn't take but about ten minutes into the reading of Charlie's will before I was numb with it all. I didn't care about the money – I never had – because in all reality, I'd have given every dime to have my parents back. Mr. Wendell seemed to drone on and on in legal-ese about things that meant even less to me than money.
It didn't help that I didn't like the guy. That feeling had been instant. He seemed shifty, smarmy, and money-hungry. He had sweaty palms and had paled at the first sight of the "bodyguards" that had entered the room the same time Carlisle and I had, which had made Jasper and Edward smirk at each other.
I sighed, my gaze slipping just past the weasel-like lawyer to the unusually bright day of Seattle...and the silhouette of Edward as he leaned against the glass. He looked just as bored as I was, which took everything in me not to get the giggles because my emotions were everywhere since I'd walked into TT.
"So whatever you decide, Isabella..." Mr. Wendell urged, meaning I'd totally zoned out.
"Hmm?" I asked, sitting up straighter.
"Do you want to assign Mr. Cullen as the CEO of Twilight, Isabella?" he huffed, clearly frustrated that I wasn't hanging on his every word.
"No," I stated curtly with a shake of my head. "He's staying on as an adviser to me, and he'll maintain his position on the board, but it stays in my name."
Carlisle's face stayed impassive, but Mr. Wendell's was shocked, which caused both Jasper and Edward to pay more attention.
"Ms. Swan," I corrected sharply because this guy was rubbing me the wrong way.
"Yes, of course, Ms. Swan. I've been privy to Mr. Swan's affairs for about a decade, and he was fairly sure that you wouldn't want it, that you'd sign it over to Mr. Cullen, or in his absence, Mr. William Black. He was aware of your...lack of interest in this company, and I'm sure he'd hate to see it run improperly."
"I'm sure he would, but he also left the decision up to me. I don't see Mr. Cullen contesting this decision, either," I pointed out, gesturing to Carlisle, who hid his smile quickly and shook his head no solemnly. "Mr. Wendell, you're getting paid to read me this will, follow any instructions I have, and move on. That's it. If I need you for anything else, I'm sure Mr. Cullen knows how to contact you."
"Yes, he does," the now put-out man said with a sniff. "My only concern is for you, Isa...Ms. Swan. I promised Charlie that I would look out for your best interest, and with all the...unsavory business that your father has done throughout the years, I'm just not sure that you're capable of...handling TT."
"You would be surprised at what I can handle, Mr. Wendell!" I snapped, starting to stand at the same time Edward pushed away from the glass wall. I wasn't sure who he was going for first – the lawyer for his attitude, or me to stop me from doing anything I might have regretted later – but he stood still and quiet behind the unaware Mr. Wendell.
"That's quite enough, Bella," Carlisle soothed, putting a hand on my arm and turning toward the flinching weasel at the head of the conference table. "Mr. Wendell, I will make sure that the integrity of this company maintains its...impeccable reputation, alongside Ms. Swan here. I think that's all we'll be needing from you for now."
Mr. Wendell's eyes narrowed at Carlisle and then at me, but he slid the will our way, as well as the paperwork that would give Carlisle complete control of TT. He slammed his briefcase shut with a deep sigh and stood up, practically stepping on Edward's toes as he loomed near Mr. Wendell threateningly. When the man spun around, he almost sat back onto the tabletop to get away from Edward.
I had to bite down hard on the inside of my cheek to keep my smile and laugh under control. One reason was because I didn't trust this guy any further than Edward could pick him up and throw him – which sounded like a hell of a lot of fun to watch. And the other reason was Edward looked like he was seeing right through to his mind – and he didn't like what he saw.
In fact, Mr. Wendell looked nervous as hell as Edward allowed him to slowly and carefully pick up his things and walk out of the conference room.
With my hands still braced on the conference table from when I'd stood, I turned to Carlisle. "It's you." I fell down in the chair next to him. "Someone wants you in charge. Why?"
He stood up and started pacing as Jasper and Edward sat down across from me and Rose. Emmett was guarding the conference room doors just on the other side.
"Who would you have pissed off that much to want to take out...everything?" I asked him, watching his face frown and darken. "They don't just want revenge; they want—"
"Retribution," Carlisle finished with a groaning sigh as he turned to Edward. "Alistair Corbin."
The name didn't mean a thing to me, but Jasper and Edward both frowned.
"We talked about him when we started this shit," Jasper stated. "All I know about him is that he's heavy into the Colombian drug trade – that he works with King on getting the shit to the States."
"We've never dealt with Corbin, Dad. What could he want with you?"
"You've never dealt with Corbin, but Alec, Sam, and I have," he sighed, bracing his arms on the table.
"Fuck," Edward groaned, shaking his head. "What the hell did you guys do, Dad?"
"No time," Carlisle countered when there was a timid knock on the door. "Come in," he barked, his brow still furrowed.
A thin, brown-haired girl with glasses stepped into the room, her arms filled with files and papers.
"Ah, Angela." Carlisle smiled warmly. "There are a few people just outside the door. Could you please ask them to come in with you?"
"Yes, Mr. Cullen," she said, her voice soft, but she didn't seem intimidated by him – not that he was ever mean to anyone but people that tried to hurt the ones he cared about.
Angela returned with Alice, Emmett, Makenna, and Mickey, who took seats around the conference table as Angela walked to Carlisle.
"Frank called from downstairs to say everything was set up out front for your press conference," she told him, setting down her stack of paperwork. "He said that the podium is in place, but he wants to know where security should be."
"Call him back. Tell him I have my own security, and we'll stop by on our way out."
"Yes, sir."
"What else, Angela?"
"Well, I wanted to let Rosalie know that all her contacts at the media confirmed, and they'll all be here," she stated, glancing around the room. "Also, a Mr. Eleazar Platt called for you..."
Every head in the room spun to look up at her, making her obviously really nervous.
"Did he leave a message?" Carlisle asked, tilting his head at her, his voice maintaining calm when I was pretty sure he wasn't a bit calm on the inside.
"Yes, he said that his cell service is working like a dream," she quoted off a notepad, looking up at him quizzically.
"Sweet," Emmett hissed, giving Mickey and Jasper a fist bump.
"Good," Carlisle exclaimed, glancing up at all of us at the table. Angela started to turn, but he stopped her. "Angela...I'd like you to meet these people." Starting with his son, he introduced everyone at the table, and when he got to me, he introduced me as Charlie's daughter and the new CEO. I hated it, but it had to be that way. "Everyone, this is Angela Weber. She's been given the the gruesome job as my assistant," he said with a chuckle.
We all groaned but snickered, saying, "Hi, Angela."
"Ignore the peanut gallery, Ang," he growled playfully, giving us a pointed look. "I need you to set up a meeting with security. I need to see them before we head downstairs for the press conference, so...fifteen minutes?" he said, but the last part came out like a question.
"Yes, Mr. Cullen." She smirked at him, giving us a smile and a wave before leaving the room.
"I love her," Rose chuckled. "You couldn't have gotten a better PA, Carlisle."
"She's great. I hardly have to remember anything." He snorted, shaking his head. "So, Alice...cell service is ready to go..."
"I know, I know, I know," she chanted, setting a bag on the table. She unzipped it and pulled out a handful of cell phones, sliding them down to everyone, along with earpieces to go with them. "I took the liberty of programming only a few needed numbers: each other, Alec, Eleazar, Benny, and Esme."
"Nice, Alice," Edward mumbled, flipping through his phone and nodding at the same time, but he hadn't forgotten about his father. He turned his head, saying, "Corbin? Are you going to tell us?"
"Not now, son," he sighed. "We don't have time. I'll get with Alec, have him come here...we should all talk after today's events. Besides, I think we should have an update from Eleazar, don't you?"
"Yeah, but..." I stopped, knowing it was useless to prolong this shit anymore. "Fine. Security," I mumbled, standing up. I pointed to Carlisle, giving him a raised eyebrow. "You're so taking this shit back when this is all over."
Edward chuckled, kissing my finger as he stepped between his dad and me. "Easy, sweetness. Don't kill him; we need him."
Carlisle laughed and motioned for all of us to follow him out of the room. "Come"
I knew my girl was nervous, was doing the best she could taking on tasks that she normally wouldn't do, but you wouldn't know it unless you really looked in her eyes. Those brown, sweet chocolate pools were tired, wary, and just plain over it all by the time we'd made it to the first floor and into the security department – and it wasn't even lunchtime yet.
I wanted to hold her, tell her she was doing fine, but I knew that we were being scrutinized by every employee, every visitor to that damned building. It didn't help that I fucking suspected everyone – especially that rude, weasel-like lawyer, Wendell. The very second he kept urging Bella to sign over to my dad, I knew he was iffy. A fucking lawyer shouldn't give two shits, as long as he's getting paid, and that asshole was way too opinionated for my taste – ten years with Charlie or not.
And Bella saw it, too. I wasn't sure which one I needed to get to first- the dumbass that had insulted her, or the girl that was about to toss his sorry self out a twenty-something story window.
But it was Alistair Corbin I couldn't get off my mind. Something about that name – besides the fact that we'd known from the beginning that he worked with King – was bugging the shit out of me, but I shook my head to clear it. Questions could and would be answered later with Alec and Eleazar, but right at that moment, my focus needed to be on Bella, the press conference, and the security team that was now eyeballing the lot of us as we walked through their door.
"Frank," my father greeted an older man in a nondescript rent-a-cop uniform. "I'd like you to meet Charlie Swan's daughter, Isabella. Isabella, this is Frank Watson. He's the head of security down here."
"My pleasure," he said, his voice raspy and his smile genuine as he took her hand. "I'm so sorry to hear about Mr. Swan, dear."
"Thank you," she said with a sweet smile.
"Well, what can we do for you, Mr. Cullen?"
"Frank, we're going to be making some temporary changes for the next few weeks. Due to the...circumstances surrounding Charlie's death, we need to up the security a bit. I've brought a few people in to help you," my father explained, and Frank looked around the room.
"Yes, sir. Well, it's your house...we just live here. Tell us what you need," he chuckled, motioning for the other guards on duty to step forward. One was young, probably fresh out of high school, with light brown hair. The other was possibly my own age, looking skeptical, but willing, with blond hair and blue eyes.
"Actually, it's Isabella's house now," Carlisle chuckled, squeezing her shoulder when she sighed. "I'll let her explain."
Frank turned his undivided attention to Bella as she started to explain. "Frank, this is Alice and Makenna. They'll be taking over your video and audio monitoring. They'll need complete access to all of your equipment, not to mention an internet connection. Edward, Jasper, and Emmett," she continued, pointing us all out, "are personal guards for us. They'll need unlimited access to everything...every floor, every door, every key entry. Mickey here will be working with you on rounds and any calls you're needed on. I need every last one of these people to be included in anything that seems suspicious, unusual, or even just a little off. You can consider them a part of your team, but any and all questions or concerns need to go through either myself, Edward, or Carlisle."
"Okay, then, Ms. Swan," he said with a smile, clapping his hands together one time. "First things first...let's get you guys some key cards and identification. That alone will let all employees know that you're clear for any floor, any office, and you'll use those to open all doors." He turned to the youngest guard behind him. "Ralphie, could you please show Alice and..."
"Makenna," she supplied, beaming as she stepped forward. "Or Mack..."
"Right, Mack," he chuckled, shaking his head at her enthusiasm most likely. "Could you be so kind as to show Alice and Mack to the monitor room and help them set up. Get them anything they may need, okay?"
"Sure, Frank," the kid said with a nod, opening the door to the left of the counter for the girls to go on in.
"Darren, we need to get those IDs set up for these gentleman and lady quickly," he told the other guard, who was already pulling out the camera and motioning Jasper, Emmett, Mickey, and myself forward. "Isabella, while they're doing that, tell me what you need for this shindig you've got goin' on out on my front steps," he said with a grin.
We all snickered at him; he was quite the likeable old man.
"I can do that," my dad said, slapping Frank on the shoulder. "Come with me, Frank. I'll show you where my men will be and where I need you."
Within twenty minutes, we were clipping key cards onto our belts, pulling on sunglasses, and waiting for Rose, Bella, and my father to get their stories straight.
"Come on, Bellsy," Rose said, nudging her with her elbow. "You can play the spoiled rich daughter. Let's go."
"Shut it, Rose," Bella growled, smirking at her friend's boisterous laugh and looking up at me once more. "She says that because we made fun of those rich bitches when we were in school," she huffed, rolling her eyes.
That comment only caused Rose to cackle louder, her head falling back. The rest of us joined her.
"I hate this," my girl sighed. "This shit isn't me, Edward."
She sounded worried and frustrated, and I wanted to hold her, touch her, but my options were limited because I couldn't do either of those things, not when someone could see, not when there were so many eyes on us.
"I'll be right behind you the whole time, love," I murmured, placing my hand at the small of her back to guide her out the door and letting my thumb caress her over the material of her dress.
She was dressed to absolute distraction, and just knowing what she was wearing under that dress was not helping me. At all. She was beyond beautiful; she was stunning, making me want to protect her from not only the bad guys but now all the men that she was completely oblivious of their hungry stares.
The entire sidewalk was filled with paparazzi, video cameras, and news journalists. Flash bulbs went off, cameras' little red lights lit up, and a soft murmur roared toward us, but they quieted down as my father took the podium.
Rose and I stood on either side of Bella, and Jasper and Emmett each took the far ends of the roped off area. I used the fact that my eyes were hidden behind sunglasses to scan the crowd that had gathered on the steps of the building. Frank was just inside the lobby, Ralphie was checking identification before letting visitors and employees into the building, and Darren was walking slowly back and forth behind the cluster of news people.
However, Mickey was across the street. She was planted there just in case someone pulled something stupid. She was the only one of us dressed as a civilian. We'd all agreed that hid her better. While Emmett, Jasper, and I all needed to make a statement with our presence, Mickey could stay as a hidden pawn. As she paced back and forth on the sidewalk, it merely looked like she was texting someone on her phone.
I tapped my earpiece when it beeped. "Yes, Alice. How do the cameras look out here?"
"You look handsome as ever, least, that's what Bells tells me," she snorted, "but Jazzy beats you, hands down. I'm diggin' the sunglasses, boys."
I grinned, looking over at Jasper, who was shaking his head and fighting a smile but blushing forty shades of red. "I do believe you embarrassed the Southern gentleman, pixie."
"Yes, yes, yes," she snickered, and I could hear her typing. "Cameras look good. They've got a sweet setup up here. I should tell you I've only got one blind spot. It's the end of the block, but that should be fine because Mickey should be able to see that corner from her position."
My eyes shot across the street to where Mickey was nodding slowly.
"Any familiar faces, Mack?" I asked over the earpiece.
"Nope, not yet, but I'm looking the crowd over now, next the corners, and then across the street." Her voice sounded distracted, but I recognized it from when she would draw. She would concentrate on several things at once. "King's not out yet, but I'm still looking for any of his flunkies."
"Keep me posted," I told them, continuing to scan the crowd.
My father cleared his throat as he took the note cards that Rose had prepared for him and set them onto the top of the podium. The entire crowd went silent when he started to speak.
"I want to welcome the Seattle press and also thank you for coming on such short notice. As we all know, Charlie Swan, CEO and founder of Twilight Technologies, was killed last week. The brutal nature surrounding his death has left Twilight Tech, its employees, and Charlie's friends and family in a state of shock.
"There will be memorial services held here at Twi Tech and another undisclosed location. These – I'm sorry to say – will be closed to the public and the press due to increased security measures. One will be held here at the tower for employees and the other in a private location for close friends and family. Since Charlie requested to be cremated, there will be no need for a burial.
"We're calling you here today to announce that Charlie's daughter, Isabella Swan, will be assuming the role as CEO of Twi Tech and taking over his position. It was what her father wanted, and we were waiting on her arrival in order to make those final arrangements and announce when the memorial services would be held. We're happy to welcome her and look forward to continuing the long tradition of Twi Tech success."
It was utter bullshit, of course, but the man did have a way with words. My father stretched his arm out for her, and Bella walked to the podium, standing by his side. More flashes practically blinded me as they took hundreds of pictures of her.
"I'm sure you all have questions, and we have time for just a few, so let's get started," my father said, suddenly bombarded with his name being called out in shouts and yells. He pointed to a young lady in the first row.
"Mr. Cullen, is it true that Charlie Swan's death was a mob hit?"
"That isn't for me to say," he answered smoothly, "but I've been assured that the police are looking into the man that was responsible. Next," he said, choosing an older man off to the left.
"Isabella," he called, "why has it taken you so long to come forward? Did you know that you'd been reported missing?"
She smiled at him, tucking her hair back. "I have only recently discovered that I was a missing person. However, I had my own business to run and had been out of contact for the last month. I wasn't missing, just on a case. When I finally was able to check in, it was Carlisle that told me about my father."
Left and right, for a solid ten minutes, the press spat questions at her and my father, and they both handled them smoothly. Some were interesting questions, others about King and the trial, but I found myself watching her and then scanning the crowd, only to allow my eyes to fall back to her again. By the time my father announced that the young man up front and center had the last question, I noticed that my girl's stance had frozen. Completely.
Her face had paled, and her hands were shaking as she reached to grab my father's coat sleeve. In fact, it looked like her knees were about to buckle.
"Something's wrong," Rose whispered to me. "Look at her. And look where she's staring, Edward."
"I know," I said with a nod, trying to find patience for that last question asked – some inane fucking thing about profits and losses and would this change in power be beneficial.
When my father answered the question, I could tell he knew something wasn't right with her because his answer was stilted and generic.
"That's all the questions we have time for, but we want to thank you for coming," he rushed out, immediately trying to turn Bella around, but she wouldn't be turned.
"Bells, what is it?" he asked her as I walked to them.
"Baby, you okay?" I asked her, trying my damnedest to make her look at me.
Maybe I wasn't really expecting anything to happen the first day, but I was wrong. Of all the names I expected to hear her say, it sure as fuck wasn't the one she barely squeaked out.
"Miller," she breathed, her eyes staring across the street – not just staring, but it looked like she was fucking hypnotized.
"I'm going to kill that motherfucker," I hissed, looking around as I placed a hand on Bella's shoulder.
"Oh-shit, oh-shit, oh-shit," Alice whispered in my ear. "She's right. He's right there."
"What?" my father asked her, but I was already on it.
"Fucking talk to me now! All of you!" I growled, trying to look around the scattering press and onlookers. I turned to Bella, making sure she actually saw me. "Baby, we've got you," I told her, but in the earpiece, I wanted answers – yesterday. "Alice, talk to me. Where the fuck is he?"
"Across the street. Under the awning..."
"Mickey, Jasper..."
"Already on it," Mickey muttered, making her way down the block.
Jasper strolled slowly to the crosswalk, acting casual, but as I started to take off, my father grabbed the front of my shirt.
"You bring that fucking son of a me!" he snarled, his eyes on fire. "Go, Edward. He doesn't get away..."
"No!" Bella gasped, looking up at me and then Carlisle.
"I've got you, Bells," he said, trying to soothe her, but I knew she wouldn't be okay until I got back. "Go, Edward. The fucker hasn't even moved. He has no fear. Teach him about it," he commanded. From his reaction, I could tell Bella was scaring him.
I glanced up, looking for Emmett, but he was already there. "They go straight upstairs. No one goes in, no one fucking comes out!" I gestured to my father, Rose, and Bella – my poor girl was just about to shake to death – and Emmett nodded, looking like an angry giant. With one last lingering touch down my girl's arm, I took off.
"I'm gonna need you, Alice," I stated, forgoing all crosswalks and darting around the remaining members of the press, who by now had noticed something was going on.
"I'm already in the Department of Transportation website. We're gonna use the red light cameras, Edward, but the asshole hasn't moved. He's just—"
"Staring," I growled, finally getting my first real glimpse at the monster Bella fought in her dreams.
He was leaning casually against the brick wall of a small cafe across the street. He was thin, with light hair and a scar across his chin – all things that Makenna had made sure she drew to perfection so that we would recognize him. The asshole had hidden himself in the shade of the cafe's awning. The worst part of looking at him was knowing for a fucking fact that he'd touched my girl, that he wanted to kill her. It made me sick. It made me murderous, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on this fucker.
When I turned to follow his line of sight, I could've snapped right there in front of the press and civilians. He was just glaring Bella's way as my father, Rose, and Emmett guided her inside Twilight Tower. The very thought of him reliving, relishing all the fucked-up shit he'd done to her made my stomach churn and my fists clench.
To my left, Mickey was making her way down the sidewalk, and to my right, Jasper had just crossed to the corner, turning toward us.
The asshole finally broke his eyes away from the front of the building, looking up at me, to his right, and then his left, but it was Mickey that got his attention. It wasn't all that surprising that Mickey got his attention. She was just about the same size as Bella, with hair a shade darker and much more curly.
"Hey, pal," she sneered, walking a little faster. "Rumor has it you like beating up girls!" Her smile didn't come anywhere near her eyes. "Come on, give me a go, why don'tcha?"
Miller stood up straight with wide eyes, slinking along the wall when he realized he was being closed in on. Just before Mickey could get to him, he backed up two steps and bolted for the alleyway.
"J, take the other street! See if we can't corral him," I commanded, pointing for him to go the other way.
Mickey and I took off, giving chase.
"If he turns, you gotta tell me, man," Jasper breathed as he ran.
"We're heading west up this alley, and he's a fast little slimeball," Mickey told him as we dodged dumpsters and piles of garbage.
Miller took a quick right, cutting across a parking lot; it looked like he was heading for a small park.
"North, J," I panted, running as fast as I could. "He's head toward the park."
"Yes, sir. I'll cut up."
"Edward," Alice said in my earpiece.
"Go ahead," I grunted, hurdling a flower planter to enter and landing next to some picnic tables. I could still see the asshole ahead of me, pushing women and little kids out of his way to get through.
"Alec isn't far from you. He wants to know where you want him. He and Eleazar were on their way back to the tower, and they want to help you get that monster."
"Heading northwest through the park. I need him ahead of me. He needs to cut him off!"
Miller exited the park, taking a left into another alleyway between two rather tall buildings.
"We just crossed Pine," Mickey panted. "He's trying to lose us in the apartments, Alice."
"I see him," Alice replied, and I could see what the little pixie was trying to do; she was manipulating the lights so that traffic would slow Miller down.
We crossed one more street, and I was almost hit by a taxi as we continued down another dark alley. In fact, I had to slide across the hood of it just to keep from getting clipped. Just as we came out on a fairly busy street, an SUV came out of nowhere, just barely catching Miller's leg and causing him to roll in the street, but the fucker launched to his feet and kept running.
"Dammit!" the driver growled, and when I ran by, I saw that it was Alec.
"Keep going, keep going!" I snapped, gesturing for him to go around the block because the truck wouldn't fit down the alleys.
My legs and lungs were on fire, but I pushed on because ahead, I could see a dead end. I thought we had him until he dove for the fire escape and scrambled his ass up.
"He's going up!" Mickey and I yelled.
Mickey rattled off the address as we passed the front of the building.
I jumped up and grabbed the ladder, reaching for her and practically throwing her at it, but she took it all in stride and hurried up to the first level with me right behind.
"Jasper," Alice called over the radio. "Take the building you're next to, climb to the roof. You should only be three buildings away from them. Maybe you can catch him in the middle."
"On it," he answered her.
"Eddie," Emmett crackled in, "we're where we need to be. And we're good. Just...get a hit in for me, will ya?"
"Got to fucking catch his ass first, Em," I growled, looking up to see Miller clamber over the roof wall. "If we can get a clear shot, I'm gonna shoot his feet off so he can't run any-fucking-more."
I heard chuckles from Em and Alice and breathless snorts from Jasper and Mickey. We were running out of steam and places for Miller to go.
"Then...I'm gonna recreate every fucking scar Bella has..." I sneered, looking up at Mickey as she pulled me up onto the roof.
"Strap his ass to a table for three days?" Mickey asked.
"At least," I grunted, catching a glimpse of the little fucker jumping to the next roof. "Dammit," I growled, shaking my head. "Jasper, he's heading your way, man."
"I see him," he whispered, but I heard him grunt hard. "Fuck, that was close! I'm getting too old for this shit," he mumbled. "Jumping buildings, chasing assholes, and a partridge in a pear tree..."
Mickey laughed, slamming into the far roof wall when we reached the other side. "He's right there," she whispered, pointing to the next building. "And I see J. We've trapped him in the building between us."
I pulled my Glock, but I didn't have a shot. I was too far away.
"J, we need to get onto that roof at the same time. You got one more jump in you?" I asked him over the headset.
"Yeah, on three, Ed," he huffed, taking a deep breath. "One..."
I backed up, trying to get the best spot to jump over. "Two..."
"Three!" we yelled together, and I took off, leaping at the last possible second in order to make it to the next rooftop.
Jasper and I both landed with a grunt, but my tired legs gave out, and I rolled once before standing back up. We were able to both converge on Miller, who was looking over the side of the building.
"By all means, jump," Jasper panted, pulling out his gun, flipping off the safety, and arming it with swift, practiced movements. "It makes shit a helluva lot easier on us."
I pulled back the hammer on my gun with a loud click, and Miller's eyes shot to mine. "On your knees, asshole," I snarled, taking another slow step toward him.
The jackass wasn't even scared. He had two guns aimed at him by two men that outweighed him by at least forty pounds each, not to mention who were several inches taller than him, but the fucker smiled. He fucking smiled. It was slow and creepy as he backed up against the wall of the roof.
"You think this is fucking funny?" I snapped, but he ignored me, looking once more over the edge of the building.
"I really hope he jumps. For his sake," Jasper added with a snort, still catching his breath. "I do not envy what you'll do to him."
"I haven't decided yet," I chuckled stiffly, my lungs still feeling like they were filled with lead. My legs were shaking as Miller turned again to look over the side of the building.
"And that's where you've made your first mistake," Miller finally spoke, turning to face me. "You should have killed me when you had the chance, but now...I'll still get to finish what I started with Miss Swan."
"I don't fucking think so," I said, losing my last thread of patience with this guy. I took one more step and pulled the trigger. Wanting to only maim him, I aimed low at his leg.
Miller cried out, falling to one knee as he held the through-and-through wound.
"You don't get death your way! You get it...mine!" I snapped, walking toward him.
There was a part of me that didn't even want to touch this pile of shit, but the other part of me, the man that saw every scar, every tear, and every nightmare of the beautiful girl he loved, wanted to tear this man apart slowly, painfully, and with so much fucking pleasure, it scared me.
Jasper and I walked to him, and just as we were about to reach for his shirt, he flung himself over the edge. We rushed to the side, expecting to see his splattered remains in the alley below, but I watched in fascination as he slid down one of those construction chutes, landing roughly and ungracefully right by a waiting car. He was in it and down the street before we really comprehended what we'd seen.
"Alice," Jasper growled in the earpiece, "he's in a blue Toyota, heading south down the alley between Ocean and Fourth."
"I see him," she said, typing away. "Alec, you're two blocks from him. Turn left and then right!"
"Fuck!" I snarled, balling up my fist and punching the closest thing to me, which thankfully, wasn't the brick wall, but an air conditioning vent. It collapsed under my hit.
I listened with fascination as Alice tried her damnedest to guide Alec, but the guy slipped down a few alleys that were blind to her, and they lost him when he finally came out at a main intersection, lost in downtown traffic.
Miller was fucking gone.
"Goddamn it!" I growled, running a hand through my sweaty hair. I pulled my sunglasses off, and they shattered in my fist so I tossed them to the rooftop.
My father's voice came over the radio. "Edward, get back here. Have Alec pick you up, son," he said, his voice calmer than I expected, considering the fact that I'd failed to do what he asked.
"Yes, sir," I muttered, getting a pat on the back from Jasper.
"Hurry, son. Bella needs you..."
"Fuck! Bella," I sighed, feeling like an asshole as I looked over at Jasper because I'd totally forgotten about her reaction to seeing Miller. "You tell her I'm coming. Put the radio in her ear if you have to, okay?" I asked, somehow finding the strength to run to the fire escape.
"Just...hurry, Edward," he urged as Jasper and I made our way down to the street.
Alec pulled up a few minutes later, and Eleazar, Eric, and Felix made room for me, Jasper, and Mickey to climb in. I sat back, my head falling to the head rest as I took a deep breath and let it out.
"He'll come back, kid," Alec sighed, pulling out on the street. "Sounds like he couldn't stop himself from coming."
I nodded, just looking out the window.
"Hey," Eleazar said beside me, placing one of his large hands on my shoulder. "Bella's safe, and that's the most important thing right now. Got me?"
"Yeah," I muttered, nodding again and suddenly feeling an ache to see her that I couldn't even express. "Just...get me back to her."
Alec grunted that he'd heard me, taking the next turn. "You got it, kid."
Tuesday, April 24, 2001 | By: Drotuno

Blood & Glory Chapter 22

Land drifted out from underneath us as I flew over the water. I wanted to stay over American soil, so coming in from the west was just easier. I pulled the throwaway phone that Aunt Kate had given me out of my pocket and tossed it to Bella.
"Call my dad. It's the only number programmed in there. Tell him we are minutes away," I told her, and she pulled off her headset to put the phone to her ear.
"Carlisle, we're almost there," I could barely hear her say, and that was only because she was sitting next to Jasper and it carried over his microphone. "Are they still on you?" she asked, looking up at me and nodding as she heard his answer. "Get to that, we don't need to know where it is," she said with a sigh. "Just get there, Carlisle."
She hung up, pulling back on her headset. "He's around the corner from it."
"Good," I sighed, hoping our timing was right.
If he was trapped up on the top of that garage without a way out, he was a fucking sitting duck. I had no choice but to land illegally to pick him up, but I wasn't going to do it any other way.
"Edward," Alice said over the radio. "I tapped into your radio signal and Carlisle's phone. I've got his coordinates for you."
"Perfect. Let me have them, Alice," I barked, nodding once she'd rattled them off. "Anything else?"
"Benny has Feds heading Carlisle's way, so watch out for the good guys, he told me to tell you. Your dad was technically working for them so he gets protection," she explained. "Also, I've cleared your air space, Edward. Your flight manifest is as fake as a three dollar bill, but at least at first glance, no one will be the wiser to why you're flying over the city so low. Technically, you're with the press."
I smiled, shaking my head. "You're beautiful, Alice...facial grid bullshit or not. You hear me?"
She laughed, as did everyone else in the chopper. "Thank you, Edward. Be careful, and we'll be listening."
I don't know what my dad had been thinking driving so long without a break, driving until he was too fucking tired to pay attention. I knew why he was driving instead of flying into Anchorage – because flights could be tracked – but we were getting down to the ugly bare bones of this situation; there was no room for fucking mistakes. Fucking mistakes could lead to getting my girl – or someone else, for that matter – killed, and I couldn't have that. I didn't know if I could survive it if something happened to her now.
Jasper hadn't been kidding Bella when he told her that the reason I'd brought her with us to get my dad was because I couldn't bear to leave her behind. I couldn't. I trusted no one but myself when it came to her safety. No one. But I hadn't been lying, either, because my girl was a damn sharp shooter, and that shit could come in handy once we'd located my father.
We came up over the city of Juneau, and I turned sharply, growling, "Hang on. This is going to be quick and tight."
"That's what she said," Jasper snorted, grinning at Bella's laugh, but my girl's eyes were sharp out the window.
"Edward, there's the hospital," she said, pulling out her nine mil and kicking Jasper's bag toward him so he could pull out his rifle.
He kept that shit at the ready, only needing to lock the sight onto the top and pull the shoulder brace down.
"Are you armed?" she asked, and she must've been talking to Eleazar because he was the one that answered her.
"I'm good, Bella," he grunted, and the whole chopper was filled with the sound of locking and loading. "Don't miss with that thing," he chuckled.
"I don't fucking miss!" she snapped, and I couldn't help but smile because my girl was well aware of what she could and couldn't do. "I've lost my own father. I won't lose this one."
Jasper pounded on the window. "Target in sight, bro! Drop her down," he said, taking off his seat belt and sliding open the side door. Cool air burst into the cabin of the chopper.
The view from where I was coming in was scary. I could see my father's BMW squeal up from the level below onto the top platform of the garage, practically spinning in a circle in order to park the thing off to the side. His car door flew open at the same time his trunk popped, and I set down as close to him as I could without getting too close, putting us between him and the entrance to the top of the garage.
Bella launched out of her seat, sliding open the other door so that my father could sling his shit in and we could get the hell out of dodge. She started to get down to help him, but I couldn't let that happen.
"Bella, don't you dare!" I growled, shaking my head at her when she turned to face me. "You keep your sweet ass inside this cabin!"
"Someone has to help him, then," she countered, pointing at my dad. "He's still injured, Edward."
"I've got him," Eleazar growled, hopping down to the garage blacktop. "You just watch that entrance up here," he said, pointing through the chopper at the same fucking time a black sedan came flying up to the top of the garage.
"Goddamn it! Dad, get your ass moving!" I snapped, pulling out my glock and readying it to fire.
The problem was the space I'd put between the chopper and my dad's car, simply for safety sake. The sedan might just beat the two men to us.
Jasper dove onto the floor of the cabin while Bella knelt beside him, both aiming out the side door, but Jasper wasted no time. He took aim at the car's engine, and after three loud pops, the car's hood blew up and off the car, causing the driver to skid to a complete stop.
"They're gonna scatter, Bells," he told her. "Take our left; I'll take the right."
"Yup," she sniffed, squeezing an eye closed to aim down her straight and stiffened arms.
I had my own gun up out my window, but I was also watching the progress of my father and Eleazar. The second the bags were tossed up into the cabin, the men from the other car jumped out, guns firing.
"Cover us," I ordered, and I spun in my seat, opening the co-pilot door for my dad, but it was the blood on Eleazar's arm that shocked me.
"Now!" Bella snapped, pulling her trigger at the same time Jasper did, and four men fell to the blacktop as their bullets zinged through the cabin.
"It's just a graze. Don't even worry about it," Eleazar grunted, climbing back into the cabin and falling into the seat.
"Let's go, son," my dad sighed, putting his seat belt on.
"Nice to see you, too, old man," I replied with a snort, rolling my eyes at his smile. "You could have just called for a fucking ride, you know. No need for such...theatrics."
"Shut the fuck up, you pain in the ass. Go!" he laughed, punching my arm.
I chuckled, falling back in my seat, and turned to look in the back. "Everyone okay back there?" I asked, but my eyes were on my girl as she ripped a part of Eleazar's shirt to tie it around his upper arm.
"We're fine, Edward," Jasper said with a nod. "Let's go."
I lifted slowly into the air, just enough to turn around to face the back of the sedan. Aiming my gun out my window, I shot the gas tank of the goons' car, sending a fireball into the air.
"Mine, too, son," my father commanded.
"I got it," Bella stated, aiming out the side door that just happened to be facing the BMW.
One bullet, one pull of the trigger, and the BMW erupted into fire and smoke, just as the Feds' car came screaming up to the top of the garage.
"Damn, you don't miss," Eleazar chuckled.
"She told you that," I laughed, turning just enough to give my smirking girl a wink. "Close that door, baby. Your's, too, Jasper."
Once all doors were shut, I banked to the west, heading back out over the water and back toward the farm.
It was chaos when we landed back at the farm. I think there was a part of them all that expected us to go straight to Seattle, unable to return back to Aunt Kate's, but they all rushed to us, helping unload the chopper.
Esme fell into an exhausted Carlisle's arms, holding him close and telling him things we couldn't hear. It was utterly intimate, and I found myself tearing up and looking away from them because I understood her worry, her fear. I couldn't imagine how she'd handled being apart from him this long to begin with. I would've been sick and useless if Edward had been away from me and that close to the source of all our problems.
"That's it!" she growled at Carlisle as I walked by, leaving Edward to power down and care for his helicopter. "That's the last time!"
"Yes, ma'am," he conceded wearily, and he sounded just like his son, which caused me to snort and roll my eyes.
Eleazar smiled warmly at them as we all made our way back into the house but paused long enough to tug on the makeshift bandage that I'd tied around his arm, hissing in pain.
"Stop that," I told him, shaking my head and tugging him to the dining room table. "Let me clean it."
"Esme can do—" he started but shut up when I raised an eyebrow at him.
"Let them have their moment," I chided with a snicker. "I know a thing or two about wounds, anyway," I added with a grimace and a sigh.
"Here, Bells," Rose said, rushing into the room and handing me one of many first aid kits we had lying about the house.
I worked quietly, untying the bandage that I'd secured around his arm in the chopper and tearing his shirt sleeve away to give me a better look at what I was dealing with. Eleazar was right; it was just a graze, but it was still an open wound.
People drifted in and out of the dining room. Eleazar's men asked if he was fine, and he told them that he was. I concentrated on cleaning the wound, stopping the bleeding, and making sure he didn't need stitches.
He was a broad man, with honey-colored hair, like his sister. They had the same sweet, wry smile and calm demeanor. He radiated intelligence and sage wisdom, and he still looked like he could hold his own in a fight with a power and strength that probably matched Emmett's.
"Esme could stitch this," I told him softly, "or I could put butterflies on it...your call."
"It'll scar either way," he chuckled. "Just wrap it up and send me on my way, Miss Bella."
I smiled up at him and nodded, applying the butterfly strips in order to pull the wound closer together before wrapping gauze around his bicep.
"How'd you learn to shoot like that?" he asked, ignoring everyone that was walking into the room.
"I was at Quantico for a while," I snickered, tying his new bandage on, "but I didn't graduate."
"And the wounds?" he asked softly, but he looked like he really wasn't ready for the answer or that he already knew it and just wanted to hear it from me.
"Miller," I stated, noticing that everyone in the room was silent except for us. "He had me for three days...strapped to a table. He tried to get information about Charlie from me, and he wasn't...gentle."
I felt a kiss to the back of my head, and I leaned back against Edward, who had taken the seat beside me. Eleazar looked over my head to Edward and then to Carlisle and Esme, who had taken the seat across from us. I didn't know what he was looking for, but I felt the need to explain these people to him.
"Everyone in this room has busted their asses to keep me and my girls safe," I told him. "Mickey and Emmett picked up Charlie before King could get to him. Jasper grabbed my girls from my office after they'd located me, and if Carlisle and Edward had been ten minutes later arriving to Miller's, I wouldn't be here now..." My voice trailed off because my girls were nodding their heads as Edward wrapped an arm around me.
Alec cursed softly from across the room, shaking his head and looking down at the floor, his face grim. He muttered something that sounded like, "Fucking pig..." I wasn't sure what details he knew, but he had become quite the huge help.
"Miller has an interesting history. We know all about him through our intelligence on King," Eleazar muttered, giving me a dark but sad look before continuing. "He was born into a wealthy family in Portland, his father was killed in a car accident, and his mother went from country clubs and reading circles Her faith became an addiction, changed into an obsession, eventually morphing her into an abusive parent, finally putting her in the loony bin. What started as a fairly happy childhood became a nightmare for Riley Miller. He was punished for watching TV unless it was the religious channels. He was punished for talking to, kissing, or even thinking about girls. And by punished, I mean beaten with a broken broomstick."
"So he was taken from her," Alice added, looking over the top of her laptop. "He entered the foster care system at the age of sixteen, and things didn't get any better. He was passed from home to home, never staying in one place longer than three months, with over fifty trips to the emergency room. He never said a word as to what was happening to him. In fact, he almost died."
Eleazar nodded in agreement with her. "He finally aged out of the system, finding work with King. He started as a drug runner, but when he beat the shit out of a prostitute for stealing from him, King knew he could use his...skills."
I snorted, shaking my head. "Skills...right. Now he takes all that bullshit out on every woman he comes across."
"Easy, love," Edward soothed in my ear. "He'll never lay a hand on you again, Bella." He continued to whisper so only I could hear him. "You stay fucking angry at him, baby. Keep it, feed it, because when we find him, you can use that anger. Got me?"
I swallowed hard and nodded, finally turning away from Eleazar to face forward in my chair. Edward had no idea just how much his voice, his touch to my arm, and even his mere presence helped keep me calm.
"Someone will know where to find this asshole," Alec growled, looking around the room. "When we get to Seattle, more than one motherfucker will be asked, Bells. I promise."
I nodded but turned to Carlisle. "How'd it go with Billy Black?"
"I think that was where I picked up my tail," he stated with a shrug. "I arrived to his house unannounced and wired. Not that it did much good, but I'll get to that. He was scared shitless to see me on his front doorstep because he'd avoided me at the office the entire time I was there. When I told him I had news about Jacob, he let me in. I told him I'd tell him all about Jake and Charlie if he'd answer a few questions for me." He turned toward Alice. "Can you pull up his financials again? I want to show you guys something."
"Sure, sure, sure," Alice mumbled, typing away, and then spun the computer around for us to see.
"These deposits that we'd seen the last time we looked him up...we didn't really look where they were coming from, so Alice, if you would, please..." he requested, turning the computer back toward her. "It'll take you a minute to actually trace it, but the results are...interesting."
Alice's little brow furrowed as she furiously typed away, suddenly rising up into her hairline as she discovered something interesting. "Charlie was paying him once a month? On top of his salary? Why?" she asked, and we all turned to Carlisle for the answer.
"That monthly payment was so deeply buried in TT's accounts that it was untraceable at first glance," he said, smiling almost in pride before turning his attention to me. "Bella, did you know Pearl?"
"Aunt Jane's sister? Yeah, she was living in an assisted living facility when Jane passed away. She was younger than Jane but was showing the first signs of Alzheimer's and dementia. Jake made special arrangements to have her brought to the funeral, but we weren't sure she really knew what was happening," I explained.
"Right. Well, shortly after Jane's death, Charlie made arrangements for Pearl's care to continue. I guess Jane had been taking care of her all her life. Billy volunteered to handle it, so he's been paying the nursing home for Charlie."
I sighed, shaking my head. Charlie was not the man I'd thought he was, and that bothered me because the more I found out about him since he'd died, the more I wished that it had been that man I'd known growing up.
"Unbelievable," I muttered, glaring back at Carlisle, but Alice interrupted again.
"Yeah, but there's another monthly expense that's coming out of that same fund, and it's new, Carlisle," she huffed as she typed away, suddenly to come to a complete stop. "Oh, hell no..." She snorted, looking up at me and then Rose. "Guess who's pregnant..." She giggled, rolling her eyes and turning the computer back around.
Rose and I stood up and leaned forward to read the screen.
"You've got to be fucking kidding me," Rose laughed, looking over at me. "Lauren?"
"Wait, wait!" Edward snickered. "Isn't that the girl that Jake..."
"Yes!" my girls and I laughed as Mack darted in from the kitchen to take a look.
I fell back into my chair with a laugh. "You're kidding me with this shit, right? Jake's dumb ass is going to be a daddy? Oh, please let me be the one to tell him!"
"It's funny you should say that because Billy actually suggested it," Carlisle laughed, joined by everyone else in the room. "He's none too pleased with his son, though he was worried about him once he found out where he was."
"Humph, I bet not," I growled, folding my arms across my chest and rolling my eyes. "So let me get this straight... Billy isn't working behind our backs?" I asked, and Carlisle shook his head no. "And he's been loyal to my father – and apparently, me – all this time?" I continued, and he nodded slowly. "Well, thank fuck. One less asshole to fight against."
Edward snorted into a loud laugh, pulling me to him as everyone joined him.
"But wait!" I said, sitting forward. "Why was he avoiding you?" I asked Carlisle.
"He knew about my backing Gravity," he started to explain. "He is also aware of what I do outside of TT – thanks to Charlie – so he assumed with Jake betraying you, your father going missing, and your disappearance, that he was in trouble with me and that I would fire him...or worse. He assumed I was accusing him of trying to take over – which, had I not showed up when I did, he could have done – but that wasn't what he was up to. He was the person that reported you missing, Bella, but it was out of concern, not malice."
I took deep breath and let it out.
"But how did you pick up a tail at Black's house?" Edward asked, frowning.
"The local police are still looking for you and Bella, so they're watching everyone she knows, everyone her father knew," he said, leaning back in his chair. "And if the police are still looking for you..."
"So is King," Edward grunted, rolling his eyes. "Which leads us to what we have planned, Dad." His face was grim when he looked up at his father.
With that said, the plans were introduced to Carlisle. This was the last person that needed to be clued in as to what we were doing – and the most important, as far as I was concerned, because he played a huge part at TT. With Carlisle now permanently back with us and Billy Black deemed nonthreatening, we could take this next step with more focus. We could take on Royce King.
"We're going to have to call a press conference," my dad said to Rose. "You'll have to pull that off, but it's Bella they'll want to hear from. They'll want to hear it from her that she wasn't just missing, that she was away on business or something."
"We could say she was on a case in California that she couldn't just walk away – and that makes her reasons private because she can't discuss a client," Rose agreed, making notes because she was the one that had to walk back into her old job and basically step into Charlie's shoes for what may be the last time. It was something she was taking very seriously.
"What about you?" he asked, sitting forward in his chair.
"I think it would be best to say I was handling a family issue out of state," she stated, notating that as well as he nodded in agreement.
Bella was quiet as I held her close. Aunt Kate had wanted to feed us all one last time before we left. We'd studied and planned for two solid days. Some of us were leaving tonight and others in the morning. Emmett, Rose, Bella, and I would be flying out late tomorrow evening – or really early the next morning, depending on how you looked at it. We would arrive at Twilight Towers as soon as the business day started. As soon as we arrived, Rose was to call a press conference, announcing the death of Charlie Swan and the return of his daughter. By that time, everyone should be moved into Charlie's apartment, set up in the security rooms, and placed throughout the entire building for the arrival of the press.
It was then that a memorial would be announced because by the time we arrived in Seattle, Royce King would be preparing for his release back onto the streets. We wanted to time his release with the memorial, baiting his ass. We all had a suspicion that someone still inside TT was working for him besides one of the Savage brothers that ran the cell phone division. My father even had a short list he was looking into that he wanted Bella's and Rose's opinions on once we arrived.
But for the moment, we were just enjoying the evening outside as a fire burned, steaks grilled, and conversations ranged from what we were about to partake in, all the way to fucking sports. Bella and I were camped out on a few bails of hay. She had stayed quiet the entire time, staring into the fire, but I knew her well enough by now to know that she was still everything.
"You have no opinion on this?" I asked her softly in her ear.
"No," she sighed, shaking her head and leaning it back to my chest. "I trust them both with whatever story they come up with."
It was interesting to see the dynamics that everyone now brought to the table, brought to the relationships between my crew, Bella's girls, and now Eleazar and his men. Alec was telling old stories about my father to Rose, Alice, and Makenna, who were eating it up with a fucking spoon. Eleazar, Felix, and Eric were trading stories with Emmett and Jasper concerning all sorts of government secrets. It seemed they didn't care who knew, and in all reality, who were they going to tell?
My father was grateful for Eleazar and welcomed him wholeheartedly. In fact, they were the perfect addition to the mission because they were willing to volunteer for things underground while the rest of us still had to maintain a facade at TT.
I looked around the fire, watching smiles, the trading of funny stories, and for Mickey, a temporary goodbye to Obie. He was livid she was going, but she couldn't be budged. I offered her an out, never wanting to trap a member of my crew in this life if they didn't want to be there, but she said no, that she would see it through to the end, that she would be needed inside that building. She did have plans to come back to Aunt Kate's when it was all over. And as she held his hand, I could see her trying to be strong, encouraging, yet the worry was written all over her face.
How she could plan that far ahead was beyond me. As much as I'd love to plan out mine and Bella's future together to the very minute we died of fucking old age, I swear to God, I couldn't see past Seattle. I knew I was bringing Bella home to Forks with me. That was all I knew, all I could hope for. Anything other than that scared the shit out of me because it was like asking for too fucking much.
I was broken out of my thoughts by Bella turning slightly to look at me, wearing the silliest of smiles.
"Why do you wear a backwards baseball cap?"
I laughed, shaking my head, and pulled her closer so I could whisper in her ear. "It's a secret," I told her with a smirk, but she pouted too adorably not to tell her. "It's a silly reason, really. My hair, love. It's easily seen and pointed out, even if they can't tell the color. It's never sat flat. Ever."
She grinned sweetly, biting her bottom lip and reaching up to run her fingers through it. "You're too handsome to miss...hat or not," she told me softly. "I guarantee it was Tanya that gave out your description to the police..."
I huffed, rolling my eyes and feeling like a jackass for my behavior with the receptionist at Spencer, Wyatt, and Townsend, the law firm that Bella had to turn the pictures of her last case into. I'd been so confused about my feelings for the little brunette in my arms that I'd had no idea what to make of them because we'd only known each other for a few weeks. I'd reacted like an chauvinist asshole.
"I'm sorry about that," I murmured, running a hand through my hair.
She giggled, rolling her eyes. "I wasn't worried about that," she stated with a snort, shaking her head. "I was just curious. Every time we've had to do something, you've put one on, and it's always backwards."
"I aim better without the bill," I explained with a shrug, "but it covers my head, and now it's more like a good luck charm. I started using one when we'd have to navigate jungles and forests. I didn't want bugs and shit in my hair."
Her laugh was contagious, her head falling back. "Big, bad, mean Edward doesn't like bugs?" she teased, writhing and squealing on my lap when I tickled her.
Pulling her ear to my mouth because everyone was watching her with amusement, I whispered, "I can show you...big, sweetness..."
"Mmm," she hummed, still fighting her smile as she licked her lips. Her eyes grew darker in the firelight. "Don't I know it."
I glanced around the fire, noticing that she was getting certain looks, mainly from my crew and her girls, not to mention the amused but proud smiles from Esme and my father. I could almost see what they were thinking. How different she was now, compared to how we'd found her. How open, honest, funny, and brilliant she was when she wasn't full of anger and fear. And there as a part of me that hated to think what this next and final mission would bring. Would she stay strong? Or would something knock her ten steps back to where she was before?
Then there was the pride that welled up within me knowing that I had caused that laugh, that moment of silliness, and that it was me that she trusted and needed and wanted there to protect her because Bella reminded me of those sparrows my mother loved so much. She was wild and free, beautiful and unattainable, fragile and strong, all at the same fucking time, but I was the tree she'd come flying home to. I needed to be that tree for her, needed to be steady for her, just in case something went terribly wrong.
"I need you to promise me something, love," I said softly, cupping her still-smiling face.
"Yeah, sure. Anything," she vowed, her brow wrinkling now in worry.
"I need you to promise me that you'll do what I tell you when it comes to your safety, that you'll work with me, not against me, because I need you, and I couldn't bear it if something happened to you."
She swallowed, nodding, and turned her head to kiss the inside of my hand. "Despite how we butt heads occasionally, we make a fucking good team, baby," she stated, her face completely sincere. "We've disagreed before but never when we were actually out in the field doing it..."
I paused, studying her face, and nodded because she was right. We'd never argued when carrying out a plan, except for the law office thing, but that was all my testosterone-filled, bone-headed fault. I swallowed thickly before making her promise me one more thing.
"I also need you to stay strong, Bella. If something happens—" I faltered because I just couldn't give anything specific; I didn't need that sort of fucking bad luck. "—to any of us, I need you strong."
"Nothing happens to you," she hissed, her eyes lighting on pure fire as she grabbed my face. "Fucking nothing. I'll die before that happens," she vowed, and her honesty scared me because she meant that shit.
"That's what I'm afraid of, baby," I sighed in defeat because I couldn't fault her for thinking the same thing I was, "but I get it." I frowned, leaning in to kiss her lips briefly before pulling back to gaze at her. She was all things good and perfect and beautiful to me, and she'd made me a better person ever since I'd pulled her out of Miller's fucking basement. "Th-Then w-we w-work together on a-all of it. D-Do y-you hear m-me?" I sputtered, not even giving two shits at this point.
"Yeah, I hear you, Edward," she soothed, running her hands through my hair. "Loud and clear. Now it's your turn to make me a promise." She sighed, looking around the fire to make sure we weren't heard. When I nodded, she continued. "I need you focused because even though I'm a target, so is everyone sitting here. I will do what you say, but you need to keep your mind on finishing this, on keeping to the plan. Everyone here needs to be safe, and they need your experience, your strength, and your intelligence, baby. Not just me. Our lives depend on all of us working together, not for just those we can't live without.
"When this is over," she said, grasping my face and pressing her forehead to mine, "you never have to do this again if you don't want to. Hell, you can make tables and chairs the rest of our lives, if that's what you choose."
I grinned up at her, chuckling a bit, because that shit sounded like fucking heaven. "Yes, ma'am."
"Or..." She smirked, pulling back to look at me with a raised eyebrow. "You could always bring that experience and brains over to the dark side. You could work for me..."
I smirked up at her as she shifted in my lap, wriggling closer like she did when she wanted something.
"It's safer work," she went on to elaborate, "and finding a lost kid is damned rewarding, not to mention how funny some cheaters are..."
"We'll see, sweetness," I laughed, cutting her off and kissing her pouting lips. "You plan on reopening Gravity, then?"
"I do," she sighed, looking over at her girls and then back to me. "Would that bother you?"
I was shaking my head before she even finished that question. "Hell, no, but if we live in Forks..." I started, thinking that was a hell of a commute.
"Maybe I'll reopen it there," she said with a shrug. "It's safer than Seattle, and I could move the girls..." She sighed, looking over at them again. "I don't know. I guess you're right; we'll see."
"Where'd the name come from?" I asked, tilting my head at her because it was a question I'd been meaning to ask.
"Gravity?" She giggled, and I nodded, unable to not smile with her. "Something my mother said once... People may not always live by the same creeds or rules, but we all have to follow the law of gravity, because we all fall on our asses when we mess up."
I chuckled, thinking that was fucking perfect considering what my girl did for a living. It also seemed perfect because it was for Renee that Bella wanted vengeance.
Eleazar stood up, checking his watch, and his men followed suit. It was time for the first of us to part ways for now. There were handshakes and goodbyes, not to mention well wishes and hugs from the girls.
"We're starting with the Savage brothers," Eleazar told my father. "We'll clear the way so that you have open communication. One runs a pawn shop, although really, it's an information exchange along with a revolving drug-dealing facility. The other is the cell phone jackass, and he goes first. Your little one over there has already secured a boxful of damn phones, and supposedly, they'll be delivered to Twilight Towers tomorrow. I didn't ask, but I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be able to track those sum-bitches, anyway," he chuckled, rolling his eyes as Alice laughed from beside him.
"You're probably right," my father laughed, squeezing Alice's shoulder. "Jasper, Alice, Esme, and I will leave in the morning, and Mickey and Makenna will follow us. The rest will fly out several hours later," he said, gesturing our way. "Alec is coming with you. He's going to see what information he can drag out of the Savage brothers before they...disappear."
I grinned over at Alec, who looked like he was getting an early Christmas present as he cracked his knuckles and neck, smiling evilly, but he gave all the giggling girls a wink and another round of hugs.
"Let's get this show on the road, shall we?" he asked, pointing to the SUV he'd driven.
After all the bags were loaded and most of the men were seated, Eleazar turned to us. "Don't use a phone until you've heard from us. Once it's clear, you'll be free to start communicating, and that will make this shit fucking easier," he told us all with a snort. He shook my father's hand one more time before climbing into the truck. "We'll see you on point in three days," he said, holding up three fingers. "Everyone be careful."
With that, Alec drove out of the farm, taking the first wave of our offense with him.
That night, Bella's nightmares were at an all-time high, and I wondered if the closer we got to leaving, the worse they would become. Once everyone else left, I begged her to get some rest, but I was right; her nightmares did get worse. Not that mine were any better.
I used to dream about the little girl in Iraq that pulled the grenade on us. Then it changed to always hunting, always chasing Bella. But these were different; these were a combination of the two. The little girl pulled the pin, like so many times before in my dreams, but this time, instead of Mike Newton falling on her, it was my Bella.
I awoke with a start, my whole body shaking with fear and revulsion, looking over at the beautiful girl sleeping in my bed. She was still there, still perfect, still in one piece. I let out a breath I didn't realize I was holding.
I leaned over, pressing a kiss to her forehead, inhaling deeply the scent of her and relishing the sound of my name that ghosted from her lips.
"Don't you dare get yourself killed saving me, love," I whispered to her – or maybe it was a prayer to whoever was listening. "I'm not worth it, baby."
"You're everything, Edward," she breathed, turning over in her sleep and curling up into an adorable little ball.
Squeezing my eyes closed to fight the tears as a result of her unexpected answer, I kissed her temple one more time before getting up to grab a shower. She had a few more minutes before I needed to wake her.
I ran and ran down the endless corridors of Twilight Tech, looking for something I just couldn't quite wrap my mind around. I had to find this something because there was someone chasing me. I needed to be safe; I had to find shelter.
As I turned another corner, I finally saw what I was looking for – Edward – but the faster I ran, the farther away he seemed to get. He was wearing my favorite crooked smile, running a hand through his hair, and just when it seemed I could almost reach him, a hand grabbed my arm...
"Shit!" I gasped, sitting straight up in bed, looking to the empty spot next to me, but it was then that I heard the sounds of the shower.
I scrambled out of bed, practically tripping myself on the covers that had wrapped themselves around my ankle, and hurried into the bathroom.
I could see him, plain as day, through the frosted shower doors, but I needed to hear him, touch him. I needed to make sure the safety and security I'd been searching for in my dream was attainable in reality – that it was just a fucking dream, and that any time I needed to feel safe, I just had to find Edward, knowing he'd always be there.
Tugging off my clothes – Edward's T-shirt and boxers – and dropping them to the bathroom floor, I couldn't imagine a more gorgeous or sexy silhouette ever created as I ogled him in the shower. It was muscles, a defined ass, and his impeccable cock – all perfectly outlined through the shower door. It didn't help that that he was scrubbing his hair, so everything took on a completely different and flexed look.
Unable to stay away from him any longer, I slid the shower door open.
"I was wondering how long you were gonna stare, love," he chuckled as I wrapped my arms around him from behind him.
"It was a fan-fucking-tastic view," I muttered into the skin of his strong back, smiling when he chuckled again, but my whole body shuddered when I could finally feel him, smell him, touch him.
"Hey," he soothed, pulling me around to his front. "Why are you shaking?" he asked, guiding me under the spray. "Here...get warm."
"Not...cold," I mumbled, blinking water from my eyes and wrapping my arms around him again, this time from the front. Every bit of my skin that touched his lit on fire.
Edward was warm, wet, soapy, and smelled so good as he kissed the top of my head. I was still shaking, still scared from my dream as I pressed a kiss to the center of his chest in return.
As if he knew my thoughts, what I'd dreamed, he whispered, "I'm right here, Bella."
"I know," I whispered against his skin, wishing like hell I could express in words what I was feeling about leaving the farm, starting this next step, even what the dream made me feel, but I was out of words.
I was filled with worry and fear for everyone I knew and loved – especially the man I was desperately clinging to at the moment. I felt his fingertips pulling my chin up so he could look at me, and I locked eyes with his, which were green, warm, and comforting. I couldn't even say his name at this point, but I could kiss him.
Stretching up onto my toes, I pressed my lips to his, trying to calm my heart, my breathing, my nerves. I slipped my hands up and over his shoulders, pulling myself closer, as if it were possible. We kissed under the spray, tasting tongues, water, and lips.
Edward's hands slid over my wet skin with easy, long, deep caresses to my arms, back, and ass. When he finally broke away from my mouth, he took his time with open-mouthed kisses to my neck, seemingly drinking the water from my skin.
"Turn around, Bella," he ordered softly, placing his hands on my waist and spinning me carefully around to face the spray. "Let me make it better..."
With careful but firm hands, Edward proceeded to wash every inch of my back, bottom, and legs, only to turn me around to rinse off. He knelt reverently in front of me, his hands still on my thighs as his darkening eyes raked over every inch of me. It seemed he was looking at every scar I had, even the little ones that had now faded, thanks to time and the scar cream Esme had given me.
"You can barely see them now," he mused, finally looking up at my face.
His finger traced the one along my thigh – which was still the worst – and then both of the burns on my stomach, and finally, the one on my sternum. He lifted my leg, kissing the outside of my ankle where the bullet had ricocheted off of the tree when we were at the mountain cabin. It was a scar I didn't even care about, didn't even bother to put cream on, but he remembered it.
Perhaps Edward was out of words, too, because I wasn't even sure he was aware he'd spoken out loud. After leaning in to place a kiss to my belly, he continued his task of washing me. He was so gentle when he washed between my legs – not sexual, but caring. As much as I wanted him – probably more in that sweetest of moments than ever – I'd never felt more loved, more cherished than I did right then.
When he finally stood up in front of me, he grabbed the shampoo and massaged my hair from scalp to tips, doing the same thing with the conditioner. I smiled when he shut the water off, grabbing a towel to wrap around me. With one swift motion, he set me on the bathmat outside of the tub, securing his own towel around his waist.
"Come here," he finally said, lifting me up onto the vanity counter. He cupped my face, bringing my lips to his for a brief kiss. "I love you so much," he whispered, pressing his forehead to mine and stepping between my legs. "I'm...scared, too, love. More scared than I've ever been on any mission I've ever done because this means too much to fuck up," he confessed softly.
I nodded, tugging open his towel and letting it drop to the floor. The steam from our shower wafted around us as I pulled my own towel open.
"I love you, too," I whispered, wrapping my legs around his waist. "I don't want to leave this room, leave this house without you knowing that."
"I know, baby," he said, practically groaning the words because his arousal was now trapped between us.
I could feel him shift just enough and then slide languidly into me. A whimper escaped my mouth as he completely filled me, his head falling to my shoulder. We clung to each other for just a moment, our breathing ragged, our hands gripping hard onto one another.
Edward's hand drifted down my side, along my thigh, to my knee, where he suddenly lifted it between us, sinking even deeper into me than before. I'd never been in that position, and it was fantastic. I could feel everything inside of me clench down on him.
I gasped when he pulled back, thrusting in with a touch of force. It was a taste of what was to come. He was not going to be gentle; this was something I would be feeling way after we landed in Seattle.
"I want you to come so fucking hard, baby," he growled into my neck, dragging his teeth across my skin. "I want you to feel me into next week. I want you to know that I'll always be...right here," he grunted, thrusting into me again.
Edward began a rhythm that was deep, with swiveling hips and long pushes into me. His forehead pressed to mine as his mouth quirked up into a breathtakingly-sexy smile. I leaned back on my hands, my hips meeting him with every press of his hips, and more than once, I cried out his name, and more than once, his hands gripped too tight at my hips, but it was the kind of pain that felt good, that added to the entire experience.
My first orgasm hit me hard and fast, causing my leg to slip off of his shoulder and down to the countertop.
"One," he growled, suddenly pulling out of me and dropping to his knees.
Before I could say anything else, his mouth was hot and wet on my center, licking, sucking, teasing, and biting. He forced my legs apart, my hips to stay still as his mouth expertly dragged another climax from me, my hands gripping his hair like a lifeline.
"Two," he snickered darkly, licking his lips before wrapping his arms all the way around me.
I found my back pressed into the bathroom door, my head thudding against it when he entered me again with a little less force this time.
"Edward," I hissed, as he drove into me with a delicious rotating of his hips.
"You can fucking do better than that, Bella," he chuckled, as I wrapped my arms and legs around him. "I want more... Don't you want another one, love?"
"Fuck, yes," I growled the truth because I did. I wanted whatever he'd give me at that point. Grabbing his face, I begged, "Together..."
"So close, fucking close," he said with a nod as a drop of water or sweat dripped from his brow to his chin.
My heels dug into his ass, my fingers threaded into his wet hair, and my breathing was erratic, but my whole body just about fell over the edge when I caught a glimpse of us in the mirror.
"Oh, Christ," I panted, my eyes squeezing closed for just a second.
I wasn't sure I'd ever seen anything as fucking phenomenally sexy as what my eyes took in at that moment. I'd watched my share of porn, been with men in front of a mirror, but nothing...nothing came close to what I saw right then.
Every muscle in Edward's back writhed under smooth skin. His ass flexed with every pump into me, and my God, his legs were like cut steel as he braced us against that door. His arms were taut as they gripped my cheeks with every push. Add in my legs wrapped around him and the flushed look of being thoroughly and satisfyingly fucked by the most gorgeous thing I'd ever laid eyes on, and I was done.
"I'm coming, Edward," I breathed in his ear, my teeth locking down onto his neck.
"Fuck, B-Bella," he stuttered before finally pressing me into the door with all of his weight as he came hard inside me. He placed a long, slow kiss to my shoulder, looking up at me through those deadly long eyelashes. "Three," he purred, giving me my favorite crooked smile and a wink when I couldn't stop from laughing.
It wasn't long before we were dressed and packed, carrying our things out to the chopper. Rose and Emmett were loading their things as we approached, with Aunt Kate following.
"Aunt Kate, you really should be in bed," Edward chided, shaking his head as she waved him away.
"Oh, pooh," she scoffed, rolling her eyes at him and pulling me into a hug. "You take care of each other, you hear me?" she whispered in my ear, and I nodded. "He's a good boy, but don't let him frustrate you to death, Bella."
I snorted, pulling back just enough to kiss her cheek. "I won't. I promise," I giggled.
She hugged Rose and Emmett, finally turning her gaze onto her best friend's only son. "Edward Anthony, you come give me a hug, child."
I could tell she was whispering to him, as well, because he nodded, smiled, and kissed her cheek gently.
"Come on, ladies," Emmett said, offering us a hand. "Let's get you buckled in, okay?"
"Thanks, Em," I said as he lifted me and then Rose into the back of the chopper.
"How is it with him flying this thing?" Rose asked, chuckling as we buckled up and watched the boys ready the chopper.
"He's...amazing," I answered with a laugh, feeling proud of Edward. "Like you won't even feel like you're moving."
She snickered and nodded, looking out at the farm. "You scared?"
"Yup." I snorted my answer with a nod. "You?"
"A little," she sighed, turning to me when the boys climbed in the front. "We're in good hands, though," she whispered, giving me a wink.
I looked up front, smiling as the boys put on their headsets and Edward flipped a few switches. We'd told them to dress in all black as our bodyguards, and they had. They looked big and scary and mean to someone that didn't know them, but they were far from it. They'd do anything for us, and we knew it.
We were all about to step into a world of crime and chaos, of death and lies. The two boys up front in that chopper, as well as the ten people that were already on their way, just wanted to help us get our lives back. They'd already given blood, sweat, and tears, and I wasn't sure how they found the strength to give more, but I would be forever grateful to each and every one of them.
I turned back to Rose with a soft laugh. "Yeah...definitely good hands."