Friday, April 6, 2001 | By: Drotuno

Blood & Glory Chapter 17

She grabbed my hand, squeezing the cream out onto the tips of my fingers. Lifting her underwear, she guided my hand blindly, but there were only three scars covered by the last of her clothing. She looked up at me, capping the tube. I could almost tell what she was thinking.
"Next time, these come off, don't they?" I asked, wincing at her slightly fearful expression as I tugged playfully at her panties.
"Yeah," she sighed, wrapping her arms around my neck. "And when they do," she said, kissing my lips softly, "I want you to make love to me, Edward..."
I came up out of a nightmare with a gasp and a shudder, looking around the still-fairly dark room. Warm, strong arms held me tighter, almost as though they knew I needed their strength, their comfort. I rolled over to look at a still-sleeping Edward, trying not to shake my head at his sweet face.
The tenseness, the stress, the constant watching over of everyone he knew and loved faded away when he slept, leaving his face smooth, relaxed, and oh-so-handsome. I smiled softly, biting my lip as I lightly brushed an errant curl away from his forehead.
I'd meant what I'd said the night before. When I could finally remove the last article of clothing, I wanted Edward. I wanted his love, his body, his soul connected with mine in all ways physically, emotionally, and cosmically possible. I was tired of fears and panic. I was tired of loving him so much and not being able to show him that I was completely his – that despite our unorthodox beginnings, I loved him like I'd loved no other.
Edward had been shocked at first, but he'd slowly begun to nod after my admission. His eyes had darkened slightly but stayed so warm, so sweet as he'd reached up and tucked my hair behind my ear.
"You're sure," he verified with raised eyebrows. "'Cause, Bella, I'm in no hurry..."
"Yes, I'm totally sure," I told him. "We right together, Edward," I whispered, cupping his face once he settled us in under the covers of his bed. "And I'm tired of not feeling like me anymore..."
He smiled, tangling our legs together and pulling me closer. He was still completely naked, and I was still in just my underwear, the medicine having long since been applied to my skin.
"I'm very tempted to take you up on that, baby," he snickered, kissing my nose, "but I won't go that far until you're absolutely certain it's what you want, what you're ready for, Bella."
"Edward," I whined, feeling slightly rejected, but I knew what he was saying. "You sound like Esme."
He chuckled, kissing my lips soundly before continuing. "Maybe I do, but's the thing," he whispered against my lips. "I want you. The real you. And I want you comfortable and healed – not just from scars, but from fears – before we go that far." He sighed, looking past me with almost unfocused eyes before looking back to me. "I've had one night stands. Hell, some didn't last a whole night, and I'm not proud of it, Bella. Wh-What I w-want with y-you is...always."
I inhaled sharply, looking up when his sweet stutter caressed my ears. He was looking at me nervously, but I could tell he meant what he was saying, and he had more to say because he kept going.
"I-I...I want to do this right," he said and then snorted as he took a look at our position. "Well, right as we can get." He smiled sweetly when I giggled, but I also nodded because he was totally making sense. "I don't want to rush, or push, or make any of the same old fucked-up mistakes I have before, baby. I don't want to...mess up any progress you've achieved, either, love."
I studied his handsome face, tracing my finger over every inch of it, like I was memorizing every freckle, every eyelash, and every hair on his scruffy chin and jaw.
"How will I know?" I asked as I gazed as his tattoo, but my voice was barely a whisper because he was totally right. He was way too important to me to screw this up.
"We'll just...know," he said with a shrug. "We've done damn well so far, right?"
"Yeah," I said, a grin spreading across my face. "And we don't even know what the hell we're doing."
"Exactly," he chuckled, which resulted in a fit of giggles on my part.
We'd never joined the rest of the house. We'd stayed in his room, completely shut away from the world and all its fucked-up problems. I wasn't even sure it was a conscious decision on either of our parts. We'd just stayed wrapped around each other – sometimes talking, other times kissing – but Edward's touch never stopped. His fingers had traced every scar, mark, or just some spot on my body that he became fascinated with as we spoke or kissed. And it went from strange and shocking, to comforting, to needed, but it was completely on purpose.
There weren't any more mind-blowing orgasms, but there were amazing kisses, soft laughs, and sweet, silly conversations. He'd told me stories from Afghanistan, from growing up, and even a few fun facts about his mom, like the time she tried to get him to take piano lessons instead of going to baseball camp over one summer. He'd been seven years old, and he'd hidden from her in the house for a whole day. He ended up a pitcher that year because apparently, she couldn't tell him no, either.
I'd told him about some of my funnier moments as a private investigator, meeting Alice and Makenna for the first time, and hilarious stories about my parents – like the time they just had to meet my prom date, and Charlie had slapped a tracking device on the poor boy's car.
There'd been serious conversations, as well.
We'd talked about Jake's cheating and how betrayed I'd truly felt. It wasn't the act itself; it was Jake's and my father's attitudes afterwards that had hurt the most, and Edward had cursed at the story. He'd said that if he ever got the chance to sit down with Charlie again to talk to him about the relationship that had developed between us after he'd rescued me from the basement, he was going to tell him – in detail – just what a "fucking jackass thing that was to do to his own daughter."
Edward had explained the mistake he'd made with his high school girlfriend, Dana Whitman. Apparently, he'd known for some time that he was going to be shipped overseas right after graduation, and he didn't tell her. He kept putting it off because he knew that she'd want to try the long distance thing. It wasn't that he didn't want to email or write letters; it was the possibility that he might not ever come home, and he'd cared about her enough to let her go. So with a steeled expression and a forceful tone, he'd broken up with her – rather harshly, in my opinion, and I'd told him so. He'd said mean things, thinking it would make the break-up easier, but it had only shattered her. After that, he'd sworn off long-term relationships.
We'd also talked about our moms, laughing at what Kate had told him about our mothers getting along. We'd tried to imagine two more different women, but at the same time, roundly pregnant, comparing dreams and color schemes. And we'd wondered – even if it was just a silly moment – what it would have been like had they remained friends...and had they lived. That last thought had made us pull each other closer.
Just before we'd drifted off to sleep, we'd talked about our jobs, our future – if one was possible. Edward had said that he'd already been contemplating leaving his father's crew for the last few months. I'd explained the things I loved about my job – reuniting loved ones, finding lost kids. And I'd told him I hated watching men cheat on their wives, running into dead ends when I was searching for someone, and greedy lawyers.
The future was something that was so fragile at the moment, I could barely give it the attention that it deserved, and as the sun slowly rose, brightening the bedroom just a little more with every passing minute, I snuggled into Edward's side, just to be able to hold onto him longer. I buried my face in the crook of his neck, breathing deeply the scent that just made him irresistible to me, like a warm, sunny day outside, or a fresh piece of cut lumber. I wasn't sure which of those came closer.
Warm hands drifted down my back to my ass, pulling me in against Edward's naked body, and I grinned against his neck.
"Spend the day with me," he commanded, using a sleep-husky voice and a tone that meant there was no room for arguing.
"'Kay," I sighed, placing an open-mouthed kiss to his Adam's apple. "What are we doing?"
"You'll see," he rumbled, burying his nose into my hair and breathing deep. "God, you always smell so fucking good," he growled, suddenly rolling us over so that his body pressed against mine in all the right places.
"Good morning to you, too," I chuckled, slipping my hands down his strong back, absolutely reveling in the fact that he didn't have a stitch on. A naked Edward was fantastic.
He smiled crookedly before leaning in to nuzzle my neck. "Oh yeah... Mornin'," he murmured with a sleep-raspy voice against my skin, giving me chills from head to toe.
Our bodies started taking over, grinding and pressing against each other, but it was Edward's words that just about killed me.
"One day," he growled, skirting his hand down my side to my thigh so he could hitch it up around his waist. "One day, we'll wake up like this, and I'll fuck you hard before the sun rises."
It seemed Edward was horny first thing in the morning – something I'd missed out on. We didn't usually wake up together. And damn, if it wasn't hot.
"I want you wet for me all day long," he crooned, grinding his hips just right and hitting me in the spot that made me cry out his name. "I want your first thoughts to be about me. I want you to go through your day still feeling the soreness I left you with. Every step you take, every time you sit down, it's me that you still feel, Bella."
My eyes rolled into the back of my head because that sounded like a fantastic fucking idea. My hands grabbed at his shoulder and wound themselves into his hair, pulling him closer.
"Fuck, Edward," I hissed against the skin of his shoulder, dragging my teeth over his flesh.
"That's the idea, love," he purred with a deep chuckle. "I love waking up with you..."
"Sh-Shit," I sputtered, one of my hands leaving his shoulder to grip his ass. "Right there..."
"Here?" he asked, grinding against me perfectly, bracing his arms on either side of my head in order to pull back. "Tell me you want to come, baby."
"Yes," I breathed, wrapping my legs around him, my hips meeting the rhythm he was setting. I gripped his muscular ass, pulling him against me to the point I was shaking.
Using long, pressing strokes, he worked my body, his mouth turned up into a deadly sexy half-smile. I was so wet, and he was so hard, that it felt like the thin fabric of my underwear wasn't even there. I could almost feel every inch of him slipping against me. Every muscle he had flexed and rolled underneath his smooth skin. His biceps and forearms were tense, his jaw was so tight that it was like a rock under my lips, and his pecs bulged as he moved.
My climax hit me suddenly and almost silently, the air catching in my throat as my head fell back against my pillows, and I was holding Edward so tightly, he fell against me. His full weight felt so good as I felt him spill onto my stomach.
"I love you," I panted against his neck as he placed slow, open-mouthed kisses to my shoulder.
"Love you, too," he snickered, groaning when there was a timid knock on the door. "What?" he growled, lifting his head to glare in the direction of the offending sound.
"Sorry, Edward," Alice's timid voice echoed through the door. "Your father sent a message, and you'll both want to hear it."
"Oh." He sighed, running a hand through his hair. "We'll be out in a minute, Alice," he said, his voice taking on a softer tone that I noticed he used with her.
"Sure, sure, sure," she chuckled.
I groaned, shaking my head. "Every message he sends scares me..."
Edward laughed softly, kissing my lips before rolling off me. "Just get cleaned up," he said. "And then you're spending the day with me."
"Okay." I laughed, shoving at him before getting up from the bed. "Of course I'll spend the day with you...but I get first shower!" I told him, gesturing to my stomach, where the results of our amorous morning still lingered.
He snickered, but his eyes were dark as he took in my whole body, his tongue dragging across his bottom lip. "Can't say that I'm sorry about that, love," he said huskily with a big, shit-eating grin, shrugging one shoulder as he watched my every step toward the bathroom.
I turned at the bathroom doorway, raising an eyebrow at him. "One day, Edward. day..."
I still heard his laugh when the bathroom door was closed behind me.
We joined the dining room that seemed way too somber, way too on edge for my liking. Kate and Esme were leaning over Alice as she sat at the head of the long table, whispering. Alec was cooking but keeping a narrowed eye on the situation. Jasper and Emmett looked first to Bella and then to me, their expressions grim. Everyone else was eating, not saying much at all. The only person I didn't see was Sam.
Rose looked up at Bella, her nose wrinkling as she said, "It's about Charlie..."
"Sit, sit, sit," Alice chanted, pointing to the table. "I'll read it to you."
Alec set two plates in front of us, his eyes dark. "The deep shit starts now," he sighed.
"Where's Sam?" I asked, looking around the room.
"Sam's gone to be with your father, kid." He patted my shoulder, but he gave Bella a sad smile. "Hear Alice out, and then I'll explain."
"Go ahead, Ali," Bella sighed, looking more worried than I'd seen her in some time. "What'd he say?"
Alice cleared her throat and then read my father's email.
Okay, guys. I have good news, bad news, and news that falls somewhere in between.
The good news is that King's trial starts today. The last two days, they've been picking the jury, omitting evidence, and giving up their lists of witnesses – Charlie included. Also good news – I've been "hired" as Charlie's personal guard, so I will be with him every step of the way. Benny got it cleared two days ago.
The bad news is, and Bella, I'm sorry to have to tell you this way...the last safe house was found. They used a maintenance man to get into the room, and at the time, there were only two Feds with Jake and Charlie.
"Shit," Bella gasped, looking at me and then back to Alice, who looked like she'd rather be reading anything but what she was reading at that moment.
I reached out and took her hand, turning to Alice. "Keep going."
She nodded and continued on.
Bella, Jake's been shot. Your father is fine, but Jake has been moved to the military base just outside of Seattle, where, the last I heard, he was in critical condition. Sweetie, I want you to know, the Feds in the room said he took the bullet for your father. He kept his promise to you. I'm so sorry. I will do my best to get regular updates, and Benny has promised to send them to Alice as soon as he hears something.
"Easy, darlin'," Jasper whispered, looking up to me when Bella let out a sob.
"Come here," I sighed, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pressing my lips to her ear. "I'm sorry, love," I whispered for her ears only. "Jake's strong. He's got to pull through."
I had to believe what I was saying. I knew she held no feelings for Jake, but they did share a lifetime of friendship, not to mention how close of a call it was that it could have been her father.
"Bells," Rose said, sitting beside us, "Jake did what you asked him to, and he'll fight it out. But you should hear the rest of this."
Bella pulled her head from my shoulder and wiped her tears from her face. With a nod, she said, "I know, but of all the people to get hurt, he was the one fucking person that wasn't involved in anything. He just...worked for my dad."
"That's true," Rose agreed. "However, he did love Charlie, and as we all know...lovin' Charlie isn't easy."
Bella snorted, rolling her eyes. She took a deep breath. "Go on, Ali. I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Alice and I muttered at the same time.
I know you'll be curious as to how the trial is going, so Benny will run a live feed of it for you. You should be able to catch it later this afternoon. He'll send Alice the details.
Edward, I'm asking you guys to stay put, if it's possible. I think you're safest right there. Since the "accident" in Trinity, King's men have scattered. All that remains is Miller, who has his own small group, but he's not as strong as he once was. But I will warn you...the loss of James has shaken King to his core. He's livid and will seek revenge if he finds out that it wasn't an accident, which I'm sure he's already considering. He's well aware of my connections, but there's not much he can do at the moment because the media spotlight on his trial is massive, not to mention I've been acting CEO at TT for the last few weeks. That alone is newsworthy, as well. But that won't stop him from looking for you.
Son, we've discussed what is to happen before all of this is over. I still want it done. The job isn't finished until we do what we set out to do. And if you don't remember, think back to the night we took Bella. You may set up a plan with everyone, but only carry it out once the trial is over. I. Want. Them. All.
Alice looked up at me, and then I realized that no one in the room knew what my father spoke of – only myself. Bella had been asleep in my arms when we'd decided to kill not only Miller, but King, as well. I looked around the table at my crew, who looked confused, but ready and willing. I glanced up at Alec, and he was wearing a smug smile because he knew my father well. He probably had a pretty good idea what had been decided, but it was Bella that spoke.
"You're to kill King and Miller, aren't you?" she asked softly, her eyes still a soft brown from her tears a few minutes ago.
I studied her face and then turned to Jasper, who was relaxed as always. "I do believe that is the plan, Bells," he snorted but locked his eyes with mine. "That's a prison hit."
"And that's where Sam has gone," Alec added, pushing away from kitchen counter. "Alice, finish his letter, and then we'll talk about King's unfortunate demise..."
Billy Black has taken leave, and as far as I know, Benny isn't telling him anything when it comes to his son because we're afraid if he knew, he could do something stupid. I'm still trying to work it out as to who is paying him and, in turn, who he's paying off. He's scared shitless, and he hasn't really left town, but he'd become so distracted at the office that he took time off.
Peter Savage, the one you told me to check into, is still monitoring everything when it comes to your cell phones. Do not use them. He and his brother Paul are friends with Riley Miller, and they will tell him immediately. They both are very loyal to him and a part of that small group I mentioned earlier.
Last thing, Bella. I have actually seen Charlie, and he wanted me to get a message to you. He said to tell you that you know what to do if something happens to him. He's worried that once the trial starts and he's truly out in the open, he could be hit. I hope that isn't the case. I will do my best to keep him safe.
Once the trial starts this afternoon, I will be out of contact. Esme, both know what to do and how to handle this. Kate, thank you for your hospitality, and I hope my son and my crew aren't driving you crazy. And Alec...I'd like you to stick around, just in case Edward needs an extra man. And to Bella and the girls...I think it's best to just hang tight with us just a little longer.
I'll be in touch as soon as I'm able.
The room was dead silent when Alice finished, and I realized they were all waiting for me. I looked up to Alec first.
"Tell me about Sam," I said, still holding onto Bella's hand, rubbing a thumb across her knuckles, because despite how calm she was on the outside from all of this information, on the inside, she was shaking.
Alec nodded and took a deep breath, folding his arms across his chest. "Benny sent a message early this morning to Alice. He said that he needed a man that could fit into a prison environment."
"Sam wanted the whys and what fors, so I told him," Esme chimed in. "When he heard everything, he packed up, telling us to get a message back to Benny. They 'arrested' him in Juneau an hour ago."
"He's our hit on King?" I verified, raising an eyebrow at Alec.
"Well, we're getting him in position to do so," he answered with a shrug. "The call comes from you and Carlisle. While King's trial is underway, they're keeping him in a separate cell from everyone else, but as soon as it's over, he'll be moved back into general population until sentencing." He paused for a moment and looked to Bella. "He told me to tell you that he'd...'take care of it, Miss Bella.' He was pretty upset with what you've gone through. He knew it was something, but he didn't know what. Once he heard about Miller, he packed his shit up."
Bella's nose wrinkled, but a small smile curled her lips because she liked the big, scary man. "Poor Sam..."
I chuckled, squeezing her hand. "Poor Sam...he's a hitman, Bella. This is what he does. He infiltrates unusual places and waits until the perfect time. I've heard stories from my dad that Sam even became a prisoner of war in Vietnam, just to be able to get inside the compound – which is now rubble, mind you."
Her eyebrows rose up, but she didn't say anything.
"His looks are perfect for that," Jasper mused, shrugging one shoulder. "He's so damn big and mean looking, no one will touch him in jail."
"Right," Alec agreed with a snort. "Anyway...I guess if you want to talk plan, we can."
I looked to Bella, who looked almost sick. I turned back to Alice. "What time will the feed start?"
"Not until after lunch," she said, typing away on her keyboard. "Benny says he'll go live around two."
"Good," I huffed, standing up. I offered Bella my hand. "Let's go."
She took my hand but looked up at me curiously. "Edward..."
"We'll be back in time for the trial, but we're getting out of here," I told her, my voice harsher than I'd have liked, but I couldn't help it. I needed her out of that room, and there were things I needed to tell her.
"Edward, don't you think we should..." Jasper started, but stopped when I glared at him.
"No!" I growled, pulling Bella out of her chair gently. "We'll talk about anything you want when we fucking get back, but we're out of here for a few hours."
"Edward," Kate called just as I reached the screen porch.
I sighed, waiting for her to stop us, but she didn't.
"I told Tom to get Samson ready, too," she said with a smirk. "He needs a run."
I blinked, realizing at that moment that nothing slipped past her.
"'Kay, Aunt Kate," I muttered, leading Bella out the door.
We got about halfway between the house and the barn before Bella tugged my hand.
"Edward, wait," she started, pulling us to a stop.
"Bella, as much as I love it when you fight with me...just not now, okay?" I chuckled, kissing her lips to stop her next words. "Humor me, please."
"Fine," she sighed, letting me walk her into the barn.
We were greeted by Tom, who gave us a big smile. "Hey, guys. They're both ready for you," he said, gesturing to the other open door of the stables.
Standing there proudly was Goliath, black as the ace of spades and sixteen hands tall. He was a huge stallion and the meanest horse on the planet, until you got to know him. He also was the offspring of the first horse I'd ever ridden – Cain.
Yes, Aunt Kate had a Biblical theme when it came to the naming of her horses; the two mares she had were named Ruth and Mary.
Samson stood next to Goliath, also tall, also proud, but the polar opposite in personality and looks. He was a Palomino, light tan, with a long blond mane and tail. He was calm, sweet, and an easy ride.
Both were saddled up and ready to ride, and from the way that Goliath was pawing at the ground, he was ready to go.
"Thanks, Tom," I told him.
"Sure, no biggie. Listen, we're going on the supply run, and I believe Esme is going with us. Do you think that you can handle putting them away yourselves?" he asked, looking between the two of us.
"Yeah," Bella said dreamily, a smile on her face as she let both horses nuzzle her face. "Hello, boys," she crooned at them.
I chuckled, turning to Tom. "Yeah, we got it. Thanks again."
"Not a problem. We'll see you later," he called over his shoulder as he headed out of the barn.
"Come on, baby," I sighed, gripping her waist and lifting her to Samson's saddle. "Up you get."
I turned to Goliath, who was giving me the once-over that he always gave me while shoving me with his huge head. "You gonna give me shit again, big guy? Or can we just get the show on the road?" I asked him, taking hold of his reins.
Bella giggled because Goliath snorted long and hard at me, bobbing his head. "You two know each other, apparently."
"We've had many a battle of wills, haven't we?" I asked the horse, rubbing his nose, patting his neck, and then swinging up onto his back. I turned back to Bella. "You ready?" I asked, and she nodded, adjusting her stirrups. "Good. We'll run them hard. That will calm them down for the walk back."
"Got it," she said with a grin.
"I want to show you something," I told her. "Just follow me."
It wasn't a race, though Goliath pulled ahead with his usual force and speed. I followed the trails that out-skirted the property, well into part of the woods. There was a specific spot I wanted to show Bella – a place that meant something to me.
It was turning out to be a fairly sunny day, but it was blocked as soon as the canopy of trees covered over us. The trail was just barely wide enough for the horses single file. In the quiet of the trees, the only sounds that could be heard were the pounding of Goliath's and Samson's pounding footfalls and their heavy snorts. After a good few minutes of running, I slowed down because the end of trail was coming up. It seemed like Goliath knew where I was going because he took the almost covered up split at the end.
The trail I took was off the normal path. It turned away from the fence and went deeper into the woods, but it opened up into a small clearing. I pulled Goliath to a halt, patting his neck softly before sliding to the soft grass.
"Wow, this beautiful," Bella whispered, hopping down from Samson and rubbing the end of his nose as she gazed around.
I smiled and nodded, reaching for her hand. "Let him go, baby. They'll graze for a few."
She dropped the reins, still looking around. "What is this place, Edward?"
"A place my mom and I used to come," I murmured, leading her to the far edge of the clearing. "I want to show you something. Come here." I pointed to a low branch of a large tree. "My mother liked the sparrows around here..."
"Did you..." she started, walking around the tree. "You built a birdhouse for her?"
"I d-did," I sighed. "We came here after my mother received her diagnosis. She wanted to see Kate, and my dad's retirement hadn't come through yet. She was scared." I took a deep breath. "She...she tried to be strong, but I could see how sc-scared she was.
"When she finally told me what was going on, she took me here," I continued, shoving my hands in my pockets. "While we were here, she told me a story about sparrows...some Native American legend on how the leaves fell from trees in the winter. A sparrow had been injured and couldn't fly south for the winter but sent his family on. He begged the oak tree, the maple...but neither would let him nest in them for protection from the cold. So he finally went to the pine, the lowliest of trees, and the pine let him stay. And he healed, so that by the time the warmer weather came, his family returned to find him all better. As a result of all of that, the sparrow told the other trees they would lose their leaves every winter, while the pine remained green."
I smiled because I knew that my mother told the story better, but I shrugged, taking a deep breath. "I'd asked what she meant because...fuck, she never told a story without a meaning. She told me I needed to be strong and brave because she was sick. She told me that she loved me more than anything, that she'd fight the cancer, but that if something were to happen to her...she'd always watch me from the pine trees, 'cause they're so tall...and she'd have the sparrows to keep her company."
My voice caught in my throat, and I shook my head. I'd never told anyone about that conversation – not even my dad. Fuck, I'd been eleven going on twelve...what the hell was a kid supposed to think about that shit?
"S-So I b-built th-those," I huffed, pointing to a few houses that hung in the lowest branches. Hell, you could almost see that as the taller I got, the higher I hung them, and I'd hung one every time I'd visited here until I'd graduated from military school.
A small, warm hand slipped into mine, inside my pocket, and I looked down to see a warm-eyed, concerned Bella staring back at me. "They're really pretty, you know. And they're working," she said softly, pointing to the closest one as a little bird flitted in and out of it.
I loved her so much at that moment, I could barely breathe. She didn't apologize or have pity. She didn't even ask a question. She just listened, and I knew she cared, but she just didn't have to say it.
I nodded, smiling at the sight, but I looked back at her. "I'm sorry about Jake."
"Me, too." She grimaced. "I hope he's okay."
"What did my dad mean? About Jake keeping his promise?"
"The last conversation I had with them..." She sighed, plucking a pine cone off a branch as we walked aimlessly around the clearing. "I made them both swear to do the right thing for once. I made Jake promise me – because it was the least he could do to make up for...well, us – to watch over Charlie."
Bella found a spot she liked and sat down, patting the grass in front of her, and I sat facing her. We both looked up when Samson and Goliath wandered by, barely giving us a second glance; they were just happy to be out of their stalls.
"I want to help you," she whispered, picking up my hand and playing with my fingers. "When the time comes for you to take out Miller...I need to help you."
I frowned, looking out over the clearing. "I don't know, love. It's a hit. Plain and simple. If it's done like we've planned hits before, it'll be after the dust settles. It will be a hunt, a stalk, and a kill."
"Exactly," she sneered, and my head snapped around to look at her.
Her eyes were angry and almost black, her hands shaking slightly, but her bottom lip trembled. I couldn't help but pull her to my lap. She hugged me tightly as I wrapped as much of myself around her as I could.
"Please?" she whispered, pulling back to look at my face. She played with the front of my shirt, saying, "I need to end it. He doesn't control me, but no woman should ever go through what I did. He's a monster, Edward."
"I know, and his days are numbered, Bella. I promise you," I growled, shaking my head to clear it of the memory of how I'd found the beautiful woman in my arms.
"And King?" she asked, tilting her head at me.
I reached up and tucked her hair behind her ear. "That will be out of my hands, once the command is sent. Sam will play inmate...most likely shank him on the inside. It will be the easier of the two, in all honesty. Benny will fake Sam's transfer to another facility, and they'll release him. We've worked with the Feds like that for a long time – or at least, my father has."
"I'm scared, Edward," she sighed, shaking her head and looking around. "I'm scared for my dad. I know he's been...a poor parental figure..."
"But he's still your dad," I finished for her. "I understand, love."
"Yeah," she said, taking a deep breath and letting it out. "I'm scared for Carlisle, too. This brings them out in the open. Anything could happen...walking in the courthouse, driving to it, or leaving it..."
"My dad is acting as a guard for the Feds, which means he'll be armed at all times, Bella," I told her. "He'll be by your dad's side every step. They've been friends forever...remember? Pet dinosaurs and all..." I grinned at her giggle.
"Oh, shit," she gasped, putting a hand to her stomach as she laughed. "I totally forgot about that. That was the only time we'd met," she sighed, but her eyes were warm and sweet. "Oh, I was crushing on you hard by the end of the day..."
"Yeah?" I chuckled, feeling a grin break out over my face. "Even with the stutter?"
"Oh, because of it," she groaned, her brow wrinkling as she cupped my face with both hands. "God, you were so freakin' cute! And shy..."
"I was." I chuckled, shaking my head, and I couldn't help but lean in to kiss her.
I kissed her long and deep, moaning when her tongue swept across my bottom lip, and I let her take control. She leaned over me, standing up on her knees, which were on either side of my thighs. Strong little fingers scraped along my scalp as Bella slipped them into my hair.
As she leaned into me, I couldn't help but let my hands wander, loving that there weren't many boundaries left. Over the clothes was no problem, so with strong grips, I cupped her ass over her jeans, reveling in the feel of her.
And fuck me, if I didn't want her! I wanted to take her up on her offer from the night before, wanted to make love to her until neither of us could see straight. I wanted to bury myself inside of her until everything around us faded away. But I couldn't push her, couldn't take advantage of a girl that had been through the deepest pits of hell, who'd had her power of choice taken away. When I finally was lucky enough to make love to the girl in my arms, it would be her choice, her command – and only when she was absolutely sure.
But not in the middle of the woods, and not when we needed to be back at the house to see about King's trial. I knew she wanted to at least catch a glimpse of her father.
I pulled away from her, pressing my forehead to hers. We were both breathing heavily as I ran my fingers through her hair.
"I love you so fucking much," she whispered against my lips.
"You're the m-most important th-thing that's ever happened to m-me," I sputtered, not even bothering to feel embarrassed about it anymore because she never mentioned it.
We both looked up into the limbs of the trees when a sweet chirping caught our attention. I watched Bella smile softly at two little sparrows tumbling around and over each other to get into one of my birdhouses. Little wings fluttered, beaks were open, and they'd fall, catch themselves, only to fly back up to the perch.
"I'm glad your mom talked to you before she died," Bella whispered. "You have something to cling to...something in your heart that told you she cared enough to watch over you after she was gone."
I watched as an old sadness crept over her features, her eyes never leaving the tiny birds in the nest. " found your mother, didn't you?" I guessed, narrowing my eyes as she nodded slowly, still not looking at me.
"Yeah," she sighed, biting that perfect bottom lip of hers.
She'd never said it, but I could see it now. I put together everything she'd ever said about her mom – how she'd died at home, how Charlie had immediately turned Renee's bedroom into something else, probably to try to clean Bella's memory, and how she clung to all things good about her mother, never the bad.
"Jesus, baby, you were just a little kid," I whispered, cupping her face and making her look at me as she shrugged one shoulder.
"We'd stayed up late the night before, watching a movie as she helped me with some science project for school...whales, or dolphins, or some shit," she muttered, looking down at her hands between our stomachs. "I'd woken up the next morning, wanting to add one more thing to it before school, and it was in her room..." She wrinkled her nose. "She'd never said goodbye or that she was leaving or anything... But when I went into her room, she was...laying funny. There was a bottle of Jack Daniels on her nightstand, along with a spilled bottle of pills. She'd started drinking at night a few months prior – she said it helped her sleep – but the pills were new."
I flinched, thinking Bella had only been eight years old – a baby, for Christ's sake!
"Didn't she leave a note?" I asked, but my girl only shook her head.
"I screamed, but there wasn't anyone at home but me," she whispered, her brow wrinkled, but it was the childlike heartbreak all over her beautiful face that shattered my heart for her. "I ran out of the house because I'd been told to run to Mrs. Kyle's house next door in emergencies...and she called Charlie.
"I remember her being sad," she sighed, finally meeting my gaze. "She tried to not show it around me, but I saw it..." She shrugged again, smiling a sad smile – a testament that she had spent her whole life trying to understand it, but accepting it nonetheless.
I nodded, running my hand over her head and down her back over and over, but she looked back up at the little sparrows that had calmed down with their fighting, or mating, or whatever they'd been doing.
Without taking her eyes from them, she whispered, "I hope they see us – our moms." She turned back to face me, the most beautiful of smiles slowly curling the corners of her mouth. "I hope they see that their kids love each other. My mom would love that..."
I grinned, kissing her lips roughly. "Mine, too, love."
"We should head back," she sighed, kissing my cheek. "I want to see Charlie."
"Okay," I said with a nod, picking her up by the waist and setting her on her feet.
She took my hands, pulling me up and wrapping her arms around me once I was standing. "Thank you for bringing me here."
"I've never told anyone about this place," I murmured, placing a kiss to the top of her head.
She pulled back, nodding, and smiled warmly. "Well, then, I feel honored."
"Bella! It's starting!" Rose called from the kitchen.
"Hang on," Esme chuckled, shaking her head. "Let's get this shot in you first. All the trouble I went through to get it, you're gonna take it."
She'd just gotten back from the supply run with Tom and Obie. While the girls put everything away, Esme had dragged me into her room to take care of my birth control shot.
"Was it a pain? Really?" I asked her, smirking at her chuckle.
She swabbed an alcohol-soaked cotton ball over my arm, readying the syringe. She plunged it in without ceremony, saying, "No, but I did have to go to a hospital for some more supplies."
"You posed as an employee, didn't you?" I laughed, still unable to piece together my former neighbor with the woman in front of me because she was calm in the most frantic of situations.
"Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies," she sang, tugging my sleeve back down and winking at my laugh. "You're all set, pretty girl. Don't do anything I wouldn't do..."
"Esme!" I gasped, breaking into a laugh at her innocent expression and rubbing my arm.
"Bella!" she mimicked back at me. "Let's go see about this trial, shall we?"
I knew she was worried about Carlisle just as much as I was. We'd talked about how we wanted all of this shit over and done with. She told me that Carlisle had promised her time, once we were in the clear. They had talked about moving in together in Carlisle's home in Forks. When she asked about mine and Edward's future together, I didn't have an answer for her. It was a subject we'd talked around, not about. I did tell her that we would figure something out.
We walked into the large living room, where Alice had hooked her laptop to the flatscreen television. I sat down hard next to Edward, who was watching Alice with an amused expression on his face.
"Is there anything she can't hook up?" he whispered conspiratorially in my ear.
"Um...I'm pretty sure that's a no," I chuckled, looking over at him. "What she doesn't know...she finds the answer and never forgets it."
He chuckled, looking back over at her. "I heard she was arrested at twelve..."
I grinned. "I have no idea where the money is, so don't ask," I laughed softly. "There's a part of me that thinks it's still out there because I've never seen her want for...anything."
I was well aware of Alice's history. At twelve, she'd hit the NYSE with a virus so fierce and so big that two and a half million dollars had disappeared. They'd taken her in, questioned her over and over, but she'd played innocent, like she didn't know the strength of her own programming. The money had never been recovered. And it was that history that got her kicked out of the NASA program. She'd applied, but they'd discovered her background and asked her to leave, afraid of her mental stability. She was stable, just...brilliant beyond comprehension.
"That fucking rocks," he snorted, looking up at her. "I bet it's in some Swiss bank account, all hidden and shit..."
"Maybe, but with her, who knows?" I sighed, looking at my little genius friend hook wires and speakers up, pulling up a window on her laptop.
"Okay, okay, okay!" she sang in her usual three times manner. "It's starting soon!"
I took a deep breath, sitting on the edge of the sofa as everyone else filed into the room. Edward's touch never left my back as we waited for Benny to send the feed through.
"It's gonna take a minute," Alice explained, pacing a little in front of the computer. "He's got to bounce it off a few different satellites before rerouting it through Dubai, Prague, and Quebec. He's keeping our IP address from being tracked that way."
I sighed, rolling my eyes at her and shaking my head. "Ali, not a word of that made any sense. Just tell us when he sends it, yeah?"
"Yeah, okay," she sighed, waving me away. "It's coming in now..."
Everyone's chuckles at my little pixie friend quieted down, and the room became completely silent. The flatscreen went black for a moment, and then I could see as it split up into four sections. Benny wasn't just showing us the trial; he was showing us the entire courthouse. Somehow – though I'm sure Alice could've tried to explain how he did it – he had tapped into the security system.
The place was a media circus, from what I could see in the camera that faced the steps up to the doors. Cars pulled up to the curb, and a parade of people walked up the steps, disappearing inside the front. Three large, black SUVs stopped, and I swallowed as a swarm of men got out of them. But it was the sight of Carlisle's tall, lean form stepping out of the the back of the middle car that caught my attention because he stood straight, his eyes and head almost on a swivel as he waited for my dad to follow him.
Charlie looked like he'd aged a hundred years since I'd seen him last. He looked weary, thinner, and worse for wear because he had a few bruises that were healing on his face, which I could only assume were from the last time King's men had located him. He was wearing a navy blue suit, white dress shirt, and a red tie. He was surrounded by agents, who walked up the steps with him, ignoring the reporters' questions on the way by.
"Damn, he looks so tired," Rose sighed, looking over at me. "Just...exhausted."
"I know," I agreed with a grimace, taking a deep breath and leaning into Edward's side.
Next, our attention was drawn to the panel that was the courtroom itself, and it looked like something from a movie – all wood, the jury on the left, the tables placed in front of the tall judge's bench, and everyone standing when the judge himself took his seat.
It was then that I finally saw King at the defense table. He looked smug, though thinner than the last time I'd seen him. He was dressed impeccably in what looked like a designer suit as he leaned forward toward his lawyers. They whispered furiously at him, and he nodded at whatever they were telling him.
Opening statements were made, the prosecution stating they had enough evidence against King to put him away for not only for the weapons charges, but a whole bunch of charges, including fraud and attempted murder. They were also trying to get him for the purchase and/or sale of unregistered weapons.
I don't know how long we watched a parade of witnesses led to the stand, sworn in, and questioned. It was everyone from King's maid, to his driver, his personal assistant at his office – all who had signed confidentiality agreements because they "never saw Royce King do anything illegal." Jasper muttered something about them being "scared shitless."
Then the prosecution finally called my dad to the stand. The defense asked for a recess, which was granted by the judge. When he called for a half hour break, Edward tugged me up from the sofa.
"Come with me." He took my hand and led me from the room. "You need to eat," he commanded as he pulled out a stool at the kitchen counter. "You haven't eaten since breakfast, baby," he whispered against the top of my head.
"Edward," I whined, gesturing toward the TV room, but when he turned around at the stove wearing a dangerously-raised eyebrow, I shut up.
"It's just soup, and you'll be finished before they come back, love," he stated, not giving me a chance to argue.
He set the bowl of a thick, savory-smelling soup in front of me, along with fresh bread, and leaned against the counter with folded arms as I took my first bite. When I hummed with the flavors that exploded in my mouth, he smiled.
"Did you make this?" I asked, taking a ridiculously large piece of bread and dunking it in the bowl.
"Yes," he laughed, clearly happy that I liked his cooking, though if I were to be honest, there wasn't much of anything that he made that wasn't just amazingly delicious.
"I want another bowl!" Alice chimed, bouncing into the kitchen.
"Fine. Sit, shorty," he chuckled, shaking his head and turning to pour her another bowl. "I don't know where you put it, Alice," he mumbled, grinning at her giggle as she clambered up on the stool next to mine.
"She has the metabolism of a hummingbird," I snorted, taking a big bite of bread and then a spoonful of soup.
Edward chuckled, looking up when we were joined by Makenna, Mickey, and Rose. "Ladies?" he asked, gesturing to me and Alice digging in without shame.
They all told him yes, taking seats at the counter.
"You should open a diner," I teased him when he set three more bowls of soup down.
"Not a chance," he snorted. "I don't exactly have people skills, Bella."
We all laughed, leaning onto each other, because it was truth. He was one way with those he knew, those he cared for, but he would probably shoot a complaining customer, and there was no telling what he'd do to some poor fool that tried to rob him. He chuckled with us, shooting a wink my way.
All of our laughter came to a stop when Edward's face completely darkened, looking toward the doorway of the living room. We all turned to see a pale Alec, a slack-mouthed Jasper, but it was the sound of cursing from Esme that caused us all to really just freeze.
"What?" I asked, looking from Alec to Jasper, neither one looking anywhere but at Edward. "Jasper?" I asked, suddenly feeling a sense of dread descend on me.
I slipped off the stool at the same time that Alice did, both of us starting for the living room.
"Bells, wait," Jasper said, catching me before I could go on in, but he looked up at Edward, who was right behind me. "I don't know what happened, Eddie," he breathed, looking pale and nervous, not the usual laid-back attitude he usually carried.
"Well, fucking spill it, Jazz!" Edward snapped, glaring at Jasper and then at Alec. "What?"
Alec took a deep breath, shaking his head. "They were coming back from recess, and we were just about to call for you... Instead, the judge called an end to the day – something about King not feeling well. Your fathers... Edward, it was a fucking hit," he said incredulously.
"What?" Edward and I growled, finally shoving past everyone to see.
Esme was a mess in front of the TV, and Kate and Emmett were doing their best to calm her down. They'd switched off the live feed and turned on the news.
I froze in front of the TV as a video played over and over. My father, Carlisle, and two other Feds were exiting the New York courthouse when a man posing as the press stepped into their path, holding a gun. Carlisle reacted instantly, trying to block Charlie, but it was no use. The man pulled the trigger, and in slow motion, it seemed, the bullet traveled right through Carlisle's upper right shoulder, straight through into Charlie's chest. With one more pull of the trigger, another one clearly hit my father in the head.
"Dad," I whispered, falling to my knees as they played it over and over. "No, Daddy..."
Tears filled my vision, and I felt Rose's and Edward's hands on me. I had no idea what the reporters were saying because I'd suddenly turned deaf. All I could do was watch, as over and over – on some fucked-up loop from hell – the last member of my family collapsed to the ground in a heap, while Carlisle still covered him and the two federal agents with them tackled the shooter to the concrete steps.
"Turn it the fuck off now!" Edward snarled, kneeling in front of me and gathering me into his arms. "Alice...I want an update from Cheney ASAP," he told her, and I heard her move instantly. He lifted me up off of the floor, whispering in my ear. "I'm sorry, baby. I'm so, so sorry."
"They got to him," I sobbed into his neck. "They still fucking got to them both, Edward."
"Shh, Bella," he soothed, rubbing my back.
"Edward, he's already sent a message," Alice called out from somewhere behind us, but I knew her well enough to know that the news wasn't good.
"Tell me!" he growled.
"He said that Carlisle is fine, the wound was a through-and-through. He...he...he said that Charlie is a...that he's a t-tot..."
"Total loss," Edward muttered sadly with her. "Fuck," he sighed, pulling me closer as my tears started anew. "Baby, I'm sorry."
I had no idea how long he held me, and I had no clue whatsoever when he left the living room, carrying me to his room, but at some point, I must've cried myself to sleep against his shoulder. I squeezed my eyes closed tighter before opening them. My head hurt, my eyes felt like there was sand in them, and I was confused as to where we were.
I sat up, looking around. We were in the chair in Edward's suite, but I was met with warm, green, sad eyes.
"Hey," he whispered, cupping my face, his thumb caressing my cheek.
"He's gone, isn't he?"
"Yes, love," he sighed, swallowing thickly. "I'm sorry."
"He's fine. He sent a message about an hour ago. He said they stitched him up, and despite a little blood loss, he's fine. He...well, he wanted to talk to you, but I told him to give you time."
I nodded, sniffling a bit. "What do we do now, Edward?" I asked, tilting my head at him as tears threatened to fall again.
He sighed, looking away from me, but said, "Without Charlie's testimony, Benny's afraid they can't nail King."
"So he wins!" I growled, my tears finally spilling over. "All of this...shit was for nothing?"
"Not a chance, Bella," he said, his voice sounding controlled, yet menacing. "My father said to stay put, that we'd keep you safe until we can make another plan."
I nodded, but my father's words echoed to me from our last conversation.
"I want you to listen to everything Carlisle tells you. His group is strong and smart. They'll keep you safe, and when this is over, we'll start over, sweetie. We'll take some time together, okay?" he asked, and I frowned at the tightness in his voice.
"'Kay, Daddy," I breathed, a little shocked at seeing him this way.
"But I want you to promise me something, Bells," he continued, looking up at me, his eyes fierce and determined.
I nodded. "Yeah...whatever you want."
"If something happens to me, if for some reason, I don't make it through this..." He held up his hand when I opened my mouth to say something to negate where this conversation was going. "I left something for you in the tree house, baby. Okay?"
I nodded, my brow furrowing. "What?"
He shook his head, waving the question away. "Just promise me..."
"I promise, Daddy..."
I gasped, looking down at Edward. "I have to go," I sighed, getting up from his lap.
"What?" he growled. "Bella, you can't go anywhere! If anything, you're a bigger target than ever."
"I promised him, Edward," I told him, grabbing a bag from out of the closet.
"You promised who? And what?" he asked, standing up from the chair and snatching the bag from my hands. "Bella, please. I know you're upset, but you need to stay here."
"I promised Charlie. He told me that if something were to happen to him, that he left something for me," I countered, reaching for the bag, but he held it away from me. "I fucking swore to him, Edward!"
"But he wouldn't want you to get killed going to get it," he yelled, waving the duffle bag around in the air. "I can't let you leave, Bella. I just...can't. I don't care what he left you!"
"Edward," I sobbed. "I promised..."
"No, baby, please," he begged, shaking his head and cupping my face with his free hand. "Just wait until my dad gets here, and we'll make a decision then. I know you want to make good on your promise..."
"What if it's important to putting King away?" I countered. "Charlie wouldn't have made me promise to go get it if it wasn't important."
He sighed, running a hand through his hair. "Where is it?"
"In my old tree house," I told him, and suddenly, I started negotiating with him, knowing it probably wouldn't work. "I'll go straight there and come straight back, I swear," I vowed, walking to him and taking his hand in mine.
"Don't," he snapped, rolling his eyes and yanking his hand out of mine to hold it up at me.
"No one will see me...and I'll only stop when..."
"I said stop!" he growled, shoving the bag back at me.
"Please, Edward..."
Edward's nostrils flared, his fists clenched, and his jaw flexed with his anger. I started to back away. "Just...pack your shit, Bella."
I gaped at him because it sounded so cruel the way he said it, but he turned away from me, walking into the closet. He came out, his face still grim, but he was carrying another bag.
"Edward, what are you...?"
He glared at me, his eyes almost black as he tossed the bag onto the bed next to mine.
"You couldn't possibly think I'd go for that bullshit, did you?" he asked, throwing a couple of pairs of jeans into his bag. "Like I could watch you walk the fuck away from me!" He huffed, yanking open his dresser drawer and packing a few T-shirts. "Like I wouldn't lose my fucking mind the whole time you're gone? No, just...fuck no! I'm going with you."


Nickerz Cullen-Lover said...

OMFG!!! I have no other words but thank you for your amazing story and your amazing writing. I can't wait for the update!

shenelle said...

Ok, she is so damn dramatic. Honestly, when everything is settled down than she can go for the shit, but why put yourself in harms way to get it and Edward isn't any better. Common sense is not always so common!!!!!!

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