Tuesday, April 17, 2001 | By: Drotuno

Blood & Glory Chapter 20

"Okay, watching Edward fly that thing had to be the hottest thing I've ever seen... and I was at firefighter calendar photo shoot once..." Makenna mused, falling back into the hay.
I giggled, shaking my head, because it had been damn hot. "When were you at a photo shoot?" I asked, trying to get her attention away from Edward.
"Some charity thing at UW." She laughed. "Mmm, that was some hot shit right there," she said, fanning her face.
"You didn't go to UW," Alice pointed out with the silliest of smiles, and Mickey just snorted at us.
"I know," Mack huffed. "But I had friends that did."
All of us girls were in the barn, hanging out in the hay loft the day after Edward and I returned to the farm because we'd just finished setting up a place in one of the stalls for Tia to have her puppies. She was about two weeks away, and every one of us was excited. We were just about finished with all of the animals for the day, but we'd decided to finish what Tom and Obie had started for Tia. It was the first time since Edward and I had returned that it was just me and my girls, Mickey included.
Edward flew smoothly over the Denali forest but low enough that I could make out trees, deer, and the farm in the distance. He hadn't said much since we'd taken off, but I hadn't exactly been talkative, either.
As Aunt Kate's place got closer and closer, I glanced over, trying not to swoon over him, because he was seven levels of hot flying that thing. Wearing a face filled with concentration, his dark blue jeans, a dark jacket, and a gray T-shirt, Edward screamed sexy.
I looked down when he started to descend, watching as everyone poured out of the barn and the house to come out to greet us. I took a deep breath and turned back to Edward.
"Did you tell them? About my mom, when you emailed?"
"No, baby," he said over the headset. "I figured you would...go over it with your girls when you were ready."
I nodded, catching a glimpse of a worried Esme practically pacing in the background. "Not yet, okay?"
"They need to..." he started, but stopped and studied my face for a moment as he shut the chopper down.
"I know...Alice, the key, but...not yet, please."
I felt his fingers under my chin, and he turned me to face him. "You can't avoid it, love. They need the information, but I won't say a word until you're ready, I promise."
I nodded, watching every move he made as he released his belts and then did the same to mine. Once the blades stopped, my door was yanked open, and Emmett and Jasper were there to help me down, each hugging me fiercely.
But it was Esme's arms I fell into, almost emotionally spent. "Carlisle's okay; I saw him," I told her in her ear. "He's tired, stubborn, and in pain, but he's fine."
She pulled back, smiling warmly at me. "Thank you, Bella, but how are you?" she asked, tilting her head at me, her brow wrinkling. "What happened, pretty girl?"
I didn't know what to say to her and just shook my head for the moment. I wanted to tell her about my mom, the next step that Edward and I had taken, and just how worried I was about Carlisle, but I was too tired, and so not ready yet.
"Edward Anthony!" Aunt Kate called from the front porch. "Get that girl in here, and get her fed, child!"
The whole group of us chuckled when he rolled his eyes, sighing, "Yes, Aunt Kate!" as he grabbed our bags and my hand, tugging me toward the house.
Rose's voice brought me back to the present. "What a job that must be..." she thought aloud with a smirk on her face. "Getting buff guys to look hot. How hard is that?"
"I don't know, but it would be hotter in military camo," Alice muttered, and we all died laughing, falling over one another in the hay. "I'm just sayin'."
It was official. Alice and Rose were with Jasper and Emmett, and my girls had embraced all things military, something I wasn't sure was possible for shopaholic Rose and my computer nerd Alice. Makenna, on the other hand, just loved the eye candy that was Edward Cullen. She was in love with the mere idea that he wasn't exactly what he appeared to be on the outside, though she didn't quite know what he was truly like. Her imagination about us ran wild, I was sure of it. I think she read too many romances.
Mickey chortled, picking up a piece of hay and wrapping it around her finger. "You have no idea what those three did to the girls on base overseas..." She huffed a laugh, shaking her head back and forth slowly.
I grinned over at her, thinking they'd probably driven them crazy.
"Spill it!" Rose and Alice gushed, sitting up to look at her.
Mickey looked around at us, smiling mischievously. "I should tell you that sometimes, they did it on purpose," she started and then turned to me. "Not Edward, though. He didn't go after military girls...ever. But the other two..." She laughed, her head falling back. "They knew if they brought Eddie into the mix, the girls would flock over. They'd help out the motor pool, washing Jeeps and Humvees...shirtless. It was hilarious!"
"God...I'd pay money..." Alice murmured, shaking her head and blushing a deep crimson.
"No shit," I laughed, biting my bottom lip, because Edward was shirtless most of the time.
Rose shoved my shoulder with a hearty laugh. "Listen to you!" she guffawed. "That boy would dance in a tutu for you. Ask him to wash your car, and see what happens..."
"Umm, no," I stated, snorting into a giggle at the thought of it. "I've already..." I started but trailed off in order not to stick my foot in my mouth.
I hadn't exactly explained to my girls – or even Esme – how far Edward and I had gone while we were away, nor had we all sat down to discuss what my father had left me. It seemed everyone was going at my pace – especially Edward. I could tell they were afraid to broach the subject of my father, but apparently, the topic of Edward was free game.
"Isabella Marie," Rose urged, making me turn to her. "Spill it..."
"Don't middle name me, Rosalie!" I growled, but I was grinning at her. "I have to feed the horses..."
"Oh no, you don't!" Makenna laughed, pulling me back down to the hay when I started to stand. "You've already...what?"
"I was merely going to say that he's always shirtless, and no one touches my car," I lied smoothly, but they didn't buy a word of it.
"Uhhh, no. I don't think so," Rose laughed, tugging me down again. "Spill it, Swan."
"Spill what?" I asked innocently.
"Spill why you look like the cat that ate the canary," Alice snickered, crossing her legs and leaning her elbows on them. Her smile was ridiculously all-knowing.
Rose's eyes narrowed at me, and I knew she'd know instantly. "You...totally hit that, didn't you?" she gasped, a smile breaking out on her face, but she sobered up quickly. "He can touch you now..."
I looked over at her, nodding slowly. "Yeah," I sighed in pride and contentment.
"Yeah...as in you hit that? Or yeah...as in he can touch you?" Alice tried to clarify.
"Yeah," I answered with a smirk, looking over at her.
The squeals just about about burst my eardrums as they all lost their minds, high fiving one another as I shook my head.
"I'm glad my getting laid makes you all so happy," I muttered, starting to stand one more time because if I wanted to be teased, I'd hang out with Emmett.
"Whoa, hang on," Mickey laughed, raising her hands up before I stood. "It's not that, Bells. We're just happy you have...overcome that shit Miller did... Seriously," she said with a sincere smile. "Getting laid...that's a perk!"
I laughed, my head falling back, because somehow, Mickey had found her way into our little girl group, and she fit in perfectly – just one more different personality type to add to the mix.
"Oh God," Makenna breathed, her mouth hanging open. "Did you really?" she asked, looking out the hayloft toward the door and then back to me. "Was he...I mean...did he? Were you...scared?"
I chuckled at her because I knew that she had built up this whole romantic thing between Edward and myself in her mind, some whirlwind romance, and she thought he was the hottest thing she'd ever seen. It was like dating a celebrity when it came to Makenna. She completely hero-worshiped Edward, and to be honest, I think it totally went back to his saving me from Miller's basement.
"No, not scared," I told her. "I just..." I took a deep breath, trying to figure out how to word it. "I just...couldn't let Miller win anymore, not when I had..."
Rose nodded, taking my hand. "Not when you had Edward there."
"Yeah," I agreed, looking up at her. "And the things Charlie left... I just..." I stopped, shaking my head, and closed my eyes at the memories.
Three sweaty, shirtless men came running into the barn, looking up at us.
"The hell was the screaming?" Emmett growled, scanning the place.
"Squealing, you dolt," Rose snorted, rolling her eyes. "There's a difference."
"Fine, squealing," Edward huffed, relaxing just a bit. "Any reason you want to scare the shit out of us?"
"'Cause it brings you running looking like that," Makenna muttered so that only we could hear her.
It just caused us to snort into another round of giggles, which caused three men to fold their arms across their chest in frustration.
"Sorry, Edward," I sang, leaning over the hayloft. "Girl talk gets—"
"Loud," Alice finished with a laugh.
I grinned over at her but turned back to Edward's now amused face. "We didn't mean to scare you. They"—I snorted, jerking a thumb behind me—"got a little loud."
"Mmhm," he growled, rolling his eyes. He pointed up at us, saying, "Well, don't. We didn't know what the hell happened."
"Don't blame me, cranky," I stated with a chuckle, shaking my head. "I need to feed the horses anyway."
I got up, brushing off my jeans and making my way toward the ladder down to the barn floor.
"Wait, Bells!" Makenna called. "Aren't you gonna tell us?"
"No," I laughed, stepping off the hayloft onto the ladder. "Not a chance..."
I squeaked when two firm, strong hands pulled me off the steps, setting me gently on the floor.
"Tell them what, love?" I heard softly right in my ear, and I had to fight the shiver that wanted to run through me.
"Nothing," I sang, turning in his arms and looking up at his handsome and amused face. "Thanks for the lift down."
He chuckled, looking up when the rest of the girls followed me.
"It wasn't 'nothing,'" Makenna said with a pout, giving me an icy glare from the loft. "We wanna know!"
"Tough," I bit back, walking to the stalls where Goliath and Samson were watching everything with interest. "Hello, boys," I crooned, rubbing their noses before grabbing the bucket.
Mickey laughed, hopping down to the barn floor, and said, "It seems Bella is as against kissing and telling as you are, pretty boy..."
I rolled my eyes as they all exploded into laughter. "So not having that conversation," I mumbled to myself and Goliath, pouring feed into each horse's feedbag and rubbing Ruth's and Mary's noses, as well. They were sweet, but I liked the boys better.
"Kids!" Aunt Kate called from the front porch. "Come eat a bite of lunch, will ya?"
"Sure, Aunt Kate!" most of us called back because she treated us all like her own children – like she treated Edward – and we loved her for it.
"You're going to have to talk to them eventually," Edward said softly from behind me as I ran my fingers through Goliath's mane.
"They don't need details." I snorted, turning to face him as everyone made their way to the house but us.
"Not that! I don't care what you tell them about us." He laughed, shaking his head. "I meant about Charlie's letter, love. You have to tell them so Alice can get to work."
I grimaced but let him pull me closer by cupping my face. "I know," I huffed, smiling when he squished my cheeks. "Stop," I told him with a laugh, gripping his wrists in order to pull myself up to kiss his lips. "Is everyone here?" I asked, thinking even Alec needed to hear it all.
"Yeah," he whispered against my lips.
I pulled back and took a deep breath. "Fine. Now is as good a time as any, don't you think?"
"Whatever you want, baby," he conceded, kissing my forehead. "You'll be fine."
As we made our way back to the house, Edward stopped me. "And just what details did they want, sweetness?" he asked, a smirk crawling up his face.
I couldn't resist messing with him because there was about to be a really serious conversation at lunch, but for now, I wanted to play.
"Oh, you know..." I sighed dramatically, waving my hand at him. "All things girls wanna know. Is the guy a good kisser, how many orgasms there were, and how big the guy is," I purred, allowing my eyes to deliberately rake down his hard body to his jeans and back up, licking my lips on purpose.
Edward's eyes widened for a fraction of a second before he stepped closer to me. "And...um, what did you say, love?"
Inside, I gave myself a fist bump for capturing his undivided attention, but I said nonchalantly, "I told them...good enough to make a girl's toes curl, too many to count, and...huge...enormous, really, but that I wasn't sure of the inches."
Despite the fact that every last one of those things were true, I hadn't said any of it to my girls. Edward had once said that he had wanted me to be able to feel him all day long after. Fighting back a moan, I realized he'd achieved his goal. I could still feel all of our activities with every move I made, despite the fact that it had been over twenty-four hours.
I started to walk away but stopped and turned to a now-frozen Edward. "Oh...and I told them I suspected you could breathe out of your ears."
He snorted and shook his head as he stared at the ground, finally snapping his attention back to me. "Y-You...t-told th-them all of th-that?" he sputtered sweetly, glancing at the house and then back to me.
I had to fight my smile because I could almost read his thoughts. He would have to sit at the same table with four women that knew these things about him. I lost my fight and broke into a giggle.
"No, baby," I said, highly amused, shaking my head and backing away when he started to stalk forward.
"Not funny, Bella," he growled, catching me quickly and tossing me over his shoulder. "Not funny at all!"
"So...Charlie just kept this shit from you?" Rose growled, looking up from the letter to Bella's impassive face. "You saw it all?"
Bella nodded but said nothing, and I couldn't help but grasp her hand under the table.
We were finished with our lunch, but none of us had moved when Bella had said she had some things to say. I could tell that she was gradually moving from upset and grieving to pissed off and determined. She didn't have to tell me because I knew my girl. I could tell when she resolved herself to do something because her chin would raise, her eyes would grow dark, and she would take a deep breath before she did anything. Of course, that was all after she'd teased the shit out of me in the barn.
Everyone had a different reaction to Bella's story. Aunt Kate got up from the table and paced back and forth, shooting glances at the things that had been left in the tree house, which were spread all over the table. She would then shake her head and continue to pace. Esme walked over to Bella, kissed her head once the story was over, and sat on the other side of her. She said nothing, but her love for my girl was obvious. Alec and Emmett studied every picture before sliding them down to Jasper and Mickey.
But it was Alice that was fascinating to watch. She took the police report, the key that Bella had barely let out of her sight, and the lighter that Charlie had left, opened her computer, and sat in silence with Jasper on one side of her and Makenna on the other.
"What's the key to?" Mickey asked, holding her hand out for it; Alice slid it down the table.
"No idea," Bella sighed, sitting back in her chair.
Mickey picked it up, turning it over in her hand. If anyone could answer what type of lock it opened, it would be Mickey. In New York, her father was a locksmith, and his daughter had developed quite the talent for not only helping him but breaking into anything he worked on, from safes to front doors. What was once a hobby and a family joke became a necessary talent when she joined the Air Force, even more so when she started working for me.
"Alice," Mickey said, looking down the table. "Is there any way to find out if Charlie recently had any construction work done at either his office or his home?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Alice chanted in her usual three time manner, nodding the whole time. She typed furiously away at her computer. "But if he paid someone under the table to do it, there won't be any record."
"Yeah, I know," Mickey sighed, studying the key again. "But he wouldn't have just left this without any guidance. Maybe he knew Bella would have you to look..." she mused, but she trailed off, standing up to go look over Alice's shoulder.
"What are you thinking, Mick?" I asked, squeezing Bella's hand.
"I'm thinking this looks like an in-cabinet lock box. They're usually custom-built and hidden. Umm, kind of like your dad's at the mountain cabin in that cellar but without a combo lock...just a key," she rattled off distractedly as she watched Alice work. "I don't know, though, because it has this number on it. I want to say it looks like a safety deposit box, too, but it's not long enough."
I sighed, shaking my head and looking over at Alec, who was still looking through every page and every picture with a slowness that was almost disturbing, like he was memorizing it – something that wouldn't shock me, really.
He looked over at Bella like he wanted to say something but shook his head and stayed quiet.
"Just say it, Alec," Bella snorted, rolling her eyes.
"King had the hots for your mom, right?" he verified, and she nodded. "So...why kill her? Or was it a revenge thing at this point? I'm just trying to understand why this asshole would risk a little kid witness telling all. He – and I don't mean this in a bad way – in all reality, should have killed you, Bells. He could have kicked down your door, done what he came to do, gotten rid of the one person that saw him come in, and then left without anyone the wiser. I just don't get it."
"My dad said that when my mom was pregnant, he left them alone, but then after I was born, he started coming around again," she stated with a sigh, shrugging one shoulder. "Maybe he has one redeeming quality...like he doesn't mess with kids..." She snorted humorlessly and shook her head at our chuckles, smiling wryly. "But I would bet revenge because my dad had testified against him by then...cut him off of TT business, basically black-balled him in the legit business world."
"Oooh, that's a lot of fucking money Charlie yanked away from him," Emmett huffed, shaking his head. "Legit or not. King would have been a millionaire by now had he stayed at TT. Now he's a millionaire, and not one dime of it is clean. It's all gambling, prostitution, and drug money."
Bella nodded but again, didn't say anything. When Alice's computer pinged an alert to an email, we all turned to the end of the table.
"Carlisle," Alice stated, taking a deep breath, her face pained. "He said that he's fine, that he's getting ready to go see Billy Black, but that he and Benny are about to Skype us. They've secured enough time to call."
"Aw shit," Bella breathed to herself, looking up at me. "I don't want to testify, Edward," she whispered, shaking her head.
"Then you don't," I stated with a shrug because if she didn't want to do something, she didn't have to, as far as I was concerned.
Alice pulled up the video, turned the computer around, and everyone took a seat in front of it. It didn't take long before my father's and Benny's faces filled the screen.
"Benny, you little shit! How are you?" Emmett boomed, chuckling when Cheney rolled his eyes.
"Fine, Em," he anwered with a snort, looking over the screen. "Edward, it's good to see you, bud."
"You, too, Benny," I said with a smile because despite his nerdy look – skinny, light brown hair, and glasses – he was a tough little shit and smart as hell. Plus, he had more pull at the FBI than he was willing to admit. "What's gotcha slumming it and breaking phone silence just to talk to little ole me?"
He grinned, holding up his middle finger. "You would have made a great agent, you asshole."
I laughed, my head falling back. "You wish. You need someone to keep your scrawny ass safe?"
"Hell, no," he huffed, still smiling. "And I'm not calling to look at your ugly face. I need to see Isabella."
"Bella," I corrected and sobered up instantly, turning to my girl next to me. "This is Ben Cheney, love. Without him and Alice working together, I'm not sure we would have found you."
She smiled, turning to the computer. "Then, thanks," she said, waving at him.
"Yeah, she's much better looking than you are," he teased, giving her a wink, and she giggled softly along with the rest of the table. Then he got right to the point. "Bella, I know that you've been through some rough shit, and Carlisle has already told me you don't want to testify against Royce King, but I'm asking you one more time. If we don't get your statement, then he goes free."
"And Miller?" she asked, her voice tight, but her mouth was in a sneer.
"Oh, darlin', we're so looking for him. Trust me," he growled, shaking his head. "He's...underground, at the moment, but I've got a man with him. I just can't get anything to stick...without you."
Bella stood up quickly from the table in a huff, walking back and forth, and it was all I could do to not to pull her away from it all – the phone call, the trial, Miller, King, just everything – and fly her away to someplace safe and just as beautiful as she was.
"Bella, with your testimony, we'll not only close the case on your mother, but we'll put King in prison for life – not to mention Miller," Benny continued to urge but looked at my father when he snorted. We both knew King wouldn't survive prison. "We can charge King with first degree murder and rape...and Miller..."
"Don't!" she yelled, her fist coming hard down onto the table. "Just don't!" she snapped again. "I could give two shits about your case or your trial or whatever keeps King in jail. As far as I'm concerned, you can let him out...let him come for me. But I'm not leaving this group of people right here. I'm not safe with you," she yelled, pointing to the computer.
"Bella, we can put you in witness protection. You can—"
"Oh...fuck no!" she laughed humorlessly. "I want my fucking life back. I'm not gonna just fucking run away from this cocksucker anymore. I'm not. I'm not going to leave my life, my friends...to run off and pretend to be someone I'm not. Not a chance in hell! Let him out. Let him come for me."
I stood up from the table, giving my father and Benny a pointed look and a head shake. "The girl says no, Ben," I growled, walking to her and pulling her to me. She was shaking like a leaf, but she was putting on a hell of a front for them.
"This will mean war," Benny muttered to my father, who was already nodding and seemed slightly amused. "When he's released, he'll hit the streets running. He'll gather up all he has, and he'll come for you, her...all of them."
"I know," my father said, looking up at Bella. "Bells, you don't seem to be looking all that frightened about that... Have you got something in mind?"
I wanted to argue with him, but she smirked up at him. "We were in hiding to give my father a chance to testify. That's over," she sighed, leaning into me just slightly. "I'm tired of hiding. If King goes to jail for killing my mother, it'll be because he confessed to it..."
My eyebrows rose up because I could almost see where she was going with this.
"You want to fight, sweetness?" I asked her, giving her a wink when her head spun to glare at me.
"I want him and Miller out of my life, whether they're wiped off this planet or they're in jail," she answered sharply, fighting her smile at my use of the nickname. She turned back to the computer. "Carlisle, we need to make arrangements for my father's funeral, explain to his employees what happened. These are responsibilities that are now mine," she said, her voice hitching just a bit. "But a memorial for my father will draw out King..."
"Once he's released," he finished for her. "Does anyone in my crew have a problem with this? Because if we go to war against King, it will be ugly."
"No, sir," they all grunted.
"We don't, either," Alice growled, shaking her head. "I'll never complain about hotel searches for boring, cheating husbands again," she muttered, looking up at a chuckling Jasper. "We can end this..."
"We can, darlin'," he snorted, kissing the side of her head.
"Son?" my father said from the computer. "It's your call."
"No, it's hers," I corrected, pointing to Bella. "We would need a plan, we would need to know where Black stands, and we would need Benny's help. If all of us are doing this, we can't lose, but I need to know everything."
Benny nodded, taking a deep breath. "I'll get back to you. I'll find out when they'll release King and see where we stand on locating Miller. Charlie Swan's funeral will be a media frenzy, due to his money. And King may not be able to stay away. He'd come, just to be a prick."
"Exactly," Bella agreed, her lip curling in hatred.
"Last thing," my father said, looking around the room. "Any ideas on that key?"
"We're working on it," I told him.
"I'll secure a line in three days," Benny told us. "I'll have more information, and we'll compare notes."
Bella put her hands on the table. "Benny, wait," she called. When he looked up on the screen, she asked, "How's Jake?"
"He's had two surgeries, but he's holding steady, Bella. The docs think he'll be fine after some physical therapy. His father is still clueless as to his condition, but not for long," he said wryly, giving my father a glance. "We'll talk to you in a few days," he stated before the screen went black, leaving the room in silence for a moment.
"You want to bring King to you?" Alec verified with Bella, not in shock, but it looked like he was thinking aloud. When she nodded slowly, he continued, "Okay, well, Benny's not kidding. With King and Miller both leaving a witness out there, they will be forced to hunt you down. They may not do it at the funeral at the risk of everyone seeing, but they will get their sights set on you. At least, King will. This Miller...he sounds like a coward and a pig, so I bet he'll stay underground for as long as possible."
"You want to come out of hiding?" Rose asked, leaning on the table.
"I'm just...done," Bella huffed. "There can't be all that many of them left."
"That's true," Jasper mused, rubbing his temple as he watched whatever Alice was doing on the computer. "Alice, stop," he said, pointing to the screen. "What's this address?"
"Charlie's apartment at Twilight Tower," she replied, narrowing her eyes at the screen. "And looky here...he had a little construction work done there about six months ago."
Bella walked out of my arms and joined Mickey, Mack, and Rose over Alice's shoulders.
"Hmm, and cabinet work, at that," Mickey smirked, looking up at Bella, who smiled at her. "That's where your key goes, Bells."
Rose stood, looking around the room. "You know...there's no one that knows about that apartment outside of me and you."
"And possibly Billy Black," Bella added. "What's your point?"
"The memorial service can be held in the TT auditorium," Rose stated, raising an eyebrow. "We can use every security camera in that place to watch. There won't be a moment when we won't see them or where you'll be alone," she said, jerking her chin toward me. "You come to the funeral, and the search for you two is over. You're no longer a missing person, and that puts you in the media spotlight."
"Once King finds out where the services will be held, he may step into action. He may try to end it there," Emmett mused. "Can we get plans of that building?"
"Yes," all the girls answered because Alice had already pulled them up.
"Send those to my printer, sweetie," Kate crooned, patting Alice on the shoulder on the way by.
Bella looked up at Rose. "You think we should move to Charlie's apartment? Stay there...hidden?"
"Yeah, definitely. I think we could use it as the next safe house if we had to be in the city," Rose answered with a nod.
Kate came back with a stack of pages, handing them out, but I walked to Bella, looking over her shoulder.
"Show me this apartment," I said, pointing to the pages.
"'Kay." She pulled me down to a chair and leaned on the table next to me, flipping through floor after floor, finally spreading the sheets out in front of me. "Look..." She pointed to a spot on the paper. "It's through a secret door of his office that's on the top floor. He used it when he worked late or when we went out in the city and didn't want to drive home. I actually used it just before I moved into Rose's...right after I left Jake. It was a weekend, and no one knew I was there."
"And no one knows about it?"
"I'm not sure about Billy," she replied with a shrug. "He and my dad were close, and if Carlisle's theory is correct, he may know every place my dad had." She frowned, looking down at the pages and back up at me. "Miller asked me where my father would hide." She sighed, shaking her head. "I never even thought of this place..."
"Charlie didn't hide, that's why," Rose huffed from the other side of the table.
"Yeah, that's what I said," Bella stated, grimacing at what must have been awful memories. I picked up her hand, kissing her fingers. "We could stay there, Edward. Charlie had a private elevator and everything. We'd hardly be on the street. We could practically take over that building."
I took a deep breath, swallowing thickly as I thought about it. I looked around at my crew. Mickey was still talking quietly with Alice over whatever was on the computer concerning that key. Alec and Emmett were studying the plans of Twilight Tower, but Jasper was watching me.
"What'cha thinkin', Ed?" he asked, a small smile on his face.
"I'm thinking they'll play hell trying to get to Bella if she knows that building like I'm guessing she does," I muttered, giving her a glance out of the corner of my eye. She nodded quickly. "I'm also thinking that bringing her out of hiding and into the fucking spotlight is dangerous as shit!" I growled, holding up my hand when she opened her mouth to argue. "I'm not saying no, Bella, but I'd like to hear what they find out about Billy Black, when King will be released, and just how many men King still has trolling around out there," I finished, raising an eyebrow at her because I wasn't fighting her. I just wanted all the information I could get before making a damn decision that affected all of our lives.
Bella bit at her bottom lip but took a deep breath, letting it out. "Okay," she conceded, turning to Alice. "Pixie, email Benny, please. I want to know how many men are still working for King and would come to his aide if he asked for it. I want backgrounds and pictures, too."
"Got it, got it, got it," she chanted, nodding the whole time she spoke. "Mack, I'll need you for that one...names, faces, places."
Emmett cleared his throat, leaning his elbows on the table. "You know, Ed..." he started, looking to Alec and then back to me. "We could so end this. Go back to Seattle, hunt every last motherfucker down, and completely clean up that town."
I snorted, but my laugh caught in my throat when I realized that Alec was with him on that idea. "You're serious. You want to take them head-on? Not just protection, but a complete war on the mafia?"
"Yeah, sure," Alec answered with a snicker. "You've got the brains, brawn, and definitely the beauty here, kid. These girls would draw some of those thugs in like flies."
Bella chuckled, rolling her eyes. "Hmm, bait them?"
"Gee, we've never done that," Makenna murmured, but every last one of the girls laughed. "Just like a cheating husband in a nightclub, right, Bellsy?" She giggled, giving Bella a fist bump.
Alec looked up at me with a raised eyebrow, as if saying, "See?"
I snorted, shaking my head. "A month ago, man, I would have said no way to having them out in the open...but you have no idea what they can do," I told him, pointing to Bella and her girls as they cheered and high-fived one another.
Bella laughed, kissing my cheek, and whispered, "I love you," where only I could hear her.
I grabbed her face lightly to make sure she was looking at me, smiling at her silly giggle. "We. Still. Wait. Got me?"
She nodded and smiled. "Sir," she crooned, pulling my hand away. "Just...think about it, Edward. I need to feed the dogs," she muttered, standing up straight, and then disappeared out the front door.
The next few days were filled with so much activity that most of us collapsed at the end of the day, completely exhausted. The farm still needed its daily chores done – the animals fed, the fences checked, and Emmett, Jasper, and I were still fixing a few things around the place. Today had been the horses' paddock, and we'd spent most of the day replacing rotten fence posts and cross boards.
There were also plans to make, keeping us all up to the wee hours of the morning, only to get back up early to start all over – except for Esme, who had taken Bella's car, saying she had to go into Anchorage for some reason. Even without a word from Benny or my father, we studied, planned, and mapped out how we could possibly end this for good. Bella's girls studied every file that Benny had sent, marking on a map of Seattle exactly where each individual hung out or lived, while Bella taught us every fucking inch of that tower. If we were doing this, we were going to take down the heart and soul of them, leaving King with nothing.
The problem was Miller. If we couldn't find him, then Bella would never be safe. She would forever be looking over her shoulder, and I would never feel comfortable letting her out of my sight. And that...I just couldn't fucking have. I wanted so badly to give her back her life – with me in it – but I was terrified that I would fail. It was why I stalled on moving on with this plan, on moving us from Alaska back to Seattle, where all of this shit started, because I knew without a doubt that King was a walking dead man, but if I couldn't find Miller, we couldn't kill him. And he needed to fucking die – preferably a slow and tortured death, and hopefully at my hands, because I still remembered how my girl had looked when I'd found her in his fucked-up dungeon.
"Whoa, Eddie! What the hell?" Jasper yelled, jumping back when I hit the board I was hammering so hard that the fucker split into two pieces, almost slicing his hand wide open.
"Fuck," I growled, throwing the hammer down to the ground. "Sorry, Jazz." I sighed, sitting down on the edge of the feeding trough and burying my hands in my hair.
He set a new board, hammered it in, and plopped down beside me. "You okay, bro?"
I just shrugged, gripping my hair before looking over at him. I didn't know what to say because on the one hand, I was stressed to capacity with worry over my father, my crew, and my girl. On the other hand, I was never better because I finally felt whole in my relationship with Bella.
"You've never needed this long to make a decision on a mission before, Edward," he noted in a quiet voice, but Jasper never needed to be loud to get his point across. "What's the deal?"
We both turned our heads when the barn doors slammed open and the girls led all the horses out into the yard and started grooming them, Mickey showing Alice what do to. I smiled when Goliath tried to nuzzle Bella too hard, causing her to stumble forward a step or two. When she called his name in admonishment, he hung his head low so she could scratch his ears. He was shameless, but he liked her, and that was his way of showing it.
"This is no ordinary mission," I sighed, not taking my eyes off the girls as they began to scrub down all four horses. "This is their lives, J."
"Those are no ordinary girls, either," Jasper countered, standing up and hopping up on the fence. "They know what they're getting into, and they've done it before; though this is a little higher risk, the concept is still the same."
"I know."
"If you're waiting for your dad..."
"I'm waiting for Benny," I told him, finally breaking my gaze away from my laughing girl, "because I need to know where the hell we stand with Black."
He nodded. "That's not the truth, Ed. Or at least, not the whole truth."
He was right, but I didn't know what I was feeling at the moment. My dad had already given the all-clear to take every last one of them down. Hell, he'd given it the night we found Bella.
"What are you doing when this is all over?" I asked him, getting up and grabbing my hammer up off the ground.
"Taking Alice to Texas," he said with a cheesy-ass grin, hopping down so we could finish the fence. "If this does go down the way I think it will, then we'll all need to lay low for a while. I figured a month. Mickey's coming back here, and Emmett and Rose have talked about California. I'm willing to bet you hide away in that house of yours."
"And just how do you think this will fucking go down?"
He snorted, rolling his eyes, and shook his head. "I think we'll go into Seattle, bringing hell with us. I think that we'll clean up years of fucking organized crime, and the police, the Feds, and the local community will be grateful. I think – and correct me if I'm wrong – that King and Miller will be...unrecognizable once you've punished them for every wrong deed they've ever done to that girl...right fucking there," he growled, pointing toward Bella, who was walking around Goliath to rinse him off.
I nodded as I pried off the next rotten board, dropping it to the ground. Jasper hopped down and helped me nail a new one into place. We replaced three more before he finally spoke again.
"You know, if it were me," he started, looking past me toward the girls, "I'd want to kill them all. Bella didn't deserve that shit..."
I spun in front of him. "You think I don't know that?" I asked, narrowing my eyes at him. "You have no idea what I'd like to do to them for hurting her. Dismemberment, evisceration, and decapitation doesn't even come fucking close to what I'd like to do because they wouldn't be...satisfying enough," I sneered, shaking my head. "She's just now starting to feel normal. I can't imagine what it would do to her if one of her girls got hurt or if something happened to my father, and you have no fucking clue how she clings to me in her sleep."
Jasper grimaced but only nodded.
"I want to end this for her, man," I groaned, running a hand through my hair. "I want to—"
"Keep her safe," he finished for me in a low tone.
"Yeah," I sighed, looking up at him and thinking hard about what I needed to say next. "If we do this...every plan is perfect, flawless. If we do this...we don't stop until they're all gone."
He nodded his head once. "Yes, sir," he grunted. "I didn't expect anything less. We can do this, you know. End it. We've had tougher jobs; it's just that this one...means more."
I studied his face, knowing he was right. In the past, with other jobs, this would have been a no-brainer, because we'd taken down small villages to eradicate assholes that had taken over for lesser offenses. This was personal, which made it fucking dangerous because I'd die protecting the girl that was laughing with her friends a few yards away.
"I still want to hear from Benny and my dad," I added, calming down a bit because my girl was now walking a sparkling clean Goliath my way, followed by the rest of them. "I want every last piece of information I can get before I put her in the spotlight because we have to account for the fucking media, too."
"Sure, Ed," he said with a nod. "We'll do it right, just like always."
"This is my last fucking mission," I vowed the truth finally aloud, shaking my head. "I swear to fucking God."
Jasper smirked, snorting into a light chuckle. "Oh, I knew that," he said with a grin. "I knew that the minute you laid eyes on her."
The TV droned on in the background, but I hardly heard a word of it. Edward and I were lying on the couch, melted into one another, supposedly watching some show, but I don't think either of us was paying attention. He was on his back, knees up, and I was straddling his stomach, fitting against him perfectly as my head rested on his chest. With long, slow, gentle strokes, he ran his fingers through my hair and down to my bottom in a comforting pattern. We were dressed for bed but hadn't said much as we showered and pulled on boxer shorts and I'd stolen a T-shirt of his.
Edward's heartbeat was steady and strong, his breathing deep and even as I traced every line of his tattoo by the dim light of the television. I shifted, trying to get closer – not that there was any space between us to begin with – but I wasn't the only one because firm hands gripped my ass, also searching for the elusive closer.
I turned my head, pressing a kiss to his neck and receiving a hum of appreciation against my lips, which only made me smile against his skin when his hands gripped the fabric of my shorts.
"Are you going to steal all my clothes, Bella?" he asked, chuckling when I snickered against his cheek.
"Maybe." I sighed dramatically. "They're comfy, and they smell like you," I explained for the umpteenth time.
"Hmm," he mused, looking up at me with dark green, very warm eyes when I finally pushed myself up over him. "When you come home with me, you may lose your entire wardrobe, then."
I grinned, loving the sound of "home" coming from his lips when referring to us. "'Kay," I said, biting my bottom lip. "Are you saying I have to walk around your house naked all day, Edward?" I teased with narrowed eyes.
He barked a laugh, wrapping his arms all the way around me as I braced myself on his strong shoulders – shoulders that held more tension that I originally noticed until that moment because they almost sagged in relaxation under my touch.
"Now there's an idea I could get used to," he chuckled, leaning into my hand that was cupping his face.
"That goes for you, too, you know," I giggled, thinking a naked Edward was something I'd never get used to. "Except..." I started, holding up a finger, "not in your wood shop. Heaven forbid you cut off something...really necessary."
"Right," he conceded with a chuckle and a nod as he finally reached for my face, rubbing his thumbs across my cheeks. "Safety first. Got it, sweetness."
I wanted to lose myself in him. I wanted to be connected to him so deeply that it would be impossible to tell where I began and he ended. I wanted to take away the stress that stayed tight around his eyes and had caused his shoulders to almost bow under its weight ever since we returned to the farm, even more so since the Skype call from his dad and Benny. I wanted to help him make a decision on what do to, but I knew the battle he fought inside. It was why I hadn't argued with him, why, when he'd said to wait, I'd let it go. But I knew this was different, that this would mean the end of things. If they followed the plan that Emmett and Alec had suggested and the rest of us sharpened, then not only would we take out all of King's men, but King himself. It was Miller that was the issue. Unless we knew where he was, I would always be a loose end that needed to be taken care of. Carlisle would have a target on his back forever, despite whatever role he chose to take at TT.
Everyone that Edward loved was in danger, and it was killing him that he couldn't fix it easily, that it would take walking out into the open to end it.
I reached up and rubbed the worry wrinkle between his brows, taking a deep breath. "Right, safety first," I murmured with a nod, thinking those were poignant words for the shit we were in. "Do you think about what will happen when this is over?"
He nodded, pulling me closer so that I was practically sitting on his chest, but his hands continued to glide over my thighs, my sides, my arms, finally picking up my feet, causing me to recline against his bent legs behind my back. I smiled down at him as he rubbed my arches.
"I do," he finally answered. "Talked to Jasper about it earlier today. This...w-well, i-it's m-my l-last m-m-mission," he sputtered nervously, his eyes raking over my legs and up to my face. "No more after this. I can't...I won't do this. If something happens to me..." He shook his head and changed the direction of that sentence. "I can't think clearly if all I'm thinking about is getting home to you, and that could get myself or someone else killed, love."
I nodded, figuring he had finally come to that decision most likely weeks ago, because when his crew talked about future missions, he'd stayed quiet.
"What will you do?"
"I don't have to do anything, Bella," he stated, rolling his eyes. "I didn't exactly get paid minimum wage..."
I giggled, ruffling his already-messy hair. "That's not what I meant, Edward."
He huffed, fighting his smile and shaking his head. "I know, but to be honest, I have no idea. I just know that I haven't been happy for a long time, and I am now. When my dad came to me with your file in his hand, I wasn't going to take another job, but...he forced it. And had it been anyone else, had it not involved you, Charlie, and my dad, I still wouldn't have taken it." He sighed, bringing my ankle up to his lips and placing a long kiss there, leaving his lips against my skin as he continued. "I want...I want to give you a life back, Bella. I want to take care of you, give you a home that's permanent." He smiled when I snickered at him.
"Are you talking about this whole 'safe house' thing? Or Jake?" I laughed.
"I would never fucking cheat on you, and he was a pig for throwing away the most beautiful fucking thing," he growled, his eyes darkening as he rubbed my legs – up my calves, outside my thighs, and suddenly, inside my thighs, spreading my legs wider. "Why would I need anything other than this?" he whispered, smirking when a moan escaped me as his thumbs traced the center seam of the boxers I was wearing.
He jerked me by the hips, bringing my center closer to his face. "You deserve the world, baby. You deserve better than wondering whether or not I'm going to come home. You deserve better than me, but I want to spend the rest of my existence earning your love."
He pushed at my T-shirt until I relented and tugged it off over my head, dropping it to the floor. He grasped the sides of my boxer shorts, quickly yanking them down so I sat completely bare on his torso, still reclined against his bent knees with my feet now on either side of his head.
"Edward," I panted, not from just where his lips were now gliding up the inside of my thigh but from his words. No one had ever vowed their life to me, not even Jake...and he'd claimed to have loved me his whole life.
"I love you, Bella," he whispered. "I've n-never f-felt this w-way about anyone, the way that I f-feel a-about y-you. I won't take it for granted, I promise. And I will make it so that you're safe..."
I felt tears well up into my eyes, and I had to close them when his tongue snaked out against the inside of my thigh, swirling over my skin. He was so close, but my emotions were getting out of control.
"Love you, too, E-Edward," I stuttered.
"Good," he replied, leaving another open-mouthed kiss to the other thigh, his eyes locked onto mine when I finally was able to open them without fear of tears.
Edward let out a sensual moan when he breathed deep, inhaling my skin, my center. "Fuck, love. You always smell good enough to...eat."
I huffed a laugh at his play on words but just about fell off the couch when a pounding knock on our door resounded through the room.
"Oh, you're fucking kidding me, right?" Edward muttered, looking up at me and licking his lips like he was a hungry man and I was dinner. "What?" he growled, turning his head toward the door, his hands holding me still when I started to get up.
"Ed, get out here," Emmett growled. "Esme's back...and she's brought three fuckers we don't know with her."
Edward frowned, looking up at me. "Did she tell you where she was going?"
"No, only that she had an errand to run," I said with a shrug, and he finally let me up off his lap.
"We'll be right there, Em," Edward yelled, tugging on a T-shirt and jeans as I got dressed, leaving the boxers and opting for jeans myself.
"Why the hell would she bring someone here?" I asked, tying my sneakers.
"I don't know," he said, holding his hand out for me. "It's not that I don't trust her, but I guess we'll find out."
I stood up and made my way toward the door but was tugged back against his chest, his mouth right at my ear.
"Don't think I'm done, Bella. Not a fucking chance. I saw how wet you were for me, and I intend to take...mmm, advantage of it, sweetness," he crooned, licking the shell of my ear.
I reached back to the hardness that was pressing into my ass, giving his erection a long, slow rub on the outside of his jeans. "Yeah, you might want to put this monster in its cage before we go out there, Edward."
He chuckled darkly, planting a long kiss to my neck. "I'll show you...monster, love."
"Come on," I sighed, turning in his arms. "Esme, guys we don't know..." I reminded him with a raised eyebrow.
He snorted into a low chuckle, planting a kiss to my forehead. He took a deep breath against my hair, finally pulling back, adjusting himself as best he could, and then rolled his eyes at my giggle.
He tucked his Glock into the back of his jeans, grabbing my hand. "Get yours," he ordered, jerking his chin toward the table where my nine mil lay. Once it was secure in my waistband, he lifted my face by my chin. "From now on...no matter what...you're armed. Got me?"
I nodded. "Yeah. Got it."
"Good. Now let's go see what this shit is all about, love. And then I'm going to teach you a lesson in monsters," he muttered, chuckling as I laughed all the way down the hall.


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