Friday, April 27, 2001 | By: Drotuno

Blood & Glory Chapter 23

CHAPTER 23
BELLA
There was no way to wrap my head around the feelings that went with seeing Twilight Tower again – from the air or not. I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly, but Rose looked over at me, clearly hearing it over the headset. She said nothing – she didn't have to – but she did take my hand in hers as Edward set the chopper down gently on the helipad of my father's building.
My building.
I snorted, shaking my head at that thought, and looked over where Carlisle – already dressed impeccably in his business suit, even after driving for two days – was coming out of the rooftop door. Jasper followed him, wearing black dress pants, a black T-shirt, and his handgun in a shoulder harness, just like Edward and Emmett. We wanted them – and they had agreed – to look like hired bodyguards, which they did. All three exuded power and no-nonsense.
Both men stood away until Edward shut his chopper down.
Rose and I, on the other hand, were not dressed for work; we were in jeans and T-shirts. I was fairly certain there was something I could find in Charlie's apartment from my last stay there, and Rose knew for a fact that she had left some dry cleaning in her office. We were going to change in Charlie's office before we saw anyone.
Once the blades slowed down, I unbuckled my seat belt and slid the side door open, only to be met with a stern-faced Edward offering me a hand down to the helipad. As much as I wanted to cling to him with everything in me, I let my hand slip from his the second my feet touched the roof. After grabbing my bag and slinging it over my shoulder, I let him guide me toward his father with a hand at the small of my back.
Carlisle immediately took my bag and wrapped an arm around my shoulders, his lips at my ear. "Just remember, you've been out of state on business. Out of contact. Rose has been with her parents in Oregon on leave. You both were contacted by me with the news of Charlie's death. Make sense?"
I pulled away when he did, nodding. "Yeah, no problem, Carlisle."
Luckily, the employees didn't have access to the roof, so Charlie's personal elevator sat open and waiting for us by the time we left the helipad behind us and descended a short flight of steps. Jasper and Edward took the far corners, and Emmett stood in front of us as Carlisle turned to face me and Rose.
"Bella, besides the...obvious," he started, sounding completely uncomfortable, "we have to sit down with Charlie's lawyer today, too. He has to go over your father's will."
"'Kay," I whispered, swallowing thickly. "Don't you take over here?"
"If that's what you want," he answered, taking my shoulders. "Charlie left it up to you in the end, Bells. If you wish to hand it to me, I would be honored, but paperwork has to be signed first. We'll set that meeting up later this morning before the press conference."
"It's going to be a long fucking day," I sighed, shaking my head.
"My suggestion," he said, just as we came to a complete stop at Charlie's office, "is that you keep it in your name until this is over. Temporarily. It will have an element of surprise. That way, you can change things as you see fit...like who's in security," he urged, tilting his head at me. "Like how many guards you want and what measures you want to take for the memorial."
"Perfect," Rose said with a snort. "My best friend is now my boss. For real!"
I grinned over at her, totally and utterly grateful for her wry sense of humor because I needed it.
"Also," he continued before letting us out of the elevator, glancing around at all of us, "Charlie's office – and I assume the apartment, too – are the only security camera and audio-free zones for now." He kept his voice quiet as he said, "Watch how you interact with each other in front of employees, lawyers, and the press."
"Yes, sir," we all muttered, following him out into the executive office.
That was when my heart broke because memories upon memories flooded me – times my mother had brought me here as a child, times I'd visited after school, times I'd visited when home from Quantico, and times I'd fought with him. It still smelled exactly the fucking same, like leather and furniture polish.
I barely registered Alice, Makenna, and Mickey sitting in Rose's reception area because suddenly, I needed to see my dad's office. Pulling my keys out, I rushed through the dark, heavy wooden doors, inhaling deeply the smell of my father's office. It was Old Spice, tobacco, and leather.
To my right was his bar, with crystal decanters gleaming in the morning light from the wall of windows directly in front of it. Next to that were heavy, dark wood bookshelves, filled with everything from tax reports to whatever John Grisham novel Charlie was obsessed with at the moment. On the other side of the room were a black leather sofa and a couple of matching chairs situated around a large oval glass coffee table. It was there that my father would read the newspapers. In fact, there was a stack of them there now. My breath caught at the thought that the dates on that newspaper would be forever frozen from the last day he was here.
And finally, my father's desk. It was heavy and antique, the stain matching the bookshelves across the room. Behind it sat Charlie's big leather chair – a chair I'd spun in more times than I could count as a little kid.
"Dad," Edward growled low from behind me, "I'm asking you nicely to just give her a fucking minute."
I heard the doors shut behind me, and I spun in one spot to see Edward leaning against the closed doors. He looked heartbroken for me and wary, but he stayed quiet.
I walked slowly around my dad's desk, noticing that there were still files open, his computer was still on, and his favorite pen lay on the desk pad. My fingers glided over the soft leather of his chair before turning it around to sit down hard in it.
"I used to come here after school," I started, staring out over the busy city of Seattle. I swallowed thickly, trying to keep my emotions in control. "It was easier for Aunt Jane to pick me up from here because she didn't have to fight the PTA moms, and she liked the little grocery store right around the corner..." My voice trailed off for just a moment, but I swallowed again. "I don't know how many times Charlie would call her, tell her that she didn't have to because he'd bring me home with him, and he would stop and pick up Chinese. Or how many meetings he'd come back from, and I'd be camped out in this chair playing GameBoy or doing my homework at his desk, no matter how many times he asked me to sit on the...sofa..." My voice cracked, and suddenly, Edward was kneeling in front of me, his thumbs wiping away tears I didn't even know had fallen.
"The last time I was in this office," I sobbed, "I accused him of cheating on my mom. I swore to him that I would never speak to him again..."
"But you did, baby," he soothed, tucking my hair behind my ears. "You spoke to him at the beach house. You've read his letter, love. He knew what he was doing by letting you think he was the bad guy. He had no choice because he didn't want you to hurt. Of all his faults, I can respect him for that the most, Bella."
I fell into his arms at that point, letting out the grief that I'd fought so hard against, grief that was easy to not feel unless you were looking at the pure images of what you were trying so hard ignore. I couldn't ignore it here; my dad was everywhere.
He let me cry for a several minutes until my tears ran dry, finally pulling back to look at me. For the first time, I realized that if anyone knew what it was like to lose a parent, it was the man currently kissing away the last of my tears. His eyes were bright green due to the light from the window, his sadness for me written all over his face.
"How did you know that I'd need a minute?" I asked, taking a deep, cleansing breath.
He smiled warmly, kissing my nose. "Because I could see your face the very second you got off the elevator. You looked like the little girl you just described to me...only so sad."
I nodded, kissing his lips. "We'd better get this weird-ass day started," I sighed, shaking my head. "Your dad's probably pacing a groove in the floor out there."
He snickered, cupping my face and kissing my forehead before standing up. He offered me a hand to help me up.
"Yeah, let's get this shit started," he muttered, pulling me in for a brief hug and placing his mouth to my ear. "Just for the record...not touching you when I want, be damned of who is looking, is going to be fucking torture for me."
I smiled but stepped out of his embrace to open the door to see several worried faces. If they saw the redness in my eyes, they made no sign of it.
"Come on, let's open up the apartment, Ro," I sighed, pulling my keys out of my pocket.
Walking to the bookcase, I reached behind the stack of tax reports on the third shelf and twisted the lock.
"Shut up!" Mickey chuckled, rushing forward to peek behind it. "Fuck, I haven't seen one of those in person. Ever. That's fantastic. My father always wanted to build one, but no one ever asked for it."
I snickered at her, shaking my head. "Well, then, you'll love this..." I pushed on the side of the bookcase, sliding it to the left to reveal a door. "My dad was a nerd to his very bones," I giggled, pointing to not only the key lock, but the pin pad, as well.
Mickey looked like a kid at Christmas as she studied the whole mechanism. "Oh, now I wished I'd asked Charlie more questions..."
I entered the code and turned the key, finally opening the door to let everyone in.
"Yeah, he didn't just run the company... He played with every fucking toy," Rose explained with a laugh, waving everyone in to follow us.
"I think it would be best if Charlie's office door was closed before anyone enters or exits the apartment," Carlisle warned, making sure that we all acknowledged him.
"When you're inside the apartment, you can see what's outside this door," I told them, closing the apartment door; the bookcase on the other side rumbled back to its original position. Pointing to a small CCTV monitor mounted on the wall, I said, "You can see anyone moving around on the other side. Just press this lever—" I pushed down on the small lever next to the light switch "—and you can get out."
"Damn," Edward said, his eyebrows rising high.
"No shit," Jasper chuckled, shaking his head. "Charlie was cooler than I originally gave him credit for."
Carlisle laughed, patting his son's shoulder. "He was an original, that's for sure. Ladies," he said, still snickering, "it's time for you two to get ready. Once we've seen the lawyer, we'll call for the press conference, and then you can set up security the way you see fit."
I nodded and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "Make yourselves at home. There's plenty of room," I said, walking down the hallway to the room that had been mine since I was like three years old.
"This isn't an apartment; it's a freaking penthouse," Emmett muttered, getting chuckles from everyone.
I opened the door, dropping my bag down next to a few boxes of my things from the house Jake and I had shared. I'd stored them here because Rose didn't have room at her place, and I'd been pressed for time to get out. As I looked around, warm, strong arms slipped around me.
"That's a lot of purple, baby." He laughed, looking around my room.
"Shut it," I giggled. "It was pink."
"Um, no. I can't see you doing pink," he said, kissing the back of my head before exploring my room. "What's with the boxes?"
"Stuff from Jake's," I mumbled, walking into my closet to look for something appropriate enough to wear for all the shit I had to do. "I stashed them here."
"Are these like...full of fucking pictures of you two?"
I smiled, hearing the jealousy loud and clear. "Nope, left that shit with him."
"Good," he grumped and then muttered something about, "That's all he fucking gets."
When I walked back into the room carrying a simple black dress and heels, I saw that he was already rummaging through my stuff.
"Nosy much?"
He grinned and shrugged but completely ignored me, pulling out my gray FBI sweats, only to drop them and move on to the next box. "Not nosy; just...curious."
"I suppose that's only fair," I snickered, turning toward my dresser. "You let me pilfer around your house." I smiled at his deep, sexy chuckle. "Careful, though...you may find things you don't want to see," I warned him, knowing damn good and well that he was zeroing in on a box of items of a...personal nature.
"What? Sex tapes?" He laughed, cracking open another box.
"Nope, got rid of those," I countered, raising an eyebrow at him when he gasped, his head spinning like it was on a swivel.
"Really?" he asked, his mouth hanging open, and I couldn't tell if he was disappointed or shocked.
"No, you ass," I scoffed, rolling my eyes at his hearty laugh. "Like I would let someone tape me."
"Even me?" His face was turned away from me, but I could hear the quest for knowledge in that question.
"Huh..." I laughed out loud, unable to stop myself, because there was a part of me that would do anything he asked, and just the thought of his sexy self on DVD had my mind racing, my hands sweaty, and my girlie parts tingly. When he looked up wearing his cocky, crooked smile and a raised eyebrow, I couldn't help but laugh. "I don't think so..." I sang, walking into the bathroom.
I knew the very second he found a specific box because, "Fuck me!" came out of his mouth from the other room in a combination growl and whisper.
"Something wrong, Edward?" I asked innocently from the bathroom.
"Um, no," I heard him mutter before I heard the slamming of a box lid.
I pulled on my underwear and bra, picking up my nine mil and securing it in the waistband of my boy shorts on my way out of the bathroom; I would need to hide it somewhere on my person on a day like today because Edward had made me promise that I keep it on me at all times. I leaned in the door, watching Edward run hand through his hair as he stared down at my box.
"Do sex toys scare you, Edward?"
He just about jumped clean out of his skin but froze when he saw me in the bathroom door. "Jesus, Bella. You're killing me here!" he groaned, shaking his head. "Th-These..." he started, pointing to the box, "a-and y-you...l-looking l-like th-that!"
I fought my smile at the stutter coming from him because by God, I loved it. It was sweet, sexy, and so perfect that I could barely stand it. It didn't help that his eyes were drinking in every inch of me.
"Those," I snorted, rolling my eyes at the box at his feet, "were from before Jake. They're kind of a joke between Rose and me. Her collection is frightening. You should ask her because we tried to out-do one another with each one. Do they scare you?" I asked again, and this time, I couldn't stop the giggle.
"No," he said, recovering quicker than I expected; his eyes darkened, his tongue dragged across his bottom lip, and he gave one last look at the box before walking toward me. "I'm not threatened by them, if that's what you mean, love," he crooned, tilting his head at me. "Have you used them?"
"Some," I told him, feigning an innocent expression.
"Do you have a favorite?" he purred, placing his hands on my waist as he continued to ogle me unabashedly.
"Nothin' beats the real thing, baby."
"Hmm, true..." He licked his lips again. "What are you wearing? And are you gonna wear it all day underneath that?" he asked, pointing to my dress hanging on the back of the bathroom door.
I looked down at myself, realizing it was the first time he'd seen me in something other than cotton, something other than WalMart since we'd been in hiding. I had quite an addiction to lingerie, which meant I had an extensive collection. I was currently wearing a set in black with hot pink lace.
"You don't like it?" I asked, stepping closer to him so that my body pressed fully against his.
He swallowed thickly, his hands ghosting down my back to my ass. "I w-wouldn't say th-that, love," he sputtered but chuckled at the same time. "I wouldn't say that...at all," he growled, skimming his nose down my cheek and neck. "Uh uh, not at all..."
His mouth opened to my skin, his tongue swirling and licking the sensitive spot behind my ear. His hands roamed my body, over lace, over skin, and finally, my thighs and up to my stomach.
"Not a good place for this, though, sweetness," he whispered softly against my flesh, wrapping his fingers around the butt of my gun. "You can't get to it..."
Chills rose up over my whole body as he pulled me closer, trapping his hand and my gun between us.
"I know," I whispered, nuzzling his amazing-smelling neck.
He pulled back to look at me, a frown darkening his features. "You have to fucking wear it, Bella. I want you armed at all times."
"Relax," I snorted, rolling my eyes and pushing him back. I reached into my bag, pulling out a holster that wrapped around my thigh, and then strapped it to my leg and attached my gun.
He grinned, shaking his head and letting it fall back as he sighed at the ceiling. "This is going to be a long-ass day," he groaned, looking back up at me. "So fucking sexy, Bella... I swear to fucking God, I could tear you the fuck up right now looking like that...and I can't even imagine what it'll do to me to see you in those." He pointed to the heels I had tossed onto the bed.
"Edward," I groaned, wanting nothing more than for him to do whatever had popped into that deviant, sex-god of a mind of his. "We can't, and I'd be willing to bet that all I'll want when we get done is a beer, a bath, and you snuggled in bed."
His eyes went from completely carnal, to warm and sweet and sympathetic, pulling me back into his arms. "I love you," he sighed, burying his nose in my hair.
I closed my eyes, letting the feelings he always brought out in me take over. He was the essence of calm and sexual energy combined, and he was my safe haven. I fed off of it, and he let me, preparing for all the shit I was about to do – Charlie's will, press conferences, employee assemblies, security, not to mention a sit-down with my girls and Edward's crew, but for that brief moment, I just melted into his arms.
"So much, Edward."
~oOo~
"Isabella," Mr. Wendell, my father's lawyer started, his voice obnoxiously smooth and filled with what seemed like false sympathy, "your father made sure that you were completely taken care of and wanted you to know that you have a choice when it comes to Twilight Technology. He was pretty certain that you'd turn it over to Mr. Cullen here but wanted you to make that decision."
He went on to say that Charlie had left me pretty much everything – the house in the suburbs, a boat that I'd never even seen, and more money than I'd ever know what to do with. He'd left Carlisle his old Camaro that he'd had for as long as I could remember; I didn't even know if the thing even ran. He'd also left him an open-ended contract concerning any equipment, software, or weapons that he needed for his "outside hobbies," as it was worded in the will. Rose, Billy, and Jacob were also remembered; all three received money.
It didn't take but about ten minutes into the reading of Charlie's will before I was numb with it all. I didn't care about the money – I never had – because in all reality, I'd have given every dime to have my parents back. Mr. Wendell seemed to drone on and on in legal-ese about things that meant even less to me than money.
It didn't help that I didn't like the guy. That feeling had been instant. He seemed shifty, smarmy, and money-hungry. He had sweaty palms and had paled at the first sight of the "bodyguards" that had entered the room the same time Carlisle and I had, which had made Jasper and Edward smirk at each other.
I sighed, my gaze slipping just past the weasel-like lawyer to the unusually bright day of Seattle...and the silhouette of Edward as he leaned against the glass. He looked just as bored as I was, which took everything in me not to get the giggles because my emotions were everywhere since I'd walked into TT.
"So whatever you decide, Isabella..." Mr. Wendell urged, meaning I'd totally zoned out.
"Hmm?" I asked, sitting up straighter.
"Do you want to assign Mr. Cullen as the CEO of Twilight, Isabella?" he huffed, clearly frustrated that I wasn't hanging on his every word.
"No," I stated curtly with a shake of my head. "He's staying on as an adviser to me, and he'll maintain his position on the board, but it stays in my name."
Carlisle's face stayed impassive, but Mr. Wendell's was shocked, which caused both Jasper and Edward to pay more attention.
"Isabella..."
"Ms. Swan," I corrected sharply because this guy was rubbing me the wrong way.
"Yes, of course, Ms. Swan. I've been privy to Mr. Swan's affairs for about a decade, and he was fairly sure that you wouldn't want it, that you'd sign it over to Mr. Cullen, or in his absence, Mr. William Black. He was aware of your...lack of interest in this company, and I'm sure he'd hate to see it run improperly."
"I'm sure he would, but he also left the decision up to me. I don't see Mr. Cullen contesting this decision, either," I pointed out, gesturing to Carlisle, who hid his smile quickly and shook his head no solemnly. "Mr. Wendell, you're getting paid to read me this will, follow any instructions I have, and move on. That's it. If I need you for anything else, I'm sure Mr. Cullen knows how to contact you."
"Yes, he does," the now put-out man said with a sniff. "My only concern is for you, Isa...Ms. Swan. I promised Charlie that I would look out for your best interest, and with all the...unsavory business that your father has done throughout the years, I'm just not sure that you're capable of...handling TT."
"You would be surprised at what I can handle, Mr. Wendell!" I snapped, starting to stand at the same time Edward pushed away from the glass wall. I wasn't sure who he was going for first – the lawyer for his attitude, or me to stop me from doing anything I might have regretted later – but he stood still and quiet behind the unaware Mr. Wendell.
"That's quite enough, Bella," Carlisle soothed, putting a hand on my arm and turning toward the flinching weasel at the head of the conference table. "Mr. Wendell, I will make sure that the integrity of this company maintains its...impeccable reputation, alongside Ms. Swan here. I think that's all we'll be needing from you for now."
Mr. Wendell's eyes narrowed at Carlisle and then at me, but he slid the will our way, as well as the paperwork that would give Carlisle complete control of TT. He slammed his briefcase shut with a deep sigh and stood up, practically stepping on Edward's toes as he loomed near Mr. Wendell threateningly. When the man spun around, he almost sat back onto the tabletop to get away from Edward.
I had to bite down hard on the inside of my cheek to keep my smile and laugh under control. One reason was because I didn't trust this guy any further than Edward could pick him up and throw him – which sounded like a hell of a lot of fun to watch. And the other reason was Edward looked like he was seeing right through to his mind – and he didn't like what he saw.
In fact, Mr. Wendell looked nervous as hell as Edward allowed him to slowly and carefully pick up his things and walk out of the conference room.
With my hands still braced on the conference table from when I'd stood, I turned to Carlisle. "It's you." I fell down in the chair next to him. "Someone wants you in charge. Why?"
He stood up and started pacing as Jasper and Edward sat down across from me and Rose. Emmett was guarding the conference room doors just on the other side.
"Who would you have pissed off that much to want to take out...everything?" I asked him, watching his face frown and darken. "They don't just want revenge; they want—"
"Retribution," Carlisle finished with a groaning sigh as he turned to Edward. "Alistair Corbin."
The name didn't mean a thing to me, but Jasper and Edward both frowned.
"We talked about him when we started this shit," Jasper stated. "All I know about him is that he's heavy into the Colombian drug trade – that he works with King on getting the shit to the States."
"We've never dealt with Corbin, Dad. What could he want with you?"
"You've never dealt with Corbin, but Alec, Sam, and I have," he sighed, bracing his arms on the table.
"Fuck," Edward groaned, shaking his head. "What the hell did you guys do, Dad?"
"No time," Carlisle countered when there was a timid knock on the door. "Come in," he barked, his brow still furrowed.
A thin, brown-haired girl with glasses stepped into the room, her arms filled with files and papers.
"Ah, Angela." Carlisle smiled warmly. "There are a few people just outside the door. Could you please ask them to come in with you?"
"Yes, Mr. Cullen," she said, her voice soft, but she didn't seem intimidated by him – not that he was ever mean to anyone but people that tried to hurt the ones he cared about.
Angela returned with Alice, Emmett, Makenna, and Mickey, who took seats around the conference table as Angela walked to Carlisle.
"Frank called from downstairs to say everything was set up out front for your press conference," she told him, setting down her stack of paperwork. "He said that the podium is in place, but he wants to know where security should be."
"Call him back. Tell him I have my own security, and we'll stop by on our way out."
"Yes, sir."
"What else, Angela?"
"Well, I wanted to let Rosalie know that all her contacts at the media confirmed, and they'll all be here," she stated, glancing around the room. "Also, a Mr. Eleazar Platt called for you..."
Every head in the room spun to look up at her, making her obviously really nervous.
"Did he leave a message?" Carlisle asked, tilting his head at her, his voice maintaining calm when I was pretty sure he wasn't a bit calm on the inside.
"Yes, he said that his cell service is working like a dream," she quoted off a notepad, looking up at him quizzically.
"Sweet," Emmett hissed, giving Mickey and Jasper a fist bump.
"Good," Carlisle exclaimed, glancing up at all of us at the table. Angela started to turn, but he stopped her. "Angela...I'd like you to meet these people." Starting with his son, he introduced everyone at the table, and when he got to me, he introduced me as Charlie's daughter and the new CEO. I hated it, but it had to be that way. "Everyone, this is Angela Weber. She's been given the the gruesome job as my assistant," he said with a chuckle.
We all groaned but snickered, saying, "Hi, Angela."
"Ignore the peanut gallery, Ang," he growled playfully, giving us a pointed look. "I need you to set up a meeting with security. I need to see them before we head downstairs for the press conference, so...fifteen minutes?" he said, but the last part came out like a question.
"Yes, Mr. Cullen." She smirked at him, giving us a smile and a wave before leaving the room.
"I love her," Rose chuckled. "You couldn't have gotten a better PA, Carlisle."
"She's great. I hardly have to remember anything." He snorted, shaking his head. "So, Alice...cell service is ready to go..."
"I know, I know, I know," she chanted, setting a bag on the table. She unzipped it and pulled out a handful of cell phones, sliding them down to everyone, along with earpieces to go with them. "I took the liberty of programming only a few needed numbers: each other, Alec, Eleazar, Benny, and Esme."
"Nice, Alice," Edward mumbled, flipping through his phone and nodding at the same time, but he hadn't forgotten about his father. He turned his head, saying, "Corbin? Are you going to tell us?"
"Not now, son," he sighed. "We don't have time. I'll get with Alec, have him come here...we should all talk after today's events. Besides, I think we should have an update from Eleazar, don't you?"
"Yeah, but..." I stopped, knowing it was useless to prolong this shit anymore. "Fine. Security," I mumbled, standing up. I pointed to Carlisle, giving him a raised eyebrow. "You're so taking this shit back when this is all over."
Edward chuckled, kissing my finger as he stepped between his dad and me. "Easy, sweetness. Don't kill him; we need him."
Carlisle laughed and motioned for all of us to follow him out of the room. "Come on...security..."
~oOo~
EDWARD
I knew my girl was nervous, was doing the best she could taking on tasks that she normally wouldn't do, but you wouldn't know it unless you really looked in her eyes. Those brown, sweet chocolate pools were tired, wary, and just plain over it all by the time we'd made it to the first floor and into the security department – and it wasn't even lunchtime yet.
I wanted to hold her, tell her she was doing fine, but I knew that we were being scrutinized by every employee, every visitor to that damned building. It didn't help that I fucking suspected everyone – especially that rude, weasel-like lawyer, Wendell. The very second he kept urging Bella to sign over to my dad, I knew he was iffy. A fucking lawyer shouldn't give two shits, as long as he's getting paid, and that asshole was way too opinionated for my taste – ten years with Charlie or not.
And Bella saw it, too. I wasn't sure which one I needed to get to first- the dumbass that had insulted her, or the girl that was about to toss his sorry self out a twenty-something story window.
But it was Alistair Corbin I couldn't get off my mind. Something about that name – besides the fact that we'd known from the beginning that he worked with King – was bugging the shit out of me, but I shook my head to clear it. Questions could and would be answered later with Alec and Eleazar, but right at that moment, my focus needed to be on Bella, the press conference, and the security team that was now eyeballing the lot of us as we walked through their door.
"Frank," my father greeted an older man in a nondescript rent-a-cop uniform. "I'd like you to meet Charlie Swan's daughter, Isabella. Isabella, this is Frank Watson. He's the head of security down here."
"My pleasure," he said, his voice raspy and his smile genuine as he took her hand. "I'm so sorry to hear about Mr. Swan, dear."
"Thank you," she said with a sweet smile.
"Well, what can we do for you, Mr. Cullen?"
"Frank, we're going to be making some temporary changes for the next few weeks. Due to the...circumstances surrounding Charlie's death, we need to up the security a bit. I've brought a few people in to help you," my father explained, and Frank looked around the room.
"Yes, sir. Well, it's your house...we just live here. Tell us what you need," he chuckled, motioning for the other guards on duty to step forward. One was young, probably fresh out of high school, with light brown hair. The other was possibly my own age, looking skeptical, but willing, with blond hair and blue eyes.
"Actually, it's Isabella's house now," Carlisle chuckled, squeezing her shoulder when she sighed. "I'll let her explain."
Frank turned his undivided attention to Bella as she started to explain. "Frank, this is Alice and Makenna. They'll be taking over your video and audio monitoring. They'll need complete access to all of your equipment, not to mention an internet connection. Edward, Jasper, and Emmett," she continued, pointing us all out, "are personal guards for us. They'll need unlimited access to everything...every floor, every door, every key entry. Mickey here will be working with you on rounds and any calls you're needed on. I need every last one of these people to be included in anything that seems suspicious, unusual, or even just a little off. You can consider them a part of your team, but any and all questions or concerns need to go through either myself, Edward, or Carlisle."
"Okay, then, Ms. Swan," he said with a smile, clapping his hands together one time. "First things first...let's get you guys some key cards and identification. That alone will let all employees know that you're clear for any floor, any office, and you'll use those to open all doors." He turned to the youngest guard behind him. "Ralphie, could you please show Alice and..."
"Makenna," she supplied, beaming as she stepped forward. "Or Mack..."
"Right, Mack," he chuckled, shaking his head at her enthusiasm most likely. "Could you be so kind as to show Alice and Mack to the monitor room and help them set up. Get them anything they may need, okay?"
"Sure, Frank," the kid said with a nod, opening the door to the left of the counter for the girls to go on in.
"Darren, we need to get those IDs set up for these gentleman and lady quickly," he told the other guard, who was already pulling out the camera and motioning Jasper, Emmett, Mickey, and myself forward. "Isabella, while they're doing that, tell me what you need for this shindig you've got goin' on out on my front steps," he said with a grin.
We all snickered at him; he was quite the likeable old man.
"I can do that," my dad said, slapping Frank on the shoulder. "Come with me, Frank. I'll show you where my men will be and where I need you."
Within twenty minutes, we were clipping key cards onto our belts, pulling on sunglasses, and waiting for Rose, Bella, and my father to get their stories straight.
"Come on, Bellsy," Rose said, nudging her with her elbow. "You can play the spoiled rich daughter. Let's go."
"Shut it, Rose," Bella growled, smirking at her friend's boisterous laugh and looking up at me once more. "She says that because we made fun of those rich bitches when we were in school," she huffed, rolling her eyes.
That comment only caused Rose to cackle louder, her head falling back. The rest of us joined her.
"I hate this," my girl sighed. "This shit isn't me, Edward."
She sounded worried and frustrated, and I wanted to hold her, touch her, but my options were limited because I couldn't do either of those things, not when someone could see, not when there were so many eyes on us.
"I'll be right behind you the whole time, love," I murmured, placing my hand at the small of her back to guide her out the door and letting my thumb caress her over the material of her dress.
She was dressed to absolute distraction, and just knowing what she was wearing under that dress was not helping me. At all. She was beyond beautiful; she was stunning, making me want to protect her from not only the bad guys but now all the men that she was completely oblivious of their hungry stares.
The entire sidewalk was filled with paparazzi, video cameras, and news journalists. Flash bulbs went off, cameras' little red lights lit up, and a soft murmur roared toward us, but they quieted down as my father took the podium.
Rose and I stood on either side of Bella, and Jasper and Emmett each took the far ends of the roped off area. I used the fact that my eyes were hidden behind sunglasses to scan the crowd that had gathered on the steps of the building. Frank was just inside the lobby, Ralphie was checking identification before letting visitors and employees into the building, and Darren was walking slowly back and forth behind the cluster of news people.
However, Mickey was across the street. She was planted there just in case someone pulled something stupid. She was the only one of us dressed as a civilian. We'd all agreed that hid her better. While Emmett, Jasper, and I all needed to make a statement with our presence, Mickey could stay as a hidden pawn. As she paced back and forth on the sidewalk, it merely looked like she was texting someone on her phone.
I tapped my earpiece when it beeped. "Yes, Alice. How do the cameras look out here?"
"You look handsome as ever, Edward...at least, that's what Bells tells me," she snorted, "but Jazzy beats you, hands down. I'm diggin' the sunglasses, boys."
I grinned, looking over at Jasper, who was shaking his head and fighting a smile but blushing forty shades of red. "I do believe you embarrassed the Southern gentleman, pixie."
"Yes, yes, yes," she snickered, and I could hear her typing. "Cameras look good. They've got a sweet setup up here. I should tell you I've only got one blind spot. It's the end of the block, but that should be fine because Mickey should be able to see that corner from her position."
My eyes shot across the street to where Mickey was nodding slowly.
"Any familiar faces, Mack?" I asked over the earpiece.
"Nope, not yet, but I'm looking the crowd over now, next the corners, and then across the street." Her voice sounded distracted, but I recognized it from when she would draw. She would concentrate on several things at once. "King's not out yet, but I'm still looking for any of his flunkies."
"Keep me posted," I told them, continuing to scan the crowd.
My father cleared his throat as he took the note cards that Rose had prepared for him and set them onto the top of the podium. The entire crowd went silent when he started to speak.
"I want to welcome the Seattle press and also thank you for coming on such short notice. As we all know, Charlie Swan, CEO and founder of Twilight Technologies, was killed last week. The brutal nature surrounding his death has left Twilight Tech, its employees, and Charlie's friends and family in a state of shock.
"There will be memorial services held here at Twi Tech and another undisclosed location. These – I'm sorry to say – will be closed to the public and the press due to increased security measures. One will be held here at the tower for employees and the other in a private location for close friends and family. Since Charlie requested to be cremated, there will be no need for a burial.
"We're calling you here today to announce that Charlie's daughter, Isabella Swan, will be assuming the role as CEO of Twi Tech and taking over his position. It was what her father wanted, and we were waiting on her arrival in order to make those final arrangements and announce when the memorial services would be held. We're happy to welcome her and look forward to continuing the long tradition of Twi Tech success."
It was utter bullshit, of course, but the man did have a way with words. My father stretched his arm out for her, and Bella walked to the podium, standing by his side. More flashes practically blinded me as they took hundreds of pictures of her.
"I'm sure you all have questions, and we have time for just a few, so let's get started," my father said, suddenly bombarded with his name being called out in shouts and yells. He pointed to a young lady in the first row.
"Mr. Cullen, is it true that Charlie Swan's death was a mob hit?"
"That isn't for me to say," he answered smoothly, "but I've been assured that the police are looking into the man that was responsible. Next," he said, choosing an older man off to the left.
"Isabella," he called, "why has it taken you so long to come forward? Did you know that you'd been reported missing?"
She smiled at him, tucking her hair back. "I have only recently discovered that I was a missing person. However, I had my own business to run and had been out of contact for the last month. I wasn't missing, just on a case. When I finally was able to check in, it was Carlisle that told me about my father."
Left and right, for a solid ten minutes, the press spat questions at her and my father, and they both handled them smoothly. Some were interesting questions, others about King and the trial, but I found myself watching her and then scanning the crowd, only to allow my eyes to fall back to her again. By the time my father announced that the young man up front and center had the last question, I noticed that my girl's stance had frozen. Completely.
Her face had paled, and her hands were shaking as she reached to grab my father's coat sleeve. In fact, it looked like her knees were about to buckle.
"Something's wrong," Rose whispered to me. "Look at her. And look where she's staring, Edward."
"I know," I said with a nod, trying to find patience for that last question asked – some inane fucking thing about profits and losses and would this change in power be beneficial.
When my father answered the question, I could tell he knew something wasn't right with her because his answer was stilted and generic.
"That's all the questions we have time for, but we want to thank you for coming," he rushed out, immediately trying to turn Bella around, but she wouldn't be turned.
"Bells, what is it?" he asked her as I walked to them.
"Baby, you okay?" I asked her, trying my damnedest to make her look at me.
Maybe I wasn't really expecting anything to happen the first day, but I was wrong. Of all the names I expected to hear her say, it sure as fuck wasn't the one she barely squeaked out.
"Miller," she breathed, her eyes staring across the street – not just staring, but it looked like she was fucking hypnotized.
"I'm going to kill that motherfucker," I hissed, looking around as I placed a hand on Bella's shoulder.
"Oh-shit, oh-shit, oh-shit," Alice whispered in my ear. "She's right. He's right there."
"What?" my father asked her, but I was already on it.
"Fucking talk to me now! All of you!" I growled, trying to look around the scattering press and onlookers. I turned to Bella, making sure she actually saw me. "Baby, we've got you," I told her, but in the earpiece, I wanted answers – yesterday. "Alice, talk to me. Where the fuck is he?"
"Across the street. Under the awning..."
"Mickey, Jasper..."
"Already on it," Mickey muttered, making her way down the block.
Jasper strolled slowly to the crosswalk, acting casual, but as I started to take off, my father grabbed the front of my shirt.
"You bring that fucking son of a bitch...to me!" he snarled, his eyes on fire. "Go, Edward. He doesn't get away..."
"No!" Bella gasped, looking up at me and then Carlisle.
"I've got you, Bells," he said, trying to soothe her, but I knew she wouldn't be okay until I got back. "Go, Edward. The fucker hasn't even moved. He has no fear. Teach him about it," he commanded. From his reaction, I could tell Bella was scaring him.
I glanced up, looking for Emmett, but he was already there. "They go straight upstairs. No one goes in, no one fucking comes out!" I gestured to my father, Rose, and Bella – my poor girl was just about to shake to death – and Emmett nodded, looking like an angry giant. With one last lingering touch down my girl's arm, I took off.
"I'm gonna need you, Alice," I stated, forgoing all crosswalks and darting around the remaining members of the press, who by now had noticed something was going on.
"I'm already in the Department of Transportation website. We're gonna use the red light cameras, Edward, but the asshole hasn't moved. He's just—"
"Staring," I growled, finally getting my first real glimpse at the monster Bella fought in her dreams.
He was leaning casually against the brick wall of a small cafe across the street. He was thin, with light hair and a scar across his chin – all things that Makenna had made sure she drew to perfection so that we would recognize him. The asshole had hidden himself in the shade of the cafe's awning. The worst part of looking at him was knowing for a fucking fact that he'd touched my girl, that he wanted to kill her. It made me sick. It made me murderous, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on this fucker.
When I turned to follow his line of sight, I could've snapped right there in front of the press and civilians. He was just glaring Bella's way as my father, Rose, and Emmett guided her inside Twilight Tower. The very thought of him reliving, relishing all the fucked-up shit he'd done to her made my stomach churn and my fists clench.
To my left, Mickey was making her way down the sidewalk, and to my right, Jasper had just crossed to the corner, turning toward us.
The asshole finally broke his eyes away from the front of the building, looking up at me, to his right, and then his left, but it was Mickey that got his attention. It wasn't all that surprising that Mickey got his attention. She was just about the same size as Bella, with hair a shade darker and much more curly.
"Hey, pal," she sneered, walking a little faster. "Rumor has it you like beating up girls!" Her smile didn't come anywhere near her eyes. "Come on, give me a go, why don'tcha?"
Miller stood up straight with wide eyes, slinking along the wall when he realized he was being closed in on. Just before Mickey could get to him, he backed up two steps and bolted for the alleyway.
"J, take the other street! See if we can't corral him," I commanded, pointing for him to go the other way.
Mickey and I took off, giving chase.
"If he turns, you gotta tell me, man," Jasper breathed as he ran.
"We're heading west up this alley, and he's a fast little slimeball," Mickey told him as we dodged dumpsters and piles of garbage.
Miller took a quick right, cutting across a parking lot; it looked like he was heading for a small park.
"North, J," I panted, running as fast as I could. "He's head toward the park."
"Yes, sir. I'll cut up."
"Edward," Alice said in my earpiece.
"Go ahead," I grunted, hurdling a flower planter to enter and landing next to some picnic tables. I could still see the asshole ahead of me, pushing women and little kids out of his way to get through.
"Alec isn't far from you. He wants to know where you want him. He and Eleazar were on their way back to the tower, and they want to help you get that monster."
"Heading northwest through the park. I need him ahead of me. He needs to cut him off!"
Miller exited the park, taking a left into another alleyway between two rather tall buildings.
"We just crossed Pine," Mickey panted. "He's trying to lose us in the apartments, Alice."
"I see him," Alice replied, and I could see what the little pixie was trying to do; she was manipulating the lights so that traffic would slow Miller down.
We crossed one more street, and I was almost hit by a taxi as we continued down another dark alley. In fact, I had to slide across the hood of it just to keep from getting clipped. Just as we came out on a fairly busy street, an SUV came out of nowhere, just barely catching Miller's leg and causing him to roll in the street, but the fucker launched to his feet and kept running.
"Dammit!" the driver growled, and when I ran by, I saw that it was Alec.
"Keep going, keep going!" I snapped, gesturing for him to go around the block because the truck wouldn't fit down the alleys.
My legs and lungs were on fire, but I pushed on because ahead, I could see a dead end. I thought we had him until he dove for the fire escape and scrambled his ass up.
"He's going up!" Mickey and I yelled.
Mickey rattled off the address as we passed the front of the building.
I jumped up and grabbed the ladder, reaching for her and practically throwing her at it, but she took it all in stride and hurried up to the first level with me right behind.
"Jasper," Alice called over the radio. "Take the building you're next to, climb to the roof. You should only be three buildings away from them. Maybe you can catch him in the middle."
"On it," he answered her.
"Eddie," Emmett crackled in, "we're where we need to be. And we're good. Just...get a hit in for me, will ya?"
"Got to fucking catch his ass first, Em," I growled, looking up to see Miller clamber over the roof wall. "If we can get a clear shot, I'm gonna shoot his feet off so he can't run any-fucking-more."
I heard chuckles from Em and Alice and breathless snorts from Jasper and Mickey. We were running out of steam and places for Miller to go.
"Then...I'm gonna recreate every fucking scar Bella has..." I sneered, looking up at Mickey as she pulled me up onto the roof.
"Strap his ass to a table for three days?" Mickey asked.
"At least," I grunted, catching a glimpse of the little fucker jumping to the next roof. "Dammit," I growled, shaking my head. "Jasper, he's heading your way, man."
"I see him," he whispered, but I heard him grunt hard. "Fuck, that was close! I'm getting too old for this shit," he mumbled. "Jumping buildings, chasing assholes, and a partridge in a pear tree..."
Mickey laughed, slamming into the far roof wall when we reached the other side. "He's right there," she whispered, pointing to the next building. "And I see J. We've trapped him in the building between us."
I pulled my Glock, but I didn't have a shot. I was too far away.
"J, we need to get onto that roof at the same time. You got one more jump in you?" I asked him over the headset.
"Yeah, on three, Ed," he huffed, taking a deep breath. "One..."
I backed up, trying to get the best spot to jump over. "Two..."
"Three!" we yelled together, and I took off, leaping at the last possible second in order to make it to the next rooftop.
Jasper and I both landed with a grunt, but my tired legs gave out, and I rolled once before standing back up. We were able to both converge on Miller, who was looking over the side of the building.
"By all means, jump," Jasper panted, pulling out his gun, flipping off the safety, and arming it with swift, practiced movements. "It makes shit a helluva lot easier on us."
I pulled back the hammer on my gun with a loud click, and Miller's eyes shot to mine. "On your knees, asshole," I snarled, taking another slow step toward him.
The jackass wasn't even scared. He had two guns aimed at him by two men that outweighed him by at least forty pounds each, not to mention who were several inches taller than him, but the fucker smiled. He fucking smiled. It was slow and creepy as he backed up against the wall of the roof.
"You think this is fucking funny?" I snapped, but he ignored me, looking once more over the edge of the building.
"I really hope he jumps. For his sake," Jasper added with a snort, still catching his breath. "I do not envy what you'll do to him."
"I haven't decided yet," I chuckled stiffly, my lungs still feeling like they were filled with lead. My legs were shaking as Miller turned again to look over the side of the building.
"And that's where you've made your first mistake," Miller finally spoke, turning to face me. "You should have killed me when you had the chance, but now...I'll still get to finish what I started with Miss Swan."
"I don't fucking think so," I said, losing my last thread of patience with this guy. I took one more step and pulled the trigger. Wanting to only maim him, I aimed low at his leg.
Miller cried out, falling to one knee as he held the through-and-through wound.
"You don't get death your way! You get it...mine!" I snapped, walking toward him.
There was a part of me that didn't even want to touch this pile of shit, but the other part of me, the man that saw every scar, every tear, and every nightmare of the beautiful girl he loved, wanted to tear this man apart slowly, painfully, and with so much fucking pleasure, it scared me.
Jasper and I walked to him, and just as we were about to reach for his shirt, he flung himself over the edge. We rushed to the side, expecting to see his splattered remains in the alley below, but I watched in fascination as he slid down one of those construction chutes, landing roughly and ungracefully right by a waiting car. He was in it and down the street before we really comprehended what we'd seen.
"Alice," Jasper growled in the earpiece, "he's in a blue Toyota, heading south down the alley between Ocean and Fourth."
"I see him," she said, typing away. "Alec, you're two blocks from him. Turn left and then right!"
"Fuck!" I snarled, balling up my fist and punching the closest thing to me, which thankfully, wasn't the brick wall, but an air conditioning vent. It collapsed under my hit.
I listened with fascination as Alice tried her damnedest to guide Alec, but the guy slipped down a few alleys that were blind to her, and they lost him when he finally came out at a main intersection, lost in downtown traffic.
Miller was fucking gone.
"Goddamn it!" I growled, running a hand through my sweaty hair. I pulled my sunglasses off, and they shattered in my fist so I tossed them to the rooftop.
My father's voice came over the radio. "Edward, get back here. Have Alec pick you up, son," he said, his voice calmer than I expected, considering the fact that I'd failed to do what he asked.
"Yes, sir," I muttered, getting a pat on the back from Jasper.
"Hurry, son. Bella needs you..."
"Fuck! Bella," I sighed, feeling like an asshole as I looked over at Jasper because I'd totally forgotten about her reaction to seeing Miller. "You tell her I'm coming. Put the radio in her ear if you have to, okay?" I asked, somehow finding the strength to run to the fire escape.
"Just...hurry, Edward," he urged as Jasper and I made our way down to the street.
Alec pulled up a few minutes later, and Eleazar, Eric, and Felix made room for me, Jasper, and Mickey to climb in. I sat back, my head falling to the head rest as I took a deep breath and let it out.
"He'll come back, kid," Alec sighed, pulling out on the street. "Sounds like he couldn't stop himself from coming."
I nodded, just looking out the window.
"Hey," Eleazar said beside me, placing one of his large hands on my shoulder. "Bella's safe, and that's the most important thing right now. Got me?"
"Yeah," I muttered, nodding again and suddenly feeling an ache to see her that I couldn't even express. "Just...get me back to her."
Alec grunted that he'd heard me, taking the next turn. "You got it, kid."

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