Friday, March 30, 2001 | By: Drotuno

Blood & Glory Chapter 15

CHAPTER 15
EDWARD
"Wake up, sleepyhead," I whispered into Bella's ear, placing a long kiss just below it.
"No," she grumped but reached up to thread her fingers into my hair. "I don't want to."
I smiled, burying my face into her sweet-smelling neck because it hadn't taken two hours after leaving the cabin before she admitted she was too tired to drive. Not that I could blame her because the last forty-eight hours had been really rough, with very little sleep for anyone.
I wasn't complaining, either, because her car was a sweet ride and a hell of a lot of fun to drive. It was almost as fucking sexy as she was, and that was saying something.
"Where are we?" she asked, not looking up or opening her eyes but nuzzling closer to my face.
"The ferry, love," I whispered. "And I hate to admit it, but you gotta take the wheel for a bit. Can you wake up enough for that?"
She groaned, shifting in her seat, finally opening those gorgeous brown eyes to look at me. "Buy me a cup of coffee, Mr. Cullen, and we'll talk about it."
I chuckled and nodded. "Yes, ma'am. Though you should know that once we're over the Canadian border, Carlisle wants to stop for dinner and a meeting. He's not going the whole way with us but wants to make sure we get through the check point first."
"'Kay," she said with a yawn, stretching adorably and opening her door.
She joined everyone else, the wind blowing her hair back, and I had to fight the urge to pull her back into the car and do whatever things she would allow me to do. It had taken all the strength I possessed to not ravish her when she'd stood up to my father about my mother's cabin. Everything in me. I knew I'd scared her with my actions, but had I kissed her, touched her the way I'd wanted to, I truly would have scared her and most likely ruined the boundaries we'd worked so hard to cross.
Bella got it, though. She understood it when we were just kids, and she still understood it. She just handled it differently than I did. She relished fun memories of her mother, but the fun memories for me were hard because while my dad had been in the service, it was just me and my mother. She was all I had for the most part growing up, and losing her had wrecked me.
I took a deep breath of cool sea air to clear my head. Bella had said that she'd wanted to hear about my mother, but we hadn't said much on the trip so far. I wasn't opposed to telling her anything because Bella never made me uncomfortable, but I was nervous as to what emotions speaking about my mother would bring out in me.
I watched as all of the women followed each other around the side to the restrooms together, and I made my way inside to get the coffee she wanted.
"Hey, sweetie," a raspy voice chuckled, making my head spin from where Bella had disappeared around the corner to look at a woman that had to be in her mid- to late-fifties. "What can I get ya?" she asked, giving me a big smile with a sparkle in her eye.
"Two coffees, please...cream and sugar," I requested, tossing a bill on the counter and resuming my ever-watchful gaze out the window.
Bella and Rose came back around the corner, all smiles and laughter, and I couldn't help but smile with them because they were such a tight group of girls – all four of them, really. It was like they knew what the other was thinking, what the other was going through. Again, my thoughts went back to those same girls standing up to my father, to stop him from burning down my mother's cabin.
"You're all set, honey," the woman said behind me, sliding two paper cups my way. "Pretty girl," she commented softly.
I smiled, looked over at Bella chatting with "her girls" and then back up to the woman behind the counter. "Yeah," I said with probably the goofiest grin I'd ever worn.
She chuckled. "Have a good day, lover boy."
"Thanks," I snorted, rolling my eyes at my own behavior, but I couldn't help it.
I stepped out the door of the ferry's concession counter and took a long look around. Something was making me uneasy, and I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Directly in front of me, the girls – which now included Mickey – were all laughing around Bella's car while she pulled a sweatshirt out of the trunk. To my right, my father and Esme were talking quietly as they leaned on the ferry's railing. Emmett and Jasper were walking my way, but they were obviously picking up the same feelings I was.
"Something's off, Ed," Jasper whispered, his brow furrowing as he surveyed the ferry like I was. "I feel like we're being watched or some shit..."
"No kidding," I growled.
"Shit, shit, shit," Emmett breathed, but he wasn't looking at us.
"You sound like Alice," I chuckled, turning to look at him, but what he was glaring at made my heart stop.
"Fuck," I snapped, staring at a drawn rendering of my own fucking face.
There was a missing persons sign on the side of the concessions stand – one of Bella, and one of myself. Both stated that we were wanted for questioning. And if the lady that had made my coffees could notice Bella, someone else could, too.
"Dammit," I growled, walking away from Emmett and Jasper toward Bella, whose conversation ended abruptly when she saw my face.
"Edward, what's wrong?" she asked, tugging on her sweatshirt.
"We have to hide our faces, Bella," I told her, reaching to the back of her shirt and tugging the hood up over her head. "There's a sign with our faces on it on the wall over there."
"Shit," she sighed, reaching back inside the trunk of her car and pulling out my baseball cap. "Here," she said, handing it to me, and I tugged it on backwards.
"Come on," Rose said, taking Bella's hand. "We'll hide you in numbers, though you could just sit in the car."
"I need to wake the fuck up," Bella snapped grumpily, which only made us all chuckle at her.
I quickly handed her the cup of coffee I'd gotten her.
"Thank you," she grumbled.
"This way, then, sunshine..." Rose laughed, rolling her eyes.
Toward the back of the boat, there were a few benches that faced the railing and one in the corner. They were set off by themselves, and that seemed to be where we were heading. Arranging me and Bella in the corner, everyone else sat around us, just to block anyone's view.
"It's always something," Bella sighed, fighting her smile but looking out over the water.
"No shit," I muttered, taking a sip of coffee.
I straddled the bench, and Bella sat in front of me, facing the water, her back to everyone else. We were comfortably quiet for a few minutes, as our friends chatted amicably around us. I watched Bella close her eyes and breathe deep the sea air, reminding me of several trips with my mom because where we were going was a place I'd been coming to since I was a baby.
"My mom loved this ferry," I said softly, looking down at the wake the boat was leaving in the water. "She liked the sea air."
I felt Bella's eyes on me. "My mom did, too. She swore one day that she was going to make Charlie move to Florida," she giggled, shaking her head.
I smiled and nodded. "Yeah, mine had no complaints living in California."
Bella shivered, and I opened my arms. She curled into my chest, letting me wrap my jacket and arms around her.
"Drink the coffee, baby," I whispered, placing a kiss to her temple as she nodded slightly.
"I'm not sure I would have liked Florida," she mused out loud, "but I'd go...just to have her back for one day..."
I frowned, squeezing her closer, because I knew that feeling intimately. "Yeah...just one more conversation."
"Exactly," she sighed, pressing her forehead into my neck.
We were quiet again for a minute before I blurted out a question I regretted almost instantly. "What would you ask her?"
She snorted, and it sounded bitter and callous. "How she could be so selfish and leave me. How what my dad did to her overrode her daughter's future. I was fucking eight years old! Didn't she think that I would need her?"
I winced, turning her face to look at me. "I didn't know... I'm sorry I asked."
"Don't be. I found out later – recently, actually – that Charlie cheated on her. It must have shattered her. He was...everything to her."
"Not everything, Bella," I countered with a shake of my head, thinking I didn't know what was worse – my mom taken away too soon because she was sick and it was out of her control, or Bella's mother taking her own life because she was too sad to face reality.
Both fucking sucked, if you asked me.
"Your dad's a fucking idiot, Bella," I growled, rolling my eyes at her snicker. "He is. He's a fool for many, many reasons."
"He was a man of privilege, Edward. He was a man with a lot of money, a lot of power, and it all went to his head. I'm not sure if Carlisle didn't keep him grounded, to be honest. I can't imagine what he'd have been like had you guys not moved closer." She shrugged. "I was twelve and saw the change. I heard phone calls and, as I got older, ran into your dad at the office on the rare occasion. He was always chastising Charlie for something or other," she chuckled.
I grinned, wishing now that I hadn't gone to military school, that we'd have been able to grow up together. "My mother used to say she was my father's moral compass. Maybe it all finally sank in!"
Bella laughed and nodded. "Maybe, but I could always tell when Carlisle had visited because Charlie would come home and try to spend time with me. But Jane and I had a routine, you know? Still, she did her damnedest to accommodate the addition of him on our movie nights or our homework projects."
"Did you always know that my dad was your godfather?"
"Mmhm," she said with a nod and a smile. "Yeah, definitely. Did you know that Charlie was yours?"
"No!" I laughed. "That would have been good info to have."
"Well, Charlie mentioned it once," she told me. "I guess the last time Carlisle went overseas or something. Maybe he knew your mom was sick. It was before I met you, obviously, but he was worried."
"Ed," Jasper hissed, and when I spun to look at him, his eyes flickered to a security guy making his rounds. "You'd better hide your faces."
I felt fingers on my jaw turning my head back to Bella's amused face. "Kiss me," she said with a silly grin and a giggle.
"Now?" I laughed, but damn if I didn't want it, thanks to that little smirk she was wearing. I wasn't big on PDA, though.
"My hood will hide us, silly..."
I was on it because I watched that tongue of hers glide across her bottom lip slowly, and suddenly, our audience didn't matter. In the past few weeks, they'd all gotten used to it anyway. There was some unspoken rule that if they didn't say anything about me and Bella, we wouldn't say anything about Jasper and Alice or Emmett and Rose. And there was plenty that we could've said.
The problem wasn't kissing her or hiding from the guard – it was controlling ourselves, which was becoming more and more of a problem for me. One taste of her, one sweet whimper pushing against my cheek, and I fucking wanted her. It only took one touch of her hand on my face – or in this case, one grip to my shirt, pulling me closer – one gliding caress of her tongue against mine, and I was fighting every urge I had. I'd never loved anyone the way that I loved this woman, and I fought the urge to prove it in every way. It was all I could do to abide by her boundaries, but I'd never fucking hurt her, and that was always what stopped me.
I barely heard the catcalls behind us, barely registered when they called it all clear, because my hand had found the edge of the skin on her stomach. I heard her moan deeply, but I didn't pull away. We'd been there before and conquered that fucking fear, so I touched her there as often as she'd let me. My touch was now the only thing that I wanted her to feel, though we still had a few more fears to face.
Our friends were cracking the fuck up when my father walked up on us.
"It's time to load up, guys. We're docking now." He chuckled, and I pulled back from Bella, licking my lips.
"Love you," she whispered, biting that bottom lip.
"Mmhm, got me busted," I said with a snicker, kissing her nose before helping her up off the bench. "I used to be the tough guy. I used to have a reputation to uphold."
"Tough guys can be good kissers, too, Edward," she teased, glancing at me out of the corner of her eye. "And being a jerk isn't a reputation; it's a personality flaw..."
I laughed, pushing her to follow my father. Ignoring the last part of her verbal jab because she was right, I decided to focus on the first part. "You think I'm a good kisser?"
"Really, Edward?" She laughed, looking up at me and coming to a halt by her car. "Has that ever been a worry prior to this moment...right here?" she asked, poking her finger on the roof of her car.
"No." And I shamelessly laughed because she could shove back at me just as hard as I pushed at her.
"Then shut up!" she scoffed, rolling her eyes at my shameless grin.
Just before we got in, my dad stopped us all. "There's a restaurant just off the main highway. It's right after the border. We'll stop there. And Alice, they have Wi-Fi," he added, raising an eyebrow at her.
She grinned, nodding, and climbed up into Jasper's truck. She was so short, it was comical to watch. When she saw me laughing, she flipped me off and stuck her tongue out at me.
"Come on, hot lips. Quit making fun of shorty back there," Bella chuckled, starting her car once the ferry had completely stopped.
"I can show you hot lips, love," I purred, leaning across the center console of the Mustang. "Anytime...mmm-mmm...any place," I crooned, looking her up and down and licking my bottom lip, just to watch her fight her smile.
"I know you can...but it's gonna be a long drive to Alaska, baby," she sang, pulling out after Emmett. "A long, long drive..."
~oOo~
BELLA
I could tell the border cross was making everyone nervous, but not as nervous as Carlisle. He had secured a specific entry point for us through Benny, but that didn't mean someone else wouldn't recognize me or Edward from the signs that seemed to be posted here and there.
The fact that Carlisle also made sure that it was sunrise when we crossed was brilliant on his part because wearing sunglasses helped hide our faces. But as always, Ben came through... While some cars were detained or asked more in-depth questions, we were practically waved through.
My breathing finally calmed down by the time we all parked in the restaurant's parking lot about an hour later.
"Hey, Edward," I whispered, brushing his hair from his forehead. "We're here."
He'd fallen asleep just about the time we'd driven over the Canada border and had slept damned hard up until I turned the engine off. I hated to even wake him because he looked so sweet, so peaceful.
"Where?" he mumbled, his brow furrowing and his eyes squinting as he looked around.
"Your dad wanted to stop, remember?"
"Yeah," he said with a wide yawn, which in turn made his eyes water and turn so very, very green.
"Come on, sleepy," I chuckled because he was pushing his adorable limits for me. "Dessert's on me."
"Mm," he rumbled, rubbing his face roughly only to shove his hand through his hair. "Can dessert be you?" His sexy, crooked smile just made me bust out into a giggle and roll my eyes.
"Oh, Edward...the things I could do to you with just syrup," I teased him with a wink, getting out of the car.
I wanted to laugh as he almost fell out of the passenger's side seat, slamming the door behind him in order to catch up to me. "Baby, wait," he gushed, pressing into me from behind as I reached the entrance. "Like what?"
"No way...I can't give away my secrets," I sang, opening the restaurant door.
"Y-You..." he sputtered, raising an eyebrow at me and pointing his finger. "Y-You're the d-devil."
I smirked at that delicious stutter of his, shrugged, and left him to his thoughts as I joined everyone else. We took over a back room, closing ourselves off from the rest of the diners. Just before I sat down, I felt warm lips at my ear.
"One day, Bella," he warned, his voice husky, sexy, but full of that commanding thing he always carried on the surface. "One day? There will be nothing to hold us back, baby. No fears, no scars, no clothes...nothing, because you're getting better, whether you admit it or not. And I'm going to show you...secrets. Secrets that will keep you...mmm...wet for days. Have you begging me to let you come. So...you bring your syrup...we can work with that, too."
"Sweet Jesus," I breathed, closing my eyes as his tongue ran up the edge of my ear.
My back suddenly felt cold because he was gone, pulling out chairs for the two of us with the sickest, sweetest, most innocent fucking expression on his face. And I immediately had the urge to punch him – or take him on top of the table; I wasn't sure which.
"Bells, you okay?" Carlisle asked, his brow furrowing as he studied my face – never mind that his son was laughing his ass off. "You look pale."
"Tired," I mumbled, falling into my chair. "I need coffee...and pancakes." I growled the last word, narrowing my eyes over at Edward, who was still laughing. "Ass," I muttered but smiled when he placed his hand on my thigh.
"Has Eddie pissed you off in some fashion, Miss Bella?" Jasper drawled, grinning at the two of us.
"What? Ed? No!" Emmett guffawed, practically falling out of his chair with laughter.
"Nothing I can't...handle," I said with a big smile at Edward, who opened his mouth to say something, but I stopped him with a shake of my head. "Just...don't. Just quit while you're ahead, Edward."
Grinning, he nodded and picked up the menu. His torturing of me was over – or at least, paused for the moment.
Our waiter interrupted us to order, and Carlisle waited until the food was actually in front of us before saying why we were all there. "I want us all on the same page before I leave you here," he stated, looking up and down the table. "So tell me what you know." He sighed, turning to Makenna. "How many faces were taken down, Mack?"
She grinned and said, "We had nine on the wall...well, ten with Miller, but we removed five of the big faces in King's army – or they had an unfortunate accident on a curvy road in Trinity." Her false innocent clarification was hilarious, but she kept going. "Miller's still public enemy number one, with the Savages – both Paul and Peter – Dale Young, and Wes Michaels."
"Good. That's helpful because aside from Miller, the rest aren't that high in King's rankings," Carlisle sighed. "James Hamilton's death will shock Royce King to his very foundations. He was the only heir he had because King's wife, Mary, can't have children."
"Then why is Miller running his shit?" I growled, glaring at Carlisle. "Shouldn't his nephew have been doing it?"
"James's mother," he stated with a nod. "Sasha Hamilton knew what her son was so she took him out of the lifestyle for years. Her failing health is the only reason he was back to work."
I huffed but accepted it. "Well, this will surely kill her..."
Edward snorted with a nod but turned to his dad. "What about Billy? Is he ratting you out?"
"Well, that's what Alice is here for," he said, pointing down to the end of the table, where my pixie was busy eating with one hand and typing with the other; it was quite something to watch, actually. "What have you found out?"
"I found that, despite the fact that TT owns Global Cellular, Billy Black uses another company to make all of his calls," she stated with that knowing tone to her voice. "And if he did that on purpose, then he knew that his calls were being monitored by King – or at least, one of King's men." She sighed, turning the computer so that we could all see it. "Now, I started this program a couple of days after your message to look into his spending habits," she told Carlisle, who nodded slowly. "I'm not quite sure what to make of it because he's not only taking money in, but he's paying it right back out. And I don't mean his paycheck and his bills."
Carlisle's nose wrinkled as he studied her screen. "All overseas accounts?"
"Yep, yep, yep," she chanted, pointing to the screen. "Except for this one..."
"Only cash withdrawals," Carlisle mused, rubbing his bottom lip. "And always on the same day of the month."
"He's paying someone off, isn't he?" I asked, looking from Alice to Carlisle, both of whom were nodding solemnly.
"Yeah, but for protection or to keep them quiet?" Edward added, sitting back in his chair.
"Once a month makes me think protection," Jasper mused with a shrug. "I mean...if someone wants to blackmail you, they'll ask for a lot of money...all at once."
"Usually," Carlisle sighed. "What else, Alice?"
"Well, I did some checking on that redhead from the law office," she stated, and Makenna's head swiveled around.
"Victoria?" she growled, and I knew her well enough to know that because she'd been the one to warn me and Edward the day we were in the law office, she was invested in this woman.
Alice spun the computer back around so that she could read it. "Victoria Hunter. Current employee of Spencer, Wyatt, and Townsend as a legal assistant. That phone call she made was to a throw-away cell phone, so I have no idea who she tipped off that Bella and Edward were there. But after she recanted her story that James was stalking her a few years ago, she found herself in a nice apartment, driving a really nice Mercedes..." Her eyebrow twitched up. "Is she our undercover?"
"I have no idea," Carlisle stated with a firmness to his voice. "I've asked because I'd rather not have to kill a Fed, but Benny won't release a mere hint of the undercover agent – even whether they are male or female. Apparently, the person's position is tentative, and they can't risk anyone finding out."
"Ugh," I gagged. "What a case to catch. Not only is your life literally in the hands of the most notorious mob boss since Gotti, but she has to pretend to be his other woman!"
Edward chuckled. "That would've been you had you graduated from Quantico, Bella."
"Not a chance in hell," I huffed, shoving him. "I don't fake it."
Rose barked a laugh, practically choking on her soda. "Then how did you stay with Jake so long?"
"Wasn't home," I sang, rolling my eyes.
The whole table exploded into hysterics.
"Anyway," Carlisle snorted, giving me and Rose one last amused glance before turning back to Alice. "Is that everything?"
"So far," she stated with a shrug, "but I'll keep at it."
"Good work," he praised her, sitting back a bit. "Now, this is as far as I go with you guys, but I want you to know a few things about where you're going."
"Does Aunt Kate know the level of...importance she's about to let into her house?" Edward asked, his voice taking on such a serious tone, the whole table looked up at him.
"She's well aware, son," Carlisle said with a smirk. "Plus, I've pulled a few men from...retirement," he stated with a chuckle.
"Who?" Edward growled, glaring at his dad.
"Alec and Sam," he muttered.
"Oh," Edward sighed, his eyebrows high, but he visibly shuddered. "Sam's a scary fucker..."
"He's tough, yes," Carlisle laughed. "But they'll both be joining you guys in Alaska. Now...Kate."
"If she's family, won't we be found up there?" Alice asked, looking over the top of the laptop.
"She's not technically family," Edward explained with a snicker. "She was my mother's best friend since they were in school. They both married military men, so they became even closer. So any connection between her name and ours doesn't really exist."
"Well, Garrett and I set it up that way," Carlisle sighed, taking a sip of coffee. "We wanted to make sure that either family had a place to go...had someplace that was safe. And it was the main reason he moved them to Denali to begin with."
While Edward's crew was listening to this like they knew all about it, my girls and I were confused.
"And what happened to Garrett?" I asked, not really wanting to know.
"He was on my first crew after we retired from the Air Force. He was a sniper, like Jasper here," Carlisle said, smiling slightly as he gestured to the blond at the end of the table. "His last mission for me, he had a heart attack. Kate didn't even know he was sick. He hid it from everyone but had planned well. She doesn't want for anything."
"Anyway, Kate is the coolest woman!" Emmett gushed with his big boy smile. "She's like Katherine Hepburn, Aunt Bea, and Albert Einstein all rolled into one!"
Edward and Carlisle laughed, shaking their heads.
"The downside..." Jasper continued with a snort, giving Emmett a second glance, "is she lives literally in the middle of no-fucking-where. So she grows everything she needs and raises whatever meat she eats. It's a fucking farm, but it's pretty damn cool there."
"Don't think she's in the dark ages," Edward interjected, chuckling at Alice's wide-eyed, panicked gasp. "She's totally hooked up there – satellite, Wi-Fi, because she can't miss her cooking shows – so she's modern, too."
"And she's a helluva shot." Jasper laughed, his head falling back. "I swear, Garrett must've trained her."
"He did," Carlisle snorted, rolling his eyes, but his face sobered when he turned to Esme. "I want you to stick with Edward; he'll protect you...and if you need to get a message to me, then tell Alice. Okay?"
"Are you sure you should go back, Carlisle?" she countered him, looking fierce as she stood her ground.
We all took the hint and left the table, everyone tossing money down and giving them their privacy. Once we were all outside, Edward held his hand out for my car keys and then turned to everyone else.
"My crew," he addressed them. "You all know the way, right?"
"Sir," they called out, probably out of habit, but even Mickey was nodding.
"If we get separated, just head straight there...no phone calls, no stopping. Got me?" he asked, his voice taking that commanding thing again because I could see that when he separated from his father, all the responsibility – our safety, our concealment, our destination – all rested squarely upon his strong shoulders, and he didn't take it lightly. And God, it was hot and sexy and all things naughty that were running through my mind at the moment, but it also made me feel sorry for him because it was a lot of weight to be carrying around.
"Sir," they grunted again in agreement.
He seemed satisfied with their sincerity, and he turned to me. "Keys, love," he stated firmly.
I snorted, shaking my head and taking my keys from my pocket as I leaned against my passenger side door. Dangling them from the tips of my fingers, I purred, "Sir."
He huffed, rolling his eyes, and reached for my keys. "Bad habit, baby," he whispered. "Sorry."
"One day," I crooned, mimicking his sexy-ass rant in my ear from before our breakfast. "One day, you'll realize you aren't my boss."
He stepped closer to me, his feet on either side of mine, his weight starting to lean in on me as he braced his arms on each side of my head. His smile was crooked and sexy but also nervous and almost timid...while his eyes were dark and heavy-lidded.
"No, Bella. I'm well aware of who's in charge here," he said, his voice deep and carnal, all things that made my girly parts twitch.
"If that's the case," I chuckled, looking around as everyone climbed into their respective vehicles, "prove it."
"How do I prove it, baby?" he asked, reaching up with one hand to caress my cheek with his thumb.
"Kiss me."
He smirked wickedly, dragging his tongue across his bottom lip so slowly, I thought I'd scream from the sheer want of it.
"Ma'am," he grunted in a whisper before his mouth captured mine.
And just like on the ferry, we lost ourselves for a moment. My fingers hooked into the belt loops of his jeans, pulling him as close as I could. Edward's hand slipped into my hair, gripping it almost roughly as he turned my head, his tongue not just entering my mouth but claiming it.
We both moaned, our hips pressing together as we kissed against my car. When we finally broke apart, we were breathless, panting, with flushed cheeks. Edward pressed his forehead to mine, closing his eyes as he tried get himself breathing normally.
My own eyes filled with tears because as much teasing, flirting, and playing that we did, I still couldn't do all that I wanted to with him – and I so wanted to. I wanted to show him that I loved him, show him that I wanted him. I was tired of letting my fears win.
"I love you," I whispered, and I was met with concerned, but oh-so-vibrant green eyes.
"Love you, too. What's this?" he asked softly, wiping his thumb under my eye.
"I'm tired of being afraid," I sighed, looking into his eyes, which softened immediately.
"I will wait, Bella. Please know that. When you're ready...I'm here," he urged softly against my cheek. "Believe me, I want you – so much it's all I think about sometimes – but I can wait. I want to wait...for you. I told you that you're getting better all the time, despite what you believe."
I nodded, unable to say much else because since we'd met, the man in front of me – who had no patience for anyone else around him, it seemed – had endless patience, endless kind words, and made me feel that even though we were far from normal, we were perfect, safe, and right where we needed to be.
"We need to get on the road, love," he whispered, brushing his lips softly across mine.
We both turned when we heard Carlisle and Esme, who it seemed was still upset, coming out of the restaurant. In fact, she was several steps ahead of him as she walked our way.
"He's taking the BMW, so can I ride with you two?" she huffed, her eyes blazing with anger.
"Yeah, sure," we both muttered, looking over her head as Carlisle pulled her things from Edward's Challenger, which Mickey and Makenna were switching to.
"He's so stubborn," she muttered, rolling her eyes as he stepped up to her and kissed her cheek.
I fought my smile because of all of the couples that were slowly merging around us, they were the two I thought never fought, since they'd been together the longest; apparently, I was wrong.
"Es, I've told you I can take care of myself," he argued, looking uncomfortable at having this conversation around us.
"Yes, I'm aware," she huffed, her nostrils flaring, but we all jumped when she spun to face him. "Carlisle Cullen, you'd better, because I will call Eleazar if you don't."
He grimaced, shaking his head. "You don't have to call your brother. I'm just trying to stop Billy Black from ruining TT, and I want to be there when Charlie finally testifies. I can't do that in hiding, Esme, and you know it. I can't keep a watch over new developments in this situation...while fucking hiding."
To break the tension, I asked him, "You're going to court when Charlie goes?"
"I want to escort him as his guard," he said gruffly, breaking his gaze away from Esme. "Ben is trying to get it approved. Just because he gets on the stand doesn't mean he'll walk away. I can't let that happen."
I looked to Edward and then to Esme, because if there was a second person on this planet that I trusted my father's life with, it was Carlisle. The first was Edward.
"This time, Carlisle," Esme sighed, obviously giving up, "you'll send some sort of message everyday. Okay?"
"Yes, ma'am," he sighed, and I couldn't help but smile because he sounded just like his son.
"Love you," she told him, kissing him softly before climbing into the back seat of my car.
"Yeah...me, too," he told her, locking gazes with Edward. "I'll be in touch."
"Obviously," Edward chuckled, squeezing his shoulder. "I'll take care of her, Dad."
I hugged Carlisle, kissing his cheek. "Be careful. If you see Charlie...just...I mean...could you tell him..."
Carlisle leaned forward and kissed my forehead. "I will, I promise."
With a deep breath, we watched him walk away, and it gave me the most uneasy feeling. Could he take care of himself? And if something were to happen to him, would the two people that meant the most to me be able to handle it? I knew he was a capable man, smart, with an amazing sense of honor, but I just hoped that once this was all over, he'd still be there for us...for his son and Esme. That was the last thought I had before he turned south and we turned north, heading to Alaska.
~oOo~
It could've been a really long ride. It could've been really uncomfortable being in the same car with an upset Esme and an Edward that didn't feel comfortable speaking about his mother, whose best friend we were about to visit. It could've been filled with sexual tension because Edward and I couldn't stop touching – whether it was just holding hands or Edward's fingers on my knee, my thigh, my hair. But it wasn't.
Esme cooled down about thirty minutes after we pulled away from the restaurant. At first, I just let her be, but then, I just couldn't do it anymore. She'd never let me stew before, even when we were neighbors and I was pissed at Jake, so I started asking stupid but curious questions.
"It's really a farm where we're going?"
Edward grinned, turning his gaze from the road to look at me. "Yeah," he chuckled. "It's a pretty cool place. Aunt Kate's been growing her own vegetables for years. And she's got a few sheep, cows, and chickens, but she's most proud of her horses..."
"Yeah?"
"Mmhm," he snickered with a nod. "And her dogs...Huskies."
I smiled because he looked kind of happy when he talked about the place. When I looked to Esme in the back seat, she was smiling, too. She nodded her head for me to keep him talking, but I didn't have to.
"It's not what you're thinking. I mean, there is a barn," he said, talking more toward the road in front of him than us. "But the house is damn big. My mother helped her design it. It's a bunch of different wings, so when we'd come to visit, we'd have our own space. As my dad changed careers and Garrett joined him, she added on to it over the years so there would be enough room for his crew. It's like a compound," he chuckled, looking over at me. "You girls might hate it because we can't go anywhere – not that there's anywhere to go. The closest city is miles away."
"I'm sure we'll live," I laughed.
"When was the last time you visited, Edward?" Esme asked, leaning forward.
"Thanksgiving," he said softly, but his brow furrowed. "Fuck, I haven't even called her..."
"I'm sure she understands that you're busy," she soothed him.
"Yeah, but...M-Mom asked me to take c-care of her..."
God, I think I fell in love with him just a little bit more at that statement because holy hell, did everything have to rest on his shoulders? And I could see the guilt that he'd missed Christmas, New Years, and some other holiday he probably should've called her on, and I couldn't let him sink into it.
"What were they like together?" I asked, thinking he was a kid when they were last together, so his answer would be interesting.
"Like you and the girls," he snorted softly, his lips turning up in the corners. "They'd stay up late and gossip about people they knew. They'd listen to old music. They'd laugh and cook and make fun of bad haircuts."
I smiled, biting my bottom lip, because they sounded like any two best friends that were really close. They sounded like any two girls that liked to reminisce and revel in their friendship. He was right. They sounded like me and my girls.
"I wish my mom had had that," I sighed, looking out the window at the blurry landscape flying by. "She never really allowed herself friends...not close ones, anyway."
"What did your mom look like?" Edward asked suddenly, looking my way quickly and back to the road as he changed lanes.
"Are you asking me or the eight-year-old?" I chuckled, and Esme giggled beside me from between the two front seats.
"Either," he laughed.
"The eight-year-old would tell you she was beautiful, like a princess," I said, smiling in spite of the topic. "The grownup would tell you she looked like me, only I got Charlie's eyes. What about you?"
"Oh my goodness, if Edward doesn't look like his mother. I've seen pictures," Esme gushed with a laugh, patting his shoulder.
"I do," he agreed, running a hand through his hair. "Hair, eyes, everything. It's like my dad wasn't involved."
The conversation about moms and their funniest moments continued for miles, until my eyes started drooping and my yawns got bigger and wider.
Edward's hand caressed my face, running his fingers through my hair, and he said, "Get some sleep, love. We've got a few hours before we get there."
I nodded, curling up in my seat with a deep sigh. I heard soft conversation, but otherwise, everyone got quiet until I could remember no more. It seemed like just as I closed my eyes, gentle, warm hands were touching my face, and a cool breeze shook me out of my little bubble.
"Bella, we're here," Edward whispered.
I stretched as best I could in the car, opening my eyes to see him kneeling in my door. His eyes, though tired, were so very green, and framed with long, dark eyelashes as he looked at me with a sweetness that was almost breathtaking.
It was still daylight, even though it was kind of hard to tell, what with the clouds that covered the sky. I looked around, and I could see through sleep-fuzzy eyes that we were definitely on a farm. The air smelled sweet, like hay. There were sounds of animals and my friends' laughter. And then there was a squeal of happiness.
"Edward Anthony!" I heard from behind us, and I'd never seen Edward's head spin so fast. "You get that handsome face over here and give me a hug!"
He smiled sweetly, a tinge of color to his cheeks. "Aunt Kate," he chuckled, standing up but offering me his hand. "You'll like her, I promise," he murmured to me.
I didn't even have to say a word to her to know that was true. She wasn't a tall woman, but she was very pretty, with light brown hair that was swept up into a loose bun. She was wearing a tan jacket with a hood over a white shirt and blue jeans that had a few smudges of dirt on them. Her face was sweet, thin, but it was her light blue eyes that sparkled with love for the boy whose face she was reaching for.
"Look at you! You look more like Elizabeth every time I see you!" she gushed, smiling widely as she cupped both sides of his smiling face. "And I have to get an emergency call from Carlisle to see you?"
She kissed his cheek as he hugged her tightly, practically picking her up off of the ground.
"Sorry, Aunt Kate," he muttered, looking admonished.
"Don't you 'sorry' me, mister. A phone call would do," she huffed, rolling her eyes. "Now...where are my other boys?" she asked loudly enough that Emmett and Jasper could hear her.
"Right here, Kate!" Emmett boomed, rushing to her and swooping her up. "How ya doin', gorgeous?"
"Emmett McCarty, put me down...you brute!" she laughed. "If you're that strong, I've got chores for you!"
"You name them, Kate," he chuckled, setting her gently back down on her feet.
"Jasper," she snickered, giving Emmett one last wry smile. "How are you, sweetheart?"
"Just fine, ma'am," he drawled, smiling crookedly at her before kissing her cheek.
"And Michelle?" Kate asked, spinning in her spot.
And for the first time, Mickey didn't correct someone about her name. She hugged Kate with almost a reverence I hadn't been expecting.
"Are these boys still picking on you? And what the hell happened to your shoulder?" she asked, looking the poor girl over.
"Of course they pick on me, Aunt Kate," Mickey chuckled, shoving Emmett when he gave her a wet willy in her ear. "And it's just the job," she added with a stiff shrug.
"Ah, yes, the job," Kate snickered, looking around. "So let me meet Carlisle Cullen's goddaughter..."
"Aunt Kate...Bella Swan," Edward introduced, guiding me forward with his hand at the small of my back. "And her friends...Rosalie Hale, Alice Brandon, and Makenna Coleman." He paused for a moment, bringing Esme to the front. "This is Esme Platt."
For a split second, Kate's eyebrows flickered up, and I wondered if she would have a problem with someone seeing her best friend's widower. She shook Esme's hand gracefully, though, with what seemed like a genuine smile.
"It's nice to meet all of you," she said with a beaming smile and a clap of her hands. "Consider yourselves safe here. The entire property is surrounded by an electric fence. There are four good-size dogs that roam the entire area. I've got plenty of protection – two of my own, and two of Carlisle's old retired farts!"
Edward snorted, shaking his head, and raised an eyebrow at her. "You'd better not let Alec catch you saying that."
"Oh, poo!" she huffed with a wave at him. "My house...my rules...my insults. Now, let's get your things inside and get you settled. Every last one of you looks like they're about to fall down. Once you've rested a bit, I'm going to let Edward make up for all the missed holidays and help with dinner. It's been too long since I had a handsome man cook for me..."
He laughed but started to gather our things out of the trunk. Everyone else followed his lead. With a bunch of lugging and joking, the very large group of us made our way to the front door.
The layout of the house was almost like a spider, with a central living environment and several hallways jutting off to different rooms. Kate pointed down each hallway, giving us instructions.
"Edward, your room is the same. The rest of you can pick any room with an open door. And believe me, there are plenty, so please make yourself at home," she said cheerily.
Everyone broke away, heading down one hallway or another. I looked up at Edward, not wanting to vocalize that I wanted to stay with him, but I didn't know Kate's rules or whether he would want me with him so I grabbed my bag and hitched it over my shoulder. Before I could take two steps, there was a hand on my waist.
"Electric fence or not, your safety lies with me," I heard rumbling deeply in my ear. "Besides, I got used to my roommate."
I fought my smile because I really only felt safe to truly sleep when Edward was in the room, but when I looked up at him, I noticed he was wary.
"I want you w-with m-me," he sputtered with a shrug.
"Okay," I chuckled, unable to not melt when he stuttered.
"Okay," he huffed but broke out into a wide grin. "Take a right, then. Last door at the end of the hallway."
It was like walking into an apartment, minus a kitchen. There was a small sitting area with a desk, TV, a couple of chairs, and a sofa. There was a door on either side of the room, and Edward headed straight for the one on the left.
"My room," he muttered, opening the door.
I smiled, taking a look around the room that was very similar to his room in the mountain cabin. Dark furnishings, blue accents, and a few framed pictures on the wall of mostly scenery and Apache helicopters – from when he was younger, I assumed. But it was the photo on the dresser that caught my attention.
I set my bags on the bed and walked over to pick it up. It was the Edward I'd first met when we were kids, all arms and legs, with hair everywhere. He still had the baby cheeks, piercing green eyes, and his trademark crooked smile. Standing next to him was a woman that needed no introduction.
Elizabeth Cullen.
She was no less than stunning, giving every bit of that over to her son. She was looking at him like he was all that mattered as she wrapped an arm lovingly around him. They were standing in front of a paddock of horses from what looked like this very farm. Elizabeth was wearing a large floppy hat, her dark hair with rich bronze highlights gleaming in the sun as it cascaded down her shoulders.
"That was just before we found out she was sick," Edward muttered behind me.
"She's beautiful," I said, setting the picture back in its place.
"She was trying to get me to go riding," he chuckled. "I kept telling her no. Horses made me nervous 'cause they're so damn big. They could've killed me. I only weighed like eighty-five pounds then."
I giggled, biting my bottom lip as I studied the picture again. "Did you ever go with her?"
"Oh yeah," he laughed with a nod, his eyebrows raising up. "She made me fight through the fear. I'll have to ask Aunt Kate if Goliath is still around."
"Goliath?" I chuckled with what I was sure were wide eyes.
"Don't let the name fool you," he told me. "He's a big baby. In fact, I rode him the last time I was here. There are trails all through the woods out there...and that's still inside her electric fence."
I started unpacking a few things that I'd need for bed later, but warm hands stopped me.
"I want to show you around, baby," he said, running a hand through his hair. "Just let me get a shower to wake up, okay?"
I watched as Edward grabbed a set of clean clothes, a towel, and his shampoo before heading into the bathroom. The shower turned on, and suddenly, my thoughts were assaulted with visions of a wet, warm Edward standing under spray.
"Damn," I sighed, hopping up from the chair and walking to the door that led to the main hallway.
I tugged the door open, gasping when I ran almost smack dab into Aunt Kate.
"Oh, sorry," I yelped, closing the door behind me.
"Swan," she said, looking at me through narrowed eyes. "As in Charlie Swan's daughter...Renee Swan's daughter."
"Yes, ma'am. How do you know my parents?"
"Oh, I met them years ago. Carlisle invited them here for a vacation before you were born. Well, both you and Edward were on the way. Gosh, child! You look like your mother!" she gushed, taking my face in her hands. "But you have your father's eyes." She paused, tilting her head at me. "I'm sorry about your mother. I didn't know about it until years later...and now your father's in trouble."
I smiled, shrugging, but she kissed my cheek softly.
"You're in good company, child."
"Thank you," I told her, but I noticed as her eyes drifted past me to the door and her brow furrowed.
"Now, Bella," she huffed, her arms folding across her chest and frown curling down the corners of her mouth. "Why don't you tell me what you're doing in Edward's room?"
I gaped, looking from her to the door and wishing Edward would hurry up because I damn well didn't want to offend a woman that looked like she loved him like her own son. I also didn't want to sleep without him.
"I...I mean...we," I sputtered, looking her in the eye. "I love him."
Her eyes raised up high, but I could see her fighting her smile. "I know," she chuckled, wrapping an arm around me. "Carlisle kind of gave me a heads up..."
I sagged in relief, almost leaning into her. "I'm sorry we...I mean...after Edward found me, I sleep better with him near..."
"I know that, too," she said with a smile, leading me down the hall toward the main house. "Now...let me tell you all sorts of stories about our young Edward..."
Tuesday, March 27, 2001 | By: Drotuno

Blood & Glory Chapter 14

CHAPTER 14
~oOo~
"No arguing, Bella. Just follow me, and do what I tell you, okay?" he asked, but before I could answer him, his mouth was on mine, kissing me too roughly, too desperately.
We both spun when one of the perimeter alarms sounded. We left the bedroom, heading for the kitchen door, and Edward tapped his ear piece. "Open radio. I want to hear every last fucking thing! Got me?"
"Sir!" they all called out.
Edward took his gun in one hand and my hand in the other, and we we got ready to slip carefully out the back door – into what...I had no idea.
~oOo~
EDWARD
"Okay, Ed," Jasper breathed into my ear piece. "We've got assholes to the left of us, and assholes to the right. Tell me when I can start my target practice..."
"Just fucking tell me what's out this west side door, J," I huffed, cracking open the kitchen door slightly and pulling us back in. "We need to stop them from leaving. They're here...they'll die here," I growled. "I need to get to the shed."
I peered outside, seeing no movement in the dreary afternoon.
"Edward...Bells," Mack started. "There's two to the left of the door, and two to the right. You can't go out that way..."
"You can go out the deck door," Alice added.
"Gotcha," Bella said, tugging me with her.
"The first shots fired at me, J...you can open up hell, got me?" I growled, slowly sliding the deck doors open.
"Sir." he retorted, and I could hear him ready his gun, ordering Alice and Makenna to do the same.
"Eddie," Emmett called, "we've got company on the east side. Two. We've got four heading to the front door, Mick...with smoke canisters. You and Esme watch yourselves."
"Fuck," I sighed, turning to Bella. "We're surrounded. It's guns up or nothin'."
"Fine," she sneered, flipping the safety off on her nine mil. "Where to?"
"If we can get to the shed, there's at least cover enough for us to pick them off the side and back of the house."
"Good. Go!" she said with a nod, and we both darted out the back doors.
"Watch the corner of the house, guys!" Alice warned.
The very moment Bella and I stepped foot outside the house, all hell broke loose. I heard the shattering of glass, which I could only assume was the smoke canister they were aiming toward the front window. I heard Jasper's order to the girls to fire at will – and they did; the fucker that was hiding around the corner of the house fell to the ground as we ran by.
Shouts and screams rang out. Some were over the radio, with my team working seamlessly together, some were outside, but all were just chaos in my head. My goal was the shed because not only would it give us cover, but my father had a cache of guns in there.
Bella and I ran past a clump of trees, flattening ourselves behind them when shots ricocheted off the trunks.
"Shit," she breathed, aiming quickly and firing two rounds from between the limbs. "That's one," she muttered wryly. "We can take him down from the wall. O'Quinn or O'Hara or some shit..."
I grinned, kissed her head, and whispered, "That a girl! Four more yards, Alice. Cover us!"
"On it, on it, on it," she growled, and four shots zapped through the brush to our left. "You're good. Go now!"
"Emmett," Mickey growled as we dodged more stray bullets. "Where are you?"
"Under the house, Mick...give me five seconds!" he answered, grunting as it sounded like he hit the deck. "Fuckers," he muttered under his breath.
"Edward!" Alice and Bella both yelled as a guy popped up out of nowhere just as I reached the shed doors.
Alice, Bella, and I all fired at once, the guy shaking as he fell to the grass, and then Bella and I dove into the shed, slamming the doors behind us.
"Fuck me," she panted, leaning up against the corner.
"Kinda busy, love," I teased her, giving her a wink as she snorted at me.
"Just..." She waved her hand and rolled her eyes, still breathing heavily, but I could see her fighting the smile that was curling at the edge of her lips. "Just...weapons, Edward."
I smiled, moving the work table to the far side of the shed. There was a trap door underneath. My father had built it as a root cellar when the cabin was built, but as his career changed, so did the purpose of the little storage room.
I yanked up the door, flipped on the light switch, and then offered Bella my hand. I wanted her by my side the entire time.
"No fucking way, Edward," she gasped, her eyes wide as she glared at the basement. "I...I can't go down there. I don't give a fuck what's in there..."
I grimaced and nodded, realizing that it must have reminded her of Miller's basement. "Okay, but you've got my back up there, right?"
"Yes. But I'm not going underground."
"Then you shoot anything that comes near this shed, baby. I don't care what the fuck it is. If it moves, it's dead. Got me?"
"'Kay," she said, turning toward the small window. She lifted it slightly, aiming her gun through the opening.
I ran down the stairs, not wanting to leave her long at all. Along the back wall were automatic weapons. On the counters, grenades. It was the grenade launcher I was aiming for because those fuckers had driven up in SUVs, but they weren't leaving in them.
I shouldered the weapon, grabbing a bag of grenades, a few more clips, and three boxes of bullets. I tossed them into the bag I'd taken from my closet. I also snatched open one of the cabinets, revealing my father's safe. We had one in every home, including my own, and every fucking combination was the same – my mother's birthday. Inside were a few stacks of cash, phony passports for my father and me, and credit cards matching the fake identities. If we were on the run, we'd need to be different people, so I wasn't taking any chances; I emptied the fucker.
I heard Bella's gun fire off three quick rounds, and I popped up to make sure she was fine. She was – just looking pissed off.
"How many we got, baby?" I asked her, coming up the steps.
"There are three dead on the side, two at the back door. Alice, what's the front look like?" she asked, but it was Makenna that answered.
"We got two, four...six...eight left, all hiding behind those damned SUVs," she growled. "And fuck, Bellsy...I think that James guy is leading this shit!"
"Miller?" Bella and I both sneered at the same time, wondering if the asshole had been spotted.
"I don't see him, but there's money riding on who gets to shoot him..." Emmett chuckled darkly.
I snorted and rolled my eyes, believing every word. "How much we talkin'?" I asked, smirking at Bella's growl because she wasn't used to the shit talking Em and Jazz did.
"Fifty-K, bro," Jasper chuckled. "A high price for low scum, dude."
Bella smiled but said nothing as we got ready to leave the shed.
"That's my vacation money, boys," I growled. "That bastard belongs to me. Now...we're coming out this shed. How's it look between here to mine and Bella's drill point?"
"You've got one asshole..." Jasper started, but a shot rang out. "Never mind. Nice shot, Alice. You're clear. Go, go, go!"
I didn't wait for any more instructions; I just grabbed the door, made sure Bella was by my side, and took off for the tree we'd designated the day the alarms were installed. It was the very same tree I'd handed the beautiful brunette my heart, too.
We fell against the trunk, peering out over the front lawn from our location on the side yard. Makenna was right. All the little mafia cowards were hiding behind their SUVs. I dropped the bag to the ground, looking around the truck to survey the front drive.
"On the ready, Jasper...Emmett," I growled, setting the grenade launcher up between a vee in the trunk. "I'm about the turn the light on in the kitchen. It's time to step on the scattering roaches."
Bella readied her nine mil, aiming it the same way I was, but I had the bigger bang.
"On my mark," I said, lining up the first SUV in my sight. "Now!"
I pulled the trigger, and the grenade shot out, catching the driver's side window perfectly. The whole truck bowed in the middle when it exploded, coming up off the ground a few feet. A giant fireball bloomed into the air, but I was already lining up the next shot because I didn't want those fuckers gaining any ground whatsoever.
"Nice, Ed!" Emmett cheered.
My team fired rounds on the running men – Bella included. She took down a guy heading toward the side of the house; he was running blindly because his ass was on fire.
I shot again, taking the second SUV down, and this time, they scattered everywhere.
"Bella, one and two o'clock," I told her, and the men fell before they'd taken two steps. Hot damn, that girl was an awesome shot.
"Shit, I got a runner, Ed!" Jasper growled. "He's heading toward the last car... The last one, bro..."
I lined up quickly but didn't have a clear, clean shot. "Fuck," I snapped, turning to look around. "Bella, cover me. I gotta get out in the open for this one..."
She nodded, stepping with me, and aimed her weapon as I quickly lined up my shot. I could see five or six men start for the remaining truck, but I fired early because I was too afraid to have Bella out in the open, so instead of catching all their asses inside the vehicle, they were able to dive for cover.
"Get back behind that tree!" I told her as shots aimed our way, but instead of running, she fell.
"Shit!" she cried out, falling to the ground and grabbing at her leg.
I pulled her behind the trunk and knelt before her. "Where?" I asked, pulling at her hands that were gripping somewhere near her ankle.
"It's just a cut, Edward," she said, pulling her hands away. "It's bark from the tree. I'm okay." She sighed, looking up at me.
It didn't look okay. It looked like it hurt like hell as blood seeped through the leg of her jeans and down to her sock.
"Cover us!" I ordered into the radio, reaching for my bag for anything to tie around her calf.
I tugged out an old T-shirt, ripping a strip of material off of it. "Better safe than sorry, Bella," I told her softly, and for once, she didn't argue; she just leaned back against the tree and looked up at me wearily.
The shots around us started to get fewer and fewer as I tended to Bella's leg. I could hear changes over the radio, too. They were cleaning up, and Emmett barked that he was coming out from his cover to take a look at the damage. Jasper ordered Mack and Alice to stay in the attic, just in case, but he was heading out, as well.
Mickey and Esme called the front clear, but it seemed too quiet, too easy.
"Fuck," Mack muttered, whether to herself or to Alice. "I lost sight of James..."
Bella's eyes locked with mine, her face filled with concern.
"Do you think you can walk, love?" I asked her, and she nodded.
"Yeah," she sighed, starting to push herself up until we both heard the click of a hammer being pulled back.
"Well, it's good that she can walk. That makes my job easier," I heard behind me, but it was the cold metal to the back of my head that caused me to freeze. "Don't move, hero. One inch, and your girl will be wearing your brains...and she still comes with me. Mm, mm, mm...and the fun we'll have, Isabella..."
Bella looked sick at the nauseating tone of this asshole's voice.
"I don't fucking think so," I sneered, my eyes never leaving Bella's as her hand started to inch oh-so-slowly behind her. "I love you," I mouthed to her, hoping like hell that it wasn't the last time I got to tell her.
She smiled sweetly and nodded at me, looking up at the tree and back to me, her hand still working its way to the small of her back.
I felt a grip on my shoulder. "Drop the gun, Edward," he ordered, poking the back of my head for emphasis.
"Oh, look, baby," Bella sighed, sounding bored. "James has done his homework. He knows our names and everything. And here I thought that he'd be stupid, what with all that time he did in juvey..."
I smirked at her but dropped my weapon anyway because I wanted to take any focus he had on her and put it on me. I tossed my Glock away, and James kicked the grenade launcher across the grass.
"I can't line up a shot, Edward," Alice cried frantically in my ear.
"Shit!" I heard Emmett growl as he started to run. "I'm coming, man, but I gotta go the long way. He'll see me from a mile away, dude."
"I want you to stand up. Slowly," the asshole said, poking the back of my head again. "Then you're gonna turn around."
I gritted my teeth, my eyes still locked with Bella's. The way I was kneeling over her, James couldn't see her movements. If I stood, he'd see where her hand was. My fists clenched in my lap.
"You'll never make it off these grounds, James," I growled, looking over my shoulder, but he smacked my head with the butt of his gun. "Fuck!" I spat, squeezing my eyes closed.
"I said stand the fuck up!" he snarled, gripping the back of my T-shirt.
Bella moved so swiftly, I could barely see the movement. Her gun was now out from behind her back and by her side, under the rest of the ripped T-shirt I'd used on her wound.
I smirked and shook my head. I was completely and irrevocably in love with that woman. Jasper had called her bad-ass at one point. He was so fucking right.
As I stood slowly, I was putting every last bit of trust I had in the girl at my feet. If she moved wrong...if he caught sight of her hand or got twitchy, I was a dead man. Just before I turned away from her, though, I watched as her eyes broke from me. Her brow furrowed and then relaxed almost completely. She fought a smile – of all things – as she turned to look up at me.
"Do what he says, Edward," she urged, sounding frantic but not looking it. At all.
I made one last move to turn, but she mouthed, "Get down!"
I hit the deck as two rapid fires sounded, one right after the other. James screamed and fell next to me, still holding his weapon but obviously hurting. Pulling back my fist, I let it go with all I had, nailing the bastard in his mouth and knocking him senseless, his hand and weapon falling useless to the ground. It was kicked away before I could get to it.
Looking up, I couldn't help but smile. "'Bout time you got your ass back to work..."
"Shut up, son," my dad laughed, looking past me. "Bells, you okay?"
He was sweating, as though he'd run the whole way here from Seattle, still wearing a business suit. He looked pissed and worried, like he was carrying a heavy piece of news.
She let out a deep breath, struggling to stand, and we both took her hands to help her up. "Yeah, just...pissed off. That fucking hurt!" she growled, looking down at her leg.
We both snorted at her, but there wasn't anything that could stop me from pulling her into my arms. "Jesus fucking Christ," I breathed into her neck. "Don't you ever fucking scare me like that again!" I whispered fiercely in her ear. "Got me?"
"Sir," she sighed, and when I pulled back to look at her, she was smirking at me, but she also looked exhausted.
"Let's get her inside," my dad muttered, looking around at the damage. "I'll take care of this jackass. I have some questions for him."
I nodded, scooping up Bella into my arms, despite her protests.
~oOo~
BELLA
"Goddamn it!" Mickey growled, writhing on the living room floor.
"Easy, Mick," Jasper soothed, holding her hand as Esme plucked glass, bullet fragments, and bits of wood out of her shoulder.
Apparently, a stray bullet had caught the window frame right by her face. She was lucky as hell it hadn't been four inches to her left because it would have caught her in the head. She was also lucky that it didn't go in very far, and Esme was able to get to all the pieces – or at least, she was trying to get out all the pieces.
"Alice, Rose!" Edward barked, coming in the back door.
"Yeah?" they both called back.
"Pack as much shit as you can load into a couple of bags. This place is done, okay?"
"Okay," Alice sighed, closing both her laptop and mine, stowing them both in their bags.
She shot up from the table, following Rose down the hall.
"Don't even think about it, Bellsy," Emmett chuckled at me, looking up from my leg. "Let me at least get it cleaned up, and then you can fight Eddie on which luggage you're takin'."
Edward's head snapped around, and his eyes locked onto mine when I laughed. "Em, if she moves, tackle her back to the sofa. I'll get your shit, Bella."
"Damn," I laughed, my head falling back to the arm rest of the couch. "It's just a flesh wound!"
Emmett guffawed, starting to say, "Ni—" but Carlisle walked in the front door on the phone.
"Damn it, Benny, are you going to send a clean-up crew or not?" he yelled into the phone. "Well, fuck, I've got two of my own injured, and I've got to get them the hell outta here. And there are twenty-five of King's men dead on my lawn!" He listened for just a moment but huffed frustratedly. "They killed a local sheriff the second they drove up, Cheney!" he boomed, walking down the hallway.
From what I could piece together, Carlisle had parked off the main highway once he saw the fire from the SUVs Edward had destroyed. He ran through the woods the rest of the way, just in case, and he'd been brilliant to do so, because had I not seen him sneaking up behind James, I wasn't sure Edward would be alive at the moment.
"Where's James?" I whispered to Emmett, who was pouring peroxide on my leg and wiping away the dirt and grime from it.
"Don't ask... I think Carlisle and Eddie have him tied up in the shed."
I knew the bastard was still alive because my shot had caught him in the thigh and Carlisle's had caught him in the chest, but Edward had knocked him out with one punch. When Edward had picked me up to carry me inside, Carlisle and Jasper had grabbed a hold of James and dragged him away.
"I think they were politely asking the whereabouts of one Riley Miller," Emmett muttered sarcastically.
"James is dead," Edward stated bluntly, and there was no emotion, nothing in his voice to say that he could give two shits about it.
"King's only nephew is dead..." I verified, looking over at him as he knelt beside my head.
"It seems his femoral artery had been nicked," Edward said with a smirk and a shrug.
"Oops," I muttered, leaning into Edward's chuckling kiss to my head. "So you didn't find out where Miller was?" I asked, and even Emmett's head shot up from his wrapping of my leg.
"The only thing he would say was everywhere," Edward sighed, rolling his eyes. "A bit dramatic, but we couldn't get anything else out of him. No matter how much we...tried."
I shivered at the menace that surrounded his words. It was unapologetic and filled with malice and hatred. I loved the man kneeling beside me, but there was a part of me that didn't want to know exactly what methods he'd used in order to get information because Edward was determined to rid the earth of Riley Miller.
"It was probably better that way, Bellsy," Emmett said with a snort. "If James had actually gotten his hands on you, Edward wouldn't have been so...kind."
I grimaced, but one look at Edward's face told me that Emmett wasn't only right, he was putting it mildly; that didn't stop me from reaching out to the small cut on his head where James had pistol-whipped him.
"That's very true," Edward sighed, reaching up to tuck my hair behind my ear. "And I'm fine, baby," he whispered, taking my hand away from his temple and kissing my fingers.
We both turned when Mickey cried out again, and Edward got up to check on her.
"How ya doin', wild child?" he asked, kneeling next to her.
Esme was stitching her wound as best she could under the circumstances and staying calmer than the rest of the house as curse word after curse word flew from Mickey's mouth.
Edward chuckled and shook his head when Mickey spoke through gritted teeth. "Laugh it up, pretty boy. This fucker hurts. Esme was out of shit to numb it, asshole!"
The boys only chuckled at her, most likely used to her temper when she was hurt. She truly was their little sister, almost to the point that they picked on her.
I sat up on the sofa, swinging my legs gently to the floor. I carefully put weight on it, testing how badly it was going to give me trouble, but it wasn't too bad. I'd definitely had worse. I gingerly made my way to the hall, only to run into a seething Carlisle.
"Damn it!" he growled, looking like he wanted to throw the phone in his hand instead of pocketing it. "Edward!" he yelled, making me jump and almost fall back, but his hands caught me. "Sorry Bella," he sighed, righting me against the wall and looking sheepish for scaring the shit out of me.
"S'okay," I muttered, looking up at him. "You all right?"
"We need to get out of this house," he said, looking past me to Edward, who had run when he was called by his father. "We have to clean it ourselves. Benny's...occupied." He sneered that last word, and I wondered what the fuck else could be going on.
"Okay," Edward groaned, rolling his eyes, but pulled me to him. "Where you goin'?" he asked me, squeezing me gently.
"To get my things, Edward," I told him with a shrug. "I'm okay to walk."
He nodded, but he turned his attention back to Carlisle. "Alaska?"
"Kate's waiting for you."
"What do mean, me? You're not coming?" Edward growled, running a hand through his hair.
"I can't," his dad countered, shaking his head. "Twilight is a fucking mess..." He turned to me. "You were right, Bells. Savage squeaked through Charlie's screening process. He'd been monitoring every call you guys made. And Billy...well, I want to talk to Alice before we discuss him."
"Good thing we haven't used our cells, then," I added, looking up at him. "How'd... Why'd you come? Not that I'm complaining..." I trailed off, trying not to think about the sight of a gun pressed to the back of Edward's head.
Carlisle groaned, shoving his hands into his front pockets. "When you sent me the message about Savage, you sent a request of Benny, too."
"Yeah, I did," Alice said, poking her head out of the last bedroom. "I asked him to watch the property website for the whole state. I could've hacked it, but I figured he was watching it anyway for hits on any spelling of your family's names."
"Well, he was," Carlisle stated, but paused for just a moment to look at Edward. He sighed deeply before going on. "They had to move Charlie again..."
"No," I breathed, falling back against the wall as Edward's thumb on my neck made soothing circles, trying to keep me calm. "Tell me he's okay... Tell me!"
"He was roughed up a bit, but he's fine." Carlisle winced, shaking his head sadly. "Benny said they almost didn't get to him because it was a car bomb. How they found him is beyond me. The D.A. is looking to expedite the court date, but of course, King's lawyers are fighting it. I think they're hoping that if they take long enough, they'll eventually get to your father...or you," he said ominously.
"Won't happen," Edward sneered, looking up at his dad.
"You came damn close to losing her today," Carlisle countered, pointing a finger at him. "What the hell went wrong?"
"Nothing went wrong," Edward yelled back. "A fucking local cop was doing door to door questions. The assholes followed him right in..."
Carlisle grimaced but nodded in acceptance of Edward's explanation. "Yeah, that's kind of what Benny expected. When you two were spotted in the store, Benny was notified immediately. The man they have undercover sent a message that Miller wanted you found, and he let us know the second they headed this way. Once they got to the area, they probably listened to the police scanner. Hell, they even sent a group to Disney..."
I grinned but looked to Edward. "Hope we didn't kill a Fed..."
"You didn't," Carlisle snorted, placing a hand on my shoulder. "But we need to get you out of here before Miller realizes he's lost a whole shitload of men." He turned to Edward. "Burn it."
I watched as a touch of childlike sadness flickered across Edward's face at those two words, and he grimaced, swallowing thickly, but he nodded reluctantly in obedience. My heart broke for him because this was a house he had memories of his mom in. He was a kid here once, and as I looked around, I could almost see the boy I'd met so long ago, running around with a beaming smile on his face, dressed in only swim trunks. I could practically see him rushing to a beautiful woman with the same color hair and eyes he had, making her laugh because he was impossible not to love.
"There's no other way?" I asked, looking up to Carlisle. "Isn't there something else that could be done? Does it have to be burned down?"
My rapid-fire questions seemed to shock Carlisle for just a moment, but he shook his head no. "No, Bells. If I had the Feds to come clean up, then it might be possible to salvage the house, but since you were here, your prints are everywhere. There are twenty-five men out there, all connected to King. Not to mention the illegal weapons stashed on this property, one of which was used to destroy three out of four SUVs," he finished, giving Edward a raised eyebrow.
"Well, that just seems like...a waste. Why just burn it? Everything in here just goes up in flames. I don't get it," I sighed, frowning at him. I gave Edward a side glance. "I'll get my stuff. I need to change clothes anyway," I muttered, walking away from the both of them.
I didn't pay any attention to any of them until Alice blurted out, "You know, Carlisle, there's this cliff four point two miles to the west. We could tow all their asses down there and let them fall off. And we've cleaned a house before. We could get rid of every fingerprint in this place." She gestured to the two of us, nodding frantically.
"And the sheriff?" Carlisle countered.
"He gave chase," she said. "I'm pretty sure someone can call in on his radio, act like him checking in. A little push, a little shove...and a big boom..."
I snorted at her because even though I'd known her for ages, she still shocked me – and scared me, if I were to be honest. I turned to the end of the hallway, where Carlisle was seriously considering it, but it was Edward's hopeful face – hopeful, childlike face – gazing up at his dad that made my heart sputter.
"Rose," I called, hoping to God we could pull this off because for some reason, I just couldn't let a piece of Edward's history burn. It hurt to think about the loss of my own mother, so I understood his pain.
"Yeah, Bells?" my best friend asked, popping out of the closest bedroom.
"We need to wipe down this whole house. Not one surface that anyone possibly touched can slide..."
"Sure. Mack! We got work to do. You finish packing," Rose yelled down the hall.
"'Kay!" we heard from the back room.
All three of us stared back at him, waiting for his decision, because despite Rose's innocent expression, I knew her well enough to know that she'd been listening.
Carlisle met my gaze and then turned to his son. Right then, I saw that he got it. He saw Edward's expression, and he knew he was outnumbered.
"Do it," he told him. "Load everybody into their respective cars. Use Emmett's Jeep, the sheriff's truck, and that remaining SUV, and tow the ruined vehicles down to this...this fucking cliff she's talking about," he said with a wave of his hand. Turning back to us, he pointed his finger. "You'd better get every surface, and I mean it. Bella, your life depends on it because if someone checks this house and we aren't here, it will raise all sorts of alarms."
"Yes, sir," I said with a nod, turning to my girls. "I need to change clothes," I told them, gesturing to my ruined jeans. "I'll join you in a bit, okay?"
"Sure, sure, sure," Alice chanted with a grin and a hidden wink. "We're gonna need everyone out of the damn house!" she yelled with a giggle. "So get your shit packed and out by the cars!"
I snorted, closing the door to the room I'd been sharing with Edward for almost a month. I was sad to leave it, actually, but at least we weren't burning the damn thing down. I tugged my bags out from under the bed, throwing them on the mattress, and then pulled out a clean pair of jeans. After moving into the bathroom to gather up my toothbrush and shampoo, I walked back into the bedroom to see Edward leaning against the door.
"Do you need me to pack since you have to—" I started, but he just shook his head, pushing away from the door.
His face was unreadable, almost dark as he walked toward me. His fists were clenched, as was his jaw. The tiny cut on his temple just made him all the more frightening at the moment, so I started backing up until my back met the door of the closet.
"Edward, stop," I breathed, looking up at him.
"Why'd you do that?" he asked, his voice barely audible as he walked toward me until he was practically pressing me into the door.
"Do what?"
"The house, Bella. Why?"
I frowned up at him, not understanding his mood at all. "I know what it's like to lose something that belonged to your mother, Edward. And I meant what I said. It's a waste to burn it down," I told him, trying to skirt around him, but one of his strong arms shot out to the closet door with a heavy thud, blocking my way. "Edward, you're scaring me," I whispered, looking away from him.
With his other hand, he reached up to caress my cheek. "I don't mean to, baby. I j-just..." He exhaled heavily, pressing his forehead to mine. "Wh-What did you l-lose?"
"My mother's bedroom," I said, relaxing at his touch because despite his current demeanor, his touch was sweet, soft, and needed. "She...she died at home," I muttered, closing my eyes at the memory. "It was like the second she was gone, Charlie turned the room into his work room because it was attached to his office. He started keeping new inventions and shit in there," I growled through gritted teeth, my hands clenching into fists. "I...I used to watch movies with my mom in there!" I hissed, glaring up at him. "So...yeah, keep this place for as long as you can, Edward."
Suddenly, his hands were in my hair, and his body pressed me fully against the door. He tilted my head up, sweeping his mouth across mine once, twice, three times before dragging his tongue over my bottom lip, finally plunging it into my mouth. I moaned in response because I couldn't help it. He could be so intense, but fuck, if it wasn't sexy as hell.
Between each warm, wet, glide of his tongue and lips, a sound I'd never heard from him rumbled from his chest, vibrating against mine. It sounded almost like a sob or a growl – maybe a mix of the two – but I pulled him in for more because it had been a really scary day.
"Edward," I whimpered when he finally broke from my mouth to trail heavy, open-mouthed kisses down my neck as my hands gripped his biceps.
"I'm sorry I scared you," he whispered against my skin. "I...I j-just w-wanted to thank you..."
I grinned against his jaw because that sweet stutter did funny things to me and he could be so fucking confusing sometimes. "You can thank me like that anytime – just not so...predator-like..."
He chuckled, finally burying his face in my neck and wrapping his arms all the way around me. "I love you so fucking much," he muttered against my neck.
"I love you, too," I said, taking both sides of his face in my hands and pulling him back. "We gotta get moving, Edward."
He took a deep breath and nodded, his face almost sheepish. His nose wrinkled adorably as he said, "I am sorry to have scared you, but when he said to burn it..."
I nodded, cutting him off. "I know. Go...let's get this shit done."
He placed one last kiss to my lips and pulled back to look at me. "Are you okay on that leg, baby?" he asked softly.
"Yeah, I'm fine," I told him, and both of us jumped when Carlisle's booming voice echoed down the hall.
"Edward, front and center. Now, son! We gotta get moving!"
I grinned up at an eye-rolling, smirking son, but I turned him toward the door. "Hurry, Edward. We have to get finished before people start to show up looking for these assholes."
"You're right," he sighed, nodding, but then stopping at the door. "Thanks again, Bella."
Before I could say anything, he was gone.
~oOo~
Once again, the efficiency in how our two teams worked together was amazing. Rose, Alice, Mack, and I closed off the house the second everyone had their things packed and tossed outside. With rubber gloves that Esme provided us, we each took a corner of the house, working our way to the living room, and eventually, the front door. We wiped down every surface, every door knob – even the walls.
With a big barrel, we started a fire to burn ruined clothes and garbage because not one piece of DNA or one fingerprint could be left behind. As that burned, we wiped down the lawn furniture and railings on the deck. We pulled the laundry out of the washers and dryers. We even took out every plate, every glass, and every pot and pan to wipe off any fingerprints. It was exhausting and tedious work, but it went quickly with the four of us.
Esme cleaned the shed, taking every weapon King's men had on them and closing up the storage room down below. Mickey helped her because she couldn't lift the bodies and put them back into the trucks to help the boys.
The four men worked their asses off, lugging bodies to the cars and seatbelting them back into the cars they'd driven up in. Emmett hooked cables and tow lines from the Jeep, the sheriff's truck, and the remaining mafia SUV to the three burned vehicles in order to tow them down the road to the winding curve and cliff that Alice had told them about.
The mafia men were treated with no regret because they'd come up here with bad intentions; they would have killed every last one of us without a second thought.
The sheriff, however, was treated with a little more care, a little more gentleness, because all he'd been doing was his job. As I worked my way into the living room, I watched four military men change from just "cleaning up," to wearing solemn, reverent expressions as they set the young man that had only been looking for me, only wanting to do the right thing, into the passenger side of his truck. I half expected them to salute him; instead, they all placed a hand flat to the top of the truck's cab before jumping in to take off down the driveway.
Emmett drove his Jeep with Carlisle in the passenger side, Jasper drove the SUV, and Edward took the wheel of the sheriff's truck. The sun was setting as they pulled out of the driveway.
My girls and I were so tired by the time we fell down on the front steps to wait. I'm pretty sure I dozed off with my head leaning on Rose's shoulder at some point, but I snapped awake when Mack gasped.
"Well, looks like they did it," she snorted, eying the west, where a giant orange fireball blossomed up into the air.
"Hope they called in from the sheriff's radio," Alice mumbled, fighting a yawn and losing.
"Edward was going to call it in," Esme stated with a deep sigh.
I closed my eyes again with a yawn of my own and waited for the boys to return. It wasn't long until the driveway alarm bleeped from inside the house, indicating that someone was approaching. I didn't have it in me to look until a familiar rumbling engine caught my ears.
My eyes snapped wide open when Rose snorted, "Now how the hell do you suppose he got that?"
Standing quickly, my mouth fell open at the sight of something other than just Emmett's Jeep rushing down the driveway; he was being followed by a sight I'd thought I'd never lay eyes on again.
My Mustang.
I flew past Emmett, Jasper, and Edward, who were all smiling as Carlisle stepped gracefully out of my car.
"How the hell did you get this?" I gushed, snagging the keys from his hand.
Carlisle grinned, stepping out of my way as I dove into my car. Everything was still there.
"I suppose I should be glad that you put the title in Gravity's name, not your own," he chuckled. "Benny was able to get it released to me because, well...I technically own Gravity..."
"Oh my God! I could fucking kiss you," I growled, popping the trunk just to make sure all my belongings were still there, happy to note they were.
"Well, it drives like a dream," he laughed. "Got me here an hour earlier than I'd expected."
"That's because she rocks!" I chuckled, rushing to him and planting a kiss on his cheek.
My car was my most prized possession. It was a brand new Mustang Shelby, silver, with two bright blue racing stripes that went from bumper to bumper. She had stunning alloy wheels and a fucking strong-ass engine, and I loved her with a sickness. Carlisle had been right – I had put it in my company's name, not mine, because when Jake and I had broken up, I didn't want him taking her from me, and he had threatened it after I'd posted the picture of him and Lauren in the lobby of Twilight Tech. So when I changed my cell number, moved out, and stopped speaking to him and my father, I'd changed the title to the car at the same time.
Carlisle chuckled, squeezing my shoulder. "And I thought my son had an addiction to muscle cars," he whispered, jerking his chin toward a practically drooling Edward, who tossed a set of keys to his father.
"I'm so fucking riding with her," he growled, eyeballing my car like a lion stalks a gazelle.
"Ah, the poor, poor Dodge is tossed to the wayside..." Carlisle laughed but nodded, turning to everyone else. "Let's load up and get on the road."
We were to ride in pairs, and the pairs were just what I was expecting. Emmett and Rose took his Jeep, Jasper and Alice were in his truck, Mickey and Makenna were driving Carlisle's BMW – which Esme had been driving since she'd first gone into hiding with us – and leading us out of the driveway were Carlisle and Esme in Edward's Dodge Challenger.
Edward and I sat patiently waiting for everyone to load their things, but I could see him eying the stick shift, the steering wheel, and the dashboard as I cranked my car.
"Yes, I'm sure you'll drive her before this trip is over," I teased him.
He laughed, leaning over to kiss me softly. "Good, 'cause she's gorgeous...and the car's not bad, either," he purred in my ear, giving my earlobe a soft suckle and biting it when I burst into laughter.
Cars cranked and engines revved, and both of us looked up at the house one more time.
"When were you here with her the last time?" I asked softly, watching his eyes drink the house in like he'd never see it again.
"The last time she finished with chemo," he said, but his voice was soft, thoughtful. "I was...twelve. It was the spring before I met you...just before she died," he whispered, his brow furrowing. "We sold the California home, but he kept this one..."
He finally turned back to me, his eyes so very green and a touch sad as I reached up to cup his face.
"Will you tell me about her?" I asked, stroking my thumb along his cheekbone.
"It's a long drive to Alaska, Bella." He sounded almost uncomfortable. "I'm sure we'll talk about a lot of things," he hedged, looking up when Jasper's truck pulled away.
"I know, but she seems important..."
"She was."
"She still is. Never forget that," I countered, making sure he was looking at me. "Our mothers make us who we are, Edward – whether they're gone or not."
He took a deep breath. "Trade you stories..."
I grinned. "Okay."
"Okay," he snickered, kissing my lips one more time. "Drive, love. I wanna see what you can do with this thing..."
I giggled, shifting into first and spinning out in the driveway to catch up with the rest of our caravan. "You asked for it, baby...you asked for it. Next stop...Alaska..."