Tuesday, May 29, 2001 | By: Drotuno

Blood & Glory Chapter 32 - Epilogue

CHAPTER 32 – EPILOGUE
EDWARD
Two months later...
"Bella, I can't do this," I whined – yes, fucking whined.
"You have to, Edward," she groaned over the phone. "I'd do it, but I can't. Please just...try."
"Fuck, baby..." I sighed, running a hand through my hair as I paced outside the dingy little bar in Olympia. "I don't know how to fucking pick up women anymore, Bella. Nor do I fucking want to."
I smiled when my girl laughed, but my smile fell because her laugh was strained. She'd been sick for the past week. The plan had been for her to be sitting at the bar separately, watching over the situation we were in – but she'd been battling the stomach flu.
It had taken fucking forever to locate the ex-Mrs. Rollins because she was "off the grid," according to Alice. Susan Rollins had taken her four-year-old son underground – way, way underground. She was dealing only with cash, no identification, no cell phones, and no communication. In fact, Harold Rollins was losing his mind because she'd even stopped calling to taunt him. He'd rather that she call with threats because at least he'd know that his son was okay, but without any news whatsoever, he was going to snap soon.
Susan had made one mistake by renting one hotel room in Olympia just above the ugly little bar I was currently standing outside of. She'd used someone else's stolen credit card, but in either a drunken stupor or a stoned euphoria, she'd used her own name. I wanted to tell her she was an idiot, but the very second the info blipped up on Alice's computer screen, we'd all jumped into action, grateful for her stupidity.
So there I was, standing outside this bar and trying to find the balls to go in and play the rich playboy that was looking for an easy lay, while my girl was sick at home. I was fucking hating it.
"Damn it, Bella," I groaned, hearing the raspy sound of her voice. "I should be home, baby. I should be taking care of you."
"Just find that little boy, Edward, and then you can play nurse to me," she whined. "Please?"
"I'd rather play doctor," I teased, but I was just being stubborn.
She giggled again, and I smiled at my favorite sound in the whole world. "Edward, you're so fucking cute, and you're dressed like a Wall Street god. Just go be sexy, and get this shit over with. Tell Jasper that as soon as he catches a glimpse of that baby, he and Emmett should rush their asses in."
I snickered at her commanding tone, but she was right. We needed to get that kid out of a desperate situation and back to his father. We were afraid that Tyson Rollins wasn't being taken care of, that he was being shuffled from one terrible place to the next, and that his mother was neglecting him. Tyson's father wasn't worried that she'd hurt him...just leave him alone for long periods alone. He said she barely remembered to feed herself, so his fear that Tyson was somewhere hungry was making him crazy. Harold Rollins's panic was the reason I'd agreed to try to find the kid, knowing it would take a guy to move in on his ex-wife, rather than Bella and the girls.
"Have you kept anything down today, baby?" I asked before I had to get to work because my girl came first, everything else be damned.
"Some sports drink, but my dinner didn't last long," she sighed, sounding so tired.
I huffed, running another hand through my hair. "Tell me you aren't alone..."
"Esme's on her way now, Edward, I promise. Go be cute and charming, like only you can, baby. Go be my hero," she said with a chuckle, and I could almost see her playing with the quilt that I'd tucked her under on the sofa of our living room before I'd left and wearing her sweet smile.
"Okay. I'll call you as soon as it's over, love," I told her, looking up when Emmett walked into the bar without looking at me. It was time to go flirt, hit on, and try to pick up a woman I'd rather just yell at for what she was doing to her son.
"Love you, Edward," Bella sighed, yawning into the phone.
"Love you, too, sweetness," I said with a frown. "Get some sleep, and don't wait up for me."
She snorted. "Yeah, right..."
I ended the call, and in some ways, it felt like a slice to my chest. I didn't like that she was home without me, much less sick. With one more hand through my hair, dropping my phone into my pocket, I yanked open the door to the small pub, loosening my tie like I was coming in after a hard day at the office.
I sat down at the end of the bar, the complete opposite of where Em was sitting, catching his eye briefly. I ordered a scotch, which was utterly needed with what I was about to do, turning toward the direction that Emmett's eyes had flickered to, and lo and behold, there she was.
Susan Rollins was swaying drunkenly by the old-ass jukebox on the far side of the room. It wasn't that she was an unattractive woman, but I could see her refusal of reality, her living in the moment. And with one last deep breath and a hand to my hair, I caught her eye, giving the smile that used to never let me down and tucking away my worry for my sick girl at home.
Susan smiled back, her eyes glazed with alcohol and lust as she walked my way.
I turned toward the bartender, sliding my credit card across the bar and saying, "Whatever the lady wants, put it on my tab."
"Good luck, pal," the older guy said with a snort, rolling his eyes. "She's a clingy one, that one. Looking for someone to save her, I think."
I smirked up at him and nodded. "I'll take my chances," I told him with a shrug, turning to the woman that was now perching herself on the stool next to mine.
Bella had totally had to teach me about this shit. I could raid a camp, a prison. I could fly in and take out the hideout of bad guys, but playing someone I wasn't was hard and not something that came naturally to me. We'd tried everything to locate this woman because as soon as we'd close in on her, she'd disappear. Bella told me that I needed to play into her personality and the woman's needs.
Susan Rollins needed someone that wasn't turned off by her drunken state, or that she had a kid, or the fact that her appearance had slipped. She needed the fantasy guy, Bella had told me. I needed to play a man with money that was just about to take off to another city and wasn't scared off by someone else's child. I needed to be everything that Susan Rollins was looking for, and Bella said that because I was ten years younger than this woman, it would make me all the more appealing.
Fan-fucking-tastic... I was about to serve myself up to a cougar or some shit.
But it worked – like a fucking dream. The woman ate up every line I gave her, every story I told her, and her eyes lit up when I spoke of my new position in San Diego. When I mentioned that I coached Little League baseball, I fucking sealed the deal. She wanted me, and it was all I could do not to vomit when she kissed my cheek and invited me upstairs to her room.
With a nod to her and the bartender, not to mention a pointed look to Emmett, I held my hand out to her and helped her out the door and up the stairs to her hotel room. It was now a time-sensitive situation because my nod to Emmett meant right now, he was downstairs calling Mr. Rollins, who wasn't far away.
There had been an Amber Alert sent out when Tyson went missing, so all he had to do was bring the Olympia Police with him when the address was confirmed, but I had to set my eyes on Tyson himself before any of us could celebrate.
With that last thought, I touched the tiny earpiece in my ear and linked up to Jasper instantly.
"It don't mean a thing, if you ain't got that swing...do-wah, do-wah, wo-wah," he sang in my ear – poorly, I might add. But I couldn't say a word to shut him the fuck up. "Kiss that chick, and I'm totally squealing on you, Eddie," he said in my ear with a chuckle, and I had to hide my laugh behind a fake cough.
Jasper was planted – no longer holding a rifle, but a telescope, instead – on the roof of the building across the street. He'd been waiting to catch a glimpse of the kid all night, but there wasn't a single open curtain in her hotel room.
As Susan held my hand, she led me into her room, turning in front of me. She was wearing a smile, but I let my eyes scan the room. It was a basic dingy hotel room, with two beds and an old-ass TV. One bed was unmade, but the other had a small lump in the middle, a shock of blond hair resting on the pillow.
What pissed me off was the half-empty bottle of cough syrup on the nightstand next to a juice box of apple juice. There were few toys and no fridge to store food, so my temper flared to an all-time high.
"Your son?" I asked through gritted teeth, and she nodded. "Good," I sighed, smiling when Jasper called out that Tyson had been spotted.
"He'll sleep through anything," she whispered, looking up at me as she wrapped her arms around my neck, but I pried her off me.
"Why don't you pack a few things?" I suggested because she knew I was heading out to "my new job," and I needed to stall her long enough for Mr. Rollins to bring the police to the door.
I took a breath of relief when she removed her hands from me and began to toss a few things into a small suitcase. By the time she'd closed the bag, there was a knock on the door.
Susan tried to stop me, but I yanked the door open anyway, letting the police rush in with Harold hot on their tail. As the cops arrested her, he scooped his son up lovingly, placing frantic kisses to his face.
I smiled when a little voice broke through above the sobbing cries from the woman being led out of the room.
"Daddy," he muttered with a yawn, only to fall back asleep again.
Harold walked to me, cradling his boy. "Thank you," he sighed, glancing over to the nightstand. "She used to give him that at home when I would go out of town on business. He'll be fine."
"Good," I grunted with a nod.
"Thank Bella for me, will you? And I'll wire the rest of my payment to you first thing."
"Yes, sir," I said with a smile and an awkward handshake because he could barely let his touch leave his son. "I'm sorry it took so long."
"Just as long as I have my boy back, Edward," was all he said, waving as he left the hotel room.
I trudged down the stairs, my hands in my pockets as I watched Harold tuck his son carefully into his car. The other scene wasn't so pleasant because Susan Rollins was a sobbing, drunken mess in the back of the police car.
Officer Jackson stepped up to me, holding his hand out. "Nice job, sir," he said, gripping my hand firmly. "Mr. Rollins explained that he'd hired a private investigator to find his son. Custody cases are the hardest for us. Not enough manpower..."
I nodded, but I was ready to go. "What will happen to her?" I asked, pointing to the back of the cruiser.
"She has to be transported back to Seattle," he said, looking at her. "She'll be arrested, booked, and processed. It's a slap on the wrist, but what she really needs is help..."
"You're right," I sighed, suddenly really tired and unable to care about the ex-Mrs. Rollins anymore. I wanted to see my girl.
Once I'd spoken to Harold one more time, I met Emmett and Jasper at the car.
"How's Bella?" Emmett asked, falling into the passenger seat of my Challenger as Jasper settled himself into the backseat.
"Sick. And I want to get home to her," I growled, cranking my car and peeling the hell out of there. I pulled my phone out and dialed home.
~oOo~
BELLA
My stomach roiled with nausea with every fast food TV commercial, and I shut the damn thing off. I glared at my phone, willing it to ring with some news about Tyson, even though I'd just hung up from speaking with Edward. I was nervous about finding the boy because it had been a bitch finding his mother – the crazy cow. It was one thing to want to fuck up her own life, but she should leave her kid out of it.
I was also nervous for Edward because he and the boys weren't used to these subtle kind of missions – missions where you had play a part, be someone else for just a little while. My Edward wasn't exactly subtle when it came to his temper, and his anger had flared when he'd listened to Harold Rollins talk about his ex-wife and son. If I'd left it up to the boys, they'd have just gone in, guns fucking blazing, but there was no telling about Tyson. He didn't need to be scared into fucking therapy; he just needed to be brought back to his father.
A light knock on the back door snapped me out of my worry, and I called, "Come in, Esme."
I looked up when she walked in, her arms full of a few grocery bags. "I'm sick, not broke, Esme," I chided lovingly.
"Hush, pretty girl," she said with a laugh, rolling her eyes and sitting down on the edge of the sofa, feeling my forehead for a fever. She set the bag down on the coffee table, pulling out another sports drink for me to sip. "I just brought you a few things..." I could see a knowing look in her eye as she pulled out a small box from one of the bags, handing it over to me.
I stared at the small box, and suddenly, a whole bunch of forgotten things came flying to me. "Oh shit," I breathed, looking up at her and counting the last few weeks...and then back almost two whole months. My last period had been just before we broke ground on Gravity's office. In fact, if I was counting correctly, my last period was just before Edward and I had made love in the chopper.
"You know, it's been months since I gave you that shot, Bells," she stated, a little warning in her voice, but I could also hear hope, love, and patience. "Have you been getting it from your regular doctor?"
My heart completely sputtered out of control because she was right, and I slowly shook my head no. With everything that Edward and I had been through, with all the moving, the rebuilding of Gravity, and even this case he was currently working for me, I'd forgotten all about my birth control.
"He'll kill me," I gasped, tears welling up in my eyes. "We're not even ready to get married, much less for this, Esme! What do I do?"
She smiled, picking up my hand and letting Elizabeth Cullen's ring glimmer in the low light of my living room. "I think you two have always found your own way, sweetie. And I think...you're not giving that boy enough credit."
Swiping at my tears, I nodded, knowing she was right, and then I stood up from the sofa, taking the box with me. It didn't take the full timer for the extra little mark to show up on the plastic stick. I threw up one more time for good measure before walking back into my living room, holding it out to her.
I couldn't help but give her a halfhearted smile when she squealed with utter joy and happiness. But my tears started all over again because I was honestly scared. I was scared of what this meant for me, for my work. I was scared of how much my life would change, and I was absolutely fucking petrified of Edward's reaction.
But above all else, I was also...really happy. Visions of a cherub face with a head full of dark hair and green eyes suddenly overwhelmed me as Esme held me while I cried.
"Things have to change, pretty girl," she whispered, kissing my temple. "You have start eating right – no more coffee, no more beer – and you need to tell Edward when he gets home, Bella."
I nodded, sniffling and hiccuping another sob, but everything I'd recently been feeling made perfect sense. I'd been a mood-swinging bitch, sicker than a dog, and so very aroused by Edward's mere presence lately. My hormones were on the roller coaster from hell.
Esme stayed, smirking knowingly as I finally heard from Edward telling me the mission had gone perfectly, that the cougar hadn't kissed him, except on the cheek, and that he and the boys were on their way home. He'd been completely successful, but his last words to me were, "Baby, how do you feel?"
"I'll be better when you're home," I answered honestly because I needed to tell him this. Our whole relationship revolved around leaning on each other, and for this new development, I was truly grateful of that.
"A few hours, sweetness," he promised. "Get some sleep, please."
"I'll try," I sighed, thinking there was no way that would happen, but it did. I fell asleep almost the minute Esme left me after swearing to me she wouldn't tell Carlisle yet. In turn, she made me promise to see my doctor first thing.
I was awakened when I was picked up from the sofa and carried into our room. I looked up with blurry, sleepy eyes at Edward.
"Go back to sleep, baby," he whispered, kissing my forehead as he nestled me under the covers.
I curled up in a ball, watching him undress down to his boxer briefs, and then I squirmed myself as close to him as I could get. It was as he pulled me to him, letting me mold myself to his front, that my tears started again because I just didn't know how he would take the news.
I sniffled, threading my fingers into his hair and pulling his forehead to mine. He was just so fucking handsome, it was almost painful to look at him. And despite how soon it was that I was pregnant, the fact that there was something that we had made growing inside of me made me love Edward even more.
"Hey, hey," he soothed, tucking my hair behind my ears. "Baby, what's this?"
"I...I have something to tell you," I sobbed, sitting up and swiping at my tears with the back of my hand. "And I don't...I'm not sure... Fuck!" I cried, looking up at him when he sat up next to me. "I messed up, Edward...so badly. But it's a good mess up...or maybe it's just a too-soon mess up..."
Edward snorted, cupping my face. "And I thought I had the speech problems," he chuckled, but he lifted my chin gently so that I was looking him in the eye. "Just...spit it out, love. I can't imagine any mess up is worth getting this worked up over."
I snort-sniffled at him because he had no idea, but I decided that I should do it quickly, like ripping off a bandage. "I'm...pregnant, Edward," I whispered as more tears coursed down my face.
He froze, except for his eyebrows. Those bad boys shot up to his hairline. Edward tilted his head at me, his mouth opening once, only to snap shut again. His green eyes, which were filled with worry, darkened into confusion.
"It's my fault," I exploded into hysterics, wringing my hands together. "I forgot all about my shot. With everything...and work...and we're engaged...I just..." I knew I wasn't making a bit of fucking sense, but my stomach roiled again, and I shot off the bed and into the bathroom.
The only thing I had in my belly were liquids, and those were lost in an instant, but warm, rough hands gently held my hair as I heaved again. I took the cloth that he held out to me, sitting back on my heels.
I couldn't look at him. I didn't want to know if he was angry because I was a fucking coward. "Don't hate me," I whispered, wiping my face roughly with the cloth.
"I don't hate you, baby," he whispered against my temple. "You're sure? Is that what this is? It's not the flu, is it?" he rambled, but at least he could form normal sentences, and the irony of that was not lost on me.
I nodded, looking at my wringing hands again and not at the man that was sitting on the bathroom floor next to me. Again, his fingers tilted my head from under my chin so I would look at him.
"I don't hate you, Bella," he urged, making sure I was truly looking at him. "How can I hate you? Y-You're c-carrying m-my b-baby..." he sputtered, swallowing thickly. "I know you're scared, but...we did that," he stated firmly.
There it was. There was my nervous, honest, but in-control Edward that I so fucking needed at the moment.
I nodded, tears welling up again. "I am scared, but I'm in love with him...her...already." I sniffled, smiling when he gave me his light chuckle. "I know it's stupid, crazy timing. I'm sorry..."
He cut me off with a quick kiss, despite my throwing up. "I'm an adult in this relationship, too, Bella. I am half responsible. I'm finding it hard to be sorry, though."
"We're going to be parents, Edward," I whispered, shaking my head, but again, a little boy with crazy hair and green eyes flooded my mind, and I couldn't help but smile as I stood up to brush my teeth for what felt like the hundredth time today.
"Wh-What d-do we d-do n-now, love?" he asked, helping me to my feet and leaning on the counter as I brushed.
Once I rinsed, I said, "Doctor. Esme said so..."
Edward nodded, smiling so-very-sweetly as he fell to his knees in front of me. He lifted the front of his T-shirt that I was wearing and placed a long, slow kiss to my belly. "Tell me when and where, Bella. I'm in...I'm completely in, baby."
~oOo~
"Marry me, Bella," Edward whispered as his lips pressed to my now very-large belly.
"Yes, Edward," I answered with a giggle, rolling my eyes at his umpteenth proposal because now, it was just a joke.
It wasn't that I didn't want to marry him, but time was against us. We could never just get it done. And neither of us wanted a big to-do, especially with the baby on the way because she was more important than the the both of us combined.
He chuckled when our daughter kicked his face. "She's so going to be like you. All feisty and smart and stubborn," he teased, kissing the spot on my skin. "Aren't you, little sweetness?" he crooned at my stomach, and she kicked at him again.
I giggled down at him because number one, he was tickling the shit out of me with his rough, scruffy face. And two, he thought it was the best day ever because we'd just found out that we were having a little girl. It had been five months since I'd told him, and I don't think there was a man alive that had accepted the news with such happiness like Edward had. I'd been terrified, but he'd told me that he thought it was the best thing. Ever.
"I will marry you, Edward." I giggled again, squirming under him as he rubbed his chin lightly over my stomach. "You know this," I chided him.
"I know, but I still like hearing it." He snickered and then turned to my belly. "Tell Mommy that she should marry Daddy...like tomorrow, Bethy."
I don't know what was more adorable. The fact that he was already conspiring against me with our child, or the fact that she seemed to adore the sound of his voice because she always seemed to squirm more when he talked to her like this.
"Miss Elizabeth, tell Daddy that he needs to get working on your crib." I snorted, raising an eyebrow at him as I rubbed my tummy where his scruff had left me tingly.
I don't think either of us had, had to think twice about the name – Elizabeth Renee Cullen – and we both had blurted it out in the car on the way home from the doctor's office. Naming her after our mothers was a no-brainer. It was the boys' names that were giving us hell. If it had been left up to our family and friends, the poor boy's name would have been Carlisle Alec Jasper Emmett Eleazar Cullen. Not a chance in hell.
"Daddy will," Edward sighed, crawling up so that he was braced over me. "I'm waiting for the special stain I ordered to come in. I didn't realize how many safety regulations I had to follow when it came to spacing between the bars, height, and even the paint," he said with a shrug, "but she'll have a place to sleep by the time she gets here."
"'Kay." I sighed in contentment as I cupped his face and kissed him senseless because Edward was nothing if not ecstatic about having this baby.
He'd been to every doctor's appointment and could barely contain himself when it came to telling everyone. That's not to say we weren't nervous, because we really were, but just like the beginning of our relationship, we took things slowly, carefully, learning as much as we could as we went along.
But no one was as happy as Carlisle.
It was like Christmas every day for him once we'd told him the news. He couldn't wait to be a grandfather – or Poppy, as we'd all nicknamed him – and he loved it. He'd already set up accounts, trust funds, and college funds, and I'm pretty sure he was saving the old Camaro to give to her for her sixteenth birthday. Not to mention the fact that he'd opened a credit card for himself, just for spoiling Bethy at Toys R Us.
A horn honked outside, and Edward sighed, cupping my face. "Gravity meeting," he groaned, rolling his eyes, but then shot up like a little kid. "But Emmett owes me a hundred fucking bucks! I told him she was a girl ages ago..." he rambled, pulling out the sonogram picture like it was prize possession.
"Hey, Dad!" I laughed, reaching for him because I was completely stuck on our sofa. "Before you run off and leave me like a turtle on its back, can you help a girl out?"
"Shit, sorry, love." He chuckled, helping me to my rather swollen feet and kissing my forehead.
I pulled him to me, wrapping my arms around his waist. I closed my eyes when warm, strong arms wrapped around me and kisses were dropped on the top of my head. I took a deep breath, just leaning on him.
"Let's just...go, Edward," I whispered, setting my chin on his chest and blinking up at him. "Just go somewhere and get married. I don't care about traditions or any of that shit. Do you?"
Edward smiled and shook his head no, kissing my forehead and then my lips. "Tomorrow?"
"Yeah," I agreed with a giggle. "Tomorrow."
We were married in San Francisco in a court house two days later. The only witnesses were Carlisle and Esme, and that was kind of how we wanted it, though our friends threw a hell of a party when we got back. And it was perfect.
Elizabeth Renee was born two months later – little sweetness, according to her Dad, Bethy to the rest of us – perfectly healthy and by C-section. She was fat and sweet, with a head full of hair the same color as mine but with gorgeous reddish highlights. And even though her eyes were blue, it didn't take long to see the perfect green start to shine through.
There wasn't a stick of furniture in our child's room that wasn't made by Edward. He'd made it so beautifully that all my girls wanted something like it when they got ready to have kids, which Edward and I assumed wouldn't take long because Emmett and Rose were already married, Jasper and Alice were engaged, and Wes and Makenna were head over heels for each other. However, Carlisle still hadn't popped the question to Esme.
But it was what Edward was making for her before Bethy was even a year old that made me fall in love with him all over again, which was saying something because I loved him with just as much fire as ever.
I lounged in the shade, Bethy asleep on my chest, as I watched Edward, Jasper, Emmett, and Alec build a tree house that rivaled the one I had growing up. It was in an enormous oak tree in the back yard. The plans were top secret, but it didn't take long for it to start to take shape. With a wraparound porch, a staircase – instead of a ladder – and real, locking windows, the thing was beautiful. And knowing Edward, it would be painted white with blue trim to match the house. I half-expected to see a small American flag once it was all said and done.
Rose paced on the phone, speaking to the possible next client. "Well, hang on, I'll check our schedule and see if I have a guy for that date." She put her hand over the phone, yelling up into the tree. "Boys!"
"Yeah?" they all answered her.
"I need one of you for a protection service day after tomorrow in Seattle. Some fashion designer is opening a new line downtown. They need to get from the airport, to the show, to a meet and greet, and then back to the airport. It's just a day job..."
"I'll take it," Alec grunted as he lifted a board up with Jasper so that Edward and Emmett could nail it in place.
Rose nodded once, pulling out her notebook. "Okay, you're covered. Give me the details."
Bethy jumped, shifted, squirmed, and then broke into a cry when one of the guys dropped a board too loudly.
"Damn it," Edward growled, leaning over the rail of the porch. "Sorry, baby," he said with a grimace and then tore down the steps. "That was me..."
I stood up, rocking Bethy and cooing to her, but it was amazing to watch what her dad could do.
"Come here, little sweetness," he sighed, and I shook my head as she quieted down almost immediately.
His large, rough hands picked her up, holding her above him so their foreheads were pressed together, and she hiccuped once, grasping at his scruffy face. There was nothing as sexy as Edward holding her when he was shirtless and humming softly. Nothing. They were made for each other.
"I have to return a few calls, Edward," I told him as he sat down with a slowly-drifting-off infant in his arms. "Can you take her for a few?" I asked, knowing that he would.
"Yeah," he said with a nod. "We were just about to call it a day, anyway. Emmett has that adoption case he's working on and needs to head out."
I nodded and kissed my husband and then my daughter. "Those are tough because the records are sealed. Has Alice been able to help?"
"She shouldn't." Edward chuckled, lounging back and letting Bethy sprawl on his chest, her front pressed to his. I couldn't help but smile when his fingers played with her tiny toes. "It's illegal as hell, but I'm pretty sure she's drawn him the family tree."
"Bethy still needs one more feeding and a bath before bed," I told him, "so give me an hour to work, and then we'll put her to bed, okay?"
My work went over an hour because I had three cases to discuss with Rose, Makenna, and Alice. Four very long phone calls, a breakdown, a schedule for all three cases, and assigning those cases put me at almost two and a half hours before going back inside after sending the girls home.
I walked in, finding Edward rocking our daughter as he read to her in her room. "I'm not sure Tom Clancy is exactly infant material, flyboy," I teased him.
He chuckled, looking up at me with a wink. "She's asleep, and nothing else was working."
"I'm sorry it took so long," I sighed, scooping up my sleeping girl from his arms. "I have a case for the two of us, but I need to see if your dad and Esme will watch Bethy for two days."
Edward chuckled. "Gladly. He was bitching yesterday that we hog her."
"She's our kid," I said with a giggle, rolling my eyes and laying her down in her crib. After covering her up, I couldn't help but lean back against Edward, just looking at her. "She's beautiful, Edward," I sighed, feeling like my heart could hardly contain my love for the other two people in the room.
"She's just like her mother," he crooned, kissing the side of my neck. "Opinionated, strong, and gorgeous."
I smiled, turning in his arms. "And easily pissed off like her dad." I giggled, squeaking when he scooped me up.
Before he left the room, he turned to look at Bethy again. "She's going to give 'em hell, baby," he told me with a laugh, shaking his head and then kissing my lips. "She'll be a force to be reckoned with."
With that said, he shut the light off and carried me to our room.
~oOo~
Three years later...
EDWARD
"That's not a freakin' strike!" Emmett yelled at the TV, shaking his head and taking a long draw on his beer.
"Come on, knock that thing into the damn bleachers," Jasper urged, sitting on the edge of the chair.
"Where's my baby girl?" my dad asked, looking around the living room.
I snorted, shaking my head. "Last I checked, she was planning world domination in her room, with an army of teddy bears," I told him, grinning when he chuckled.
"She'd succeed..." Jasper laughed, standing up. "I'm getting another," he said, holding up his empty beer bottle. "Anyone else?"
"Yeah," we all answered.
It was the first weekend in ages that we'd all been able to get together at my house for a Mariners game. The only one from the old crew that was missing was Mickey, but she'd been stolen by the girls for the day, though she'd rather be with them, anyway. They were off shopping in Seattle for my dad and Esme's wedding. Alec wasn't there, either, because he was on an assignment in Los Angeles.
My dad had finally asked Esme a few months ago, and out of all of us, they wanted the big deal wedding, where the rest of us had just gone off and done the courthouse thing. Maybe it was a media thing because he was still running Twi Tech with an iron fist, or maybe it was an Esme thing because she'd never had a real church wedding before. But whatever it was, all the girls were eating it up, and they were planning the whole thing.
To be honest, I was really happy for my dad. It was a long time coming for him. It seemed that ever since my mother's death, he'd always been alone and, looking back on it now, a touch sad. However, Esme had changed all that for him, and they'd only gotten stronger and better in the last few years.
I looked up when I heard a bedroom door shut, taking a beer from Jasper when he came back into the room.
The little thump-thump-thump of Bethy's feet on the hardwood floor echoed down the hallway until she cruised through the living room as fast as she could without actually running. Her hands were full of just...stuff. I heard the screen door open and then slam shut.
"Okay, top of the sixth...no outs, runner on base," Jasper called out, rubbing his hands together.
The screen door slammed again, and this time, we all watched as my daughter hurried through the room without so much as a glance our way.
"She's so up to something," my dad said with a snort.
"Always," I sighed but smiled because she was amazing.
Elizabeth Renee Cullen was three going on twenty-three and her mother made over. She was so smart, so very sweet, and constantly on the go. She had Bella's long, beautiful, dark hair, with just a touch of red to it, but her eyes were all mine – bright green that reminded me of my own, but more my mother's. They were softer, warmer, but carried my glint of up-to-no-good, according to my wife.
Slam! Thump-thump-thump...
She came back through, again with her arms loaded to capacity. I saw stuffed animals, hats, clothes, and some other things I couldn't quite see as she bolted out the screen door.
"Um, Eddie?" Emmett muttered, looking over at me. "What's the baby girl doin'?"
"No idea," I answered, chuckling, and sometimes, it was best just to let her be. Besides, she was nothing if not entertaining.
By the time she'd done it the third time, we'd muted the TV and just started waiting for her, but when she came in from outside that last time, she stopped in front of the TV.
"What are you up to, little sweetness?" I laughed because she reached up and turned the TV completely off, much to the shock of the guys.
"It's t-time, D-Daddy," she sputtered.
Oh yeah, she'd earned her stutter directly from me, and I couldn't help but love every single word she said because despite her little speech impediment, she could command a room without shame. The fact that she was wearing a pink camo shirt and little jean skirt was icing on the cake. With her hair half up in two little high ponytails, she tilted her head at all of us like she'd already lost patience.
"Time for what, Bethy?" my dad asked her, sitting forward on the couch.
"T-Tea p-party," she stated, and I flinched. "D-Daddy, you puh-puh-pwomised," she chided, pointing a stern finger at me.
"I did, sweetness," I told her, "but can you wait until after the game?"
"No." she grumped, walking to me. "M-Mommy says t-tea is at t-two...and it's t-two!"
"She can tell time?" Jasper murmured, his eyebrows raised high, and I nodded slowly.
"Yes, she can," I sighed, pulling her to me when she tried to pull me up by my hand. "I'm telling you...world domination..."
My dad laughed softly because there wasn't much Bethy didn't do that he couldn't just eat the fuck up. He spoiled her rotten but had more patience with her than I ever remembered him having with me.
"Did you promise, son?" my dad asked.
"Yeah, I had to get her in bed somehow," I murmured, rolling my eyes at his laugh.
"Pwease, D-Daddy," she said, crawling up into my lap, using my T-shirt to hold onto. Finally, I gave her a hand and sat back, straddling her on my lap. She grasped both sides of my face and pressed her forehead to mine. "Y-You said l-last n-night that y-you'd have a t-tea party wif me in the twee house. You did! I heard you."
"I did, Bethy." I chuckled because she hadn't let go of my face. "And I meant it, but I was thinking more about after the game."
"N-No! N-Now!" she said with a cherubic smile and wriggling closer to me just like her mother did when she wanted something.
When she tugged my baseball cap off and ruffled my hair, I was done. There wasn't much I could do about it, either. Both of my girls could get me to do just about anything when they did that. It had something to do with the begging eyes, the slight tilt of their head, and the sweet kisses to my cheek. Both my wife and my daughter knew exactly how to play me, but I didn't care because they were my fucking universe, and I wouldn't change it for the world.
"What about Poppy?" I asked, smirking over at my dad. "Don't you think he should come?"
"Yeah!" she squealed, beaming and slipping off of my lap. She grasped both our hands, and we let her pull us up this time.
My dad scooped her into his arms, planting loud kisses on her face and neck just to hear crack up into hysterics.
"What about the game?" Emmett asked, pointing to the TV with the remote and turning it back on.
"Don't you think Uncle Em and Uncle Jazz should come, too?" my dad whispered conspiratorially to her.
"Unca Em...Unca Jazz...you hafta come!" she pleaded with them both, and I fought my laugh because those two guys would do anything for her...except when it came to interrupting a game.
"Boys! Up, now!" my dad commanded without even bothering to turn around as he carried her out the screen door.
"Aw, hell," Jasper muttered, but they shut the TV off and followed us outside and up the steps of the tree house.
We all settled down Indian-style, cramming into my daughter's tree house. I knew that Bella had adored the one she'd had growing up, so I'd built one here. It was everything Bella's was but a bit more. It had electricity, working windows, even a small ceiling fan, not to mention heat for the winter. Hell, it was a mini version of a real house.
Bella had decorated the thing with bookshelves, beanbags, and little brightly-colored curtains. There was even a miniature sofa up here. I think most of the books on the shelves had belonged to Bella first. One of my favorite things was finding the two of them curled up on a beanbag up here, my wife reading to Bethy – something we'd started when she was a baby.
As Bethy handed out teacups and saucers filled with water, I picked a tiny helicopter up off the shelf, spinning the blades. It was new, and I wondered where she'd gotten it.
"Little sweetness, who gave you this?" I asked her, pulling her down into my lap, smiling when she squealed.
"Mommy," she answered, taking it from me. "She s-said one d-day, I c-could f-fly my own chopper."
I laughed, kissing her loudly on her neck and tickling her when she practically growled the word "chopper." She wriggled out of my lap, ruffling my hair, and got back to the serious business of her tea party.
"That would rock, baby girl," Emmett cheered, donning a big floppy hat and taking a pink feather boa from her.
"Th-That's what Aunt Awice said." She giggled, handing Jasper something that looked like a bonnet or some shit. "Now," she barked, pointing to all of us. "You have t-to d-drink wif y-your pinkies out!"
~oOo~
BELLA
"Why didn't you bring Bethy today?" Mickey asked from the back seat of my SUV.
I turned onto the 101 to head home. It had been long day of plans, shopping, and fittings. Esme and Carlisle's wedding was the only full-blown wedding amongst us, so all of us were living vicariously through them. I had no complaints on how I'd married Edward because it was simple and quiet, and I'd been seven months pregnant with Bethy at the time.
"She was determined to stay with her daddy today." I chuckled, shaking my head at my obstinate child. "Something about a promise he'd made her, but she wouldn't spill the beans."
The girls all laughed because they knew her. She was insanely smart and completely sweet. She had zero tolerance for bullshit, just like her father.
"They are two peas in a pod." Rose chuckled, shaking her head and rubbing her now large belly. "I've never seen anything like it."
I grinned, looking over at her. She was due in a month, and this wedding had been torture trying to get her into a dress that fit because every time we went for a fitting, she had gotten bigger.
"Just you wait," I told her, still laughing. "Just you wait until Emmett's little clone comes tumbling out like hell on wheels. Then we'll talk about peas in pods."
"Right, because hyperactivity is genetic," Alice chirped from the back seat, which only caused all of us to laugh again.
"Fabulous," Rose sighed, rolling her eyes.
She was having a boy, and they couldn't be happier. The name was still up for debate, but Emmett was pushing for Caleb Edward McCarty. It had something to do with Afghanistan and a lifesaving situation that Edward had pulled Emmett from, but I didn't quite know the details. The name had only just recently been put out there.
Alice and Jasper were waiting on kids. They weren't sure they were ready, but I told them they were wrong because they were Bethy's favorite babysitters. Alice was so smart, she was able to teach my daughter just about anything – computers, languages, reading – and according to my child, Unca Jazz told the "best stories ever."
I pulled in my driveway, hitting the remote for the gate and once again when I was through. I parked between my Mustang and Edward's Challenger. When Bethy was on the way, neither of us wanted to get rid of our cars, so we'd opted for a third vehicle. I'd let Edward go get it, and he'd come back with the safest SUV on the planet – a Volvo. I'd said nothing about it because it was perfect, but Edward had muttered something about, "Can't have some asshole run my girls over."
His girls. His sweetnesses. I fought my smile at the thought. If I'd thought Edward was protective before, he was practically vigilant now. Our work wasn't all that dangerous, just the simple cheating spouses, lost kids, and finding relatives, but my husband didn't take any chances. The entire property was a safe zone. We were careful about using real names with certain jobs, and we never, ever met a client at the office, which was behind the helipad. Period.
When I worked, Edward stayed with Bethy, and vice versa. And when we were both needed, Esme and Carlisle took her without even batting an eye. They were the perfect grandparents – Poppy and Gamma to my daughter. She'd stay with them in the Twi Tech Towers, using my old room as her own, though we totally had to get rid of the purple and paint it back to the pink my mother had originally picked out.
"Mommy's home!" I heard my favorite squeal. The rumble of little feet down the tree house steps caught my attention, and I scooped up Bethy, spinning her around.
"I missed you, pretty girl," I said, smooching her cheek. "Did you have fun with Daddy?"
"I d-did," she gushed, her cheeks flushed and her eyes a vibrant happy green. "I m-missed you, t-too, Mommy."
The fact that my little girl had inherited her stutter from her dad just made me melt. I loved it so much that even when the doctor and Carlisle said that she'd outgrow it, I prayed that she didn't because it was just the sweetest part of her dad that she'd received. Edward stuttered when he was nervous, but Bethy stuttered when she was excited, and that was just about all the time.
"So what was this big deal you and Daddy had planned?" I asked her, walking her toward the tree house.
"W-We puh-puh-pwayed t-tea party wif Unca Em and Unca Jazz and Poppy!"
I laughed, just imagining four of the deadliest soldiers I'd ever met having a tea party with a three-year-old, but if I thought they were just drinking tea, I was so wrong. I looked up to see the funniest thing. Ever.
Carlisle was wearing an old, frilly apron. Edward was tugging off some sort of flowery smock, but it was Jasper and Emmett that had me and the women behind me almost in tears. Both were wearing big, floppy hats with flowers and birds on them, and Emmett was twirling a bright-ass, pink feather boa.
"Sure, laugh it up," Jasper grumbled, but Emmett grinned wide and shameless.
"You know I am so rockin' this look," he huffed haughtily, tossing the boa around his neck and going back inside the tree house. "Baby girl! It's your turn."
"Oh!" Bethy gasped, wriggling down out of my arms. "Coming, Unca Em!"
"Killer game of Chutes and Ladders. She destroyed us in Hi Ho Cherry-O," Edward explained with a chuckle, wrapping his arms around my waist. "How was girls day?" he asked, leaning down to kiss my neck.
"Productive, but tiring," I sighed, wrapping my arms around his neck. "Now I know why we didn't have a big wedding. It's exhausting."
He grinned, kissing my lips this time. "I was just happy you said yes," he whispered between each nip to my lips. "Dinner is ready. I've been cooking it all day, love. Take the girls in with you."
"'Kay," I sighed, not letting him go.
"Unca Em, that's cheating!" our daughter growled, and I swear she sounded just like Edward.
Edward chuckled, kissing me quickly. "He's been doing it on purpose to see if she'd catch it. She may kick his ass before the game is over." He turned a bit, yelling up into the tree. "Bethy, boys...it's time to eat. Get in the house!" he ordered.
"'K-Kay, Daddy!"
I snorted, rolling my eyes, but begrudgingly pulled myself from my husband's arms. I held a hand out for my daughter and said, "Come on, let's wash up, and then you can help set the table."
Dinner was loud, fun, and full of an entertaining debate between Emmett and Bethy concerning who was better looking – him or Edward.
"Daddy," she huffed, rolling her eyes and folding her arms across her chest in a way that was so me, I just about choked on the pot roast Edward had made.
"That's my girl," Edward crooned to her, kissing the top of her head as he walked back into the kitchen, though he flipped Emmett off when Bethy wasn't looking.
When the conversation turned from the upcoming wedding to work, Bethy scrambled down from her chair and crawled up in my lap, trying to hide her yawn, but I wasn't fooled.
"Bath and bed, pretty girl," I whispered to her, setting her down. "Go pick out your pajamas, baby, and I'll be in there to help with your bath."
Bethy met me in the bathroom with her favorite pajamas – a tiny little Air Force T-shirt and soft shorts. I was pretty damned certain the boys were trying to turn my daughter into a tomboy, but I kept faith in the fact that she still liked the color pink, wearing dresses, and playing with my makeup.
Once Bethy was clean, her hair brushed out and dried, and her teeth brushed, I knelt in front of her. "Better go tell everyone good night, baby."
She yawned again and nodded, padding out to the living room, where everyone was watching the highlights from the game they'd apparently missed, thanks to a very important tea party. With kisses and big hugs to Poppy and Gamma, hugs to the girls, and a high five and a fist bump to the boys, my daughter went in search of her dad.
She found him in the kitchen, and he quickly had to set down the beers he was pulling out of the fridge in order to catch her, chuckling and wrapping both strong arms around her.
"Night, D-Daddy," she said, grasping both sides of his face and planting big kisses to his face as she wrapped her strong little legs around him.
"Night, little sweetness," he whispered to her.
"Love you," she sang, grinning at him and tilting her head.
"Love you, too, baby," he said with a smile, kissing her neck loudly so that she squealed. "Lights out, little soldier."
"Y-Yes, sir," she giggled.
"Only sweet dreams," he grunted playfully at her, and I loved this little routine they had.
"Y-Yes, sir!" she huffed back, faking a serious face.
"You'll fall in at oh-eight-hundred tomorrow," he grunted again.
"'Kay, Daddy," she finally laughed, kissing him again before wriggling down and coming to me.
"C-Come, Mommy. R-R-Read t-to m-me," she ordered, and I rolled my eyes.
"Yes, ma'am," I said, giving her a salute.
We settled her into bed, and I pulled out the book that we'd been reading. As much as she liked the Wizard of Oz movie, the book was different and a little scarier, so we were currently working on Peter Pan. My daughter loved fairies and the Lost Boys; she was convinced that Emmett was never growing up, either.
I heard everyone leave and Edward lock up the house, setting the alarm at the front door. My daughter started to drift off just as her dad leaned in her doorway. She was too tired to speak, but she reached for him, and we both knew that she just wanted both of us with her when she finally fell asleep, so he squeezed in on the other side of her in her tiny little bed.
I finished the chapter out, just to be sure that she was completely asleep, before Edward and I carefully got out of her bed. Leaving her nightlight on and the door cracked, we turned the lamp off by her bed after we both kissed her forehead.
"Oh, damn," I sighed, once we were in our bedroom and I was getting undressed. "I totally forgot to ask your dad and Esme if they could watch Bethy tomorrow. We have to head to Portland to meet with that client..."
"They're good," he answered, coming to stand right behind me. "I asked them before they left. They're talking about the zoo or something. They're spending the night here in Forks and will pick her up in the morning, love."
I smiled, closing my eyes at the feel of his arms wrapping around me. I leaned back into him, tilting my head when warm, wet kisses were dropped along my neck and shoulders. I moaned shamelessly when my ponytail was gathered up in a firm grip and his kisses became hungrier, more desperate.
I turned in front of him, though he didn't let go of my hair, and pressed myself fully against him. He'd already stripped himself of his T-shirt, and at thirty, my husband was in the most amazing shape. He still ran just about every morning, though his hobby of building furniture kept him in really good shape – not to mention our daughter was a whirlwind of energy.
I let my fingers trace every muscle, every dip of his chest and stomach as he wrenched my head to the side in order to kiss my neck roughly up to my ear, where he took my earlobe between his teeth.
"Bella," he grunted, walking us backwards toward the bed, and I stopped when the backs of my legs met the mattress. "Fuck, baby..."
"I guess you missed me today," I teased him as we fell into the middle of the bed in a tangle.
He smiled against my neck, pulling back to gaze down at me as he settled between my legs. He was still in his jeans, and I was still in mine, but his weight felt good, comforting. I traced my fingers down his back with one hand, the other brushing an errant curl from his forehead.
"I d-did," he stuttered, sounding just like Bethy, and I smiled up at him because it was, by far, my favorite sound. It was the sound of pure honesty and love coming from him. "I probably love you too much, sweetness," he purred, scooting down my body to press his lips against my old scars as his fingers deftly flicked open my jeans. "I miss you whenever you're away from me..."
I never even gave them much thought anymore because they'd faded over time and with the help of the cream that Esme had given me so long ago. The only scars that remained prominent was the deeper one on my thigh from the tip of Miller's knife and the newer one of Bethy's C-section, both of which Edward always tended to give extra kisses and love. The one on my thigh, he'd told me once, meant the most to him because it was that one he'd kissed when he'd told me he loved me the first time, and the C-section scar was when I gave him the best gift he'd ever received – our daughter.
As he tugged off my jeans and dropped them off the bed, he did, indeed, pay homage to those two scars, just as I'd known he would.
"I love you, too, Edward," I sighed, my eyes rolling back as his mouth worked its way from one thigh, across my belly, to my other thigh, my fingers threading into his hair. "So much..." I tugged him lightly, saying, "Get up here and love me..."
He chuckled lightly, kicking out of his jeans and crawling back up my body. His mouth gaped just a bit when my legs wrapped around his hips, both of us moaning at the feel of nothing between us.
He pressed his forehead to mine, planting his elbows on either side of my head, and his fingers lightly brushed my hair from my face as he gazed down at me.
"I-I'm a l-lucky fucking man," he sighed, a slight smile gracing his handsome face as he shook his head slowly. "You've given me everything, Bella. Shit that I never thought I'd have..."
I looked up at the man that had once called himself a monster, the same one that I'd called a hypocritical asshole. I looked up at the guy that had been angry, commanding, and standoffish, the same guy that had kissed me stupid for the first time during the chase of our lives. He was not a monster... He was my hero. He was strong and loyal, sweet and loving. He was an amazing husband and father, and he was the best partner I could ever ask for. He'd vowed once to me that he would make it so that I was safe, and I don't think he'd meant permanently at the time, but it hjad ended up that way. He'd built a world of safety and comfort for me, and now our daughter, and I loved him more for it with each passing day.
I pulled his mouth to mine, kissing him softly, slowly, because I remembered a time when I could barely let him touch me, much less let him make love to me. And as he slipped inside of me with a delicious slowness, I knew that he wasn't the only lucky one.
Our mothers had tried to keep us together, though two different paths had ended their plans, but fate had intervened, giving us another chance. I pulled him to me, keeping him close because closer was always better.
I kissed his shoulder, all the way up to his ear, whispering, "Me, too, Edward. Me, too."
Friday, May 25, 2001 | By: Drotuno

Blood & Glory Chapter 31

CHAPTER 31
BELLA
"I'm not made to be a sniper, Jasper," I laughed, pulling my hair through one of Edward's black baseball caps.
We'd just landed in an open field, but we were quite a ways from where we truly needed to be. Edward had to hide our presence, so a hike in the dead of night was required to get to Corbin's farm, and it wasn't a short walk, either.
"Here." Mickey chuckled, turning me around. "Braids are better. That way your hair doesn't get caught in the trees and shit," she said, quickly braiding my hair down my back and securing it with a rubberband. "And only Jasper can sit still that long without going crazy." She laughed, falling over when he shoved her lightly. "You should've seen what poor Emmett went through one time."
"I'm hyperactive!" Emmett growled, much to everyone's amusement. "And I'd just eaten chocolate cake..."
"A whole cake?" I asked with a snort, my eyebrows raising up.
"Don't judge a man on his desserts, love." Edward snickered, giving me a wink as he helped me into a black Kevlar vest.
We were all in black because we had to trek through the jungle at night, sneak onto someone's well-guarded property, and take down the man that had started all this shit, despite the fact that it was Alec, Sam, and Carlisle who had made the mistake.
"It's amazing that you don't weigh a thousand pounds," I sighed, helping Mickey with her hair. "I've never seen anything like it. Jake didn't eat that much, and he was like six foot seven."
"Oh, speaking of Jake," Carlisle said, securing his weapons and vest. "He's home now. And unfortunately, you missed your opportunity to tell him about his upcoming fatherhood."
I grinned. "Well, shit!" I laughed, shaking my head as I tightened my boots. "Please tell me you at least videotaped it."
"It's on the internet, if I'm not mistaken." He chuckled, rolling his eyes. "Alice is a sneaky little thing."
We all laughed at that because we heard her loud and clear through our headsets. She was linked into a satellite system from Edward's house with the rest of the girls that couldn't come.
"It was fantastic, Bells!" Alice giggled. "Jake got all red in the face...and he sputtered and shook his head in denial, but his first thought was of you." She snorted into laughter.
Edward's head shot up as he loaded his bag with plastic explosives, detonators, and enough ammo for the both of us. I was following him on this mission, considering I'd never been on a military operation in my life – though the mountain cabin situation came damn close when James showed up to kill us.
"Why would he care about Bella?" Edward growled.
Behind him, Alec and Carlisle grinned in amusement at the pure jealousy that was rolling off him.
"Because, silly," Alice sang, and I could just see her shaking her head at him and rolling her eyes. "He totally thinks this is Karma she wished on him for cheating!"
"I don't have that good of an imagination," I muttered, smiling when everyone laughed. "I don't! The most I was hoping for was that she stalked him...or herpes or something..."
Edward laughed, his head falling back to the side of the chopper. "That's my girl," he said proudly, finally getting up and slinging his bag across his shoulder and chest so that it sat low on his hip. He hopped down to the ground and opened his arms for me. "Come on, sweetness," he said, still chuckling. "We've got fires to light and a long walk before we get there."
Everyone exited the chopper and helped Edward hide it under his tarps because we couldn't take any chances that someone would see it before the night was over. Before we could all take off to our perspective jobs, Carlisle gathered us around him.
"Listen," he sighed, placing one hand on my shoulder and the other on his son's, "I know this is the last job I'll ever ask of you – any of you. I know you've got lives you want to live and families you want to start, and I can appreciate that because I want those things for you – especially for my son." He paused, sharing a look with Edward, who nodded solemnly. "But I wanted you to know...I've never worked with a finer group of people in my life. And that includes Bella and her girls," he said, giving my shoulder a squeeze. I appreciated him including them because my girls were listening in from mine and Edward's home. "I've seen war and black ops, but never have I trusted or...cared more for a team than who is in front of me...or listening in...right now."
We were all silent because it seemed like he wasn't finished.
"When this is over, when we've taken out the biggest supplier of cocaine to the U.S. – not to mention the reason behind King's obsession with Twi Tech – then I want you to know that I release you from your obligations to me. You're free to do whatever you wish, and if you need anything...anything at all...please come to me. I'll be happy to write a glowing recommendation for all of you, though if Bella had her way, I think she'd just steal you all." He chuckled, wrapping his arm around me when I gasped dramatically, but it was no secret that my girls were urging his boys to come over to Gravity.
He took another deep breath and look around at the faces that were gazing up at him, letting his breath out slowly. "That being said, I want to thank you in advance for your help tonight. This was a mistake we made years ago, but I can't have Corbin coming after me, you, or anyone else, for that matter. We'll end the violence and the drugs at the source – not that he's the only one, but he's the only one that's a threat to us." He nodded, almost to himself, and let go. "You all have your jobs; you all know what to do... So please be safe, and we'll see you back here. Radio silence unless necessary. Jasper, the target is yours, so let's get going."
"Sir!" we all grunted before separating into the teams we'd been paired into.
Edward and I ran low and silent through the jungle for about two miles before the farmhouse came into sight. Way far off in the distance, a road wound away toward where Edward had said the house was. It could barely be seen under the bright moonlight. The field of coca plants went off into the distance for what seemed forever in the darkness of the night.
"This is going to get the whole jungle fucking high..." I snorted softly as I followed Edward to the barn.
We were going to use whatever fuel or flammable liquid we could get our hands on to start the fire.
Edward chuckled, shaking his head. "Doesn't work that way, baby." He snickered, glancing around us as he quietly opened the barn door. "The leaves are put through a process—"
"Okay, Alice," I teased, rolling my eyes at his silly-ass grin, but damn it, if Alice didn't start to give the exact fucking description of the cocaine making process.
"Holy God, Alice," Emmett growled. "Enough, you smart ass!"
"All right," I sighed, looking up at a very amused Edward, "that was totally my fault."
He cracked up, tugging me inside the barn. We found kerosene for lamps, gasoline for the farm equipment, and even a little paint thinner once we got inside. The fields were so large that we were going to start the fire on each end and in the middle, hoping that the winds would take care of the rest.
"We're not doing this until the animals are out of that barn, Edward," I told him, unlocking the stall that held a beautiful horse.
"Fine, baby," he stated, opening the rest. "We'll set them free. They'll stand a better chance in the open than they do trapped in here."
With that said, we both slapped the behinds of two large quarter horses so they'd take off into the night, and with no shame, I scooped up two kittens, their mother nowhere to be found.
"Bella, no," Edward huffed, rolling his eyes, but I stood my ground – pouting to the best of my ability – until he finally gave in, opening the bag at his hip. I set them in, all small and cuddly – one black and one white. He shirked it off his shoulder and put it on mine, raising an eyebrow at me. "Your responsibility..."
"'Kay," I said with a cheesy-ass grin, kissing his cheek. "Thanks, baby." I giggled, wrapping my arms around his neck as he tried in vain to ignore me, but his arm wrapped around my waist.
"You owe me," he growled against my neck. "And I will call that debt in, sweetness."
We left the barn doors on each end wide open and left, carrying all the fuel with us. We started by pouring along the outside rows, working our way into the center, and eventually pouring some on the far rows, and Edward then checked in with his dad.
"We're on point, Dad," he stated over the radio.
"Hold your position," Carlisle commanded. "You'll be the first in order to raise the alarm, son. When Jasper and Emmett are in position, you can set it."
"Ten-four," Edward stated, leaning against a tree as Jasper and Emmett worked their way to where they were supposed to be.
"Mickey, Sam, Alec...where are you?" Carlisle barked softly over the radio.
"We're inside the processing plant. This fucker is huge," Alec gushed. "I think we'll need more plastic explosives..."
"Edward, you and Bella get over to them. Take them what you have," Carlisle commanded, and Edward grabbed my hand. "You set the remote, and then set the fire. We'll be at the house by then."
Both of us looked up toward the rather large warehouse structure at the back of the property. We could see very small flickers of light in various places throughout the building. Taking off at a jog, we made our way up one of the coca plant rows and quietly opened the door.
Mickey rushed to us, holding out her hand. "I've got two more spots I need to rig," she said, pointing down the aisle we were standing in. "There's that pillar at the end and that office in the corner upstairs."
"I'll take the office," Edward offered, pulling the bag that was at my hip open, handing me the two kittens with a smirk, rolling his eyes when Mickey cooed at the little black one.
He grabbed two bricks of plastic explosive, handing one to Mickey with the detonators, and then both took off to finish the last two sections. I was just about to place the kittens – who I'd already mentally named Yin and Yang – back in the bag when a rumble and a clatter behind me made me spin around.
"Don't," Sam ordered quietly, coming out of the shadows from the next aisle over. "Let me look first, little one."
"'Kay," I said with a nod, glancing up to see Edward working on the office door and then back to watch Sam shine a muted flashlight toward where I'd heard the noise.
At the far end of an almost hidden hallway, just beside the door Edward and I had entered, there was a narrow, dingy flight of stairs, ending at a door with more locks than I'd ever seen.
The radio beeped as Sam called Mickey over. "Mick, you're gonna need your tools."
"Gotcha," she breathed over the headset, and I heard the thump of her boots as she made her way back to us, pulling a little pouch out of her back pocket as she ran. "What am I opening?" she asked me, and I pointed down the hall.
I wasn't sure it took her two minutes to open a padlock, two deadbolts, and crack a keypad code, but when she lifted the bar from the outside of the door and she and Sam cracked it open, I damned sure wasn't expecting the sight in front of me.
There had to be thirty girls behind that door, all ranging from preschool age up to mid-teens. They were dirty, scared, and in the fucking dark. They were different races, and they were damned terrified. I didn't have to even ask to know why they were locked away.
They were for sale on the black fucking market.
"You've got to be fucking kidding me," I groaned, shaking my head.
"Oh for fuck's sake," Alec growled, eyeballing the situation. "So this was where Young was getting some of his girls," he muttered, looking back when Edward joined us. "Sam, Mick...get them outta here. This place is gonna blow."
Both Sam and Mickey started speaking in Spanish, and I could hear the urgency behind words I didn't understand.
As the girls piled out of the room, Alec and Edward ushered them quietly out the back door, but Mickey poked her head out the door.
"Damn it!" she huffed, stepping all the way out the door. "I can't get these two girls to move. They're scared to fucking death...and I think they're all alone, like their parents are gone."
"Okay, let me try," I sighed, walking down the steps and into the strangely-lit room.
~oOo~
EDWARD
Alec and I froze as we watched Bella completely and unthinkingly walk down into that room. And it was a fucking basement. Never mind that she was still holding onto those two little kittens. Never mind that she had balked at the basement at her own father's home. My girl didn't think twice when it came to helping two little kids.
"Whoa," Alec breathed, looking up at me, and we both rushed down the steps to watch my girl and Mickey try to coax two very-scared girls out of a building we were about to blow the fuck up.
The girls were Hispanic, though what origin, I had no idea. One looked to be about thirteen, the other maybe about six or seven.
"Tell them the truth, Mickey," Bella whispered, kneeling down in front of the youngest girl. "Let them know that they can run away..."
Mickey nodded, translating to the oldest girl, but she shook her head frantically, arguing back.
"Oh, okay," Alec sighed. "They're from the next village over, but their parents are dead. They have an aunt, but she's in a completely different village..." He paused, narrowing his eyes at them as he listened. "Actually, it's the village that's not far from where we left the chopper."
I sighed, knowing the right thing here was to take them with us, to at least get them as far as the chopper. I ran a hand through my hair, but I froze when the youngest child reached out with the sweetest of smiles to touch the kittens in my girl's hand. They might've been scared to death, but Bella's unbelievably sweet, warm smile and those little balls of fur were the best thing they'd seen in a long damn time. I could see it on their faces as they were drawn to Bella, and my girl's eyes were filled with compassion and sympathy.
The radio crackled with my father's voice. "Jasper's in position. Wait for my signal, and you blow the warehouse and light the fields."
"You'd better tell him to stand down," Alec warned, his eyes widening.
"Dad, we have...a situation," I stated over the radio. "There were hostages in the fucking warehouse."
"Free them, and then get the hell out of there," he ordered.
"We did, but there are two little kids," I countered. "They need to get out of here, but they won't move."
"They're scared, Carlisle," my girl barked, giving me a pointed look. "They're only going to the village by the chopper."
"Take them, then...and get the fuck out of there! I want that alarm to sound in sixty seconds," he commanded.
I nodded to Mickey and Bella, and Bella smiled in the sweetest of victory. I wasn't sure who would do more for whom. There wasn't anything Bella wouldn't for my father, but my dad was becoming a fucking sucker for her – not that I was any damned better. Her voice carried more weight with him than anyone I'd ever seen. In the past, he'd never have taken the girls, but this time, he did. That was all Bella's doing.
Bella looked over at Mickey when they both knelt in front of the girls. "Mick, translate exactly what I say," she said, and Mickey nodded. "We're going to take you to your aunt, but we need to get you both out of here."
Mickey translated, and it was adorable watching the two little ones jump up and down in happiness.
"But I need your help," Bella continued, tilting her head at the littlest girl. "I really, really need someone to protect these guys. Do you think you can do that?" She held a kitten to each girl.
I snorted, shaking my head as the tiny one was nodding frantically with huge, wide eyes before Mickey had even finished translating. Both children carefully took a cat and tucked it close to their chest.
"Un-fucking-believable," Alec chortled, rolling his eyes. "Oh, kid...I hope you have little ones with her one day. Bellissima will make a fantastic mom..." His eyes glazed over for a brief moment, and he sighed, "Uncle Alec..."
I grinned, shaking my head, and slapped him on the back. "Moron...come on," I told him with a chuckle, but in all reality, I totally agreed with him, and that just scared the shit out of me.
The two young girls each held a kitten in one hand, grabbed a hand of Bella's and Mickey's with their other, and they finally left that basement. If Bella realized where she was, what type of room she'd gone into, she never made mention of it, and I damn well wasn't going to point it out to her.
"Okay," Sam barked, his eyes on the four girls as they left the processing plant. "Carlisle, we're about to blow this place," he stated over the radio.
"Good. Go, go, go," my dad huffed in reply.
"Out of the field," I ordered as we ran past the barn and into the safety of the edge of the jungle.
Sam pulled the remote from the detonator out of his pocket and handed it to me.
"This should actually trigger the fire in the fields, too," I muttered, seeing Bella nod out of the corner of my eye. I turned to her. "This may scare them, love. Cover their ears."
Mickey and Bella wrapped protective arms around the two girls, and I pressed the button. Several explosions wracked the dark and silent night, sending a giant fireball into the air. As several pieces of flaming debris fell back down, it ignited the gas that Bella and I had poured onto the coca plant field. It, too, bloomed into fiery life, swallowing the plants in a sweeping, gliding line of fire. It looked like an army marching over its enemy.
Alarms started to sound, and they sounded like the bells from high school that signaled the end of a class or the end of the day. Shouts could be heard from the workers' quarters as they poured out into the night, but the destruction was too much for them to even possibly consider trying to save a fucking thing. From the looks of it, they seemed to be celebrating, anyway.
Over the radio, I heard my father call for Jasper to be at the ready, but I knew Jazz well enough to know that he'd been ready for several minutes. He was lying in wait at the edge of the front yard, just outside the house of Alistair Corbin. We knew that the man lived alone, with only one maid, but as I retrieved the binoculars from the bag at Bella's side, I saw that she was the first out the door and down the winding dirt road. However, Corbin, wrapped in what looked to be a silk robe, was right behind her. He didn't take the last step off of the porch before his head exploded and his body fell limply to the ground of the front yard. He didn't move again, though my father wasn't taking any chances because he walked to the body to check for a pulse.
"Back to the chopper. Let's go!" he barked over the radio, but I knew my dad. I could hear relief and a satisfying sigh of a finished job through his voice.
Everyone began to walk away, but I stood firm because I knew what he was going to do next, and I wanted to make sure he was clear from the house when he did it.
He held up his hand, clicking a remote, and the house exploded behind him as he double-timed it our way. The debris narrowly missed him, but he was fine as he ran up the driveway.
"Edward?" Bella asked tentatively.
"He's fine," I sighed, stowing the binoculars back in the bag. "Let's get these guys someplace safe, baby," I told her, gesturing to not only the kids, but the damned kittens that my girl had to save, too.
"Once we get back to the chopper," Alec started, placing a hand on Bella's shoulder, "I'll run these kids to the next village, Bellissima. Okay?"
She nodded, giving the girls a brief glance before nodding at him again. "Thanks, Alec."
Bella scooped up the smallest girl, who still had a good grasp of the white kitten, as we jogged through the jungle on our way back to the chopper, and Mickey made sure the older girl kept up. We met Emmett and Jasper along the way, and my father was the last to arrive back.
I snorted at the look on my father's face as he took in the two little ones when Bella set the youngest one down on her feet.
Alec knelt in front of them, speaking softly, and both girls nodded solemnly. The oldest pointed west, and Alec muttered, "Good girl," standing up to face my dad. "Carlisle, I'm going to run them over to the next village – or at least close enough that they're comfortable making it the rest of the way. Give me twenty."
"Go ahead," my dad sighed, falling down on the edge of the chopper's cabin once I'd pulled the tarps off. "It's over, and this area has been abused by Corbin for so long, I can't imagine anyone gives two shits if his compound burns to the ground or not." He snorted and rolled his eyes as we all chuckled with him.
The youngest girl tugged on Bella's hand, pulling her down to her level, and placed a kiss on her cheek. The oldest girl turned to Mickey, saying, "Thank you," in English before looking to Alec and nodding.
The three of them stepped away, into the jungle, Alec humming lightly to them along the way.
"It's done?" Alice verified over the radio.
"Yes, ma'am," we all answered her, flinching when the squeals of cheering girls echoed over our headsets.
"So we can go back to cheating assholes and finding lost relatives?" she asked.
Bella's head fell back against the side of the chopper as she laughed and shook her head. "Jesus, Alice...don't you ever take a fucking vacation?" She groaned, leaving her eyes closed as we all laughed.
"I did. We went to Texas..."
"Darlin', that was not a vacation," Jasper said with a grin up at me as he leaned against a tree, sliding to the grass. "I think what Miss Bella is trying to say is that she needs at least...a day or two" he chuckled, shooting my girl a wink when she snorted, her head snapping up to glare at him "to recover from just the mere fact that she knows us."
My dad barked a laugh, poking Bella's leg. "That may be closer to the truth than she's willing to admit."
As I sat down next to Jasper, I opened my arms for my girl, who came over and fell into my lap with a small giggle. "Does knowing us drive you crazy, baby?" I teased, kissing her neck.
"No, but Jasper's right," she admitted with a chuckle, shaking her head. "I really could use a day or...more without plans or someone out there trying to kill us all..."
I smirked at the laughter around us, but I pulled Bella's face back, tugging on the bill of her cap. "How 'bout this," I whispered so that it was only the two of us talking. "We take some time, get you completely moved in, and just hang out at the house for a week or two before you make any decisions about Gravity, sweetness."
She smiled, leaning in to kiss me softly. "Yeah," she whispered, biting her bottom lip. "That sounds really...good." She grinned, nodding slowly. "Besides, I think there's a table that needs finishing."
"And I'll need help, baby." I chuckled, tilting my head at her. "Besides," I sighed, kissing her because I couldn't help myself, "I have an idea about where you should put Gravity's office..."
Alec returned, breathing heavily but looking extremely proud of himself. "They're dancing in that village over the fires they can see in the distance," he told us with a snort.
"Good!" my dad exclaimed, standing up. "Come on, guys...and ladies. Let's get the fuck out of here! This was easy, just like it should've always been. Now Corbin can't bother anyone anymore."
~oOo~
"Really?" Bella gasped, lying back against me as we sat in a lounger in my front yard after just finishing the kitchen table. "You want to build Gravity...here?" she asked, pointing out toward the direction of the vacant space just behind my chopper.
We'd been home for a few weeks, just the two of us, though we'd had plenty of visitors. Rose and Emmett had helped us move Bella's things from Rose's old apartment and the apartment at TT, and in turn, we'd helped move the two of them into Charlie's old house.
Jasper and Alice had found a small house just around the corner from us in Forks and were just about to close on it. Makenna had rented an apartment above a small bookstore downtown that she planned on using when Wes was out of town on assignment and when she had to work for Bella. Mickey and Obie, on the other hand, were planning on making their permanent residence in Alaska with my Aunt Kate, but Mickey had decided to keep the small place she rented in Seattle, just in case she needed it.
My dad and Esme settled into a comfortable routine at Twi Tech. It was amazing to watch the stress of his old military life fade away from his worried brow. He was living a life he wanted, and he'd found something in Esme – though I was convinced we'd all found something in her – that made him happy, that seemed to fill him with something he'd been missing since my mom had died.
And they were all waiting on Bella to make a decision concerning Gravity – impatiently, I might add.
My dad was its financial backer – though he could really give two shits about the money – but told her the insurance check had come through from the fire of her first office. Rose was already speaking to former, current, and future clients that needed their services, and Alice was chomping at the bit to get back to stalking people on the internet. Only Makenna had told Bella to take her time, but that really was because Wes was taking a few weeks off before he had to fly out to Virginia for a few months – something about a new training class he had to teach concerning organized crime – and she most likely wanted to spend time with him.
But for some reason, my girl was dragging her feet, which surprised me because I thought for sure that she'd want to go back to work. She had just an enormous fucking passion for it, and she was damned good at it, too.
"I think it would be perfect here, and there's plenty of property," I explained as she rubbed at a spot of stain on my hand. "It's not like you need a store front, baby. Most of your clients come to you via email, word of mouth, or phone, and then you meet with them out in public. This would be a place to store Alice's equipment and a place for her to work, a place to store your files, and..."
"But why...here?" she asked, getting up to sit sideways in my lap in order to look me in the eye.
"It's fucking safe," I admitted with a sigh, unable to lie about my reasons. "And close. If some pissed off, cheating asshole wants to get revenge, he sees me first."
"This is a really small town, Edward. Everywhere is close." She chuckled, reaching up to take my baseball cap off. I wanted to fucking purr when she scraped her nails along my scalp.
"I know, but still..." was my only brilliant argument as my eyes closed, just enjoying her nearness, her touch, the smell of her – even though we'd been staining the kitchen table all day.
She traced my eyebrows, ghosting a finger down my nose and then across my lips before I slowly opened my eyes to her. There was a little frown of concentration on her face as she bit her bottom lip, and she took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.
"Work with me," she blurted out in a whisper, her eyes locking on mine.
I smiled, already knowing that Jasper and Emmett had offered their services to her if she ever needed them, but it was Alec that had suggested combining the two teams, which had made my girl's eyes light up. No more military black ops, but more along the lines of paid protection. He had been doing it on the side for years and said it was harmless but paid fairly well. He'd guarded singers, actors, even a witness in a murder case once. He'd told her that he still carried a concealed weapon, still got to rough people up, but he didn't really have to leave the country if he didn't want to – and jokingly, he told her that almost no one ever got killed while at a teeny-bopper concert. In fact, he tried his best to just handle the California, Oregon, and Washington area.
"Please," she begged, shifting her position again so that she was straddling my lap, and I couldn't help but chuckle at her because she always wriggled closer and closer the more she wanted something.
Like I could tell her no to any-fucking-thing. Especially this.
"I thought I was supposed to make furniture all day," I teased, smirking when she huffed in frustration.
"You can..." She pouted so adorably, looking up at me through her long, dark eyelashes. "I'm not saying you have to take every case, Edward. Just be my partner... Take cases that you want, only the ones that interest you. It's harmless work compared..."
Her voice trailed off, and I so wanted to laugh, but I bit it back.
"Compared to what, baby?"
"Compared to what we've done...what you've done before, but I could use you. Hell, all of you," she explained, her warm finger tracing over my tattoo. "We could do what Alec said...combine the teams. But we could do what we wanted, when we wanted." She huffed again, looking at me with the sweetest begging eyes, and I almost caved then, but she kept going. "We make such good team, you and I. You seem to catch things I don't see, and vice versa... And..."
"Okay, okay." I chuckled, grabbing her face, because she was too adorable trying to convince me of something I'd been considering for a long time. "But only if you put the office here," I bargained, jerking my chin to the spot I'd pointed out before.
"Really?" she practically squealed, kissing me roughly, only to pull away too soon.
"Yes, really." I laughed, rolling my eyes. "What else is out there for what I know, Bella?" I countered, shrugging one shoulder. "It's not like I can take a regular nine-to-five job, you know? And as much as making furniture is my favorite thing to do, I only like doing it when someone needs something, and it's a hobby...not a career... S-So, y-yes...b-because I c-can't imagine wh-what it's l-like n-not to work w-with you," I sputtered because telling her this shit made me nervous.
I'd taken the job from my dad to find Bella as a favor to him and his oldest friend, as a favor to the little brown-haired twelve-year-old I'd met one time, but I'd found so much more. I'd found someone I could really just...be me with. She accepted me wholeheartedly, and if I'd told her that I still wanted to be a soldier for hire, she'd stand behind me one hundred percent, but she'd worry, and I'd worry, and that shit was for the fucking birds. My mom had gone crazy every time my dad went overseas when he was in the Air Force. I'd sworn I'd never do that to anyone, and now I damn well wasn't doing it to the best thing I'd ever found.
So if finding some lost relative, or catching a cheating asshole, or reuniting a child with a parent, or even guarding some spoiled actor was going to keep me with my girl...well, then, where the fuck did I sign? Besides, the change, the ease and professionalism in which the girls approached every client, sounded like a hell of a lot of fun, and I had a feeling Emmett and Jasper were just biding their time and waiting for my answer before they gave her more than just an offer of their services. It wasn't like any of us needed to work, but why just fucking waste away when we could do a damned good job at whatever we set our minds to?
"I love you," she said with the cutest grin, the one she saved when she got her way.
"Love you, too, sweetness," I said with a snicker. "So here?" I pointed across the yard, raising an eyebrow at her.
"Yeah, here," she sighed with a smile, and the stress I hadn't even realized she'd been carrying left her shoulders. She'd totally been waiting for me, for my answer.
"Well, let's call Dad. He'll want to know what we're up to," I said, pulling my phone out. "And he'll have to help me with finding a contractor."
I dialed my dad, knowing he was probably at the office, and he picked up immediately.
"Hey, son. How's Bella?"
"Oh sure...ask about her first. I'm fine, Dad. Thanks for asking, asshole," I teased him.
"And Bella?" he countered without missing a beat.
"She got her way," I stated, smiling at his laugh.
"So, you and the boys are going to work for her?" He laughed, sounding like he'd been waiting for this little bit of fucking news.
"With her, not for her," I growled dramatically, chuckling when my girl rolled her eyes.
"Whatever," they both groaned, and I laughed at them, my head falling back.
"If you two are finished, Bella has agreed to build Gravity here," I told him.
"That's the perfect spot," he agreed. "Safe, close... If you ever get married and start a family..." he hinted, clearing his throat, "then you'll be close to the house."
"Don't go there, old man," I warned him. "If anyone should be tying the knot, it's you, jackass. Esme may not wait around forever for you to pull your head out of your ass."
He was silent on the other end, and I pulled the phone back to see if the call had dropped, but it hadn't.
"That wouldn't bother you, Edward?" he asked finally, and I winced when I realized that he'd been concerned about my feelings.
Bella, who was still perched on my lap and could hear every word, bit her lip when she heard what he was asking, her eyes filling with sympathy as she tilted her head a bit. She knew our mothers were touchy subjects, except when it was just the two of us. And fuck, she was just fucking beautiful as the setting sun glinted through the shade of the trees in my front yard over her hair and skin.
"Do you love her, Dad?" I asked, unable to tear my eyes away from the quiet girl in front of me. I reached up to touch her cheek with the backs of my fingers.
"Yes, Edward." His answer was muttered but honest.
"Don't you think Mom would want you happy?" I sighed, knowing what my own opinion on it was, but I'd never asked him. "I'm not thirteen, Dad. I'm twenty-seven...and you did a damn fine job on your own, but it's time that you...stopped being alone."
I threaded my fingers into the hair at the base of Bella's neck, bringing her close so that I could press my lips to her forehead. I closed my eyes, inhaling the scent of her hair, the floral-fruity smell that had driven me crazy when I first met her but that I now needed on my pillows every day.
"Esme's an amazing person, Pop," I went on to say, but that's all I said aloud to him because my own relationship with the woman was phenomenal. I never thought I'd care about someone in my father's life like I did my own mother, but Esme was perfect for him, for all of us, because my Bella loved her fiercely. "If you're waiting for my consent, you have it." I sighed, pressing another kiss to my girl's forehead. "You've had it since she kicked my ass at the mountain cabin," I said with a grin.
Both Bella and my father chuckled because they both knew of the showdown I'd had with Esme over Bella's recovery. Esme had threatened to take Bella away if I was only after her for a piece of ass. I'd been bound to my girl then, and Esme had made me really see it.
"Thank you, Edward," my dad sighed.
"No problem, but you'd better get busy, old man, because my girl missed out on planning a wedding with Rose. She'll want to be involved with this one." I chuckled because Bella was beaming like it was Christmas.
"Tell her, yes, ma'am," he said with a laugh, and she giggled, hearing him just fine. "And when you're ready, Edward...you give that girl your mother's ring. Got me?" he ordered.
"Yes, sir," I answered out of habit, but it was something I'd already considered. He'd given it to me ages ago, but my mindset hadn't been on marriage then so I'd stowed it away in the safe inside my house.
Bella and I had even discussed it after Emmett and Rose's announcement, but even though we both wanted it, we were okay just to be. We'd rushed around for months with everything, so just the ability to do what we wanted for a little while was soothing to both of us. But it was something I wanted. Badly.
"Good," he huffed. "Now...Gravity..."
~oOo~
BELLA
Two months later...
"Hell, no," I growled into the phone to Rose as I washed dishes. "I'm not working with Spencer, Wyatt, and Townsend again. They hire shitty employees, be damned of their history. They can find someone else to work their divorce cases."
"I figured you'd say that, so that's what I basically told them," she agreed with a laugh. "After Victoria and Wendell, I assumed you'd have nothing to do with them."
"You weren't mean to Tanya, were you?" I asked.
I had zero hard feelings for the poor girl; she'd just gotten wrapped up in mine and Edward's twisted emotional tug of war. The poor thing was a casualty in it all, as far as I was concerned. I did wonder at some point if she expected Edward Masen to ever call her, which made me smile because he hadn't given her his real name, just the pseudonym he used occasionally – Masen, his mother's maiden name.
"Not...technically," Rose hedged, and I snorted, rolling my eyes. "How's the building coming?"
I laughed, looking out across the front yard through the kitchen window. The damn thing was well on its way because when Carlisle Cullen ordered a construction crew, they fucking got busy immediately, and all permits were pushed through with blazing speed. The foundation, the outer walls, and the doors and windows were all in, not to mention the electrical panels that Mickey had installed for the security systems and locks. The office building was smaller than my house that I'd bought with Jake, but it was going to be more secure than the fucking Pentagon.
"I figure Alice can start moving her equipment in pretty damn soon," I told her, turning off the water and hopping up on the counter. I dangled my feet a bit as I continued to stare out the window. "So what job is the most important, Ro? Which one should we take first?"
"This custody case, I think," she sighed. "Mr. Rollins won custody of his son, four-year-old Tyson, because the mother is an alcoholic and an assumed drug addict, but she picked Tyson up from preschool early two weeks ago and hasn't been seen since."
I winced and sighed. "What's the in with her?"
"Bars," Rose growled. "Apparently, she's looking for a way out. Mr. Rollins talked to her one time after Tyson was taken, and she told him – in a drunken rage – that she was going to find a man to take them both so far away that he'd never see his son again. He thinks she's picking up men in bars, trying to seduce them into being the next baby daddy."
"Oh, okay, then," I stated, "so she's digging for gold. Got it. Tell him I'll meet with him, but it won't be until tomorrow."
"Still flying to Alaska today?"
"Yeah," I said, dragging my gaze from my new office to the helipad. I shook my head because there wasn't a better sight on the fucking planet. "Aunt Kate wants to see..."
"Edward Anthony..." we both finished at the same time, laughing.
I bit back a groan of want as my eyes took in Edward as he readied his chopper. Not only was he going through whatever that checklist of his was, but he was washing her, as well. He was wearing only camo cargo shorts and his black backwards baseball cap. Covered up to his elbows in slippery suds, he stood on a step ladder, his back muscles rolling in the most beautiful way I'd ever seen as he scrubbed the side of the tail.
"Ro, I gotta go..." I muttered, licking my lips as Edward drank from the water hose before turning it on the side of the chopper to rinse it.
"Sure, Bells, I'll call Mr. Roll—"
I ended the call without letting her finish, but I knew what she was going to say so I slipped down from the counter, leaving my phone behind. Stepping out of the house and off the front porch, my eyes never left Edward. He hung the ladder back on the hooks that were on the back of the shed and then moved to shut the water off. He walked the length of the chopper, checking the back blades, and then opened the hatch that held what looked like the engine – though I had no fucking clue what the technical names for any of it were.
I couldn't help but smile back at him when he glanced up at me, wearing my favorite crooked, but innocent smile. He had no fucking clue just how hot he was at that moment.
"Hey, baby," he called softly, opening the co-pilot door and pulling himself up into the seat. "How's Rose? Does she have a client for you?"
"Yeah," I breathed, again licking my lips at him because he was oblivious to my ogling. "A custody case. I'll probably need you on it."
"Sure, love," he grunted, bending down to fiddle with something under his seat just to sit back up to check gauges and flip a few switches. "We're almost ready to go, so whenever you're ready..."
"'Kay," I said, boosting myself up on the step so that I was standing beside him. "What are you checking?" I asked, inhaling deeply the scent of him because he'd worked on a coffee table for Jasper and Alice first thing that morning, so he smelled like fresh-cut wood and sweat and the soap he'd just used.
"You really want to learn, Bella?" he asked, pulling me to his lap so my legs fell on the outside of his.
I wanted to tell him yes because I really was interested in the whole process of flying. And I wanted to tell him no because I damn well wasn't going to retain a fucking thing he was about to show me. I wanted him too much. But I was in his lap, so that was a step in the right direction.
Strong, warm arms wrapped around me as rambled behind me about levels, gauges, horizons, and fuel, and not a bit of it was English to me. I could only focus on the feel of his bare chest at my back, his warm arms around me, and those muscular thighs beneath me. His warm breath was at my ear, his fingers linking with my right hand as he made us grip the stick together.
"I've showed you this part already, baby," he said softly in my ear, planting the softest of kisses to my neck, just below my earlobe. "This controls everything...kinda like the mouse of a computer," he instructed, placing another kiss to my skin. "It controls left, right...up, down," he purred, and I realized that someone had finally caught up to what I was feeling.
I laid my head back to his shoulder, turning my head to kiss his neck and groaning when his free hand pressed flat against my stomach in order to pull me back even closer against him. I could feel then that he was definitely catching up to me. Rough, calloused fingers teased the skin of my stomach just under my shirt and along the waistband my shorts, but soon, his touch left me.
"What this, baby?" he asked, tapping the control panel in front of us.
"Edward," I panted, squeezing my eyes closed when he removed our hands from the control stick to cup my breast...together.
"Tell me."
"F-Fuel," I answered, hoping to God I was right.
"Good girl," he crooned, brushing our thumbs across my very-pert, very-sensitive nipple, making my breath catch. "And this?" he asked, tapping another tiny little window on the panel.
"Um..." I faltered, knowing this pop quiz he was giving me was his way of teasing, his way of making the moment last. "Hor-i-zon?" I whimpered as his hips shifted behind me, giving me just the mere hint that he was as just as turned on as I was.
"You don't sound sure, love..."
"Horizon," I stated, trying to sound matter-of-fact, but I had no idea if I was right or not because our linked fingers were now toying with the button of my shorts.
"That's my girl," he praised in the sexiest damn voice, his fingers delving just inside my underwear. "How about this one?"
My whole body tried to arch, to force his – our – fingers where I needed him the most, but he held me firm, suckling the skin just below my ear with hot, open-mouthed, almost panting kisses. He teased the outside of my folds without shame, not applying the pressure I so desperately needed, not even bothering to accept the invitation when I spread my legs wider for him.
"This one, Bella," he ordered softly, dragging his teeth across my flesh as he tapped the control panel again.
"En-gine...something-or-other," I growled, trying to force our fingers closer to where I was now just completely soaked for him.
"Output, sweetness," he snickered darkly. "Engine output..."
"Don't care," I admitted finally with a groan, practically writhing as he wrapped his arm around my waist to hold me still.
"I thought you wanted to learn this, love." Long fingers lightly and eventually delved through my folds, a low growl vibrating from his chest. "So fucking wet, baby..."
"I do," I urged, my voice coming out in more of a whine than the convincing tone it should've been. "But...Edward..." I panted, reaching back, tugging his hat off, and dropping it to the helipad outside the open door in order to weave my fingers into his hair.
"You want this, instead?" he asked, and I gasped as two of his fingers curled inside of me when I least expected it.
"Yes, yes," I chanted, nodding frantically as he finally let my body arch up, my hips roll. "Right now...just for right now, baby. Please..."
His free hand slipped under my shirt to tug down the cups of my bra, releasing my breasts. My nipples were aching for his touch. Edward hummed in approval as his palm rolled over each peak at the same time that I tugged and twisted until he finally bent enough to kiss me.
It was breathy and wet, gasping and frantic, because it didn't take much from Edward to bring me to the edge. The combination of his finger and thumb pinching and rolling my nipple, along with the sweet and deep rhythm that he using between my legs was just about to cause me to completely unravel in his lap, but when his thumb swirled over my clit, applying the most delicious pressure, my breathing almost stopped.
"Come, baby," he commanded, urging and urging me with both of his hands to let go as his mouth met the side of my neck once again. "Come hard for me, sweetness." With a mind-numbing flick to my clit and a pinch to my nipple, my whole body clenched down on him. "Goddamn, you're beautiful when you come like that..."
With shaky legs and hands, I stood up and straddled his lap, facing him, grasping both sides of his face to kiss him senseless. Edward gripped the outside of my T-shirt, pulling me with force closer to him, both of us letting out a moan as his arousal pressed up against me with perfect precision.
I slowed the kisses down, languidly dragging my tongue along his in order to savor this moment because I'd been fantasizing about my pilot and his chopper ever since he'd blurted out that he owned a fucking helicopter. I slowly opened my eyes, allowing myself to take in his handsome face. His long eyelashes rested in a stark contrast against his skin as I took his top lip and then his bottom. Running my nose up one side of his and down the other, I was finally met with the darkening green that I lived for – the color that was trapped somewhere between sweet and cuddly, and fierce and wanting. Just like his stutter and his commanding tone, it represented my Edward – the amazing combination of tender lover and brutal warrior.
"I love you, Edward...so fucking much," I whispered against his lips.
Strong, gripping fingers slipped into my hair on either side of my face, and Edward licked and nipped at my mouth, his breathing heavy. Our tongues met, heavy, wet, and twisting, and I rested my elbows on his shoulders, gripping his headrest in order to pull myself closer, deeper...just more.
Bending my head back just a little, Edward kissed down my neck and up to my ear. "I love you, too. And I want you...right here, baby," he growled, pushing up my shirt. It fell out of the chopper, just as his hat had.
I raked my fingers down his stomach, gripping at the button of his shorts as he tossed my bra out the door, and my shorts were down and off before I could blink.
When I finally had his erection free and in my hand, he looked up at me. "Watch your head, baby," he ordered softly, lifting me just enough so that he could slide me down over him.
It was slow and deep. It was breathtaking and heartbreaking. It was everything we'd always been, and it was so sweet that my heart almost overflowed with my love for him because I knew without a shadow of a doubt that there wasn't anything we couldn't get through, as long we could always come back to this.
Firm, strong fingers flattened between my shoulder blades as we said nothing. Edward met my rhythm, guiding my hip with his other hand, whispering words of love, and want, and how beautiful I was.
"Stay with me...always," he begged, and I pressed my forehead to his, closing my eyes as he continued. "Tell me you'll never leave this spot. Promise me that no matter what, we're it...that nothing else matters..."
I nodded against his forehead. "I promise, Edward...I swear, baby..."
"M-Marry m-me, B-Bella..."
I gasped, my eyes snapping open as my whole body registered what he'd said...and how he'd said it. I was so close to coming before, his pure look of honesty, warmth, want, and need just sent me over the edge again, saying the only answer I knew to give.
"Yes," I panted, nipping at his lips as he thrust hard up into me, coming forcefully inside of me, his mouth hanging open as he tried to catch his breath.
"Y-Yes?" he verified, cupping either side of my face.
I grinned, feeling strung out but very, very sated. "Not right away, but...yeah," I repeated with a giggle.
"I don't care when," he said, beaming, kissing me roughly at first and then slowing down to the sweetest of kisses. "You tell me when..." he breathed against my lips.
"'Kay," I snickered, biting my bottom lip and looking around at what we'd really just done, making my snicker turn into full blown giggles. "Now this was something I've wanted for a long time..."
I received my crooked, sexy-ass smirk as he said in a dreamy voice, "Yeah, me, too."
I kissed him again because it just seemed so fucking fitting the way he asked me. We'd already discussed it, but I knew he wanted it – or at least a reason to put his mother's ring on me – and he'd done anything and everything that I'd ever asked of him. He'd been brave and sweet when he'd pulled me out of Miller's basement, which turned into patient and encouraging as we tried to figure out what we were, what we were feeling. And then he became the best friend, the best partner I'd ever had.
As I sat on his lap, kissing him softly, I realized there was no better fit than the two of us. We were both very much alike, yet completely different, and it really fucking worked. I smiled against his mouth as I remembered two very awkward kids meeting for the first time. I pulled back, running my fingers through his hair, still seeing that boy I'd been crushing on by the end of the day. I thought about our mothers and how they must've wanted this for us so badly, which made tears well up in my eyes because I really hoped they saw that fate had taken over when they couldn't finish.
"Hey," he murmured, "what's this?"
"Will you do something for me?"
"Baby, anything," he vowed, sitting up straighter and wiping away the tears that fell down my cheeks.
"Build us a birdhouse," I said, pointing to the pine tree by the front porch. "Right there."
I watched his brow wrinkle for a mere second at my request, but I knew I didn't have to elaborate. I knew that he'd know that maybe, just maybe, a small family of sparrows would move in, bringing the story that his mother told him so long ago about how she would watch over him from the trees with the sparrows a little closer. And now I hoped that my own mother was with her, that her spirit or whatever she was now was a little more free because we knew the truth about how she'd died.
Edward's gaze slipped to the tree I'd chosen and then back to me. "They should be close, don't you think?" he asked, and I nodded. "They should see that it worked out in the end, huh?" He smiled the sweetest, most crooked smile, but it was a happy smile, his eyes the color of the tree we were discussing.
"Yeah," I sighed, smiling back at him.
He was nodding before he actually answered as his eyes fell back to the tree. "Yeah, okay," he whispered, looking back at me and kissing me softly. "When we get back, I promise, but we'd better get moving, baby. Aunt Kate worries if we're late."
I giggled because I looked down at us – all naked and still wrapped around each other – and tilted my head at him. "Clothes first, baby..."
He laughed, lifting me carefully down from the pilot seat, and we both went inside to get ready to leave. We were just about to take off, but before Edward switched on the power to the chopper, he held out a box to me.
"I-It's m-my m-mother's," he stuttered, looking at the little black box and back to my face as I gently took it from him. "I-I...I know th-that she'd b-be happy that i-it w-was you..." He trailed off, but I knew what he was saying.
I nodded, swallowing thickly as I opened the box, and then I gasped at the ring. It was perfect and beautiful, just like his mother – a solitary diamond in a simple white gold setting.
He plucked it out, sliding it onto my finger, only to kiss it with a reverence that I'd never seen from him. "Just knowing you said yes...well, that's good enough for me," he stated with a nod as he swallowed thickly. "I can be p-patient f-for something I w-want," he teased, giving me a wink when I giggled at him as he kissed my lips, because that seemed to be our motto.
"'Kay," I sighed, putting on my headset when he handed it to me and started the chopper.
Once he'd called in his flight and leveled out, heading north, he picked up my hand, kissing my ring again. "Okay..." he sighed, like a huge weight had been lifted from him. "So tell me about this next case we're taking..."
As we flew toward Alaska, I explained about a little boy that might be in trouble. I told him what Rose had told me and that we were meeting with the father the next day. And as I discussed this with him, I had to look out the window to hide my smile because I realized this was the beginning of a whole new life, a new way of working, and it was better than I could possibly explain.
Edward banked the chopper toward the ocean gracefully, nodding and humming as he thought about the case. "I'll come with you...tomorrow," he stated with another nod.
I smiled over at him. "Yeah...tomorrow..."