Friday, February 8, 2002 | By: Drotuno

Smoke and Mirrors Chapter 22

CHAPTER 22

EDWARD

"Nice, Mack. Thank you," I praised her, because she'd been kind enough to start the finishing touches on the stage. The thing needed to be all black, so once every single section was finally put together, she'd started spray painting it for us.

"Sure, Edward. No problem," she chirped, showing Cassie exactly how she should hold the can.

I glanced around, seeing that Jasper and Emmett had already left to go rent the truck to transport this shit. Bella and Alice were up on the deck, practically forehead to forehead as they worked on a computer. But it was the project that we'd been working on for the last few days to which my eyes fell again.

A strong hand fell onto my shoulder when my father's voice sounded in my ear. "Well done, son," he praised.

I sighed and nodded. "Thanks. I just hope it works. It was the only way Jordan and I could figure out how to switch them – by creating some sort of space underneath the stage."

"You're worried?" he asked, frowning up at me.

I grimaced, shaking my head. "Yes and no." I tugged off my cap and ran a hand through my sweaty hair, only to put my hat back on. "I mean, Bella can defend herself and she'll be with me, but this Preston guy worries me. The girls are about to send out the ad and all those announcements and leaks, so this shit will go public in a few hours. There's no going back, and I fucking hope that he doesn't get past us somehow."

My dad nodded, neither agreeing or disagreeing with me. "Well, just so you know... Wes and Benny are on their way to the warehouse now to set up their team in the surrounding buildings and streets. When Jasper and Em get back, we'll load up everyone and head down there. Jasper and El will join Benny. I think you wanted snipers on either side of the building, yes? One aimed at each entrance?"

"Yes, I did. I trust their eyes, but I trust Mack to spot him," I told him.

"Okay, well, the girls have assured me that they will not be sending out anything over the internet until just before we leave, because we need a head start to get set up. In fact, I'm pretty sure Alice will send it while you're in the air."

I nodded, trusting all of them with my entire being, but I still didn't fucking feel right.

"What's the problem, Edward?" he asked, studying my face.

"I... I don't know how to just...let him in. Not without killing him. And then if he doesn't show... What do we do?" I asked him.

He nodded, rubbing his chin. "I've been thinking about that. I figure if he doesn't show, then he's gotta know we're setting his ass up. I think I have an idea if this fails, but I'm not sure you'll go for it. Neither will my wife," he said wryly, giving the back deck a quick glance.

"Oh hell," I snickered. "What, Dad? Spill it. I'll take anything at this point, because I just want this shit to be over."

He grinned. "Esme said that Preston is trying to protect Kyra in his own fucked up twisted way. And Alice says his cell phone is still on, not that he's using it, because she's tried to track him. She's only been able to pinpoint a general area that the phone is pinging off of or some shit." He snorted when I laughed, because Alice made us all sound fucking stupid when we tried to repeat whatever she knew. "Anyway, my idea was that Kyra contact him. Call him or text him, letting him know that she 'needs' him. She could even lie and say that she wants away from Jordan...and you, considering she's supposedly dating you."

"Ugh," I groaned, rolling my eyes. "If I hear that lie one more time, I'll lose my fucking mind. I'll never be able to pose as a man-slut again to catch a cheater."

My dad laughed, his head falling back as he grasped my shoulder. "You'll live. I promise."

I snorted, shaking my head. "What-the-fuck-ever."

"What do you think, son?" he asked, turning serious once more.

I turned to look up at the deck, where all the girls were going over their next steps. I sighed, seeing weapons, ammo, and tracking devices all out on the table. I rubbed my face, shaking my head, and turned back to my dad.

"I think I need to ask Kyra and Bella before I make that decision. I'm not sure how Kyra would feel about talking to this shithead again," I told him. "I like the idea. In fact, I'm not so sure we shouldn't do it anyway."

"Well, make sure you talk to all of those girls about it," he said with a nod. "I'd like to keep my balls, if you don't mind. Heaven forbid we change the plan on them."

"Got it," I laughed.

We both looked up when the sound of a truck beeping caught our attention. Jasper and Emmett were back, and it was time to load up. But my dad was right; we needed to change something. With the discovery of Ike's hunting cabin and Jordan's removal out of his home and into our protection, I was damn sure Preston knew he was being set up. Having Kyra lie to him, give him false hope...that would be the key.

I spun toward the deck. "Bella, Kyra, Jordan!" I called, and they all glanced up at me. "Inside. I think we need to change something. Let's go."

They followed me inside, and I called for Esme to join us in the office. Closing the door, I turned to look at them as they all took seats at the table.

"Baby, what's wrong?" Bella asked, her brow furrowing.

"Nothing," I answered her quickly, shaking my head as I sat down next to her, "but my dad and I were just talking about making some changes to the plan, sweetness. I didn't want to do that until I had the permission of the people in this room."

"Okay," she said, dragging out the word. "Well, let's hear it."

I looked up to Esme and then to Jordan. Finally, my gaze landed on Kyra. "Kyra, this will affect you more than anyone else. What I'm about to suggest will most likely scare you, but I won't do it unless you're absolutely okay with it."

"Edward, just tell us," Kyra whispered, looking a little wary.

I stood up and started to pace, not exactly sure how to approach this shit. "I have a funny feeling about this plan. I truly think Preston will see through it all. What we think will help...is if you call him. Plant it in his mind that you want to join him. We think he'll take the bait, buy into it, and come for you."

"Edward..." Bella whispered, wincing, but she looked to Esme and Kyra.

"Christ, Edward," Jordan groaned, and his face was pained as he looked over to Kyra. I understood his trepidation, because I'd been there. It was the reason I'd brought him in on this idea before anyone else.

However, it was Esme that spoke first. "That's truly facing one of your demons, Kyra," she said softly. "We won't do it if it you don't want to, but I think Edward has a point. Preston's illness gives him blinders...he only sees you. Because of his attraction to you and your history together, not to mention how his father treated you, he feels he needs to get you alone in order make you see things his way. In his mind, he's trying to save you. If you contact him, tell him that you actually do need help, then he'll come for you. Immediately. He'll forget that he's being hunted and only focus on you."

"I'm scared," Kyra whispered, but her eyes fell to me. "I'm not saying no, Edward, but..."

"I know you are," I sighed, trying to keep my voice calm as I knelt in front of her. "We won't let him hurt you. You know that, right? We're doing our best to catch him, but I think this will work."

She nodded, saying, "Gimme a second." Her voice was barely above a whisper, but she stared down at her hands on her lap.

"You don't have to, honey," Jordan, who was looking between us, told her, finally tipping her face up to his by the chin. "I'm sure we can figure out another way."

Kyra nodded, looking down at her hands again, and the room went silent for a few minutes, because we were giving her the space to think about it. Hell, I knew this wasn't an easy decision. No easier than Bella having to face Miller back in the day, because the motherfucker was hiding out in her father's house. But it was my wife's words that caused her to change her mind.

"You can do this, you know," Bella said softly. "Preston didn't hurt you. His father did. Your rapist is dead, Kyra. No one will ever touch you like that again. And this guy has zero power over you. The phone call would simply be a way to bring him in. I guaran-fucking-tee you that if you thank him for Ike's death, his ego will explode. He'll consider himself a damn hero and make sure that he gets to you to finish what he started." She gestured to me and Jordan, but her eyes never left Kyra's. "You are not walking into this blind, sweetie. You'll be armed, you'll be surrounded by the strongest, the fastest, the smartest, and you'll be monitored at all times. We will fight until we either catch his ass or he's dead."

Kyra sighed and nodded, her gaze locked on my wife's. She looked to Esme, who nodded encouragingly. Picking up Jordan's hand, their fingers linked together, but her eyes landed on me.

But Bella wasn't finished. "You can make this phone call, because you've already faced the worst shit. A phone call is nothing in the grand scheme of things."

That statement alone seemed to lighten the fear in Kyra eyes. I couldn't help myself; I shot my girl a wink, because only she understood exactly what Kyra would be feeling. But my girl was fucking strong, and she knew how to make Kyra use her own strength in order to get through this.

"Okay," Kyra finally whispered, tears welling up in her eyes, "but I can't call him by myself."

"You won't be alone," I assured her, looking to Bella, who was already standing up.

"Nope, you won't be," my girl stated, taking Kyra's hand. "Let's go get with Alice. We'll need to rearrange the plan a bit while the guys load that truck." She held her hand up when Jordan and I started to argue. "I swear to you two that no phone call will be made unless you guys are there. Period. Give us a few, and we'll call you when we're ready."

"Yes, ma'am," I sighed, standing up and kissing the side of her head. "Come on, Jordan. Let the girls do their thing. It's best to just stay out of the way."

Bella chuckled, shooting me a wink, but she and Esme led Kyra out of the room.

"I don't know about this, Ed," Jordan groaned, staying in his chair.

"I do," I sighed, nodding once when he glared up at me. "Trust me. I told you that you can't fix her, Jordan, but you can make sure she gets stronger." I raised an eyebrow at him until he nodded. "She needs to face her fears, fight this asshole, and then have a safe place to land once it's all over. But the whole time she's doing that..." I said, making sure he was listening, "she needs normal, man. Just...fucking normal. Anything else, and she'll feel like a fucking freak."

"I want to kill this motherfucker," he stated, his hands balling up into fists, and for the first time, I could see the scars across his knuckles. He may use boxing as a workout now, but the guy looked like he could kick ass.

I huffed in agreement. "And I'd love to give you the chance. Come on... Let's load up this stage. It won't take long for those girls to wrap this plan up tighter than a fucking Christmas present."

~oOo~

BELLA

"Boys!" I called across the back yard, "Come sit for a second. We need to go over the changes."

"Ma'am!" they all grunted back at me from around the truck, which caused me to snort and shake my head.

"You'd think with as many times as I've told them not to, they'd stop answering me like I'm some crazed military drill sergeant," I muttered to no one in particular, but it was Alice's sweet giggle that made me grin.

"Habit, Bellsy," she chuckled as she made some adjustments to a few of the cameras we were about to put on the boys. "It's simply their way of acknowledging that you've said something. I've had that same conversation with Jazz a million times. He can't stop it."

"Now see...with Jasper, I'd just assume it was a Southern thing to call every woman 'ma'am,'" I laughed, shrugging a shoulder. "Just because it shows respect."

"That, too," she snickered.

"If you don't answer with 'yes, ma'am' or 'no, ma'am' when you're growing up in New Orleans, you're in serious trouble," Gator chuckled, taking a seat at one of the tables. "It's one of the first words you're taught – mama, daddy, please, thank you, and ma'am. Anything else? Not so important."

His grin was hilarious, not to mention that he had Jasper sitting with him, who was nodding slowly with a rather agreeable look on his face.

"Yes, it's all about manners down south," Jasper said with a wry grin. "Never mind that they still call people from up north Yankees, that most end up on Jerry Springer, or that cousins marry cousins. We're at least polite about it."

That completely shattered the seriousness of the deck. The whole lot of us exploded into laughter.

"Christ, J," Edward snorted, rolling his eyes. "Could you play into the stereotype a little fucking more? Maybe talk about four-by-four trucks, trailer parks, and huntin' dawgs?" he asked, but he added an exaggerated drawl onto it all, causing another round of laughter.

"No." Jasper grinned, shrugging a shoulder. "You're Irish...want me to go there?"

"No, asshole, because I don't have a fucking drinking problem, nor do I have thirteen kids. Shut the hell up, and let the girls tell us what we're doing," he laughed, flipping him off.

Carlisle's head fell back with his laughter, and he rubbed his face before saying, "There are two Italians with us... Care to piss them off, too, Jasper?"

Mickey and Alec leaned in shoulder to shoulder, folding their arms across their chests. I giggled when both raised a warning eyebrow at him and when Jordan added, "Make that three."

"No, 'cause with those guys, you'll just disappear and no one will find you," Jasper whispered dramatically, dodging Alec's punch to his shoulder.

"Bellissima, please start this thing, before I actually do make this stunad disappear," Alec stated, his voice deep, calm, but his smirk was too hilarious.

"Fine," I chuckled, shaking my head at them all, because I knew they were just trying to ready themselves for this shit. It's what they did. They had silly ass conversations to lighten the heavy shit. "I wanted to let you guys know that I just spoke to Teri Foley," I started, setting down a sketch of the warehouse. "She was kind enough to get the warehouse opened up with the help of Benny and Wes. They've completely scoped it out, roped off the section for where the extras are to line up, and Edward?"

"Hmm?" he answered, looking up at me, his face completely serious, but his eyes were bright green in the early morning sun, giving him a look just this shy of a model, especially when the sunlight highlighted his long, beautiful eyelashes, making them look like they were on fire.

"They've also made sure that you have enough room to land at the back door. You've been given clearance, and your flight plan is set," I told him, handing him the information.

"Thanks, sweetness," he muttered, looking over the paper, his brow furrowed in concentration.

"Mmhm," I replied, leaning on the table and pointing to the warehouse. "Okay, so this is how the place will look once we've set up," I stated, using my finger to show where each camera would be for filming, the stage's location, and the back exit. "You all know where you're to be, we'll all be wired, and most of you will be wearing a camera," I said, holding up one. "Jasper, El...you won't need one, since you'll be with Wes. Mickey, you and Alice won't, either, because you'll be at this far back table, running the cameras. The rest of you will. Including you, Jordan."

"Okay," he said, looking a little overwhelmed at the equipment that was on the table.

"What about GPS, sweetheart?" Carlisle asked, sitting forward. "I'd really rather not take any chances with you two girls."

"Four," I stated, holding up four fingers. "Myself, Kyra, Edward, and Jordan. After we make this phone call to Preston, I don't want to underestimate him. We're not sure how he'll react. He could come straight for Kyra – or me, in this case, since I'll be taking her place. Or...he'll go after the last two threats, and that's the guys. We're not really sure how this will go, because Preston isn't stable."

The levity of the deck completely vanished with that statement, because my crew's faces had just hardened into something just shy of anger. They hated when any one of us was in trouble, or a target, so they took this shit so very seriously. While the job was of the utmost importance, which was keeping Jordan, Kyra, Cassie, and Gator safe, the mere thought that Edward and I could be in trouble wasn't something they were willing to accept. They just couldn't. They'd burn down the city of L.A. in order to find us.

"What about a representative from Solstice?" Jordan asked, looking up at me. "We usually have one when it comes to making a music video."

"I've requested that they send Christine Fairchild," Carlisle replied quickly, giving a now blushing Cassie a wink. "She seems to be the only trustworthy person on staff. Sid Williams has been terminated."

"Oh," Kyra gasped, her eyebrows rising high. "Really?"

"Yes, really. The little weasel was nickel and diming the company to death," Carlisle told her.

"He's lucky he only got fired," Edward growled, scowling at his father. "Fucker almost lost his eyesight."

Mickey and I snorted, rolling our eyes, because we knew Edward had threatened the sweaty little man at the recording studio for staring at me.

"Your wife is beautiful, son," Carlisle chuckled, shaking his head and shooting me a wink at the sound of my giggle. "You can't kill them all for looking."

"It's one thing to look at her; it's another thing to fucking drool," Edward muttered, ignoring the chuckles from the guys around him. "Motherfucker looked like Pavlov's dog."

A loud laugh erupted from me, which resulted in my husband's cocky, crooked smirk aimed my way, not to mention a sexy ass eyebrow raised. "Enough, Edward," I told him with a laugh.

"What?" he asked with a dramatically innocent tone to his voice. "I don't mind showing you off, sweetness," he chuckled, shrugging a shoulder, "but I'm not providing the scumbags of the world jack-off fodder."

Emmett snorted into a laugh as he slapped Edward's back.

"Oh, for God's sake," I sighed, waving off my overly possessive husband, because that street ran both ways. He was utterly impossible for women to ignore, and I couldn't imagine the fantasies that ran through their heads when it came to him. "Anyway," I sang, turning my attention back to Jordan, whose face was totally amused by the turn of the conversation, "so yes, you'll have a Solstice rep there, Jordan."

"When do we send out the announcements?" Kurt asked, looking over the screen of his computer.

"Soon as we make the phone call to Preston," Alice answered, immediately turning to Kyra. "Which needs to be soon, Kyra," she said, speaking gently. "Are you ready?"

Kyra's face paled, but she nodded, turning the cell phone we'd set her up with ages ago in her hands over and over. "I think so," she sighed, looking from Alice to me. "Will you..."

"Yes," I stated firmly, not needing her to finish. "In fact, we'll do that now." I turned to the rest of the crew. "Okay, whoever is driving, go ahead and get on the road. We'll gear up once we get there and the stage is put together. Those of you that are flying," I said, motioning to Cassie, Jordan, and Alec, who would be in the air with me, Kyra, and Edward, "we have a minute before we take off."

"I think this would go better in the office," Alice suggested. "And if you don't mind, I'll wait until she's called Preston before I leave."

"That's fine," I said, leading Kyra into the office as everyone started to get ready to head out.

Alice took the lead on this situation, sitting down in front of Kyra. Her voice was calm, sweet when she started her instructions. "I think this will work best if you sound to Preston like you're sneaking this phone call. Keep your voice soft, like a whisper. Sound like your scared. In fact, mention the fact that you need him soon. Tell him where you'll be, because we're going to be watching for him, honey, okay?"

Kyra nodded, scrolling through her phone and looking back up at Alice. "It's like acting, right?" she asked, but her voice wavered a bit.

"Yes, baby," Jordan said softly, kneeling beside her. "Think of it just like that. Like saying some lines, okay?"

Her breathing picked up a little and her hands shook as she nodded, but she made no move to dial the phone.

"Hey, focus, sweetie," I soothed her, because she wasn't far from panicking. I could see that much. "I know it's scary, but I'm telling you... You've survived the worst part. This... This is nothing. You're stronger than you give yourself credit for. This is just a phone call – a fake fucking phone call. Once we have this guy, it's all over. Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel?"

She looked up at the door when Esme and Edward joined us. Linking her fingers with Jordan's, she took a deep breath and let it out, finally nodding in answer to my question. But it was when Edward walked to me, wrapped an arm around me from behind, and kissed my temple, not saying a word, that she finally hit the button on her phone.

"Here goes nothing," she muttered with a deep sigh.

With a few flicks of her fingers, Alice had the phone on speaker.

"Yeah," a male voice on the other end picked up, and I recognized Preston's tone immediately from all the videos we'd scanned through.

"Preston, it's Kyra," she whispered, and even though her voice was shaky with fear, it actually added to the urgent feel we needed him to hear from her.

"Kyra!" he gasped. "Baby, where are you? I've been looking everywhere for you."

Jordan's eyes blackened to pitch at the term of endearment that Preston used, but he stayed silent.

"They took me away, Preston," she whispered, and Alice's and my eyebrows shot up. Kyra was doing an awesome fucking job. "They said I needed to be safe, but I want away from them..."

"I can't get to you, Kyra, if I don't know where you are," he replied. "Tell me. I'll stop all of it. I told you we belonged together!"

Kyra scowled, looking like she wanted to gag, but she maintained her composure. "I'm supposed to film a video today in L.A."

"Really? Where?" he asked, but before she answered him, she switched gears on all of us.

"I'm scared," she breathed. "Your dad..."

"Don't you worry about him, K. I so took care of it. He can't stop us anymore," Preston said, and even though he was trying to soothe her, his voice came across as a little disjointed and harsh, which caused me to flinch.

Edward hugged me closer, but he stayed quiet, his entire posture stiff as he listened further.

"He's gone?" she asked, trying to sound excited about it, but her fear still came through.

"Yes, we're free to be together, baby. That's what I've been trying to find you to tell you!" he laughed. "It's all over. No one will ever touch you again. You're mine, Kyra. I'll make sure it's you and me. Forever."

I shuddered at the sickening sound of that, and I wasn't the only one. Kyra scowled, shaking her head, but she went on.

"It's the warehouse right around the corner from Solstice," she told him in another hushed whisper. "I gotta go soon. They'll be coming to take me. You'll know where it is, because they're auditioning extras for it. We film tonight."

"Don't you worry, baby. I'll handle it. They're lookin' for me, but I'll take care of it. I don't need a crowd to hide in. Trust me," he stated.

"Okay," she said, dragging out the word, but she looked up at us as we motioned for her to continue. "Oh, and Preston?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks for the flowers...and for Ike," she breathed, squeezing her eyes closed at just how un-thankful she was. She was practically choking on the words, but if he did notice, he didn't let on.

"All for you. And don't you worry about anyone else, either. I'll take care of them. No one touches you and gets away with it," he said, and then the line went dead.

The room was eerily silent when the call was over, and Kyra tossed her phone onto the office table like it had burned her, not that I blamed her one bit.

"Perfect," Alice praised softly. "I'm still not sure who the target will be – you or the guys," she sighed, glancing between me and Edward. "Although, he'll have a tough time fighting you and Jordan, Edward. Preston's not that big, and both of you are athletic."

"I hope he tries," Jordan muttered, but his eyes didn't leave his girl's face. "You okay?" he asked her, his lips pressing to her temple.

She nodded, letting out a deep breath and looking up at Edward. "If someone gets hurt or worse because of me, I'll never forgive myself," she whispered, tears filling her eyes.

Edward sighed softly at her statement. "Come on, Kyra. We need to get in the air, but I want to see my kids before we go. Once Alice sends out that announcement, our time will be limited."

He nodded sharply to Alice, and she spun around to her computer. With a few quick clicks of the mouse, several rapid keystrokes, she turned back to him.

"It's done. By the time we all get there and get inside, I'd be willing to bet the fans will already be gathering out front of the warehouse, along with the actors Teri Foley set us up with," she told him, closing the laptop and putting it into her bag. Slinging it over her shoulder, she said, "I'll see you guys there. Fly safe."

Edward answered her automatically, his voice firm. "Always."

~oOo~

"Okay, Kyra," I sighed, laying out our identical clothes for after the video, "once the stage is put up, we'll get you dressed."

"Sure, though I may melt to death on stage first," she chuckled, fanning herself with a folded piece of paper, because it was hot inside the warehouse.

She'd calmed down on the flight over after her phone call to Preston. With the serenity that simply came with being in the air with Edward, his calm voice going over small steps of the plan with her, and mine, Alec's, and Cassie's chatter about nothing important, she'd finally relaxed. However, Jordan had stayed silent.

We'd arrived no more than an hour prior, landing in the back. The front was filled with Kyra's fans, who were all trying to get a chance to be in her video – the actors mixed right in there with them – paparazzi, and news crews. Teri was pretending to study, interview, and judge exactly which people were to come inside, and Makenna was right by her side, keeping an eye open for Preston. Though, no one had spotted him yet.

The loud clang of a metal tool hitting the concrete floor echoed sharply around us, causing all of us girls to flinch as we got clothes and equipment ready. The sound of hammering and drilling came to a standstill, and every woman's head spun to see just what the hell had happened.

"I don't understand why you didn't call me sooner," Jordan accused, narrowing his eyes at Gator.

"Maybe... Just maybe if you hadn't just dropped her like a fucking hot potato, we wouldn't be here," Gator snarled.

"Oh shit," Mickey muttered, her gaze locked on two very pissed off men as she wiped the sweat from her brow. However, it was obvious that Gator was on the defense against Jordan, who looked like he was at his wit's end.

"Go to hell, Gator!" Jordan snapped back, his face red and sweaty as he gripped a hammer in his hand.

Despite the large space of the warehouse and the fact that it was fall, the building was fucking blazing hot as the afternoon sun beat down on the metal roof. Carlisle, Jasper, and Kurt had gone to grab some fans from Teri Foley's storage, but they hadn't made it back yet. However, it was obvious they needed to get back soon, because the stress level combined with the heat was just about to spark into something completely out of control.

"Dammit," Cassie sighed, shaking her head. "I was wondering when this shit was going to get to Jordan."

"Well, that would be right about...now," Rose muttered wryly, because the two men stepped up into each other's faces, the verbal vitriol continuing.

"Fuck, man! You've been with her the longest. Weren't you supposed to be protecting her? What the fuck?" Jordan's voice was raspy, filled with emotions that I was pretty damn sure he hadn't dealt with yet. "You're supposed to be her fucking bodyguard, for Christ's sake!"

"And you were supposedly in love with her!" Gator countered, but when the guys' fists both drew back, another loud clang shocked them both, making them glance up. "Yet you drop her when the shit gets hard..."

"That's enough!" Edward snapped, his face filled with dark ire. Sweat had soaked through his backwards baseball cap and beaded on every inch of his skin, making his wife beater undershirt cling to him. "We won't get a fucking thing done if we turn on each other," he growled, stepping closer and motioning for Emmett and Alec to step in if they had to.

"Fuck you, Cullen," Gator sneered, shaking his head. "You're no better than he is," he grunted, gesturing to Jordan. "Messed around with a confused and still fucking married girl..."

"Oh hell," Mickey and I murmured, because Edward's smug ass smirk crawled up his face before he reached behind to tug his shirt off over his head.

Edward dropped it to the warehouse floor, walking slowly up into Gator's face. "I will let that fucking shit slide...once," he snapped, holding up one finger, and the movement made Gator flinch. "If you want a fight, Gator, I can give you one. But I'm pretty sure you won't walk away from it."

"Hell, he's probably still..." Jordan didn't get to finish that accusation, because he suddenly found himself pressed up against the closest support pole, a furious Edward in his face and a hand around his throat.

"Say it," Edward ordered, his voice low, deep, and barely in control. "Finish that statement, and I'll put my fist through your face. I already fucking told you there was nothing going on between me and Kyra." His voice was a warning, because he hated having his honor questioned, especially when he was telling the fucking truth.

"Okay, the testosterone level has reached a maximum high," Rose snorted humorlessly, shaking her head.

"Stop!" Kyra suddenly wailed, rushing to the three men and trying to pull them off of each other. "Please don't do this..." she sobbed, pushing at Gator, only to turn to Edward. Trying to pry his strong grip off of Jordan, she wailed, "Please, Edward!"

"Emmett," I muttered, and he nodded, walking to them, because only he was strong enough to be able to pull Edward off if this shit truly exploded.

"Ed, let go," Emmett said forcefully, grasping one of my husband's wrists in a firm grip. "Now, Eddie."

However, my husband was having none of it.

I walked to Edward, grabbing his chin and forcing his gaze to mine. "Let him down, baby," I ordered gently. "You guys aren't thinking straight. Let him go."

"It's my fault!" Kyra sniffled, her tears still flowing. "All of it. I'm sorry!"

I flinched, begging Edward silently with my eyes to recognize what the fighting was doing to her. "Edward, he's just worried. You know that," I whispered, slipping my hand up his arm to the hand that was firmly holding Jordan, and he finally relented, slipping the guy down the pole so his feet were touching the floor again. Emmett and I moved him back a few paces as Jordan figured out how to breathe again.

"I was so fucking scared. You have no idea what it's like pretending all the damn time to be strong when you're not," Kyra continued, as if the threat wasn't over, but it was Cassie and Christine that rushed to her. "Gator, I lied to Edward. He had no idea back then that I was still married. And the fucking thing was over anyway. I've already apologized to him, but he no more took advantage of me than I did of him. Hell, he was more honest about it than I was. You're the big brother I always wanted, and I love you, but it wasn't anyone's fault...but mine." The last two words echoed loudly in the warehouse, despite the fact that she'd barely whispered them.

Kyra's breathing was heavy, her face pink as tears fell down her face, causing Gator to look like someone had really punched him. She was working herself up into a panic attack quickly, but she rounded on Jordan, who was still gripping the hammer in his hand.

"And you!" she snapped, sniffling a little. "I owe Edward my life, and so do you, asshole! I begged him to come get you. Why would I do that if I was still... What was that you were going to accuse him of?" her eyes narrowed on him, waiting for his answer.

"Nothing," Jordan muttered, looking contrite as he rubbed his neck, but he glared when Edward snorted and rolled his eyes.

I shot Kyra a quick wink, but turned to Cassie. "Make her sit. She's about to spiral out of control." The girl nodded, gently leading Kyra back to the tables. "And can we get something to drink in here?" I asked Christine, who smirked and nodded, muttering something about why she didn't date men. I had to fight my smile on that one. Turning to Edward and Gator, I sighed, "Finish this thing. It's time Jordan and I had a chat."

Edward nodded, his eyes never leaving Jordan as he leaned in to kiss my forehead. "Be gentle, sweetness. He doesn't look like he can take much," he stated sarcastically, apparently still pissed off.

Jordan huffed, shook his head, and raised the hammer, stepping toward Edward, who grinned like a kid in a candy store and waved him forward. But suddenly, Jordan had four guns aimed his way, including my own. Alec, Emmett, Mickey, and I all stepped in between the two men.

I shook my head slowly. "Don't."

Jordan sagged, leaning back against the pole, his head thumping against the metal and the tool clanging to the floor. All weapons lowered, except my own.

I waved everyone off, gesturing for Jordan to walk away. "Let's go," I sighed, and he didn't move. "If you don't think I won't pistol whip you in front of everyone, Jordan, you are sorely mistaken," I threatened him in a whisper.

"But Kyra—"

"Will be fine, if you'll just give her a minute," I answered, tugging him off the pole and marching him into a far corner so he could sit down.

I paced slowly, giving the rest of the guys a quick glance to make sure they'd gone back to work. Tucking my weapon into the waistband of my jeans, I stopped in front of Jordan, whose head was in his hands.

"Let me explain something to you," I started, my voice controlled. "I'm well aware of every feeling you're going through right now. It's guilt for having not seen her situation for what it was and for leaving her high and dry. It's fear that you'll never be the person she needs you to be. It's anger at Ike, Preston, Gator, Edward – for being with her, for not helping her, for hurting her, for using her. It's also anger at yourself...lots of that, I imagine."

Jordan nodded slowly, finally meeting my gaze.

I sighed, seeing everything I'd just described flicker across his handsome face. "And it's complete and consuming sadness every time you think about someone hurting her, threatening her, and every time she panics...like just now."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."

"I know you didn't," I groaned, sitting down next to him. "I can assure you that my husband hasn't touched her," I said softly.

"I know that," he huffed, rolling his eyes. "I was just..."

"Frustrated and stressed the fuck out?" I supplied, and he finally cracked a smile.

"Yeah. And fucking hot!" he hissed, wiping the sweat from his face on the sleeve of his shirt.

"Well, that's the wrong man to pick a fight with, Jordan," I chortled. "Edward's trained to kill. If he breaks your neck, you won't be able to help Kyra."

"You all are." His observation was spoken to his shoes, not to me.

"Yes, we are," I conceded with a nod. "Honey, I know this is hard. I know you've been thrown into this shit blindly, but if you care about Kyra then you're really going to need to focus all this pent up energy into her, not your rage. And now is not the time to panic, because we are about to open those doors. Everyone needs to be spot on."

He was quiet for a moment, shuffling his feet. "Why didn't she just...tell me?" he asked, finally meeting my gaze.

I smiled sadly at him, because despite how much they'd been working with Esme, poor Jordan was still hurting right along with his girl. He was different than Edward; at least my husband had experience with PTSD. Jordan didn't. He had no idea what he was doing.

"Because the shame that comes with someone else invading your body is almost too much for the mind to comprehend," I told him softly. "Women are told their whole life that no means no... And when that no isn't heard and the space is invaded anyway, you feel weak and worthless, like nothing you feel, do, or say matters." I took a deep breath and let it out. "Kyra was seventeen when her abuse started, and it never stopped, even after she was a grown woman. Her emotional maturity didn't really move past that age. At seventeen, we're all insecure about everything – our bodies, our looks, our relationships. Add in that she was famous, with people pulling and tugging at her in every direction... It's no wonder she lashed out in every way imaginable. She drank, did drugs, was sexually promiscuous. By the time you came along, she was in no shape to admit anything."

I paused, locking gazes with Edward from across the warehouse. He was still pissed, but I could tell he was getting over it gradually. Although, I was pretty sure it was taking all he had, because as he stared our way and jerked off his hat, gripping his hair in his hand as he bit down on his bottom lip.

"I'll tell you what she did do," I said softly, looking over at Jordan. "She loved you enough to let you go. She knew that Ike could've ruined you, and she never wanted that for you." I glanced up at Edward, my heart clenching at the strength it must have taken for Kyra to push away the one person that she probably needed the most. "I'm not sure how she did that. I don't think I could've done the same thing, had I been in her shoes. That takes true fucking guts."

"Edward said the same thing," Jordan murmured, rubbing his face roughly.

"Yes, I imagine he did," I said, smiling a bit. "And believe me, he went through these same things with me...rage, sadness, guilt. I wasn't raped, but I was...um, damaged. My kidnapper came damn close to crossing that line, though."

Jordan watched me as I stood up, brushing the dust off the back of my jeans. "What did you need from him?" he asked, and I could see that he really needed to know this answer, because he was truly struggling with all of it.

Smiling, I shrugged one shoulder. "Just Edward." Jordan smirked at that answer, and I knew it was too vague, so I went on. "I needed to hear him tell me that everything was okay, even when it wasn't. I needed his arms holding me when I felt like my own fears would shake me apart. And I needed him to love me, even when my own body and scars disgusted me."

"And he did," Jordan concluded.

"Yes. Yes, he did." I looked up when the warehouse doors opened, seeing Carlisle walk in with some rather large fans. Turning back to Jordan, I said, "Maybe you should work on your cameras. The stage is just about finished. Then...we'll let the actors in. Okay?"

"Any sign of Preston?" he asked, standing up and brushing off his pants.

"No, but that doesn't mean he won't show, so let's get started. All right?" I urged him gently, and we made our way back toward the stage area, because it was almost time to start filming.

"Hey, Bella?" Jordan asked, looking down at me as we walked across the large floor. "Would you really have shot me?"

I chuckled, shaking my head, but locked gazes with him. "Had you come anywhere near my husband with that hammer in your hand... Hell, yes, I would have."

~oOo~

EDWARD

"Okay, everyone," Jordan instructed the actors from the stage, "when the music starts, you're just going to pretend that this is exactly what it's set up to be – an impromptu concert." He pointed across the room to the table that Alice and Mickey were sitting. "As far as cameras go, just let them run. I can edit all the angles the way I want later. Okay?"

"Sure, sure, sure," Alice chanted immediately, but I knew her well enough to know that she was really watching the security feeds.

Now that the sun had set, the warehouse had cooled off significantly. The fans my dad had set up helped a whole helluva lot, but everyone's stress was still there, because no one had seen Preston yet.

"Kyra, we're gonna have you come out as soon as the beat starts," he told her as she stood by me. "Your place is marked on the stage... well, you'll see it..." he muttered the last few words, and I couldn't help but snort. He was extremely nervous around me now.

I folded my arms across my chest, listening in as Benny's men called back with checks of all-clear over my earpiece. I glanced around the warehouse, making sure everyone was still visible to me. My dad was with Alice and Mickey at the table they'd set up with all the computer equipment. Rose was toward the back of the crowd; Makenna was closer to the stage. Alec, Felix, Kurt, and Emmett were there as security, and we made sure they were seen everywhere – doors, the side of the stage, and behind the crowd. I hadn't left Kyra's side once Bella had hidden underneath the stage, where she would remain until the filming was over. At that point, Kyra would "fall through the stage," and they would switch places.

"You're still pissed at him," Kyra muttered, looking up at me.

I huffed a humorless laugh, but I shook my head. "No, tempers flare in situations like this. Hell, I was wondering when this shit was really going to hit him, but his timing was fucking terrible. However," I growled, raising an eyebrow at her, "I don't fucking like being called a liar. I'd told him there was nothing between us—"

"I know, I know," Kyra interrupted me, her face pained as she looked over at Jordan, who was making adjustments. "You're more alike than you think, Edward. He's extremely possessive, but in a good way. And he's rather upset with me that I came to you and not him."

I opened my mouth to say something, but she held up her hand, so I snapped it closed.

"He understands now. I mean, he sees what you guys are capable of, but he can't help but feel—"

"Useless," I finished for her.

"Yeah. He knows he wouldn't have been able to do what you guys have done, but he's still jealous. He knows how I felt about you back then, so for me to come to you for help... Well, it's hard for him," she sighed, shaking her head.

"How much does he really know?" I asked her, unable to care that everyone was listening to us over the headset. The whole crew and Benny's men knew what had happened between us when Kyra and I met overseas on the USO tour.

"Everything," she snorted, rolling her eyes. "Jordan was the first person that I came really fucking close to telling the truth to, until Ike threatened his career. Then I had to keep him safe. He knew everything about me...but the most important thing."

"Well, if I know Bella, he'll have learned his lesson after that chat they had," I chuckled, shaking my head when Bella laughed softly over the headset.

"What'd she say to him?" Kyra snickered.

"No idea. She wouldn't tell me," I admitted, shrugging a shoulder. "She put the gun away, so she couldn't have been too harsh."

"She's an amazing person, Edward," she murmured, nodding just once. "She's strong and knows what she can and can't handle. She compliments you very well. I was afraid of you when you had Jordan pinned. But not her. She handles your temper better than anything I've ever seen."

I grinned, nodding slowly. "She's definitely not afraid to step up in my grill when I'm pissed. Most men won't do that."

Bella cracked the fuck up in my ear, and I had to admit that it was a gorgeous sound during all this shit, making me smile again.

Jordan called Kyra over, but I stopped her before she hit the stage.

"Look at me. When that door in the stage opens, Gator and Emmett will be waiting for you underneath with Bella. You'll be with them and my dad until we meet back at the house. She'll come out the back to meet me and Alec. Jordan will be with us. Okay?" I told her, just reminding her that she was surrounded, that we were all here for her.

"Okay," she said, letting out a long, slow breath. She nodded once and gave me a small smile as the music started. "Thanks, Edward," she murmured, before walking out on the stage.

Once she was front and center, I knew she was in good hands, because Alec was to the left of the stage and Emmett was to the right, not to mention the girls were out in the crowd. I stepped back into the shadows, putting a finger into my ear so I could focus on the earpiece.

"Kyra's on stage. Everyone, check in," I ordered.

"All clear on the front side of the building, Ed," Eleazar stated.

"He's not inside, son," my dad stated, and I locked gazes with him from across the room. He gestured to the computer screen in front of him as he stood behind Alice and Mickey. "Not one sign of him. He wasn't let in at the doors with the extras, and he damn well isn't in the crowd out front."

"Copy that," I sighed. "J? What'choo see?"

"Your chopper and the fucking dumpster," Jasper chuckled softly, his voice soft, controlled, because if I knew him, he was planted on the top floor of the building behind this one, which was only three stories. He'd be as still as a lake on a windless day. "The sun's set, Ed, so I've had to switch to night-vision, but Kurt's location around the corner is a blind spot for me. No movement around the outside of the fence, either."

"Ten-four," I replied.

I glanced up when the music stopped and Jordan called cut, giving more instructions to the extras and Kyra, motioning for Alice to stop rolling. He called a quick break for everyone to rest from all the dancing or whatever, running toward the back of the stage to fuck around with the camera near the back door.

"Felix?" I called out.

"Front's lookin' fucking crazy, Edward," he answered with a laugh. "We've still got some rabid fans out here, hoping to see Kyra, get picture or an autograph...that type of shit, but they're getting pretty riled up. Some other people have gathered across the street, but they're different. It's like they're protesting Kyra...or some fucking thing. I don't know."

I smirked, because none of us really knew what to make of this fame bullshit, but Cassie explained it.

"Ah, the haters," she chuckled. "They show up occasionally. They don't like what Kyra does or sings about or how she lives her life. They're just angry, nasty people."

"Fine, whatever. Felix, keep me posted, then," I ordered.

"Ten-four," he said, though I could hear his smirk.

"Kurt?" I barked, having not heard him check in, and he was keeping watch on a door toward the back of the warehouse, not to mention he was still our rookie to this type of job.

"Yeah, Ed...sorry. It's just... I've got this van out here. It's parked along the side of the building. There's no movement in it, no tags, and it barely looks like it'll run, but I honestly don't remember if it's been there all day or not," he rambled, but he was at least an observant little shit.

"Hang on, I'll check on it," Mickey stated, giving me a pointed look from across the warehouse. "Give me a few, pretty boy, and I'll scan through the security footage really quick."

"Copy that," I grunted, mentally checking off everyone in our crew. "Last, but far from least... Sweetness? How's my little groundhog doin'?" I chuckled.

"Shut it, Edward," she snorted into an adorable as fuck giggle. "I'm fine, I'm bored, and I'm cramped under here, but I'll live." When her laugh died, she asked, "Why's it so damn quiet up there?"

"Jordan's stopped filming. He was working on a camera in the back or some shit," I told her, my eyes immediately seeking him out, but he was no longer where I'd seen him last – adjusting the lens. "Jordan, check in now!" I snapped, but before I could jump onto the stage to run to the back, Mickey and Alice started talking almost over each other.

"Edward, Kurt, that van has been here all day. In fact, it was there when we mounted the cameras," Mickey explained in a rush. "But... Oh hell, now I can't see shit. All security video is nothing but snow!"

"Edward!" Alice snapped, and even from across the room, I could see her typing away. "Jordan's radio isn't working. It's like it's been shut off, but his GPS is showing that he's still here on the property. Near the back door."

"On it, Pixie," I grunted, jumping up on the stage in one large step. I jogged across it toward the back, thinking he had a malfunctioning com link. When I reached the camera he'd been working on, he was nowhere to be found. "Aw shit," I hissed, hopping down to the concrete floor. "We've got a problem," I stated, spinning in one spot. "Gator, Emmett, keep your eyes on Kyra. Alec, Dad, don't let Bella out of your sight, and Kurt, meet me at the far side door."

But no one fucking answered me. However, the front doors suddenly slammed open, the warehouse filling with screams, fans, and signs, and I spun to see my crew trying to hold them back.

"Edward, freeze!" Alice called, but it wasn't through the earpieces, it was from all the way across the goddamn room. "All communication just went down. It's not just Jordan's earpiece. It's everyone's," she yelled, ignoring the growing crowd and almost getting lost in it herself.

With hand signals, I relayed the same commands to my crew as I'd tried to tell them over the radio. They nodded, splitting off in several directions as I spun back toward the door. Pulling my cell out, I quickly dialed Benny.

"Cell?" Benny asked without any preamble.

"Com's down," I grunted. "Can any of you see my location?" I asked, opening the door.

"No, dude," he answered. "That was why we put extra cameras over there. Isn't Kurt on his post?"

"Um..." I hesitated, scanning my surroundings and pulling out my Glock. "No, but this shithead is here. I just fucking know it," I hissed, flattening my back against the corner of the building. I peeked around toward the back, seeing all clear around my chopper.

But as I turned back toward the van that Kurt had mentioned, something wrapped around my neck and jabbed me in the side at the same time. My body felt like it had lit on fire, and I saw no more.

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