Tuesday, February 12, 2002 | By: Drotuno

Smoke and Mirrors Chapter 23

CHAPTER 23

BELLA

"Edward, freeze! All communication just went down. It's not just Jordan's earpiece. It's everyone's!"

My head shot up from playing with my phone at the sound of not only Alice's panic, but at what sounded like a riot coming in the front doors. With communication out, I wasn't taking any fucking chances. Crawling to the trap door, I snatched it open.

"Kyra! Down here, now!" I hissed, and she immediately hopped down. Once I'd locked the trap door back, I turned to her. "What happened?"

"Jordan called cut, said he had to fix the focus on that back camera. You know the one by the back wall?" she asked, panting, and I nodded for her to go on. "Next thing I know, Alice is yelling about the security cameras and the radio not working...not that I could hear anything over the music."

"Well, what the fuck is all that noise?" I asked, pointing toward the front of the stage.

"The doors just slammed open. All those people from outside rushed in," she gasped.

"Fuck, he's here," I whispered, taking her by the hand and leading her underneath the stage to the spot I knew we were suppose to exit. The fact that neither Alec, Emmett, nor Edward were waiting for us at the little opening was not fucking lost on me. I made Kyra stay hidden for just a second while I peeked up over the stage.

I glanced over to where Jordan was supposed to be at the back camera, but he wasn't there. Emmett, Alec, Gator, Carlisle, and Felix were trying to hold back the crowd that seemed to be rushing a now empty stage. Rose and Mack were trying to keep the actors under control. However, Alice and Mickey were still at the computer table, working their asses off.

"Oh, boy," I sighed, shaking my head and sitting in front of Kyra. "We have a problem. Without communication... Oh wait," I gasped, pulling out my phone and dialing Benny.

"Bells...what the hell?" he asked. "I'm sending men through the front doors now."

"I don't know. The asshole's here...I just fucking know it," I growled into the phone. "Cameras and radio are down. Kyra and I are under the stage."

"Eddie said the same thing before his line went dead," Benny stated. "Stay where you are. Jasper and I are coming to the back door."

"What do you mean...before his line went dead!" I yelled, not that anyone would've heard me, because the warehouse was just pure chaos.

"Oh, hell," he groaned. "Just...stay put, Bella. We're coming to you."

I pocketed my phone, crawling out one more time – only this time, something along the edge of the stage caught my attention. Reaching over, I touched a shiny, wet spot at the corner, coming away with blood on my fingers.

"Stay put, my ass," I muttered, pulling out my nine mil. "Kyra, see that door?" I told her, pointing to the back door just mere feet from the back of the stage. When she nodded, I said, "We're going out right there."

As soon as we crawled out, we ran into three sets of legs. My gun was locked and loaded before I could think of anything else.

"Fuck," I gasped, gazing up at Mack, Christine, and Cassie. "You almost got shot, Mack! Dammit!"

She grinned, rolling her eyes and helping us to our feet. "Nah, you wouldn't shoot me," she chuckled, but her attention was drawn back to the crowd, because the front doors slammed open again. This time, the room started to fill with Feds and local police.

"Outside. All of you," I ordered, tugging Kyra's hand. It didn't take ten steps to bolt out the back, letting the damn thing slam behind the five of us.

The first thing I noticed once we were in the night air was that it was chilly. The second thing was that the van Kurt had mentioned wasn't there – and neither was Kurt.

I flattened myself against the corner of the building, peeking my head around, but my heart sank at the sight at my feet. Lying right beside the dumpster was Kurt. If he hadn't shifted his feet right at that moment, I never would've seen him, because his dark clothing hid him extremely well in the shadow of the wall.

"Kurt!" I gasped, falling to my knees beside him. I checked his pulse, letting out a breath of relief when it thumped heavily against my fingers. Brushing his dark hair from his forehead, I smiled when his eyes fluttered open.

"Wha' happened?" he groaned, sitting up and rubbing his neck.

I grimaced and stopped his hand, saying, "Looks like you got tasered." I traced my fingers along two dark points on his skin. Stun guns hurt like a bitch. "Can you stand?"

He nodded, groaning, "Yeah, I think so."

Kurt wobbled a bit once he was up, but he leaned against the dumpster to get himself oriented. We all looked up when Benny and Jasper ran to us.

"I said stay put," Benny sighed exasperatedly.

"Yes, you did, but that crowd was getting out of hand," I told him, but when I pointed toward the door, my eyes locked on to something on the ground at the corner of the building. "No," I whispered, shaking my head. "Don't tell me..."

I knew what it was before I even took the first of the three steps it took to get to it. Bending down, I picked up Edward's phone. Checking the call history, the last call was indeed to Benny. I stared at it, trying to come up with every scenario possible as his wallpaper beamed up at me through the dark night. It was a picture of Sammy and Bethy, and they were kissing my cheeks, all of us laughing like maniacs. My heart sank, remembering what Robert Reynolds had looked like when we'd found him. I couldn't let that happen. The man was still in a fucking coma.

"Shit, that van's gone," Kurt gasped, spinning to look at me and then to the phone in my hands, his eyes wide with fear.

"I have a feeling that Edward is, too," I whispered, locking gazes with Jasper. "I need Alice...like now!" He pulled out his phone, texting her quickly, but I added, "And tell her to bring her laptop."

He nodded, still texting. When it beeped back at him, he gazed up at me. "She's on her way out."

"I bet Preston started that riot," Makenna stated softly, and Cassie and Christine, who had been quiet, nodded in agreement. "I bet he paid someone to rush the doors, because it was almost timed to the very second the communications went down. Communication goes down, gives him access to Kurt and the back door...not to mention anyone that comes out here."

"Okay," Benny mused, pacing in front of us. "Well, that would be about the only way he would've taken Edward by surprise...stun gun," he muttered, almost to himself.

"I bet he has Jordan, too," I added, wincing when Kyra gasped and shook her head. "I found blood on the edge of the stage. If I'm guessing correctly, Preston waited until Kurt checked in, and that's when he came in the back door."

"But Jordan would have said something," Kyra countered, tears filling her eyes.

"Not if communications were already down," Jasper pointed out.

"Or if Preston wasn't working alone," Mack suggested.

"Doesn't matter at this point. But I need to see that GPS program of Alice's. I need to know if Edward and Jordan are even on the property. If not, we're going after them," I stated, spinning to Benny when he started to protest.

"Bells, you have no idea what you could be walking into," he stated, grasping my shoulders. "I think Mack is right. He wasn't alone, because I guarantee it would take more than just Preston to take down someone like Eddie."

"I don't care," I snapped back at him. "I'm not waiting around for everyone to finish getting their asses kicked by overzealous fans, Ben. Edward wouldn't wait to come for me. I won't do that to him! Do you understand me?" I asked, not giving a shit at this point what Benny wanted to do and turning when the back door opened again.

Rose, Mickey, and Alice scurried outside, shutting the door behind them, but not before someone inside shot off several rounds, yelling, "Everybody down on the ground!"

"The com links are still down," Alice gushed, not even blinking twice before rushing to the dumpster to set her laptop on it. Her fingers flew over the keys as she shook her head, her face fierce when she said, "Something is jamming my fucking signals...both cameras and radios. We have to find it, or we'll never get it back."

"Okay, so what's it look like?" Kurt said, still rubbing his neck.

"It'd be small," she told him, holding her hands up to show something about the size of a half a loaf of bread. "No bigger than those radars the police use to catch speeders. Okay?" she verified. We nodded and then split up to look around the area. "It would have to be close," she called over her shoulder, muttering something about finding Edward.

We scanned the entire area – fence, chopper, parking lot – but it was Mickey that found it.

"Got it!" she yelled from the street light just inside the gate, not far from where the van had been. "No wonder no one noticed it," she sighed, shaking her head. "It looked like a part of the gate keypad." With a wicked grin, she threw it hard against the side of the building, shattering it into several pieces. "There, pixie. Does that help?"

"Yes, yes, yes!" Alice gushed, nodding the whole time, though her eyes never left the screen. "I have to reset the earpieces, but we should be up soon. The cameras are already working."

"How come the cell phones still worked?" Jasper asked her.

She spun, pointing up to a tall structure not far from the end of the parking lot. "Because there's a major cell tower right there. No device from your local electronics store is going to overpower that," she explained.

We crammed around behind her, watching through different angles as the chaos inside the warehouse was calming down. However, there were a few scuffles still going on with what looked like Emmett, Alec, and Felix. The haters or the fans were damn well determined to stay...or get to Kyra. I wasn't sure which.

"Alice, please," I begged softly in her ear.

"I've already started the GPS search, Bells. Hang tight," she soothed me – again, only focusing on her screen.

I watched with fascination as the map on the monitor scanned the area, zoomed into the neighborhood, and tracked not one but two blinking dots. One was labeled "Edward," and the other, "Jordan."

"Aw, hell," Jasper groaned, adjusting his rifle on his shoulder. "Babe, is that right? Where it's showing them? Is that real time?"

"Yeah," she sighed, spinning to look at me. "He took them to the building Solstice's office is in. Makes sense, really... His father worked there, and it's close. He'd know the building, having worked there himself."

"Well, that's where we're going," I ordered with a finality to my voice, turning to Kyra, who was already shaking her head. "We need Emmett and Alec. You should stay with them..."

"Bella, we don't have time to wait for the guys. That crowd..." Mickey started, jerking a thumb behind her.

"You're not going, either," I growled, looking at her like she'd lost her mind. "You two can stay here, wait for Alec, Emmett, and Carlisle, and then get back to the safe house."

"Do you really think you're going to stop me – or them – from helping, Bella?" Mickey snapped, her brow furrowing. "And you can't leave Kyra here. Those fans will tear her apart! We need to keep her low."

Conflicted, I studied Kyra's face. I wanted to keep her safe, but Mickey had a point; the guys were distracted, and I wasn't quite sure if Preston wasn't using this as another way to get to Kyra.

"Don't make me stay," Kyra begged softly, shaking her head. "I can't... It's Jordan," she urged, tears falling down her cheeks. "It's my fault he and Edward are in trouble. Would you stay?"

I rubbed my temple, because she had a point. There wasn't a chance in hell that I'd stay behind. I looked around at who was surrounding me and sighed in defeat. Maybe it was the fact that I understood her attempt at bravery, or maybe it was just because at this point, I wasn't sure I trusted anyone with her but myself. And I also wasn't sure if she could actually handle being left behind to worry, stress, and panic.

"She's safer with us than here," Jasper noted softly from my side. "No one can really watch her here."

"At least with us – and if we can get the radios back up – we'll be able to talk to her, guide her," Mickey argued, though it wasn't fucking thrilling me that she was going, either.

I pointed to her. "You will do exactly what I say, when I say to do it. Got me?" I asked her, and she nodded, swiping at her face.

"I can get you in that building," Christine suddenly piped up, wearing a smirk, but her eyes were fierce.

I nodded, but turned to Benny, unable to stop my temper when I saw that he was wavering on this shit. "We're going with or without you, but you know I'd rather have your help. If you can't agree, that's fine, but stay the fuck out of my way so I can go get my husband. I'm not giving Preston any longer than we already have!"

He debated for a fraction of a second before nodding. "We'll take my SUV. Let's go. We'll have to walk around to the side and be quick about it, because the front will be swarmed."

"Hang on," I said, sprinting across the back lot to the chopper.

Edward never went anywhere without one of his bags of supplies. He'd left one in the storage compartment. I zipped it open quickly, making sure it was the usual shit – extra ammo, a spare forty-five, flash discs, and what looked like smoke canisters. I tugged it on across my chest, meeting the rest of them at the corner of the building, weapons out.

All of us followed Benny, and I didn't even have it in me to stop Mickey. No matter how we ended up getting inside that building, she wasn't going anywhere near Preston. She had way too much to lose.

Once we were inside his car, Benny turned to us. "Christine, tell me where we're going."

She sat forward, pointing toward the back gate. "If you take us the back that way, I can walk us in the front door..."

~oOo~

EDWARD

The sound of a car door slamming snapped me awake, but I stayed still, cracking an eye open to see where I was. I couldn't move my hands, my arms were restrained behind my back, and my feet were bound together. I seemed to be inside some sort of old ass van – most likely the one that had been near the back door of the warehouse.

Fuck, my whole body was sore. The bastard had stunned my ass. I tried to listen over my earpiece, but the bitch was silent. Communications were either still down, or the fucker had been fried when he'd zapped my ass.

Turning my head just slightly, I could see Jordan next to me. He was bound the same way I was, but he was bleeding from a cut just above his eye. However, he was still unconscious.

"Come on, let's get them in the service elevator," a voice said just outside the vehicle. "If we do this right, we can have security shoot them for breaking and entering..."

I knew that fucking voice. Sneering, I readied myself as best I could, because that voice belonged to the weaker link in this fucked up little duo.

"I don't want them shot, asshole!" another voice said. That one most definitely belonged to Preston Raulson, and I could hear that he was not only calling the shots, but his sanity was dancing a fine line right about now. "They have a lesson to learn."

As soon as the back doors of the van opened, I spotted Sid Williams. I waited until he was stupid enough to place his hands on my boots. With all the strength and energy I had, I kicked with both legs, launching Sid back across the concrete floor of what looked like a parking garage. Sitting up as quickly as I could, I head-butted Raulson, noting with satisfaction that his skin split right between his brows.

I had to give the bastard credit; he took the hit and was still standing. Before I could even attempt to fight anymore, the stun gun was pressed into my leg. Once again, my whole body felt like it burst into flames, and the garage faded away.

~oOo~

BELLA

"Everyone, check in. Now!" Carlisle snapped, making every last one of us in the SUV flinch as Benny parked on a side street. "Where the blue fuck did everyone go?"

"Shit, he's pissed," Jasper groaned, shaking his head.

"Let me," Benny snickered, touching the earpiece in his ear. "Carlisle, I need you guys to make your way to the Solstice building as soon as you're cleared from the warehouse. Bring as many men as you can."

"Copy that. Who's with you?" he growled.

Benny rattled off who was sitting in the car with him, and we all waited until he put the missing pieces together.

"Where is my son?" he asked, though he sounded like he was uttering it through gritted teeth and barely controlled emotions.

This time, I answered the question. "Preston has him, Carlisle. He has Edward and Jordan," I said, and despite how strong I was trying to be, I'm sure my godfather heard every bit of my worry come through.

I heard him sigh, mutter an answer to someone else, and then say, "We're coming to you ASAP."

A strong warm hand landed on my shoulder, pulling me closer, and Jasper sighed against my hair. "We'll get him, Bells. You've got to focus, as of right now. Just like in China... Got me?"

I nodded, took a deep breath, and let it out. I wanted to argue with him that this was different than China, that this was scarier for me, because Preston was sadistic and out for revenge against the very two men he'd captured. Chang had merely wanted money. Money wasn't going to placate Preston Raulson. The only thing he wanted was to punish Edward and Jordan for even knowing Kyra.

Christine opened her door, holding up her keycard to get inside the building. "Ready?" she asked, backing up when we all piled out.

We followed her along the side of the building, going in the front doors. It hadn't been that long ago when Edward kissed me right there so that Mack and Kurt could take a picture. The lobby was so empty when we rushed in that our voices echoed in the large space. The front desk was vacant of any security, which made all of us ready our weapons.

Benny rushed to the desk, shaking his head as he stared at the floor. "Fuck," he growled, kneeling down. "They didn't have to shoot him. Shit..." He tapped his earpiece. "Wes, come in."

"Go ahead," Wes answered.

"I'm sure you're coming with Carlisle, so bring a bus with you. I've got a guard down with a gunshot wound to the chest. Make it quick," he ordered, motioning to Kurt as Wes acknowledged his command. Once they had the injured guard out from behind the desk, laying him flat on the floor, he pointed to Mickey. "Come here. Put some pressure on this until the ambulance gets here." He then turned to Alice, pointing to the desk. "The desk is yours. It's probably the best and easiest way for you to tap into security and the computer system."

"On it, on it, on it," she chanted, slipping behind the large desk and setting her laptop down. She turned to the computer that was already there, her fingers flying over the keyboard. With a few cables connected, more typing, and a few curse words for good measure, she nodded up to him. "I'm in."

"Show me the building," Benny and I said at the same time, coming to stand behind her.

Mickey stayed put at the guard's side, holding a shirt over his wound. Cassie, Mack, Christine, Kurt, and Kyra all leaned against the front of the desk. Jasper and Rose joined me and Benny, watching as Alice brought up a complete schematic of the entire building. Somehow, she'd meshed that shit with Edward's and Jordan's GPS chips, so we could clearly see their position.

"The boys are on the fourteenth floor, on the east side of the building," Alice stated softly, but she was flashing through security feeds at the same time. "Well, shit!" she hissed, zooming in on something. She sighed, looking to Jasper. "You can't go in the front doors, and you can't take the elevators. He's got them wired. Look..."

She pointed to two separate windows on her screen. "Here...Solstice's front door... You see it?" she asked, and we nodded. "He's got some sort of device hooked to it. It could be a dummy, but we'd need Emmett here to know for sure. Second," she continued, pointing to another window, "the elevators have been disabled. Not rigged, but shut down. I can't turn them back on remotely. It would require a key for that. If you look at the service elevator on the fourteenth floor, it's standing wide open. They shut them down from there."

"So even if we take the stairs, we're screwed, because we can't touch the fucking doors," Jasper concluded with a groan. "Why would they lock themselves in there like that?"

"So he could take his time," I whispered, glancing up at him. "Or they're rigged to dismantle quickly when he's ready to leave..."

He tapped his earpiece. "Emmett! What's your ETA? I need you here, man!"

"Why? Do ya miss me?" he chuckled.

"Yeah, my heart is breaking without you...jackass," Jasper muttered wryly, rolling his eyes. "No, bro. I've got some sort of bomb we need you to look at. It's way too fucking close to Eddie to risk just setting it off."

"Oh fuck... Well, I'm stuck at this shit-hole warehouse, 'cause we can't leave the police with all these bastards. Send me a pic. Now!" Emmett answered, and gone was the joking big guy. In his place was the man that took his explosives very seriously.

"Done," Alice said, hitting a button hard.

"Lemme look," Em muttered. "Red and black wires...digital timer...some sort of bottle... What the fuck... Oh, that's online bullshit right there," he growled. "I'd have to dismantle it myself. It's most likely one of those homemade bastards, you know...where you use normal everyday household chemicals. Don't go near it, don't fucking touch it, and don't rattle it. It could be as touchy as nitroglycerine."

"Jesus," Kyra whimpered, saying out loud what my own heart was feeling.

"Copy that, Em," Benny sighed, shaking his head. "Leave the police. I need you guys here. Now." He paused for a moment. "Wes, what the fuck, man? Get your ass over to this building, or at least let Carlisle and his men go!"

"Copy that," Wes sighed. "I'm releasing them now. And a bus is on its way to you, too."

I looked up at Christine. "Is there only one door into that office?"

"Yes," she said, grimacing and nodding.

"There is another way," Alice piped up, looking over her shoulder. "The problem is... Not one man will be able to go. See this?" she asked, pointing to her screen. "If you take the stairs to the fifteenth floor, then you could access the air conditioning vents down one floor. But see the size?"

Her screen changed, and a little green line measured out the widest point. She was right; it was too narrow. Benny was thin, but he had broad shoulders. There was no way Jasper was fitting, either. Hell, even if we waited for the rest of the crew, not one of the guys would fit.

"But a woman could," Makenna murmured, smirking up at me.

"Also," Alice added, not letting anyone panic, "check this out..."

I gasped, because I damned well couldn't help it. She'd accessed the outside of Ike Raulson's old office. There was another bomb being assembled at the moment, and its owner was none other than Sid Williams.

"That little fucking weasel," Christine suddenly snapped as she leaned over the desk. "What the fuck is he doing with Preston?"

"Don't know, but I'm really ready to find out," I practically growled, sneering at the images on the screen. "Alice, can we see inside Ike's office?"

"No, there aren't any cameras in there," she answered.

"Ike had them removed," Kyra muttered softly, and we all grimaced as to why Ike would never want anyone to see what his twisted ass was up to in his own office.

I pushed away from the desk, locking eyes with Benny. "Even if the boys get here soon, they can't go in. Two bombs, no other entrance, and they won't fit inside those vents."

"What about putting Jasper across the street?" he asked, looking back at the screens. "Is there someplace he could set up, maybe get a lock on Ike's office?"

"Yes, here," Alice said, but held up a finger, "but he'll have to break in to get there. That'll take time. That building is shut completely down, because it's new construction. They've pretty much finished it, but no one has been cleared to move in yet."

Jasper scoffed, rolling his eyes. "I can get in," he urged, looking between me and Benny.

Benny seemed to debate it all in his head silently for a minute, glancing between me and Jasper, before finally turning back to Alice. "Can you see an exact path through those vents to that office?" he asked her, but she was already nodding.

"Yes. In fact, there are two vents inside that office and one just outside the double doors," she told him.

"Benny, please!" I snapped, my patience for this shit slowly leaving me. The fact that I couldn't see what condition Edward was in was just about to cause me to unravel, and I just couldn't fucking do that to him. He'd want me pissed off and focused. It was all I could do not to smack Benny and tell him that.

He sighed, waving a hand. "Do it. Go!"

I spun to my girls. "Mack, Rose, you're with me. Kurt, you will not let Kyra out of your fucking sight, but you're to hand her over to Alec and Carlisle as soon as they get here," I ordered, and they nodded, pulling their weapons back out. I turned to Jasper. "Take Mickey with you. It'll keep her safe and get you into that building and up onto the right floor quicker. Got me?" I asked, and he nodded, waiting just long enough for Mickey to pass the job of putting pressure on the guard's wound over to Benny. Finally, I turned to Alice. "Ali, I need you open to me at all times. When the rest of the boys get here, send Emmett straight up to the fourteenth floor to take a look at those...things. Once everyone is inside this building, I want open communication at all times. Maybe Edward and Jordan still have their earpieces."

She shook her head. "They don't. At least, not that I can see. Two earpieces didn't reboot with everyone else's. If they were hit with enough electricity from those stun guns, they could be fried."

"Fan-fucking-tastic," I growled, pulling out my new nine mil and checking the chamber. "Fine," I sighed. "Everyone, on me."

~oOo~

EDWARD

The sound of a heavy as hell smack snapped me back awake. I wanted to fucking groan like a bitch at how I felt, and I swore to myself and anyone who was listening that I was going to shove that stun gun up Preston's ass and pull the fucking trigger.

Carefully, I opened an eye, taking in my surroundings and my situation. I was duct taped to a heavy leather chair in what looked like Ike's office at Solstice Music. I recognized the gold records on the wall, though most had been taken down and leaned against the wall. Kyra's posters were still up, but the books on the shelves across the room were gone.

A smack echoed through the room again, and I glanced over to my right, my muscles tensing as Preston let loose another hit to Jordan – this time, to his stomach. I had to give the movie guy credit. Even though he was strapped to a chair like I was, he took the hit with barely a sound escaping him. His dark eyes were locked on Preston, but he didn't say a word in response to the questions that were thrown his way. I couldn't fucking wait until this douchebag turned his attention to me.

"Where are you keeping her?" Preston asked Jordan, and I sat up as best I could to let them both know I was awake.

"Don't know," Jordan answered through gritted teeth, bracing himself for the next hit. He took the bitch like a fucking champ, practically smiling up at Preston. "You know, you little freak, even if I knew where she was, I wouldn't fucking tell you..."

"The other one's awake," Sid muttered as he leaned against the door. "Perhaps you can get more out of him."

I chuckled, low and deep. "You motherfuckers can try."

Preston walked to stand in front of me, wearing a smug smile. I shook my head and sighed, trying not to roll my eyes, but failed miserably. He was way too confident for his own fucking good. He drew his hand back, letting his fist fly, and it connected sharply to my face.

I stretched my neck, barely wincing at the sting the punch left behind, and turned my gaze back to him. "You know, my wife hits harder than that, and she's only five-foot-three," I told him with a fucking grin on my face, because it was the God's honest truth. "Have you always hit like a pussy, Preston? Is that why Daddy always got his way?" I laughed, knowing I was adding fuel to the fire, but I could take the punishment. I wasn't sure how much Jordan could handle before it got to be too much. "Let me guess...he raped you, too," I goaded, bracing myself for the hit I could see coming.

I knew the key to this guy was going to be just like Lilith. He needed to be knocked down a peg or two in the control department, and it would be so fucking easy, because his confidence was just a front. He'd heard his whole life that he wasn't worth a shit, so any false bravado he'd built since he'd killed his dad was paper thin.

"Shut up, asshole. I should kill you right here for being married and for touching Kyra," he yelled, and I laughed again as I locked gazes with him. "Where are you keeping her?"

"None of your fucking business," I answered coolly. "And I'm glad to see you fell for the fucking ruse, you dipshit. 'Cause I'm not with Kyra. I'm just her security."

He belted my stomach, catching me just a bit off guard, so a string of fucking curses burst out of me. Sneering and pulling at my restraints, I lunged at him, but found I couldn't move. The chair was too fucking heavy, not to mention I was taped to the legs, as well.

"Where?" he asked again, and I could see that he was no longer sane. The asshole had completely checked out. It didn't matter what I tried to tell him, be it truth or lies. He wasn't hearing shit, except what he wanted to hear.

"I'd tell you suck my dick, but I think you'd like it too much," I growled, my lip curling in hatred. "I'm not telling you shit. Hitting me will not fucking work."

Preston swung on me again, hitting my face, but his strength had failed him. He knew it, too, so he walked away for just a moment.

Jordan snorted, shaking his head. "You really know how piss people off."

"If you think he's mad, you should see how pissed off my wife gets at me," I laughed, careful not to mention names. I glanced up to see Preston talking with Sid, so I muttered, "Don't let him get to you. The less we act like we care, the more he'll start to melt down. Got me?"

Jordan grinned, trying his best to wipe sweat and blood from his face onto the shoulder of his shirt. "I can take a punch," he murmured back. "I boxed in college."

"How'd they get you?" I whispered, trying not to move my lips.

"The radio was quiet, but there was a knock at the back door. Thought it was Kurt," he explained as softly as he could. "Next thing I know, I'm waking up here. I think I fell behind the stage."

I nodded that I'd heard him, because that actually filled in the blanks for me. One second, Jordan had been working on his camera; the next, communications went down and he was gone. I could well imagine that he'd just thought it was Kurt banging on the back door.

Movement caught my eye, and I locked gazes on Sid as he walked closer.

"How is that pretty wife of yours, Mr. Cullen?" Sid asked, sneering at me, and my heart jolted just a little that he would call my ass out like that. If he knew me, then he knew my dad, which in turn, gave him Bella's identity. That shit was not fucking cool, and he may not live to see the outside of this building.

"Fuck hot and probably getting ready to blow this place wide open," I answered him calmly, knowing that both Jordan and I were chipped. Alice and Bella had put them where they wouldn't be discovered – the waistband of our underwear – so no pat-downs would reveal them.

"Well, if she tries, she'll be in a world of hurt," Sid replied back. "There are two bombs set in two places...one right outside this door, and the other at the main entrance to Solstice."

I smiled, shrugging a shoulder, because I had faith in my wife and crew. With Emmett, no bomb made a difference. The man could disassemble one better than most experts on the Feds' bomb squad; even Benny had said that once. I knew for a fucking fact that they'd completely scan this building, give it a thorough once-over before coming in.

"There's no other way into this office, Cullen," Sid said slowly, as if he needed for it to sink in.

My eyes drifted across the room to the wall of windows, smirking at the building next door. My girl may not be able to get in, but there was more than one way to take these assholes out.

"Though, I must say," he continued, "I'd be rather disappointed not to see her. She was a...fine piece of ass..."

"Oh hell," Jordan muttered, shaking his head. He may have been new, but he wasn't fucking stupid.

"Mm, she is that. I'd tell you to leave her alone, but I won't have to," I told him, my voice low and threatening, because I knew he was just trying to piss me off, knock me off my game. That shit wasn't happening. "She's every bit as dangerous as she is beautiful, Sid. Trust me on that. She'll kill you if you even think about touching her. I won't have to waste the energy," I grunted, knowing for a fact that my wife was probably beyond fucking pissed that it was me that had been taken and not her. She'd told me just before we left the safe house that she'd rather wait patiently for me to get to her than for her to worry about me.

"Well, I'm just happy to have this opportunity for...revenge. Your father fucking fired me, I'm being audited by the IRS, and every last dime I have is frozen," he said with a sneer. "Since you were in here asking about Preston, I called him once I was let go. I figured I'd better find out what the hell was going on. Perhaps this will teach Carlisle Cullen a lesson that not everyone will go quietly – that he can't just take over, thinking everyone is okay with it."

"Aw, now," I chuckled, shaking my head. "I'm pretty fucking sure a weasel like yourself isn't broke. Or should I say...squirrel? I bet you have a...nut hidden away here and there that you stole from this place." Sid didn't say anything to that, but I turned to Preston, who was still cooling off in the corner. "You let this asshole help you? Really? You need bigger and better friends."

Preston smirked, shaking his head. "He offered to help when I told him I needed to get in here. Once he lost his job, he seemed to want to get back at Carlisle Cullen by fucking up this office. He saw a picture of you, and he realized that you were all connected," Preston explained with a shrug. I was surprised that he was calm enough to say that much, but it seemed he was. "And you're right...he totally financed this shit..."

That seemed to piss Sid off, causing him to spin toward Preston. "You little shit! Why don't you just tell them everything?" he roared, taking a step forward.

"However," Preston sighed, looking at Sid like he was a cockroach that he was about to step on, "I think he's outlived his usefulness."

Jordan and I locked eyes, and I knew what was coming next. But if the two of them were about to turn on each other, who were we to interfere?

"All I needed was for him to help me get to you two. I needed your asses away from Kyra, and I needed inside this office. It's fitting that it all ends here," he mused, pulling his hand from his back, where he had a firm grip on my Glock. "Maybe if he'd backed me up against my dad at some point when I was working here, I might've let him live. But..." he sighed dramatically, dragging out the word. "He didn't. No one ever did..."

The sound of my gun going off, no matter how prepared we were, caused Jordan and me to jump. Sid let out a piercing scream, falling to the carpet of the office, holding his now bleeding foot. Preston's eyes dilated as he watched the greasy little man suffer. He truly was a sadist like Alice, Esme, and Bella had surmised. He totally got off on watching people endure pain.

He moved quickly, the muzzle of the gun now pressing to the middle of my forehead. "Now... Why don't you tell me where you're hiding Kyra? Hmm?"

~oOo~

BELLA

I reached for the doorknob of the fifteenth floor, freezing when the sound of gunfire echoed around us. "Fuck," I hissed, locking gazes with Rose for a moment.

Her eyes were wide, her face pale.

"Go, go, go," I ordered, pushing through the door. "Talk to me, Ali. Where am I going?"

"Turn right down the hallway. You'll see a door that says maintenance," she stated. "I'm sending you the map of the ventilation system to your phone. At some point, you'll have to split up so that you can each take the two vents over Ike's office."

"Copy that," I panted, running down the hall. "Jazz, what's your status?"

"We're just now at the back door of the building, Bells," he replied. "We'll be inside in no time. I'll let you know when we're in position."

"Ten-four," I muttered, scanning the room Alice had sent us into and smiling when I spotted the air conditioning vent right in front of us. "Alice, the one on the wall?"

"Yes, yes, yes! If you take that one, you'll end up on the floor below you. And when you get to Ike's office, clip your camera on the vent," she requested. "It'll give me eyes into the room."

I could hear some sort of commotion through the radio, though I had my answer instantly as to what it was.

"Sweetheart, we're here. What do you need?" Carlisle asked.

"I need you with Alice, because I'll have to go silent soon. I need Emmett to disengage those bombs on the fourteenth floor. There's one at the main lobby door and another attached to Ike's old office," I grunted, gripping the vent grate at the same time Mack did. With one good tug, we had it on the floor. "When he gets past the first one, he'll need to be silent with the second. Got me?"

"I'm on my way, baby girl," Emmett answered instead.

"God, that's really small," I groaned, looking up at my girls. "Either of you claustrophobic?" When they shook their heads no, I crawled in. "Follow me, take it easy, and be quiet."

Once I was inside and the girls right behind me, I pulled out my phone, reading the schematic that Alice had sent to me. I needed to follow the vent shaft for another fifty yards or so before we had to take a few turns. Three, to be exact.

"Bellsy, I can see you," Alice soothed me. "You're right on track. Pass the first two splits and then make your left."

"Got it," I whispered, wincing when I slipped a little while crossing over a vent that went straight down into what looked like a conference room.

"Take your left," she continued guiding me. "Good. Now you should see a large fan in front of you. It's off, because I killed the entire system. See it?"

"Yes," Mack, Rose, and I breathed.

"Crawl through it," she ordered. "Once you're on the other side, you need to split up, because you'll be officially over Ike's office."

My girls and I said nothing, because if we were that close, any noise we made could possibly alert Preston to our presence, and if he decided to just fucking start shooting at the ceiling, we were sitting fucking ducks.

Carefully, I approached the fan, thinking that if the thing came on, we were diced bitches. I had to trust Alice in this situation, as I slowly slipped my hands, arms, and head between two blades, slinking the rest of my body through to the other side. Once I was through, I waved Makenna and Rose forward. Using the light of my cell and hand signals only, I told them to go together. According to the map, they would be at the vent closest to the door, while I made my way to the one at the back of the room.

The problem we were going to have was the way the vents were pointing straight down. I'd have to balance precariously in order to see down in there, but I slid farther and farther down, bracing my hand along the side of the metal vent in order to reach for my camera.

I tugged it off, slowly and quietly clipping it onto the vent. Taking out an extra earpiece, I made sure it was on and silently dropped it to the carpet below. No one saw a fucking thing.

"To the left, Bells...just a little," Alice whispered, and I adjusted the camera. "Rose, yours is perfect. Don't move." She paused for a second. "Nice. I have eyes and ears inside the room."

"Jasper!" Carlisle barked. "Bella's team is in position. What's your status now?"

"Stairs," he panted. "I'm aiming for the fifteenth floor. We just passed the tenth."

"Emmett?" Carlisle called.

I was grateful he was able to take the verbal commands over, because my silence was imperative.

"I'm on the lobby doors," Emmett breathed, "so gimme a sec. I'm pretty sure this is a dummy setup, but let me make sure."

The radio went quiet when voices picked up in Ike's office.

"Where are you fucking keeping her, Cullen?" I heard down below, and I shifted again so that I could see into the room.

Fuck, if he didn't have Jordan and Edward strapped to fucking chairs by a shitload of duct tape. Off to the side, I could see Sid Williams rolling around on the floor, obviously in pain. I relaxed just a little that it wasn't Edward that had been shot.

"If I told you, I'd have to kill you, asshole," my ever belligerent husband replied, and I had to smile, because he was stalling. "Which isn't a bad idea, really," he pretended to muse, shrugging a shoulder, "because I'm most likely gonna kill you anyway."

"Jesus, Edward," Carlisle sighed, and I could just imagine him pinching the bridge of his nose.

Soon, my whole crew called in their positions.

"The eagle is in the nest. I just need my eyes," Jasper stated. "And then tell me who I'm shootin' first."

"Hold that thought," Carlisle snapped.

"Copy that," Jasper replied, always cool, always calm.

"The first bomb is trash," Emmett stated. "Send in the rest of the team, because we'll need to get ready to take that office door as soon as I pull the other one."

"Ten-four," Carlisle answered. "Alec, El, Kurt, Benny...get ready to move into the office. Stay back down the hallway until Emmett gives his all-clear. Em, go in soft and silent."

"Got it," Emmett whispered.

"Jazz, tell me how you see things," Carlisle demanded.

"I've got some greasy asshole on the floor...looks like he's seen better days, 'cause he's got a gunshot wound to the foot. And I've got Preston with a gun at Eddie's head. That guy will snap soon, but I don't have a shot...not without the possibility of hitting Ed. I can't risk it. I can, however, dispose of the guy on the floor. That's a perfect shot for me," Jasper answered, and I could see what he was saying.

The way that Preston was leaning down in Edward's face was blocking Jasper's sight-line.

"Thank you. Stand by on my word, J," Carlisle muttered softly.

An extremely loud smack echoed up, and my eyes locked onto how Preston had just changed his game plan. He'd smacked the piss out of Jordan and aimed the gun at his temple, but his eyes were deadly and sharp on Edward.

"Let's do this... How 'bout if you tell me, this guy lives? Hmm?" he asked Edward.

Only those that truly knew Edward would've recognized the flicker of emotion that ghosted across his chiseled features. It was conflict, desperation, and the hatred that an innocent was being threatened. However, his smooth, fierce mask slipped back on, almost as quickly as it had wavered.

"Santa Barbara," Edward muttered. "Let him go. You don't want him, anyway. It's me that you want."

I wanted to scream in protest, but Carlisle stopped me.

"Easy, sweetheart, he's buying us some time," he crooned in my ear. "Em? I need a check in..."

"Ten seconds, Carlisle," Emmett barely breathed.

"We have a problem," Jasper warned. "The guy on the floor is armed! I have the shot, I have the shot! Talk to me."

"You're going in all at one time," Carlisle ordered. "On my mark... Emmett, your team will bust in those doors. Girls, you'll come in through the vents...kick them in if you have to. But no one moves until Jasper takes out that other gun."

He paused for just a moment, and I took the opportunity to spin around, silently placing my boots on the vent.

"Jasper, the shot is yours. Shoot to wound only. When you're ready," Carlisle conceded. "We'll go in on your command."

"In three...two...one..." Jasper counted off, but we all knew when he'd hit his mark, because the large plate glass window shattered just before the man on the floor fell back with a dull thump. "Go, go, go!" he yelled.

Bringing both legs up, I kicked hard, sending the grate down to the top of Ike's old desk. At the same time, Emmett's large form barreled in through the double wooden doors, with Alec, Kurt, Benny, and Eleazar all armed and at the ready. The other vent shattered a crystal vase on a table, and my girls and I fell to the carpet, our weapons already trained on Preston.

"FBI! Drop it now, asshole!" Benny yelled, but Preston had moved just as quick. He now had a gun pointed at Jordan's head and was using his body as a shield, despite the fact that there were seven weapons pointed at him – and one across the street that he didn't know about.

"I'll blow his fucking head off!" Preston warned.

"No shot, no shot!" Jasper barked out. "He's too close to Jordan."

"You won't win, Raulson," Benny stated. "You're surrounded. This is the end, and you know it."

"I'm not going to prison," Preston growled, shaking his head.

I glanced around me, catching sight of Edward's knife on the desk. Picking it up slowly, I crept up behind Edward, my weapon still trained on Preston. With one quick slice, I cut the tape that was wrapped around his chest at the back of the chair. Another slice to the tape securing his left arm, and I handed his knife to him silently so that he could free himself.

"Okay, baby?" I asked him, giving him a glance.

"Yeah," he sighed, tugging off the tape and reaching down to release his bound legs.

"You know," I sighed dramatically, "I'm tired of having to save your ass."

He snorted, raising an eyebrow up sexily. "Really, sweetness? Shall we compare the score?"

Grinning, I shook my head, reached into his bag, and handed him a spare gun as he stood up. I could see that Preston had his Glock.

"Thanks," he breathed, taking the gun from me and kissing the side of my head.

The whole thing had finally caught Preston's attention. His eyes narrowed on the two of us as he shook his head slowly. "You're the one in the pictures," he breathed.

"Yeah," I said slowly, waiting for him to catch up. "That was me. Not Kyra."

The fact that his attention had shifted to me made everyone in the room nervous, yet his gun was still at Jordan's temple. Emmett, Edward, and Alec shifted on their feet, their eyes glancing back and forth between me and Preston. Rose and Makenna grimaced, but they stayed still.

However, the radio was going off like mad in my ear. Jasper wanted his clear shot, Carlisle was heading up the stairs with Wes and a few other Feds, and Alice called that Kyra was nowhere in sight.

"Where is she?" Preston asked.

"Huh..." I laughed humorlessly. "Honestly, right now...no one knows," I told him, shrugging a shoulder and ignoring Jordan's and Edward's fierce glances, because they couldn't hear what we could.

"I want to see her!" Preston yelled, his pale face reddening. "I'll kill him. I swear I will. He should never have touched her to begin with!"

Jordan flinched, helpless to defend himself, because he was still strapped to that leather chair. Preston had Edward's Glock pointed to his temple so hard that I was pretty sure there would be a bruise there after this was all said and done.

I was just about to tell him that he was shit out of luck, but movement at the doorway caught my eye.

"I'm right here, Preston," Kyra stated, but her eyes were locked on Jordan. I could see her entire frame shudder in pure fear at facing her last threat. Preston may not have raped her, but he damn well had stalked her.

She looked so damn small standing there, and Cassie and Christine were right behind her, looking like they'd run all fourteen flights of steps to try to stop her from coming up here. Kyra's hands were behind her back as she tilted her head up at him.

"Please let him go," she requested softly. "Jordan didn't do anything wrong."

"He touched what was mine!" Preston yelled, glaring at her. "I could've made us work, K. You know that."

"I'm not...anyone's," she countered, wearing a look of disgust on her face. However, her last words to him caused him to completely lose it. "I'm especially not yours."

Preston shoved away from Jordan, taking a step toward her with a murderous look on his face, but she finally pulled her hands from behind her back. In her grip was my old nine mil, locked and loaded. She fired the weapon before he could come anywhere near her. The bullet caught him in the upper shoulder, causing him to rock back one step, only to stumble toward her three more steps. At that point, two guns opened fire. Three more bullets slammed into his chest, and two into his head. He fell to the floor on his knees, only to crumple into a heap.

The room was frozen, only two guns smoking in the room – my own and Gator's. He was looming behind Kyra with a protective hand on her shoulder. He must've sneaked up the stairs with her, or at least right behind her.

I let out the breath I'd been holding, lowering my weapon slowly. A shiver wracked my frame, because there was something so familiar and fucking cathartic about taking down that man. He was so close to Riley Miller that it was scary. I didn't want Kyra to live the rest of her life thinking she killed a man. She wasn't like the rest of us, and I was pretty sure she couldn't handle it.

A large, warm hand wrapped around my gun, helping me lower it some more. "Nice job, baby," Edward soothed in my ear. "You can relax, love."

I nodded, letting out another cleansing breath, finally meeting his gaze as the room fell into action. Benny checked Preston's pulse, Kyra broke away from Gator to rush to Jordan, whose chair had fallen to the side, and Wes called for an ambulance, because Sid Williams was still alive. Jasper had shot to wound only.

Suddenly, I was lifted up and set on the desk. Looking up at Edward, I grimaced and traced a newly forming bruise on his face.

"I've had worse, sweetness," he chuckled, taking my hand from his face and kissing each and every finger. "You okay?" he asked softly, ignoring the rest of the room.

"Yeah," I sighed, shrugging a shoulder. "I just...couldn't let him touch her."

Edward nodded like he completely understood, which he did, I was pretty sure. "You beat me to it," he told me, and for the first time, I could see why. His hands shook as he cupped my face.

"Baby, you're shaking," I whispered, taking his hands into mine and rubbing them.

"Yeah, well...getting shocked twice isn't exactly fucking fun and games," he said, smiling sheepishly. "I'll be fine. I promise. I'll even let Esme check me out when we get back. Okay?"

"'Kay," I murmured, not completely convinced, but trusting him to tell me the truth.

Edward kissed my lips chastely, whispering, "I'll be right back." He pulled his knife out again, walking over to where they'd righted Jordan. With a few swipes of the blade, he freed the man, holding his hand out to help him up. "All right?" he asked him.

"Yeah, I'm good," Jordan groaned, rubbing his jaw and then his temple.

"You took some fucking hard hits, man. At least let Esme take a look at that cut on your head when we get back," Edward stated, and it was in the tone that wasn't up for debate, though Jordan took it just fine.

The room slowly cleared out, the EMTs setting Sid Williams on a gurney. The ME bagged up Preston Raulson's body, also clearing it out. I stayed sitting on the desk, letting the breeze from the shattered window keep me focused. Kyra, Gator, Cassie, Christine, and Jordan had already gone downstairs to wait to head back to the safe house, because it had taken both Carlisle and Edward to convince them to lay low just a few more days.

Emmett carefully handed over the two bombs to the Feds. They may have been poorly made, but they were still dangerous as hell. Finally, Benny and Wes ushered the rest of us out so that they could finish up the crime scene. Edward draped an arm around my shoulders as we made our way into the elevator that someone had turned back on.

"Here," I said, holding out his phone to him. "You changed your wallpaper again."

My husband smiled, taking his phone and turning it on. "Yeah," he said slowly with a slight tilt to his head, looking just like his son as he studied the picture. "I liked this one," he chuckled.

I giggled, because as big of a bad ass that my Edward was, that picture actually told a better story on him than anything. His whole world was in that one picture, and he'd endure anything in order to keep it that way.

His eyes were sweet, soft, and evergreen as he gazed down at his phone, finally looking up to me when the doors of the elevator dinged open. "I-I n-need t-to s-see th-them," he sputtered softly.

Smiling, I wrapped both arms around his neck. "Yeah, me, too. Let's round everyone up and head back. Take me home, flyboy," I ordered, giggling when he wrapped a strong arm around my waist and dragged me out of the elevator car, my toes skimming along the floor.

With a slight chuckle to his voice, he commanded, "Everyone, load up. We're outta here!"

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