Friday, February 15, 2002 | By: Drotuno

Smoke and Mirrors Chapter 24

CHAPTER 24

EDWARD

Pressing a long, slow kiss to the back of Bella's sleeping head, I slipped out of bed. She was so fucking beautiful as she rolled over and curled herself around my pillow. Long, dark eyelashes rested on smooth, creamy cheeks. Pink lips pouted, as if she knew I was no longer there. It made me smile, but I wasn't waking her for anything, no matter how badly I wanted her. She'd fallen asleep in the chopper on the way home and had barely stirred when I tucked her in bed. It was as if her whole body had relaxed because the case was done, because there was one less evil, sadistic asshole out there on the streets, and she could finally rest easy.

However, I also wasn't going to deny Bethy or Sammy the pure joy of waking her up, either, because I'd be willing to bet one of them did. They'd been in bed when we got home and slept through mine, Kurt's, and Jordan's fussy once-overs by Esme. I was pretty sure that had Bella been awake, she'd have moved the kids to our bed just to snuggle with them. Not that I didn't debate that myself.

I quickly got dressed in my basketball shorts and running sneakers, tugging my cap on backwards. I wanted to go for a run, and I was also sure that I had shit that needed to get done before Benny gave us the all clear to leave. Just before we'd left L.A. the night before, he'd told us laying low for at least another twenty-four to forty-eight hours wouldn't be such a bad idea. It would give the media a chance to cool down, the Feds long enough to close the case, and for Myles to set up protection around Jordan's home, because that was where he, Kyra, Gator, Cassie, and Christine wanted and agreed to hole up until Kyra had to really get back to work.

Since her album was finished, she said that the hard shit really had to start – talk shows, getting ready for a tour, promotional photo shoots, choreography. The list was long, and half of it didn't make a bit of fucking sense to me, but she was determined to fulfill her contracts.

The only one that hadn't returned with us was Makenna. She'd decided that since the threat was over, she'd stay with Wes. And I couldn't blame her one bit, because they'd been separated for what was getting close to three weeks.

As I stretched on the back deck, I shook my head at the events of the night before. From what we could all piece together, and from what Sid Williams had fessed up to while he was surrounded by federal officers, it had been a lucky night on Preston's part. Apparently, Sid had been let go from Solstice Music not even two days after we'd been there, per an email from my father back to Twi Tech. The little weasel had been so pissed off, he'd called the only person that could answer any questions for him – Preston.

Even though Sid was aware of the buyout, he didn't understand why Ike and Preston Raulson were so important to my father, nor did he believe what everyone was saying about the young man that used to work for him. So he'd called him. And Preston had totally used that shit to his advantage, because it wasn't long before Kyra called him and pretended to want him to come get her.

Sid Williams had squirreled away close to half a million dollars, thanks to his skimming at Solstice. He also had a fierce love for high-tech gadgets...and an extremely good memory. He remembered that the team of us that had shown up at his office were wired, that we'd communicated via our earpieces. He also was highly frightened of me, so that was where the stun gun came into play. Motherfucker thought he was James Bond or some shit.

The rest had been pretty simple to figure out. When Sid took out communications and the security feeds, Preston had removed Kurt at the one door that was easiest to approach. They'd parked the van earlier in the day, abandoning it. In fact, it had been that van that Preston had been living out of, so once Kyra had called him, he'd called Sid, and they had set their plan in motion from there. We figured that it had barely taken forty-five minutes to an hour for him to place himself where he needed to be. Hell, he was already in place while the rest of us were on the road or in the air.

When Preston took out Kurt, he had indeed knocked on the back door, because he'd known communications were already out. He'd lucked the fuck out when it was Jordan that was closest to the door and answered it. Preston had stunned him the very second the fans had bum-rushed the front doors, causing Jordan to hit his head on the corner of the stage. And those fucking fans, or haters, or what-the-fuck-ever... They had been paid to cause trouble by Sid Williams – a thousand bucks to start it and a thousand bucks when it was over. Needless to say, they were pissed, because all of them were arrested that night, and they would never see a dime.

According to Sid, Preston had really wanted Kyra. They had been planning to grab her and go, but when opportunity had presented itself, Preston had taken advantage again and had decided to take Jordan. And he was only going to take Jordan. However, I happened to look in on Kurt, concerned that I hadn't heard him check in. So again, Preston had lucked out. Fucker.

Not that any of that shit mattered, because everyone was safe. Preston was dead, thanks to Kyra, Gator, and Bella, who had all put bullets in that asshole. Sid Williams, however, was in a shitload of fucking trouble. Wes wasn't even sure exactly how many charges were against him at this point, because they weren't done investigating his greasy ass. So far, he was facing grand larceny, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, fraud, possession of illegal firearms, two counts of attempted murder, and whether or not he'd made the fucking bombs, he was most likely facing terrorist charges, because his goal had been to blow up Solstice Music.

But Preston's luck that night finally ran out. My girl was fucking fierce. Benny told me that she'd practically threatened his existence had he not let her come for me. And that thought had made me laugh, because they'd all come in at one time and from every fucking direction. Emmett said they'd taken that building "better than Bruce Willis in Die Hard."

I stopped running up the beach, bracing my hands on my knees as I chuckled and shook my head. I'd known they would come for us, but I hadn't thought it was going to be all at once. Jasper had wounded Sid, taking down the extra threat, Emmett had disabled two bombs, and they'd all burst into the room as Preston had my Glock pressed to my head.

What none of us had expected was Kyra's participation. According to Gator, she'd been listening in over the earpiece and had suddenly taken off upstairs from the front lobby. He said he'd had to chase her, but the second she'd hidden Bella's gun behind her back, he'd followed her lead. Esme had said it was some sort of closure for her, even though her bullet wasn't the fatal one.

I sighed, straightened up, and rubbed my face, because that was a fucking close call. All of it.

The tide was out, so my eyes met wet, packed sand, seashells, and a few wandering birds as I gazed around. The air was chilly, winter moving in slowly, and I made my way back up to the house, grabbing my t-shirt off of the deck rail and tugging it on. I wanted to start breakfast for everyone, sink myself back into normal, but when I arrived to the kitchen, it wasn't empty.

I grinned, leaning against the counter as I watched my son rifle through the cabinet, only to come out looking rather proud that he'd found what he was looking for. "Hey, pal, if you'll wait, I was gonna make pancakes," I told him.

"'Kay," Sammy sighed, looking all sorts of sleepy, hungry, and undeterred, because his hand sank into the Cheerios box without shame. His hair stuck up everywhere, just like my own, and his face still held the creases from his pillow as he stood there in Superman pajamas.

Everyone that looked at him said he was me made over, but I saw his mother in there, too. It was that sweet, innocent chocolate gaze that could see into your very soul with a quiet thoughtfulness, like he could see everything about you, but wasn't judging you on a bit of it. Smiling, I scooped him up and set him and the cereal box onto the counter.

He popped a few rings into his mouth and chewed them slowly, giving me a smile that I knew only too well – all crooked and shit, filled with a subtle touch of mischief. "Boo-berry pancakes," he ordered, giggling when I laughed against his cheek softly.

"Yeah, I think so, too, son. Blueberry and maybe...chocolate chip?" I asked, but his nod was slow as he looked up at me.

Frowning, he pushed the box of cereal away and reached for my face. "Owies, Daddy," he muttered, his little brow furrowing as he traced the bruises on my face with a surprising gentleness. Luckily, none of Preston's hits had split the skin. "Dey hurt? You otay?" he asked, and there was the part of me in him that couldn't be denied, because I remembered checking on my mother like that constantly, especially when she'd gotten sick.

"Mommy beat me up," I teased him with a dramatic whisper and sigh.

"No!" he laughed, not buying that shit whatsoever. "Mommy no beat you!"

"No. No, she wouldn't," I chuckled, kissing his forehead and gathering him up into my arms.

"Wha' happin?" he asked softly, his fingers still tracing the bruise along my cheekbone.

"Bad guys, Sammy. Lot's of 'em," I told him in a growl, grinning when Samuel gasped, covering his mouth with both hands.

"Oh," he barely breathed, gazing at me with wide eyes. "Didjoo win?" he asked.

"Of course," I chuckled again, giving his neck a loud sloppy kiss. "Come sit, buddy. You can keep me company while I make breakfast."

"Yeah," he sighed, softly and slowly, and I gave him a few Cheerios to keep him happy while I got to work.

I made myself a cup of coffee and my son a sippy cup of milk, pulling out all the ingredients for pancakes. Sammy was a content kid; I had to give him that much. He babbled and chirped shit that I barely understood, but he didn't complain once that he was trapped in his highchair. And I listened to and acknowledged every noise he made, like he was giving a dissertation, because fuck, I needed that shit...like the air I fucking breathed.

"Awec!" he sang, holding up a handful of soggy Cheerios to his Uncle Alec, who looked freshly showered.

"Hey, kiddo," he laughed, ruffling his hair. "No thanks. I want whatever your dad's makin'."

"'Kay," Sammy said, shoving the rings into his mouth. "Boo-berry pancakes."

"Yeah?" he asked, though the question was posed to me.

"Yeah," I snickered. "Per his request," I snorted, jerking a chin toward Sammy while I mixed pancake batter.

"Want some help?" he offered, pulling out the bacon from the fridge.

"Sure."

Alec and I worked flawlessly together in a kitchen. That was a fucking fact. He made the eggs, bacon, and sausage, while I made a stack of pancakes of every fucking flavor that would put IHOP out of business. Just as we finished, the sounds of the house coming alive rumbled over our heads on the second floor. But it was the two giggly, sweet five-year-olds rushing down the stairs that made us both laugh.

"Daddy!" Bethy squealed, at the same time Abby gushed, "Alec!"

They both ran into the kitchen, dark hair, happy smiles, and big hugs, because they hadn't seen us since dinner the night before. I lifted my daughter up into my arms, squeezing her close and tickling her neck with my stubble. The color of the day was blue – dark blue sweatshirt and faded blue jeans – all the way down to her low top Chucks.

"Morning, little sweetness," I growled against her throat, just to hear her laugh, to feel it against my lips.

"Morning, Daddy," she sang, tilting that head of hers, but she gasped when she saw my face. "Who hurt you?" she asked with a touch of a growl to her voice, frowning as she touched the bruise along my eyebrow.

Now, that was all Bella, because my baby girl looked like she was about to hunt down King Kong and take him out for whatever had happened to my face. Her scowl made Alec and me crack the fuck up.

"Bad guys," Sammy blurted out from behind us.

"Weally?" she whispered, leaning in to press soft kisses to my cheek. "Did you kick their butts, Daddy?" she giggled, her little cheeks tinging pink as she said something she wasn't supposed to.

I snickered, shaking my head. "You'd better not let Mommy hear you say that," I warned her, raising up an eyebrow. "And yes, the bad guys are all gone. We caught them all," I said proudly, giving the credit to everyone, because it had taken all of us to catch that asshole – or both assholes, really.

"Yay!" Abby cheered from Alec's arms.

"Come, Causa," he crooned to her, kissing her temple. "Breakfast, yeah?" he asked her.

She nodded with a shy, small smile. If she knew he'd named her his cause, his reason for living, I wouldn't know, but she answered to it anyway. He called Sarah Anima, which defined those girls as his heart and soul.

"You, too, Bambina. Your dad and I worked hard this morning," he said to Bethy, using his term for her since the day she was born.

"Okay, Unca Alec," she chirped, grinning at me and pointing to the counter.

"Is Mommy awake?" I asked Bethy as I set her down on the stool next to her brother.

"Yup," she said with a fervent nod and a sweet smile, which meant it had been her to wake Bella up. "She said she was gonna get a baff. Aaand...she said me and Abby are suh-posed to pack after we eat. She said our room was a diz...a diz..."

"Disaster," Alec and I finished for her as we put together their plates, chuckling a bit, because it was damned true.

"Yeah, that," she laughed, bouncing in her seat and swinging her legs like she had more energy than her little body could contain.

We set full plates in front of all the kids as some more people wandered into the kitchen, my dad and Esme among them. Caleb joined the rest of the kids, waiting patiently as Rose fixed his plate. Soon, most of the crew and Kyra's people were sitting around the table eating, laughing, and teasing one another. The stress of the case was officially over, and they knew it. They could fucking feel it.

"Let me see your face," Esme commanded softly from my side as I made another cup of coffee to take upstairs.

I gave my dad a scathing look as he laughed when he walked by to join everyone at the table.

I knew better than to argue that shit with her, so I let her poke, prod, and fuss over me as we stood alone in the kitchen. She lived to fucking do it, and her eyes were warm, filled with sweet concern.

"Headache? Nausea? Blurry vision?" she asked one right after the other, grinning when I groaned like a petulant child – like Sammy when he was sick.

"No. I'm fine, Mom," I huffed as I rolled my eyes, but I suddenly froze, because despite the fact that she'd come to be like a second mother to me, I'd never actually called her that aloud.

She went rigid, and I wondered for a moment if I'd offended her, but her eyes welled up with tears as they looked more to my chest than my face. When they finally met my own, she smiled and nodded, lifting up on her toes to kiss my cheek.

"Good. Love you, and I was just checking on you, son," she whispered against my jaw as her hands squeezed my upper arms a bit, before she dropped back down flat on her feet.

"Love you, too," I murmured, sighing in relief that she wasn't upset with me.

She nodded, blinking back more tears, but she smiled up at me again, letting out a long breath. "If you happen to see Kyra upstairs, tell her I need to talk to her. I think I have someone – a therapist – that might be able to work with her once she's permanently back in L.A."

"Got it," I told her, picking up my mug. "Esme, I..."

"Don't you dare apologize," she interrupted with a sweet, soft laugh, kissing my cheek. "I'm honored that you would call me that, Edward. Your mother was an amazing and special woman. I wouldn't dream of trying to take her place, but...know that I love you like you were my own. You and Bella both."

"'Kay," I said softly.

"Go take Bella her coffee. I know you haven't really talked since last night," she said, patting my shoulder lightly.

I nodded, making my way upstairs, my steps stumbling when I neared Kyra's room. The smile that crept up my face couldn't be stopped, because for a split second, I wondered just how much noise Bella and I had made since we'd been at the safe house.

I chuckled, shook my head, and stepped into our bedroom. I needed my girl, if only to touch her, talk to her for a minute. There was a part of me that hoped she was still in bed, all curled up and warm, though I knew I needed a shower. What I found when I went in was even fucking better.

Bella hadn't showered yet, because she was still in my t-shirt. However, our bags were on the bed and looked pretty much packed. My girl was ready to get the hell out of Dodge.

"Can't say I'm not disappointed," I muttered, closing the door and clicking the lock into place as I leaned against the wood.

"Morning to you, too, Edward," she giggled. "What are you disappointed about now?"

"Well," I sighed, shrugging a shoulder, "Bethy said you were getting a 'baff.' I was hoping for a sweet, warm, clean, and very, very wet Bella..."

My girl laughed at my use of Bethy language and at my shameless words, her face so fucking beautiful as the rising sun beamed in through the windows. "I will, but I wanted to get a start on this," she told me, bustling around from the closet to the dresser, back to the bags.

Another noise caught my attention, and I snorted, rolling my eyes. I wondered for a moment if God kept count of every time His name was called out in the throws of passion, and if so, what it numbered. That thought made me snicker to myself, because I could imagine the number was fucking unfathomable.

"Hmm," Bella said, glancing up at me with narrowed eyes. "That's an awfully sexy smile, baby. What's that all about?"

I tapped the door I was leaning against. "It seems Kyra and Jordan worked things out... Umm, or at least, they're working it out pretty damn hard right this second," I said with grin, chuckling when my girl gasped, dropped the shit in her hands onto the bed, and padded to where I was.

Pressing her ear to the door, she gasped again, her eyes widening. "Oh damn," she giggled, her stunning face filled with amusement, though I knew her well enough to know what her darkening eyes meant. She straightened up, leaning a shoulder to the door beside me, and reached for the mug in my hands. "Good for them..." she murmured before taking a sip. "At least tell me everyone else is downstairs...like the kids," she chuckled, taking another drink.

I laughed and nodded. "Yes, they are, and I was thoroughly inspected by both our kids. I passed, I believe," I told her.

Another low moan echoed across the hallway, and both our eyebrows rose up in unison.

Bella tugged at my sleeve, saying, "Come away from the door, Edward. It's rude to listen. It's not porn."

I grinned, shaking my head at my silly girl. I was no stranger to porn, because I'd been in the military, and being friends with Emmett pretty much guaranteed debauchery of every form. However, no magazine or online website could turn me on as quickly as the sweet, sexy as hell form in front of me, especially when she was only wearing my clothes.

"Well, it's not as hot as trying to figure out where my boxers went," I told her, my voice huskier than I was expecting, though I could give two shits at this point.

"Laundry, Edward," she laughed and rolled her eyes, pointing to a pile of dirty clothes in the corner of the room. "I was going to do a load before we left."

"Ah," I sighed with a smile, sitting on the edge of the bed. "You think we're that loud?"

Bella laughed, her head falling back. "Probably...not that you care, right?"

"Hell, no," I growled, licking my lips at the thought of it. "You make some really sexy ass sounds, love. Maybe we've taught someone a thing or two."

"Edward!" she giggled, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. "You really don't have any shame. And you'll have to hold that thought, because I really want to get this done before I go downstairs."

"Fine, but there's always the shower," I pointed out, dragging my tongue along my bottom lip at just the mere thought of it and shooting her a wink when glared up at me, but she didn't protest, either.

Fuck, but just being in the same room with her was good enough for me. This had been a fucked up case. It had started out as a damned neon sign concerning my past and then turned into a hunt for two serial killers. I was just glad it was fucking over. I was glad that I could still flirt shamelessly with the most gorgeous woman I'd ever laid eyes on, and she could give it back just as good as she got. It was almost like a soothing rhythm for us.

I stayed quiet as I couldn't take my eyes off of her, my hands holding on to the mug of coffee. Maybe it was the comfort of knowing we'd be going home soon, or maybe it was how strong she'd stayed during the whole thing, not judging me on my past, even when it was smashed in her face. But fuck it all, I wanted her. I always wanted her. However, I wasn't going to bug her, because she looked damned determined to finish the packing.

My eyes followed her bare legs as she gathered up a pile of clean, balled up socks, dropping them into one of the bags. Suddenly, she was standing between my legs, stealing my coffee again.

"You okay?" she asked, taking my baseball cap off and leaving a long, slow kiss to my forehead before taking another sip. "Did Esme look at you last night?"

"Yes, ma'am. And this morning," I told her, unable to keep my hands from the skin of her thighs. "I'm fine. I've had worse bruises from fist fights."

Bella smirked, but nodded, giving my nose a kiss this time. "Okay, just checking... I'm sorry I fell asleep on you on the way back last ni—"

"I-I c-called h-her M-Mom..." I suddenly blurted out, though my stutter came shining through with this confession. I'd had to tell her. Only she would understand why I felt off about it.

My girl's eyebrows rose up, but she nodded. "I bet she cried," she whispered, smiling softly in understanding as she gently and soothingly ran her fingers through my hair over and over.

"Yeah," I sighed, leaning forward and letting my forehead fall to her sternum, though my hands never stopped touching, never stopped caressing. When my thumb found the long, deep scar on the front of her thigh, I dragged it slowly over its raised surface. Up and down, swirling around the top, and then back down again.

Self-doubt rose to the forefront of my mind, and Bella let me stay quiet, but something felt wrong about my conversation with Esme. I loved her, and she loved me back, but it felt like an insult to my mother's memory.

"It's okay that you called her that, Edward," she finally said softly, gently pulling my face away from her stomach and looking me straight in the eyes. "You didn't do anything wrong. Your mom would want you to love her, because she cares for you, for Carlisle...hell, for all of us. I think she'd be happy to know that you're loved, no matter how old you get."

"You believe that?" I asked, and I realized it had been a damn long time since we'd talked about our moms.

"I have to," she simply replied, shrugging a shoulder. "I have to believe that our mothers would want someone looking out for us, that there was someone that would spoil their grandkids shamelessly in their place, and that we had someone to go to when shit gets hard." She set the coffee cup down on the nightstand, taking my face in her hands. "Think about it, baby. Wouldn't you want that for Bethy and Sammy? Wouldn't you want them to have someone if we weren't here?"

"Yeah," I said, my voice barely there, because my girl always had a way of changing my perspective. "E-Esme l-looked r-really h-happy a-about i-it..."

Bella chuckled, kissing my lips. "I just bet she did. She loves you like you're her own son," she stated firmly, and I nodded. "Did you make breakfast?" she asked, swiftly changing the subject for me.

"Yeah, Alec and I did," I told her, kissing her tummy in silent gratitude for always just knowing what I needed to hear and for knowing when the subject was closed. "Though there was this little gremlin in Superman pajamas rummaging around in the cabinet when I came back from my run."

"He wakes up starving," Bella laughed. "I think it's all the growing he does in his sleep. He'll be tall like you, I bet."

I grinned and nodded. "Yeah, I told him you beat me up," I chuckled, pointing to my face with one hand, though the other one hadn't left her scar.

"You didn't!" she gasped.

"Yeah, he wasn't hearing a word of it," I snorted, pulling her closer. "Bethy, on the other hand, is looking for the culprit and an enemy to fight."

"That's my girl," Bella murmured proudly, wrapping her arms around my shoulders. Pressing her forehead to mine, she let out the most beautiful moan when my hands finally skimmed up her thighs and underneath that shirt, only to find that there was nothing else in my way.

"Bella," I sighed, begging her with my eyes silently, because I needed her. I couldn't even put into words just how much I wanted to lose myself in her, if only for a moment. Cupping her ass, I gave it a good squeeze, only to glide my open hands up her spine and back down.

My girl let out another sexy as fuck sound. It was feline-like, a singing purr, and it was fucking sexy as all hell.

Gathering up my shirt and tugging it off my head, she slung it to the dirty laundry pile in the corner. "Bath or shower?" she asked simply, raising her eyebrow up at me.

"Don't care. Either. Doesn't fucking matter," I grunted, standing up in front of her. It was my turn for shirt removal. "But I need you soapy and slippery and coming around me really fucking soon," I stated, tossing her shirt away and leaving her bare in front of me. Skimming my hands all over her sweet, soft skin, I said, "I can fuck you harder in the shower..."

My girl grinned like the fucking Cheshire Cat as she tugged my basketball shorts and boxer briefs carefully down over my now hard as hell dick. She snaked her arms around my neck, saying, "Mm, shower, it is..."

Wrapping my arms all the way around her waist, I picked her up, practically growling when her legs locked around me, because it brought all good things – already wet things and soft things and pebbled things – flush to my own skin. Nails scraped along my scalp and shoulder, warm, wet lips trailed down my jaw to my neck, and wet heat slid languidly over my cock as I walked us into the bathroom. But the best part was the sweet little squeak and giggle that escaped my wife when I set her sweet ass on the cold vanity.

Chuckling low, I finally leaned in, because she just needed the ever loving shit kissed out of her. I kept her hot pussy pressed against me and my erection trapped between us, threading my hand into her hair at the base of her neck. I wasn't sure I could be slow, soft, or even take my time with her, and she seemed to know that, meeting my mouth halfway.

I was met with warm and open, wet and welcoming, moaning when she let me claim her, taste her, grind against her. She tasted like coffee and a touch of mint as my tongue swirled with hers, like the only flavor I needed to make the whole fucking world go away. Bella always made shit better. Always. She made the awesome stuff that much more fan-fucking-tastic and the bad shit fade away like it had never even been there.

Small, hot hands skimmed over my stomach, up my chest, and then around to my back. Sickeningly sexy legs pulled me closer, and hard nipples teased my skin. Gripping her hair just a little bit firmer with one hand, I tugged, dragging my teeth along her bottom lip before kissing my way down her cheek to her ear. My other hand was damned busy, touching her everywhere else – her breast, pinching her nipple, her hip, pulling her closer, and her ass, kneading and squeezing it.

"Should I just fuck you here? Or continue this in the shower, love?" I whispered in her ear, because at this point, I couldn't care less where I took her. I was just going to fucking take her. Possibly more than once. No, probably more than once. Hell, or maybe just one time – one fucking phenomenal time.

Her response was nonsense, though I thought I heard my name mixed in there with some words that would top off the swear jar.

Grinning against the warm flesh of her neck, I chuckled again. "Guess that makes it my call... Okay, sweetness?" I pushed away from her just a bit, smirking at the little whimper she let out, because she looked just as ravenous for me as I felt for her. "Shower," I stated, raising an eyebrow up at her. "Don't you dare move that sweet ass from right there. Got me?"

"Yes, sir," she purred, and I swear to God, my cock twitched, which she totally saw. A crooked smile crept up her face as she licked her lips, ogling me from head to toe. "Oh, Edward... You'd better get that water on..." Her chuckle was dark and sexy, laced with a tone that said she meant that as a fucking command.

Backing two steps away from her, I blindly reached for the handles. I made sure it wasn't too cool or too hot, before I was welcomed back into her arms. Cupping her ass, I scooped her up off of the vanity and stepped into the shower with her and under the spray.

Bella dry and dressed was always a beautiful sight. Bella sleeping sweetly could shatter a man's heart. But Bella wet, with rivulets of water skating down every inch of her skin, with hair that deepened from a chestnut brown to the richest mahogany, with pink lips, wet eyelashes, and heavy breathing – that was a sight that could just buckle a man to his knees. And I was that man.

My mind was in a turmoil, because I wanted to fucking touch her, but in order to touch her, I needed to put her down. But I didn't want to fucking put her down. I wanted to keep her wrapped around me, under the water, gazing at me like I was the best thing that ever existed. I wanted to drink every drop of water from her skin, hear my name when she came around me, and drive myself into her balls deep.

"Christ," I growled, turning to my right and pressing her into the cold tile. She hissed, but helped me out by bracing her foot on the soap dish and the edge of the tub. "Baby, I love you...so fucking much," I panted against her skin, flicking my tongue out to gather up beads of water. I caught a droplet balancing precariously off the tip of her tight nipple, sucking the whole thing in my mouth, just to hear her gasp and her head fall back to the tile with a dull thump.

"I love you, too," she whispered, losing her footing on the edge of the tub, so I wrapped her leg around my waist, bringing her pussy flush to my cock, because her other braced leg opened her up wide for me.

My indecision continued, though. I wanted to drink every last drop from her – everywhere – but I ached for her. However, her plea was more than I needed to decide.

"Edward, please..."

Grunting against her collarbone, my eyes shot to her face. Dragging my lips up her neck to her ear, I whispered, "Look at me, Bella. I fucking love watching your beautiful face when I sink into you..."

I coated myself in her hot, wet heat as she gripped my neck. Foreheads pressed together as our eyes never wavered. My tip at her entrance, I slowly started to enter her, but Bella's eyes rolled back. Despite how fucking stunning she looked with her mouth open slightly, her lips barely brushing against mine, and her cheeks flushed pink, it was those chocolate eyes I needed.

"No, baby...please, look at me," I begged, my teeth practically grinding at how tight and wet she was. I just wanted to see her, to know she felt this as much as I did.

With eyes open, she grasped either side of my face, kissing me stupid. We both moaned shamelessly as I filled her, teeth dragging over lips and breathing coming to a halt as muttered words of love and more and need ghosted into the foggy shower air.

"Fuck, baby," she said, her voice wavering as her whole body rolled in a wave of want and need to get closer. "You feel so good."

That was the face I was looking for. Chocolate darkened to almost black, staring at me to move or do something. Teeth latched on to her bottom lip as she strained to hold on, to keep from crying out, and to stop herself from coming, because her insides were already clenching down on me.

"Easy, sweetness," I groaned, brushing my lips across hers and finally beginning to move. "Let me make you feel good."

It was all I wanted – for her to come. Hard. And with me.

Swirling my tongue along her throat and gathering as much water as I could, I suckled at the soft spot just below her ear, the spot that caused the most amazing sounds to escape her.

"Oh, damn...harder, baby," she groaned in my ear, her hands still holding on to my shoulders, her leg around me digging her heel into my ass.

"Hold on, love...up there," I told her, and her hand immediately reached for the towel bar above her head. With one hand cupping her sweet ass, the other slammed into the tile next to her head.

It was wet kisses, slippery grips, and deep plunges into her. And it wasn't going to last – neither the hot water, nor my ability to hold back my climax. She was too beautiful, too tight, and felt so, so good. Swiveling my hips so that my pelvic bone rubbed against her clit, I coaxed her to come.

"That's right...let go, Bella," I urged in her ear, my stomach starting to tighten and my rhythm failing.

Her hips rolled with mine, sinewy muscle under smooth skin. Nipples peaked higher, tighter, calling to my mouth, and I laved my tongue over both, before latching on to the right one. Using just the hint of teeth, I scraped along her sensitive flesh, and she shattered against the tile.

"Oh, God...Edward..." she panted, and I couldn't fault her when her eyes closed this time, her head falling back again. Everything about her clamped down tight on me – arms, legs, and that beautiful core.

"Fuck yes, baby... Yes, yes, yes," I chanted, my control finally falling away, and with a few more thrusts, I buried myself as deep inside of her as I could go, coming so hard that stars exploded behind my eyelids.

It took a minute, with my head on her shoulder, for me to finally lift my gaze to hers. Warm, sweet brown gazed back at me as she gently wiped water off of my face.

"You're kinda hot with these," she murmured, wearing a sated, but wry grin as she traced my bruises with a feather-light touch. "In a dangerous, bad boy sort of way."

I snorted, rolling my eyes at her. "Shut it, woman," I grunted, smirking at her sweet giggle. "So much for getting clean," I sighed dramatically. "The hot water is gone," I laughed, pulling her away from the wall and holding her under the now very cool spray.

The squeal she let loose wasn't my reward; it was the deep laugh that caused her head to fall back. Kissing her neck, I stepped out of the water, slipping her down my body so that her toes finally landed on the rug.

"There's always later..." she sighed, still giggling.

"Or there's always...home," I told her, raising an eyebrow at her.

"Yeah...home," she purred, wrapping her arms around my waist and leaning in to give my two tats each a kiss. "That sounds...so much better..."

~oOo~

BELLA

"Elizabeth Renee," I sighed, not that she could hear me, because she was outside with the rest of them.

Her version of cleaning the kids' room – and I had zero doubt that she was the ringleader of this shit – was shoving all toys, dirty clothes, and shoes underneath the beds. My baby girl couldn't be bothered with such trivial things as cleaning when there were adventures to be had with Abby, games to be played with Daddy, Poppy, and her uncles, and music to listen to when Kyra was playing her guitar. She was way too busy to pack, and Abby, Caleb, and Sammy were only going to follow her lead. I couldn't fault her, though, because Poppy had insisted on one last bonfire before we left the next day. Kyra and company were heading back to Los Angeles, and the rest of us were going home to Washington.

Benny had called and given us plenty of news. Robert Reynolds never woke up from his coma, but slipped away quietly around dawn. The charges that Sid Williams was facing were keeping him under arrest, and as soon as he was cleared from the hospital where he was recovering from his gunshot wounds, he was going straight to jail. No passing go, no collecting two hundred dollars. All bail had been denied. Benny said that he was doing his best to keep Kyra's name out of it all, so the media was now focused on the FBI's closure of Preston Raulson and the fact that he'd killed his serial killer father. The gruesome details were just what the media feeding frenzy needed.

Digging out all the shit from under the beds, I started to sort through it. Toys went into one giant box to be gone through later to sort out what belonged to which kid. Shoes were separated by owner. Dirty clothes were tossed into the laundry basket, because I wasn't the only one that needed to do a load or two before we left.

At least I could see the floor and felt I was making progress by the time I heard my baby boy crying. My head shot up to see Mickey step into the doorway.

"Want Mommy!" he wailed, all pitiful with big tears and pouting bottom lip.

"Here she is," Mickey soothed, brushing his hair from his forehead in order to plant a kiss there.

"Goodness, handsome, what happened?" I asked from my perch on the rug, opening my arms for him when Mickey set him down.

He padded over to me, still crying, but Mickey answered, "He fell down. Bumped his head on the deck steps and skinned his hands. Well, I think he skinned his hands. He wouldn't let me see, 'cause he only wanted you, and Eddie was down at the shoreline with Bethy and Abby." Her warm, honey colored eyes looked down at him with pity and understanding.

Wrapping my baby up, I pulled him to my lap, mouthing, "Thank you."

Mickey smiled, nodded, and left me with a still sniffling and hiccuping Sammy.

"Hey, buddy," I crooned, rubbing his back as he straddled my stomach, "let me see your owies. Where'd you hit your head?"

Sammy pushed back from where he'd nuzzled into the crook of my neck, bracing himself on my chest with one hand and rubbing a spot where his hair and forehead met with the other. I could see a touch of a little bump forming and a tiny little nick.

"You want 'mooches? Would it help?" I asked him, smiling when he nodded slowly.

"Yeah," he said slowly, tilting his head at me. "'Mooches..." His breath hitched, his little bottom lip pushed out in a sweet, sad pout, and his deep brown eyes were still watery.

He was so damn cute, looking like his father when he was upset about something. I couldn't help but gently take his sweet, chubby cheeks in my hands and wipe away his tears with my thumbs. I placed a long, slow kiss to his little bruise, only to kiss each eye, his nose, each cheek, and his now smiling lips. When I got to his neck, he curled in on me, finally breaking out into a giggle.

"No, Mommy!" he laughed, pushing at me.

"Okay, fine," I sighed dramatically. "Well, then let me see your hands, baby."

Two little pudgy hands popped up in my vision, fingers spread wide, and I was glad to see no skin had been broken, but I could tell he'd used them to brace his fall, because the baby soft skin was an angry deep pink.

"'Mooch 'dese!" he ordered with his daddy's trademark crooked smile, and I couldn't help but laugh.

Leaning in, I kissed each little palm, ending in, "Mwah!"

Sammy grinned, a soft giggle escaping him as he curled back into me, a sweet sigh ghosting across my neck. My boy loved his cuddles. I was pretty sure he got that from both Edward and me, because a good snuggling could make everything better.

"Don't you want to go back to Poppy? To the fire?" I asked him, kissing the top of his head.

"No. Wif you," he said simply, not even bothering to sit up.

Smiling, because he was just so damned sweet, I pulled him back to look at me. "How about this... You stay with me, help me pack some of this stuff, start another load of laundry, and then we'll go out to the fire together. How's that sound?"

"Yeah," he said with a slow nod and a smile. "Work wif you."

"That's right," I chuckled, standing up with him in my arms, only to set him on the closest bed. "You work with me, and then we'll...party," I growled, tickling him until he was a giggling, squealing mess.

What should've only taken me a few more minutes stretched out a little bit longer, because Sammy was my little helper. He moved slower, but insisted on being independent with his task of putting toys in the box. We finally made it down to the laundry room, and I swung him up to the top of the dryer just to keep him from getting run over in the process. He didn't seem to mind, though, because he wanted to fold washcloths and towels – which basically were a tumbled mess, but I wasn't saying a word. He looked too damned adorable and all sorts of intense about it. God, he was just like his father, who suddenly leaned sexily in the doorway.

"There you two are," he said, grinning at the sight in front of him.

"Workin', Daddy," Sammy told him, his face oh-so-serious. "Then we can par-tay," he giggled, sounding like his Uncle Emmett with the way he said party.

Edward laughed, walking to his son and dropping a kiss to the top of his head, only to do the same to me. "Well, if you say so, pal." He held out a fist, and Sammy bumped it, going back to the pile of towels I'd dropped into his lap. Turning to me, he said softly, "Mick said he fell..."

"He did, but he's fine. Just scared him a little," I said, brushing Samuel's hair away from his forehead to show the little bruise now forming. Hanging with his sister had certainly earned the boy worse injuries, so a bump was nothing.

"Who's got owies now, huh?" Edward chuckled, pressing his forehead to his son's.

"Me!" Sammy chirped, grinning up at him. "We're same, Daddy!"

I giggled, because I just couldn't stop it if I tried. It echoed up out of the washer as I bent to snatch the last few socks out of it to toss into the open dryer. Closing the door, I reached past them both and turned it on. I locked eyes on my boys and bit back my swoon. Edward was quietly teaching Sammy how to fold properly. Standing up on my toes, I kissed my husband's cheek and then reached for my son.

"What was that for?" Edward snickered.

"Just 'cause," I said with a grin, hitching my boy up on my hip. "You two are massive amounts of cuteness, but work..." I growled, raising an eyebrow at Sammy, who grinned back. "Work is done, dude!"

"We party now, Mommy?" Samuel asked, his eyes wide, but making sure that I was coming with him.

"Oh, yeah," I chuckled, spinning him to my front, just to toss him up on my shoulder like a sack of potatoes. Patting his bottom, I said, "Let's talk s'mores, buddy..."

"Oh, Lord," Edward groaned, rolling his eyes as he walked us toward the kitchen, "this'll be some really messy shi...stuff." His tone was wry and sarcastic, but that didn't stop him from grabbing out the bags of marshmallows, the bars of chocolate, and the box of graham crackers.

I grinned up at almost slip, causing him to roll his eyes again. "Messy is fun, Edward."

"Yeah," Sammy piped in. "Fun, Daddy."

"I know when I'm outnumbered," Edward chuckled, taking Sammy from me with one strong arm and holding the stuff for s'mores in the other as he led us outside.

The noise that hit us was filled with laughter, music, chatter, and just plain at ease goodness. There weren't any more looks of worry or stress. I could see some new faces since I'd been busy inside and a few that were missing.

"Where's—"

"El and Felix were called away," Edward answered, and I couldn't help but smile that he knew what I was about to ask. "They said to give you their love and that they'd see us at the house in a few weeks when they're back in town."

"Okay," I answered, waving over to Wes and Makenna.

"Mommy!" Bethy rushed to me, and I scooped her up before sitting us down next to Mickey. "Daddy let me hold a cwab. We named him Bob."

Giggling, I asked, "Bob?"

"Yup," she said with a grin, looking to her dad.

"What? Bob's a good name," Edward stated, settling Sammy on his lap and handing the s'mores stuff over to Emmett.

I laughed, because I remembered not so long ago when Edward had told me that he'd had a cow by the name of Steve at Aunt Kate's when he was young. Somehow, Bob was perfect for a little crab.

"And are we keeping Bob?" I asked the both of them.

"No," Edward chuckled. "Bob has his own family."

"He had babies!" Bethy gushed in an over exaggerated whisper, like it was the biggest secret ever.

"Ah, gotcha," I sighed, leaning to Edward. "So really, her name was Barb."

Edward's cheeks tinged pink, but he just laughed. "Probably."

"Come on, guys," Emmett called, setting Caleb down on a blanket by the fire. "Let's get our s'mores on!"

Bethy giggled, scrambling down from my lap to join Caleb at the same time as Abby, but Sammy simply left his dad to take her place. Curling to me, he settled himself with his back against my chest so he could watch them, but he made no move to join them.

"Handsome, you don't want a s'more?" I whispered in his ear.

"Daddy make it," he ordered, looking to Edward, but pointing toward his sister.

"Yes, sir," Edward chuckled, but his eyes were sweet evergreen and warm as he looked at us. Some emotion that I couldn't quite put a name on flickered over his beautiful, but bruised face. Placing a gentle hand on his son's head and leaning to my ear, he whispered, "Jesus, I just want to go home."

I nodded and sighed, knowing that feeling. I was ready for just our little family – just the four of us. In fact, considering that Halloween would soon be upon us, I was considering shutting Gravity down for the rest of the year, simply to give everyone a break. Or at least only take simple cases here and there. Nothing major, and no security tasks until after the new year.

I wanted my lazy Sunday mornings with my husband, my evenings with my kids, and I wanted Bethy back in school ASAP, because I knew she missed it, even though Sarah and Esme had kept up with Abby's and Bethy's school work. I wanted to sleep in my own bed and wake up next to warm and strong and amorous. I want to watch TV with all of us piled on our couch. And I was ready for the happy chatter that came out of the kids' bathroom during bath time.

I missed our front porch and the swing, Bethy's tree house and the back yard, and I missed Edward cooking in his own kitchen while I did laundry. We'd talk about nothing and everything. I missed the smell of him after he'd worked in his woodshed for a few hours, the sight of him washing the cars, or the feeling of complete and utter perfection when he'd crawl into bed and loom over me, the house quiet after the kids had gone to sleep.

But all I said was, "Me, too."

We locked eyes, and despite that morning's activities in the shower, I could have kissed him stupid. We were on the same page, tired from this case that seemed to take so much out of us. He was strong and brave, but at his core, he was a quiet family man. He'd rather spend time with us than anything else in the whole world, and he was done with plans, details, and reminders of his past. He was ready for what we called normal.

Edward smiled, brushing his lips across mine. "You want a s'more, too, sweetness?"

"Yeah," I answered with a chuckle, nodding. "That'd be great, baby. Thank you."

Glancing around the fire, I could catch pieces of different conversations, but I stayed quiet, dropping kisses to the top of Sammy's head. Wes, Mack, Carlisle, and Alec were discussing the details of Sid Williams' case. Jordan held Kyra lovingly in his arms as he discussed a few things with Teri Foley, Cassie, Christine, and Gator, and I could've sworn I heard something about Kyra doing the voice for an animated film. Rose, Alice, Jasper, and Esme were all talking about a case of Esme's that she'd had long ago, which had them all laughing. Emmett and Edward were showing the girls and Caleb how to perfectly toast a marshmallow in the fire without burning it.

But it was Mickey my eyes landed on. Her eyes were glazed, her focus on the ever changing flickering flames. And I could imagine that for her, going home meant facing her situation head on. Alone. I dropped another kiss to the top of Sammy's head, because as a mother, I'd had to make tough decisions concerning the little guy, suffer through a really scary pregnancy, and I regretted none of it. Mickey wanted her child, and while I was pretty sure she wasn't regretting her decision to have it, I could see the longing in her eyes.

"It'll be okay, you know," I said softly to her, nudging her leg. "You're not alone. We'll all help you. In fact, you'll love my doctor. I've already got you an appointment for when we get back."

Her eyes snapped up from the fire to meet mine, and she nodded, swallowing thickly. "I'm scared, Bells."

"That's okay," I soothed her, kissing Sammy's head again. "It is kinda scary. If you want, you can borrow Edward. He's awesome at the OB-GYN." I chuckled, giving her a wink when she finally cracked a smile as she glanced past me to look at my husband.

"No, but you?" she asked, but her eyes fell to Samuel, who turned in my arms simply to be able to play with my hair quietly.

"Absolutely," I agreed before she barely finished the simple question.

Mickey nodded, but said no more about it after that. She just went back to gazing into the fire.

By morning, the house looked like it had when we arrived. Bags, boxes, cars, and the chopper were all packed. Wes, Makenna, Rose, Emmett, and Caleb had already started back to Seattle. Alec, Sarah, Abby, Carlisle, and Esme were just about to head out, as well. Alice, Jasper, and Mickey were going to fly with us. We were all to meet at mine and Edward's house, because as a crew, we needed to make a decision concerning Gravity.

However, it was time to say goodbye to Kyra and her people, though my daughter was giving her the third degree.

"You're weally pwaying a pwincess?" she squealed, her face looking like it was fucking Christmas.

"I think so," Kyra chuckled as she knelt in front of Bethy. "I tell you what... If I play a princess, you can come to the premiere. They usually throw it at the castle. How's that?"

"Yes, yes, yes!" she chanted just like her Aunt Alice, which caused all of us to laugh, especially Alice. Bethy jumped up at down, beaming like a sunny day. "I wanna see the castle! Daddy was gonna fly me 'dere anyway..."

Edward chuckled, his head falling back, though I had no idea what that was about. Those two had their own little secret plans all the damn time. There was no telling what he'd promised her.

"Well, Daddy can come, too," she laughed, standing up. "All of you can."

As she walked to me, I realized Kyra didn't even look like the same woman I'd met in Carlisle's office just a under a month ago. She'd been scared, haunted, and full of anger. Now, she held her head high, walked with a lighter step, and smiled most of the time. She was far from healed. In fact, she'd already taken Esme's advice and set up a few appointments with the therapist she'd suggested.

I no longer saw her as someone from my husband's past, though she always would be, but I saw her as someone that I'd come to really like. She was wickedly talented, a touch sarcastic, and stronger than she gave herself credit. She'd fit in with my girls just like she'd always been there. And I was actually going to miss her.

"Are you sure I can't take care of the cost of this?" she asked me, her nose wrinkling. "I mean, it's not like I can't afford it. It should be my responsibility."

"Nope," I snickered, shaking my head. "Carlisle wired the money this morning. You can take it up with him. He's technically the one that hired us."

Kyra's eyes glanced past me as Edward joined us, and I noticed that it was just the four of us left on the driveway. Jordan had joined us, too, but stayed respectfully quiet, because it looked like he knew what she was about to say.

"I need thank you two...and apologize again," Kyra said, her gaze flickering between me and Edward. "You didn't have to take me in, or even take this case. And you sure as hell didn't have to put up with the way I acted in the beginning. You have no idea how...embarrassed I am." Edward and I both started to say something, but she stopped us. "I know. I was... I had issues. But had I told someone about this long ago, then none of this would've happened. There is a guilt that comes with surviving, Esme told me. She said I'm not to blame myself for anything that happened, but I can't seem to help it. Had I told someone, would Molly Parsons have lived? Would all of those women after me have lived?"

She shrugged a shoulder, but then looked to Edward. "I don't know what to feel about that, but I know I don't regret meeting you, Edward." She shook her head, smiling up at him. "You made me realize that there are good men out there. Men that don't lie, that respect women..." Her eyes flickered to Jordan, who kissed the side of her head.

"Kyra...what I was back then..." Edward interrupted, his face pained a bit.

"Was completely honest," she finished for him, giggling when he rolled his eyes. "We were young, Edward. You made me feel safe. And I thank you for that, too."

My husband shut up, nodded, and looked down at his feet for a second. His past made him uncomfortable, but he always saw the darker side of things. He didn't see that he'd helped her simply by being...Edward. By simply keeping Ike away from her, by sheltering her from the horrors of war, and by giving her a brief glimpse of being treated right, he'd provided the tools she needed in order to find someone like him.

"We were young," she said again.

He looked back at her, and this time, nodded more firmly.

Kyra turned to me. "I meant what I told Bethy. If I do this animated film, then you guys can all come. Those don't take long, and it'll keep me in Los Angeles for a little while. I'll be able to keep up with my therapy sessions." She smiled like that was the best news ever, and I wondered for a moment if keeping her in town meant keeping her with Jordan, because he looked ever so pleased with that idea.

I chuckled at them both. They were head over heels for each other, and I hoped that it worked out. They made a beautiful couple.

"Oh!" she gushed, grabbing Edward's arm. "We'll be making the announcement that we're back together as soon as we're back in L.A. You won't be tied to me for much longer, Edward. I know you were hating it."

Edward laughed, and we joined him, because the relief that crossed his face was almost comical. "It's not that I hated it," he chuckled. "It's just...I only belong to my family now. I don't know how to act any other way..."

"Yeah, you should see him catching cheating women," I muttered, rolling my eyes. "The complaining never ends."

Edward snorted, shrugging a shoulder, and growled, "Sue me, sweetness." He smirked, kissing my forehead, before muttering, "I'd better go ready the chopper." Turning to Jordan, he shook his hand firmly, finally gazing back down at Kyra. "Kyra, take care of yourself," he told her softly.

After she hugged him, he walked over to where Cassie, Christine, and Gator were waiting by the car. He shook hands with Gator, but received hugs from the girls. Finally, he made his way toward the back of the house.

Kyra then hugged me, whispering, "Thank you again."

"Take care of yourself," I whispered back. "And him," I chuckled softly, jerking my chin toward Jordan. "He's good for you."

She grinned like a high school girl with a crush, her cheeks blushing pink. "Yeah... Yeah, he is."

After hugs all around and promises to keep in touch, I gave the house a final walk-through, making sure nothing was left behind. There were toys that my kids just couldn't live without, so I wanted to be sure.

Edward was making his final checks on the chopper when I arrived, but as always, he hoisted me up into the back, because his five-year-old co-pilot was already in her position of power. Taking a seat between Alice and Mickey after giving Sammy a quick kiss, I sighed that we were finally heading home.

The flight was short, the cabin quiet, except for Bethy, who chatted happily to us all about what she could see down below us. By the time Forks came into view, I couldn't wait to see my house, which was just over the expanse of forest below. As Edward called in his landing and prepared to descend, I could see that most everyone had arrived already – including a car I didn't recognize.

Edward powered down the chopper, unbuckling Bethy as I unbuckled Sammy. Jasper slid open the side door, but it was Mickey's voice that caused us all to stop cold.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me," she growled, hopping down from the chopper, and before any of us could tease her about the swear jar, we saw what had riled her up.

Stepping down my front steps was Aunt Kate, but it was who was behind her that shocked us all. Obie. He looked nervous and angry, like he was looking for a way to escape. But we all froze at the sight of Mickey's face.

She glared at him, shaking her head slowly and folding her arms across her chest. "What the hell are you doing here?"

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