Monday, May 20, 2013 | By: Jenny

In Pursuit Chapter 9

Chapter 9
Bella POV
I had great timing, because just after I walked out from the bedroom to the cabin of the plane, the pilot announced we were five minutes from landing and needed to buckle our seat belts. Covering a yawn with the back of my hand, I slid down beside Edward, since Alice was sitting beside Jasper.
“Sleep okay?” he murmured, handing me the belt to strap on.
“Yeah, thanks.” I smiled and then looked away shyly.
It was hard to look at him and not remember that just hours before, I’d been in his lap, and he’d been kissing me – no, that wasn’t quite right. We’d been kissing each other. I’d been just as much a participant as Edward. His lips had been firm against mine as he’d used his tongue to draw out my pleasure. His hands had been commanding, holding me to him and moving me just where he wanted me. And fuck... I’d never be able to forget the part of him pressed up against where I’d been suddenly aching the most. It had been the first time since that Friday night that I’d felt anything more than a simple spark of attraction. My sex drive had been almost non-existent since Eleazar’s murder, and with one simple kiss, it had come roaring back in an instant.
But now wasn’t the time – and unfortunately, I wasn’t sure it would ever be the time for Edward and me.
I was quiet as the plane landed with a relatively small jolt and finally slowed to a stop.
“We’re going to find a phone and call Al,” Edward said just loud enough for the others to hear, too. “Stay with us, try to keep your heads down – the less people who see your face for now, the better – and we’ll be on our way as soon as possible, okay?”
Alice and I nodded as the plane door was pulled open and the two pilots emerged from the front of the plane.
“Lieutenant Davies is going to secure a car since we’re about forty-five minutes from the nearest city,” Iverson said as he moved to stand in front of Edward.
Edward nodded. “Great, thanks. I need to find a phone. Got a secure line I can use?”
Iverson nodded. “I’ll find you something,” he said. “Anything else?”
Shaking his head this time, Edward answered, “Not at the moment, thanks.”
Edward followed Iverson off the plane, and then Jasper motioned for us to go ahead of him.
“I’ll stay behind you,” he said, urging us forward to the steps.
Once on the tarmac, Iverson led us to a large Jeep parked to the side. “I radioed ahead and asked that they leave this for us. This’ll take us over to the offices, where we can find you a phone. We’ll meet Davies there.”
Edward nodded and slid into the front seat beside him, while the rest of us climbed into the back.
At the building, we were ushered into an office, where Iverson flipped on a light and pulled the phone across the desk. “I think this should be fine,” he said, moving back to the door. “I’ll be outside if you need anything.”
“Thanks, Captain,” Edward said, dismissing him.
Edward picked up the phone and dialed a string of numbers, promptly putting it on speaker.
“Ed?”
“Hey, Al,” he said. “I’ve got you here with Jasper and the girls.”
“Good, good. You made it safely to Idaho, then?”
Raising an eyebrow, Edward nodded slowly and said, “Mmhmm. How’d you know?”
Al chuckled once. “I’m a brilliant man, Edward Cullen. You should know that by now.”
Edward rolled his eyes at Jasper’s grin.
“No, it was process of elimination. I figured you’d want close, but not too close, which left me with a couple of choices, and this seemed like the best bet. Although, I did make arrangements several places in case I was wrong.”
“All right, well, what’s the plan?”
“Get Tim—”
“Tim?” Edward interrupted.
“Iverson,” Al explained. “Get Tim to drive you to Boise. Head to the airport there. I reserved a car for you.” Before Edward could ask where, Al continued. “Your partner will remember it fondly.”
Jasper grinned, tipping an imaginary hat in Edward’s direction.
“Got it,” he said to the phone.
“Do the same thing about halfway to your destination. Switch vehicles. That should get you back safely.”
Edward nodded once. “You can’t by any chance conjure up some ammo, can you? We had to leave all our spare clips at the house.”
“It’s already arranged. Check with Tim.”
Looking curious now, Edward nodded once and then glared back at the phone. “Found out yet how they found us?”
“Working on it,” Al answered, his voice hard. “I will find out, Edward. You have my word.”
They said a few more things back and forth before Edward hung up the phone. “All right,” he said, turning to us. “Let’s see if Tim can make good on Al’s promises.”
As soon as we walked out the door of the office, Iverson stood from his position across the room and met us halfway.
“Davies is back with the car.”
“And the ammo?”
He handed Edward a small bag. “Chambers said to get you what I could and you’d handle the rest later. Nine mil, right?” At Edward’s nod, he continued, “Six full clips here and the address of someplace you can get more when you change cars, according to him.”
“How—” Edward started, but Iverson interrupted.
“I’ll explain in the car.”
Still looking suspiciously at Iverson, Edward and Jasper led us out the door and directly to a small two-door coupe.
“It’ll be a tight fit,” Iverson said, “but this’ll get us to Boise.”
Jasper climbed into the back seat first, folding his lanky frame behind the driver’s seat. Alice went next, sitting on the middle hump, leaving me behind Edward, who followed and slid into the front passenger’s seat. Lt. Davies smiled at me through the window, giving me a thumbs up, as Iverson started the car and headed toward the gate.
Once we were on the road leading away from the base, Edward turned slightly in his seat, tossing two clips of ammunition to Jasper, and they both slid a clip into place before tucking the second into their pockets. Then he turned back to our driver and raised an eyebrow.
“Want to explain more now?”
Iverson chuckled. “My dad was a marshal for thirty years. He was Al’s training officer when he first joined up. I’ve known him for most of my life, although we haven’t spoken in a few years – since the last time he was over on the East Coast, in fact.
“He called earlier, knowing I was still stationed at the base there, and said he needed help, no questions asked. Told me what he needed, said he had an idea of where you’d send me and asked that I give you that info along with the ammo he was sure you’d need. Then he called my General, an old friend of his, who called the General here, and they paved the way for everything. The plane, the car, the phone, and the ammo.”
Edward relaxed back against the seat slightly. “Damn... The old man was one step ahead of me the whole time.” He grinned. “Sly bastard.”
Iverson laughed. “Yeah, that’s Al.”
I stared out at the passing scenery – although I couldn’t see much since it was just after eleven o’clock – as we drove. Edward and Iverson traded stories back and forth about Al while Jasper and Alice talked quietly.
In what seemed like no time at all, Iverson pulled up to the curb at the Boise airport. Edward climbed out first, and when he gave the all-clear, the rest of us followed, leaving Iverson alone in the small vehicle.
Leaning down, Edward said, “Thanks, man. We owe you one.”
Iverson waved him off. “No worries. Just keep ’em safe. I dunno what’s going on – and I don’t wanna know – but I know it’s important if Al called me. Good luck.”
Edward closed the car door and stood, patting the top of the car as it sped off into the night.
“Okay, you guys stay here with Jasper. I’ll go in and get the keys, and then we’ll get out of here.”
Once Edward disappeared through the doors, I turned to Jasper. “Where’s he going? What did Al mean...you would remember it fondly?”
Jasper grinned, and when he spoke, his drawl was out in full force. “Why, ma’am, don’tcha know? He’s headin’ for the Alamo...”
Alice and I laughed until there were tears in our eyes.
It only took Edward ten minutes to get in and come back out with the keys, leading us to a lot off to the side. When he pushed the button on the keychain, the lights on a gray Chevy Malibu flashed and the horn beeped. I’d seen the way Alice had been glued to Jasper’s side, so I motioned for Jasper to get in beside her. He smiled and winked, holding the front passenger door for me before climbing into the back beside Alice.
We’d been in the car for ten minutes before Alice leaned forward between the seats and spoke, asking the question I’d been wondering since we’d gotten on the plane.
“So where in the world are we going?”
“Forks,” Jasper answered before Edward could. “Right?”
“What the blue hell is Forks?” she asked. “Is it next to Spoons?”
Raising an eyebrow, I asked Edward, “Isn’t that where you grew up?”
He slowly nodded, looking over at me for a moment before turning his attention back to the road. “Angela?”
I laughed. “Yeah, I asked her to tell me a little about the two of you while we were waiting for you to get to the motel that night.”
He nodded again. “Forks is a little town about three hours from Seattle. Like Bella said, that’s where I grew up. My parents still own their house there. They wanted to keep it in case my sister or I wanted or needed a place to stay, and lucky for us, they kept it furnished in case they decided to rent it out.”
“How far is it from here?” I asked, wondering how long we were going to be stuck in the car for.
“It’ll take us another seven hours or so to get to Portland, where we’ll pick up a new rental and grab some breakfast and a couple of new phones so we can get in touch with Al, and then from there, it’s between four and five hours to Forks.”
Damn... Twelve hours in the car? At least we were safe for the moment. I supposed it could be worse.
~oOo~
Thirteen very long hours later, Edward drove through the thick forest for several miles before a huge house came into view. The whole thing looked elegant, a mix of timber and industrial gray stone, and there were floor-to-ceiling windows around most of the perimeter of the house. Some type of shutters covered the windows, but I could imagine standing in front of them, looking out over all the green of the huge lawn and all the trees surrounding the property.
“Wow,” Alice and I both breathed at the same time.
“Edward, this is beautiful,” I continued.
“Thanks. Mom had a lot of ideas when they got married, and she worked with the architect to design it.”
Once we parked in the garage, Edward led us inside, and it was every bit as beautiful on the inside as it was on the out. There were bookshelves along one wall of the living room that were unfortunately empty of books, but I could just imagine them filled to the brim with books, knickknacks, and family photos. He pulled back the sheet covering a pretty red L-shaped sofa that contrasted nicely with the whites and wood tones of the room, as well as a wood-burning fireplace against the opposite wall.
It looked like someplace I’d happily be able to spend months at if we had to, and I couldn’t wait to explore more.
“There’s plenty of rooms for everyone to have their own if you’d like,” Edward said as he pushed a button, suddenly flooding the house with natural light as the shutters raised.
I grinned, nudging my sister’s shoulder with my own. “Good. No more bruises on my shins.”
Jasper laughed as Edward winked at Alice and said, “Let the ninja have her own space. You can have my old room on the third floor.”
“Is that okay?” Alice asked, looking over at me.
“Yeah, of course,” I answered, reassuring her.
“Okay, good. Alice, you can have your pick of the rooms on the second floor, then. There’s a guest room and my sister Rose’s old room. Jasper can take whichever you don’t choose.” He raised an eyebrow. “Unless he wants to park his ass on the couch.”
“Hell no. Guest room’s fine with me,” Jasper growled, shoving Edward playfully.
“Can we go into town here?” Alice asked, breaking up the wrestling match before it really got started.
Edward and Jasper calmed down and looked thoughtfully at each other for a moment.
“I suppose,” Edward finally said, raising one shoulder for a moment. “Your pictures haven’t been shown on TV or in the paper, so the chances of anyone here knowing who you are or what you’re involved in back on the East Coast are virtually nothing. Use your new name, and you should be fine as long as you’re with us.”
“Why, darlin’?”
Alice grinned but then plucked at the front of her shirt. “Not that I wasn’t grateful for the clothes, but I need a shower – and I’m not the only one – and a change of clothes, and I doubt there’s anything here in terms of food or toilet paper or any other essentials.”
She was right... I definitely could use a shower, too.
“You want to go into town with Jasper?” Edward asked. At her nod, he looked at me. “You want to go, too?”
My answer was quick. “Nope, I’m good.” Laughing, I said, “Shopping is more fun for her. I’ll probably lie back on the couch and close my eyes or see if that TV on the wall actually works.”
“I’m not sure if the cable’s on or not,” Edward said, “but we can try.” Pulling two of the new burner phones out of his pocket, he used one to call the other and then turned to Jasper and tossed him one of them. “Call when you’re on your way back or if you run into trouble.”
“Thanks. We’ll be fine.” Tugging open the garage door, he said, “Come on, Ali. Let’s roll.”
~oOo~
Twenty minutes after Jasper and Alice left, Edward tossed the television remote down on the table beside the couch. “Fucking boonies. We’ll have to get someone out to hook up the cable. Maybe Alice will think to pick up a couple of movies. I’d text ’em, but better to stay off the phones unless absolutely needed.”
“Well, I’m going to explore, if that’s okay. Want to show me the rest of the house?”
Edward stood, holding out his hand to help me up; I tried to ignore the zing as our hands met. “Sure. Come on. I’ll show you the master bedroom down here and then take you upstairs.”
He’d gotten two steps before he stopped and said, “Hold up a sec, Bella.” He reached to his back, and when his hand came back around, my dad’s gun was in it. “This belongs to you. You’ve more than earned the right to keep it.” He grabbed the bag from the table and plucked the last two clips out, popping one into the gun and handing it and the other clip to me.
I checked the safety and nodded my thanks before sticking it in the pocket of my sweatpants.
After a quick tour of the rest of the ground floor, we walked upstairs, looking through the very pink room that I knew Alice would choose. It screamed girl, whereas the guest room was done in shades of black, gray, and white, very neutral and un-like Alice. When we finally made it up to the third floor, I knew this was definitely where I wanted to sleep. The room was large, with a thick-weave carpet, and while it was masculine, it was also beautifully done in shades of blue, from very light to a dark navy. The double bed was centered along the back wall, across from a wall of windows overlooking the trees, and covered in a pretty comforter that contrasted nicely with the very pale blue walls.
“This is great, Edward,” I told him. “Are you sure you want to give it up?”
He nodded. “I’m sure. I want to be on the first floor. Closer to the door,” he admitted.
“Ah. Gotcha.”
We headed back downstairs, and when we got to the landing on the second floor, we heard a car pulling into the gravel drive at the front of the house.
“That’s not Jasper,” Edward growled. “Go in there”—he pointed to Alice’s room—“and lock the bathroom door. Don’t come out for anyone but me or Jasper. Shoot anyone else who tries to get in. Got me?”
Nodding, I quickly turned and headed into the bedroom, aiming for the attached bathroom. I heard him check his weapon, chambering a round and clicking off the safety as he bolted down the stairs to the front door.
I wasn’t usually religious, but I couldn’t help but take a moment to close my eyes as I locked the bathroom door, saying a quick prayer under my breath that God please keep Edward safe from whoever had found us already.
~oooOOOooo~
Edward POV
I waited until I heard the door to my sister’s old bathroom click into place before I moved down the stairs. At a crouch, I ran out the side kitchen door, through the open garage, and along the side of the house, hoping to meet the motherfucker at the front door.
My heart pounded in my chest because not only were Bella and I stuck in the woods without a car, we were also royally fucked if someone could find us in the tiny-ass fucking town of Forks. It wasn’t exactly on the beaten path. If they could find us here, then nowhere was safe. It was why I’d thought to come there as a last resort.
Focusing on the snaps and pops of footsteps on the gravel, I waited until they were just close enough before readying my weapon and stepping around the corner of the house.
“Stop right fucking there,” I said, pulling back the hammer of my gun.
“If you shoot me, you little prick, all sorts of info goes with me.”
“Fuck, Al!” I groaned, leaning back against the house, lowering my gun, and bending at the waist in exhaustion. “You gave me a goddamn heart attack! What the hell?”
His deep chuckle made me smile, but I snorted into a laugh when he ruffled my hair. “Good to see you, too, kid.” When I stood up straight and tucked my gun away at the small of my back, he eyed me from head to toe. “You look like hell.”
“Yeah, well, you’re no beauty queen, either,” I snarked back. “It hasn’t exactly been an easy few fucking weeks, you know.”
He smirked, rubbing the hair on his chin. “Well, you’ve certainly ruffled Volturi’s feathers.”
I smiled smugly for a second but then came to my senses. “Oh shit! Bella.”
I darted inside the house, taking the stairs to Rose’s old room two at a time. I tapped on the bathroom door. “Bella, it’s me. It’s safe. Come on out.”
The door creaked open and giant, nervous brown eyes met mine. “Who was it?”
“Come on,” I said, rolling my eyes and taking her hand. “There’s someone you should meet.”
Al had come on inside and closed the front door, and he was gazing around the living room when we joined him. He glanced up, smiling warmly at the girl at my side. And then he put on his cheesy-ass charm. I’d have gagged...if Bella hadn’t been eating that shit up.
“Alistair Chambers, at your service,” he said with a gallant bow and a wink, but then he held out his hand.
Bella grinned. “Bella Swan,” she said, the new name rolling out of her mouth effortlessly. “So you’re Uncle Al?”
“Indeed,” he sighed dramatically, rolling his eyes to me before he kissed the top of her hand. “That’s the nicest thing he calls me.”
Bella giggled, looking up at me.
“Sometimes, you deserve more,” I countered, raising my eyebrow at him.
He merely grinned. “Where’s Jasper? And Alice?”
“We needed supplies, and the girls needed clothes. We left with what we had on our backs, Al,” I told him as we all sat down on the sofa. “So they went out just a bit ago to grab what they could in town.”
My uncle’s brow furrowed a little, but he shrugged a shoulder. “I suppose it’s safe here for them to go out in public,” he surmised softly. “You are over three thousand miles away...”
I nodded in agreement. “Why are you here?”
“I missed you, you cold-hearted thing,” he simpered, making Bella snort. “As much as that’s true, I have that info you wanted. And...” He pointed out the front windows toward the car he’d driven. “I brought you that. It’s free and clear, unattached to anyone. I’ll take the rental back with me.”
I stood up to look at the car. It seemed to be an older model Jeep Cherokee, but in awesome condition. It was white, with tinted windows and tires that looked like they’d handle the rainy days of Forks just fine.
“Perfect. Thanks,” I sighed in relief. “What did you find out?”
“We’ll wait for Whitlock. He should hear this, too.” Al turned to Bella. “You hangin’ in there, sweetheart? This guy giving you any trouble? He’s not too old for me to beat his ass...and there’s no one to hear him cry like a girl out here.”
“You wish, old man.” I shoved him on my way back to sit down.
Bella smiled, shaking her head, and said, “Umm, no. I’ve lost track of how many times he and Jasper have saved my sister and me.”
Al was quiet as he studied her, but then nodded. “Good. And you can handle that gun that’s in the front pocket of your sweatshirt?” he asked, shocking her a little and causing her to rub the outside of her Air Force shirt.
“That’s her gun,” I told him, smirking at his chuckle. “She handles it like a cop.”
“No shit? So your dad taught you how to shoot?” he asked, raising an eyebrow at her. At her tentative nod, he sat back on the sofa. “Well, that explains the unknown bullets at the Connecticut safe house.”
A glance out the front window showed me Jasper and Alice were back, but Bella didn’t notice due to the watery stare she was giving my uncle.
“I didn’t have a choice!” she suddenly blurted out in a sob. “The guy...he was right there. He was going to shoot Edward, and I...”
“Shit, Al,” I hissed, giving him a glare before kneeling down in front of her. “Hey, hey... You’re not in trouble, Bella. Not at all. Al was just piecing together where the shots came from. It was self-defense, no question.”
“I didn’t mean to upset her, Edward,” Al mumbled as Bella nodded and sniffled a little.
I barely shot a glance over my shoulder at him as I took her hands in mine. “Well, it hasn’t exactly been a fucking ride at Disney for her, you know. They’ve been through hell and back.” Turning back to Bella, I kept my voice low. “Jasper and Alice just pulled in. Why don’t you go tell them who’s here before Jasper gets nervous. And I’m sure they’ll need help bringing shit in. I’ll be out in a minute. Okay?”
“’Kay,” she whispered, standing up and heading out the garage door.
I stayed kneeling down but gripped my hair in both hands before standing up to face my uncle. His face was impassive. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to punch him or follow the girl that had just left the room. Finally, I simply told him what had happened.
“She reacted on instinct at the last safe house. The asshole kicked in the door behind me before I could get them to the van. He was already aiming, and she pulled the trigger,” I explained slowly and almost through gritted teeth. “She hasn’t exactly come to terms with killing a man yet.”
Al stood up in front of me and nodded solemnly. “Fair enough.” He narrowed his eyes at me, but then smirked a little. “So how does it feel, son?”
Confused, I asked, “How does what feel?”
He chuckled, shaking his head but squeezing my shoulder. “How does it feel to be knocked on your ass?”
I opened my mouth to argue, but everyone walked into the kitchen door, their arms filled with groceries and supplies. They were talking loudly, and I could see that Bella still looked a little upset as her eyes flickered between me and Al, but she wasn’t as bad as before she’d walked out. At least she wasn’t fucking crying.
He leaned in, whispering, “She wasn’t afraid that she was in trouble, Edward. She was afraid that you were.”
He poked my chest and then walked away from me.
Huffing a frustrated breath, I clawed at my hair again. I knew what he was hinting at – the last conversation we’d had before I’d gotten on a plane for New York. He’d been berating me about my lifestyle, that one day, I’d meet a girl that knocked me on my ass. As Jasper hugged and jibed with Al, my eyes slid to Bella once again, my teeth latching on to my bottom lip at the memory of kissing her. Fuck, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that again – and then some – which only made me narrow my eyes at my uncle for filling my head with hints of shit I couldn’t think about at the moment. I still wanted to punch him in the face.
“Hi! I’m Alice,” the tiny thing said after dropping a load of bags onto the counter. “You must be Uncle Al.”
“Why does that sound so much better when you two call me that than when Edward does?” he asked her teasingly, giving me a smirk.
“Because you’re a perverted old man that likes young girls?” I offered with a grin.
“Oh, yeah.” His wistful smile caused them all to laugh, and that was fine by me.
It had been too long – or at least, it seemed like a long time ago – since we’d been feeling lighter. Yet, in reality, it had only a few days since we’d been eating my mother’s spaghetti in Connecticut.
“And how is Aunt Jane?”
He scowled at me. “She’s no aunt of yours. And she’s still a money-grubbing leech.”
“So the same, then? That’s good,” Jasper teased, picking up a paper bag. He looked up at me. “I found that diner you used to whine about missing so damn much. I bought us a shit-load of burgers.”
“Shut the fuck up, really?” I practically growled, snatching the bag from him and inhaling the amazing scent of beef, grease, and cheese.
“There’s plenty for everyone...and then some,” Alice told me, snatching the bag back before I could reach into it.
My mother’s old dining room table and chairs were uncovered, and we all sat down to burgers and fries. Al took my father’s old spot at the head of the table.
Jasper asked the one question that was most likely on everyone’s mind. “How’d they find us at the safe house?”
Al sighed, wiping his mouth with a napkin. He eyed us all, picking up a fry and dunking it in ketchup. “Back in the day, the Italians weren’t above finding someone with the information they needed and torturing them for it. Now, with the way things have all been computerized, they find the smartest geek they can and put him to work.”
“They hacked the database,” I surmised.
“They tried to hack a lot of databases, but they settled on the one that listed the federal safe houses. They simply followed a computer tech from the DOJ home, snatched his laptop, and cracked his passwords. The tech knew nothing, of course, just that he’d been robbed, but by the time everyone figured out the system had been cracked, you guys were already in the air.” Al sat back, but glanced at Bella when she gasped.
“The DOJ...so they... They know who Alice and I are?”
“No, sweetheart, they don’t,” he assured her, which settled the frantic looks around the table. “They followed a tech that didn’t have access to that information. Their mistake, but our gain. Your new identities are safe because they’re in a database that would take some serious hacking to crack open. Volturi’s men didn’t have the time nor the training for that shit. They did, however, take advantage of what they did find.”
“Process of elimination,” I sighed, shaking my head.
Al’s face was dark, but he nodded. “I spoke to your buddy Ben. He and his wife are fine,” he soothed, holding up a hand when my mouth opened. “Word on the street is that Volturi is pulling everyone that works for him in on this to look for these girls, and he’s paying a high price for proof of death. That being said, they had enough man-power to search each address they found. There weren’t many houses to choose from, Edward. It’s not like the federal government has a shit-ton of properties assigned as safe houses. They got lucky with Connecticut. There were two others besides Fairfield, and those were broken into on the same night.”
“So was that Demetri Polizzi?” I asked him.
“We think so,” he told me. “The fingerprints haven’t come back yet on the abandoned car that was found not far from the Army Reserve base. However,” he said, holding up another fry, “you did rid Volturi of four men that night – two at the house and two in town when the car flipped. They weren’t ranked high in Volturi’s family, but Caius isn’t exactly happy.”
“But Demetri walked away.” Jasper sneered, shaking his head and glaring at the table.
“Yes, he did.” Al’s words hung heavily in the air. “The good news is that they have no fucking clue where you went. They’ll continue to keep watch in the tri-state area because the prosecution is pushing for a trial date. That doesn’t mean they’ll get it. There are just as many paid-for judges as there are paid-for cops. Volturi’s pockets run deep, deep, deep, despite the fact that he’s being watched.”
“So who knows we’re here?” Alice asked nervously.
“You’re lookin’ at the only handsome face,” Uncle Al said proudly, but looked to me. “Even your parents are in the dark. I told them I found them a short-term renter for this house. You’ll have cable soon. I know you can’t live without your soaps.”
I scoffed at his teasing, but nodded in acceptance.
“You guys are, at this point, nowhere. End of story. You’ve completely fallen off the Earth as far as Caius Volturi can figure. He’ll be frantic, especially if a court date is announced. All the motions to suppress were denied, but don’t think that the defense attorneys won’t make these girls out to be something other than credible. It’s what they do,” he explained, taking a sip of soda. “It was brilliant to come here, son. Forks is perfect. I can keep tabs on you, the girls can essentially go out in public, but none of you can come anywhere near Seattle. Not yet. Not until after they’ve testified. Got me?” he asked, looking around at the entire table.
We all nodded in agreement. We knew that in order to keep the girls’ identities clean, we had to avoid their future place of residence. When all was said and done, they’d be moving into Seattle as Bella and Alice Swan. That absolutely could not change. To approach the city too soon would ruin everything, and they’d have to start all over with the DOJ with another set of names, new identities. Personally, I was damned certain that the girls would break in two if that were to happen. They’d just recently come to terms with who they were, who they would be.
With a glance toward Alice and Jasper, who were chatting quietly amongst themselves almost forehead to forehead, and then to Bella, who was laughing at whatever fucking story Uncle Al was telling her about me, I realized that I needed them to make it to Seattle. I wasn’t sure if it was because I needed to finish the job I’d started or because something in me wanted to keep them close. Always. Would I ever feel they were safe unless they were near me? And was it both of them? Or just Bella?
That last thought made me frown, shake my head, and stand up from the table to throw away my garbage. I snatched up the keys to the rental car from the counter.
“I’m going to make sure everything’s out of the car,” I stated to no one in particular, slamming the garage door behind me.
Pulling my cigarettes out of my pocket, I shook one out and lit it quickly, blowing out a lungful of smoke and checking the car. It was empty. Bracing my hands on the raised garage door above my head, I stretched, letting the cigarette hang from my mouth. Gazing around, I smiled at my old yard and surrounding woods. Fuck, I’d forgotten just how calm, cool, and quiet it was here. When I was still in college, it was here that I’d get away from classes, stress...her. It was here that I’d been able to refocus on my future, my career, not what Maggie had done.
The door to the house opened and closed quietly, and I turned to see Bella.
“You’re not in trouble, are you? I mean, I know Ben wasn’t really supposed to have given my dad’s gun back, but...”
I chuckled, shaking my head at how right my uncle had been. “No. No trouble at all.” I sighed, losing myself in her eyes for just a moment, but then looked back out at the woods. “I’ll have to answer for the car chase before I answer to the guy that you shot.”
“Really? But they were going to kill us,” she countered.
“They were. And that’s what I’ll tell them. So will Jasper,” I stated softly without looking at her. “Al’s probably already smoothed it over, Bella. Don’t worry.”
“Okay,” she murmured, following my gaze. “It’s really pretty here. So green.”
I grinned. “It’s green now. It’s white in the winter and rainy all the time, but it’s—”
“Home,” Bella finished for me.
“Yeah.” I nodded, taking a drag and huffing it out. “It’s a dinky little town where everyone knows everyone, but it’s safe and comforting. I didn’t appreciate it at all as a kid, not until I got into...college.”
That last word seemed to cause a bit of recognition for her, but she said nothing about it.
“You don’t know what ya got till it’s gone,” she said with a chuckle, and I nodded at her. “I get that.” She paused for a moment but then said, “I was about to go clean up. I just wanted to make sure you’re okay with giving up your old room.”
“Definitely,” I said, waving her on. “Take it. I’d rather be downstairs in case something happens.”
There was a giant fucking elephant in the garage with us, but I was an even bigger chicken-shit for ignoring it. I knew it as she stared up at me for a moment. I could even feel it pulling me to her, but I simply dropped my cigarette butt and smashed it with my shoe. My cowardly ass was saved when the inside door opened again.
“I’m outta here, kiddo,” Al boomed loudly, wearing a knowing smirk that still made me want to punch him. “Give up the keys,” he ordered, and I tossed them to him.
Jasper followed him outside. “Can I have a word with the two of you?” he asked, shooting Bella a wink. “Sorry, darlin’.”
“I’ll leave you guys. It was nice meeting you, Al,” Bella said, smiling up at him.
“You, too, sweetheart. Just...keep doing what these boys tell you, and we’ll get you through this,” he told her.
She nodded and gave me a quick glance before heading on into the house.
Al watched her leave us and then spun his head around to face me. “That’s one beautiful girl.” Al leaned against the car, facing us, but his focus was on Jasper. “Talk to me, Whitlock. Tell me about how you’re bending a few rules in there.”
Jasper grimaced and nodded. “I know, Al. I just... What are my options?”
Al folded his arms across his chest, but then rubbed his goatee slowly. His eyes studied Jasper and then glanced over to me. He cleared his throat, then said, “If you’re serious about this girl, son, then you have to make sure that you still follow protocol until the very end. That means...protection, getting them to the trial, and then their adjustment to their new identities in Seattle.” He ticked these things off on his fingers. “Technically, what you’re doing... I should pull you from the detail.”
“But wait, Al—” Jasper interrupted.
“Let me finish,” my uncle snapped, stepping forward. “There’s no written rule. It’s just smart thinking that handlers don’t get personally involved with their witnesses. Has it happened before? Abso-fucking-lutely. And believe it or not? Sometimes, it works out. But what you have to ask yourself, Jasper... Are you willing to give up your identity if Alice or Bella Swan’s are compromised in the future?”
Jasper nodded, but he said nothing for a moment. “I understand that, Al. Really.”
“Here’s what you don’t know,” Al continued. “You also need to make sure that you don’t fuck up. What I mean is... What happens in this house...or wherever...stays in this house. Got me? No one outside this situation needs to know. Once the trial is over and you guys get to Seattle, no one will be the wiser. To anyone else, you met at the fucking bar. Am I clear?”
I snorted, shaking out another cigarette and lighting it.
“Got it. Thanks, Al,” Jasper said, patting my uncle’s shoulder before heading back into the house.
I flicked the ashes from the end of my cigarette, trying to ignore Al’s stare on me, but he wouldn’t let me.
“Edward,” he sighed, forcing me to look over at him. “You can fight it all you want, but I know when a man is about to beat the living shit out of me for upsetting his girl.”
My nostrils flared. “She’s not my—”
“Oh, yes she is,” he argued. “And she’s good for you. Just remember, she has to meet your parents as her new identity.” He grinned up at me, twirling the keys around his finger.
“Uncle Al, I swear to God...”
“Shut up and listen, son.” His voice was firm as he glared at me. “It’s okay. And you’ll figure it all out on your own. I have faith that there’s a heart under all that crusty-ass exterior. I also have a feeling she’ll be the braver of the two of you.”
I smirked, shaking my head and thinking the asshole knew me too well.
“Anyway,” he sang, patting the side of my face. “Your parents are well, and Rosie’s doing fine. Bigger than a fucking house and driving Emmett insane, but she’s fine all the same.”
Chuckling, I said, “Thanks. Tell them I’m okay. Give them my love, yeah?”
“Will do, son. Stay low, stay safe,” he told me walking to the driver’s side of the rental car. “And stay in Forks, for fuck’s sake.” He paused after yanking the door open. “Oh...and all your shit from Connecticut is in the back of that Jeep, along with a few toys I thought you could use.” He shot me a wink and a grin.
“Cool. Thanks.” I nodded, but then called out, “Wait!” before he could sit down in the car. “Do I need to alert the current chief of police here?”
Al thought for a moment. “Normally, I would say yes. But you need to stay off the grid, so no, not yet. Let me handle that if the shit hits the fan.”
“Sir,” I sighed, backing off to the side so he could start the car and back out.
He rolled the window down, stopping in front of me.
“Thanks, Al...for all that you’re doing.”
He smiled sadly. “It’s my job, kid. Those girls are important to stopping a very large wave, very long line of crime. But I get the feeling they’re more important than even that. We’ll get them to Seattle, Edward.” He smirked, giving me a wink. “What you do after that is out of my hands.”
Groaning, I shook my head, just as confused as before. “Go away, old man. You’re starting to sound like Yoda, and it’s pissing me the fuck off. Maybe I should have shot you at the front door.”
“You’ll miss me when I’m gone,” he teased, finally tearing out of the driveway.
Gripping my hair but unable not to smile at him, I sighed. I was fucking exhausted and wanted to collapse into bed, and I was in need of a shower and wanted to crawl into a bottle of something alcoholic. But as I walked back inside, I decided to settle on two out of the three.

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