Sunday, June 30, 2013 | By: Drotuno

In Pursuit Chapter 15

Chapter 15
Bella POV
When I woke up, the first thing my eyes focused on was Edward’s profile in the dim light of the early morning. He was on his back, one arm flung over his forehead, with the sheet and blanket pooled around his waist. His eyes were closed, his breathing steady. I was still in his bed, still naked, after...what we’d done the night before. Calling it just “having sex” seemed wrong, somehow, but I was scared to call it what it had really felt like. One thing I did know, though, was I wanted more...
More of his hands, his lips...his cock...
It had all been beyond anything I’d ever felt before, maybe because my heart was fully into it, and it had been just what I’d wanted and needed after the God-awful nightmare.
Just the memory of seeing Edward get shot, even in my sleep, was enough to make me cringe.
“You’re thinking awfully hard over there,” Edward mumbled, cracking one eye open to look at me.
“Just...remembered my nightmare,” I admitted, smiling when he turned over and pulled me into his chest.
Propping himself up on one elbow, he leaned down and pressed his lips to my forehead. “It was just a nightmare, Bella. I’m right here.” He took my hand and slid it up his body to his chest. “Feel me, baby. I’m okay.”
I nodded, leaning in to kiss his chest as I wrapped my arm around him. His skin was warm and the light dusting of hair tickled my lips, and I could help but want to taste more. I kissed him again, letting my tongue tickle his skin for a moment, grinning against him when he made a noise that sounded like a groan and a whimper.
Edward’s hand moved down my back to my ass, pulling me even more snug against him and trapping his morning erection between us. “Are you sore?” he asked, his hand kneading and massaging my flesh gently.
I shook my head, rubbing myself against him and kissing his chest one more time.
Suddenly, I found myself on my back, giggling as Edward growled, “Good...”
Then he was over me, kissing me, as his hand ghosted down my neck, over the swell of my breast, where he stopped, cupping me and rolling the nipple between his thumb and finger, forcing my eyes closed as I felt it everywhere.
Whimpering against his lips, I arched my back, pressing myself more fully into his hand.
“So fucking responsive,” he said in a gruff voice, almost to himself, before his hand left my breast and continued down.
When he stopped just shy of where I wanted him, my eyes opened, finding him staring down at me, the heat in his gaze almost a physical being.
“Touch me, Edward... Ple—”
He cut off my plea with a kiss as his fingers slid through my wetness, cupping me and pressing the heel of his hand just where I needed him. When he pulled back to look at me again, his eyes were hooded. I tried to hold his gaze, but when his fingers finally dipped inside, stroking me, my eyes closed.
“That’s it, Bella,” he purred in my ear. “Feel me.” He groaned, his breath tickling my neck. “Fuck, you’re so wet, baby. All for me, yeah?”
His thumb barely brushed my clit, and I couldn’t help but buck up against his hand, breathing out, “Oh, fuck...”
“Mm, you like that, don’t you?” he asked, doing it again and again until I was trembling under him. “Can you come for me? I want to feel you come around my fingers, Bella. Can you do that?”
I nodded, feeling everything in me tighten as he added another finger, curling them as his thumb pressed hard to my now-aching clit. When he stroked just the right spot inside me, I shattered, crying out his name as I flew over the edge of my orgasm.
“Beautiful,” Edward murmured, slowing his fingers down until I finally opened my eyes. I watched as he brought his fingers to his mouth. “And you taste even better...”
Fuck, watching him do that was hot. “Condom,” I huffed, reaching down to take him in my hand.
Edward’s eyes shuttered closed and he groaned as he blindly reached over and fumbled in the nightstand for a minute, coming back out victorious.
I took the foil packet from him and gently shoved at his shoulder until he moved to his back. He watched as I leaned down, his breath catching as I kissed the weeping tip of his cock, swiping the head with my tongue to taste him.
“Mm, you taste good, too,” I teased, grinning when he growled a warning not to tease. Stroking him once, I shook my head. “No teasing...”
I made quick work of the wrapper, tossing it to the floor before sliding the latex over Edward’s cock. Holding the base, I moved up so I was straddling him, slowly lowering myself onto his length.
“God, you make me feel so...full,” I huffed once I was seated on his thighs.
His eyes were on mine as I began to move, riding him like I had the night before. Rolling my hips, I leaned forward with my hands on his chest, my hair falling around us like a curtain. From this angle, his pubic bone hit my clit, sending shivers up and down my spine.
It wasn’t long before Edward was thrusting up to meet me as I raised and lowered myself on him, and I wanted more.
Leaning down to his ear, I whispered, “Fuck me, baby...”
With a growl, Edward flipped us, never moving from inside me.
“You want me to fuck you, Isabella?” he asked, raising a deadly sexy brow.
“Mmhmm,” I answered, my grin changing to a whimper when he bucked his hips, thrusting hard. “God, Edward. Just like that...”
Instead of speeding up, Edward smirked and began sliding in and out at an almost tortuously slow pace. I felt every inch of him as he moved inside me, the coarse hairs at the base of his cock tickling my tender skin. With every slow thrust of his hips, I slid on the sheets, until I had to brace my hand on the headboard behind me. My other hand moved to my chest, and I watched Edward bite his lip as I pulled and teased my nipples, bringing them to even harder points.
His tone low, husky, he said, “Touch yourself, baby. Make yourself come again.”
I gasped softly, my eyes closing as I moved my hand down between us.
“Eyes open, Bella,” he ordered. “I want you to watch me as you come and watch what that does to me.”
I nodded, gazing up at him as my fingers brushed the spot we were joined. I made a vee with my fingers, surrounding him as he slid back inside me, and then I gasped as I moved them to my still-aroused clit.
“That’s it, beautiful,” Edward encouraged. “More, baby.”
His thrusts began to speed up as my fingers slid over and around my clit, putting just the right amount of pressure on to make my muscles begin to shake. When his hands gripped my hips so he could thrust even harder, I gently rolled my clit in my fingers, sending myself over once more. My vision swam, but even so, I could see Edward’s gaze on my face as he thrust one last time, his own eyes closing as he cursed and came, his grip nearly bruising on my hips.
Neither of us spoke for a minute, both trying to catch our breath. Finally, he carefully pulled out, making us both groan, and I released my hold on the headboard, my arm falling jelly-like to the bed beside me. Edward tied off the condom and tossed it into the trash before taking me in his arms.
“Christ, I think I need a nap now,” he admitted, huffing a laugh when I giggled.
I shrugged, leaning up to kiss his jaw. “It’s still early... We could go back to sleep.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?” At my nod, he slid us down farther on the bed and then reached down to pull the sheet up. “Good. Sleep then, baby.”
I closed my eyes, feeling safe in his arms.
Edward and I spent all morning in his room – kissing, touching...which inevitably led to sex twice more, insuring that I wouldn’t be able to walk normally for days...and talking. He asked me to tell him stories about growing up, although I’d protested.
Why does it matter?” I asked grumpily. “That part of my life is over. I’m not Charlie and Renee Brandon’s daughter anymore.”
He sighed, leaning in to take my face in his hands and holding me so I was forced to look at him. “Bella, it matters. Your name isn’t Marie Brandon anymore, no. But here, where it matters—” he moved one hand to my chest, over my heart “—they will always be your parents. You never have to give up those memories. If you tell me about them, it’ll help reinforce them in your mind, and next month at the trial, four months from now when you’re adjusting to your new name and new life, or twenty years from now, when this is all a distant memory, you’ll have those in your head, too.”
What he’d said had made sense, so I’d told him about my mom’s inability to pick a project and stick with it simply because she was always so excited to go on to the next thing. I’d told him about the first time my dad had taken my sister and me to the gun range to learn how to shoot – against our mother’s wishes, of course. I’d even told him all about the horrible year between my father’s death and my mother’s, and then the time shortly after, where I’d thought about ending my pain by taking my own life – something I’d never even told my sister or grandmother – but that I’d decided against it for my sister’s sake.
He’d listened to each and every story, wiping my tears when they fell, laughing along with me at the silly things, and distracting me with kisses when things became too much.
After exhausting myself talking about my family, I sat straddling his lap, tracing the tattoos on his arm.
“You mentioned maybe thinking about getting another one...something to do with Batman?”
He nodded. “Yeah, I’m not sure where, though.”
Raising an eyebrow, I asked, “Why Batman?”
Edward grinned unabashedly. “Batman is totally awesome.” He pointedly ignored my rolling eyes and giggle at how much like a teenager he sounded. “Seriously. He doesn’t possess any real superpowers – he can’t crawl up walls like Spider-man or leap tall buildings in a single bound like Superman. He’s a normal guy with a lot of cool toys – a lot of cool toys, Bella, seriously.”
I giggled again – the teenage geeky boy was out in full force, and it was adorable.
“The best part about Batman, though,” he continued, still ignoring my giggling, “is his commitment in a belief that one person can make a difference in the world. After the death of his parents, he was determined to be the best man he could be, to be someone his parents would be proud of, and to make the world better. That’s his greatest superpower.”
I thought about that for a bit, remembering Edward’s story about his birth father and how that helped set him on the course to where he was today – helping in his own way to make the world a better place. Like Batman, Edward was loyal to the people in his life. It showed in the stories about his sister and friends Angela and Ben, his support of Jasper and Al, the love he showed for his parents and the man who gave him life...
Cupping the back of his neck, I leaned in and kissed him softly, my nails scratching his scalp lightly. I wanted to tell him that his birth father would have been proud of him, of the work he was doing and of the man he’d become. Instead, I simply said, “I get it now, baby. The Batman symbol is perfect.” Placing my hand on the left side of his chest, near his heart, I said, “Right here.”
Edward’s hand moved up to cover mine, and he leaned in and kissed me again until I felt lightheaded.
Unfortunately, our bubble had to end sometime...and it came in the form of a knock on his bedroom door.
“Yo, Ed. You seen Bella?”
Jasper sounded amused, not worried, so I was almost positive he knew I was in with Edward.
“Guess it was too much to hope that we’d have the whole day in here, huh?” Edward teased quietly with a wink. At my nod, he grinned and said, “Yeah, Jazz. She’s in here. We’ll be out in a minute.”
I hid my face in Edward’s chest as Jasper chuckled before leaving.
“I need a shower,” I said, not moving from my spot.
Edward chuckled, tickling my ear. “Yeah... Me, too.”
“Wanna save water?” I asked innocently.
I was sure my shrieking giggle could be heard throughout the entire house, but as Edward carried me into his bathroom, I couldn’t have cared less.
An hour and a half later, after lunch, I was still wearing Edward’s USMS T-shirt and a pair of his shorts rolled up at the waist to keep them in place.
Alice stood from her seat at the table. “Come with me,” she ordered, raising a brow at me. “Let’s go have some girl talk while the boys are busy with the video games.”
I saluted her playfully and followed her upstairs, steering her away from her room and leading her to mine on the third floor.
“Why up here?” she asked as I closed the door behind her.
Glancing down at my clothes, I said, “’Cause I need to change.”
She grinned. “I wondered if you were gonna wear them all day. Spill it! Did you spend the night in his room?”
I grabbed a new T-shirt and shorts from the small dresser, then pulled off the shirt and shorts. Tossing them to the bed beside Alice, I pulled on the new clothes before I answered. “I did.” Then to clarify, I added, “Well, most of it.”
“I didn’t think you’d started the night there,” she mused. “He carried you upstairs to bed. What happened?”
I climbed up on the bed beside her and told her all about the nightmare and me running to Edward’s room. “I just...really needed to see for myself that he was there...alive and healthy.”
She nodded, and then a small smile quirked up the corner of her lips. “From the—” she waved her hand around me “—glow, I’d say he definitely showed you how alive and healthy he is... Am I right?”
I laughed and shrugged. She knew she was right. She didn’t need me to verify that Edward and I had finally crossed that line.
When I was quiet, she sat up and frowned. “Was it...good? I mean, I would guess it was – ’cause of the aforementioned glow, I mean – but...”
“No, it was,” I rushed to assure her. “It was...perfect.” I sighed, biting at my cuticle when my worries cropped up again. “It’s just...”
I huffed, shaking my head.
“B, talk to me. Tell me what you’re thinking.”
It all came out in a rush. “I have no idea what this means. Like, for later...after the trial and shit. I mean, can we be together? I’m sure it’s got to be against the rules, right? For Edward and Jasper to be with us this way, I mean. Oh, God... I’m going to get him fired, aren’t I?” I groaned as another thought popped into my head. “Then again, what if he doesn’t feel this same way? He said he did, but... I’m not discounting what he told me, really. I trust him. But what if he decides later it’s not worth the risk to his job – his life – to be with me? Can I enjoy it now and know that I may be setting myself up for disapp—”
“Bella!” Alice interrupted loudly, snapping her fingers in front of my face. When I finally really looked at her, I saw exasperation and amusement on her face, as well as sympathy and love. “I’ve been calling your name for like...a whole minute,” she huffed.
“Sorry,” I said, flopping onto my back and covering my face. “I felt overwhelmed for a minute.”
She laughed. “No kidding...” Lying back, she turned on her side to face me. “First off, you can’t think of the what ifs. They’ll drive you crazy. You either trust him or you don’t, and—”
“I do,” I cut in.
Nodding, she continued, “Then you have to trust whatever he told you, and if he told you he’s in this with you, then you gotta believe him. From what Jasper has said, Edward wouldn’t have said anything like that if he hadn’t meant it, okay?”
Nodding, stayed quiet.
“Now, as to getting him fired... Jasper told me something their boss told him – and Edward, although at the time, it didn’t exactly apply to him.”
I listened as she explained what Al had told Jasper about the possibility of being with her before, during, and after the trial.
“So it’s...not encouraged, but they won’t lose their jobs, either, especially since no one but the two of them and Al will know who we...used to be,” she finished, shrugging. “And Edward knows just as well as Jasper that if they want a future with us, that future in Seattle as Alice Swan and Jasper Whitlock – or Bella Swan and Edward Cullen – will always be uncertain. He knows that, and he still said he wants to be with you. Okay?”
I remembered the look in Edward’s eyes as he held me last night and again this morning, how it had felt like his heart was right there for me to see, and I nodded, smiling slowly.
Edward POV
The grayish glow of a dreary morning barely gave my room any light as I stepped inside and shut the door behind me. Bella was still asleep, curled around my pillow. Cascades of dark hair flowed out behind her, long, beautiful eyelashes rested against her porcelain cheeks, and bare, smooth shoulders contrasted against dark blue sheets, but it was the furrowed brow, the slight shiver to her whole body that made my chest hurt.
Bella was fucking terrified of going back to New York. She tried to hide it, and in the light of day, she mostly succeeded, but at night was a different story. When she slept, which was now next to me – and had been since Uncle Al had given us a trial date two weeks ago – she couldn’t hide her fears. Her subconscious was kicking her ass. I could protect her from mob goons, hitmen, and corruption, but I couldn’t do shit about her nightmares except hold her, tell her she was safe...that I was safe, because it was my name she whimpered out loud in the dark. I wasn’t even sure if she heard me.
Something about that scared the absolute shit out of me. What I once would’ve considered simply fucking was now...more. It was more than just sex, though it was amazing, mind-blowing sex. Bella and I were compatible in every way. I’d forgotten how fun sex could be, because I’d merely used it as a tool to blow off steam for so many years. It was just more. It was holding her in her sleep, the scent of her all over my sheets and skin, the sweet way she accepted everything I said with an open trust, but mostly, it was the smile that could light up a damn room and the warm cinnamon-colored eyes that gazed back at me with the same unasked questions...and the same need...that I had. I wanted her with all times. And with all that was stacked against us in New York first and then Seattle, I was scared as hell to give any bit of it a name. To allow the word that was kicking around my heart to manifest and then fail her would destroy me, which was something I couldn’t allow. I had to concentrate.
It was a week until we needed to have Alice and Bella – or technically, Mary and Marie – back in Manhattan to meet with the attorneys for pretrial prep. I stepped into the shower to wash off the sweat from my early morning run, thinking Al would be calling any time now. He’d told us that he needed to set up our security in New York, that he was personally overseeing it, and that alone let me relax a little. I just wasn’t sure how long he’d wait to set up the plan with us.
Once I was clean, I wrapped a towel around my waist and stepped back into the room, frowning that Bella had curled up tighter around my pillow, as if it were a shield.
“Edward, no...”
I couldn’t stay away from her if I tried. That tone was heartbreaking to hear, especially from someone I viewed as being so fucking strong. She could do this; I knew she could, but she didn’t believe in herself. Or maybe she’d just seen way too much scary shit up until now.
Kneeling beside the bed, I brushed her hair from her face. “Bella... Sweetheart, it’s just a dream. Open your eyes and look at me,” I whispered, dropping a kiss to the wrinkle between her brows. I braced myself because waking her wasn’t always well-received.
Bella gasped, struggling in the sheets but gripping the pillow at the same time. Her hands then smacked at me, and I had no choice but to pin her down as gently as I could, trying to not have the shit smacked out of me. My girl was stronger than she looked.
“Hey, hey... Baby, it’s just me. Look at me,” I urged.
Her glazed, unfocused gaze finally trained on me, and she sagged back into the bed with a huge breath of relief, though I could see her fighting her tears.
“Shh,” I soothed, sitting on the edge of the bed next to her and tugging the pillow away. “You’re okay. I’m okay. Everyone’s fine. It wasn’t real. Got me?”
Her small hands skimmed up my chest, across my shoulders to the back of my neck. I knew this was her way of affirming that I was unharmed.
“Tease,” I growled, kissing and biting at her neck until she was writhing beneath me. “Get this sweet, lazy ass out of bed. Jasper’s almost finished making breakfast.”
“That very thing.” I chuckled at her excitement, sitting back up when she scooted up in the bed, holding the sheet around her – much to my disappointment. Bella had amazing tits.
“You showered?” she asked, running her fingers through my still-damp hair. When I nodded, she smirked. “So very sorry I missed that.”
Grinning, I shrugged a shoulder. “Stop sleeping in.”
“Stop wearing me out at night!” she argued playfully.
I paused, raising an eyebrow at her as the night before and several prior to that replayed in my mind. She’d been absolutely stunning as I took her from behind. “Nope, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”
She laughed, leaning up to kiss me quickly. “Well, too damn bad, Edward,” she whispered. “I’m afraid I’ll barely be able to walk today.”
I frowned. “You’re sore?” When she nodded, I pulled her to my lap, kissing her softly. “I’m sorry.”
She grinned and then broke out into a giggle. “No, you’re not.”
I fought my smile and failed completely, but I buried it into her sleep-warmed skin. “, I’m not. I really, really like the idea that every time you move, sit down, or walk – all damn day – you’ll remember who put you in that state,” I crooned in her ear, dropping long, slow, open-mouthed kisses to her neck and shoulder. Cupping her sweet, firm ass, I gave it a gentle squeeze, only to slip my hand between her legs to find that she was extremely wet, yet ultra sensitive. “Though, I am sorry that this sweet pussy is mad at me. My intention was not to offend her. Should I apologize? Kiss her and make it up to her?”
I licked my lips at just the mere idea of tasting her. Who the fuck needed breakfast?
“She’s not offended,” she said with a laugh, her head falling back; I couldn’t help but lean in and press a chuckling kiss to her throat. “But if you come anywhere near her with that two-day stubble, there may be a revolt.”
I snorted into a loud laugh. “Note to self: shave ASAP.”
She grinned, biting down on her bottom lip as her fingers trailed along my stubbly jawline. “I like it, and it’s really sexy, but just...not right now. I need a shower, and I’m starving.”
I kissed her hard and then grinned. “Fair enough, baby.”
I set her down onto her feet, giving my dick a stern mental warning as she walked into the bathroom completely naked. He didn’t listen. Asshole.
The water came on, and I took a few deep breaths to control the desire to take another shower. Finally, I dressed in jeans and a T-shirt for the day and then walked back into the kitchen, where Jasper was setting a bowl in front of Alice.
“Another nightmare?” she asked, gazing up at me sadly.
I nodded, taking the bowl that Jasper was offering me and sitting down on the stool next to her. Jasper leaned against the other side of the counter, his own bowl in hand.
“She hasn’t had them like this since Mike,” she said softly, poking at her food with her fork. “Before that, it was when Gran died, and she had them when our parents died, too. She only has them when she’s completely stressed out.”
I scowled at the mention of that motherfucker. Like Jasper, I was sorely tempted to make sure Karma was giving Mike Newton what he deserved. My biggest hope was that life was fucking him hard – no kiss, no lube, nothing. It was all I could do not to call in favors to find out where the fuck he was. The possessive, vindictive asshole in me wanted to prove to him just how un-frigid, how un-boring Bella was, how fucking stunning she was coming for me. Just me.
“Bella’s stronger than she thinks,” I stated, and Alice smiled and nodded in agreement. “That asshole is proof of that.”
“Ed...” Jasper snorted, shaking his head and then taking a giant-ass bite of eggs and gravy. “If looks could kill, dude.”
I shrugged, not apologizing for how I felt about ignorant little bullies, especially ones that projected their...shortcomings onto others. I took a big bite of my breakfast, looking up when Bella joined us.
“There she is!” Jasper sang, dropping a bowl down in front of her. “Mornin’, darlin’.”
I fought my smile when Bella gingerly slid onto the stool next to me, hiding it behind another bite.
“Laugh it up, Edward,” she sneered, narrowing her eyes playfully.
“All day,” I mouthed to her, grunting when she poked me.
The levity of the moment was broken when the alarm for the front gate went off. We all froze for a split second before Jasper and I abandoned our breakfast and ran to the monitor for the cameras we’d placed in the foyer.
“Looks like...late model sedan...Ford, maybe? Chevy?” Jasper stated with narrowed eyes.
I turned to the girls, pointing toward the garage door. “Garage, ladies. I want you as close to the car as possible. Don’t make a sound. And don’t come out until one of us tells you to, okay?”
The sound of bowls being dropped onto the counter rattled through the house, but they both did as we asked, snatching the keys from the hook by the door and running into the garage. The door clicked softly closed, and I met Jasper’s gaze.
“Guns at the ready,” I told him, and he nodded silently in agreement.
There were now guns stashed in various places around the house – the kitchen, the garage, and even the table right beside the front door. We both picked up the nine mils from inside the drawer, chambering a round and flipping the safeties off. By the time I could hear the engine from the approaching car, Jasper had positioned himself on the opposite side of the door, one hand on the trigger, the other ready to send down the metal shutters of my house.
I peered through the curtain, waiting until the car stopped, and then rolled my eyes to Jasper. “Stand the fuck down,” I sighed, yanking open the door. “You know, one day I’m just going to shoot your ass just for shits and giggles...and that’ll be the end of it.”
“Yeah, yeah...I’ve missed you, too, kid,” Uncle Al laughed, flipping me a middle finger with one hand while the other held a file folder. “I’m just keeping you on your toes. I’m sure you’ve gotten lax hanging out at your old home. It’s why I didn’t call first.”
“Psh... Whatever, old man. I have plenty keeping me on my toes,” I stated, smiling when he pulled me into a rough hug.
He patted the side of my face, his brow furrowing.
“You look...different.”
I shrugged at him, letting him walk in. “I’ll get the girls,” I told Jasper.
“Gotcha,” Jazz answered, offering Al some breakfast.
I tapped on the door – two sharp taps and then a single one. “Girls, it’s me. Come on out.” The door cracked open, and both sets of worried eyes gazed trustingly up at me. “It’s only the Avon lady...” I told them, grinning when Uncle Al snorted into a cup of coffee.
When the girls saw who it was, they relaxed instantly. “Hey, Uncle Al...” they sang together, taking their stools at the counter again.
He grinned like a kid on fucking Christmas morning. “Ladies,” he crooned with a dramatic bow. “I had a dream like that once...two gorgeous girls...everything in stereo...and...”
“Don’t finish that fucking sentence,” I warned him, picking up my almost empty bowl. “Dirty old man...”
Bella giggled, shaking her head, but her leg hooked around mine surreptitiously behind the counter.
“Fine, cranky thing,” Al huffed, smirking a little before taking another sip of coffee.
“Umm, Al...why are you here?” Bella asked nervously, pushing her unfinished breakfast away from her.
He sniffed, his facial expression suddenly solemn as he took in our faces. “I just flew in from New York, and boy, are my arms...”
We all groaned, rolling our eyes.
“Damn, you’re a tough audience today. What? Is it too early?” he teased, but I could tell he was trying to ease the girls into what was about to be a serious and probably scary conversation.
“Al...I love ya, man...but this has been a rough few weeks comin’,” Jasper stated, walking to stand behind Alice, which left Al the only one on the other side of the kitchen counter. “Just...spill it.”
My uncle locked gazes with me, and I nodded in agreement, my hand squeezing Bella’s leg to calm the bouncing. “They’re scared enough, Al. Just tell us what you know.”
He looked a little reprimanded, glancing between Alice and Bella. “My apologies, ladies.” He slid the file folder my way, leaning on the counter.
I flipped it open, but everyone gazed over my shoulder. It seemed he had provided us with everything we’d need to keep the girls that much safer – pictures of the apartment building where we’d be staying, the men he’d added to the building to heighten security twenty-four-seven, and even photos of the lawyers the girls were supposed to see.
Al tapped the pile of pictures. “These are the people that are safe. You see anyone else, then you’ve got a problem.” He took a deep breath and let it out. “You’ll travel back to New York the same exact way you came west. In fact, it’ll be the same plane, same pilots, and same landing sites. Except this time around, I’ve arranged for a short chopper ride from somewhere closer to Boise so you don’t have to drive all the way to the base. You’ll land back at the Air Force base just outside of Queens. I’ve arranged a transport to take you from there directly to the apartment building where you’ll remain until the trial is over.
“Every single person on that security team has been thoroughly checked and hand-selected by me,” he said, placing a hand over his heart. “Some were flown in from other states, some are from the Marshal’s office in New York, but all of them are already in place. They are aware of the dangers, the requirements of getting you guys to and from the courthouse, and who is allowed in and out of that building. And trust me, that list is fucking limited – and no one is allowed up to your actual living quarters. There’s a decoy apartment for meetings with lawyers in the same building only two floors lower.”
“Fuck, that’s perfect,” I muttered, eyeing the building’s layout, the real apartment’s placement, and the exits we could use to not only get the girls safely in and out of the place but to escape if we needed.
Uncle Al leaned onto his elbows, looking between the girls. “Ladies, the trial starts the sixth, but they need you earlier for pretrial prep. That means they’ll be walking you through the questions they’ll be asking you, the possible counter questions from the defense, and the way you’ll need to act, dress, and answer.”
“Okay,” they both replied softly.
Al smiled softly. “The prosecution is completely aware of your security measures. They’ll be addressing you as Mary and Marie, which means you can’t use the names you’ve become used to, but as soon as the trial is over, you’ll come back here, gather all your things, and make your way to Seattle. I’m working on finding you a temporary place to stay until you get on your feet and the DOJ has transferred all your old funds over to you.” He gestured to me and Jasper. “These two ding-dongs will be with you every step of the way. Once you’re in Seattle, they’ll help you acclimate to your new lives.”
Bella frowned, glancing up at me, and swallowed nervously before turning back to Al. “Um,” she started, tucking her hair back behind her ear, “How long will we be in New York?”
“However long the trial is, Bella,” I told her, squeezing her leg again. “Possibly a few weeks, depending on all they drag out.”
Uncle Al nodded in agreement. “The bad news...which I can tell is your next that you don’t get to go into the courtroom together. I’m sure you expected that. However, due to the security issues, I have requested that one of the boys walk each of you to and from the courtroom – your choice on who goes with you,” he said with a teasing grin to lighten all this shit up. “They are to remain there throughout your testimony, even if they merely stand at the back of the room. Okay?”
Both girls nodded, and I could’ve hugged my uncle for that one because I had been worried about sending Bella inside the courtroom with no one to support her. I’d sworn to her over and over that she wasn’t alone, and now she truly didn’t have to be.
Al looked to me, his eyes studying my face, before turning to Jasper. “I want your presence felt in that courtroom, gentlemen. You’ll be armed, you’ll wear your shield exposed, and you’ll dress in courtroom attire. I want Volturi to know that he has more to get through than he assumes, because you won’t be the only federal officers inside that room. Got me?”
“Sir,” we both answered.
“Now...the good news is that there are rumors flying around. Very, very interesting rumors,” he said, smiling evilly and cracking his knuckles. “They’re saying the prosecution is trying to work a deal with Felix Guardiano.”
“No shit?” I asked, my mouth hanging open.
“No shit,” he replied.
“Wh-What does that mean?” Alice asked nervously. “’Cause he’s the other guy...that was there that night.”
Al nodded. “He is, but he’s Caius Volturi’s right hand and personal guard. If they can make a deal with his foul ass, then they’ll fucking bury Caius for not only the murder, but for a helluva lot of other shit. He’ll still do time, of course, but he’ll most likely do it with another name in another state’s prison.”
“Huh... That’ll start a mob war,” I surmised, frowning at him. “Caius’s men will seek blood.”
“Possible. But it will completely take the pressure off these two pretty girls,” he said with a nod. “Caius’s demise will no longer rest on their shoulders, but on someone inside the family.” He smiled and winked at the girls. “However, we probably won’t know that until the last minute. Something of that magnitude will be kept as tightly wrapped as a dick in a condom that’s too small. Which is pretty painful, by the way.”
The girls laughed, but Jasper and I rolled our eyes.
He patted the file folder. “Keep that. Study it. All of you. I want you to be able to recognize – even with just a glance – who’s on our side.” He paused, looking between the girls with a warm gaze. He covered their hands with his. “Ladies, we’ll get you through this. We’re going to do our best to get you in there, keep you safe, and get you to your new home. Okay?”
Alice nodded, and Bella muttered a small, “Okay,” back.
I sighed at just how blank and frightened their faces were. Without thinking, I slipped my fingers underneath Bella’s hair to massage her neck.
“Easy, Bella,” I whispered in her ear. “I know it’s scary, but we’re all right here with you.”
Her fingers gripped my leg where Al couldn’t see it, her body shaking a little before she gazed over at me and nodded.
“Okay,” Al said, tapping the countertop. “I need to get back Seattle.” He looked to me. “Son, can I have a word with you?”
Giving Bella’s neck another gentle squeeze, I stood up and waited until he’d said his goodbyes. I followed him to his car, where instead of opening up the driver’s side door, he leaned against it. He eyed me for a moment, smirking a little.
“Your sister is doing fine, though the doctors have given her orders to stop working. She’s not quite confined to bed rest, but she’s not allowed to do much, either,” he started, holding up a hand when my brows furrowed and I opened my mouth. “She’s fine, son. I swear to God. She told me to tell you to just stay safe, that your mother is taking to coming by just about daily to check on her. And she still thinks it’s a girl.” He chuckled, slapping my shoulder and giving it a squeeze. “She’s a tough one, but I’ve seen her, Ed. She looks great.”
I grinned, nodding. “My parents are okay?”
“They’re worried to death about you, but I’ve tried to let them know each time I’ve talked to you. They’re proud of you.”
Glaring down at my bare feet at the slight feeling of homesickness that settled over me, I nodded again. “Thanks, Uncle Al. Give them my love, yeah?”
“Will do,” he said slowly. “She’s changed you.” His voice was tentative, but he wasn’t teasing me... He was testing my reaction.
I huffed a laugh through my nose. “She’s...”
“Important,” he finished for me when I couldn’t decide on what to say. When I nodded, he smiled again, patting the side of my face. “If anyone deserves it, it’s you, Edward. What happened to you in college... Well, let’s just say it was unfair. But you’ve been given a gift in there.”
I glanced back at the house, smiling a little when I saw the girls dancing around with Jasper. He’d gotten their minds off the impending trial and focused them on a video game.
Turning back to Al, I said, “I can’t fail her.”
Her specifically?”
“Bella. I can’t... Nothing can happen to her, Uncle Al. Promise me that if something happens to me in New York, you’ll watch over her,” I asked him. “Promise me.”
His brow furrowed, he sniffed once, and then he nodded. “I’m gonna do my very best to get you all home safe, son. Understand me?” he asked, waiting until I acknowledged him. “What’s your plan after the trial?”
I shook my head. “I can’t... I honestly don’t know. I can barely think past New York, Al.”
He patted my cheek. “I’ll tell you the same thing I told Whitlock the last time I was here. If this is the route you choose to take, then you absolutely must keep it quiet, which means, you can’t even look at her the wrong way in New York, Edward. You must be completely professional at all times. The other marshals, the members of Volturi’s family, even the prosecution can’t know how you feel about her. Got me? What happens behind locked doors is one thing, but what you show everyone else is another.”
“Yes, sir.”
“Good. That being said, we’ll deal with Seattle when you get there, because I have faith in you, kid.” He sighed, looking at my face. “She really is good for you. I was giving you shit the last time, but...” He patted my shoulder and smiled. “When you leave here, lock this bitch down air-tight, and leave those girls’ identities here. I have faith in you, so I’ll meet you back here when the trial is over.”
“Okay, now go take care of your girl. She’s scared to damn death.” He opened the car door and got in. He grinned, and I could tell he was about to spew some teasing bullshit my way. “ gonna tell me how it feels to be knocked on your ass?”
I snorted, shaking my head. I wanted to tell him it felt amazing and scary, like I couldn’t catch my breath, but I didn’t.
“Ask me that when I get to Seattle,” I told him, smirking when he laughed his ass off, but really, I didn’t have an answer to give him that didn’t scare the ever-loving shit out of me. I was terrified that something would happen once we had crossed back into Volturi’s territory. I was afraid to bank on any future of any kind.
“Stick a fork in him, ladies and gentlemen. He’s done,” he said, still chuckling. “Good for you, kid. She’s a sweet, beautiful girl. Now...keep your wits about you, and we’ll get you all back safe. I’ll call you in a few days, tell you where to be.”
“Yes, sir.” I patted the top of the car before he backed out.
When I turned to go back inside, Bella was standing on the front porch.
“You okay?” she asked.
I smiled, unable to not kiss her forehead. “Yeah, sweetheart. I’m fine.”
“Good, ’cause Jazz and Alice are cheating and ganging up on me.”
I grinned, wrapping my arm around her shoulder. “Then let’s go kick their ass, yeah?”


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