Wednesday, July 17, 2013 | By: Drotuno

In Pursuit Chapter 19

Chapter 19
Bella POV
“Bella, wake up, baby.”
I stretched and rolled over, coming face to face with Edward’s sweet, concerned gaze.
“Hmm?”
“Alice is kind of panicking, and Jasper can’t calm her down,” he explained.
Shit. Today was Alice’s day in court, and I’d known the night before that she was nervous – especially after our experience with Volturi’s goons. We’d both been up till around midnight, talking about what she could expect and about what we would do after the trial.
“’Kay,” I mumbled, scrubbing my hands over my face. “Tell him I’ll be right out.”
Edward nodded and kissed my forehead before leaving the room, closing the door behind him.
Swinging my legs around, I sat up and squinted at the red glow of the clock on the nightstand. Five o’clock. Fuck me. What the hell was she doing up already? She and Jasper didn’t need to leave until seven. Grabbing a pair of shorts, I pulled them on under Edward’s T-shirt that I’d worn to bed and ran a hand through my hair as I opened the bedroom door.
I could hear Jasper’s soothing Southern drawl before I got to the other bedroom. When I stepped into the doorway, I saw him sitting on the bed, trying to comfort my sister, who was sitting up with her back against the headboard, arms wrapped around her drawn-up knees. Her face was buried in her knees and she was rocking, silent except for the occasional hiccuping cry.
When he heard me at the door, Jasper turned to me, smiling sadly. “Maybe you can get her to listen and talk,” he murmured, smoothing a hand over the top of Alice’s head before climbing to his feet and edging by me.
I nodded and gestured for him to shut the door behind him, leaving me alone with Alice.
“Come here, sweetie,” I huffed, sliding onto the bed beside her and pulling her down until her head was lying on my lap.
I let her cry for several minutes, feeling her tremble under my hand, which never quit moving as I rubbed her arm, her shoulder, smoothing her hair away from her face and then back down. Finally, I said, “Tell me what’s scaring you the most, Pix.”
She spoke so softly, I had to strain to hear. “I woke up from a nightmare. The men who chased you yesterday came after us today when we were leaving the courthouse, only this time, we weren’t so lucky. I watched Jasper get shot, and then the guy turned his gun on me. I woke up right after I fell to the ground in pain.”
“Oh, sweetie. It’s not gonna happen, I—” I paused, hating to promise anything like that, but unable to stop myself, I continued. “I swear to you, it won’t happen. Remember, Edward and Jasper met last night with Tim, Santiago, and Shawn, conferencing Ben in over the phone, and they figured out ways to prevent that from happening again.”
Alice nodded but stayed quiet, so I went on.
“Ben has men he can trust keeping an eye on Riley, so the man won’t be able to step foot in the courthouse today. And instead of using the same vehicle, you’ll be dropped off in a mail truck and picked up in a cleaning service truck. Tim won’t be standing at the exit door waiting for you. He’ll be roaming the halls until it’s time and then he’ll meet you there.” I wiped a tear from her cheek before continuing. “They’re taking every precaution today so that what happened yesterday isn’t repeated. You’re in the best of hands, sweetie.”
She nodded, finally sitting up. “I know. I really do. It’s just...terrifying.” She raked her hair back from her face and shrugged. “I don’t know how you are handling this all so well. I’m a nervous wreck all the time.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “Oh, believe me, I’ve had my moments. Yesterday was bad for me, but I got through it. You will, too.”
Alice nodded, covering her mouth when she yawned. “I guess I should go ahead and get ready. Will you bring me a cup of coffee after my shower and sit with me while I get dressed and fix my hair?”
“Yeah, of course.” I hugged her and then climbed off the bed. “Just yell out for me when you’re ready,” I said before leaving her to the silence of the still room.
An hour and a half later, Edward and I were standing at the door with Alice and Jasper. The guys were talking quietly, giving Alice and me a moment. Putting my hands on her shoulders, I turned her so we were face to face.
“You can do this, Pix,” I said firmly. “Once you get on that stand, you’ll be amazed at how...freeing it is to get the story out there and watch the smirk disappear from that monster’s face.”
She nodded, but said meekly, “I’m scared.”
I nodded. “I know. I was, too.” Looking over at Edward and Jasper, I saw that the latter was watching Alice with a concerned look – not to mention the love I could see shining through everything else. Lowering my voice, I continued, “Trust Jasper, sweetie. The man loves you. He’s not gonna let anything happen to you.”
“You think?” she whispered just as quietly so they didn’t hear.
“I’d bet on it,” I assured her.
Her smile came more easily this time, although there was still the underlying fear.
I yawned hard, covering my mouth as my eyes watered. I may have had five hours of sleep, but after the long, emotional day the day before and my nerves over Alice’s trip to court, I hadn’t slept well.
Alice laughed softly. “Go back to bed once I leave, okay? Get some more sleep.”
I nodded as a knock on the door startled the both of us. It was Tim’s second knock, reminding us of the time.
“Time to go, darlin’,” Jasper said, getting Alice’s attention.
She nodded and moved to him as I moved to Edward and let him wrap his arm around my waist, pressing a kiss to my temple. Together, we watched them leave the apartment, and then Edward turned me around and gave me a little push.
“Come on, sleepy girl. Let’s do as Alice said and get some rest. You were up way too early after your late night.”
~oOo~
“I hate this,” I mumbled into my pillow. “My mind won’t shut off.”
I shifted under the sheet, the cool softness feeling good as it slid over my skin. I’d shed everything but my panties before crawling into bed after Alice and Jasper left.
“Oh, baby. Come here,” Edward said soothingly. He scooted toward me and pulled my back to his front, wrapping his arm around my waist and tucking his legs behind mine. It aligned our bodies just perfectly, and I could feel his erection poking the cleft of my ass. “Sorry,” he said as I wiggled my hips a bit. “Just ignore it.”
I reached back and put a hand on his hip to stop him from moving away. “Stay,” I whispered, smiling when I felt him settle back behind me. I was scared to death for Alice, but having him wrapped around me gave me a relief, of sorts. It allowed my mind to shut out everything I couldn’t control – Alice’s testimony and safety on the way to and from the courthouse being the main things.
We didn’t speak for a moment, but feeling him trapped between our bodies was ruining my panties and making me think of him in other, better, places. I squeezed my legs together, reminded of just the night before, when he’d taken me hard in the dark and I’d had to bite my lip to keep quiet.
“We’re all alone,” I said, wiggling my hips again, only to feel him buck against me.
“That we are.” His voice was a purr in my ear when he asked, “What should we do about that?”
A shiver wracked my frame as he brushed my hair back to place a trail of soft kisses down my neck and across my shoulder, and when he sucked lightly at the skin there, I gasped softly.
“Oh, God,” I whimpered when he reached around and slid his hand into the front of my panties.
His long fingers brushed back and forth, my skin slick under his hand. “Fuck, you’re so wet,” he uttered against my skin as he placed an open-mouthed kiss to my shoulder.
He knew just how to tease me, touching me everywhere but the spot that was aching for it. He circled my opening with two fingers until I rolled my hips, and then both fingers slid in until they could go no farther. He fucked me with his fingers, my arousal making it easy for him, as my entire body began tightening.
“Edward, please!” I begged, needing him to finally touch my clit.
“You want to come, beautiful?” he breathed across my skin.
Words failed me, and I could only nod frantically. The flame he’d lit inside me at the first touch flared again when he curled his fingers on the next stroke, and my breath caught when he pressed the heel of his hand hard against my clit.
The pressure, combined with his words of, “I want to hear you when you come, Bella,” was enough to set me off, and the heat exploded inside me as I tumbled over the edge.
“Edward!” I gasped when he bit gently at the juncture of my neck and shoulder, which had me clenching harder around him. “Fuck!”
I was still breathing hard, my eyes squeezed tightly closed, when Edward freed his hand, raised my leg, and jerked my panties to the side so he could push inside me in one long thrust. Lowering my leg, he then reached around and began sliding his finger over and around my clit, using his hips to drive himself into me.
In the position we were in, there wasn’t a lot of leverage, but the angle was just right to hit that spot inside me every time he pushed in, leaving me a shaking mess. I reached back and found purchase in his hair, holding his face to my shoulder.
“Come again, Bella,” he growled softly against my skin. “Come with me, baby.”
“Fuck!” I cried out as he rolled my clit between his fingers.
I shattered around him, squeezing his cock as he continued to thrust. He cursed, his thrusts becoming jerky as he spilled himself inside me.
We breathed hard for several minutes before he finally slid out of me and turned to his back.
“Christ,” he groaned, pulling and tugging at my shoulder until I turned to face him and curled into his side.
“Mmhmm,” I agreed, kissing his chest.
He chuckled when I was unable to hold back a yawn. “Let’s try to get that sleep now, yeah?”
Nodding, I could feel my eyes already closing, so I gave into the darkness and finally slept.
~oOo~
I stepped into the cold enclosure and turned on the water, adjusting the temperature as Edward did what he needed to do before joining me. We’d woken up a few minutes before, having slept for almost three hours, and decided a shower was in order – together, of course, to “save water,” according to Edward, which had made me roll my eyes and laugh. He’d taken one look at me after waking and apparently decided that he had to do his damnedest to distract me, which we both knew would save me from pacing the apartment until my sister was back.
Moments later, air whooshed in as Edward opened the shower door and stepped in behind me, wrapping me in his arms. His breath ghosted across my cheek as he said, “Mm, wet, naked Bella. I think that’s my favorite.”
Laughing, I turned and wrapped my arms around his neck, shaking my head. “That’s what you said about happy, sated Bella, and warm, sleepy Bella, and...” My voice trailed off as I kissed him before pulling back and raising an eyebrow. “Need I go on?”
He grinned, shrugging. “Sue me. I like all my Bellas.”
I laughed again, stepping past him and pushing him into the spray before grabbing the body wash and washcloth for myself. “Clean yourself up, silly man.”
Although he began lathering up his own washcloth with the soap from the stand in the corner, his dark, heated eyes were on me as I ran the bubbly cloth over my skin, starting at my neck, down my arms, and then up to my torso. I couldn’t help but tease him a little by paying extra care to make sure my breasts were clean. And when I finally ran the cloth down my legs and back up to the juncture of my thighs, my gaze landed on his erection, which was jutting out from his body enticingly.
God, he was beautiful. His cock was the perfect length – long without being scary-looking – and big enough around that my fingers didn’t touch when I wrapped them around him. The shaft was the same color as the rest of his body, while the mushroom head was a few shades darker. I could see the large vein running up the underside, leading down to his balls. The hair at the base of his cock was trimmed neatly – I’d teased him more than once about manscaping, but I’d definitely experienced the benefits.
When my eyes finally moved from his groin to his face, he was watching me with a mix of amusement and lust. I caught myself before I could blush, realizing I had no reason to be embarrassed about checking him out any more than he should be embarrassed looking at me.
Pushing him back a step with the tip of my finger to his chest, I then watched as the water sluiced down his body, rinsing away the soap bubbles. I stepped up and quickly rinsed the soap from myself before backing away again. Dropping to my knees, I looked up at him from hooded eyes as he realized what my intentions were. When he stepped forward again, out of the spray, I reached up and took him in hand, hiding my smile when his groan echoed off the tiles.
His cock was already leaking from the tip, and I couldn’t help but lap up the pearly drop, humming at the musky, salty taste of him. I continued to watch him as I stroked and sucked, noticing his reactions with each new movement of my hand or mouth. When I twisted my hand on the upstroke, he bucked his hips. Sliding my mouth down around him until he hit the back of my throat caused him to curse and slap his hand against the shower wall. And when I began bobbing up and down on his shaft, stroking the base with one hand while the other rolled his balls around in my palm, he put a hand in my hair and held me gently as he guided me.
But it was when two of my fingers slipped back to tease his perineum, pressing gently over and over again, that my name flew from his lips as both a curse and prayer and he came almost violently down my throat.
“Christ, Bella,” he panted, helping me to stand before pushing me into the cool tiles and kissing the ever-loving hell out of me. When he pulled away, he was still panting. His forehead dropped to mine, and for a moment, we shared breaths as he finished coming down from his orgasm.
As we finished our shower, conversation was light and easy, including what we wanted to eat for lunch and what movie to watch. There was a lot of heavy stuff to think about – Alice, getting out of New York safely, our future in Seattle – but I avoided them all, afraid if I got started on anything heavy, I’d start to cry and wouldn’t be able to stop.
When I stepped out, Edward was there with a towel for me, one already wrapped securely around his waist. I dried off and walked naked to the bedroom to get dressed as Edward stayed in the bathroom to shave off the slight scruff that I found oh-so-sexy.
I walked back into the bathroom to dry my hair, and his eyes darkened. I’d put on just a pair of black boyshort panties and Edward’s Batman T-shirt, which Alice had washed for me the day before when I was in court.
When he reached for me, I backed away, laughing. “None of that now, mister. You need to finish that”—waving my finger at his foam-covered cheek—“and I need to dry my hair. Then you need to feed me.”
His lip curled in that deadly smirk of his, and he said, “I thought I already did that.”
I laughed, shaking my head. “Real food, Edward. Feed the beast so the beast doesn’t eat us both.”
I couldn’t help but laugh again when he looked almost disappointed.
~oOo~
We ate a light lunch, having decided on an early dinner of Edward’s mom’s spaghetti since Alice hadn’t eaten breakfast before leaving for court, so she would probably be very hungry when she got home.
I hopped up on the kitchen counter, gasping at the cool granite under my bare thighs, while I watched Edward cook. He looked damn sexy in jeans, no shirt, and bare feet. The kitchen wasn’t really his thing, but he was confident in what he was making, and it showed.
Every time he walked by me to grab another ingredient, either he stopped to kiss me, sliding his hands up my thighs, or I reached out and snagged his arm, pulling him over so I could kiss him.
“You’re killing me,” he said after one kiss, dropping his forehead to my shoulder. “Sitting there looking like something I could...eat.” He bit my neck playfully, causing me to squeal.
“Not my fault,” I teased, raising my hands innocently.
He muttered something under his breath about, “my shirt,” and “fuckable,” and “no damn self-control.”
I giggled as he raised a cool eyebrow and went back to adding seasonings to his veggies and wine mixture. Finally, he added in the ground beef he’d browned, stirred it with the big wooden spoon, and then topped off the pot with the lid before turning to me.
“This should be good to go for now. Come on, wench. Let’s see what’s on TV.”
~oooOOOooo~
Edward POV
“Fuck, Bella,” I groaned, squeezing my eyes closed as she straddled me on the chaise end of the sofa. “I can’t... Not when you’re in my shirt. I fucking love when you’re in my shirt.” I was rambling, but it didn’t seem to bother Bella one bit.
She smiled against the skin of my neck, biting softly. “I love the way you touch me when I’m in your sh-shirt.”
I chuckled darkly when my touch actually caused her speech to falter. “Yeah?” I asked her, my hands every-fucking-where – under her shirt, in the back of her underwear, where I cupped and squeezed and kneaded.
Bella’s relief at having finished with her testimony was practically palpable. Despite all the dangerous shit that still surrounded us in this God-forsaken city, the fact that she’d done what she’d needed to was like a weight had been lifted. Now it was Alice’s turn. We’d tried to calm the tiny thing down that morning, but until Alice experienced it for herself and returned back safely, she wouldn’t grasp it. And she would return safely, because I wouldn’t allow that shit to happen again. I’d rearranged security measures with Santiago so what happened to us the day of Bella’s testimony would not fucking happen again.
The TV droned on softly behind Bella, the scent of tomatoes, garlic, and onions wafted all over the apartment as my mother’s spaghetti sauce simmered in the kitchen for later, and the sound of Bella’s moan for more made my cock twitch hard between us.
Fuck me, I couldn’t resist her in my clothes. And today was the biggest tease of all: Batman. Sleeping in it was sexy enough, but walking around the apartment in it – just in that damn shirt and a deadly pair of boyshorts – was a different form of torture altogether. It was like kryptonite to Superman.
Having the place all to ourselves was proving so fucking dangerous. Not only had we tumbled back into bed once Alice and Jasper had left the apartment, but we’d barely let five minutes go by before touching and kissing started all over. It had taken much longer than usual to prepare the spaghetti sauce because Bella had been sitting on the counter like a delicious meal ready to be eaten.
Finally, we’d tried to watch TV, but Bella lying between my legs, smelling of flowers and fruit and sex, was just too much to resist. I’d grown hard at a simple shifting from her, she’d felt it, causing her nipples to peak under my damn shirt, and that was all she wrote. I’d been unable to stop myself.
Yanking Bella roughly forward, I pressed her down on me, seeking friction. My dick was not happy that she was so fucking close and he was trapped behind denim like a starving man locked outside a buffet. She braced herself on the back of the sofa on either side of my head, her hair draping around our faces like a curtain.
“Mm, baby, let me help with this,” I purred, locking gazes with her as my hand cupped her pussy possessively over her underwear. The black cotton was hot and damp, and I couldn’t resist applying pressure with the heel of my hand to where she needed it. Slipping inside the front of her panties, I teased her from one end to the other and asked, “What do you want, Bella? Tell me.”
“That!” she moaned sexily, her eyes rolling into the back of her head as her hips pressed down over my hand. “Don’t stop, Edward.”
I smiled, loving that command from her. I grasped the back of her neck and forced her forehead to mine as I drove two fingers deep inside her.
Nipping at her lips, I whispered, “Then take it. Fuck my hand. And eyes on me when you come, baby.”
There was something so damned powerful and mesmerizing about watching Bella’s orgasm build and build and then explode. I could get a woman off – at least, no one had ever complained – but with Bella, it was just different. Watching her fall apart at my hands – literally – made me feel like I owned the damn world.
My eyes never left hers as I whispered encouragement against her lips. Her body shook, her pussy was fucking soaked, and I could hear her fingernails scratching into the sofa behind me. With a pinch to her nipple, a bite to her bottom lip, and my thumb in the right spot, Bella shattered over me. Wrapping her arms around my head, she melted against me. I was panting just as hard as she was, our lips barely touching.
“Damn, that’s... I could watch that all fucking day,” I whispered, brushing a kiss across her lips that quirked up into a small smile.
Both of us jumped a little when the intercom at the door beeped. Frowning when she slid off my lap and onto the couch, I stood up with a groan. I shot Bella a grumpy look when she giggled at me for trying to adjust my aching cock, who was now really close to protesting his entrapment.
She was still laughing softly at me when I snapped over the intercom, “What?!”
“S-Sorry to bother you, sir,” the agent at the front security desk stammered. Agent Zafrina Puri was the only female marshal on the team Al had created. She was young, with mocha skin and almond-shaped eyes, and she seemed pretty damn sharp. “There are two detectives here to see you. Cheney? They’re on the cleared list.”
I grinned, glancing over at Bella, whose face had lit up. “Verify ID, make sure they weren’t followed, and send ’em up.”
“Will do, sir,” she replied, and the line went dead.
Bella got up and walked to me, standing up on her toes to kiss my lips. “I’m gonna get cleaned up, Edward. Try not to intimidate the young, pretty marshal, yeah?”
I scowled, shaking my head and rolling my eyes. “This is her first assignment. She should be intimidated. And I didn’t notice her looks,” I grumbled, my eyes raking over the Batman symbol that looked fuck-awesome over her plump breasts.
“That’s good because she didn’t notice yours, either...or any man, for that matter.” Bella chuckled, raising an eyebrow at me.
My eyebrows shot up as I watched her make her way down the hallway. “How do you know that?!” I yelled after her.
“Women’s intuition.”
I snorted softly to myself and stepped back into the kitchen to check my sauce. I gave it a slow stir, a quick taste, and put the lid back on before walking into the bedroom to put on a shirt. The bathroom was closed, the light shining beneath the door, so I left Bella to finish up. Just as I hit the hallway, a knock pounded on the door.
I checked the hallway through the door and then opened it. Agent Puri was standing behind Ben and Angela, giving the latter the once-over. Fuck, Bella was right.
“Hey, guys, come on in,” I told them, turning to Zafrina. “Thanks.”
She nodded once and turned back toward the elevator. I waited until it slid closed before shutting the apartment door. Ben and Angela were giving the apartment a long, slow gaze that made me chuckle.
“Damn, this sure as shit beats the Friendly Motel!” Angela giggled, and behind her, Ben smiled wryly and nodded in agreement.
“A crack house would beat that joint,” I countered, opening my arms when she walked to me for a hug. “Not that I’m complaining, but what brings you here?” I asked after kissing Ang’s cheek. I reached for Ben’s outstretched hand and shook it. “Did something happen?”
Ben smirked, waving my question away. “No, no. Ang wanted to see Mary and Marie, and I had news on our buddy Riley,” he said with an amused snicker.
“Where are the girls?” Angela asked, looking around.
“B—Marie’s here, cleaning up at the moment, but she’ll be out any minute, and Mary’s in court, though I expect that one back with Jasper soon,” I explained carefully, because it had become habit to use Bella’s and Alice’s new names. We all sat down in the living room. “So, talk to me.”
Ben smirked, shook his head a little, and took a deep breath, but paused mid-inhale. “Aw, fuck me, Edward! Is that your mom’s sauce I smell?”
I cracked the fuck up. “Yeah. Relax, asshole. There’s enough for everyone. Stick around and we’ll eat once everyone’s here.”
Angela rolled her eyes. “God, that brings back some memories.”
“No shit,” I said with a chuckle. “Last-minute cram sessions...”
“Video game tournaments,” Ben added.
“No, no,” Angela sighed. “Esme made this for me when she found out my grandma died. Remember?”
Smiling sadly, I nodded. “She always cooked when someone was upset. She said we needed—”
“Comfort food,” we all said at the same time.
Rose and I had never complained that it was our house, our parents that our friends would rather hang out with. Our dad was rarely home due to his medical career, but our mother was willing to be the neighborhood mom – feeding us, caring for us, and just being there. When Angela lost her grandmother, my mom had taken her under her wing throughout the entire grieving process.
We were quiet for a moment, until the padding of soft steps met my ears. I glanced over my shoulder to see that Bella had changed into clean clothes. Gone was my Batman T-shirt, but she still looked beautiful in simple denim shorts and a pale pink shirt, her hair pulled up in a high ponytail.
“There she is!” Angela gushed, getting up to envelope Bella in a big hug. “How’d it go yesterday?”
“Besides the big chase?” Bella asked wryly, narrowing her eyes on me for scaring the shit out of her in the subway.
“Oh, hell, Marie,” Ben sighed, getting up to hug her as well and then placed his hands on her shoulders. “I need to apologize for that. I knew you guys were there, but Riley and I were in a different courtroom for a different case. If I’d known where you were leaving, I wouldn’t have had his ass there.”
Bella shook her head, taking a seat next to me on the couch. “Edward explained. No need to apologize,” she allowed graciously. “It went fine,” she said to Ang, shrugging a shoulder. “It was like I left everything up there. I hope that A—Oh.” She frowned, looking to me. “Can I use our names?”
“You’re not supposed to, B,” I told her, “but you can trust these two. It’s up to you. Is that what you want?”
Bella nodded, looking a touch shy as she bit down on her bottom lip.
Wrapping an arm around her shoulders, I turned to my two oldest and most trustworthy friends. “Ben, Angela... Meet Bella Swan, my girlfriend. Her sister, Alice, should be back any minute. Technically, they’re from Seattle.” I huffed a laugh but shrugged a little.
Ben grinned, holding out a hand to shake Bella’s. “I’m glad you got to keep at least a bit of your real names. It’s nice to meet you, Bella.He shot her a wink.
Angela, on the other hand, was just about to bounce out of her own skin. She grinned at Bella, scooting over to hug her again. “I knew it! Told you... Marshmallowy center.”
Bella giggled and nodded, and I had no fucking clue what that shit meant. And I was pretty sure I didn’t want to know, though my confused face just made them laugh harder.
Ben shrugged dramatically, looking just as confused as me, but sat forward resting his elbows on his knees. “Riley,” he sighed, locking gazes with me. “That little weasel... He’s now suspended, under investigation with Internal Affairs, and is sporting a black eye.” He held up his fist to show some pretty hefty bruising across his knuckles.
That brought the room to a standstill. He glanced around at all of us before continuing.
“I told you his dad’s a judge,” he reminded me, and I nodded. “Well, his dad is also a gambler. And he owes some ugly people a lot of money – apparently, he isn’t a very good gambler. Anyway, to keep his dad safe, Riley’s been leaking information out of the precinct for the last year or so. At first, it was just petty shit. You know, to keep Caius’s men out of jail – lost records, mishandled evidence, that sort of shit.
“When Volturi killed Denali, it was a double-edged sword for Riley.” Ben shook his head slowly, looking to me. “I kinda feel for the guy, knowing the truth behind his actions, but still... Riley wanted Volturi to go away, but he also saw the girls as an opportunity to pay off all his father’s debt, in one big payout.” Ben’s gaze fell to Bella, his eyes warm. “When he saw you in the courthouse, he’d just come from his father’s office, Mar...er, Bella. He thought he was being slick, but he wasn’t. He acted like he needed to speak to his dad one more time, only to call into...whoever about where you were, what exit you’d left out of, and the description of your vehicle. He didn’t know I’d followed him. And he really didn’t expect me to punch the shit out of him.”
Ben grinned proudly when I snorted into a laugh.
“Glad to know I taught you something,” I teased him. “I was tired of beating people up for you.”
“We’re not in junior high anymore, dick sneeze!” Ben rolled his eyes but sobered up quickly as he looked to Bella. “He saves me from a few bullies, and he’s a right hero,” he muttered sarcastically.
Bella giggled, looking over at me and then back to Ben. “So what happens to him now?”
“He’s in a lot of trouble,” he said firmly. “He’s being watched twenty-four-seven, not only for his safety, but to make sure he behaves. His father, on the other hand, has been stripped of his duties as judge.”
“We think...” Angela started, grimacing a little. “We think it was Riley that leaked our whereabouts when you were under our protection and what he knew about WitSec taking possession of you. There’s not much he could’ve told them, but it wouldn’t surprise me that he facilitated that last leak of your whereabouts in Connecticut, or at least how to get the information.”
I nodded, having assumed as much. “Anything else?”
Ben and Angela exchanged a look, but it was Angela that spoke up.
“Word on the street is that Caius’s brother, Marcus, is getting ready to assume command, should Caius be convicted,” she stated.
“One big, happy fucking family,” I sneered, shaking my head and thinking these bastards didn’t know when to quit. Just when one was caught, another would step in to take over.
“Normally, I would agree with you, considering it was their great-grandfather that started that family back in the day,” Ben said, nodding a little. “But Caius and Marcus have never been close. Rumor has it they had a falling out years and years ago. The fact that Marcus has stepped up now is causing quite the stir.”
The door to the apartment opened, and Jasper and Alice stepped in wearing rather proud smirks on their faces. Bella got up and rushed to her sister. She wrapped her arms around Alice, and immediately, her posture changed; her shoulders dropped into a more relaxed position, and she almost sagged with the relief at seeing her sister back from court safe and sound.
“How’d it go?” she asked softly.
Alice grinned. “You were right. That asshole’s face just...fell when I pointed him out in court today.”
“Told you,” Bella sang with a chuckle.
Ben and Angela got up to greet the two. The girls were a cacophony of chatter – catching up, exchanging their real names, and trading stories about how court had gone.
“Fuck, I’m starving, Ed. Is that your sauce?”
Grinning, I stood up from the sofa. “Yeah, yeah... I’m on it. I’ll start the noodles and the garlic bread.”
As I walked into the kitchen, I heard Alice say she wanted to change clothes, so all the girls headed down the hallway. Jasper and Ben joined me in the kitchen, leaning on the counter. As I started a pot of water for the pasta and heated up the oven for garlic bread, I turned to Jasper.
“How’d it go? For real?”
“She was scared to fucking death,” Jasper whispered, shaking his head and toying with the salt and pepper shakers. “Security went perfect,” he said with a shrug to his shoulder. “But Alice didn’t relax until about halfway through Banner’s questioning.”
“Yeah, Bella was the same way,” I told him, pouring spaghetti into the now-boiling water.
Dinner was a loud, talkative affair, with Alice having two helpings of spaghetti because she hadn’t really eaten anything all day. Ben explained to Jasper and Alice about Riley, but the case faded into the background as Angela and Ben told stories about our growing up. They’d laughed their asses off when they realized where we’d finally found a safe place – Forks. But that only led to talking about old times, and that’s when the girls and Jasper could join in since they were now familiar with that small-ass town.
As they talked about my football games, Ben and Ang’s first date in ninth grade, and all the other shit I’d forgotten about, I realized I missed Forks. Picking up Bella’s hand under the table, I played with her fingers, wondering if it was homesickness I felt, or something else. We had a bit more time to wait out the trial – hell, the prosecution hadn’t rested yet – before we’d head back, but we wouldn’t be back for long. And a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach made me take a deep breath and let it out. We’d be in Seattle soon, and from there? I had no fucking clue. There were so many things yet to be talked about – futures, jobs, places to live and, most importantly, keeping the girls safe. Was it wrong that I wanted to blend myself in every aspect of Bella’s future? I wasn’t sure.
“We’d better get going,” Angela said, patting my hand to get my attention that had wandered far, far away.
“Yeah, I’m in court tomorrow,” Ben stated, standing up and offering Ang his hand.
Giving Bella’s hand a squeeze, I let it go and said, “I’ll walk you down.”
There were hugs for them both and well-wishes for him in court the next day, and I grabbed the keys from the hook by the door, leading them out into the hallway. It wasn’t until we were in the elevator and moving before Ben looked at me.
“Girlfriend?”
I snorted, raising an eyebrow at him, but before he could elaborate, Angela stepped up to me, cupping my face.
“You...” She shook her head before finding her voice again. “Edward, you look...so happy,” she whispered, studying my face. “It’s about time, after—“
“Maggie. Yeah,” I sighed, nodding a little and looking up when the elevator doors opened to the fairly empty lobby.
Angela stopped me again just outside the elevator. “Can you? I mean, is it allowed? What’s Uncle Al say?”
I chuckled. “It’s not something that’s written in stone, but it has happened before. We’re not suppose to advertise it.”
Ben nodded, smiling a little. “Makes sense. I mean, you’re trusted with their identities in the first place. Who better to guard that than someone that cares for them?”
Smiling at how he sounded just like Jasper when he’d torn me a new asshole those first days in Forks, I took a deep breath. “Whether or not I can is different than whether or not I should. I mean, Bella is... She’s...important. But she’ll have this new life...” I grimaced, but it was so fucking true, despite the fact that the word “more“ was screaming in my head instead of “important.”
“Edward, sweetie, look at me,” Angela soothed, taking my hand. “You know I love you, but you can’t let the what-ifs get to you. You also can’t let what Maggie did to you guide your life forever. Sometimes, you have to follow...this,” she stated, placing a hand over my heart. “She’s so good for you. I see it.” She ruffled my hair like she always did, and I smiled at her. “Hearts will break all over Washington. Besides, I knew you were a goner when you didn’t give me shit about Ben.”
Grinning, I broke into a nervous chuckle. “I still don’t get it.”
“Shut up, Edward!” she huffed, now smacking my chest. “Shut up, accept what you feel, and know you deserve it. Don’t you dare miss this opportunity. Life is too short to push love away.”
I flinched at the word that I’d tried so hard to push back, but I leaned down, kissing Angela’s cheek, because I knew she was talking about the loss of Daniel. “What’s ‘marshmallowy center?’“ I asked her.
She snorted. “Ask Bella.” She turned to Ben. “I’ll sign us out.”
He nodded, watching her walk away, and then spoke without looking at me. “You’re scared.”
“Shitless.”
Laughing, he met my gaze. “Good. She’ll keep you on your toes, then. Now it’s my turn: I have no fucking idea what she sees in your cranky ass.”
“Me, either,” I said with a chuckle. “I don’t know how to handle Seattle, not with her.”
“You’re asking me?”
“I’m asking the guy that’s been with the same girl since we were fucking fifteen!” I growled, gripping my hair. “Gimme a break, Benny!”
He smiled a little. “Relax, Ed.” He studied my face for a minute and took a deep breath. “It’s really fucking easy, man. You have to ask yourself if you can live without her. If you can’t, then you have your answer. The tough shit that comes with it...that stuff won’t matter, because you’ll do anything to keep her. Anything. That includes keeping her erased past a secret. Knowing your family, they’ll love her, and even if they knew the truth, they’d still accept her. And Emmett’s gonna find out; you have to report to him once they’re in town.”
“I know, but I can’t just show up back home with a girlfriend in tow.”
He laughed. “No. No, you can’t. But you can let enough time pass that when you start bringing her around, the idea won’t be so glaringly obvious. You know: ’Here’s the girl I met at the bar...or the grocery store...or the bowling alley.’“
“Oh, yeah, and by the way, it’s quite possible she’ll suddenly have to move away and disappear,” I added wryly.
“Oh ho!” he sang. “That’s the problem. If she’s outed, then she has to start all over someplace else.” When I didn’t say anything, he placed a heavy hand on my shoulder. “That’s the tough shit, Edward, and again, you have to ask yourself if anything else is worth more than keeping her.”
My brow furrowed, but I nodded that I’d heard him. “Thanks, Ben,” I sighed, shaking his hand, and he pulled me into a rough hug. “Good luck tomorrow, yeah?”
“Easy peasy,” he said with a chuckle. “I hope to see you before you leave the city, but if not, Angela and I are thinking about coming home for Christmas.”
“That’s awesome,” I told him with a smile. “Let me know, okay? My parents and Rose will want to see you.”
“Definitely,” he said, turning toward the side door that lead into the underground garage. “Maybe by then, I’ll meet this new girlfriend of yours that I’ve been hearing about.”
“Subtle, Ben. Real subtle,” I snorted, shaking my head and giving them both a wave before they walked away.
As the doors closed behind them, the need to see Bella was almost overwhelming. Instead of taking the elevator, I took the stairs, practically running to get back to her. We’d finally crossed the biggest, hardest part – the girls testifying – and I was really uncertain as to what was next, but being with her now was an easy decision.

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