Sunday, July 21, 2013 | By: Drotuno

In Pursuit Chapter 20 & Pics

Chapter 20
Bella POV
And slope down into the hover position...hold it for ten deep breaths... One, two, three, four, five...
“I hate this one,” I grumbled. “Kills my forearms.”
Alice, who weighed less than I did, laughed. “Just breathe.”
When the perky yoga lady finished counting to ten, I knew what was coming and immediately went up into...
And you’ll push up into the Downward Facing Dog position, holding it for the count of ten...
Yes, Downward Facing Dog. It felt great for my back – stretched the muscles in just the right way or something.
It was the same routine we’d done since the beginning, and I slipped easily from my arched position down to my hands and knees, transitioning to Edward’s favorite – the lunge. He wouldn’t tell me why he liked it, but the quiet groan from across the room at the dining room table made me laugh quietly.
“You know they’re not doing anything but watching us, right?” Alice whispered.
I grinned. “Edward’s been cleaning the same piece of his gun every time I glance over,” I said with a chuckle. “They’re trying to be all smooth about it, aren’t they?”
“Sooo unsuccessfully, too,” she agreed.
As we switched from one pose to another, I tried to let all my stress and worry out through the calming yoga. Wednesday had come and gone after Alice’s testimony in court on Tuesday. Originally, Ben Cheney had been scheduled to testify on Wednesday, but due to some issue with the medical examiner, he and the first police officers on the scene had testified then instead, Santiago had explained on a phone call afterward. They had confirmed time and cause of death and what they had found when entering the office building – including our behavior and states of mind. Because of that, Ben was scheduled to be on the stand today, testifying about my initial ID of Caius Volturi and Felix Guardiano, confirming my story was the same that day as it had been during my testimony. He’d said he would call after court ended for the day, so to take our minds off it all, Alice had pulled out the yoga DVD, which she’d packed in her bag in Forks.
When I switched positions to lie on the floor and twist my torso so my knee was planted on the opposite side of my body, I had a chance to look at Edward, who once again was watching me, the slide of his gun still in his hand.
“Don’t you have anything better to do?” I teased, rolling my eyes when he simply shook his head and continued to stare.
Jasper answered, “You ladies should know by now that doin’ that—” he waved his hand as he pointed in our direction “—means we get no work all.”
Alice winked at me. “Why do you think we do it?”
Both Edward and Jasper groaned audibly when Alice and I slid into the Plough Pose, putting our balance on our shoulders, neck, and upper arms and our legs stretched up until our toes touched the ground behind our heads. I knew the guys liked this one, too, as it was very reminiscent of a position in the Kama Sutra.
I held the position for the ten breaths, feeling it stretch my spine as I pushed up on my toes. While Yoga Bitch instructed us on how to come out of the pose, I went through the now-familiar movements of tucking my knees toward my head and bringing my back to the floor one vertebrae at a time.
We were breathing and going through the calming end pose, with our legs crossed and arms stretched above our heads, when the phone on the table in front of Edward rang, startling us all.
“Too early for Ben...” Edward picked it up almost warily. “’Lo?” he said into the speaker. He relaxed almost immediately. “Yeah, Al. What’s up?”
Al had evidently told him to put it on speaker because Edward pushed a button and then set the phone on the table in front of him, waving us over.
I stood and grabbed our little hand towels from the couch while Alice turned off the TV, and then we both moved over to the table as Al spoke.
“Everyone there?”
“Hi, Al,” Alice and I cooed at the same time, grinning when Edward and Jasper rolled their eyes.
“There are the two beautiful ladies,” Al said, his voice full of charm. “How are you?”
“We’re good,” I answered.
Alice hummed her agreement and asked, “How are you?
“I’m well, sweetheart. Thanks for asking – especially since that reprobate that calls me Uncle didn’t bother.”
Edward sputtered as the rest of us laughed, finally raising an eyebrow and grinning. “So I repeat... What’s up?”
“I’m calling with some news,” Al told him. He sounded happy and excited, so I wasn’t too worried about it being bad news... “Your sister’s in the hospital. She went into labor about four hours ago, and her water broke before Emmett could get her to the hospital.”
Alice, Jasper, and I grinned, but Edward looked stunned and nervous.
“Is she okay? The baby? She wasn’t due for another...eight days,” he said in a rush.
“Relax, Ed,” Al said in a soothing tone. “She’s doing fine. Your dad called and said the doctors weren’t concerned at all. The baby’s plenty big enough, but they gave her a shot to make sure its lungs are fully developed.”
Edward still looked worried, but he nodded and said, “Okay. Can we maybe do a Skype call after she has it so I can see her and the baby?” He glanced down the table. “We’ve got a secure laptop here that Santiago brought up a few days ago.”
Al was quiet for a moment. “Ed...” He sighed. “I could set it up, I suppose...but neither of the girls can be seen or heard, especially if you plan to introduce them to the family at some point.”
That didn’t come as any surprise to me – nor Alice, judging from her calm expression – but Edward looked pained. I knew he’d hate to hide me from his family, but I also knew how much he wanted to see his sister and new niece or nephew.
“That’s fine, Edward,” I told him, moving around so I was standing behind him. I ran my fingers through his hair, which needed a trim. “We’ll stay out of sight.”
“It won’t bother you?” he asked, looking up at me and then over to Alice. “Either of you?”
I shook my head, and Alice said, “No, not at all.”
“Do it, baby,” I whispered, leaning down to kiss his forehead when he looked back up at me.
He finally nodded. “Okay, Al. Set it up. Give me a call when it’s time.”
“You got it, son.” He sighed. “I gotta run. Jane’s calling on the other phone.”
Edward barked a laugh. “Have fun.”
“Kiss my ass,” Al said grumpily as he hung up the phone.
I laughed. “Who’s Jane?”
Edward explained about Al’s spoiled, vindictive, air-headed, mean-spirited ex-wife, making us all laugh even more.
“She’s something else,” Jasper said, nodding. “Keeps Al on his toes...”
“Well,” I huffed, turning to more pleasant topics. “You should be an uncle soon enough. I think this calls for a celebration, don’t you?”
Edward grinned, all thoughts of Jane and the trial clearly gone. “What’cha got in mind, beautiful?”
“No champagne is out,” I mused. “Pizza for lunch? Think we could get it delivered?” Being back in New York had me missing the foldable pizza the city was known for.
“Pizza it is,” Edward said after Alice and Jasper nodded their agreement.
Edward was a nervous ball of energy after Al’s call. After lunch, we tried playing Scrabble, the only board game in the place, but that proved to be difficult when he was having trouble sitting still. Jasper was finally able to get him to play some video games, and that seemed to help. Finally, I suggested poker when he nearly threw the controller through the TV.
We were sitting around the table when the phone rang again. Edward’s face lit up, and he eagerly reached for it, nearly punching a hole through the phone with his finger when he hit accept.
“Yeah?” His face fell slightly as he pulled the phone away, shaking his head. Pushing the button for the speaker, he said, “Go ahead, Ben.”
“Hey, everyone.” When we’d all echoed his greeting, he got to the reason for his call. “Just wanted to give you an update on the trial.”
I glanced at the clock. “Wow, you’re out early,” I mused. “Breaking for a late lunch?” I’d expected him to be on the stand longer than one o’clock.
“No, actually. We’re done for the day.”
“How’s that?” Edward asked. “I expected you to be there till at least three.”
“Me, too,” Ben agreed. “The OCCB detective will most likely have more to say than I did, so the judge called it an early day and said the trial would pick back up bright and early in the morning.”
Edward nodded thoughtfully. “How’d it go, man?”
Ben sounded confident when he answered, “It went fine – just like I knew it would. The defense tried to hammer on the photo lineup I gave Marie at the scene and then later Mary, but it was a textbook lineup. They had no way in to break it. I used different sets of pictures, different placements, and both girls were separated when I showed them. Volturi’s lawyers were scrambling and getting nowhere.”
“Great, man. Thanks for letting us know.” Edward squeezed my hand when I visibly relaxed. “Anything else?”
“I’ll call you again tomorrow with an update. Now that I’m finished testifying, I’m gonna sit in tomorrow while Wilkes is on the stand.”
We all echoed our thanks, and then Edward took the phone off speaker, telling Ben about Rose. He laughed at whatever Ben replied with, said, “Will do. Thanks,” and then hung up the phone.
“What was so funny about Rose havin’ her baby?” Jasper asked with a raised eyebrow.
Edward chuckled, shaking his head. “He said to tell Emmett he hopes the baby’s a girl and looks like Rose ’cause it’ll be fun watching him try to protect a pretty little girl from all the big bad wolves.”
We all laughed at that. From the picture I’d seen of Edward’s family, I knew his brother-in-law was a big man, and being a police detective, he carried a the image of the guy standing on the porch with his arms crossed and service weapon in one hand was funny and probably not too far off the mark.
“All right, son,” Jasper drawled, tossing the deck of cards Edward’s way. “Your turn to shuffle and deal.”
The beep from the intercom by the door startled us all. We’d been lying around the living room – Edward and me on one end of the couch, Alice on the other as she ran her fingers through Jasper’s hair while he sat in front of her on the floor.
“It’s nine fucking p.m.,” Edward growled. “What the fuck could that be about?”
I paused the movie and then sat up so he could slide out from behind me.
Edward stalked over to the intercom, pushed the button, and asked, “Yeah?”
It was a male voice this time, one I didn’t recognize. “Sir, I’ve got the District Attorney here, and he’d like to meet with the witnesses. He apologizes for the late hour, but he said it’s important.”
Alice and I looked at each other, suddenly frightened. Jasper stood, arms crossed as he listened.
“Dammit,” Edward cursed. “Okay, MacEntire... Double check his ID—”
“I know him, sir,” the marshal – MacEntire – interrupted. “It’s hi—”
“Did I ask if you know him?” Edward snapped.
“No, sir.”
Raking his hand through his hair, Edward continued, “Double check his ID and then escort him up to the same apartment we used last time.”
“Yes, sir.” There was a pause, and then the marshal asked, “Should I tell him when to expect you?”
“No. We’ll be there when we get there,” Edward huffed, turning the intercom back off and moving back to us.
“Why do you think he’s here?” I asked, walking into Edward’s arms when he held them open for me.
I felt him shrug as he held me. “I’m sure everything’s fine, but no way to know until we get down there. Let’s get dressed and then we’ll see.”
I shrugged and grumbled, “I don’t care if he’s the D.A. or the Pope. I’m comfortable in my sleep pants and T-shirt. I’m not getting re-dressed just to go meet with him.”
Edward chuckled. “In the vest, baby. That’s all. I’m sure it’s safe, but I’m not taking any chances.”
Oh... That made sense. “Right. Gotcha.”
“I’ll call Iverson to come upstairs while you help the girls,” Jasper said, moving to the intercom to call downstairs.
Tim had been staying in an empty apartment on one of the lower floors while the trial was going on, so I knew he would be up soon.
We hurried and put on the vests, not bothering to place them under our clothes this time. Edward and Jasper were strapping theirs on when Tim’s signature knock sounded. Alice and I stayed around the corner until the guys gave us the okay, and then we left the apartment, saying a quiet hello to our cute escort, who looked like he’d been relaxing just like we had been.
“I called Santiago,” Tim said as he led us down the two flights of stairs. “He’s meeting us at the room to make sure it was secure before we got there.”
“Thanks,” Edward told him, their voices echoing in the stairwell.
When we stepped out into the hall on the tenth floor, Santiago was standing beside the closed door with two other marshals. He gave us a friendly smile and clapped Jasper’s shoulder before opening the door. “I’ll wait out here with Iverson,” he said, pulling the door shut as soon as Edward and I finished filing through.
Mr. Banner stood from his seat at the table and smiled. “Thanks for meeting me.”
Edward nearly ignored his outstretched hand, but then quickly shook it before pulling out seats for Alice and me. “What’s this about?”
Mr. Banner sat again, tapping his finger on a sealed envelope in front of him. “I can’t go into any details,” he said, looking at Alice and me specifically, “but I would like to get some closed-circuit television set up so you two—” he nodded up at Edward and Jasper, who were standing back a few feet behind us “—so all of you can watch the trial tomorrow.”
“Why?” Alice asked, looking confused. “Isn’t it just the Organized Crime detective?”
Shaking his head, the D.A. said, “Plans have changed. I wish I could tell you exactly what’s going on, but I can’t. I think it’s something you’re going to want to watch, though.”
“How would it work?” Edward asked. “We’re not set up for that at the moment, and it’s already—” he checked his watch “—nine thirty on Thursday night.”
Picking up the envelope, Mr. Banner held it out to Edward, who stepped forward and took it from him. “Mr. Santiago assured me you had access to a secure laptop. Those,” he said, “are the instructions to connect to the closed-circuit connection for the courtroom.” When Edward just grunted, Mr. Banner said, “The day will start promptly at nine a.m., so you should be set up in front of the computer by ten till.” He looked at his watch. “I’ve got to run. I have a few more hours’ prep-time tonight before I get some sleep.”
We said our goodbyes, and then the D.A. and his two escorts went one way while we went the other with Tim and Santiago.
It was a quiet walk back up to the apartment, all of us tired and more than a little curious about what the next day would bring.
Edward POV
Breathing steadily, my feet pounded on the treadmill downstairs in the gym of the apartment building. I’d barely gotten any sleep, practically driven everyone crazy, and almost smoked a half a pack of cigarettes the night before. My worry for Rose was making me insane – and unbearable. Not a single one of them judged me on it; they merely coddled me. The girls tried to tell me that babies were born every day, that labor sometimes took days, and that if something had gone wrong, we’d have already heard about it.
I’d argued petulantly that babies weren’t born in my family every day. They’d simply chuckled, kissed my head, and handed me another slice of pizza. What I’d wanted was a damn drink. A strong one.
Finally, this morning, they’d had enough of my pacing and snapping, not only over my sister but over the upcoming part of the trial, too. The stress was almost overwhelming. So Jasper had arranged for me to run off my excess energy.
The machine transitioned into a higher pitch, my thighs burning with the way I was pushing myself, but I needed it. I needed the focus that running always gave me. After a few minutes, the treadmill leveled back out and then slowed into a cool-down pace. I glanced around the gym, shaking my head at the fact that even this place was high-end, decadent, and catered to the spoiled residents of the building.
I wasn’t alone. There was an older woman on a stationary bike, keeping a slow but steady pace, a man about my age doing reps with the weights off in the corner, and the cougar on the next treadmill over that had eye-fucked me to death from the second I’d stepped into the gym – even more when I’d stripped my shirt off and started stretching for my run. She was bottle-blonde and enhanced surgically in just about every way imaginable, but it wasn’t as frightening as some I’d seen. Whoever her plastic surgeon was probably made a pretty penny. My breathing calmed and I grabbed a towel, wiping the sweat from my face as I hid my eye roll. The cougar continued to watch me, shooting a wink my way. She seemed like she wore the title of MILF with fucking pride, despite the gigantic rock on her left hand.
I gave her a smile, thinking there had been a time in my life that I would’ve eaten that shit up simply for the attention, but not here. And not when I had Bella upstairs.
I pulled my T-shirt back on, tossed my towel over my shoulder, and grabbed the cell phone that hadn’t been two feet away from me for the last twelve hours to head back up to the apartment. No calls. Not even a text.
The apartment was quiet when I walked in, so I headed straight for the fridge to grab a water. When I stepped into the living room, I saw Bella quietly reading on her Kindle, and she smiled at the sight of me. She was in my USMS shirt, some soft blue plaid pajama bottoms, and her hair was in some messy, twisted knot.
“Come here,” she said.
“I need a shower, beautiful,” I sighed, but I did as she asked.
“Don’t care. Get over here.” She opened her arms for me, and I practically fell into them, grinning when she grunted under my weight. She dropped a kiss to my forehead as I rested my ear over her heart. “Everything will be okay, Edward.”
“I’m sorry I’ve been an asshole,” I muttered into her neck, unable not to kiss her, nuzzle her. Fuck, she always smelled so damn good – like flowers and something that calmed me completely.
She giggled, shaking us both, and the sound echoed through her chest. It wrapped around me like her arms and legs were and made me smile.
“You’re not an asshole, baby. You’re a guy worried about his sister. That’s perfectly okay because you’re so far from them.” Her voice was calm, and her fingers ran through my hair, despite the fact that it was all sweaty.
“That’s probably a good fucking thing. I’d have been kicked out of the hospital by now,” I snorted, grinning when she laughed softly, but I braced my hands on either side of her head to stare down at her.
“Or you’d have driven the nurses crazy,” she teased, cupping my face when I rolled my eyes. “How was your run?”
“Brutal,” I groaned, pressing a kiss to her lips before sitting up completely.
I opened my mouth to beg her to join me in the shower, but the cell phone chirped in my pocket, causing both of us to flinch. I fumbled with it, staring down at a text message that said, “Skype. Fifteen minutes. Screen-name: UncleAl#1.”
I shook my head at the pompous screen-name that only Al would’ve thought to create, but shot Bella a panicked look.
She smiled, standing up and tugging me up with her. “Relax. In fact, fifteen minutes gives you time to shower. Go!” She smacked my ass, which made me raise an eyebrow at her. “Pervert... Go!” She snorted, shaking her head.
I hadn’t showered that fast since I was running late for class in high school. By the time I was clean and dressed in jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt, Jasper had set up the computer at the dining room table. He glanced up at me with a crooked grin.
“You ready, Uncle Edward?” he asked teasingly, causing the girls to coo softly from their hidden spots at the kitchen counter.
Smiling and swallowing nervously, I nodded and fell down in front of the computer next to him. He’d already pulled up Skype, entered Al’s screen-name, and was about to hit connect. The laptop screen filled with Uncle Al’s face, grinning like a fool.
“Do you miss me?” he asked, which caused Jasper to chuckle.
“Al, I swear to God... One day, I’m punching the shit out of you,” I warned him, but he merely laughed.
“You do miss me, you old cranky thing,” he sang. “Okay, okay... Here. There’s someone you need to meet.” He shifted the computer around so that I was face to face with my sister.
“There’s your Uncle Edward...oh, and Uncle Jasper, too,” Rose whispered, looking wrecked and exhausted and so very happy. But it was the sleepy little bundle of pink she was kissing in her arms that made my breathing stop. “ Emma Rose McCarty.”
“A girl,” I whispered in awe, grinning when Rose chuckled.
“She’s beautiful, Rosie,” Jasper drawled, shaking his head.
Rose sighed and nodded. “She’s gorgeous, but she’s a fighter. I didn’t think she’d ever come out!” she growled softly but pressed more kisses to the baby’s head. She paused and seemed to take in the whole screen. “I’ve missed you guys. You’re being careful? You’re okay?”
Jasper and I both nodded, but I could barely take my eyes off the now widely yawning baby...Emma. She was tiny and wrinkled and red, but she was almost my sister made over because her hair was a fine tuft of blonde curls just a shade darker than Rose’s. Her yawn, though, showed off a matching set of her dad’s dimples. She was an amazing blend of her parents.
“Yeah, we’re fine. It’s been...crazy,” I told her, shrugging a bit, “but we’re hoping to be home soon.” I looked over the top of the computer to see Bella watching me with a small, sweet smile. I turned back to my sister. “I’m sorry we weren’t there,” I said, smiling when her brow furrowed a bit.
She laughed softly, shaking her head. “It’s fine... You probably would’ve been booted from the hospital, Edward. I know you.”
I laughed. “That’s what I said!”
“How’s Emmett dealing with daddy-hood?” Jasper asked with a laugh.
Rose glanced off the camera, and Emmett’s large form appeared in the screen as he tried to squeeze in next to my sister on that tiny hospital bed. He grinned like the proud papa he was.
“My girls are beautiful, right?” he asked with a booming voice. We all laughed when Rose elbowed him as best she could while holding Emma. “Oops, my bad,” he whispered dramatically, turning back to us. “It’s boring as shit without you guys around. You kickin’ ass and takin’ names, or what?”
“You know I can’t tell you anything, Em,” I warned him. “We’re hoping it’s over soon. That’s all I can say. Though, I have a feeling Uncle Al’s been keeping you posted.”
“Just that you’re safe. That’s all he can tell us,” Rose countered. “But that’s good enough, I guess.” She looked down at a squirming Emma and then back to me. “You owe me, brother! I told you it was a girl!”
Grinning, I shrugged. “Aw, hell, Rose... I was just teasing. You know I didn’t care.”
“ soon as you’re back, you’re totally taking babysitting duty as payment for losing,” she told me.
I felt the color drain from my face as I gripped my damp hair, and everyone – including Bella and Alice – burst into laughter.
“Seriously? I’ll break her or something! She’s too small!” I argued, probably sounding like I had as a kid. “I won’t know what I’m doing.”
“If you can hunt down criminals, you can learn to change a diaper,” Emmett said with a sheepish expression. “At least, that’s what your mom told me,” he muttered, looking like he’d heard that more than once.
Jasper and I cracked up, but I looked to Rose again.
“How are Mom and Dad?” I asked her.
Rose smiled. “They’re going crazy that their baby boy has been gone so long. It takes all Al has for them to not hunt you down. And you’d better stay on this computer until they get here.”
“They should be here,” Emmett said, kissing the top of Rose’s and then Emma’s head before getting up. “Rose and Emma are getting released today, so they’re helping get us all settled. I’ll go look.”
He left the screen, but I couldn’t help but ask Rose, “So soon? So you’re okay? Emma’s okay?”
“I feel rode hard and put away wet, but we’re both fine,” she cooed, looking down at the squirming bundle. “We’ll be glad to get home, won’t we, Emma?” she sang softly.
The hard-nosed, hormone-riddled woman I’d left was gone, and in her place was the mother she’d always wanted to be. It made me smile. I was happy for her. When she and Emmett had first started dating, talk of having kids was almost immediate. Little Emma was their dream come true.
“I wanna see her up close, Rosie,” I said, smiling when my sister reached out and pulled the computer closer, making me assume that Al must have set it on the bed tray. Baby Emma loomed closer, all red and squirming and grumbling. “She’s so pink... Is that normal?”
“Yes, you dork,” my sister answered with a laugh. “She’s been scrubbed and her skin is sensitive!”
Jasper snorted and shook his head slowly, giving Bella and Alice, who were in silent hysterics, an amused grin.
“Well, she looks like a ladybug, she’s so red and small...” I argued, forgetting who was listening and focusing on the constant light bickering that Rose and I had always done. It felt comfortable, and I’d missed the hell out of it. “Hey...Ladybug,” I called softly to my brand new niece. “You take care of your mom till I get home, yeah? Then I’ll teach you exactly what drives her crazy. We’ll start with her closet first... Shoes should not be in alphabetical order!”
“Edward Cullen!” Rose snapped.
“What?!” I chuckled, shrugging my shoulders.
Emmett appeared back in front of the screen, only to push the tray farther back. My heart hurt at the sight of my parents stepping into the frame. Homesickness flooded me. I missed Sunday lunches, my mother fawning over me, and both of them giving me shit about my smoking and my ink and my lifestyle. My eyes drifted over to Bella and then back to my parents. I wanted so badly to introduce her, and it was killing me that I couldn’t. My dad looked proud and happy and curious. My mother, on the other hand, was a teary mess.
“Oh, Mom, don’t cry,” I groaned, rubbing my face and then gripping my hair. “I fucking hate it when you cry!”
“I know, I’m sorry,” she sniffled, but she was smiling at the same time. “It’s happy tears, sweetheart. We miss you. You’re safe?”
“I’m fine. I promise.”
Jasper gave my shoulder a squeeze, looking at the screen. “I’m glad everyone’s doing well. Congrats, Em...Rose. She’s a beauty. I’ll let you have Edward, okay?” he asked before standing up, and everyone on the other end told him goodbye and that they were glad they got to see him.
I leaned on my elbows, taking in my family that was one more stronger.
“Son, it’s good to see you. You look good,” my dad said. “I’ve been stopping by your house for you...just to check on things,” he stated firmly with a nod.
My eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Thanks, Dad.”
“Mmhmm,” he hummed, glancing at Emma. “You were was a girl,” he taunted, giving me a wink.
“I see that. We need shotguns,” I snorted, shaking my head.
“No shit, bro!” Emmett growled. “I’ve already ordered them. Should be in soon.”
I chuckled, reaching over on the keyboard to take a screenshot of my family. I didn’t give a fuck if I was allowed or not. I needed it, and I wanted to show off my new Ladybug to Bella.
“There’s something...different about you,” Mom mused aloud, her eyes narrowing. “You’re eating okay? Getting enough sleep?” she asked.
It took all I had to ignore poor Bella’s choking in the background, but I smirked at my mother, thinking that occasionally I did more than sleep. “I’m eating and sleeping. Stop worrying, Mom.”
I frowned when Al popped into the frame because I knew what that shit meant.
“I’m sorry, Ed... But I know there’s something you need to get ready for,” he said cryptically.
I groaned, glancing up at the clock. “Fuck... Yeah. Is there anything you don’t know, you meddling old fart?” I asked him, grinning and folding my arms across my chest as my family laughed.
“I know more than I should...and more than I want to,” he sang with a fucking cheesy-ass grin. “You’d do well to remember that.”
My eyes flickered to Bella but then back to the screen. I nodded, smirking at my uncle. “That’s true. You do. But thanks for this,” I told him sincerely.
“You’re welcome, kid. I’ll see you ’round,” he said with a grin and a wink, reminding me that he’d meet us back in Forks before we finally went home.
“Bye, son. Come home soon, okay?” Dad requested, squeezing my mom’s hand.
“We love you. Stay safe,” Mom whispered, her tears starting again.
“Love you,” I murmured, and then I looked at my sister’s little family. “Way to go, guys. The Ladybug is... You did really good.” Once they all waved, blew kisses, and said goodbye, I ended the video chat. Looking up at the girls, I waved them over. “All clear. Come here.”
The girls walked over, and Alice took Jasper’s vacated seat with him behind her while I pulled Bella to my lap. “Meet my new niece,” I said, zooming in on Emma’s chubby face.
“Oh my goodness!” Alice squealed. “She’s so cute!”
“Oh, she’s beautiful, Edward... Or should I say, Uncle Edward?” Bella asked, turning to grin at me.
“Damn...she’s already got him...hook, line, and sinker,” Jasper taunted with a laugh. “Look at that shit.”
Bella giggled, grabbing either side of my face as I tried to give Jasper a go-to-hell glare. “You’re gonna spoil her rotten, aren’t you?”
I smiled and shrugged. “All I can. It’s revenge for all the torture her mother put me through,” I told her, kissing her lips.
Jasper sat down, grabbed the packet that Banner had given us, and started to type.
I looked to Bella, whispering, “I’m sorry you had to hide.”
“I’m not,” she countered with a shake of her head. “It’s what has to happen for now. When we get to Seattle and you still want me to meet them...then I will.”
Something in her voice sounded unsure about that, and I realized we were both worried about the future, but before I could argue, Jasper piped up, turning the computer around.
“Here we go,” he murmured, glancing up at the clock. “Logged on early...just like Banner asked.”
The computer screen was divided into four different shots of the courtroom I’d stood in while Bella testified. It was a jumble of activity since court wasn’t in session yet. The audio merely sounded like murmurs and static as people took their seats, the prosecution set out all their things, and the court employees settled themselves behind computers and steno machines.
I made to shift Bella to the empty chair next to me, but she gripped my hand. Glancing up at her face, I saw worry and fear. Despite the fact that Banner had seemed...hopeful, for a lack of a better term, when he’d given us the instructions, the girls were still damned nervous.
“Okay,” I simply whispered against her cheek, pulling her back to my chest and setting my chin on her shoulder. “Relax, Bella,” I soothed in her ear, feeling her entire body slowly settle back into mine.
It was pretty boring shit for the next ten minutes or so, except for the brief moment of hatred that ran through me as Volturi, Felix, and the defense team walked into the courtroom. Caius, who had looked like he owned the fucking world when I’d seen him in person, now looked solemn and angry. Though, he still seemed to carry an untouchable air about him, which made me fucking sick. It was like he knew he could still run the family from behind bars...or that he still had a chance of going free. And it was that last thought that scared me.
I rubbed the top of Bella’s thigh slowly, soothingly as we waited for Judge Afton to make his way to the bench and put on his glasses. He tapped the gavel, calling the court to order and for the jury to be let in.
“I still don’t know why Banner wants us to watch the OCCB guy testify,” Jasper muttered, but he shut up when Alice shushed at him.
“Mr. Banner, you may call your first witness of the day,” the judge ordered, gesturing toward the prosecution table.
Banner stood, legal notepad in hand, and said, “The prosecution calls to the stand...Felix Guardiano...”
“Oh hell,” Jasper and I said at the same time.
We looked to each other, knowing sure as shit that Banner had finally made a deal with Felix. This was huge – and took some serious fucking balls.
The courtroom erupted into a din of noise, causing the judge to rap hard on his bench with his gavel. “Order! Order!”
“You traitorous bastard!” Caius exploded, standing up despite the lawyers that were tugging on him.
Felix barely reacted as he strolled to the witness box, taking a seat. His eyes were on Banner, and Banner only. I had to give him credit... He was cool as a cucumber.
“Goldman...control your client, or I’ll be forced to charge him with contempt!” Afton snapped, banging the gavel three more times. “Mr. Volturi, sit down or I’ll have you removed from this courtroom.”
Caius sat down, and if I thought the look he’d shot Bella while she was on the stand was evil, it was fucking nothing compared to the one that he was giving Felix – someone he’d thought was his right-hand man. If Felix cut a deal with the D.A., then he was about to sign his death warrant...or be shipped off to another state to become someone else completely.
It took a few more raps of the judge’s gavel and some shuffling before the courtroom settled down. Once Felix was sworn in, Banner looked like the cat that ate the canary as he shifted to the side of the podium, inching as close as he could without actually approaching the witness stand.
“Mr. Guardiano, would you explain to the court who you work for,” he said, setting the notepad down in front of Felix.
“Caius Volturi,” Felix answered in a gruff voice. “Technically, I work for Volturi Construction.”
“And the night of Eleazar Denali’s murder, where did you tell police that you were?” Banner asked, pacing slowly back and forth.
“I told them that Caius and I were at a job site in Brooklyn.”
“And is that true?”
A few more grumbles echoed around the courtroom, and the judge let it slide.
“No, you weren’t,” Banner agreed. “Would you tell us where you really were that night?”
“I was with Denali and Associates,” he stated.
“You petulant piece of shit! You’re dead, Felix!” Caius erupted, causing a whole new round of tapping from the judge – hell, he was hitting the desktop so hard, I thought he’d break the fucking gavel. “Just you wait!” he threatened, falling back down into his chair when Goldman forced him hard. “After all I’ve done for you...” he sneered.
“I’m not doing life for you, motherfucker,” Felix finally cracked, pointing a finger to Caius, though Banner stepped in front of him. “I said to hire it out, but you didn’t listen. You just had to do it anyway. The asshole had been skimming for years!”
Goldman objected, Banner calmed Felix down, and Judge Afton called the court to order over and over. It was fucking chaos, but it was the best news yet. A lull took over the court as the two lawyers were called to the bench a sidebar.
“Well, wait... I mean... What’s that mean?” Bella asked, turning sideways in my lap. “And why are you smiling?”
I chuckled, cupping her face. “It means Felix cut a deal. It means there is now a whole lot less fucking pressure on you two now.”
Jasper nodded enthusiastically. “Abso-fucking-lutely. Now...they’ll hunt for Felix before they hunt for anyone. And if Caius’s brother, Marcus, takes over the family and seeks revenge, they’ll go for the traitor first. Felix just set himself in front of you two as a shield.”
“So...” Alice started, looking around at all of us. “So Felix is in Witness Security now, too?”
“Looks that way,” I said with a nod. “They probably used him for more than just this charge. They’re most likely using him to stack a bunch of shit against Volturi.”
“And in return, he’ll do less time under a new identity in another state. It’s happened before,” Jasper concluded. “That took big balls.”
“No shit,” I agreed, looking up at Bella. “You’re still a target...but you’re now much, much lower on the list. The likelihood of them using men and resources to find you is almost nonexistent.”
“Especially since you’re moving across the damn country,” Jasper added. “They’ll have no idea where to even start...but with Felix, they’ll start with the prison system.”
“Really?” Bella whispered, her eyes sweet and warm and only on me. When I nodded, she practically collapsed with relief. “So this was a good thing?”
I grinned, kissing her lips softly. “Oh, yeah, baby... A really good thing.”
We all turned back to the computer when court picked back up, but Felix had been dismissed and led out of the courtroom.
I could’ve fucking sworn on a stack of bibles that Banner shot a quick glance up to the camera before saying, “The prosecution...rests.”


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