Sunday, July 28, 2013 | By: Drotuno

In Pursuit Chapter 22

Chapter 22
Bella POV
I stood at the window in the living room, looking out at the city – or as much of it as I could see. This place didn’t feel like home anymore, which both frightened and calmed me. It had never truly been home, but it had been comfortable. Now, it just felt foreign, like someplace I didn’t belong.
“Gonna miss it?” Edward’s low voice asked softly in my ear as he stepped up behind me, sliding his arms around my waist.
Leaning my head back, I rested it against his shoulder so I could still look out. “In some way, I suppose,” I said, being totally honest. “I’ll miss the mix of cultures – it truly is one big melting pot here. Feel like Thai food at three in the morning? There’s likely a place available for delivery. Wanna catch a show, either live or a movie in the theater? Yeah, you can totally do that.” I shrugged. “But there are so many people. It’s hard to have an identity here, to feel like you’re...I dunno, part of something, I guess. It’ll be nice to be somewhere I can have a car again and actually drive it.”

I turned, chuckling as I wrapped my arms around his neck. “Alice and I tried for a while at the beginning – to keep one, I mean. But for as little as we got to drive it, we were paying out the nose to keep it parked somewhere, idle. We finally sold it about a year after we moved here for school.”
Edward laughed, nodding. “Yeah, it’s definitely easier to get around here on the subway, but you’ll need a couple of cars in Seattle. I can help you pick it out. Jasper knows jack about cars, so I’ll help Alice, too, if she’d like.”
Smiling, I stretched up to kiss him. “Thanks. I’m sure we’ll take you up on that offer.” I paused, feeling the bulk of his Kevlar vest under his shirt. “I guess it’s about time to go, hmm?”
He nodded, motioning with his head behind him. “I brought your vest and other shirt out. Jasper’s helping Alice into hers, and the bags are already down in the SUV.”
I glanced at the clock. Just after seven in the morning. The trial had ended the day before, and we weren’t going to stick around for the sentencing, which could take up to a week. We had a long day of travel ahead of us, although we knew the routine well now. Al had worked it so Tim and Lt. Davies were our pilots from New York to Idaho, and from there, we were catching a helicopter back to Portland, where we’d pick up a car – although not the same one we’d been using before.
“All right, then,” I said with a sigh. “I suppose I’m ready.”
As soon as I was all strapped up and had the outer shirt on over the vest, I pulled my hair up and put the baseball cap on, tugging the ponytail through the hole in the back. Then I slid on the sunglasses Edward held out, glad this was one of the last times we’d have to be so cautious about what we wore when we went outside.
Tim’s now-familiar knock sounded – three quick taps followed by two longer ones – and Edward pressed me forward with a hand to my lower back as Jasper called the all-clear.
“Morning, ladies,” Tim said with a smile when we walked out of the apartment for the last time.
“Morning,” I replied, giving him a small smile as Alice echoed my greeting.
He was a sweet guy with a great sense of humor, and he was a huge flirt, but totally harmless. He loved to make Alice and me smile, which had been helpful over the last week, especially. We felt comfortable around him, and from what I could tell, Edward and Jasper felt comfortable having him as backup.
The guys made small talk as we rode the elevator down to the first level of the building. Tim went first, motioning to Jasper, who then followed him out. Edward shepherded Alice and me out ahead of him, and we all walked quickly but casually across the lobby to the side door leading into the garage. Several marshals gave us smiles as we passed, but I didn’t see Santiago anywhere, and I was a little bummed that we wouldn’t get to say goodbye to the man who had helped keep us safe while we were in New York.
When we stepped out into the garage, I couldn’t help but grin because the man I’d just been thinking about was standing beside the open back door of the SUV, waiting for us with a smile.
“I didn’t think we were going to see you again,” I said as I stepped up to the door behind Alice, who was being helped inside by Jasper.
“Aww, like I was going to let you leave without seeing you off,” Santiago scoffed, winking.
I liked the older man a lot. He was always ready with a gentle smile, and his eyes were kind and held what seemed to be a lot of wisdom, like he knew what we were going through.
I smiled once more before climbing in with Edward right behind me. Once the back door was closed, Tim climbed in the front passenger seat and Santiago in the driver’s seat, and we took off into the early morning sun.
~oOo~
When we finally parked the SUV on the tarmac at Mitchell Air Force Base, we all climbed out. Lt. Davies was there and gave us a warm smile as she helped Tim unload all our bags and carry them into the plane. Edward tried to hurry me in after them, but I put my hand out to stop him.
“Hold on,” I said. “Give me a sec.”
When I turned back and started moving to Santiago, Alice must’ve known what I was doing, because she turned and followed along with me.
Wrapping my arms around him, I hugged him for a moment and said, “Thank you for everything.”
He hugged me back gently and patted my shoulder after I let him go. “It was my pleasure. Keep that man over there on his toes, little one. I’ve heard enough about him from Al to know he needs it,” he teased with a wink at Edward, who grumbled playfully under his breath.
Laughing, I nodded. “I will,” I told him before stepping back to Edward and letting Alice say her goodbyes.
With one last wave, the guys moved us onto the plane and had us strap in so Tim and Lt. Davies could take off.
“Once we’re in the air, we can take these off, right?” I plucked at the vest under my T-shirt.
Edward nodded as he buckled his own seat belt. “Yeah, after the seat belt light goes off and we’re free to move around.”
“Do we have to put them back on before we land?”
He shook his head and smiled, taking my hand. “No, this’ll be the last time you have to wear it.”
“Thank God!” I said with a groan. I hated the damn thing. It was bulky, sweaty, and heavy, but it was there to protect me, so I hadn’t grumbled too much.
~oOo~
The four-hour plane ride from New York to Idaho went quickly. The guys talked sports for a while as Alice and I talked about what we wanted to do once we got settled in Seattle. She already knew she was going to do something with dance – she was sure she’d have to find some studio to work with, rather than opening her own, at least at first. I still wasn’t sure. I was hoping Al might have some ideas. I wanted to do accounting still because I really did love it – numbers just made sense; they were consistent and true – but I wasn’t sure what my options would be.
When the plane touched down at Mountain Home Air Force Base, it was with a heavy heart that Alice and I stepped up to Tim.
“You made our trips across country and the time in New York easier,” Alice said, squeezing him tight. “Thank you.”
Tim’s face was pink when she pulled away, allowing me to hug him, as well. “She’s right,” I agreed, giving him a smile. “Thank you for arranging the time off so you could be there for us.” When I stepped back, I asked, “Any idea what your plans are after you complete your service?”
He grinned. “I have some ideas...”
“So mysterious,” Alice said with a laugh.
Tim shrugged and then smiled as Jasper came up and shook his hand.
“Thanks, man,” he said before putting his hands on our shoulders. “Come on, ladies. Bags are in the helicopter, so time to load up.”
I looked back at Edward, who was now speaking quietly with Tim, and I settled in when I saw them shake hands and Edward start to make his way to us.
Just before the helicopter took off, Alice and I waved at Tim and Lt. Davies, and then the helicopter lifted into the air, another piece of my former life fading away with the image of the two military pilots on the ground below.
~oOo~
Seven hours later, I sighed as we passed the “Welcome to Forks” sign on the edge of town. I’d slept some on the plane and then again in the car, but neither had been altogether comfortable. I was ready to get out and stretch my legs for longer than a five-minute bathroom break.
“Everyone hungry?” Edward asked from his spot behind the steering wheel.
All three of us nodded, so he pulled into the diner parking lot.
“Wanna eat here or head to the house?”
Alice wrinkled her nose. “I vote the house...” From the way she was crossing her legs, I knew she had to use the bathroom, and going at the diner would not be her top choice.
“Me, too,” I agreed.
Jasper shrugged, so Edward said, “House, it is. I’ll go order, then. Orders?”
We spouted off what we wanted – everyone wanted a big greasy cheeseburger and fries, as well as a chocolate or strawberry milkshake – and then he stepped out and opened my door.
“Come with me?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Yeah, sure.”
As soon as he ordered, Edward led me to an empty table to the side, gently pushing me down to the seat and then sliding in beside me.
At my yawn, he smiled. “Tired?”
I shrugged unapologetically. “Little bit, yeah.”
“If you wanna skip on the movies the other two are planning, just say so, baby. I don’t mind.”
“I will. It’ll be fun, though,” I promised. “Just being able to sit and relax without worrying, I mean.”
“Yeah.” He grinned, pulling me in to kiss the top of my head.
“When do you think Al will get here?”
Edward shrugged. “Who the hell knows anything about that man? Half the time, I’m not even sure he knows.”
I giggled, enjoying the teasing banter that happened more often than not between the man beside me and his pseudo-uncle.
“Probably tomorrow sometime, if his ass isn’t already planted inside.”
We talked and laughed for another ten minutes until the waitress, who didn’t flirt or talk with Edward like she knew him at all, came over and set a paper sack filled with food and a cardboard drink holder down in front of us. Edward paid her, flashing his crooked smile in thanks, and then the two of us grabbed the dinner and left the restaurant.
The house was empty when we arrived, the security shutters in place and no other car in the drive or garage. We filed into the house, leaving the bags in place in the trunk of the car for the time being. Alice and I set out the food on the coffee table while Edward and Jasper checked the house and opened the shutters.
“I vote Iron Man,” I said a few minutes later when Edward held up two choices for our movie.
That got two more votes, so Edward put the disc into the player, grabbed the remote, and then came and sat down beside me, picking up his burger. He took a huge bite, moaning under his breath.
Leaning over, I whispered softly into his ear, “I swear that sounds almost like your sex moan.”
He choked and sputtered as I laughed, earning a raised eyebrow from Jasper and a knowing smirk from my sister.
I waved them away as I picked up the remote and pressed Play.
After Iron Man, we decided on Signs. I’d loved this movie from the first moment I saw it. The wife dying made me sob every time, and by the end, when the brother was told to “swing away,” I still felt as scared as I had the first time.
By the end, I was yawning almost constantly, the cool darkness of the living room exacerbating my fatigue.
Edward, who had been running his fingers through my hair, said, “That’s it. Stick a fork in us, we’re done.” He urged me to sit up with a hand under my head. “Good night, guys. Bella and I are going to bed.”
I nodded, waving through another yawn. “’Night,” I called over my shoulder as Edward guided me down the hallway to the first-floor bedroom.
Our bags, which the guys had brought in between movies, were sitting at the foot of the bed. I hauled mine up and opened it, beginning to riffle through it.
“What’cha looking for?” Edward asked, leaning against the door frame.
I was quiet for a minute as I kept searching, and then I pulled out Edward’s USMS T-shirt. “This,” I said, grinning. “I want a shower, and then I wanna climb into bed. Wanna join me?”
Edward grinned, reaching back over his head to pull off his T-shirt, and then began undoing the button and zipper of his jeans as he followed me.
I was ready to wash away the griminess of a full day of travel, and the master bathroom was the perfect place for that. The glass and tile shower enclosure was plenty big enough for two. One end included a rainfall shower head, while the other had a built-in bench seat. Above that on the side wall was another shower head – this one detachable with a hose.
By the time I climbed into the shower, Edward already had it warm and steamy. I stepped under the spray, letting the hot water rain down over me and feeling the last stress of the day melt away. Edward wrapped his arms around me, moving us a step out of the direct spray of the water, and I could feel his insistent erection rubbing between my cheeks, making me shiver. It was a delicious sensation, wet skin against wet skin, and suddenly, I wasn’t nearly as tired as I’d felt before.
Without stepping away from him, I reached out for the body wash, popped the cap, and poured it into his hand when he held it out. He lathered it up and began smoothing it over my body, starting at my stomach.
“Fuck,” I groaned softly when his hands slid up to cup my breasts, the soap making them slick as he pinched and pulled at my hardened nipples.
His breath was warm against my neck as he sucked and licked the drops of water beading on my skin. “I wanna make you feel so good, baby,” he said quietly, pinching my nipple a little harder, just how I liked it. “Can I do that?”
I nodded, whimpering as he sucked harder on the skin just behind my ear.
Guiding us back into the spray, he rinsed away the bubbles and then moved me up so I was at the bench. I turned and sat as he directed me, and then he dropped to his knees carefully on the tile floor, looking up at me through hooded eyes. I whimpered again as he slid his hands up my legs to my thighs, parting them even farther before reaching back and scooting me forward until I was on the edge of the seat.
Edward leaned in and dragged his nose up the crease between my leg and thigh.
“You always taste so good...right here,” he said, scraping his teeth across the skin there and making me squirm. “Hold still, baby,” he purred, pulling my legs over his shoulders.
“Edward!” I moaned when he suddenly licked me from the bottom of my slit to the top, his tongue circling around my clit but not touching.
Much like he did when he kissed my mouth, he sucked my lower lips into his mouth, nibbling gently. I couldn’t find purchase with my hands, the tile bench too slick to hold onto, so one hand found its way to his hair while the other braced myself on the wall.
I watched as he parted my lower lips with two fingers, holding me open to his gaze. He finally looked up, keeping his eyes on mine as he lowered his head again. I cried out as he slid his tongue languidly inside me once, then he swirled it around my entrance before diving back in again. I couldn’t keep my hips still, nearly bucking to meet his face as he pulled away. I wanted – needed – more, and I told him so.
“God, Edward...please!”
“Oh, baby, no begging,” he purred, kissing the inside of my thigh.
One finger on his free hand reached between us to trace around my clit, down my slit to circle my entrance, finally pressing inside slowly.
“Let me know if it’s uncomfortable,” he said before lowering his head and drawing my clit into his mouth.
I cried out, gripping his hair hard as sensations quickly overwhelmed me. I was so wet, his finger slid in and out easily, and he crooked it, easily finding my g-spot as he continued sucking my clit and teasing it with his tongue and teeth. With only a few more strokes, his name echoed on the shower walls as I shattered around him, banging my head back against the tile.
“Shit, baby, are you okay?” he asked when he finally pulled away and noticed me rubbing the back of my head and breathing hard, still shaking from the orgasm he’d given me.
Laughing, I nodded. “I’m fine, I promise. I didn’t even feel it until after.”
He still looked worried. “Bella—”
“Hush, Edward,” I said firmly, sitting up and wrapping my arms around him and drawing him so I could kiss his lips. I tasted myself on him, along with the spicy, masculine taste that was all Edward, and it sent my pulse racing again. “Take me to bed, baby.”
He must’ve seen the truth in my eyes, because his own darkened again and he leaned in, kissing me hard once more. “Your wish, my command, beautiful.”
~oooOOOooo~
Edward POV
Coming up out of the haze of sleep was like swimming through sand. I could smell my pillow, sense that the sun was just barely coming up, and feel the light touches on my back, but still, it was hard to open my eyes. I was too comfortable. The bed was warm, with sweet, smooth legs tangled around mine. I’d forgotten how relaxing being at my home in Forks felt.
I fought my smile, stayed perfectly still, and let the touching continue. Bella was tracing the ink on my back – around the knot and along each tribal line. It wasn’t the first time she’d done it, but it seemed to be happening more and more often. And I wondered if it was the design that attracted the attention, or if there was more to it.
“You know, that tickles,” I mumbled into my pillow, shifting back against her.
Her giggle was soft and sexy, and it was then I felt her lips press to the center of my back, her breath pushing out against my skin as her hand traveled down my ribs and around my waist. I covered her hand with my own, linking our fingers together over my stomach.
“If this tickles, Edward, then how on earth did you survive a needle?” she asked in a whisper, adding tongue into the mix, which made me moan low.
I grinned and shrugged a shoulder. “It didn’t tickle then. It hurt like fucking hell,” I told her. “Especially the part closest to my spine.”
“Here?” she asked, pressing more kisses between my shoulder blades.
“Yeah.” I closed my eyes, lost to the sensation of her touch.
Her hand flattened under mine, and she started to skim over my abs, up my chest, only to ghost down to the edge of my boxer briefs, toying with the trail of hair just above it.
“Bella...”
I felt her smile against the skin of my back, and then her tongue trailed up the tribal lines that came almost to a point at the base of my neck. When she switched down to the bottom line and followed it all the way out to the curve of my shoulder, I finally turned to look up at her looming over me.
“Hmm?” she hummed against my shoulder. Her eyes were dark, wanting, lethal.
Rolling onto my back, I pulled her on top of me and skimmed my hands over bare thighs, over cotton underwear, and underneath my USMS T-shirt in order to tease her lower spine. She curled up on my chest like a lazy cat, resting her chin on her arms and straddling my stomach.
“Fuck, you’re beautiful,” I sighed, shaking my head a little at how much she owned me now versus when we’d first met. I’d thought she was beautiful then, but now... Now, I couldn’t get enough of her. “Why are you up so early?” I asked, running my fingers through her hair.
She smiled, shrugging a shoulder. “I slept on the plane and then a little in the car. Do you regret any of these?” she asked, pulling my arm up to inspect the angel on my forearm. “She’s beautiful. I’ve never really looked at her face before.” Her voice was soft, sweet.
“No.” My answer was simple. I liked my ink because it represented things in my life – mile-markers – I had no control over, but I could control my tattoos.
She bit the inside of her cheek like she was afraid to speak, but finally blurted out, “Even the one on your back?”
I studied her face, noting open curiosity. “Are you asking about the tatt or Maggie?” I countered, tilting my head at her.
“Either. Both, I guess,” she answered nervously. “I don’t mean...” She shook her head. “You don’t have to answer that, Edward. I was just curious.”
She started to shift off me, but I wrapped my arms completely around her, pinning her to me.
“Just wait,” I sighed, my brow furrowing. “The answer is still no. I don’t regret Maggie, just what she did to me. I used to wonder if anything we had was real, if she simply used me from the beginning, or if she cared even a little bit. There were good times, so part of me thinks she was being used too, by Randy.” I sniffed once, clearing my throat, but went on. “It was those unanswered questions – because she wouldn’t see me at all after it was all fucking over – that made me angry, which led to the ink, Bella.” I pulled her face to mine and kissed her to let her know I wasn’t upset that she’d asked about my past, especially such a sensitive subject. “I don’t regret the tattoo, either, though the meaning behind it seems to be changing,” I whispered, shocking myself with my own admission.
“What do you mean?”
Smiling at her, I trailed my fingers down her sweet face. “It’ll always mean life, death, and rebirth, but I’m thinking it’s a constant cycle now. Life will always be me, because it’s my life, but death was my birth father. When I came out of my relationship with Maggie, I was...scarred. The rebirth part was a way to keep people out, to remind myself to never let it happen again. I was reborn...”
“Jaded,” she finished for me.
“Yeah. That works.”
Bella reached up, ran her fingers through my hair gently, and said, “You’re not as jaded as what you try to push out there.”
Chuckling, I shrugged a shoulder. “I really was, Bella. You have no idea what I was like before you. You’ve only seen a touch of it in the beginning, but...” I shook my head at just how easily she’d sneaked past my guard, my walls, locking gazes with her. “I’ve been reborn again,” I whispered, hoping like hell she understood what I was trying to tell her.
We hadn’t talked about our future in Seattle, and we’d only just touched on the WitSec part of things. That would be an in-depth conversation with Uncle Al later. So this was skirting the edges of it. I loved her with an intensity I couldn’t control, but was it fair to blurt it out there when she hadn’t even started living her new life? And the possibility that I would eventually only be welcomed as her handler scared the shit out of me.
However, Bella wasn’t stupid. She smiled a bit, her dark eyes registering something behind their sharp, intelligent depths.
“And the death?”
“Someone had to die for me to meet you, yeah?” I countered, grimacing at how fucking cold that sounded, but Denali sounded like a prick, so I couldn’t exactly shed a tear over the asshole.
She snorted, rolling her eyes. “Edward...”
“What?” I defended with a dramatic gasp. “I’m pretty sure I’d have hated your old boss, B. No lie.”
She laughed, burying that shit into my chest. Our whole bodies shook with it.
“You’re probably right,” she finally admitted with a snicker, but her eyes were warm as they raked over my face. “Angela was right about you.”
My mouth fell open. “Spill, woman! What did she say?”
Bella smirked, rolling her eyes, but she continued to play with my hair. “That you were...tough. Alice and I asked what you and Jasper were like when we first heard you were coming. She spoke so highly of you, almost with a reverence. She told us you were tough, as loyal as the day is long, and that you could be trusted. She also said that underneath all of that, you had a marshmallowy center: sweet and gooey on the inside.”
Chuckling, I shook my head. “So that’s what she meant! Oh, I’m so getting her back.”
“No,” she chided with a giggle. “She was totally right!”
Growling, I rolled us over, grinding my always hard dick into her, and he snapped awake, eager and hungry for her. “Does that feel marshmallowy to you?”
She laughed, her head falling back, and I couldn’t resist the sweet skin of her exposed neck. I chuckled when my two-day stubble made her squirm and wriggle under me.
“No!” she protested in a squeak, but her arms and legs wrapped around me.
Trailing kisses up her neck and across her jaw, I finally just kissed her. I wasn’t sure I could stop at just kissing, either. Being back in Forks was comforting. It was where we’d first given in to the draw to each other. It was where Bella had finally felt at ease since witnessing the murder of her boss. And now that the trial was over, Volturi was convicted, and we were back here – if only temporarily – I was going to take as much of Bella as she’d let me before Seattle.
What started as fun and silly and teasing suddenly turned to gripping and groping and grinding. Heavy kisses with scraping teeth and invading tongues gave way to under-the-clothes touching. Bella’s hands slipped stealthily beneath my underwear, taking my ass into two strong hands as she pulled me against her harder. My own hand cupped her breast, squeezing it, and I reveled in the sound of my name when I toyed with her hardened nipple.
I was just about to yank her shirt off when the shrill sound of the cell phone rang on the nightstand. It vibrated, rang, vibrated, rang, and my head fell, defeated, to Bella’s shoulder. Blindly, I reached for the phone, not bothering to look at who it was.
“This better be fucking good,” I rumbled into the damn thing, covering Bella’s mouth with my hand when a giggle escaped her.
“You know, we really need to work on your people skills,” Al simply replied, sounding way too chipper this early in the goddamn morning. “There’s no need for this foul behavior.”
“Shut the fuck up, Al,” I half-teased. “What do you want?”
He merely laughed into the phone. “I’m on my way. Thought I’d give you a heads up, sunshine.”
“A heads up,” I mused, picking up my head to stare down at Bella, who was amused by this conversation. “Does this mean I need to feed your ass breakfast?”
“Absolutely. Toast, no butter, scrambled eggs, and bacon.”
I sighed, shaking my head. “Fine. Then you get to pick that shit up on your way in. We didn’t stop last night.”
“Loser,” he grumbled.
“Weird old man,” I countered. “Shut the hell up and drive. I’ll have coffee ready.”
“Deal!”
Bella giggled when I closed the phone and tossed it onto the nightstand. “He’s on his way?”
“Yeah,” I sighed sadly. “I’m not done with you.”
Grinning, she grabbed my face and kissed me. “Well, I certainly hope not, but I guess we’ll have to pick this up later.”
I nodded and let her up, grumbling about cockblocking and more sleep and rain checks.
~oOo~
“Hey, Uncle Al!” the girls chimed, and Jasper and I both groaned and rolled our eyes. The asshole ate that shit up.
“Ah, beautiful ladies,” he crooned back, grinning like a lottery winner when they kissed his cheeks.
Grabbing the bag of groceries from him, my eyes fell to Bella. “You really shouldn’t feed his ego. He can do it just fine all on his own.”
Bella simply shrugged and smiled, unloading the bags on the counter. She helped me with breakfast while Jasper and Al loaded up all the extra weapons and equipment he’d given us over the course of this detail. The rifles, the vests, and the radios were all loaded up into the trunk of his car. However, he let the video surveillance equipment stay hooked up out at my front gate, stating, “You never know.”
We sat at the dining table, giving Al my father’s old spot at the head. He kept the conversation light, telling story after story of his ex-wife, Jane. He found it funny now, but I remembered a time I thought he’d kill her over their daughter, Katie – an adorable little nine-year-old with more smarts than she knew what to do with most of the time. She was her father made over.
“She wants to know when Edward will take her out on his bike...again,” Al growled, rolling his eyes.
Grinning, I nodded. “Hell yes! You’re getting her for the summer?” I asked him, and he nodded. “Tell her whenever she’s ready. I still have her pink helmet.”
“I’ll never forgive you for that. I’m prematurely gray because of you,” he snapped, stabbing blindly at his scrambled eggs.
“It’s because of Jane. You can’t fool me, old man,” I countered, pointing my fork at him. “And it wasn’t like I took her on the turnpike. It was only around my neighborhood.”
“I know,” he snorted, turning to the girls. “My Katie watched Edward and Carlisle work on that bike for hours one day. We’d had a family barbecue, and she’d hung on their every word and move. Before I could stop him, Edward snatched her up, put her in front of him on that deathtrap, and took off through the neighborhood. She’s been hooked ever since. Edward’s her hero.”
Bella and Alice giggled, looking between Al and me. Jasper chuckled and nodded because he’d been there. He’d said that Al cursed my very existence, until he saw the smile on his baby girl’s face when we got back. I’d been careful, taken it slow, but she was always trapped in the middle of two fighting adults. In fact, she’d been listening to her dad argue with her mother on the phone when I’d pulled her up on that bike and took off.
I simply smiled Al’s way, and he flipped me off.
“How’s the baby?” Bella asked, still amused over the last topic, and my head shot up to see Al beaming.
“Absolutely gorgeous,” he answered, shaking his head with a small laugh. “And she’s already running her daddy and granddaddy ragged. I can’t wait to see how Mr. Crusty McCrankerson over here reacts to her. Put her on your bike, and Rose will personally sever your twigs and berries from your body.”
Laughing, my head fell back. “I have way too much fear of my sister to even attempt it.”
Once everyone had finished eating, Al turned to the girls. “Go get me the packet you received from the DOJ,” he told them, and Alice shot up from the table and up the stairs.
Jasper cleared the table and started the dishwasher as we separated Bella’s identity from Alice’s. As Jasper and Alice joined us back at the table, Al pulled out his own thick envelope from his briefcase by the front door.
He slapped it down, saying, “I want this table to be an open forum. Okay? I want you two to be perfectly clear on anything we’re about to discuss. So ask questions.”
“Okay,” Bella and Alice said softly at the same time.
It wasn’t easy, though Al tried to keep the conversation going as easily as possible. It was difficult to watch the two girls try to absorb all the changes they were about to face. He explained that their identities were complete all the way down to their credit history. He slid two plain, white envelopes their way, which contained not only checks in the amounts of their bank accounts down to the very penny, but the money from selling Alice’s dance studio. That last thing alone caused the usually hyper thing to well up with a few tears.
“Oh, Pix, I’m sorry.” Bella sighed, shaking her head, and she gripped my hand under the table when I placed it on her thigh. She turned to Al. “So I guess the next question is...jobs.”
Al smiled softly and nodded. “You can do whatever you like, as long as it’s not in the public eye. But neither of you had high-profile jobs. If you have problems finding something once you’re settled in, then we have a job placement program, Bella.” He leaned forward, setting his elbows on the table and giving them an intense gaze. “It’s so very, very important that the two of you memorize every single detail of your new lives – employment history, past, parents, travel...everything. You need to know it better than you knew your old lives. Okay?”
Bella’s brow furrowed, and she nodded, giving the pile of information on the table in front of her a fearful glance. “No, I get it. I mean...I’m not Marie anymore, so I have to become Bella Swan.”
We all noted the tone of her voice, but Al glanced up at me, grimacing a little. “From what I can tell, you’ve already become her, sweet one. Just keep that up, okay? You just have to add in a few spices.”
Both girls cracked a smile on that.
“Look, ladies, you’ll be able to live pretty normally once you settle in. You can buy things, get cell phones again, and pretty much be yourselves. It’s simply under a new name.”
“What about a place to live?” Alice piped up.
“Ah-ha!” Al said with a grin, pulling out another stack of papers. He slid them to the middle of the table. “I know you won’t know the city, and I know you kind of want to settle in quickly, so I took the opportunity to make a list of a few places that are available to rent immediately, and they’re furnished.”
Hands grabbed at the papers in the middle of the table, and one of them was my own. I wanted to know just where exactly he was putting them. They were printouts from online, giving details of how many bedrooms and bathrooms, and there were pictures of the interior and exterior. Finally, my eyes landed on the neighborhoods. The pages were traded back and forth over and over until I saw an address I recognized. I slid it closer to Bella, tapping the page.
“This is big and in a good area,” I suggested innocently, ignoring Jasper’s shit-eating grin across the table.
Al chuckled. “Girls, take those papers and go look online at them. You’ll see more pictures and stuff. If you pick one now, I can start the process with little to no fuss.”
“The laptop’s in the kitchen,” Jasper told them, and both girls got up from the table to go look. He turned to me. “And the fact that the house you like is right around the corner from Casa de Cullen...”
“Bite me, asshat,” I growled, flipping him off. “It’s close to you, too, you know.”
“Believe me, I know,” Jasper said with a laugh. “You’d better pray that’s the one they choose. Otherwise, they’ll be all the way across fucking town.”
I huffed, turning to my uncle, who couldn’t contain his chuckle. “What? You got something to say?”
Al grinned, holding his hands up in surrender. “No, sunshine. The business end of things will be done as soon as the girls give me the go ahead.” When I started to get up, he stopped me, glancing between me and Jasper. “Don’t. Don’t push them. Let them pick this on their own, boys. This is...important. A little bit of freedom that they’ll be able to get back. Got me?” His face was somber, not bending at all on this.
“Fine, Al,” Jasper conceded, and I could tell this was bugging him a bit, too. He slapped my shoulder with the back of his hand. “Come on, Ed. We’ll start laundry. It’s our turn.”
As we got up, Al’s phone rang out, filling the quiet house with the song “Maneater” by Hall and Oates. Jasper and I cracked the fuck up.
“Tell Aunt Jane I said hello,” I snorted, walking toward the stairs to grab the laundry basket from my bathroom.
“That cow is not your aunt!” he growled, standing up from the table and answering his phone. “Chambers!”
~oOo~
The first load was started by the time I walked into the kitchen for something to drink. The girls had moved the laptop out onto the back deck to enjoy the little bit of sunshine we were getting. Al was pacing in the backyard, the phone still up to his ear as he continued to argue with his ex. She was a shameless leech, but he rarely gave in, only when it had to do with Katie.
He finished his call with a defeated sigh. “Someone needs to stake that vamp through her still, cold heart.”
I snorted softly before taking a long drink from the bottle of water I’d snatched out of the fridge.
The girls chuckled at him but went back to the computer.
“Well, ladies, what’ll it be?” he asked them.
“This one,” Bella stated handing him one of the pages, and not for the first time did I wish I could read her mind. I wanted to know which house they’d picked. “We researched a few areas. We think this works close to everything we need.”
“Excellent choice,” he said, sitting with them at the table. “Who’s this?” he asked, pointing to the laptop screen.
“Our Gran,” Alice said softly. “Edward said we could look at these old pictures until we finally moved, so we figured we’d go through them one more time.”
Al nodded, glancing between the girls and the computer. “He’s right. You shouldn’t keep them.” His gaze was warm, the same expression he wore when talking to Rose. Reaching over, he popped out the storage card from the side of my laptop. “However,” he said with a whisper, picking up Bella’s hand and pressing the card in it, “I’m gonna give you a little advice, okay?” They both nodded vehemently before he went on. “When you move into your new place, I want you to set up a box...something secret, something hidden. It needs to be portable, easily accessed if you’re in a hurry. That way, if you have to move quickly, it can be grabbed. Bella, that gun of yours, this SD card, and your DOJ paperwork should all be in there.”
“But Edward said—” Bella started, and my uncle cut her off.
“He’s following the rules. I don’t always do that. Understand?” he explained with a snicker and wink. “You can’t show them to anyone you meet from this point on. Ever. But you can hold onto them.”
My chest hurt with the way that Alice and Bella looked to each other and then to my uncle, diving into his arms for a hug. He was breaking an extremely stiff rule for them, and probably because they’d become more than just a WitSec detail. He was doing it because he truly cared.
“Speaking of rule breaking,” he mused, rubbing his goatee. “Girls, I know where you stand with my boys, and I’ve talked to them already. I haven’t spoken to you. Do you understand how important it is that your relationships not go public immediately?” he asked, waiting until they nodded. “Good. This isn’t just to maintain your new identities, but to insure the safety of my boys. I can’t have your old selves traced to them through already existing relationships, like family or coworkers. You must ‘meet’ them in Seattle as Alice and Bella Swan. And considering the boys have been gone a few months, you’ll have to allow some time to pass before you can be introduced to anyone they know. Does that make sense?”
“Complete sense,” Alice agreed.
Bella simply nodded, gazing down longingly at the little card in her hand. “Would we be a threat to their friends and family?” she asked him. “To you?”
“Very little frightens me anymore, sweet one, so don’t you worry about me,” he soothed her, his brow furrowing a little as he cupped her chin. “I’m doing everything in my power to make this go as smoothly as possible. This isn’t the first time a handler and his witness have...crossed the professional line, and I’m damned certain it won’t be the last. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it isn’t advertised.”
“But if we’re seen, if someone recognizes us...” Bella started, sighing deeply, and Alice looked just as worried with that voiced concern.
“Bella, Alice, look at me,” he commanded gently. “We’ve moved you clear across the country, the heat is off you due to Felix turning on Volturi, and you’re in a completely different, yet enormous city. The likelihood of someone making you is slim. I’d be willing to bet my life on that,” he vowed.
He met my gaze through the window, smirking like the ass he was, only to lean into the girls to say something I couldn’t hear. Yeah, definitely gonna punch the shit out of him one day, I was pretty sure.
However, whatever he said calmed them both down, and they nodded and smiled, thanking him again.
“Which one did they pick?” Jasper asked in a whisper, suddenly appearing at my side.
“Not sure. He’s been talking to them about how to reveal us together, but later,” I told him, shrugging a shoulder.
“Oh.” Jasper frowned, but nodded. He was quiet for a second. “I wanna know.”
Grinning, I shook my head, leading him out onto the deck with everyone else.
“Ah, gentlemen,” Al greeted cheesily. “I was just telling the girls all about their new neighborhood.” He was a puffed-up prick as he held up the now-folded piece of paper. “Make sure to invite them to the block party.”
Bella snorted, turning to me with a raised eyebrow. “Wait, you live near that one?”
“Well...I...I was purely thinking safety, Bella,” I hedged.
Jasper nodded in agreement. “Absolutely. We’ll be close should something happen.”
Alice snorted, looking to Bella at the same time Uncle Al stood up.
“I’m outta here. I’ll contact you as soon as I’ve secured your place,” he told the girls before walking back into the house.
Alice and Jasper followed him, but Bella stood in front of me. “You want us that close? I mean...you’re sure, Edward? ’Cause if you’re not, tell me now.”
I huffed a laugh through my nose, thinking how I wasn’t sure I wanted them even that far away. “Yes. I want to be able to get to you if you need us, and maybe I’m...selfish.”
Bella bit her bottom lip, smiling a little. “Hmm,” she mused, eyeing me like I was in trouble, and I shifted nervously. “I believe I told you once that it was okay to be a little selfish, Edward. And that seemed to have worked out okay, right?”
I couldn’t stop the pompous grin that spread over my face if I tried, because the selfish moment she was referring to had resulted in the most fuck-awesome Fourth of July blow job on the damn planet.
“Yeah, it kinda did,” I murmured, still smiling.
“Mmhm,” she hummed, leaning up to kiss my cheek. “So, you’ll help a girl move?”
Chuckling, I wrapped an arm around her waist, lifted her up off the deck floor, and started to drag her inside. “Baby,” I whispered against her temple, “you didn’t even have to ask.”

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