Sunday, August 4, 2013 | By: Drotuno

In Pursuit Chapter 24 & Pics

Chapter 24
Bella POV
Thursday morning came entirely too quickly for me. I wasn’t ready to let Edward go – for a variety of reasons. We’d spent most of the time in each other’s arms, thoroughly breaking in my new bed. But now, the four of us were eating breakfast – Jasper’s Breakfast-in-a-Bowl – and talking about our plans for the next few days.
“You’re gonna see your family?” Alice asked Edward around a bite of eggs.
He nodded. “Probably not until Sunday when they get together for dinner as a group.”
“That’s great, Edward,” I said quietly. “I know they miss you – and you get meet the new baby. That has to be exciting.”
He agreed, squeezing my thigh gently as Alice continued to talk to Jasper about his plans.
I let their conversation flow around me as I thought about what little plans I had. Job search was of the highest priority. I’d done enough sitting around for the last few months. I missed working. And until I got a job, I had to rely on WitSec for money for everything – food, clothing, entertainment...personal items. That just didn’t sit well with me. It wasn’t how we’d been raised, to not pay our own way.

When I couldn’t eat another bite, nerves and anxiety about Edward leaving making my stomach roil, I pushed away my bowl and scooted away from the table. Grabbing my mug of tea, I said, “I’m gonna go sit out on the deck.” When Edward started to stand, I glanced at his still-half full bowl and shook my head. “Stay. Finish your breakfast.”
He nodded silently, sitting back on his chair as I made my way out the back door.
The morning sun was warm as I settled into the loveseat and set my cup on the patio table. It was a great view from our new deck. There were lots of trees out back, so there was some of the green I’d gotten so used to in Forks, and while the neighbors to the sides were close, there was enough space that I didn’t feel hemmed in.
A shadow fell over me just before Edward took a seat beside me. The wicker creaked as he leaned forward to put his cup of coffee down beside my tea on the table and then settled back, tucking me into his side with an arm around my shoulder.
“It’s pretty out here,” he said a few minutes later, breaking the silence that up until that point had only been upset by chirping birds and the occasional sound of a car in the neighborhood.
“Mmhmm,” I agreed. “I like the trees.”
“You didn’t eat much,” he stated, sounding mildly worried and curious.
I shrugged. “Just not very hungry, I guess.”
“It’s gonna be fine, baby,” he reminded me, squeezing my shoulder. “You worried about finding a job?”
Shrugging again, I said, “A little, yeah.”
Edward pressed a kiss to my temple. “You’ll find one, Bella. If you run into problems, Al can help you out, if nothing else. The man has connections every-damn-where, I swear it.”
“I know!” I chuckled. “I won’t ask how our new landlady knows him, but it’s no coincidence he included this house in the list he gave us, is it?”
Smirking, Edward shook his head. “Not in the least.”
In truth, I wasn’t sure how much of what Al, Edward, and Jasper had done and were continuing to do for us was normal witness protection protocol and how much was personal. I was a little afraid to ask, worried about how I’d handle the truth, what it might mean. What I did know was that neither Alice nor I would have gotten through the last couple of months without them – both physically and emotionally.
The thought of losing that now, that personal touch, the relationship, had me leaning back against Edward and taking a deep breath. The idea of him moving on, of forgetting about me now that he was home, was like a punch in the gut. And it was that fear that kept me from just blurting out that I’d fallen in love with him.
We were still sitting there quietly when Jasper opened the back door and poked his head out.
“Ready to get goin’, Ed? Bags are loaded.”
I bit my lip to keep the tears from coming as Edward shifted behind me.
“Yeah, man,” he said. “Give me a couple.”
“Sure. I’ll be inside.”
Once Jasper closed the door, Edward pulled me onto his lap, grunting as I narrowly missed his crotch with my foot.
“Sorry,” I said with a chuckle as I wrapped myself around him.
“Worth it,” he sang, rocking me against him.
“You’ll text me?” I asked after a moment of silence. “Call?”
He nodded vigorously. “Yeah, definitely. And you’ll text or call me if you need me or just want to talk, right?”
“Yeah,” I answered against his lips when he pulled me close.
His kiss was slow and sweet, neither of us rushing or deepening it, just savoring the moment.
“We’ll be back here tomorrow with your things from Al,” he finally said when we broke apart and stood. “But call if you need anything, Bella. Got me?”
“I know, Edward. I will,” I assured him.
He led us through the house to the front door, where Jasper had Alice in his arms. They were speaking in low voices and looked up when we stepped up to them.
“Ready?” Jasper asked, looking at Edward. When he nodded, Jasper said, “Ladies, we’ll see you tomorrow.”
Alice and I echoed our goodbyes, gripping each other’s hands as the guys walked out to the car, which Jasper had told us he was going to turn in after dropping Edward off at home. We waited in the doorway, waving as they backed out of the driveway and drove away from the house.
When they were finally out of sight, Alice turned to me and wrapped me in a hug. “It’s kind of scary,” she said. “Being alone for the first time in months, I mean. Isn’t it?”
I chuckled, pushing her hair back from her face. “A little, yeah. But we have each other, right?”
As we closed the front door behind us, I realized for the first time in years that I wasn’t sure that was enough.
~oOo~
About twenty minutes after Edward and Jasper left, my phone beeped, signaling a new text.
“You could have just told me whatever it is,” I said to my sister, laughing.
“Huh?” Alice looked away from the laptop screen, raising an eyebrow. “That’s not me.”
I scrambled to open the messages, realizing it must have been Edward that had texted me.
Try to stay out of trouble for the next thirty-six hours, beautiful. Okay?
My heart flip-flopped, and I realized I was relieved to have heard from him, that he was thinking of me. Laughing, I hit reply, unable to resist teasing him.
I can't promise that. But we can both get into trouble when you come back. ;) We should “test” my tub.
Edward’s reply was immediate and made my girly parts tingle.
Well, it IS my duty to make sure all things in your life run smoothly. Don't you dare try it without me!
I told myself the word “duty” was just part of his teasing and flirting, that he didn’t really mean that that part of our relationship – any part of our personal relationship – was actually part of the job. I knew him better than that, and I trusted him not to treat me like that. Putting my worries about the future aside, I got in one more tease that I knew would get a...rise out of him.
I wouldn't dare, Mr. Cullen.
With a grin, I exited out of the messages and went back to scrolling through the job ads in the browser on my phone.
Alice chuckled, and when I looked up, she was shaking her head at me.
“What?”
She grinned. “Nothing. By the way, while you were texting with Edward, I think I found the car I want.”
I scooted over so I could see the laptop screen. “This one?” I asked, pointing to the VW Beetle. “You want a Bug?”
“Sure, why not?” Shrugging, she continued, “It’s small, cute, there’s a lot more room inside than you’d think, it has great safety ratings, gets good gas mileage, and it’s a great price. See?”
Glancing at the price listed beside the car, I nodded. “Looks good, then.”
I smiled, ready to move back over, but then she shifted the laptop in my direction.
“Want to see what you can find for yourself?”
“I can’t get a car right now,” I told her, shaking my head.
Her eyebrows furrowed. “Why not?”
“I can’t afford it.” I tried hard not to let the “duh” sound in my tone of voice.
“Bella,” she huffed, rolling her eyes. “I got plenty from the sale of my studio. You know that.”
I wasn’t sure how to explain to her why I didn’t want to take her money. “Pix, I appreciate the offer. I really do. But I’m a grown woman. I need to do this for myself, ya know? I need to know I can take care of myself – and that includes buying my own car once I have a job and the money.”
She skewed her lips into a frown for a moment. “How will you pay for it? It’ll take a long time to save up enough money.”
Shrugging, I answered, “I’ll do it like everything other middle-class American and take out a loan. Once I have a job, I should be able to get one. I’m not gonna be buying a hundred thousand dollar car anyway.”
Alice was quiet for a minute, and then she reached over and took my hand. “Promise me that if you change your mind, you’ll let me know? And if you’re ready to get one, you come to me first. I’ll loan you the money if that’s what you want, and you can pay me back.”
I thought about saying no, my stubborn pride pushing its way to the front of my mind, but one look at her worried face and I couldn’t help but say, “Yeah, of course. Thank you for understanding.”
She smiled. “You’re my sister. I get it, sweetie.” She bumped my shoulder with hers. “Now, help me pick out a color.”
We were in the middle of picking out the color Alice wanted when a knock sounded on the door. Both of us froze for a moment.
“Bella? Alice? It’s Betty Grayson.”
With a sigh of relief, we both relaxed, and I jumped up from the couch and went to the door, unlocking it and pulling it open.
“Hi! Come in,” I gushed, moving out of the way so she could enter the house.
“Good morning, girls,” Mrs. Grayson said, smiling at Alice. “I saw the boys drive off earlier while I was out getting the paper.”
Alice nodded. “They had things to do. They’ll be back tomorrow, though. Did you need them?”
“Oh no, dear. I actually came to offer my services as a chauffeur. I noticed you don’t have a car, so if there’s anything you might need, I’d be more than happy to take you to get it.”
“That’s so sweet, Mrs. Grayson—”
“Now, Bella, I thought I told you girls to call me Betty.” She raised an eyebrow, her eyes twinkling with amusement.
“Betty,” I agreed, smiling. “I think we’re okay right now, but we’ll—”
“Actually,” Alice interrupted, “I do want to go buy a car I found online. If you really don’t mind, could you take us to the VW dealership up on 48th Street just off the interstate?”
“Yes, absolutely. That’s only a couple of miles from here, actually.” She nodded, clapping her hands once. “When would you like to go?”
Alice looked at me, and when I shrugged, she said, “One o’clock?”
“Perfect,” Betty agreed. “I’ll pick you up then.”
“Thank you, Betty,” Alice told her, smiling gratefully.
“It’s my pleasure, sweetheart.”
Alice held the door for her and then closed it behind her once Betty had started down the steps to the sidewalk.
Laughing, I said, “I guess I’ll go take a shower and get dressed. Maybe we can stop by the library after, too. I need something to read, and I think there’s a new Joanna Brady book that came out last month.”
“Cool. Find out where the library is, and we can stop by while we’re out,” Alice said. “I want to find a Best Buy or something and get a Blu-ray player and some movies. That DVD player—” she pointed to the older-model player under the flat-screen TV “—won’t cut it.”
I agreed before heading back to my bedroom and getting ready to jump in the shower.
I couldn’t resist one more text to Edward before I did, though, turning on the water to let it warm up before grabbing my phone.
I’m leaving the bathtub for us to test together, but I gotta take a shower, sorry. I’ll be thinking of you, though! ;)
Giggling, I set my phone down and then stepped under the spray.
~oOo~
“There’s nothing in the local paper or classified pages like craigslist,” I grumbled to Alice, who was playing around on her iPhone while I used the laptop. “Hopefully the job sites will have something.”
“Did you check Monster yet?”
“That’s my first stop,” I said, already keying in the url for it. “I need to write up a new resume, I guess. Can you grab the paperwork? I don’t have that stuff memorized yet,” I admitted.
Alice went to the fireplace and knelt down, pushing in the stones Betty had told us about yesterday when she came over to pick us up to go pick out Alice’s new car. Apparently, her husband had wanted someplace secret to hide things like important documents or whatever, and he had installed a hidden compartment in the fireplace facade that was accessed by pushing three stones in the correct order. It was the perfect place to hide the little key-locked safe that contained our WitSec papers, our dad’s gun, and the card containing our family photos.
“Here,” she said, handing me the envelope with the paperwork inside.
I smiled, taking them from her. “Thanks.”
“Hey, the guys’ll be over in a couple of hours. Any thoughts on dinner?”
Damn, I was going to be glad to see Edward. It had been just over twenty-seven hours since he and Jasper had left, but it felt like three or four times that long. I couldn’t believe how much I missed him.
Giving Alice’s question some thought, I said, “How about Thai? Edward said Rom Mai Thai delivers in this area and is good.”
Alice groaned. “Mmm. God, I could definitely go for some curry. I’ll text Jasper and see if that sounds okay to him. If neither of them feel like it, we can figure something else out later.”
I nodded. “Sounds good.”
With that plan set, I went back to having my nose buried in paperwork and job searches.
~oooOOOooo~
Edward POV
Jasper pulled the car over in front of my house – my house that I hadn’t seen in months. What had once seemed like my refuge, now just looked...empty. With a deep breath, I opened the car door and gazed up at the little blue house with white trim.
“Dude, you okay?” Jasper asked.
“I’m fine. Just not looking forward to all the fucking mail I have to sift through,” I lied, shrugging a shoulder and stepping out onto my driveway. I grabbed my duffel bag from the back seat, slamming the door.
What I wanted was for him to drive me right back to Bella. Leaving her had been almost painful, even though I knew I’d be back the next night to bring her the boxes that had shipped from New York. Al was holding them at the station. We knew it wasn’t much, just some clothes, music, and probably books – impersonal items that couldn’t be tracked to the girls. And after hearing her talk in her sleep, I wanted even more to stick around, make her say the words again in the light of day, but that wasn’t fair, especially when I couldn’t bring myself to man up.
“Well, call me if you need a ride. I know your car’s still at the station,” he stated through the open window.
I glanced over at my covered carport and chuckled. “I think I’ll be fine, Jazz. Looks like Dad’s been bored.” I pointed to my bike that had been in parts all over my carport when I’d left Seattle. It was now put back together and had obviously been ridden at some point, because it was facing out.
“Oh hell,” he said with a chuckle. “Esme’s gonna kick his ass if she finds out he rode that motherfucker.”
I laughed and patted the roof of the car. “Indeed. I hope to be there. I’ll call you tomorrow to meet me at the station.”
“Right-oh,” he sang and pulled away from the curb.
I walked up my drive, stopping in front of my Harley. Shaking my head slowly, I smirked and picked up the note that Dad had left on it.
Son,
You had a bad spark plug. I replaced it and changed the oil. She’s good to go. Come see us when you’re finally home. We’ve missed you.
Dad
P.S. Don’t tell your mother I rode this thing. She’ll have my head.
Laughing at him and to myself, I pulled out my keys. Gazing up at my front door, I sighed, bracing myself before walking in. Aside from the giant-ass pile of mail my dad had collected and stacked on my coffee table, there wasn’t a damn thing different in my house. It was eerily quiet, smelling of my leather sofa, the cologne I used, and a hint of tobacco.
I dropped my bag by the front door for later. I needed to do one thing first and foremost. On my kitchen counter, my phone sat turned off. I turned it on, waiting for it to load up every missed call, every voice mail, and every missed email. It was practically overflowing, but it was mainly my family. Coworkers would’ve known I’d gone off the grid.
Ignoring all the other bullshit, I found what I wanted – Bella’s pictures that she’d sent and her new number. I saved it all, sending her a quick text.
Try to stay out of trouble for the next thirty-six hours, beautiful. Okay?
I hit send and tucked my phone into my pocket as I walked about my house, making sure everything was fine. My parents had obviously cleaned out my fridge of all the spoiled food. Now it looked bare, with only bottles of water, a few beers, and some random condiments.
My phone chirped once, indicating a text.
I can’t promise that. But we can both get into trouble when you come back. ;) We should “test” my tub.
I groaned aloud, a sound that was shocking in the silence of my house, but I couldn’t help it. I’d never wanted anyone as much as Bella. No one had ever made me hard just sending a goddamn text. Just the mere thought of her made my dick stand up at attention, never mind the mention of a slippery bath. He was suddenly feeling rather dirty, which wasn’t shocking, really. He really was a dirty bastard, especially when it came to her.
Well, it IS my duty to make sure all things in your life run smoothly. Don’t you dare try it without me!
Chuckling, I walked into my bedroom and changed from my T-shirt into a black button down, rolling up the sleeves. I had a few errands to run, but the most important was registering the girls with the local police. Grabbing my leather jacket, I tugged it on and made my way back through the house, locking the door. Once I straddled my bike, my phone alerted one more time.
I wouldn’t dare, Mr. Cullen.
“She’s killing me,” I grumbled, shaking my head and putting on my helmet and sunglasses. “Absolutely fucking killing me.” I tucked my phone into the inside pocket of my jacket and started the engine.
The smile that spread across my face couldn’t be helped. She sounded so much better than she had when I left. I owed Dad, big time. Coasting down my driveway, I rumbled out of my neighborhood.
~oOo~
The Seattle Police Department was always an interesting visit. It was an influx of phones ringing, people yelling, uniformed officers scurrying around like busy bees. And the smell. I could never get past the smell of the place; I didn’t know how Emmett survived it. It smelled like sweat, old beer, cheap coffee, and feet. It was disgusting. Then again, Seattle was one of those cities with an enormous homeless problem – mainly teens and young adults.
“Well, well, well... Long time no see, Cullen,” I heard to my right, and I turned to see a gorgeous redhead eye-fucking me from head to toe.
“Sandra,” I greeted with a smirk, adjusting my baseball cap that was covering my helmet hair and taking off my sunglasses. “Emmett in?”
“Sure is. Go on back, handsome,” she purred, but jerked her chin toward the side hallway. “And come see me when you’re done. We’ll grab a beer.”
“No can do, Red. Sorry,” I said with a chuckle and a shake to my head. “I’ve got way too much shit to do.”
“Hmm, shame,” she hummed.
Grinning, I turned away from her. Sandra was a hell of a detective. She worked mainly undercover, trying to pull underage girls off the streets. It was a shit job. More than once, some handsy pimp had roughed her up, but she was tough as nails and just as pretty. Dressed just right, she looked no more than eighteen, even though she was pushing thirty. Sandra preferred her men...submissive in bed. But that shit wasn’t for me. We’d had fun once, but I’d avoided her ever since. The fucking bruises on my ass took weeks to fade.
That last thought sobered me up as I made my way to Emmett’s office. I was a fucking prick. My past was all around me, and poor Bella was going to see it eventually.
“Holy shit! Ed, you’re back!” Emmett boomed, drawing a shit-ton of attention from the cops around us, but I grinned, receiving his bear-hug with open arms. He slapped my back hard. “Man, I didn’t think you’d ever get back. Have you been by the house? Seen your folks?” he asked, shoving me into his office and closing the door.
“Mm, not yet,” I sighed, sitting down in the chair in front of his desk. “I’m here on official business. I need to see Liam.”
I picked up a picture frame off his desk. It was one of those electronic ones that flipped through several pictures. I had to smile at my brother-in-law; he was already a proud daddy. Emma looked adorable curled up on his chest in one picture, dressed in lace and frilly shit in another, and asleep in my sister’s arms in the last.
“God, she’s beautiful, Em,” I whispered. “I can’t wait to see her.”
“She’s loud – like all night loud,” he said with a laugh. “I haven’t slept a full night since we brought her home.”
Chuckling, I nodded. “Worth it?”
“Every lost minute of sleep,” he stated firmly with his big, boyish grin. “So, you comin’ by soon?”
“I hope. I still have some stuff I have to clean up,” I told him. “It’s WitSec, so I have to be there all the time,” I hedged, shrugging a shoulder like it was no big deal, but it was, and eventually, Emmett would put two and two together. “Is everyone gonna be at my parents’ Sunday?” I asked.
“Hells, yes. Why don’t we surprise them all?” he suggested, leaning on his desk in front of me and crossing one ankle over the other. “Be there for lunch, man. I won’t say a word.”
“I like that. Yeah, that works!”
That was actually the perfect amount of time. I could finish helping the girls get settled over the next few days, bring them their stuff, and spend time with Bella before stepping back into my family’s lives.
He clapped his hands together and then rubbed them. “Awesome! Now, let’s find you the chief.”
As we walked through his office, I shook my head. “What the hell? This place is crazy today.”
“Not just today. We’re working on a pretty big drug ring case. I hope to narrow it down soon. The shit’s comin’ in on boats, but it’s spreading all the way into the ’burbs, dude. And it’s potent shit. Kids are ODing left and right,” he explained. “They’re not cutting it right or somethin’.”
“Fuck.” I grimaced, thinking we all had tough jobs. Criminals would never stop, which meant cops like Emmett, like Sandra, like myself, would be fighting against it forever.
Emmett knocked lightly on the chief’s door, opening it when we heard someone say to come in. Liam Callahan looked up from his desk and smiled.
“McCarty,” he greeted, but looked to me. “Cullen! What brings you here?”
“I need to register two WitSec names with you,” I told him. “They’ve relocated here in Seattle. I need to make sure that if anything happens, if they come in contact with the police in any way, we’re notified ASAP.”
“Gotcha. Have a seat.” He gestured to the chair in front of his desk. “McCarty, shut the door on your way out.”
“No, he can stay. It’s fine.” I trusted Emmett with my life. He was a good man.
Emmett took the chair beside mine as I slid a piece of paper across Liam’s desk with the girls’ names and new drivers license numbers on them. He took it, typing on his computer.
Liam Callahan was a lean, pale older man. I’d dealt with him before on other cases. He was Irish – something we had in common – and he was only third generation born in the U.S. We always got along pretty well.
“WitSec, huh? You expect trouble from them?” he asked, holding up the slip of paper.
I laughed outright. “No,” I snorted. “None whatsoever. I’m sure you saw the trial coverage in New York...”
“Yeah, as chief, I have to...” He stopped and eyed me. “Damn.”
“Yeah.” I nodded, letting out a deep breath. “We don’t think those girls will have any more trouble. The...umm... Let’s see, how do I put this? The structure within that family fell apart during the trial, so those two aren’t exactly top of the wanted list with them.”
“Oh ho! They ratted each other out?” Emmett asked.
“Something like that.”
Liam continued to type, making sure the contacts were myself, Jasper, and Al. The system was set up so that if the girls got into legal trouble or the cops were called and their licenses pulled, they were to contact the U.S. Marshal Service immediately. Their file would be classified outside of the USMS, but it kept them safe. Technically, they were free to live their new lives, but it gave us the opportunity to know if they were in trouble. It also made the local police department aware that there could be someone looking for Alice and Bella.
“All done,” he said, spinning the computer screen around so that I could see the alert stamped on their files. “Pretty girls.”
“Sir. They are.” I sniffed nonchalantly, allowing myself one small glimpse of Bella’s beautiful face before standing up. Reaching across his desk, I shook his hand. “Always a pleasure, Chief.”
“Anytime, Cullen.”
Emmett led me back to his office and shut the door. My phone chirped with a text from inside my jacket, and I pulled it out to see Bella had sent me another message.
I’m leaving the bathtub for us to test together, but I gotta take a shower, sorry. I’ll be thinking of you, though! ;)
I smirked, chuckling at her teasing, but looked up to see Emmett glaring my way. “What?” I asked, tucking my phone away. I’d get her back later.
His eyes narrowed on me as he folded his massive arms across his chest. “I didn’t see it on the video chat, but I do now. Rosie said you were different. What’s going on, Ed?”
I grimaced, glaring down at the floor and trying to figure out what to tell him. I had to tell him something. The bastard would never let shit slide.
“Bro, talk to me. What happened?” he asked. “I swear to God, it won’t leave this room.”
I sighed, knowing he meant that shit. We shared the same type of job, and sometimes, stuff happened that only other cops would understand. But this... This was so touchy.
With a sniff, I locked gazes with him. “You can’t say any-fucking-thing, Emmett. But you’re gonna meet those girls eventually. You just can’t ever know where they came from. You have to accept what we tell you at face value.”
His brow furrowed, and he nodded. “What are you telling me? That you’re fucking one of them?”
My anger at the words he’d used flared high and hot. “No! I’m not just fucking one of them... I’m...she’s...fuck!” I growled, yanking off my cap and gripping my hair. “Dammit, Em. She’s important, okay?”
“Oh my God, Edward Cullen... You’ve gone and fallen for someone. Holy shit,” he guffawed, but he sobered quickly, eyeing my angry expression warily. “Is that allowed? And is it safe, Ed? You know, Rosie would kick your ass if she knew you were bringing the fucking mob here.”
“It must be kept quiet, and yeah, it’s as safe as I told Liam. Those girls aren’t really on the radar anymore. But you’re not stupid, Em. You’d have put it all together as soon as you met them.”
“Them? Two?”
I shook my head profusely. “Jasper.”
His laugh was loud, ending in a coughing fit. “Oh shit! Both of you? Two of the most eligible bachelors in Seattle are now—”
“Off the market,” I said with a smirk, but I gripped the front of his shirt. “Emmett, I mean it. They’re important, but no one can know. I trust you to know that their safety means not only my job, but...me.”
He smiled softly and nodded. “Okay. Got it, bro.” He slapped my shoulder. “I really gotta meet the chick that snagged you. She’s gotta be somethin’ else.”
Smiling proudly, I nodded. “She’s...everything.” As soon as the last word left my lips, I thought of Al. Bella had become my everything. Fuck, if that didn’t make my chest hurt.
“So, when?” he asked.
“When what?”
“When can I meet her?” he asked, speaking to me as if I was mentally handicapped.
“Not for a bit. We have to make it like we met here. Give me time, Em.”
“Fair enough,” he sighed, still smiling. “Then my lips are sealed. But you’re still comin’ Sunday?”
I put my baseball cap and sunglasses on, grinned his way, and said, “Don’t you dare tell ’em I’m comin’.”
Emmett laughed. “Excellent. Bring the beer!”
~oOo~
Glancing in the rearview mirror, I checked to make sure Jasper was still behind me. Both our cars were full of the girls’ stuff. He’d picked me up a little after lunch so I could grab my car at the station. Al wasn’t in, but he’d left word with Jessica that we would find several boxes with our names on them in his office. He’d also told her that he didn’t want to see our asses in that office for at least six weeks. We’d been granted time off, but I knew what he was doing. He’d really just given us the correct time frame for the girls. Six weeks was fucking perfect. It would show us back in town – just long enough to meet two really pretty girls that were new in town and start dating in our free time. Again, my desire to punch Al needed to be reassessed.
Jessica had been relentless, asking for us to come out with her and her friends for drinks. Apparently, in the time that we’d been gone, she broken up with the senator’s son – Tyler, Taylor, what-the-fuck-ever. He’d cheated on her, and she’d caught them. And while we’d offered to kick his ass for her, we’d graciously declined her invitation to have drinks, much to her disappointment.
I glanced behind me again for Jasper, and I could see he was keeping up just fine, but fuck, I couldn’t get to the girls’ house quickly enough. It had been a long damn twenty-eight and a half hours. The fact that I was counting made me feel like damn pussy, but despite having a shit-ton of things to do around my own house, waking up without being wrapped around Bella had sucked. Royally. My bed had felt empty and cold, and there was no sweet smell of flowers and fruit. I’d hated it. And I hated that I’d hated it, because that meant more than I was willing to acknowledge.
I’d kept myself busy in order not to text her or call her every damn second. I’d cleaned my house, started laundry, and gone through every piece of fucking mail that had collected on my coffee table, thanks to my dad. Luckily, all my bills were set up to pay automatically, and I hadn’t missed anything important. I’d even gone grocery shopping because I couldn’t stand an empty fridge.
Wheeling into the driveway, I pulled all the way to the back in front of the garage. I snorted into a laugh as I eyed the car now sitting inside. Opening my door and getting out, I looked to Jasper.
“Seriously?” I asked, pointing to the bright-ass yellow Beetle.
“Don’t!” he growled, shaking his head and rolling his eyes. “It’s what Alice wanted. She was in love with that damn thing instantly. I couldn’t stop her. She sent me a thousand pictures of it.”
“Lemme guess,” I chortled. “It was owned by an old lady who only drove it to church on Sundays.”
He punched my arm. “No, asshole. It’s brand fucking new.”
The back door into the garage opened, and I couldn’t help the smile that spread across my face as the two girls came barreling out to us.
“Moving company, at your service,” Jasper drawled with a deep bow, and I chuckled, wrapping my arms around Bella.
I buried my nose in her hair just to inhale the scent that I’d missed over the course of the day. “Where you want ’em, beautiful?” I asked her.
“Just stack them next to the car, baby,” she grumbled into my chest. “We’ll have to go through them together later. I’m sure there’s no order to them.”
“No, probably not.” I chuckled, kissed the top of her head, and popped the trunk of my car with the key-remote.
“Is this...your car?” she asked, eyeing my second favorite means of transportation.
Grinning, I nodded. “Yes, ma’am. You like?”
My Audi A7 was black from bumper to bumper, all the way down to the rims. Even the tint was too damn dark. Inside was black leather interior. It had been a gift to myself once I’d finished marshal training in Georgia. She was a fast, sexy bitch.
“Well, yeah,” she sputtered.
“Good,” I said, handing her the keys. “You can use it until you get something for yourself. I can’t...” I gestured toward the bright yellow Bug. “Just...no.”
I wasn’t having my girl in that bright-ass yellow car. It wasn’t happening. It didn’t fit. Oh, it fit Alice to a fucking tee, but not Bella.
“You leave my baby alone!” Alice yelled. “I love her.”
“I’m happy for you,” I said with a snort, but turned to Bella, who seemed stunned. “Baby? Take the keys. I’ll ride my bike.” When she started to argue – because I knew she would – I cupped her chin, forcing her gaze to mine. “You use this, don’t argue, and when you’re ready for your own, I’ll gladly take you. Got it?”
“Edward...”
“This isn’t a job thing, Bella. It’s me. I want you to use it. Please use it,” I urged in a whisper, trying to make her see that I wasn’t going anywhere. I knew that was her biggest concern.
Her brow furrowed, and she finally nodded, glancing at the car. “Okay.”
I sighed in relief. “Okay. So let’s unload these boxes.”
There were only about ten boxes in various sizes, and Jasper and I had them stacked neatly off to the side of the garage so the girls could go through them later. By the time we’d finished, the Thai delivery had arrived and we gathered in the dining room to eat.
The girls caught us up quickly about Betty coming over and offering to help them in any way. They also showed us where their locked box was, just in case there was an emergency. It was brilliantly hidden in the stones of the fireplace. Bella and Alice both complained about job hunting, but were aware that it would be slow going at first.
Jasper and I talked about the six weeks leave we’d been given. We told the girls that just before that six weeks was up, just before Jasper and I would return to duty, we should be clear to start bringing them around the people we knew and my family. In the meantime, we all needed to come up with a story, something we all agreed on about how we’d all “met.”
But more than all of that, I couldn’t wait to get Bella alone. My hand couldn’t stop touching her knee, her thigh, traveling in a loop up and down. When we were done, Alice begged Jasper to go for a drive in her new car, so they took off.
Bella and I were quiet as she put away the dried dishes.
She snatched my car keys up from the counter, shaking them. “You didn’t have to do this. We’d have made do with one car, Edward. Who knows how long it’ll take for me to get to the point I can get a car of my own.”
“I don’t care,” I stated, shrugging a shoulder, but I followed her down the hallway into her room, my eyes barely straying from her as she set the keys down onto her dresser. “Maybe I want you to have something of mine when I’m not with you,” I muttered, shoving my hands into the front pockets of my jeans and standing in the middle of the room.
She smiled as she closed her door and locked it. “Just promise me that if you need it, you’ll just...come get it.”
Chuckling, I nodded. “Hand to God!” I raised a hand in the air.
“Fair enough,” she said with a giggle, and then suddenly, she said in a rush, “I missed you last night.”
Something about those words triggered something inside me. It was the way she’d said it, like she was taking the very thoughts out of my mind. In three long strides, I was standing in front of her, pressing her into the door.
“Tell me, Bella,” I panted, bracing my hands on either side of her head. “What’d you miss?”
“I missed you holding me,” she whispered, and instantly, my hands left the door and slipped down her shoulders, around her waist, and down to her ass. “Eep,” she squeaked when I picked her up.
“Mm, like this?” I asked, practically purring when those glorious legs wrapped around my waist and her fingers threaded into my hair.
“No, not exactly, but this is...just fine,” she sang with a little snicker to her voice.
I couldn’t keep my lips from her if I tried. We seemed to move at the same time, lips, tongue, and teeth colliding with moans in the middle. She gripped my hair, guiding my head how she wanted it, and I reveled in the feel of her sweet ass in my hands, grinding between her legs up against that door.
When I broke away, I left a long, slow kiss to the side of her neck.
“I missed waking up with you,” she admitted, nuzzling my jaw.
“Fuck, I know!” I growled into the soft skin just behind her ear. “And my shower sucked ass!”
Her laugh was the most glorious thing I’d heard in hours, and I grinned against her cheek.
“Well, then, you can fulfill that duty of yours. There’s this really awesome tub—Agh!” she screamed when I yanked her away from the door and marched her straight into the bathroom. She was still laughing when I set her down on the vanity and slammed the bathroom door.
~oOo~
I pulled into my parents’ driveway, killing the engine of my bike. Jasper and I had spent Friday night, all day Saturday, and Saturday night with the girls. He’d dropped me off at my house that morning so I could get ready to head to Sunday lunch with my family. Bella had been excited for me, and both girls wanted tons of pictures of my niece. They’d made me promise.
I grabbed two bags from the side storage on my bike – one of them being the beer Emmett had requested – and walked up to the door. Smiling at the sound of my brother-in-law’s booming laugh, my sister’s voice reprimanding him, and my mother calling for my dad, I reached for the doorknob. However, it was the alien sound of a baby that made me rush in.
Laughter and chatter came to a standstill as everyone turned my way.
“What? Am I late?” I teased, grinning when Emmett snorted.
“Edward!” Mom whispered, rushing to me. She hugged my middle so tightly that the air pushed out of me in a grunt. “You’re okay, you’re safe,” she chanted over and over.
“Mom, I’m fine,” I said, bending down to kiss her cheek. “Unless you don’t let go. Then I’m gonna pass out from lack of oxygen.”
She giggled, pulling back, but she cupped my face in both hands. “Oh, I’ve missed this handsome face,” she gushed, pushing my hair back from my forehead in a gesture she’d been doing since I was a kid.
I felt a hand on my shoulder, and I looked up to see my dad there. “Hey, thanks for everything at the house,” I told him, leaving out any mention of the bike. No need to bust him in front of my mother.
He smiled, shook his head, and pulled me into a hug. “Don’t thank me. I was glad to do it,” he whispered in my ear. “It’s really good to have you home, son.”
“It’s good to be home,” I said, my thoughts instantly flickering over to Bella, but I pushed them away. I had to, or everything I loved about her would come spilling out of my mouth to my family. I’d blurt out every reason why my being gone was the best thing that had ever happened to me.
Dad pulled back, and Emmett took the beer from my hands, saying, “Thanks. I knew you’d come through. Mom only has wine.”
“Wait. You knew he was back?” my sister snapped, narrowing her eyes on her husband and then on me.
I grinned, shrugged a shoulder, and walked to her. “Don’t kill him. I told him to keep it as a surprise,” I explained, my eyes drifting down to the bundle in her arms. “I wanted to see everyone at the same time,” I whispered, kissing her cheek. “God, Rosie, I’m sorry I wasn’t here, but she’s...”
“Perfect,” she whispered back, finishing my thought. “I know.” She kissed a round, rosy cheek, whispering, “Miss Emma Rose McCarty, meet your Uncle Edward.”
I wasn’t prepared for her to hand the bundle over to me, but Mom took the other bag in my hand just before my arms wrapped around the warm, tiny, squirming infant. I also wasn’t prepared for the emotions that came with holding her. My chest cracked wide open.
Cradling Emma in the crook of my left arm, I reached up to brush a finger down around her chubby cheek. The tiniest of hands grabbed my finger and squeezed. I’d never seen anything like it. She was my sister made over, but with small bits of Emmett thrown in, which just made her all the cuter. She grunted and struggled in my arms, her little chunky legs kicking a little. But it was the deep red flush to her cheeks that made me chuckle.
“You’re still red, Ladybug,” I whispered, glancing up at my sister. “She’s grown so much, even from the video chat.”
She chuckled, kissing my cheek. “That happens, brother. She likes you.”
Grinning, I glanced back down at my niece, who hadn’t let go of my finger for one second. “Of course she does. I’m her uncle. I’m the guy that’s gonna let her do stuff her parents won’t let her do.”
“Edward...” My dad snorted, shaking his head. “Unfortunately, that’s probably the truth.”
My soft laugh caught Emma’s attention, and big, round blue eyes gazed up at me.
“Still want a boy?” my mom teased.
“Pfft,” I scoffed. “I can still do everything I promised with a girl.” I glanced down at Emma. “Ladybug, we’ve got a shit-ton of stuff to talk about,” I started, ignoring the scoffs at my language – like Emma understood it. “I’ll teach you how to throw a baseball, how to sneak dessert before dinner, and how to punch a guy if he pisses you off.”
My dad and Emmett cracked up, but my sister snorted, rolling her eyes. “Not you, too. Those two already told her that they were teach her boxing.”
“Boxing,” I agreed with a nod. “Absolutely. Though I can teach you how to incapacitate a man...permanently.”
Ladybug seemed to like that, because she gurgled up at me, pulling my finger to her mouth. She gummed my fingertip, gazing up at me, and I knew I was lost to this tiny thing. The newest addition to my family was going to have everything she ever wanted or needed.
“She must be hungry,” Mom whispered, rubbing a hand over Ladybug’s duck-fluff hair.
“I know the feeling,” Emmett urged, shooting me a wink when Rose sighed, rolling her eyes.
“Okay, okay,” Mom chanted. “We’ll get Emma a bottle, and then we’ll sit down to eat. Lunch is almost ready.”
“You want to feed her?” Rose asked with a small smile. “You don’t look like you’re giving her back anytime soon, so...”
I curled Ladybug protectively to me. “No. And hell yes, I want to feed her.”
Rose ruffled my hair and walked away, leaving me alone in the room. I sat down on the couch next to the bag I’d brought in.
“Hey,” I whispered, bending down to press a kiss to her forehead. “Someone really special sent this your way,” I told her secretly, pulling out a small stuffed ladybug that Bella had given to me to bring. “You’ll meet her soon,” I vowed, smiling when she grasped the soft stuffed animal in her little fist. “It’s a tough call as to which one of you is more beautiful... I’m tellin’ ya.”
Ladybug gurgled again, still gripping her new toy tightly.
I set it on her belly and pulled out my phone, snapping a picture so I could send it to Bella later.
“Edward...” My mom sat down next to me. “Here’s her bottle. Just like this, okay?” she instructed, showing me how to hold it just right.
Emma latched on tenaciously, which made me smile over at Mom.
She reached up, brushing my hair away again. “You look...different. Calm. Happy.”
Smiling at her, I shrugged a shoulder. I was all of those things, but I couldn’t tell her why. “I’m just happy to be home, Mom,” I hedged with a touch of the truth.
“Everything went okay while you were gone?” she asked, tilting her head at me. She was more perceptive than anyone else in my life, aside from Bella. “No leaving again?”
I smiled at her, shaking my head. “There’s always a chance of something coming up, but I doubt Uncle Al will send me on anything long-term for a while. So, no. No leaving again. And he gave Jazz and me six weeks off.”
You’d have thought I’d just handed my mother a million dollar check. She beamed like a kid on Christmas morning.
“Good,” she sighed in relief, picking up the toy I’d brought. “Then bring Ladybug to the table. Let’s eat. I’ve missed your face, and I’ve missed spoiling you.”
I chuckled at her adoption of my nickname, standing up with Emma still drinking her bottle. “Me, too, Mom. Me, too. What are we having?”
She smiled. “Spaghetti.”
I laughed, my head falling back at the irony of it all. I’d gone months without my mother’s amazing cooking, and I’d come home to the very thing I’d been cooking while out on detail.
“What’s so funny?” she asked, leading me into the dining room.
I shook my head. “Nothing, Mom. Spaghetti’s great.”






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