Wednesday, August 7, 2013 | By: Drotuno

In Pursuit Chapter 25 & Pics

Bella POV
Sunday, I felt well and truly lonely for the first time in a while. Edward had gone to visit his family, and Alice and Jasper were out seeing Seattle in her new car. For a couple of hours after Edward left, they’d stayed in her room, and it had definitely been a private party.
In the middle of searching the job boards, my phone beeped with an incoming message. Opening it, my heart just about melted.
Edward had sent two pictures and a text message. He’d obviously gotten someone else to take the first picture, because baby Emma was in his arms, sucking greedily at a bottle he was holding for her. His face absolutely radiated love and pride and protectiveness. I couldn’t help but grin when I opened the second. It was from his point of view as he looked down at the baby in his arms. He’d given her the stuffed ladybug I’d bought for her, and it was resting on her belly, her little fist clenched tightly around one of the legs. Finally, I opened the text message.
Hey, baby. Isn’t she beautiful? She likes the ladybug and says thank you. Rose snapped the other picture while I was feeding her and talking to my mom. I had her send it to me and thought you might want to see. Miss you, B. TTY soon. ~E
I quickly texted him back.
Can you read her mind?! Is that how you know she says thank you? ;) She’s so adorable, Edward. You look happy holding her. Natural. She’s a lucky little girl. Miss you, too. Call or stop by when you can if you want. ~B
Once I hit send, I set the phone back beside me on the couch and went back to searching.
~oOo~

Tuesday, I was feeling frustrated with the lack of job opportunities, and nothing seemed to be going right. I’d dropped a plate while loading the dishwasher after breakfast, and things weren’t looking up.
“Shit!” I hissed, balancing on one foot while cradling the other in my hands. My pinkie toe was throbbing from where I’d stubbed it on a box. Damn, that hurts! I blinked back tears and put my foot down, sidestepping the box on my way to the kitchen.
Alice and I had spent Sunday and Monday unpacking some of the boxes Al had gotten shipped over from New York. There had been space on the entertainment center for the DVDs, but we still needed to go shopping for bookshelves for the living room and both bedrooms to hold all our CDs and my books. We’d unpacked all the clothes, deciding to wash them before putting them away since they’d been in storage for so long, but that was completely finished, so all that was left were the three boxes of books and one big box of CDs.
“You okay there, darlin’?” Jasper asked as I hobbled into the kitchen.
I grumbled, “Yeah, I’m fine. Just stubbed my toe.”
He winced. “Been there, done that, B.”
Jasper had spent the majority of his time since we got to Seattle here at the house with us – or Alice, rather. It made me miss Edward all the more, especially since I hadn’t seen him since Sunday morning, and I hadn’t heard from him since just before I went to bed the night before. Because his dad had been working long hours at the hospital, Edward had spent all day Monday helping his mom out with stuff around the house – yard work, stripping wallpaper in the guest bedroom so she could paint, and shuffling boxes and other things between the attic and garage, and he was back over there today. Sunday night, his mom had asked him to stay overnight after they’d been up talking and catching up until way after dinner. Monday night, he’d gone home to shower and change and ended up falling asleep. So it had been a lonely two days for me.
Alice came rushing into the kitchen, clutching the laptop. “Guess what!”
Jasper pulled her onto his lap, and she motioned me over, so I stepped up beside them to look at the screen.
“American Dance Institute wants me to come in for an interview!”
ADI was one of two places Alice had sent in an online application Sunday evening. I was surprised they’d gotten back to her that quickly, but happy, too, since I knew she’d love it if she got the job.
I grinned, patting her shoulder. “That’s great, Pix. When?”
She bounced a little, causing Jasper to groan, and said, “The woman who just called asked if I could come in tomorrow. Being the start of the school year, they’ve had two instructors leave for college and have had an influx of kids join.”
“What are they looking for?” Jasper asked, holding the still-bouncing Alice in place.
“They need someone specifically for pre-ballet, ballet, and the parent-toddler classes, which is perfect.” She was so full of excitement, it was almost oozing out her pores. “Oh, my God, I need to go shopping. Al didn’t get any of my dance gear sent over from New York.” She looked up at me and asked, “Wanna go?”
I shrugged. “Sure, I’m game. We can stop by somewhere and get the shelves we need, too.”
“I’m out,” Jasper said, chuckling. “I’ll leave you ladies to your shopping and go home for a bit. I need to do some cleaning up of my place because I haven’t been home much since we got here to Seattle.”
I told him I’d see him later and then slipped out of the room to go get ready, leaving them to say their goodbyes.
Three hours later, my phone rang as Alice and I were getting back in Edward’s car at the Lowe’s after loading in the boxes containing the bookshelves.
Quickly digging it out of my pocket to check the Caller ID, I smiled as I tucked the Bluetooth headset on my hear and tapped the button. “Hey, baby!”
“Hi, beautiful. I’m taking a break from scraping wallpaper and wanted to hear your voice.”
I started the car and backed out before I spoke again. “I’m glad you did. How are things going with your mom?”
“You mean aside from the honey-do list that’s as long as my arm?” he asked wryly. When I laughed, he chuckled. “Nah, it’s all good. She’s had me working hard, but it’s fine. I know my dad’s doing that shit on purpose, though – staying away as long as possible to avoid it, the jackass. See what that gets him on Father’s Day.”
I turned out onto the road to head in the direction of our house, unable to stop from teasing and riling him up. “I’m sure he’s just busy, Edward.”
“Yeah, busy avoiding cutting the grass and straining his arm muscles trying to get this old wallpaper down,” he muttered, although it was evident in his tone that he was only kidding.
Giggling, I said, “Hold on... Traffic.” After I’d merged onto the interstate, I said, “Okay, sorry. We’re on our way home from shopping.”
Edward hummed into the phone, and when he spoke, his voice was low, sultry. “Are you...driving my car, baby?”
“Mmhmm,” I said in answer, feeling that purr in his voice through my entire body like fingertips gently caressing my skin. “We bought the shelves we needed, and they wouldn’t have fit in Alice’s car.”
“Fuck, that’s sexy,” he growled. “I love imagining you behind the wheel, your hand on the gear shift... I bet you handle it as well as you handle—”
Alice squeaked when I swerved as my brain went haywire at his train of thought, and I cut him off before he could continue and make me wreck his fuck-awesome Audi. “Edward, as much as I love that, if you keep talking about that, I’m gonna kill Alice and myself. New car, new roads, new traffic, and sexy-ass voice growling in my ear are not conducive to safe driving.”
“Sorry,” he said, although I wasn’t sure how sincere it was since he laughed his way through the word.
I made a disgruntled, yet amused sound in the back of my throat and grinned when his chuckle turned into a full-blown laugh before being interrupted by a female voice in the background. It was muffled, like Edward had pulled the phone away from his ear and tucked it against his chest, so I could hear the sound but not make out any conversation.
He was quiet when he spoke again. “I gotta go, beautiful,” he sighed. “Mom wants my help moving furniture around in the living room. Why she can’t wait another two days until Dad gets off for a couple of days, I don’t know.”
Chuckling, I looked over my shoulder and switched lanes smoothly before replying. “Go help your mom, Edward. She missed you. This is her way of keeping you close for a while. Totally understandable.”
“I’ll come over later for the night, okay? I have to babysit Ladybug tomorrow while Emmett’s at work and Rose goes into the store to help with a problem her partner can’t handle, but I’m yours tonight. I swear it.”
I smiled and nodded, even though he couldn’t see me. “Sounds good.” I wanted to tell him I loved him, but I knew now wasn’t the time – and certainly not over the phone.
We said our goodbyes and then I tapped off the connection.
“You guys are so cute,” Alice cooed. “I’m glad he makes you that happy.”
Smiling softly, I said, “He really does.”
The rest of the drive was quick, traffic finally letting up, and we pulled into the driveway after waving to Betty across the street as she was pulling out of her own drive.
Alice and I had been home for about an hour when Jasper texted to let her know he was on his way over. When he got to the door, she pulled it open and jumped into his arms. He caught her and then walked with her hanging from him like a monkey to a tree.
“What’s this about, darlin’?” he asked, laughing.
“Come let me show you my dance stuff,” she said excitedly. She’d bought everything she’d need, from clothes and shoes to several large mirrors she could put up to practice in front of, as well music she could dance to that hadn’t been included in the boxes from New York.
Jasper winked my way before heading down the hall to Alice’s room, still carrying her on his chest with her arms around his neck and legs around his waist.
I was in the middle of trying to put together shelves a couple of hours later – having no luck matching Part E up with Part H like the instructions said – when, at the same time, thunder crashed, lighting flashed outside the windows, and the lights flickered. Rain had started coming down at some point, but it hadn’t sounded like a storm until that moment.
I unplugged the laptop, deciding to run it on battery alone rather than chance it getting zapped by a lightning strike, and went back to beating my head against Part H.
After another hour, the storm was still raging outside. Alice and Jasper were cooking dinner – some kind of Mexican casserole that smelled delicious already after he’d browned up the ground beef with a lot of seasonings, peppers, and onions – and I finally had the bookshelf mostly put together. So when my phone beeped with a new message, I grabbed it and settled onto the couch to read.
Sorry, B. I’d planned to be there already, but the wind caused a big tree branch from the neighbor’s tree to break off and land in my parents’ driveway. Dad’s still at the hospital and Mom’s car is in the garage, so there’s no damage to anything but the fence, but Mom asked me to try to get it out of the driveway at least so Dad can get to the garage. I’ll be over soon. xoxo ~E
I hit Reply and typed out a quick response.
Come when you can, Edward. :) But don’t leave that house on that bike until the lightning lets up. I don’t need you fried to a crisp on your way over here! xoxo back. ~B
Just as I set the phone down, Alice called that dinner was ready. I picked it back up and stuck it in my pocket as I made my way to the kitchen.
“Edward has to deal with a fallen tree branch at his parents’ and then he’ll be over,” I said, accepting the glass of milk from my sister as I took my seat.
“The neighbor’s?” Jasper asked as he set the casserole on the trivet in the middle of the table. At my nod, he rolled his eyes. “Carlisle’s been after that man to get those branches trimmed for ages. The thing had been showing signs of disease for months before we left Seattle to come to New York, so it doesn’t surprise me. Did it hit the cars?”
When I told him what Edward had said in the text, he shrugged. “Well, at least there’s that. The neighbor can replace the fence.”
We settled in to eat as Alice talked between bites about what she expected from her interview the next day. It was the most animated I’d seen her since that life-changing night in May. She was about to – if all went well – be back doing the thing she loved most, and I was thrilled for her...and a little jealous that it had been that easy, if I were being honest. It made me realize I might need to broaden my requirements for a new job.
I promised myself that I would take care of that tomorrow, while Edward was at his sister’s place watching his new niece.
Two and a half hours after we put the remains of dinner in the fridge, my phone rang. I’d been curled up on my bed reading, enjoying the new bookshelf I’d managed to put together that now held not only a lot of my books, but all my CDs, as well.
“Hey,” I said into the phone after seeing Edward’s face on the Caller ID screen.
“Bella.” He sighed. “I’m so sorry it took me so long, baby.”
Poor thing sounded exhausted, and I couldn’t help the indulgent smile that crossed my face. “It’s okay,” I promised. “I’ve just been reading while I waited for you. I got the bookshelves all put together, so I’ve been enjoying the fruits of my labor, I guess you could say.” Pausing, I then asked, “You finished at your parents’ house?”
He groaned, and I heard him shut a door before he answered. “Yeah. The thing was too big to just move by myself. Since the storm let up, I dragged out the chainsaw and cut it into manageable pieces before dragging it all to the curb.”
“Oh, damn,” I sighed. “That big, huh?”
He chuckled. “I could make a joke, but I’m too damn tired and sore for that. I swear, I need to get back to working out if the last two days has me feeling like this.”
“Poor thing. Mommy really put you to work, didn’t she?” I teased, looking over at the clock. It was already nearly ten p.m., and I knew even if he came over, he’d be too exhausted to do anything but sleep. Taking pity on him, I said, “Go to sleep, baby. Take a hot shower, swallow some Aleve or something, and then crash. Don’t worry about coming over here tonight.”
“Bella, no,” he huffed, sounding upset at the idea. “I haven’t seen you for three days, damn it. I’m just gonna shower and then—”
“Baby, ya gotta be awake and alert enough tomorrow to watch little Emma. Just stay home tonight, get some sleep, and tomorrow, after you’re free, we’ll definitely get together, okay?”
He was quiet for almost a minute, and just before I spoke again to make sure I hadn’t lost the connection, he sighed. “Yeah, you’re right. I’m dead on my feet at the moment. I’d love to come sleep in your arms, but I’m afraid I’m gonna fall asleep in the shower, and that doesn’t bode well for another trip on the bike.”
“No, it doesn’t,” I agreed, the mere thought of that sending ripples of nausea through me.
“But tomorrow... Fuck, beautiful. Tomorrow, I’ll simply tell anyone who asks me for anything that I have plans with friends that I haven’t seen in months and I can’t cancel on them. You’re mine tomorrow night, Bella. Got me?”
I laughed softly. “I got ya, Edward. Tomorrow night. We’ll do pizza or something and curl up on the couch together for a while.”
“Fuck the couch,” he growled, his voice low. “I’m not sure I’ll let you out of bed long enough for anything but food – and maybe not even that.”
“Sounds...perfect, actually.” And it did. I missed him like crazy, including the sex, which had become as necessary to both of us as breathing.
We said a quiet goodnight, and I hung up the phone, fighting tears.
I knew it wasn’t his fault, and I knew he’d have come over if I’d told him I wanted him to, but that didn’t make the figurative hole in my chest any less painful.
~oOo~
By Wednesday afternoon, I was feeling a lot better about everything. Edward had already called once to tell me he had already declined a dinner invite from his sister and brother-in-law, saying he had plans he couldn’t break. Rose was supposed to be back around four o’clock, and he was going to come straight to our house.
I’d also broadened my job search requirements and had actually found a few promising leads. There had been one I’d wanted to apply for, a forensic accounting position, but the job duties had specified that it might entail investigating white-collar crimes by persons related to organized crime, and Jasper had nixed that immediately after I brought it up to him and Alice. Too close to home, he’d said, and word travels among those circles.
The most promising lead I had was for a job in the accounting office of one of the best – if not the best – hospital in the state: Virginia Mason. It wasn’t exactly what I’d been looking for, but I would be working with numbers and money, which was what I’d enjoy, and it paid well and had great benefits. Plus, it had the added benefit of being less than three miles from our house, which would mean it would be an easy bus trip until I could afford to buy a car. I had Edward’s Audi for the time being, but I didn’t want to rely on being able to keep it for an extended period of time. He would eventually need it back – or if we parted ways, then I certainly couldn’t keep it then.
I sent off my newly polished resume to the hospital and a few other jobs that I wasn’t as happy or excited about and then opened up the helpful tips I’d saved about the hospital job. I had the accounting knowledge and experience, but I needed to know everything I could about something called the health care compliance principles, as well as the state and federal reporting requirements for health care institutions. I had little knowledge of medical equipment, but I’d be Googling that, as well.
Luckily, all of that I could find online, so until Edward was finished at Rose’s house, I would keep my nose to the books – so to speak – and learn what I could so I was prepared if the hospital called to offer an interview.
~oooOOOooo~
Edward POV
I grinned and waved to Mr. Dobson, my parents’ neighbor, as I ran by. He’d always hated me. Technically, he hated the sight of my ink. It never mattered that I was a perfectly upstanding citizen – a federal cop, for fuck’s sake. He considered everyone with tattoos to be “hoodlums.” And yeah, I ran shirtless through their neighborhood on fucking purpose.
The cranky old bastard scoffed and turned away from me, going back to his yard work. I smiled that much more as I trotted up the driveway. Punching the button to shut the garage, I then stepped inside the kitchen and went straight to the fridge for a bottle of water.
My mother looked up from the newspaper she was reading at the kitchen counter and smiled. “Morning, sweetheart.”
“Morning,” I gasped after finishing off the bottle of water. “I see old Widower Dobson is just as pleasant as ever.”
“Oh, please,” she scoffed, waving a dismissive hand and rolling her eyes. “That man... I’m not sure there’s anything that puts a smile on his face.”
“Death and destruction?” I offered, grinning when my mother laughed. “He’ll love the zombie apocalypse.”
“Hush, son. He simply misses his wife. I think she took his heart with her,” she scolded, though her face showed her amusement.
“She took his personality, too,” I muttered, smirking at her when she huffed another laugh.
“Sit and I’ll get you something to eat. And thanks for doing this. Your father hasn’t had the time.”
I waved her thanks away. Even though my chest ached being away from Bella, I knew my mother had missed me. The whole family had stayed up pretty damn late Sunday night, putting Emma to bed in the spare room, and we’d talked and gotten caught up until late, when Emmett said he’d needed to be at the station early the next morning. I’d even had a couple of beers, which allowed me to get roped into doing a shit-ton of chores for my mother the next day. So I’d stayed the night. The look on her face when I’d offered was worth it, anyway.
I’d texted Bella to let her know that I’d be helping my mom out, and she’d been all for it, saying she was going to hit the ground running with job hunting and unpacking the next day.
“So what are we doing?” I asked Mom, taking the plate of eggs, sausage, and toast from her.
She handed me a big glass of orange juice and picked up a notepad, slapping it down in front of me. The fucker was filled with shit she wanted done.
“My honey-do list,” she giggled.
“Damn,” I groaned, shaking my head. “All this shit?” I asked incredulously, my eyes raking down chore after chore that ranged from yard work to storing winter stuff in the attic. I raised an eyebrow at her. “Dad has time. He’s just avoiding this fucking list!”
“Maybe.” She chuckled, kissed my forehead, and sat down next to me as I ate my breakfast and mentally sorted the page in front of me. “Or maybe I didn’t want to bother him when he got home from working all day at the hospital.”
“Mmhm,” I hummed around a bite of toast.
Once I was finished eating, I didn’t even bother to shower and started with the quicker, easier things. They were things that my mother wasn’t strong enough or tall enough to do. So with a deep breath, I got to work.
I lugged several boxes of “spring stuff” up into the attic, shifting shit around up there to accommodate them, only to drag the “fall/winter stuff” down to the garage so she could get to it easier once the weather started to change. After that was yard work, which pleased old man Dobson to no end. I joined him outside with a wave – which sent him scurrying inside his house – cleaning out the gutters, raking leaves, and pulling weeds until my back was fucking killing me. I trimmed a few overhanging branches while my mother planted some new flowers, but by the time we were done, the sun was setting.
When my dad came home from work, my sweaty ass narrowed my eyes at him. “Chicken shit,” I called him, and he laughed. “Your cowardly self is running from this shit, right?”
He merely grinned, slapping my shoulder as I leaned against the rake. “You’re doin’ a fine job, son,” he teased. “It’s nice to have you back.”
“You owe me,” I growled low. “I should tell Mom you went for a little joyride!” I hissed, pointing toward my bike.
He snorted. “Shut up and come in for dinner. I’ll see if I can’t get you paroled for the night.”
Sighing with relief, I did as he asked. I let my parents have a moment to themselves and went to wash my face and hands, grabbing up my phone to call Bella. She answered immediately.
“Hi, handsome,” she sang into the phone.
“Hey, beautiful,” I sighed, leaning up against the bathroom sink. “My dad’s trying to break me out, but unfortunately, I have to come back tomorrow.”
She giggled softly. “Well, come by tonight if you’re not too tired.”
Smiling, I let out a sigh of relief because I was dying to see her. “Sure thing. Let me eat real quick and go home to shower and change clothes, okay?”
“No problem. We’ve been unpacking all day, so watch your step.” She laughed.
“Okay, baby, see you soon.”
~oOo~
The buzzing and ringing sounded far away. Coming up out of sleep was slow, until I realized I was still at home.
“Shit, shit, shit! I fucked up,” I growled, rubbing my face and snatching up my phone to see Bella’s beautiful face on the screen. “Aww, Bella. Baby, I’m so sorry. I crashed out last night,” I rasped, trying to wipe the sleep-haze from my eyes.
“I figured, but I was worried when you didn’t answer your phone, Edward,” she sighed, sounding...off.
“Hey, I’ll call Mom, tell her that I can’t come today. We’ll hang out,” I offered.
She laughed a little. “You can’t do that to her, baby. She needs you. And I need to find myself a job. Just...call me later, okay?”
“I promise,” I vowed, frowning that she sounded strange. “Hey, sweetheart, I’m really sorry.”
“You were tired, Edward. It’s okay,” she said with a little bit of a laugh in her tone, which made me feel less of a shit.
“Okay. Bye,” I murmured. Groaning, I fell back to the bed, but the bastard phone went off again. “Cullen!” I snapped, still mentally berating myself for falling asleep the night before, but after my shower, I’d been fucking zapped.
“Aren’t you pleasant?” Rose’s sarcastic tone met my ears.
“Yeah, it’s a shit morning. What’s up? And make it quick, ’cause I should’ve already been over at Mom and Dad’s,” I barked, making my way into my kitchen. I needed coffee before I had to head back to my mom’s version of slavery.
“You remember that babysitting thing you owe me?” she asked, and my head fell back.
“Aw, Ro, please tell me you’re fucking with me,” I whined.
“Not in the least, baby brother. I need you tomorrow. And I don’t have a choice. Mom’s got plans with her friends, and I need to go into the coffee shop tomorrow to clear up a problem. Gianna can’t figure out payroll.”
“I thought you were on maternity leave?” I interrupted.
“I am, but my people still have to get paid, and Gianna isn’t exactly a numbers genius,” she sighed wearily.
I snorted, thinking I knew one of those, but I kept my mouth shut. And she was kinda right. Gianna was good with people, but everything else...not so much.
“Please, Edward. I’m begging you. You’ll be with Emmett until he leaves for work, and as soon as I’m done, I’ll come right home,” she bargained.
“Fuck,” I whined, gripping my hair. Bella was gonna hate me when I told her this shit. “Okay, okay. When did I become everyone’s do-boy?”
“When you announced you had time off,” my sister countered with a laugh. “Edward, you’ve been gone for months. Give us a break. What? You got a hot date?”
I wanted to fucking scream the words, “Yes, damn it!” Instead...
“No,” I lied, my chest hurting. My shoulders slumped in utter defeat as I stirred my coffee. “Tell me what time, and I’ll be there.”
~oOo~
Four goddamn days. I frowned, pulling into my sister’s driveway late on Wednesday morning. I hadn’t seen Bella in four damn days. It wasn’t for lack of wanting to, either. I took off my helmet and turned off the engine, my head shaking slowly. I’d taken a break the day before from peeling fucking wallpaper from my mother’s spare bathroom in order to sneak a quick call. She’d been in the car – my car – which did nothing to slow down my libido. Imagining her behind the wheel, changing gears... Yeah, I was definitely fucking her in my car someday. I’d just needed to hear her voice, but I’d had to tell her about babysitting.
I groaned, banging my head with my helmet. Fuck, I just missed my girl. I was a selfish – now completely spoiled – motherfucker. I was used to being with her twenty-four-seven. I’d sworn to her that I was coming over tonight, no matter fucking what.
“Edward!” I heard from the front door, and I glanced up as I got off my bike to see Emmett dressed for work. “Get your ass in here. I got a drug bust goin’ down soon, and I still have to show you everything!”
“Okay, okay,” I sighed, setting my helmet on the seat.
Ladybug was snoozing in her little seat in the living room when he showed me where everything was. He’d given me a break and made up two bottles for her. They only needed to be warmed up. I’d already fed her once and burped her, so that was no big news to me. Rose had laid out clothes and diapers, not to mention powders and lotions and shit I had no clue what to do with, but Emmett talked me through it. I figured if that doofus could change Ladybug without breaking her, I sure as hell could do it. It helped that he said he’d walk me through it step by step if I called him.
Just before he was about to leave, he turned in front of the door. “Hey, don’t tell Rosie, but if Emma gets...cranky? Just put the TV on some music. She likes old-school rock-n-roll. Rose has been pushing that Baby Einstein shit.”
I snorted and rolled my eyes. “Define ‘old-school.’ Are we talking Beatles? Or Bon Jovi?” I asked with a laugh.
“Yup! She’s got eclectic taste, my baby girl does,” he said with a big grin. “You’ll be fine. She sleeps a lot during the day, and Rose will be back around four or five. Kick back. I recorded some baseball games you missed on the DVR.”
Grinning, I gave him a fist bump. “I wasn’t in jail. I was able to watch sports.”
“I didn’t know!” He laughed. “Anyway, relax. You got this.” He opened the door and looked over his shoulder. “How’s the girl?”
“I haven’t seen her in days, Em,” I told him. “Thanks to Mom and this, it makes day four.”
“Jonesin’ for a little somethin’-somethin’?”
“Get out,” I growled, rolling my eyes and shaking my head as he laughed his ass off all the way to his car. I wasn’t going to admit to him how badly I needed Bella.
I checked on Emma before falling down onto the sofa to watch TV. She was still asleep, her long eyelashes resting on chubby cheeks. I smiled down at her, forgetting all the stress and drama of the week, and I envied her the bliss of ignorance as to what adults put up with every damn day.
About an hour after I was there, she stirred awake, grumbling and fussing, so I warmed a bottle. She took it like a champ. Actually, she ate like her father – like she’d never get another meal again – which would explain the Michelin chunk that was going on with her legs. And I swear to God, she lost about half of it on the cloth over my shoulder when I burped her like Rose had shown me at Mom and Dad’s.
“We have to talk about this eating disorder, Ladybug,” I said with a chuckle, setting her down into her bassinet. The very second I stepped away from her, she lost her shit. “Okay, okay,” I soothed her, picking her back up and walking around with her.
Nothing fucking worked. She was red, tears and snot everywhere, and her little hands were balled up into fists. I wrestled with her angry self to change her diaper, which wasn’t as hard as I’d thought it would be, but I couldn’t get her to stop crying. And I wasn’t calling my sister or Emmett. I could catch bad guys and shoot a gun, so I knew damn well I could handle eight pounds of upset little girl.
The stuffed toy that Bella sent her didn’t work, neither did rocking or talking or anything else for that matter. Finally, I snatched up the remote control for the TV and hunted down Emmett’s satellite music stations. Bastard was so wrong. The Beatles didn’t work. Nothing did. I was about to pull my hair out at the roots...until I found the Motown station.
“Uh-oh,” I said with a snicker, kissing her head as she sniffled a little. “The baby girl’s got soul. We can work with that,” I whispered to her. She blinked up at me and whimpered a little, but when the Temptations came on, I couldn’t help but sing a little to her. “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day. When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May. I guess you’d say, what can make me feel this way? My girl...”
By the time the song faded away and into something else, she’d calmed down enough that I could sit back down on the sofa, though I kept her in my arms, situating her on her tummy on my chest, my hand holding her little butt. She was warm and her tiny hands gripped my T-shirt, but she smelled sweet – like soap and baby powder. I buried my nose in the duck-fluff curls on the top of her head, whispering to have sweet dreams. With a deep sigh, she was out.
That’s how the rest of the day went – sleep, wake, eat, shit, scream, sing. And yeah, I fucking had no choice but to download My Girl onto my phone just to keep singing it every time. I wasn’t about to change a damn thing if it was working. How my sister hadn’t gone mad already was beyond me.
When Rose finally walked into the door – with a new haircut, I noted with narrowed eyes – Ladybug was chilling on my lap with her back to my stomach and we were watching the TV show Jail together.
“I see you survived,” Rose snorted, shaking her head.
“We did. I’m her new BFF,” I told her with a grin and a wave of Emma’s hand.
She chuckled. “Can you hang for a few more minutes so I can at least change clothes and start dinner?”
“Yeah, yeah, do what you need to. We want to know what happens to this cross dresser that got arrested for indecent exposure,” I stated firmly, pointing to the TV.
“Unbelievable,” she muttered, rolling her eyes. “You and Emmett, I swear,” she said as she walked into the kitchen. “He had her propped up and watching Penitentiary the other day.”
“Ooh, Ladybug, that’s a good one, too,” I whispered into the top of her head. “You wanna catch bad guys?”
“Don’t!” my sister growled on her way by. “The last thing I need is to worry about another member of my family.”
My eyebrows shot up as I stared down the hallway. “Okay, no cop career for you,” I told her secretly, turning her around so that her back was nestled on my legs. “But I bet I know someone that could teach you ballet...”
Ladybug gurgled, her fists waving a little, but she gripped my finger.
Grinning, I glanced up to see my sister staring at me. “What?”
“That looks good on you, Edward. You should have one of your own,” she said, grinning when I probably went pale, because my heart certainly came to a standstill. Visions of chocolate eyes and dark hair filled my mind, and it was too much.
“On that note, Uncle Edward has to run as far and fast from your mom as he can,” I told Ladybug in a sing-song tone, scooping her up and dropping a kiss to her head. “Here,” I told Rose, who was laughing her ass off, but she took Emma with a bunch of kisses and nuzzles.
“Coward,” she teased.
“Yup,” I agreed, nodding fervently, but I smiled her way, gathering up my jacket. “I’ll see you ’round, Ro.”
“Wait, you can’t stay for dinner?”
“No, I’ve got plans with friends I haven’t seen since I’ve been back,” I lied smoothly. “I can’t break them. Sorry,” I said, kissing her cheek and then Ladybug’s.
“Okay,” she sighed, looking disappointed. “Thanks for watching her, Edward.”
I smiled because it hadn’t been too bad. “No sweat, sis.” I tossed a wave over my shoulder and got onto my bike. When Rose stepped back inside and closed the door, I pulled out my phone. Bella answered immediately. “Holy fuck, Bella. You’d better be ready for me, I swear to God.”
She giggled, all sultry and sexy. “Door’s unlocked.”
“That’s my girl,” I practically growled, ending the call and starting my bike. I pulled out onto the street, hoping like hell I didn’t get caught speeding.
~oOo~
“Fuck, I missed you,” I groaned, pulling Bella on top of me. The bed was utterly destroyed, the sun was already up, and I hadn’t let the girl out of bed all fucking night long.
“I can see that,” she teased with a grin, bracing her hands on either side of my head. “But if you don’t feed me, Edward, I won’t make it through another round without passing out. We haven’t left this room since you came over yesterday.”
My tongue raked across my bottom lip at the thought. I’d ridden my bike straight from my sister’s house over to Bella’s, barely acknowledging the things they’d done around the place since I’d been there last. I’d walked into Bella’s room, scooped her up, and hadn’t let go all fucking night long. Hell, we’d woken up around two in the morning and gone at it again.
“Mm, think I could make you come hard enough to pass out?” I purred, dragging my lips over hers – top lip, bottom lip, delving my tongue in for a brief taste of her. My hands skimmed down to her ass, giving it a squeeze, but my eyes caught the slight flinch in her beautiful face. “You’re sore.”
“Deliciously so, baby,” she whispered against my lips. “And starving.”
I laughed, raising my hands up in surrender. “Okay, okay... I shouldn’t break my favorite toy.”
She giggled, hit me with a pillow, and got out of bed. “I think you tried last night.”
“Maybe,” I hedged with a shameless grin, shrugging a shoulder and standing up to tug my jeans on.
We walked out to find that Jasper and Alice had ordered pizzas for lunch, so we grabbed a couple of slices each and ate in the living room on the couch, and I told them all about what I’d been doing the last few days, including hanging with the Ladybug. They laughed about what Emmett and I watched on TV with her.
“I should get going,” Jazz said, standing up. “I promised Stephens I’d help him move into his new place.”
“Stephens?” I asked, curling an arm around Bella and settling us into the couch. “I thought he was gonna stay in that apartment until he got married.”
“He got married while we were gone, Ed,” Jasper chortled. “And they closed on their new house yesterday.”
“Oh, damn,” I murmured, shaking my head at all we’d missed.
Jasper cracked the front door open, revealing Uncle Al about to knock.
“Nobody move!” I teased. “If we don’t move, he can’t see us.”
“I’m not a T-Rex, asshole,” Al snapped back with a laugh. “Nice to see you, too.”
I grinned, rubbing Bella’s shoulder when she giggled.
“Hi, Uncle Al,” Alice said, kissing his cheek, and Bella got up to do the same.
“Ladies, the house looks pretty!” he said, giving his surroundings a beaming grin.
He chuckled when they said, “Thank you,” at the same time.
“Not that I don’t love surprise visits from you, but...what the hell are you doing here?” I asked him.
He glanced up at Jasper and the keys in his hand. “Stay for this. I won’t be long. I figured I’d catch you all together.”
Everyone sat down around the living room, and we gave Al our attention.
He sat forward in the chair, resting his elbows on his knees. With a deep breath, he said, “I was just bringing you an update on Volturi. He’s received his sentencing.”
Bella shifted nervously, but I held her closer.
“He received life in prison and then some, without the possibility of parole,” he started. “They’re shipping him up to Attica.”
“Oh,” Jasper and I groaned at the same time, because Attica was high-level security.
“Yeah, he’s heading to a nasty place,” Al snorted. “Anyway, Santiago and his team are escorting him today. I thought you’d want to know.”
I narrowed my eyes on my uncle. “There’s more...”
He nodded, a small smile flickering at the corners of his mouth. “Demetri Polizzi is missing.”
“What do you mean missing?” I snapped. “He could be anywhere.”
“Easy, kid,” Al soothed. “His last known whereabouts were a meeting with Marcus Volturi. He was seen going in, but not coming out.”
That statement hung there in the silence of the room for a moment.
I frowned, shaking my head. “So Marcus really took over...”
“Looks that way,” he replied with a small smile. “Felix is in prison in another state under a new identity. You two are here,” he said, gesturing between the girls. “But it looks like Marcus is getting rid of all his brother’s old loyal soldiers. That may prove to be a good thing. We’ll see.” He smiled at Alice and then Bella. “No worries, girls. I personally feel this is good news, but I’ll keep you posted.”
Gripping my hair, my eyes looked up when Jasper stood.
“Thank you for letting us know, Al,” he said with a nod. “I gotta get goin’, Ali,” he sighed, kissing her lips. “Love you.”
“Love you, too,” she parroted.
But it was the sudden stiffness in my arms that caught my attention. Bella had gone rigid at the sound of those words. It was the first time those two had said them out loud in our company. My heart hurt that she looked uncomfortable and even more when she stood up suddenly in order to clean up our lunch mess.
Jasper and Alice had missed it, but I had a feeling Uncle Al had caught it all, because his eyes were on Bella’s retreating form that disappeared into the kitchen.
I was completely at a loss, because I wanted to say them, but not because someone else had. And I didn’t know exactly where Bella and I stood, which was all my fucking fault because I was too fucking chicken-shit to just hand the sweet, beautiful girl my heart. Hell, she already had it. But remembering the way she’d sounded when she’d said it in her sleep made my forehead break out into a sweat.
“Edward—”
“Don’t,” I sighed, shaking my head at my uncle. “Just...don’t.”
I was about to follow her into the kitchen, when his cell phone rang.
“Chambers,” he answered, listening to a rather loud voice I couldn’t quite make out. “Whoa! Slow down. Where?”
Jasper had stopped in the doorway when Al’s voice had risen.
“Give me ten minutes. I’m on my way,” he growled, ending the call and shoving his phone into his pocket. “Fuck. I’ve got a prisoner transport bus now overturned on the highway. Looks like we got a few runners.”
“Oh hell.” I groaned, my eyes landing on Bella, who was watching from the kitchen archway. My nostrils flared, and I shook my head. I needed to get out of the house; I need fucking space. Standing up, I said, “Fuck it. I’ll go with you.”
“You’re on time off, Ed. No way,” Al argued, but I could see he looked hopeful. “You’re in charge of—”
“Jasper’s got this. You’ll need my speed on this chase. Who was on that transport?” I interrupted him.
“A bunch of nobodies and one high risk,” he stated, now looking over at Bella. “Donald Carson Handy.”
“Handy?!” Jasper and I yelled at the same time.
I gripped my hair. “Handy, the serial rapist. I escorted that asshole to prison. Where the hell was he going?”
“Iowa. To answer for more charges against him,” Al stated. “If you’re going,” he started, glancing up at me, “then we need to go. I could use you. Got a shirt?”
“Yeah,” I snapped, stalking back to Bella’s room, where my USMS shirt was sitting clean and neatly folded on the end of her dresser. I heard the door close behind me as I stripped my black T-shirt off, tossed it on the bed, and then tugged the navy blue T-shirt on over my head.
“You’re going,” Bella stated softly.
I turned to face her, feeling everything all at once. I felt trapped and scared because of what she expected of me – I could see it all over her face. My chest ached at the worry that was already taking over her features. And I felt the need to fall at her feet and worship her for the rest of my life, my job be damned. It was that last thought that made me snap at her.
“This is my job, Bella. Tell me now if you can’t handle it,” I ordered, looping my belt through my jeans.
“No, that’s not...” She shook her head a little, glancing down at her bare feet. “If anyone knows what your job is, it’s me.” She met my gaze for a moment. “I just...I want you to be careful. I need you to be careful.”
I gritted my teeth and nodded, falling down on the edge of the bed to pull my socks and shoes on. “I’m always careful.”
“I know. You’re amazing at your job, Edward.”
My gaze snapped up to meet hers, but I could see her fighting her tears. No one had ever said that to me, not even Al.
“You’re pushing me away right now, and I get it. I kinda reacted poorly in there,” she sighed, coming nowhere near me, choosing to lean back against the bedroom door instead. “I’m sorry.”
I tied my last shoe and stood up, walking to the door to stand in front of her. “I’ll be back. I promise,” I vowed, unable to touch her. If I touched her, I’d bare my soul to her, and now wasn’t the time because Al was calling for me from the living room.
The tears Bella had kept at bay finally fell when she looked up at me. “You’d better be, but...you need to know before you walk out this door... I need you back, Edward Cullen. I love you.”
My eyes closed at the sound of those words, because fuck me, they sounded a whole hell of a lot better now than they had when she’d been sleeping.
“I just...couldn’t let you leave without you knowing that.”
My forehead fell to hers, and my fist punched the door by her head. This wasn’t how I’d thought I’d feel. I felt exposed, like every nerve ending was being set on fire. I felt naked in front of her, and I wanted so badly to say it back, but not when I was about to walk out the door and into the line of fire. And I damn well wasn’t saying it just because someone else had.
Instead, I kissed the ever-loving shit out of her until we were both panting. My lips brushed her cheek, and I could taste the salt from her tears. “This conversation isn’t over, beautiful. Just on hold. Got me?” I whispered in her ear. “I just need—”
She nodded, a small sniffle escaping her. “Space from me. Yeah, I know,” she interrupted me. “I know that part of you, too, Edward.”
I nodded, thoroughly reminded about how I’d treated her when we first met, but Al called my name again.
“How long?” she asked, slipping away from me so I could open the door.
“As long as it takes,” I answered softly. “I hope I catch the bastard before the sun sets, but...”
She smiled a little, waving me on. “If anyone can, it’s you.”
I didn’t have anything to say to that, so I left the room and joined Al, who was on his phone barking instructions. He took one look at me, frowned, and then turned to Bella. “Sweet one, I’ll keep you posted.”
She nodded, waved, and said, “Thanks, Uncle Al.”
Al eyed my bike as I walked toward it. “Meet me at the office. Take the fastest way you can, but be fucking careful.”
I passed Jasper in the driveway. “You watch over her for me. Swear it,” I barely said aloud through gritted teeth.
“On my life, Ed,” he whispered back.
Satisfied with that, I nodded once, straddling my bike and starting the engine as Al got into his car. I was peeling out and down the street before I could change my damn mind.





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