Wednesday, October 23, 2013 | By: Drotuno

Fire & Ice Chapter 2 & Pics

Chapter 2
I drove through the gates of the retirement community, waving at one of the local policemen. Because Edward had his own helicopter, we’d helped Chief Clark more than once. Edward rarely asked for payment, simply because he loved the small town of Forks. He helped because he could, because he had the ability to pitch in.
The dogs shifted in the far back of the SUV as we came to a stop where the chief’s car was parked in front of a small cottage. Jasper and Emmett were out before I’d even shut off the engine. After hooking Lock and Load to their leashes, I met Chief Clark at the front door.
The chief was a good man, kind and laidback. He’d been voted in ever since his father retired several years ago. He was pushing close to fifty, with gray hair at his temples and a few wrinkles at the corners of his hazel eyes.
“We really appreciate this, Bella,” he said, smiling and offering me a shirt.
“No problem, Chief,” I told him with a smile. “We weren’t really working this week. We’re about to go out of town once school lets out. Is that Mr. Hopper’s?” I asked, pointing to his hand.
“This was in the laundry hamper, so I’m assuming he wore it recently. I hope it helps.”

We both glanced up when the heavy whomp-whomp-whomp of Edward’s chopper blades vibrated overhead. I pulled out my earpiece, tucking it into my ear.
“Edward, I’m about to see if the dogs catch anything,” I told him, taking the shirt.
“Ten-four, sweetness.”
I glanced over to Emmett. “Em, go with one of the officers. Check any neighbors they haven’t had a chance to get to – though, by now, all this noise would’ve alerted them that something was going on.”
“Gotcha, Bellsy,” Emmett conceded, joining one of the officers farther down the street.
I turned to the dogs. “Boys, sit.” Two fuzzy butts hit the pavement, and two sets of bright blue eyes were on me, though their tails couldn’t be still if I held a steak in my hands. I held out the shirt, letting them both sniff it. “Lock, Load…find.”
Jasper took Load, and I took Lock, and the dogs walked to the front door of the old man’s little house, only to turn sharply to the right. We walked through a neighbor’s front yard, then the next, only to rush into the backyard of a third house. And that direction was what we didn’t want, but I alerted Edward anyway.
“I see you,” he replied instantly, banking sharply over our heads as we stepped into the thick woods. “Alice, I need you to monitor the infrared. Tell me if what I’m seeing is animal, vegetable, or…human.”
“On it, on it, on it,” she chanted, and her typing was loud and clear over the radio.
Jasper and I allowed the dogs to lead us into the woods. The entire town of Forks was surrounded by thick forests. It was something Edward had hated when he’d first moved here as a kid, but had come to love over time. The people here were used to rain and green trees and cold weather, but they also respected the woods. It was quite easy to get lost in them, to get hurt while no one could hear you, and that was the thought that was going through my mind as the light of day dimmed once we were inside the thick canopy of endless green.
“Dammit,” Jasper muttered, giving me a side glance. “I really hope this is a false trail…”
“No shit,” I sighed, grunting as I stepped over a fallen log.
“Edward, bank to the left, please,” Alice commanded over our ear pieces.
“Ten-four,” he replied, and I could just barely see him through the trees banking over us.
The dogs paused, sniffed a spot or two, and kept going, but Jasper pulled Load up short.
“Eddie, man…I’ve got snapped branches and what looks like footprints. Are you and Alice picking up any heat sources?” he asked, kneeling down to examine a deep print in the mud.
“Yes, yes, yes,” Alice answered excitedly. “Edward, stay right where you are. If I’m correct, then Bella and Jasper need to head in a northeasterly direction about a hundred yards from where they are now. Jazz, can you see where Edward is?”
Jasper glanced up. “Yeah. On it, darlin’.”
“Good, because there’s a heat source just below him, and it hasn’t moved since he’s been stationary. The deer usually scatter when he flies over, but this hasn’t moved,” she explained.
As we continued on in the woods, I noticed the dogs were pretty much leading us in the same direction that Alice wanted us to go. The woods got thicker, the brush denser. But I also noticed more and more signs that someone had come through here.
“Shit,” I sighed, shaking my head. “Edward, if Alice is right and this is Mr. Hopper, then we’ll need somewhere for you to land. I can’t imagine he’ll make the trek back the way we came, especially if he’s hurt or something.”
“I’m already on it, Bella,” he answered. “If that’s him, I’ll guide you to a place I can set down. Got me?”
“Yup,” I answered with another grunt as Jasper and I suddenly were dragged by the dogs with a little bit harder pull, which told me that the scent was getting stronger.
With Alice’s continuous guidance and the dogs’ enthusiastic demeanor, I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Mr. Hopper was right ahead, and as we stepped around a thick clump of shrubbery, I let go of the leash, rushing to the old man.
“Got him!” I yelled over the radio, which was quickly relayed to everyone back at the retirement community. Kneeling down, I checked for a pulse, finding a strong one. “Mr. Hopper, can you hear me?” I asked, smiling when tired gray eyes opened slowly. “My name’s Bella. This is Jasper. We’re going to get you out of here, okay?”
The old man groaned, and I gave him a quick once-over. I couldn’t see any damage, any wounds, but that didn’t mean anything.
“Sir, are you hurt?” I asked him.
“My…ankle,” he wheezed.
Nodding, I rolled up his pants leg just a bit to see the swelling, but the thing didn’t look broken. But I wasn’t Esme, and I couldn’t always tell how badly someone was hurt. She was awesome at it.
“Okay, Edward, we’re going to need you,” Jasper stated, letting go of Load’s leash in order to help me with Mr. Hopper. “Tell us where you’ll be.”
Edward thundered over us, flying fast, saying, “There’s a clearing just east of where you are. Chief, alert the hospital. I’ll be flying him in as soon as he’s loaded.”
The radio became chaos, but the voice Jasper and I focused on was Alice as we basically carried the old man through the woods. She tracked our slow progress, telling us to correct our direction once or twice. However, the constant thump of the helicopter helped. It was obvious that Mr. Hopper was weary, most likely dehydrated, and scared. He tried his best to walk with us, but his ankle pained him whenever he tried to put weight on it.
Edward didn’t shut the chopper down, but thankfully took the dogs once we emerged into the clearing. Because the side door was so high off the ground, he had to physically lift them into the back before commanding them to sit on two of the far seats. He then rushed to us, ducking low beneath the blades, and took my side of Mr. Hopper. Between him and Jasper combined, they were able to lift the old man and move quicker.
“Bella, get in. We’ll lay him on the cargo floor,” Edward ordered, and I nodded, quickly helping them slide Mr. Hopper inside.
I held his head on my lap, saying, “Just be still, Mr. Hopper. We’re taking you to the hospital.”
The old man didn’t argue, but reached for my hand as Jasper and Edward loaded into the front. The chopper lifted gently, the power increasing as Edward called in that he had Mr. Hopper and that the search could be called off. I heard Chief Clark call back that he’d meet us at the hospital with David.
Forks Hospital was small. In fact, it was so small that they didn’t have a place for Edward to land, but the parking lot was big enough that he was able to set down in the farthest corner. Hospital personnel rushed to us with a gurney in tow as the blades shut down.
“We’re staying?” I asked him as he slid open the side door.
“Only to talk to Chief Clark, sweetness,” he answered, offering me his hand to help me down. “I have to tell him where exactly Mr. Hopper was found so he can fill out his report.”
“Okay,” I said, kissing his cheek as he put me down gently onto the asphalt.
“It’s official,” he sighed, wearing a sexy, smug grin. When I looked to him, he chuckled softly. “No more cases. Gravity is officially closed for vacation.”
Laughing, I kissed him again as Mr. Hopper was strapped to the gurney and rolled away. “Yes, sir,” I purred, liking the sound of a good, long break. But I liked even more the dark, carnal look my husband was giving me. “Later, flyboy,” I chided teasingly, shoving him back a little. “Go finish this up.”
“Ma’am,” he grunted, his wicked, crooked smirk in place as he walked to meet the chief.
I wasn’t sure what woke me up first: the bright sunlight beaming in through the bedroom window, or the smell of coffee, eggs, and bacon wafting down the hall like a delicious fog. I sat up, stretched, and glanced over at the clock, smiling and shaking my head. Edward had let me sleep in. Again. In fact, this was the third day in a row since we’d found Mr. Hopper in the woods and declared Gravity officially closed for vacation.
It was only nine in the morning, but that was technically sleeping in, especially to Edward, who tended to be up before the sun. And he did a shit-ton of things first thing in the morning. He’d go for a run, which now included the dogs, and once he got back, he’d start coffee, put the kids’ lunches together, get Sammy and Bethy up and ready for school, only to drop them both off. If I was up, we’d sometimes do those things together, but Gravity had been busy the last few months, and I could tell all of us needed a little break. Going to Aunt Kate’s was perfect.
I padded into the bathroom, took care of Mother Nature, washed my face, and brushed my teeth before making my way to the kitchen still wearing my T-shirt and Edward’s boxers. Smiling at the sight before me, I slipped quietly onto a stool, reaching for the abandoned cup of coffee.
“Woman!” Edward growled playfully without even turning around. “Why my coffee? Get your own.”
I caught the giggles, simply because I couldn’t help it. It was almost the same argument every damn morning, but it was just us. I sipped the coffee loudly, setting the mug down onto the marble counter with a thunk. “’Cause I can,” I sang, grinning when he shot me a smirk over his bare shoulder, only to go back to the stove.
Shaking my head, I took a moment to just look at him. Eight years of marriage hadn’t dampened our relationship one bit. And those eight years looked phenomenal on my Edward. He’d just recently turned thirty-five in June, and he was probably in the best shape of his life. He stood there in black basketball shorts, his running shoes, and his black backwards baseball cap. Broad, strong shoulders tapered down to his waist, his perfect ass flexed with every shift of his weight, and his biceps bulged with every movement.
My eyes fell to the ink that graced his upper left arm. My ink. It was the Cullen crest – a pawing lion, shamrocks, and beautiful scrolls that wrapped around his strong muscle like a cuff. I loved that damn tattoo, simply because it represented family, it represented me and the kids and how we would forever come first in Edward’s heart. It was a sharp contrast to the ink on his left pec, which was his Air Force rank. Two ribbons came to a point with a star in the center, USAF was written across it, and all of it was surrounded by four red stars. The latter were in honor, in memory of those fallen under his command – including Sam, the gentle giant that had been killed saving Edward after Bethy was kidnapped by a crazy woman seeking revenge against me.
Occasionally, I’d catch him cooking like this, only to be sucked right back to the first time I’d seen him after he’d pulled me from Miller’s basement. We’d met once as kids, but it was the second time that meant everything to us. Edward had been harder then, almost cold, but he’d been the best thing that ever happened to me – calm, sweet, and protective of me, even from himself.
“Sweetness?” he called, smirking when my eyes raked slowly up his shorts, over his sexy-ass abs and that vee thing that drove me crazy, to his rather amused face.
“Hungry?” He chuckled, holding out a full plate.
“You could deep fry cardboard, and I’m pretty sure I’ll eat it, Edward,” I snarked, grinning when he laughed again.
“Not today,” he countered, kissing the side of my head and setting the plate down in front of me. Once he’d made his own, he sat down next to me. “We’re out of cardboard.”
I rolled my eyes and shook my head, but tucked into my breakfast. We ate in an easy, comfortable silence, with the newspaper spread between us. It was almost like our usual Sundays, where we’d get a few moments of peace before Bethy, Sammy, and the dogs would get up, taking away the quiet. Edward continued to flip through the paper, even after I’d cleaned up and started the dishwasher. However, when I walked back to him, he turned, pulling me between his legs and up onto the bottom rung of his stool. I wrapped my arms around his neck, leaning into him.
“What’s on the agenda today, sweetness?” he asked softly, gazing up at me through eyelashes that women would give a right arm for, with bright, happy green that made me brush my lips across his. “I mean, what do we need to do before we pick the kids up?”
“Well, let’s see,” I sighed dramatically, reaching up to tug his hat off, if only to be able to run my fingers through his hair, which was in desperate need of a trim. “We’re leaving day after tomorrow. Saturday, right?” I asked, and he nodded, finally just giving in and pulling me to his lap, his arms wrapping all the way around me. “Okay, well, we need to at least to attempt packing for the four of us. I’m glad the dogs don’t wear clothes.”
Edward grinned. “Yes, Bethy has more than once tried to put clothes on Lock, but he won’t have it. I told her he was a nudist.”
Snorting, I let that go, not wanting to know if he’d explained exactly what a nudist was to an eight-year-old. Sometimes, Edward’s mouth got him into trouble with our kids and he ended up back-peddling to cover up the mistake. I wasn’t sure what was funnier: the kids telling on him, or his stutter when he tried to save himself. In fact, what was deemed the most expensive swear jar in the world now included what Emmett had labeled “verbal vomit.” It was for topics of conversation that should’ve never been brought up around the kids. And between all of them – Edward, Emmett, Jasper, Kurt, Alec, and even Carlisle – I was pretty sure there was enough in the account that someone could put a down payment on a house…or go to college. Either way, it had become the ultimate savings account, and it was for all of them, really.
“Anyway,” I sighed, rolling my eyes at him, which made him chuckle, “we should at least start to get this place ready to shut down. Don’t you think?”
He nodded slowly, inhaling a deep breath and letting it out. “Yeah, but I’ll leave the chopper for tomorrow. And I’ll get the bags from the basement for you.”
“’Kay.” I kissed him for that one, simply because despite the fact that I could go into the basement, it didn’t mean I liked going into the basement. It was the leftover bullshit from Miller, and we’d simply learned to live with it. “So what do you want to do first?”
His smile was slow and crooked as he dragged his tongue sexily across his bottom lip, but it was his eyes that said it all. They became hooded and dark, almost hazy with the ideas that were flitting through his mind. I laughed, my head falling back, but I hugged him close when his chuckling kiss met the skin of my throat.
“C’mon, sweetness,” he urged, sounding like the devil himself. “Listen,” he rumbled, brushing kiss after kiss up my neck to the spot behind my ear. “It’s so quiet. We’ve got the whole fucking place to ourselves. No crew. No kids. How often does that happen?”
“Hardly ever.” Even to my own ears, my voice sounded defeated, and Edward heard it from a mile away, because he smiled against my skin.
“Exactly, baby,” he crooned, ghosting his lips back across my throat in order to shower the other side of my neck with the same attention. Strong, calloused hands, slipped beneath my shirt, and I gasped. “Please, love. I’ll help with laundry, packing, whatever…”
I cut him off, threading my fingers into his hair and pulling his face up so that I could look him in the eye. “You need to check in with your dad.”
He groaned like a petulant teenager. “Please, please don’t mention my dad when you’re on my lap smelling like flowers, sin, and fuck me, the heat, baby.” His hands left my shirt, only to cup my ass and pull me closer.
Groaning aloud at the feel of him through his basketball shorts, my forehead thumped gently to his. “Edward…” I started to reprimand, but he interrupted me.
“I-I’ll c-call h-him, I-I s-swear. But damn, love…”
I’d suspected for years that Edward knew what his stutter did to me. Bethy had outgrown hers, and Sammy never developed one, but Edward’s was everything to me. It was pure honesty and adorable goodness. But it was also very sexy to me, because it was the real Edward, the Edward I’d met when we were just twelve and thirteen. It was the Edward that had sputtered through his first “I love you” to me, because it not only came with honesty, but with a tilt of his head, a vulnerable gaze, and a tighter grip of his hands.
He was impossible to ignore, especially when he was completely right about never having the place to ourselves. It didn’t help that he was warm, smelling of fresh air and salty sweat from his run, his stubble and dark eyes giving him a deadly, bad-boy look, and his too-long hair already looking like we’d gone three rounds in bed.
Leaning in, I surrendered, kissing him stupid. We had hours before the kids needed to be picked up and then all day tomorrow to get ready to leave for Alaska. Devouring my husband had just bumped up to the top of the list of things to do for the day.
A deliciously deep, sexy groan vibrated out of him against my chest, making my nipples peak tight beneath my shirt. He kept one hand on my ass, urging me to grind against him, but the other hand slipped into my hair at the base of my neck, forcing my head to turn so that he could claim my mouth.
Nipping at my bottom lip, he tugged on my hair just enough to pull my face away from his. “Alone, Bella,” he rasped, licking his lips. “I don’t want you quiet. We always have to be fucking quiet. I want to hear every-damn-thing. Got me?” he commanded, grinning when I whimpered a little and nodded. “Good.”
With that said, he tightened his grip on me, keeping me wrapped around him and slipping down from the kitchen stool. His footsteps were heavy down the hall, but he practically slammed the bedroom door closed behind us.
Taking a few steps into the room, he stopped at the side of the bed. “Put your feet down.”
I did as I was told, finding myself standing on the mattress. Grinning at how being taller than Edward gave me control, I grasped either side of his face and kissed the ever-loving shit out of him – heavy, deep thrusts of tongues, soft sweeps of lips, and harsh exhales against cheeks.
Long, calloused fingers caressed my thighs, my hips, and cupped my ass, only to make the circuit again and again. Our tongues slid languidly together, and Edward tasted of coffee, but I didn’t care, especially when his fingers finally slipped between my legs.
“Jesus, sweetness,” he panted, breaking our kiss, but his lips brushed against mine when he spoke. “You’re so hot. Are you wet, too?”
I nodded fervently. “Yes,” I whispered, pressing my forehead to his in order to catch my breath.
Barely moving, Edward kicked out of his sneakers and toed off his socks. When he was done, he grasped my shirt and pulled it quickly off over my head. His eyes blackened to pitch as they followed the path his hands were leaving on my body. There were certain things Edward always did, and one was the reverence he paid to my scars. Some had faded over the years, but a few remained. He leaned in, inhaling my skin as he dragged his lips across my sternum, over my stomach, and along the edge of the boxers I was wearing. With a swift yank, those same boxers pooled at my feet, leaving me completely bare in front of him.
“Lie down, love,” he ordered softly, rubbing the outside of my thighs. “I want to see you spread out for me.”
Stepping out of the boxers, I lay down across the bed, licking my lips when he removed his shorts. His cock was hard, thick, and already leaking.
“Needy, baby?” I asked, holding back my moan of want when his hand wrapped around his shaft.
“For fucking days, Bella,” he answered, which was exaggerating things a bit, considering he’d woken me up the day before with naughty fingers and deliciously dirty words.
Grinning, I opened my arms and legs for him, and he crawled up my body to brace his arms on either side of my head.
“Try just a day, handsome,” I countered with a smirk when he chuckled.
“Still too long,” he grumbled, diving for my mouth again.
When our bare skin slipped together, we both moaned, my legs pulling him closer, my arms wrapping around his neck and gripping his shoulder.
“I-if I-I c-could h-have y-you e-every d-day, I-I w-would,” he sputtered, shrugging one shoulder before lowering his head to kiss my collarbone.
A shiver racked my frame at his sweet stutter, and I pulled at him and pressed a kiss to his Air Force ink, whispering, “No foreplay, Edward. Just fuck me.”
His whole body surged forward, and he braced his weight on one hand. Licking the pads of his fingers, he reached between us, lined himself up at my entrance, and thrust deliciously deep. The feeling of being complete, of feeling whole and full and perfect, washed over me.
“Fuck!” I grunted, my eyes rolling back as my head pressed into the bed.
“Yes,” he hissed, freezing for just a moment. “I’m not fucking kidding, Bella. I want every sound you’ll give me.”
It was a really good thing no one else was home, because we weren’t quiet. We were loud, urging each other on, and with every orgasm Edward gave me, my voice and language got worse. The bed was destroyed, our bodies covered in sweat, and we only moved our activities from the bedroom to the shower when it was all said and done.
By the time we were clean, dressed, and completely sated, I could’ve slept for another eight hours, but as it was, we needed to at least try to start packing up the place before going to get the kids from school.
With the phone pressed to my ear, I headed into the basement. The sound of cartoons in the living room, the smell of dinner cooking in the kitchen, and the thumping of someone’s sneakers in the dryer created a cacophony of noise that simply meant “home.” Smiling at that thought, I walked to the storage shelves as I waited for my dad to pick up. Due to the large time difference – eleven hours – I’d decided to wait to call him until the kids were home and dinner was in the oven.
“It’s five o’clock in the morning, son,” he answered grumpily.
Chuckling, I said, “Hello, sunshine. I’m merely checking on you. No need to be an ass. You were up anyway. Admit it.”
His laugh was soft, but he sighed deeply. “Actually, you’re right. I just got back from grabbing a cup of coffee. How are Bella and my grandkids?”
“I’m just peachy, Dad. Thanks for fucking asking,” I grumbled under my breath, rolling my eyes when he laughed, even though he couldn’t see me, and pulled down two rather large suitcases from the top shelf. “They’re fine. We’re getting ready to head out to Aunt Kate’s on Saturday. Bella and I wanted to know when you were joining us. You almost done there, or what?”
“I’d like to say I was,” he said wearily. “I have another meeting later today that will determine whether I have to visit the mine or not.”
I shook my head as I dug around on the shelves for a couple of duffle bags for the kids. “Damn, Dad, the mine is like twelve hundred miles from Moscow. Really?”
“My goal was originally to come here to remove Twi Tech from anything to do with that mine, but…they’re swearing to me they’ve made some changes.”
Frowning, I dropped the two bags on top of the luggage I’d pulled out and leaned back against the shelves. When my dad had originally approached me concerning his trip to Russia, I’d balked, telling him to have the meetings via webcam, but he’d promised me that he had it all under control. Twi Tech had technically inherited Norilsk Mining Centre via Charlie, Bella’s father. Charlie had acquired it in a hostile takeover of a Moscow bank, which had owned the nickel mine. The problem became the environment around said mine. It pushed out chemicals that were making the surrounding town sick – the surrounding town where most of its occupants worked at the mine.
My dad had wanted to remove Twi Tech’s name from it all. He’d been slowly ridding the company of any subsidiaries that were bad for business, and while Norilsk was the biggest producer of nickel in the world, it was a festering sore on the planet environmentally.
“I don’t know, Dad. Is it worth it? Can’t you just sell it? Something about you two being over there isn’t sitting right with me,” I admitted, shrugging a shoulder he couldn’t see.
“Me, either, Edward, but I don’t really have a choice. I couldn’t send Jake over here. I needed him for situations at the office,” he explained, and I resisted the urge to say something shitty about Bella’s cheating ex. “Let me see how this meeting goes, and then I’ll have a better lock on things.”
Sighing, I scrubbed my face. “Fine, but do me a favor, yeah? Just…humor me and toss one of Alice’s GPS chips on you, because these guys sound like they’re jerkin’ you around. Got me?”
He chuckled. “I’m covered, and so is Esme. Promise. Have Alice check if you’re feeling twitchy.”
“Fair enough,” I conceded.
“Look, son,” he said with a deep sigh, “the mine is profitable, but the people who run it cut corners every way imaginable. If I can stop that, then we’ll be okay. There’s another mine approximately eleven hundred miles south of there that’s a good example of how it should be. The community is clean, including the prison there, and they still turn a profit. Sergei wants to see how it’s done, but that would require a few trips in the jet. If I decide to do that, Edward, I promise to keep you posted. Okay?”
“Fine, but I don’t like it,” I stated firmly. “I just don’t. And don’t think I won’t have Alice run a background check on this Sergei asshole.”
“She did already. For me. Have her show you once you get to Aunt Kate’s.”
“’Kay,” I grunted, pressing my phone back between my ear and shoulder. I picked up all the bags and lugged them up the stairs. “Check in soon, yeah?”
“Ten-four,” he agreed. “Give my grandkids kisses from Poppy and Gamma. And tell Bella we’ll both call with updates.”
“Okay, Dad.”
The call was ended, and I walked through the house to the kitchen, dropping the bags onto the floor. Bella’s eyes were on me, her brow furrowed.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, checking the chicken in the oven.
I shook my head. “I thought when Dad went over there that he was just going to sell that mine and come home, but it looks like they’re trying to suck him into something else. I don’t like it.”
“He’s not stupid, Edward. In fact, he’s pretty sharp. He’ll see a ruse a mile away,” she countered.
Nodding in agreement, I sighed. “I know you’re right, but I want Alice monitoring them at all times once we get to Alaska. He’s in a secure hotel, but…” I shook my head slowly. “Maybe we should’ve sent Alec with them.”
“Alec offered, but your dad declined,” she said softly, walking to me and cupping my face. Bella paused, her eyes studying mine, only to nod once. “Okay. I’ll tell Alice when we get there. She and Jasper are flying out in the morning. I’ll have her set up at Aunt Kate’s as soon as she gets settled in. Will that make you feel better?”
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly through my nose. It was one thing when my dad had to travel for business; he did it all the time. But the way this Sergei asshole insisted that he fly to Russia for “meetings” didn’t sit well with me. He wouldn’t hear of a phone conference or a Skype session. He had insisted that my dad come in person.
“Yeah,” I finally conceded to my beautiful girl with a small nod. “But have her do me a favor… Have her dig as deep as she can on Sergei Maslov. Deeper than she did for my dad, which needs to include people he associates with.”
Bella smirked a little, leaning in to kiss me. “Will do, baby. Now, go get your kids. It’s almost time to eat.”
“Get down, get down,” I hissed, diving behind a large fallen fir tree. I checked my weapon as Emmett fell down into place beside me. Glancing over, I asked, “Where were they?”
Grinning, he used silent hand signals: two at twelve o’clock and two circling the area.
“And Alec?” I asked in a whisper.
“He’s covering the rear,” he replied almost silently.
“Got it.” I chuckled, shaking my head. “You sweep to the left. I’ll take the right. We should trap them all.”
He snorted, nodded, and silently shouldered his weapon. “Meet you in the middle.”
I used the edge of the woods to circle around to the right, staying low and quiet. However, I had to dive behind a large rock when the sound of yelling met my ears.
“Kids! Let’s go!” Bella called from the house.
“Aw, Mom! We haven’t found them yet!” Bethy argued.
Bella laughed, giving the woods around the house a sweep of her hand. “And you probably won’t. In fact, I’d guess all three of them are watching you right now.”
Smiling, I shook my head. My kids, Abby, and Caleb loved to play hide and seek, but Emmett and I had kicked it up a notch. We’d added water guns, and not just any water guns – Super Soakers. Everyone wore white, throw-away T-shirts, and each team used a different watercolor in their gun. Whichever team came out the cleanest was declared the winner. Today, Emmett had added colored water inside balloons. We had water grenades. It was war at its most fun and innocent, and we all probably took it too seriously.
We were celebrating the fact that the kids were out of school, that it was a bright, warm Saturday morning, and that we’d be flying out later today. Alec, Sarah, and Abby were catching a flight in a few hours. Rose, Emmett, and Caleb were flying out on Sunday. By Monday morning, Aunt Kate’s house would be overflowing with just about all of us.
“You guys need to change clothes and eat. Sarah, you’re about to head to the airport.”
“Aw, crap,” Caleb growled, sounding just like his dad. “We had them, too.”
“No, we didn’t,” Sammy piped up softly, giving the whole yard a slow gaze, and I smirked at how quiet and unassuming he was…and brilliant, because his next statement was genius. “Lock and Load, find Daddy.”
“Cheater!” I hissed with a laugh, but it worked.
The two large dogs scampered off the porch, where they’d been watching the game with somewhat amused grins on their faces. Their noses to the ground, they started tracking my every step I’d taken once the kids had started counting.
“Dammit,” I snorted, scrambling up as quietly as I could, continuing on my path around to the side of the house.
I caught sight of Alec, who was highly amused at the whole thing, and I silently told him to meet me on the opposite side of the house behind Bethy’s treehouse. We crept slowly, plastering our backs against the trunk. Emmett was using my woodshop for cover, grinning as he palmed two full balloons. But just as Lock and Load were rumbling through the woods, still hot on my trail, Alec, Emmett, and I stepped out, catching the kids – and poor Bella, who dove for cover onto the porch with a curse – in the crossfire.
Emmett tossed the two balloons – one at Bethy and one at Caleb – at the same time Alec and I opened fire on Sarah and Sammy. The result was squeals, screams, and little legs scurrying for cover. Red and blue water sprayed everywhere. Sammy squeezed the trigger, drenching me in bluish water square in the chest, while Sarah launched a balloon Alec’s way, catching his shoulder. Bethy and Caleb double-teamed Emmett, so by the time Rose shot a piercing whistle from the front porch, we all came to a standstill. Every last one of us were fucking dripping wet and, due to the colors we’d picked…purple.
“Baths, clean clothes, lunch…in that order. Now!” Rose ordered, but her amusement was all over her face.
“Go, go, go!” Bella added with a laugh, shaking her head and meeting my gaze. “Really, Edward?”
Grinning, I shrugged, glancing down at my T-shirt. It looked tie-dyed. “Kill ’em all, and let God sort ’em out.”
“Shut up,” she chortled, pointing toward the chopper. “Are you ready?”
“Yeah, love.” I snickered, walking to her. “We’re set. We can leave when you’re ready.”
“Don’t you dare touch me,” she growled playfully, gesturing a finger to my dripping shirt. “Strip that off and hit the showers, flyboy.”
Reaching back, I grabbed the back of my shirt, which was completely dry, and yanked it off over my head. With a grin, I chucked it into the garbage.
“If you want me naked, sweetness, all you had to do is ask,” I whispered to her, kissing her cheek as I made my way into the house.
She shoved me through the door, but laughed. “Shower…go. And make sure the kids don’t drip all over our floor.”
Bethy and Abby took the hallway bathroom, two giggly brunettes that made me smile. I took the boys with me, shoving Caleb and Sammy into the shower in Bella’s and my room. After a lunch of the kids’ favorite – chili dogs – Alec left with his family for the airport. Rose, per Alice’s instructions, went out to the Gravity office to make sure Igor was up and running. She was going to access him remotely from Alaska.
Emmett helped me with last-minute security measures just before I loaded two kids, two dogs, and Bella into the chopper, not to mention all the shit that “just had to go” into the cargo hold. Cameras, security codes, and motion sensors were all turned on. The house, the office, and my woodshop were all double-locked and alarms set. I called Chief Clark to let him to know we would be gone for at least a month, and he promised to keep check on the place for me and to call if anything happened.
“Little sweetness, I need my co-pilot!” I called, smiling when my baby girl ran across the yard.
Some things didn’t change. Bethy was, and probably always would be, in the co-pilot seat of the chopper. It had been that way most of her life. Occasionally, Sammy would ask to sit there, but it wasn’t his thing. He loved to fly with me, but he was a lot like Bella, who liked to look out at the shit going by beneath us. Plus, he liked sitting with Lock and Load. Bethy, however, loved the technical side of flying. She loved reading the gauges, telling me where we were, and monitoring our progress. I was pretty damn sure I’d have to pay for flying lessons eventually.
Bethy scrambled up into the seat. Her affinity for colors as when she was a baby was still ever-present. Today, the color was pink – pink Chucks, pink Air Force hoodie, and a pink backwards baseball cap, all paired with jeans. She pulled on her headset, nodding to me.
Unable to help myself, I leaned in and kissed her forehead. “Good girl.”
I lifted Lock and Load into the back, and they took their usual seats as I set my son up there next.
“You ready?” I asked him, smiling when he grinned and nodded. “Then, strap in, son.” I handed him his cap and ruffled his hair. “You and I have to get a trim from Aunt Kate,” I told him with a laugh. “She can shear us like the sheep.”
He giggled, pulling his hat on backwards, and crawled up into his seat.
“Not too short, either of you,” Bella countered, smiling when I lifted her, too, up into the cabin. “I love your hair. So leave some on top, yeah?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I grunted with a nod. “What did you hear from Alice?” I asked her.
“She’s setting up now. It was why she wanted Rose to activate Igor here at the office. She’s going to use him as not only a test, but to access her stuff here,” she answered, leaning in to kiss me softly. “She’ll watch, Edward. By the time we arrive, she’ll have something for you, I’m sure.”
“Thanks, love,” I whispered, kissing her one more time before she took her seat across from Sammy.
I pulled myself up into the pilot seat, giving my property one last glance. “Okay, guys…hold on.”
Bethy glanced up to me. “Call in your flight, Daddy,” she commanded over the headset, making Bella laugh. “Alaska, here we come!”


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