Sunday, October 27, 2013 | By: Drotuno

Fire & Ice Chapter 3 & Pics

Chapter 3
“Edward Anthony!” I heard behind me when I slid open the bay door after pulling Bethy down out of the co-pilot seat and setting her on her feet. When I glanced over my shoulder, Aunt Kate added, “Hurry up and come hug on me!”
Chuckling, I said, “Yes, Aunt Kate.”
“Are you in trouble?” Sammy asked in a whisper. “You just got here, Daddy.”
Chuckling, I asked, “What makes you think I’m in trouble?”
“Mom calls me Samuel Masen when I do sumpthin’ wrong,” he explained, looking over my shoulder wide-eyed.
Bella laughed softly and kissed his temple. “Relax, Sammy. Aunt Kate has always called your daddy that,” she told him. “It keeps him out of trouble.” She grinned when I rolled my eyes her way.
“That’s it. Everyone out,” I teased, swinging a laughing Samuel down to the ground. The dogs went next, and finally Bella.

It made sense he wouldn’t remember. We hadn’t been to Aunt Kate’s in several months…hell, almost a year. He’d been three then.
When I turned around, I smirked at just how many people had come to greet us. But Aunt Kate was my first priority; she made sure of it. Bending a little, I hugged her and kissed her cheek.
“It’s about time you brought your behind up here, son,” she reprimanded, but smiled as she cupped my face. “Damn, you look more and more like your mother every time I get a glimpse of you. Now, get your things. I’ve got dinner cooking. Well, I started it, and Alec took over. He says it’s your turn tomorrow.”
“Anything you want,” I conceded without even giving it a thought. “But…” I glanced around at everyone greeting each other with hugs and kisses. “Aunt Kate, what are we all doing here?” I asked her, because she’d simply insisted that we all come.
That question seemed to be on everyone’s mind, and they all got quiet for her answer.
She chuckled, leaning up to kiss my cheek one more time. “Because my birthday is coming up, and I’m not getting any younger. Once your father and Esme join us, I’ll have my entire family under one roof.”
Draping an arm around her shoulders, I said, “Fair enough.”
Jasper helped me unload the chopper, lugging everything down to the room that had been built especially for my parents and me at one point. Aunt Kate continued to add on to her place all the time. The crew had gotten bigger throughout the years, due to marriages and children, and she wanted to always be able to provide a safe place for us all. In fact, she’d just recently added a room just for all the kids to share, split in half – one side for the boys and the other for the girls. There were toys, bunk beds, and even a toddler bed for Kaitlyn. It was huge and fun and bright, and it was situated just off the main living space.
The entire complex was filled with the thick aroma of Alec’s spaghetti sauce and garlic. Aunt Kate had started it and he’d kicked in whatever he’d needed to make it his.
I dropped Bella’s and my bags down onto our bed, glancing over at Jasper as I fell down onto the edge of the mattress. I tugged off my hat, gripped my hair, and pulled it back on.
“Have you heard from him?” he asked, leaning in the doorway.
“Yesterday,” I replied with a nod. “I called him on Thursday, and he had a meeting to go to. He called the next morning – well, morning for him. They want him to visit this mine site.”
“Is he?”
I shook my head. “I don’t know. He’s weighing it out.”
“Maybe you should try him soon. Like really soon. Alice has been working on what you asked. This Sergei guy comes up clean, and so do most of the people he associates with, but she spread out the search. Edward, we need to look at that mine’s employees. And maybe we should sit down with Alec to see if he knows anything…like does your dad have history over there or some shit.”
Nodding, I sighed deeply. “After dinner, we’ll sit down, go over everything she’s got, and try to call him. They’re eleven hours ahead of us over there. Now twelve.” I muttered the last words, remembering there was an hour between Washington and Alaska. Smirking, I glanced up at him. “How’s the new computer room Aunt Kate had built?”
Along with the kids’ room, Aunt Kate had added onto the dining room. She considered her house one of our safe houses, so she wanted a place that we could truly work if we needed. Despite the fact that my dad didn’t really dabble in the mercenary world anymore, she’d told us all she wasn’t taking any chances. And that probably stemmed from her husband, Garrett, who had worked for my dad for years. He had died years ago, but he’d been wickedly clever, almost paranoid, and always covered his ass. He always had a backup plan, a safe place to land.
Jasper laughed, shaking his head. “Oh, Lord. I doubt I’ll ever see my wife again. It’s everything Alice wanted and then some. It’s not as…intense as Gravity, but she’s been able to install a com link to Igor from here. He’s been a noisy motherfucker ever since.”
I laughed and stood up wearily, gripping his shoulder once I got to the door. “Good luck with that.”
“Yeah, thanks,” he sighed, rolling his eyes. “But…Alice wouldn’t be Alice without a piece of technology in her hand.”
“Truer words, man…”
Dinner was a loud and boisterous affair. The kids – poor Sammy the only boy for moment – all ate in the living room while watching a movie, but all the adults sat around the table, catching up with Aunt Kate. We joked, told exaggerated stories on one another, and the wine flowed pretty freely. It was when talk turned to my dad and Esme that things became serious again.
“Emmett and Rose will be here tomorrow morning,” Bella said, linking our fingers together. “They’re bringing Makenna and Kurt with them. She was seeing Wes off at the airport, so they decided to all fly out at the same time.”
“What about Carlisle and Esme?” Sarah asked, leaning into Alec when he draped an arm around the back of her chair.
Alice’s head shot up from behind the always-present laptop, locking gazes with me. I looked to Jasper, and finally, Bella.
“Anything?” I asked Alice.
“No,” she said with a slow shake of her head. “As far as I can tell, they’re still at the hotel.”
I nodded, but reached up to grip my hair. If they were still at the hotel, then they were safe.
“Pretty boy, spill. You look like you’re about to pull your hair out,” Mickey stated, setting her elbows on the table. Her honey-colored eyes swept over me, her brow furrowing. She could read me almost as well as Bella could.
I let go of my hair, my hand falling back to the table. “I was really hoping he’d be done with that shit by now.” Looking at Bella to my left, I met warm, concerned brown eyes. “He swears to me he knows what he’s doing, but something about this trip is fucking me up.”
“Okay,” Bella said softly, rubbing the top of my thigh underneath the table. She immediately turned to Alec. “Why did Carlisle decline your protection, Alec?”
He shrugged. “He said that the people he was meeting were anxious enough, Bellisima. He didn’t want them nervous, because this was supposed to be a simple sale. He was afraid to spook them, I think. If I walk in as security, they could get iffy, ya know?”
She nodded, turning her gaze to Alice. “Tell us what you know, pixie.”
Alice stood up from the table. “It’s better if Igor shows you, but we have to go to the computer room.”
We all started to stand, but the kids’ laughter met our ears, causing us to second-guess ourselves.
Sarah chuckled, holding up a hand. “I’ve got them. Just catch me up later, okay?” she asked, but her sharp eyes were on Alec.
“Of course, anima,” he whispered, kissing her forehead.
Everyone squeezed into the computer room, taking seats at desks and a small table in the center. I closed the door, leaning against it next to Aunt Kate, who was gazing up at me.
“You’re worried about him,” she surmised, her shrewd eyes raking all over my face.
“That mine…it’s in an area filled with desperate people. Moscow is one thing, but that area is another,” I explained to her, but everyone was listening. “If he goes there, then…I don’t know…” My voice trailed off, and I shrugged a shoulder.
“You’re right,” Alice piped up, and her tone was serious, sober. Even her eyes were dark. “That area is…sick. Literally.” She gestured toward the blank wall. “Igor.”
Yes, Miss Alice?
“Please bring up the pictures of Norilsk Mine,” she commanded, and immediately, the blank wall was filled with three large flatscreen-sized holographic computer monitors. She walked to the first one. “This is why Carlisle wanted to sell,” she started, pointing to not only the mine, but the surrounding area. It was desolate, looking cold and ruined, like a post-apocalyptic world. “The mine produces most of the world’s nickel, which is used to make coins in just about every country. It’s an alloy used to make stainless steel and bronze, and this mine is really productive. The problem is the stuff that spews out of it. It’s considered the most polluted city in the world. That’s over and above any over-populated city like New York or Los Angeles. And it’s all in the air – phenols, heavy metals, and sulfur dioxide.”
She faced us all again. “This is why your dad wanted out from underneath it. He’s spent the better part of his partnership with Charlie, and now with Jacob Black, trying to clean up Twi Tech. Technology and weapons put Charlie on the map, but it’s buyouts like this that made Twi Tech one of the top richest companies in the world. Carlisle wants to now use that fortune to make a difference.” She spun to the wall again, pointing to the next holographic screen. “Carlisle isn’t stupid. He knows this mine makes money, but the practices they use are careless. There are mines and processing plants around the globe that can keep the area surrounding them clean. It’s all he’s wanted from Norilsk from the get-go.”
“So…what? They aren’t cleaning up?” Alec asked.
“No, they aren’t,” Alice answered almost coldly, stepping back and pointing to another picture of a diagram. “It’s expensive to clean it up. It’s years of filtration, a complete renovation of how it’s all processed, and a reconstruction of the surrounding area…the town. It would cost millions in U.S. dollars to fix it.” She stepped back to point to another screen, this one with a picture of an older gentleman with graying hair. “Sergei Maslov.”
My eyes narrowed on the guy’s face. He didn’t seem intimidating, but I didn’t trust any motherfucker outside my family and crew, especially with my dad’s and stepmother’s lives on the line.
“Edward, you asked me to dig deeper into his background, and I did,” she said, turning to me. “Nothing is different than when I ran that same search for Carlisle.”
“Okay,” I replied, gripping my hair. “But? What else did you find?”
“Not much, but I’m not finished running a few other searches. As far as Sergei’s friends go, they, too, are clean. The Moscow bank, the upper management of the mine, and Sergei’s immediate family are all fine. Right now, I’m trying to obtain a complete list of the employees of Norilsk.”
“Pixie, my dad mentioned another mine – a mine that Sergei wanted to see. What is that?” I asked, pushing away from the door to brace my hands on the back of Bella’s chair. “He said it was like eleven hundred miles from Norilsk.”
“Igor, search for mines within a two thousand mile radius of Norilsk,” Alice ordered.
As you wish…
I snorted, but I wasn’t the only one. Jasper chuckled low, shaking his head. Mickey glanced over to Bella, and both were highly amused.
“Oh hell, Alice,” Mickey sighed. “Igor is only boosting that genius ego of yours, isn’t he?”
The pixie merely grinned, but Igor was bringing up a giant map of Russia on the wall. Several red dots appeared all the way from one end to the other, but an orange circle, with Norilsk in the center, highlighted a large portion of the country.
“Igor, shrink that radius down to eleven hundred miles,” I ordered, and the circle shrank a little, which only included a few of the red dots on the map. “Now, Igor, what mines are south within that circle?”
Krasnoyarsk Mining and Chemical Combine, Mr. Edward. An article flew to the forefront of the screen, and Igor started to read it. Krasnoyarsk-26, currently Zheleznogorsk, was established in 1950 to produce plutonium for weapons. The facility's original name was the Combine 815. At present, it is known as the Mining and Chemical Combine. Zheleznogorsk is situated in the southern part of Central Siberia on the banks of the Yenissei River…
“Thank you, Igor,” Alice said when Alec motioned for her to stop him.
He turned to me, but pointed a finger behind him toward the wall. “I know that fucking place, kid. I know it because it sits right next to a nuclear weapons facility.”
“Yes, yes, yes,” Alice chanted, walking around the table. “In the sixties, the place was a booming weapons manufacturer. Now, it processes power and water. In fact, as of late, most of the weapons-grade uranium is being gathered up and sent to Canada for it to be converted from weapon to medical radiation.” Alice sighed, meeting my gaze. “Your dad was aware of what this Mining and Chemical Combine was, Edward.”
Nodding, I let out a deep breath. “What’s his status now?”
A few clicks of a mouse, and a map of Moscow shot up onto the wall.
“Still at the hotel,” Bella stated, looking to me. “Call him.”
Pulling out my phone, I swiftly dialed my dad, putting it on speakerphone. I didn’t give a shit how early it was for him.
“Edward, I swear,” he answered, sounding sleepy.
“Shut the fuck up, Dad,” I ordered. “Tell me your progress.”
He took a deep breath, and I could hear shifting around over the line. “Why?”
“Because a simple sale shouldn’t take this long, Carlisle,” Bella answered before I could. “We’re only looking out for you. By now, lawyers and financial people should be doing the hard work. Not you.”
He sighed again, but chuckled softly at the sound of my wife’s voice. “Okay, sweetheart,” he conceded, his tone easier, lighter. “I’m currently awaiting clearance to take a tour of Zheleznogorsk – the Mining and Chemical Combine. Considering what they do, security is extremely tight. They don’t want someone going in with bad intentions. Plutonium and uranium sold on the black market to the wrong person could be extraordinarily dangerous. There are countries out there that would give anything to get their hands on it.”
“Which is what now concerns me, Carlisle,” she countered. “They’d do just about anything, including using the CEO of one of the world’s biggest companies, to get what they want. You may have checked these guys out, but you don’t know who’s watching them. This Maslov guy keeps switching plans, and I don’t like it. Please fly here before doing anything. We’ll re-group, gather more intel, maybe even do some recon work, and you can go back with a few of us.”
“I’m aware of who could be watching, Bella,” he argued, sounding a lot like me. “But I also know that if I can convince Sergei to clean up Norilsk, then thousands of lives, not to mention the environment, would better from it. I’ve been extremely cautious about where we go and who we talk to, but I can’t deny that Twi Tech could make a difference here without selling it, even if I have to remove Sergei from his position. I’m trying not to do that. He has the respect of the employees and the surrounding town. He simply has to learn to use it.”
Alec’s face turned dark. “Fine, Carlisle. But let’s do this a different way. Let me come to you. Send Esme to Alaska. I’ll play the dutiful assistant or some fucking shit.” When my head shot up, he held up his hand. “I’m aware that you can take care of yourself, but Bellisma has a strong argument. If for some reason someone decides to act on your...your popularity, especially with your sudden interest in these mines, then Esme could become a target. She could be used against you. Take her out of the equation. If you keep going south, you’re gonna hit dangerous territory. There are undesirable people in Turkey, in the Middle East. That whole area down there has a volatile underground. Americans with access to money and weapons are a target. Being there without backup is dangerous. I don’t give a shit how nervous you make them. Fuck, they should be nervous. You know I’m right.”
My dad sighed heavily over the line. “Shit, Esme’s gonna be pissed,” he muttered. “Let me talk to her when she wakes up. I’ll call you back.”
“When?!” Bella, Alec, and I all yelled at the same time.
“Give me a few hours, and I’ll let you know,” he stated, and the line went dead.
The computer room was deadly quiet when the call ended. A quick glance around the room told me that they were all looking to me, that the absence of my father made me the one in charge. This wasn’t a Gravity situation; it was something else. It had the feel of something bigger, something that I couldn’t quite put a name to. I took a deep breath and let it out, clawing at my hair that was now bugging the fucking piss out of me because it was too damn long. Rubbing my face, I looked to Alice.
“I want… Alice, get me all you can on this Z-Zhel…this…fuck, the Mining and Chemical Combine!” I finally spat, shaking my head at the names I couldn’t pronounce.
“Let’s just shorten that shit to MCC right now,” Mickey suggested with a laugh and a slow shake of her head.
“Fine. MCC. I want to know who’s running it, who’s working there, and what security checks my dad has to go through. Also, you say you’re gathering an employee list of Norilsk?”
“Yes,” Alice stated with a nod. “That’s coming from Twi Tech. They have it on file, but I’m just waiting for Angela to send it to me.”
“Got it,” I sighed, shaking my head and looking to Alec. “You’re serious about going to him?”
“Yeah, kid. Definitely,” he affirmed, reaching up to squeeze my shoulder.
“Okay, well, then let’s save my dad some trouble. We need two flights – one for Esme from Moscow to Anchorage, and one for you,” I stated, looking around the room.
“I got it, Edward,” Bella said, standing up from the table and making her way to a computer terminal by Alice.
Jasper and Mickey came to stand by Alec and me. Their faces were grim and controlled.
“We forgot to ask him about past work in Russia,” Jasper murmured, not to chastise me, but his tone sounded a bit disappointed.
“How far back?” a voice asked from behind us, and we all spun to look at Aunt Kate. When I shrugged, she smiled and clarified. “What I mean is…Carlisle’s crew used to keep a few records of past jobs. Garrett kept files for the first few years. There may be something in them that’s helpful.”
“Where are they, Aunt Kate?” Mickey asked.
“The attic.”
Mickey looked to me. “Couldn’t hurt, right?” She shrugged a shoulder. “I’ll grab those, lug them in here, and go through them. Maybe we’ll come up with something. I’m assuming you want to be armed to the teeth with every possible piece of info, pretty boy.”
She nodded and left the computer room with Aunt Kate. Frowning, I realized I was missing a few important people from my crew. Rose and Emmett, not to mention Kurt and Makenna – they’d all be hard at work narrowing shit down, taking up slack, and preparing for the worst. It had taken a long damn time for my crew and Bella’s girls to mesh, but when we finally had, we’d become a flawless, efficient machine.
Jasper was eyeing me. “I’ll call Emmett, see if he can’t get them all on an earlier flight. Would that make you feel better?”
Nodding, I shot him a grateful look, and he immediately pulled out his phone. He stepped out of the office as soon as Emmett answered.
“I’d better go talk to Sarah,” Alec murmured, looking contrite. “I’d told her about Carlisle’s trip, that I’d offered to go. I’d better tell her he may change his mind.”
I took a seat next to Alice. “Let me help, pixie. That’s a lot of names.”
She nodded. “Igor, pull up Mining and Chemical Combine…or MCC. Send the info to terminal one.”
As you wish…
Immediately, the large monitor in front of me lit up and several windows of information flew up onto the screen. Clicking through it, I sent the employee list to the printer, scanned through the layout, and started looking at the security situation. It was going to be a long damn night waiting for my dad to call.
“Edward,” I called, rolling around Alice, who was pacing in front of two really large holographic screens.
She was reading every damn thing she could get her hands on, and I knew, sadly, that she’d retain it forever. Her eidetic memory was a blessing and a curse to her. She could never forget phone numbers, scientific facts, or how to do something, but she also couldn’t forget the inane shit that crossed her path. She could read and understand just about any language, but she couldn’t stop herself when she’d blurt out facts that coincided with just about any subject. She’d once complained to me that her mind never stopped, never shut down; it always seemed to be contemplating something.
Edward’s tired eyes glanced up from the computer in front of him, giving Alice a respectful, yet sympathetic gaze. He looked to me, then at the piece of paper I was handing him.
“Baby, I can’t get a flight for Esme until tomorrow – noon their time. Then there’s this…” I pointed to Alec’s flight. “Your dad will be alone until Alec can take that same flight back. I’m sorry.”
He looked pained, but he nodded once. “Nothing? It doesn’t have to be nonstop, but…”
I shook my head. “I’ve tried everything. I mean, you could fly him in, but you’d have to stop a few times to fuel up.”
He shook his head, his nose wrinkling adorably. “Last resort, sweetness.” He held up the papers. “Thanks.”
We’d been in the computer room for a few hours, the kids having long been put to bed. Emmett was most likely in the air already. He, Rose, Kurt, and Makenna had been able to push their flight up a few hours. I’d heard Caleb wasn’t happy about being woken up to go, but otherwise, Emmett had hauled ass to get here. He’d even told Jasper not to have anyone pick them up, that he’d rent a car. I was pretty sure that the members of our crew would move mountains when needed. I was hoping to see them before sunrise, because we could actually use them all. The research was overwhelming when we weren’t exactly sure what we were looking for.
Glancing over at the table in the middle of the room, I watched as Mickey and Obie sorted through the boxes that Aunt Kate had provided. There were files upon files inside, envelopes with satellite images and photographs, not to mention illegal identifications. They were simply sorting through the overseas jobs, stacking them off to the side.
My eyes drifted back to my husband. Throughout the years, we’d learned to trust our gut instincts. He trusted mine to the ends of the earth and back, but I relied upon his. And to see him worried about his dad was wrecking me. I wanted to pluck Carlisle and Esme out of Moscow and set them down in front of him, if only to take away the dark look on Edward’s face.
He clawed at his hair, pulling it up off his forehead.
“You’re gonna pull it all out. Go have Aunt Kate cut it, Edward. Take a break, or I’m gonna use Bethy’s hair thingys to keep it out of your eyes,” I threatened him, leaning in to kiss his cheek. “I’ve got this. And leave your phone in case your dad calls.”
His grin was every bit the combination adorable and sexy, not to mention a touch disbelieving as to whether or not I’d meant it.
“Barrettes with flowers on them, handsome. I’m not kidding,” I chortled, shoving at him until he got up.
“Bella…” he started to argue, but leaned down to kiss my lips. “Just…let me know if you find something.”
“Yes, sir,” I answered against his lips and then watched him as he left the room.
“Okay, I think we have all the overseas jobs separated,” Obie announced, standing up from the table to stack the boxes off in the corner. He pushed a rather large stack of files toward the center of the table. “That’s a lot of shit.”
Alice and I laughed softly, but turned to face him. I had to hand it to Obie. He didn’t always know how to help us or what to do when it came to Gravity, research, or jobs, but he had become a quiet supporter of us all. He grinned at us, shrugging a shoulder.
“Perfect,” Alice praised, picking up the stack. She walked over to the scanner, taking the first file and setting everything into the tray, continuing on until all the files were loaded into the feeder. There were about ten or twelve files, not all of them very thick, but once she was done, she typed rapidly into the computer. “Igor, scan these files, sort them, and classify them.”
Yes, Miss Alice… The process will take approximately eleven minutes.
She nodded as if she’d assumed as much, facing the screen she’d been reading before Edward had left the room. “This won’t work unless I have the files from Angela,” she murmured softly to herself as she studied the screen. “I can’t make a comparison without it.”
My nose wrinkled, but I had to ask, “Um…can you hack it?”
She grinned, glancing over at me. “I can.” She laughed and shrugged a shoulder. “I was trying not to, simply out of respect for Carlisle.”
“Uh…do it,” I ordered, waving a hand at her. “Just do it. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission…or in this case, wait for Angela to get to Twi Tech Tower. Tomorrow is Sunday, so she’s off. Just get it done.”
“Okay,” she sang, plopping down into a chair and pulling a keyboard closer.
“Edward Anthony, will you be still?!”
Every head in the room spun to stare at the closed door, grins curling up on our faces at Aunt Kate’s exasperated tone.
Mickey snorted, shaking her head one time. “Wow, he’s… He’s really letting this shit get to him.”
Nodding, I hummed in agreement, pulling a stack of papers off the printer that Edward had printed. “Yes, he is. I think he was okay until he talked to his dad a couple of days ago. We’re all used to Carlisle running things, so to hear his dad being jerked around set off alarms for Edward.”
Obie’s head shot up from the table. “You think he’s being threatened? Like maybe he can’t tell you what’s really going on?”
“I don’t know. I suppose it’s possible,” I admitted. “Though, I’m pretty damn sure he has some sort of code, right?”
“Back in the day, he did,” Mickey told us, sitting back in her chair. “I think we maybe used it one time. Emmett had a gun to his head as we were trying to take down a small village. They were holding some POWs in a place the military couldn’t go. We’d split up, and Emmett was supposed to sabotage the few rundown trucks, just to give us a head start out of there once Edward and I broke the guys out of the cell. Jasper was set up on a hill about eighty yards away. He could see us, but not Emmett. Em simply said, ‘Papa Bear’s porridge is too fucking hot.’” She chuckled again, wearing a small smile. “Big ass teddy bear that he is couldn’t say it any other way. Luckily, the kid with the automatic rifle aimed his way spoke very little English. Carlisle took control of Em’s situation, while telling me and Edward to finish the job and Jasper to take the shot if he had it. Jazz moved locations, found Emmett, and took the shot.” She shrugged. “That’s the only time we’ve ever used it. Although, the Goldilocks shit worked, and we all agreed we’d use it again. But we never had to.”
“I remember that,” Jasper said softly as he stepped into the room, closing the door behind him. “You know, Carlisle speaks about three languages, so I would think if he were truly in trouble, he’d try any way possible to let us know.”
Transfer complete. Igor’s voice brought us back to the present, as did the holographic screen that was bringing up every piece of information that he’d scanned into the system.
“Good,” Alice said, spinning around to face us. “I’m in. The Norilsk employee list is downloading now. Once it’s finished, I can have Igor compare not only the old job files, but the MCC lists as well. Maybe a name will coincide.”
The door opened again, and in walked Alec and Edward, the latter looking like he’d stepped off a damn runway after his haircut.
Grinning, I couldn’t help but tease him. “Oh, there you are! I couldn’t be sure who you were underneath all that hair.”
“Shut it, sweetness,” he grunted back, but his cheeks were pink as he ran a hand over his head. “Better, though?” he asked, looking unsure and shy. He looked so much like Sammy that I couldn’t help but kiss his lips briefly.
“Yes, much!” I sang, reaching up to rake my fingers through it. “I’ve grown attached to your eyes, baby. I don’t like it when I can’t see them.”
Aunt Kate had probably taken too much off, but he looked good. The sides and back were close-cropped – high and tight, as the boys called it – and the top was long enough I could still grip it a little, but short enough it stuck up everywhere.
“Very handsome, pretty boy,” Mickey taunted him, wadding up a piece of paper and tossing it at his head.
He laughed and batted it away easily, finally gazing around the room. “Anything new?”
“Yeah, we’ve uploaded everything. Alice is going to compare the employees of Norilsk, MCC, and old jobs to see if anything is iffy,” I told him. “And no…no phone call yet.”
“Obie had an interesting thought, Ed,” Mickey stated. “Could your dad be in trouble? Like unable to tell us that he’s in trouble?”
Edward immediately shook his head. “He’d figure a way to let it out. Even if he was bugged, or someone was there with a gun to his head, he’d use a code to tell me. And his voice is his tell; he wouldn’t be so…I don’t know…calm?” he said, though the last word came out as a question.
“Yeah, Carlisle’s not stupid,” Alec stated, taking a seat next to me. “I honestly don’t think he went into this thinking he was going to be this long, but I also don’t think it’s as up and up as he’s making it out to be. He’s a ruthless businessman, so if he wanted to shut that mine down, he’d have already done it. But he’s a military-minded man, too,” he continued, holding up a finger. “To him, this is a giant game of chess. He’s calculating every move – sell it, don’t sell it, crack the whip to clean it up, or fuck it and let it ride. The fact that it makes money is the key. Not to mention nickel makes coins…money,” he urged, his eyebrows rising up. “That means government contracts out the ass! And I mean global governments.”
“Oh,” Mickey and I spoke at the same time. I hadn’t even considered that side of it.
I turned to Alice. “Oh, we need this comparison ASAP, pixie.”
She hit the enter key. “Running now.”
Pursing my lips, I shook my head. “Igor, print the list of government contracts from Norilsk.”
Yes, Miss Bella.
The printer immediately kicked into work. I got up from the table, snatched several pages off the printer, and flipped through them.
“The U.S., Canada, Great Britain…” I ticked off, shaking my head before sitting back down. “We should call Eleazar,” I muttered, mainly to myself, because Esme’s brother had connections that were deeper than anything we could root out, simply because the CIA played by a completely different set of rules.
My heart stopped, though, when Edward’s cell phone started ringing and vibrating across the desk.
He snatched it up quickly, saying, “It’s him.” Swiping a thumb across the screen, he grunted, “Dad?”
“Okay, you win,” Carlisle sighed in defeat over the speaker. “Esme said to trust you, though she wanted to follow Bella’s suggestion of me leaving, too.”
“We can do that, Carlisle,” I told him, taking a laptop that Alice was handing me. “I can add you to the flight.”
“I can’t leave, Bella,” he argued. “I want this done. My buyer backed out, so I have no choice but to continue on to Norilsk to discuss the changes that need to be made. I also need to see what they’ve already done.”
We all looked at each other, but we turned to Edward.
“Dad, we have a flight for Esme leaving Moscow at noon, but we can’t get Alec to you at the same time. You’ll be a lone wolf for several hours. I don’t like it,” he explained.
Carlisle was quiet for a moment, but said, “We don’t plan to leave Moscow for Norilsk until Monday. I can stay here and wait.”
Alec shook his head, but there wasn’t much we could do. “That’ll take a day, at least, Carlisle.”
“What if I flew him to you? It would take several fuel stops, but—” Edward started, but his dad cut him off.
“Absolutely not!” he practically growled. “That chopper doesn’t leave the U.S. unless absolutely necessary, son.”
“Then you have no choice but to put Esme on that plane tomorrow, postpone the mine tour until Tuesday, and wait for Alec inside that fucking hotel,” Edward countered, sounding just as adamant. “You should’ve taken him with you to start with.”
Carlisle cursed under his breath. “You may be right.”
Alice slapped a piece of paper down in front of me, her eyes wide and scared. My heart stopped, because she rarely broke a sweat. Swallowing thickly, I read what she’d handed me.
“Oh my damn,” I sighed, shaking my head. “Carlisle, we have a problem. We dug a little deeper into Sergei Maslov, expanding that search to Norilsk employees, MCC employees, and old jobs you’ve worked on in the past. We also added in any contracts that Norilsk may have. We cross-referenced them all, simply to see if maybe there was someone that might pose a threat to you.”
“What did you find?” he asked softly.
“Who’s Boris Zukov?”
“He used to be a Russian contact of mine. He helped me on several jobs years ago,” he answered. “We met in the Gulf War. In fact, I contacted him when I was planning on coming here. I wanted to see him.”
“Yeah, well…now? He’s missing. He was the head of security of MCC, but he’s been relieved of his duty. Carlisle, they caught him trying to smuggle information out of MCC – blueprints of the underground storage facility, a list of inventory of uranium and plutonium – and he’d falsified his background. He’s not very clean,” I rattled off.
Carlisle’s end of the line went eerily quiet – so quiet that Edward sat forward to glance at the screen of his phone to make sure the call was still connected.
“Dad…talk to us.”
“Well, shit,” Carlisle grumbled. “Boris is like us. A former soldier for hire. He’s a ghost. If he’s missing, that’s because he doesn’t want to be found.”
Edward rubbed his face. “Dad, I want you out. If he was gathering information, it’s possible he’s selling it…to very fucking bad people. He just happens to disappear after you called him? No, I’m not buying this shit. If you want to go back, that’s fine, but you’ll go with a team. I don’t give a flying fuck who gets nervous. But for now, I want you on that motherfucking plane tomorrow. Sweetness, add him to the flight.”
Nodding, I did as Edward ordered, because not only was he not giving his dad a way to back out, but his temper was hanging by a thread. And that was only because he wasn’t liking how shit was starting to stack up.
Carlisle groaned, but finally said, “Fine. Do it. We’ll both be on the plane tomorrow.”
We all sagged in fucking relief, Edward especially. A collective breath left us all in a whoosh.
“Constant contact, Dad. From the second you get up, to the cab ride to the airport, to boarding the goddamn plane…just keep us posted. Got me?” Edward added.
Carlisle chuckled. “Ten-four. You’ll hear from us in a few hours.”
Edward turned to Alice. “Pixie, keep their GPS locations up on a constant basis, please.” He smiled when she handed him a tablet with what he’d asked for already loaded up. “Thanks. Everyone get some rest. I want to be alerted as soon as they’re on the move. It’s afternoon there now, which means we’re looking at a little less than twenty-four hours before he takes off. I won’t be happy until they’re in the damn air.”
“No shit,” Alec agreed.
We all started to leave the office, but Alice looked conflicted.
“Amazing job, darlin’, but let it go for now,” Jasper told her.
She hesitated, but looked around at every monitor that seemed to be filled with information. “Igor, send an alert to Edward’s tablet should those GPS chips go offline or change locations,” she ordered, wearing a little more relaxed expression on her face.
Igor answered her as we left the room. Yes, Miss Alice. As you wish.


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