Sunday, November 10, 2013 | By: Drotuno

Fire & Ice Chapter 7 & Pics

Chapter 7
BELLA
Leaning against the outside window of the small airport, I smirked as Alec took Kurt inside to speak to the girl behind the counter. We’d landed a few minutes ago, and it was now late afternoon, early evening. Somewhere along the line, I’d lost another hour of time…or gained one. I wasn’t sure which, but it was annoying.
I gave my surroundings a long, slow gaze. It looked like any other small industrial airport that Edward used frequently. There was very little air traffic, but the hangars were busy, not to mention the helicopter landing pad where he’d set down. He was still securing everything, and Eleazar and Jasper had gone to grab a couple of rental SUVs. Mickey and Emmett had ridden with them.
A look back inside the office of the airport made me smirk. The girl behind the counter was already blushing, her eyes drifting from Alec, to Kurt, and then back to Alec. They were shameless, charismatic flirts. Charming information out of women had become a true skill – it was dead useful. And at this point, I was beyond giving a shit about the who or how, because I damn well wanted information like yesterday about Carlisle.
We were all dressed in regular clothes, something that Eleazar insisted upon. He’d told us we needed to look like Carlisle’s family, not a small army about to take Moscow by storm. I’d laughed, because one look at our crew screamed military, mercenary, and unwavering discipline. It didn’t help that we were all armed to the teeth, that the chopper was packed with weapons and equipment, or that most of us barely had our tempers or our worry in check.
Especially Edward.

My eyes drifted back to my husband. He looked so handsome in black pants, a white button down, and a black leather jacket. The ever-present baseball cap had come off as soon as he’d touched down, so his hair stuck up everywhere, and a couple of day’s stubble was growing in on that sharp jawline.
He slammed the side bay door closed on the chopper, shouldering a black duffle bag. Internally, I cringed at the look on his face. God, he was pissed. His eyes were pure black hate and fire, his jaw rolling with every clench of his teeth, and his hands balled up and released over and over. He was barely in control, and I wasn’t sure I blamed him. The only thing keeping me focused when it came to this asshole that had a message for Edward was that he was still sitting in the middle of the Moscow police station.
The duffle bag hit the sidewalk at my feet with a somewhat metallic thunk, and Edward leaned next to me.
“Anything?” he asked, and I shook my head no. When his eyes met mine, they softened exponentially to a lighter green, and he leaned in to kiss my forehead. “Relax, love. We’ll go see this fucker soon. Let him tell me what the fuck he wants. I’ll do my best not to break his face inside that police station.”
Nodding again, I reached up to toy with his stubborn curl in the middle of his forehead. Even though his hair was shorter, it still had a mind of its own.
“I know,” I said softly, “but you need to stay calm, baby.” When he nodded, I decided he needed a distraction. “Wanna tell me about that conversation with our son, Edward?”
He smiled, shaking his head and glancing down at his feet. A small, light laugh escaped him. “I knew you’d ask.”
Grinning, I kissed his lips. “Tell me what that was all about.”
He grimaced, his eyes raking across the airport, but they were glazed with a faraway look. “My dad,” he stated, looking back to me. “He used to tell me all the time that I was a big boy, a strong boy, that I had to be fucking brave when he’d leave for overseas when I was a kid. It was okay when I had my mom – not great, just okay – but after…” His nose wrinkled, and his head shook back and forth slowly. “After she was gone, it just…it sucked, especially knowing what he did once he was out of the service. He made me feel like I couldn’t…feel anything, that I had to suck it up, that I wasn’t allowed to worry or be sad or anything. I-I n-never w-want S-Samuel t-to f-feel th-that w-way. H-He d-doesn’t d-deserve i-it.” He paused for a moment, and a guilty grimace came across his sweet face. “My dad did the best he could, baby, and I know he was all alone. I don’t blame him for a damn thing, but I don’t want to make my own kids feel that way. Am I even fucking making sense, sweetness?”
Frowning, I absorbed that answer for a moment. I studied his handsome face, thinking that I had to be the luckiest woman on the damn planet. Edward was hands down the best father. He loved Bethy and Sammy with a tenacity that outshined anything from his past. It was beautiful to see. But I could also remember the one time I’d met him when we were just kids – that sad, stuttering, shy boy, who was heartbroken at the loss of his mother. He’d been quiet and reserved. And I wondered if that stemmed from Carlisle.
“He only wanted you to keep going, to not let things drag you down, but in doing that, he made you feel like you had to keep it all inside,” I surmised, trailing my fingers along his stubbly jaw. When he nodded, I kissed his lips. “As much as Samuel is like you, he’s like me, too, sweetheart. He has no problem voicing his concerns, which he did on the video call earlier. I’m very proud of him. We did good, baby.” I grinned when a crooked smile quirked up his face.
“I know we did, sweetness,” he sighed forlornly, the beautiful smile slipping off his face. “Just…” He shook his head and gripped his hair for a second. “Just hearing my dad’s words come out of my own fucking mouth. Don’t ever let me do that to either of them, Bella. Swear it.”
“Edward,” I said, a giggle escaping me. “I don’t have to swear it, sweetheart. You did just fine on your own.”
His gaze was disbelieving as he shot me a smirk, but he finally nodded. The doors to the airport office flew open, and Alec and Kurt stepped out, looking rather proud of themselves.
“Well?” Edward and I asked at the same time.
“She doesn’t know much,” Kurt answered, shrugging a shoulder. “She looked up the day that Carlisle’s signal stopped, but several small planes took off that day around that time. I sent the list to Alice to cross-reference the names we already know. Maybe something will turn up.”
“Knowing Alice, she’s taking that list and breaking into their system as we speak,” I chortled, shaking my head.
Two black cars pulled up to the curb – one a large SUV and the other a BMW. Eleazar was in the latter alone, and Jasper was driving the former. Edward snatched up the duffle bag and handed it to Emmett in the SUV before guiding me to the car. Alec slid into the front seat and Edward and I into the back. Kurt joined Mickey, Emmett, and Jasper.
Eleazar touched his cell phone, saying, “Jasper, listen up back there,” as he accelerated out of the airport.
“Talk to us,” Jazz replied. “What’s the plan for this police station?”
“My vote?” Alec stated, turning sideways so he could look to Edward, who nodded for him to go on. “My vote is to send the son and daughter-in-law in. Edward’s who this guy wants to talk to, but if we all walk in, it’s gonna set off alarms.”
“You’ll need a translator,” Eleazar reminded us.
“Send Kurt with them,” Jasper suggested. “No offense, El, but Felix is already inside there, so it’s best to keep you hidden. Who the fuck knows who’s watching this shit, you know? And it’s just an idea, but I’d spread us around. You need eyes in the sky, Ed.”
“Ten-four,” Edward stated, nodding once and looking out at the city whizzing by. He sniffed once, looking to Alec, but his command was to all of us. “J, I want you on the roof of the building directly across from the police station. Figure a way to get up there. Mickey, you go with him. You’ll find what you need in the bag. Emmett and Alec, take the street – opposite corners. Bella, Kurt, you’re with me. El, I want you listening in. If you can, have Felix meet you. Stay by the cars. Depending on what this asshole has to say to me, we may need to hit the road running.”
“Felix is waiting for you. Send him my way,” Eleazar told us, continuing to navigate the streets as quickly as possible.
The phone stayed connected, but Edward picked up my hand and linked our fingers together. Kissing the back of it, he said, “Sweetness, I want you invisible by my side. I want you listening, looking, and studying every motherfucker in there. Don’t say shit to anyone, not that they’ll understand you. But the less you draw attention, the better.”
Nodding, I agreed with him. We needed to go in as worried relatives, not interrogators. Though, I was pretty fucking sure that if this Sergei gave one iota of trouble to Edward via Kurt, he may snap, despite the fact that it was in a police station. Had this been a case at home, it would’ve been me asking the questions, but this was different. The boys had already reverted back to their former soldier mentality – dark dispositions and sharp eyes...and even their military lingo had returned. They had fun working for me, but this was what they used to do. This was a foreign country where the stakes were high – life or death high – and not a cheating spouse. If we fucked up, we could lose my godfather, my husband’s father, and that simply could not happen, so I was Edward’s to command.
“We’ll have to go in unarmed?” I guessed, glancing at each man in the car with me. “I can’t imagine they won’t have a scanner. No weapons. If they’re like some of the stations back home…” I trailed off, but I could see I’d hit the nail on the head.
“Fuck,” Edward hissed, gripping his hair. “You know, she’s right.”
“Unfortunately,” Alec groaned, but reached to his back, pulling out his nine mil, only to secure it back. He nodded once, saying, “Okay, you two, give ’em up.”
Edward and I removed our weapons, handing them up at the same time Emmett told Kurt to do the same thing in the car behind us. Mickey, however, was on a tablet, already seeking out the best location for everyone.
“Okay, you’re comin’ up on a parking garage. That’ll actually make shit easier. J and I can sneak out the back, because there’s a building right across the street. However, I’d dump Em and Alec off before pulling in,” she suggested.
“Okay,” Jasper stated, and both cars pulled to a stop about a block away from an extremely large building. “Tuck and roll, assholes,” he snorted over the line, which made Alec chuckle and roll his eyes at the same time.
“I’m getting too old for this shit,” Alec muttered before tucking an ear piece in and slamming the car door.
Eleazar grinned, but turned into the parking garage. He found a far back corner, pulling in swiftly.
“Everyone, check in,” he ordered, securing his own ear piece.
I shot a quick glance behind me as Mickey and Jasper walked casually out the back of the garage and onto the street. Once we made sure that all the com links were working, Edward and I got out, met Kurt at the back of the car, and made our way to the front of the police station, leaving El behind.
The station was tan, concrete, and in the shape of a large U or C – I couldn’t quite tell, simply because it was damned big. Wrought iron encircled the whole block, and it seemed to have a fair amount of foot traffic going in and out of the front doors.
Felix was waiting patiently just outside, and he gave us a quick smile, though it fell immediately. He shook Kurt’s and Edward’s hands, but pulled me to a brief hug.
“Hangin’ in there?” he asked us, and we all nodded. “Okay, this guy speaks English, but most of the policemen don’t. You want a Detective Petrovich. He’s the one that’s been dealing with this Sergei guy, and he’s in charge of your father’s case. His English isn’t bad. He thinks Carlisle is my uncle. They’re all aware you’re coming, except Maslov. Right now, he’s sweating bullets.”
“Good. Nervous means honest,” Edward stated roughly, sounding a little like Carlisle.
“Maybe, but I have a feeling his tit’s in the ringer,” Felix countered. “I think he’s in some deep shit he can’t get out of.”
“Duly noted,” Edward acknowledged, nodding once. Casually, he looked around, noting Alec’s position and then Emmett’s. “There’s a garage behind us,” he told Felix without indicating exactly where. “You’ll find El back there. Grab a com link and listen in, yeah?”
“You got it, Ed.” Felix patted his shoulder. “No matter what this fucker says, we’ll get your dad back. I have a feeling you’ll need all the help you can fucking get.”
“Thanks, Felix,” I whispered, giving him a small smile.
He shot me a wink and shoved his hands into the pockets of his pants before walking away.
The front entrance to the police station was exactly what I’d assumed. It was busy, a line for the scanner to get in fairly long, but the officers worked quickly and efficiently to get everyone through. Being unarmed felt off, but we didn’t have a choice, and luckily, it made going through the line that much easier.
Kurt took the lead once we stepped up to the front desk. The only word I recognized when he spoke was “Petrovich,” which caused a wide-eyed expression of understanding to cross the officer’s face. He immediately picked up the phone and spoke to someone.
Two men appeared at the side. “Which of you is Edward Cullen?” the taller of them asked us.
“I am,” Edward said, stepping forward and shaking the man’s hand.
The officer was lean, probably around Edward’s age, with light brown hair, and his smile was friendly. Placing a hand on his chest, he said, “I’m Lev Petrovich.”
“This is my wife, Isabella, and our friend, Kurt,” Edward introduced, placing a hand on my shoulder.
The officer smiled our way. “You must forgive my English. It’s rusty.”
“No problem,” Kurt stated. “I can translate if you get stuck.”
Petrovich nodded, but turned back to Edward. “This way.” He gestured toward a hallway, leading us into an office. “I’m handling your father’s case. I’m sorry, but so far, we’ve run into some dead ends.”
Edward nodded as we sat down in the chairs in front of the man’s desk. “My cousin called me just after it happened. We took the first plane here,” he stated, his lies rolling smoothly off his tongue. Eleazar had told us to play shit close to the vest, to not give anyone anything unless it was absolutely necessary, and Edward was doing just that. “He told me they took my father right out of the hotel. My stepmother was barely able to get away. She’s safe now.”
I flinched at the menacing tone that came from my husband, but he was nothing if not protective of those he loved. The fact that Esme had barely squeaked out of Moscow still weighed heavily on him, and I wasn’t so sure it wasn’t the fact that he’d had to talk her through the whole thing.
“Ah, that was my next question,” Petrovich noted, jotting something down in a file. “Did your cousin tell you about the man we’re talking to?” he asked carefully.
“Yes. He said he was asking for me.”
Petrovich eyed Edward for a moment, but the cold, blank stare that gazed back at him was unwavering. Edward may have been playing the part, but it was quite obvious that my husband was pissed, that he couldn’t be intimidated, no matter who was asking the questions.
“Your father…he’s…how do I put it?” Petrovich wavered, trying to find the right words.
“Extremely wealthy and well-known?” Kurt provided wryly.
“Yes, exactly. Mr. Cullen, it is quite possible that this person we’ve been talking to may want to exploit that,” the officer stated.
Edward sniffed and nodded once. “Yes, it’s always been a concern when my father travels out of the country. I try to insist that he always take protection with him, but he didn’t this time. The business that he was attending to was fragile, he’d told me, so he didn’t want to bring security with him.”
Petrovich sat back in his chair. “And how does your father know Sergei Maslov?”
To anyone that didn’t know Edward, his face barely changed. To me, however, his eyes darkened and a small sneer twitched his upper lip just barely, not to mention the balling up of his fists on the other side of the desk where Petrovich couldn’t see. It was all Edward could to do to maintain his desire to ask about the son of a bitch. Hell, I’d have been willing to bet money that my former mercenary was a gnat’s ass away from tearing the place apart in order to squeeze the information out of him.
“Maslov runs Norilsk Mine, which my father owns,” Edward stated smoothly. “It’s not surprising that they were meeting, but what is surprising is that he’s asking for me.”
Petrovich nodded again, only to stand up. “I was going to try one more time to get him to tell us what he wants with you before I let him know you’re here. Would you like to listen in?”
“Yes, sir, absolutely,” Edward agreed, standing up as well.
We were led down a hallway to another door. Once inside, it looked like any other interrogation room in the States – a room with a two-way mirror and a door that led to another smaller room with a table and a few chairs. The man, whom I’d only seen on Alice’s monitors, was sitting alone, his face pale, his hair sweaty, and his hands shaky as they toyed with a Styrofoam cup in front of him.
My eyes narrowed on the man. Felix was absolutely correct – the man was scared to death. His wide eyes kept glancing toward the window to his right, but he stayed seated. Petrovich placed a hand on the shoulder of an officer in uniform and spoke quickly before the man left the room, leaving just the four of us in front of that window.
Petrovich turned to Kurt. “Feel free to tell them what I’m saying. If I can’t get anything out of him, I’ll knock on this glass or come back out.”
Edward and I stepped up to the window on either side of Kurt as Petrovich opened the door and stepped into the interrogation room. We stayed quiet, but the thick, heavy-accented Russian started immediately.
Kurt spoke softly, keeping us filled in. “Maslov…swears he doesn’t know anything, keeps saying that he’ll only talk to one person…you,” he said, pointing to Edward. “Petrovich is trying the ‘we can protect you if you’re in trouble’ angle, but it’s not getting through. He’s now telling him that if the Americans get wind of a public figure being taken in Moscow, that he could be arrested into custody as a terrorist threat – no laws, no rules, no rights.” Kurt huffed a humorless laugh through his nose. “Maslov isn’t budging.” He turned to Edward. “If I had to guess, I’d say he knows he’s safe inside this building. It’s the nervous glance he keeps giving that window. He also knows that they can’t really hold him on anything, because he’s not on any of the security footage, he was nowhere near the hotel at the time of Carlisle’s kidnapping, and he’s been seen with your dad more than once, not to mention he works for him, so there’s not much they can prove. He’s innocent is what he keeps saying, but he won’t say why he needs to see you. He says he’ll wait however long it takes.”
Edward’s eyes took in the man at the table, his jaw clenching over and over. When he spoke, it was to me. “Sweetness, patch into Eleazar. Let him listen when I go in there. Kurt, you’ll go with me just in case his English isn’t up to fucking par, got me?”
“Got it,” I stated, pushing my earpiece in. “El, I need you listening. Edward’s about to go into the room.”
“Copy that,” El replied.
Kurt looked to Edward. “What are you gonna do?”
Edward sniffed once, his eyes growing harder and colder by the second. “I’m gonna talk to him, but I’m not sure he’ll like it.” He shrugged out of his leather coat, handing it to me, and started rolling up his sleeves. He glanced up when Petrovich stepped out of the room, closing the door behind him. “My turn,” he stated, jerking a chin to Kurt to go on into the room.
“Your husband is military?” Petrovich asked me.
“Don’t tell him shit, Bella,” Eleazar advised in my ear softly. “Tell him retired, if you must. The police don’t need to know exactly what Edward is, what any of you are. If they knew, they may detain him, especially with the weapons he flew into the country.”
“Former Air Force,” I stated, smiling innocently.
“What’s he do?”
“My husband doesn’t have to work,” I told him, and it wasn’t exactly a lie, but it wasn’t totally honest, either. I turned my attention to the room, not giving the officer a chance to ask anything else.
The muscles in Edward’s forearms flexed as he sat down at the table. Not a word had been spoken yet inside that room, but Maslov was eyeing Edward and Kurt nervously. The fact that no one had said anything made for tense moments as the clock clicked loudly on the wall. Kurt leaned casually against the very window that Sergei kept eyeing, but he was following Edward’s lead on staying silent. It was a tactic I’d seen Carlisle and Edward use before when interrogating someone. Silence made people nervous, especially people that had shit to hide.
Edward leaned back in the chair, licking his lips and biting down hard on his bottom lip. He glanced Kurt’s way once before speaking.
“I believe you wanted to see me,” Edward said slowly.
The sound of English and an American accent seemed to cause Sergei to jolt a little. “You’re Carlisle’s son?”
“I am...though, I’m a bit different than my father. My patience is thinner, and my time is now far too fucking precious, so you’d better have a damn good excuse for calling me here when I could be out looking for him.” The tone Edward used was low and laced with many, many unspoken threats, and Maslov started to sweat. “You’d better start talking, and it had better be fucking good, because it won’t matter that you’re sitting here in this police station. You won’t always be safe in this room. Am I clear?”
Sergei nodded fervently, swallowing nervously. “It won’t matter. Threaten all you wish, but as soon as they release me, I’m a dead man.”
“Not my problem. Tell me about Carlisle Cullen, or I walk. You can take your chances with the police…and whoever it is that you keep looking for out that fucking window.” Edward’s calm demeanor was scarier than if he was yelling. And his remark about the window made Sergei shake, holding up his hands. But Edward stood up, his arms bracing on the metal table. “Tell me why I’m here.”
“Your…your f-father, he’s in trouble.”
“Tell me something I don’t fucking know, asshole!” Edward stated loudly, his temper starting to unravel.
“I know…wait!” Sergei begged. “He… There’s a war coming,” he said softly. “And your father, he unknowingly threw a wrench in the works.”
“Keep going.”
“He was just supposed to sell Norilsk! He was supposed to sell it and go away, but he didn’t!” Sergei yelled.
“He said the buyer backed out,” Edward countered, narrowing his eyes on the man.
“He did. The first buyer backed out.”
“He also said that you were the one that kept switching shit up, that you insisted he come here. I swear to fucking God, if you set him up for this, I’ll kill you once it’s all over,” Edward vowed with a slow shake of his head.
“I had no choice! They’re threatening my family, the employees of the mine…the whole town is in danger! They said I had to bring him to Moscow.”
“Who?” Edward sneered, leaning over the man. “Who’s threatening you?”
“You…you…you have to understand, there’s more than one!”
“I don’t give a shit if the entire country is in on it, I will find my father. If you know anything about him, then you know I’m not fucking lying,” Edward stated softly, and the only way I heard him was over the earpiece. Petrovich heard nothing, but Edward continued with, “Who are they, Maslov? How many?”
“I don’t know how many,” Maslov whispered, shrugging a shoulder. “I swear. There’s an entire army planted in Norilsk. But the who…the who…” He shook his head slowly. “He goes by Vladimir Stahl, but he wasn’t born with that name – he took his mother’s maiden name. He was born Vladimir Gunter.”
My heart sank at the sound of that name.
“Aw, fuck me,” Eleazar groaned over the earpieces at the same time Kurt and Edward locked gazes briefly before turning to look back at the window seemingly toward me. “That’s Alexander Gunter’s kid…the asshole that tried to blow up Chernobyl. Guess he’s all grown up and pissed off now? Is that the thing?”
Rubbing my temple, I said nothing, my eyes on my husband as he refocused back to the conversation.
“Who else?” Edward finally asked. “You said more than one, so who the fuck else is out there?”
“Could be anyone,” Sergei replied. “He offered a price on not only your father’s capture, but for the return of what he says is his. There could be several people out for the same thing. If you want to get your father back, you have to give him what he wants.”
“And what’s that?” Edward sneered, his fists landing heavily onto the metal table.
“He wants his father’s work back.”
“His work?”
“Yes, he’s got buyers for it,” Sergei whispered, but his hands suddenly shot out, gripping my husband’s shirt, “but you can’t let him have it! Vladimir will not just sell them, but he’ll fucking use them!”
“Fuck,” Eleazar hissed over the line. “Edward, you need to know. Gunter...he was originally employed to make the bigger, better bomb, as in nuclear bomb. His son must’ve been well hidden, or he would’ve been on our watch list.”
“Copy that,” Edward sighed under his breath, his shoulders falling just a little. He looked like he was carrying the weight of the world on them at the moment. “And you just…lured my dad into all this shit,” he accused, his voice sinking to a deeper, deadlier tone.
“I told you I didn’t have a choice. Stahl’s got men planted in my town, in my mine! They’ve threatened us all. Where we are, they can basically hold us captive. They’ve taken over!”
“That’s actually very true. Their location makes them vulnerable,” I sighed mainly to myself, but everyone heard me, including Edward, who shot a glance over his shoulder. “Edward, ask him who he reports to. He’s scared shitless, so he’s obviously got someone watching him.”
“Who’s your contact?” Edward asked him.
“I don’t know. They call me…and never from the same number. They know who you are, they know what your father used to do. Stahl blames him for everything.”
Kurt muttered quietly over his earpiece. “Someone get a message to Alice. Have her track this asshole’s phone. Carlisle had to have called it, so we should have the number, right?”
“Ten-four,” Emmett stated. “I got it.”
“Who are you?” Petrovich asked, narrowing his eyes on me.
I smiled, but shook my head. “I’m Carlisle Cullen’s goddaughter…and daughter-in-law. That’s it.”
“Oh shit, oh shit,” Jasper suddenly piped up on the earpieces. “Edward, I’m not the only eyes up here. Get that asshole—”
“Edward, Kurt, down!” Mickey yelled over the line.
The window suddenly shattered right next to Kurt, causing him to hit the deck, Edward dove for cover, but Sergei Maslov was launched from his chair and into the corner of the room. His shoulder was bleeding fiercely.
“Emmett, Alec,” Jasper ordered over the com link, “get your asses around the corner. One block over. Baseball cap, leather jacket. I don’t have a shot! Go, go, go!”
Edward crawled to Maslov and began applying pressure to his wound. “Sniper!” he yelled to Petrovich when the officer flew through the door. “I’m okay. He needs an ambulance!”
Several officers jumped at Petrovich giving orders in Russian, but I walked into the room, only to stop when Edward pointed my way.
“Don’t! Stay away from the fucking window,” he commanded, turning back to Maslov. “Tell me who, Sergei.”
“You have to stop them,” the man begged in a whisper. “You can’t let them…”
Maslov’s pocket started to vibrate, a shrill ring filling the room. Edward fumbled for it, holding it up so Sergei could see.
“That’s them,” he whispered.
Edward swiped a bloody thumb across the screen, but the thick Russian accent that came out of the speaker didn’t allow anyone to say anything.
“If you want Carlisle Cullen to live…you’ll do exactly as I say.”
~oOo~
CARLISLE
Footsteps echoed heavily down what sounded like a hallway just outside my door. I flinched when my door was suddenly slammed open. With the bag over my head, every sound, every smell, and every vibration beneath me was enhanced. They’d only taken it off once to threaten me, and another time to give me water. Each time, they’d sent in a man, wearing a ski mask, who didn’t speak. Otherwise, my world stayed in darkness – cold, damp darkness.
“Get him up,” the same voice from before ordered.
The Russian accent was thick, but the voice was one I didn’t recognize from before they’d taken me. I’d tried and tried to go over everyone I knew, everyone I’d spoken to since coming to Moscow, but this voice didn’t jog any memories, which led me to believe that this asshole was a puppet working for someone else.
The bag was snatched off my head, and I squinted at the light as I was tugged up into a wobbly standing position. Two large men gripped me, but I noted movement in the shadows, by the doorway. The sound of an engaging automatic weapon caused me to abandon any possible idea of fighting them. I could’ve taken the two at my sides, but I was weak, tired, and hungry, so there was no way I’d be able to fight off more than that.
With hands like vise grips on my biceps, the two men shifted, one bringing out a large military-style knife. I held still as they unbound my wrists from behind my back.
“Move. One wrong move, and we kill you. Understood?”
“Yeah,” I sighed, grunting when I found myself shoved down into a hard metal chair.
Again, the knife made an appearance, and the zip-ties were removed from around my ankles and knees. I flexed my hands and shifted my legs, simply to get the blood flowing in them again. In front of me was a table, and on top, a plate with a sandwich.
“I’m sure you’re used to expensive restaurants, Cullen, but this’ll have to do. Eat. We can’t have you fading away on us,” the deep, raspy voice said from across the room. “I need you alive for at least another few days.” His chuckle was foul and the only laugh heard.
I still couldn’t see him, but I knew enough, had experienced enough shit in my life to know that if the captor showed his face to the prisoner, the odds were the prisoner wouldn’t make it out alive. My captor could hide all he wanted. I wasn’t sure it mattered in the grand scheme of things, because I was pretty sure my son was about to invade Russia without shame. I also wasn’t so sure who these men should be afraid of more: my son, his crew, my wife, or my daughter-in-law. Those last two were a force of chaos all on their own, never mind what my son was capable of doing to these bastards.
That thought made me smirk a little and give my surroundings another slow gaze as I picked up my sandwich. Talking was useless. The motherfuckers they’d sent in earlier either didn’t understand English, or they’d been told to ignore me. The main asshole behind curtain number one was calling the shots, so anything I said wasn’t going to change a fucking thing. My best bet was to shut up, lull them into thinking I wasn’t going to cause trouble, and keep my eyes fucking peeled for weaknesses around me. So far, there were none. They thought I was an overfed, lazy American, and I’d continue to allow them to think just that.
My food was tasteless, but I ate it nonetheless. It was better than nothing, and there was no telling when the next plate of food would come my way. I glanced up again when the door clanged open. Whispers met my ears, but I couldn’t tell exactly what was said, and I couldn’t see shit past the bright fucking light in my face.
“Finish up, Cullen. We’ve got work to do,” the man ordered, and I tossed the last piece of bread into my mouth.
A bottle of water was set before me, and that was much more needed than anything. I chugged the fucking thing until it was empty. Wary of what would come next, I tensed when the two men moved back to my sides. My arms were held down, and one of them zip-tied them to the chair. Next, my legs were treated the same way. Instead of the bag being dropped over my head, a strip of duct tape was smashed to my mouth. My eyes narrowed as the talking fucking shadow started to pace on the other side of the light.
The pacing came to a stop, but I distinctly heard the click of a cell phone camera. Fuck me. It was a “proof of life” picture. I closed my eyes and tried to relax, but I reopened them when the sound of phone dialing met my ears. My Russian was limited, but I was pretty sure I caught the words “target” and “sniper.” A few more words were exchanged, but the call was ended, only to have another number dialed. I had a sinking feeling that they were calling my son.
“If you want Carlisle Cullen to live…you’ll do exactly as I say,” the shadow said as soon as the phone stopped ringing.
“Motherfucker, you’d better be specific in what you ask for,” Edward snapped over the line, “because if you aren’t and something happens to him, then you’d better be prepared for the hell I will rain down on you.”
I wanted to smile, but I couldn’t. My eyes stayed locked on where the sound of the call was coming, but I knew Edward well enough – I knew that crew well enough – to know that they hadn’t flown out of Alaska blind. They were most likely armed to the teeth with not only weapons, but intelligence, equipment, and contacts. The latter would most assuredly have been my brother-in-law, Eleazar. Esme would’ve made fucking sure to drag him into this.
“Enough! I know what you are, and I know what you’re capable of, so spare me the fucking threats. You’d better hope you’re that good, because you’re gonna need to be at your sharpest.” The man continued to pace, but came to a standstill just behind the light. “By now that weasel Maslov should be dead. You’re exactly where I want you, or you wouldn’t be holding his phone.”
“Well, you’ve got my attention, so tell me what it is that you want,” Edward stated firmly.
“There’s a high price to pay for your father’s release. You’d better be as good as Carlisle says you are,” he warned. “It’s true what they say… The sins of the father are passed down to the son. Carlisle Cullen made a huge mistake several years ago. Now you are going to make up for it.”
“Hmm,” Edward hummed over the line.
I tilted my head to try to understand what was going on in the background of the phone call, but it simply came out as noise.
“So…let me guess,” my son continued in a slow, measured tone. “Alexander Gunter’s death needs to be…avenged. Fan-fucking-tastic. So what do you need me for? You’ve got the man responsible.”
I was so proud of Edward at that moment, I could’ve exploded. He knew exactly what he was asking, despite the nonchalance he was trying to push over the call.
My captor laughed, coming to a stop in the corner of the room. “Oh, but I do need you. Your father isn’t what he once was. Oh, he’s still sharp, but I need you, my dear Edward. I need you to be faster than everybody else. I’m not stupid enough to think that you came to this country alone. No, no, no. In fact, I know you’re not by yourself.”
“Way to go,” Edward cheered wryly. “Your sniper called you. Excellent. Now…again, I ask you…what in the blue fuck do you want from me?”
Another chuckle echoed in my prison cell, but stopped just as quickly as it started. “My dear boy, in order to get your father back, I need Alexander Gunter’s work returned to me…just as it was, in its entirety. You’re a smart man. I’m sure you’ll figure it out. But I will warn you… Your time is limited, and you won’t be the only one looking. I will give you a hint, though: go back to the beginning.”
“I don’t have time for this vague bullshit! And I’m not making a move until I have proof my father is still alive!” Edward yelled.
“When you hang up this phone, keep it. I doubt Maslov will need it anymore. You’ll have your proof.”
“Asshole, trust me when I tell you this… You do not want to fuck with me. I promise you, I will kill you when all is said and done,” my son vowed, and I knew he meant it.
My eyes locked onto my captor’s shadow as he paced again. When he stopped, I could’ve sworn I saw a smile from the shadows.
“Mmmhm…You’d better get going. You’ll hear from me in twenty-four hours. Good luck, Edward.”
The call ended, the light was shut off, but my cell quickly emptied, the heavy metal door slamming home with a bang.



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