Wednesday, December 11, 2013 | By: Drotuno

Fire & Ice Chapter 15 & Pics

Chapter 15
BELLA
Glancing up at the hissing argument I couldn’t understand, I had to smile and shake my head slowly. Kurt looked admonished, yet just about to burst at the seams as Irina tore him a new one for being up and about.
When we’d returned from Norilsk, she’d opened her personal space to Carlisle and Kurt, giving them rooms of their own upstairs. Carlisle had slept for almost twenty-four hours after having showered and eaten. He’d devoured the food he’d been given, but he needed to eat again. And I wanted to check his wounds, though there weren’t many. The most worrisome had been the bruises on his head and face from what he’d told us were kicks and punches. The ugliest were the cuts on his wrists from the zip-tie restraints where they’d put them on too tight, not to mention his struggling against them.
On a tray next to a basket of warm rolls and the damn first-aid kit I’d taken from the chopper, I set a bowl of soup that Irina’s grandmother had made.
“Bells!” Kurt whined, looking to me for help. When I lifted the tray and glanced over, he said, “Tell her I’m fine. Tell her I’m okay to move around.”
My chuckle was low and soft. “Technically, you could open that wound up again coming down those stairs, Mack Daddy,” I teased him, grinning when he narrowed his eyes at me from the kitchen table.
Irina harrumphed in triumph at him, saying, “Which is exactly what I said.”
“Traitor,” he sneered at me under his breath, which only made me laugh again.

I wanted to tell him she was simply trying to take care of him, but I could see I was all but forgotten as Irina fussed over him. For a brief moment, I wondered if he’d be making the trip back with us once Carlisle was strong enough, which according to him was “as soon as fucking possible.”
I toted the tray up the stairs, shaking my head at deep voices and argumentative curses meeting my ears – one of them I recognized as my husband’s. Carlisle’s room was the last one at the end of the hallway, and the door stood open. Inside were Eleazar, Boris, and Edward, sitting around the room, with Carlisle propped up in bed on a big pile of pillows.
He looked worse, simply because the bruises were now a deeper shade of purple and the split on his lip had cracked and bled sometime recently. However, the sharpness of his dark blue eyes was back in full force as he glared at Boris.
“You owe me nothing, you old coot,” he snapped, shaking his head. “You go after Stefan, you’re looking at some serious fucking trouble. Let it go, Boris.”
“Absolutely not. You know he’ll get the uranium elsewhere for his sale,” Boris snapped.
“He’s protected by his customers,” Eleazar concurred. “They’ll want him to stay free and accessible. I’ve already called him into the agency and MI-6, who told me they’d already been following him. He’s on a hot-watch list now. If he shows his face, makes a phone call, or buys a plane ticket, I’m gonna hear about it. I have a team looking for him. There’s no need for you to take to the underground…”
“Enough,” I stated, walking into the room. “You boys can argue later.”
Edward chuckled low, sitting back in the chair at his father’s side. Everyone was now dressed in casual, comfortable clothes – jeans, sweatshirts, sweaters – except for Carlisle, who was sporting Edward’s sweats.
Eleazar opened his mouth to say something, and I rounded on him with a raised eyebrow. “Later,” I snapped. “You guys can stop international criminal assholes any fucking time. Give it a rest. He just woke up.”
Carlisle snorted, shaking his head. “I’d do as she says.”
I ignored Edward’s adamant nod and wide-eyed silent warning, setting the tray down in Carlisle’s lap. Once Boris and Eleazar left the room, muttering about coming back later, I rounded on my Cullen men. My heart settled a little at having them in the same room again. They were so alike, yet opposite at the same time. Both looked at me with so much love and respect that I couldn’t help but kiss them both – Edward on his lips and Carlisle on his forehead.
“Eat,” I ordered the latter. “Then I wanna change those bandages.” I pointed to his wrists.
“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, sounding like Edward when he was simply appeasing me.
I smirked, but went into the bathroom for a clean cloth, and I glanced up through the open door as I stood at the sink, listening as Edward and Carlisle talked softly.
“What do you really wanna do about Stefan?” Edward asked, sitting forward in his chair and bracing his elbows on his knees.
Carlisle took a spoonful of soup, seemingly thinking it over. “I’m not sure. Alexander Gunter’s work was way ahead of its time. It’s worth every penny he was planning to sell it for, but Eleazar is going to disassemble the missile casings and have them melted down. He’s personally going to oversee the uranium’s transport to Canada in order for it to be converted into medicinal radiation.”
They spoke softly of releasing the responsibility of everything over to Eleazar. I didn’t say anything. Despite the fact that I was beyond ready to see my kids, that Esme was practically chomping at the bit to put her hands on Carlisle, I knew that Stefan could possibly still be a threat out there. I was willing to concede to the two men in the room.
I sat on the edge of the bed, opened the first aid kit, and pulled out what I’d need. The sound of their voices was comforting to me, something that stemmed back from the moment they’d pulled me from Miller’s basement. They could be discussing anything – sports, world politics, vinyl siding, the migration of birds. I didn’t care. There weren’t two people on the planet that made me feel as safe as Edward and his dad. So I soaked it up like a sponge, sitting in content silence as the two of them put their separate journeys together like a puzzle.
“So Boris had Gunter’s journal all along,” Edward surmised, stealing one of Carlisle’s rolls and taking a bite.
“Yeah, he took it when we took the hit on Gunter. At the time, it didn’t matter…at least, we didn’t think so,” Carlisle said, taking a big bite of bread and butter after dunking it into his soup. “I assumed he’d sold it, but I suppose he kept it all these years. Apparently, Gunter’s son came looking for it, spiraling into a fit of rage when he found not only his father dead, but his life’s work missing. He burned the house down.”
“So that’s why Vladimir assumed you’d stolen it.” Edward snorted, rolling his eyes.
Carlisle nodded, but finished his meal, pushing the tray away. I started to get up to take it back downstairs, but Edward stopped me.
“I got it, sweetness,” he murmured, grabbing the whole thing with one strong hand and leaning down to kiss the top of my head. “Do what you do, baby. I’ll be right back.”
“’Kay, thanks,” I sighed with a smile, but scooted closer to Carlisle in order to start checking his face. “I know I’m not Esme, but I’ve cleaned enough skinned knees and elbows to get the job done,” I teased my godfather.
“I’m sure you’ll do fine, sweetheart,” Carlisle said with a chuckle.
His warm eyes stayed on me as I cleaned his lip, a cut below his eye, and checked the bump on his temple; I was pleased to see that it had shrunk significantly. I applied ointment to the small injuries, moving on to the worst part: his wrists.
Cutting off the old bandages, my heart squeezed at the angry red cuts before me. As gently as I could, I cleaned them with a cloth, disinfected them, and applied antibacterial ointment as best I could with shaky hands.
“The roles have reversed, Bella,” he stated in a whisper.
I huffed a humorless laugh, unable to look at his face as I grabbed a new roll of gauze. “We should cover them now, but soon, you’ll need to air them out.” I didn’t realize my breathing was harsh until I tried to speak again. “It’ll…I mean…There’s gonna be scars…”
“Hey, Bella?” Carlisle soothed me, tilting my head up with his fingers under my chin. “Breathe, sweetheart. It’s okay. I’m okay. It’s not the same…”
“I’m so sorry…I love you,” I wheezed, gripping his sleeve. “We tried…”
My vision blackened and blurred. I could feel Carlisle’s arms wrap around me, hear him call for Edward, but my mind went to places I’d done my best to forget. Memories of cuts, burns, and restraints filled my head. Harsh, threatening words hissed in my ear, and as much as I fought them, they took over anyway.
I was transferred from one set of strong arms to another, and the very second Edward’s soft, sweet, soothing voice met my ears, a tidal wave of emotions erupted from me. I clung to him fiercely, burying my face in his neck. His scent was everything to me at the moment – soap, fresh-cut wood...and just Edward.
“Sweetness, listen to my voice,” he said, doing what he always did when my panic attacks were in full swing – giving me his touch and his constant encouragement. “You’re right here with me. You’re okay. Dad’s okay. Don’t let it win, baby. You’re so fucking strong. You hear me?”
It was wave after wave of soft touches and sweet words. Eventually, the darkness of a smelly, cold basement faded away and the warmth of the bedroom we were in came back into focus. Clammy hands disappeared, and warm, soothing ones replaced them. I focused on the gentle caresses up and down my back, through my hair, and along my arms. Kisses and whispers against my neck tethered me back to reality.
“I’m sorry,” I sniffled into Edward’s neck.
“Don’t be,” he whispered back, dropping more kisses to my jaw. “I was kinda surprised it took this long…” His voice trailed off, but he cupped either side of my face. “Sweetness, lemme see you.”
I let him pull me back a little, but my fingers still had a tenacious grip on his shirt. He smiled so patiently and sweetly that the tears started again.
“Shh,” he hushed against my lips as his thumbs swiped at my tears. “You’re okay. No harm done, baby.”
I looked around, realizing that Edward had moved me to the chair he’d been in, and a glance back to Carlisle made me hiccup another sob.
“Don’t you dare apologize to me, Bella,” he told me firmly, and his voice was calm, yet worried.
I nodded looking back to Edward. “Thank you.”
He smiled my favorite sweet, lopsided smile. “Anytime. N-Now…I-I w-want t-to g-get y-you o-out o-of h-here f-for a-a b-bit, so tell Dad to get some rest, ’cause his stubborn ass doesn’t listen to me.”
A giggle escaped me before I could stop it, which caused both men to chuckle…most likely in relief. That sweet stutter added into the constant teasing from Edward and Carlisle had helped me finally take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
I extricated myself from Edward’s embrace and leaned over to hug Carlisle. When I pulled back, he held my face in his hands like I was made of spun glass.
“Never, ever apologize to me,” he started, raising a dangerous eyebrow. When I nodded, he went on. “Trust me when I tell you that it was the thought of you that got me through. Am I clear? It was your strength, your survival of something way fucking worse that gave me the strength to keep going. So don’t. I don’t want apologies from you, Isabella.” He glanced over at his son, but then back to me. “I knew you’d come for me…both of you. I knew you’d do anything to get to me. That was what I held onto. I love you both and owe the two of you a huge debt of gratitude.”
“Fuck that,” Edward grumbled, shaking his head. “You don’t owe us shit. What you need is rest so that I can get you back to Esme like I fucking promised.”
Carlisle grinned, ignoring Edward’s prickly response, but I knew they both loved each other fiercely.
Giggling again, I kissed Carlisle’s cheek. “Yeah, before she sends Lock and Load to hunt you down.” When I stood up straight, I felt Edward’s arms wrap around me from behind, and I leaned back against him. “It’s a long flight back, so I’d like you rehydrated and a touch stronger before we make it.”
Carlisle simply smiled and nodded, sinking down into the bed. Once he looked like he was going to nod off, Edward led me from the room, closing the door when we got to the hallway.
“C’mon, Bella,” he urged me, linking our fingers together. “I wasn’t kidding. We’re getting out of here for a little while.”
“Where to?” I asked, thinking we were in the middle of nowhere.
Edward merely grinned secretively, shrugging a shoulder. “You’ll see.” He guided me down the stairs and outside onto Irina’s front porch. “You ever ridden a motorcycle?”
I laughed, but his face was sincere. “Wait. What?”
His handsome face cracked into a wide grin. “Have you?”
My brow furrowed, but I nodded. “Yeah, a long time ago. Jake had one for a while.”
Edward scoffed, muttering under his breath. I caught the words cheating, bastard, and chicken-shit.
“Shut it.” I laughed, poking his chest. “Why do you ask?”
He rolled his eyes and grabbed my hand, saying, “Just…trust me.”
~oOo~
EDWARD
It had been years – way before Bella and the kids – since I’d ridden a bike, but apparently, it was something I hadn’t forgotten. The day was cool, clear, crisp as we tore down a fairly empty road on one of Eleazar’s motorcycles that he’d stored in the hangar back at Irina’s. It had been his idea to take it in the first place, and he’d told me exactly where to go when I’d taken Dad’s tray downstairs.
I veered off the main road onto a smaller path, smiling at the sight before us as I stopped the bike and set the kickstand.
“Wow,” Bella breathed, taking off her helmet, which caused her chocolate locks to spill down around her shoulders.
The spot he’d told me about didn’t even seem real. Everything that we’d seen up to this point had been dirty, worn down, scroungy, but this was beautiful. A tiny lake sat so still that it looked like a mirror, and its backdrop was some rocky, snow-capped mountains. The air was clean – no metallic-smelling mines, no exhaust fumes like Moscow, and no pollution. And it was so fucking quiet. Mickey and Emmett weren’t bickering, Kurt wasn’t endlessly flirting with Irina, Jasper wasn’t Skyping with Alice, but mostly, there were no gunshots, yelling, or explosions.
For the first time since we’d arrived over here, I took a deep breath and let it out before standing up off the bike. I reached down for Bella, setting her on the ground.
“Eleazar wasn’t fucking kidding,” I muttered, reaching for the bag I’d asked Bella to carry. I glanced at my watch and smiled. “Right on time,” I told her. “C’mon, sweetness.”
“What are you up to?” she asked, smirking up at me.
“You’ll see.”
We walked together down the sloping terrain, finding a small trail that looked like it went all the way around the tiny lake. I found us a shady spot under a pine, and Bella helped me spread out a blanket. Once I’d sat down with my back against the trunk of the tree, I pulled my girl down between my legs.
“Now, let’s see if I can do this right,” I muttered, frowning at the equipment in front of me.
I didn’t hate technology, but the others were just better at it. I attached a cable to the tablet from the satellite phone, syncing up to the video chat. I’d asked Alice to give the kids one of the tablets, simply so we could see them, tuck them in. It seemed like forever since we’d been able to just talk to them.
Bella’s giggle made me smile and kiss the back of her head, especially when the faces on the screen came into focus.
“Mommy! Daddy!” both Sammy and Bethy practically screamed.
“It’s bedtime for little soldiers, isn’t it?” I asked them with a chuckle.
“Yes, sir!” they said, scrambling around.
Bella laughed again when our kids squished together in the bottom bunk at Aunt Kate’s. “God, I miss you guys,” she said softly, her hand balling up into a fist like she wished she could just reach out and touch them.
“Miss you, too, Mommy,” Sammy said with a grin. “When you comin’ home?”
“Soon, guys. Promise,” I vowed.
Bethy’s eyes widened, simply because she could read me as well as her mother. “You found Poppy?”
Bella and I laughed, but Bella said, “We did!”
“Yay!” they both cheered, and the tablet went a little crazy as they rustled around in the bed.
My daughter steadied it again, saying, “I wanna see him. When can we?”
“Not yet, baby,” Bella soothed. “He’s resting right now, but we hope to leave soon.”
“Good,” Sammy stated seriously.
“So what’ve we missed?” I asked them, kissing Bella’s head again.
“Oh! Daddy, guess what!” Bethy gasped, and she was all things wide-eyed and innocent.
“What, little sweetness?”
“Goliath is a daddy!”
“What?” I asked with a laugh. “Seriously?”
“Yeah! Mary had a baby horse,” Sammy answered with a giggle.
“A foal,” Bella and I corrected at the same time.
“He’s so cute!” Bethy gushed. “He’s black like Goliath, but has a white stripe down his nose. And he was all wobbly the first day. He looked like Bambi.”
“Did you guys name him yet?” Bella asked.
“Yup!” Sammy nodded firmly. “Aunt Kate gave us a choice, and we all voted. His name is Noah.”
“And the biblical theme continues,” I sang in Bella’s ear, which made her laugh. “Soon she’ll have the whole old testament covered.”
Bella elbowed me, but turned back to the kids. “Tell us what else we’ve missed.”
We let the kids chatter on and on. It was a sound I missed with my entire being. They told us about games they’d played, times they’d gotten into trouble for tracking through Aunt Kate’s garden, that Lock and Load finally caught the rabbit they’d been obsessed with since landing in Alaska, and how Sarah and Aunt Kate had taken all the kids into Anchorage to the movies. Finally, Sammy gave a big, wide, long yawn, blinking bleary-eyed at the screen.
“Time for bed, handsome,” Bella crooned to him, and her smile was sweet, yet a bit sad. “You, too, pretty girl.”
“Under the covers, soldiers,” I ordered as if I were there.
“Yes, sir.” They both shifted and giggled at the same time.
“Only sweet dreams.”
“Love you, Daddy,” Sammy said through another yawn. “I can’t wait ’til you’re home.”
“Me, too, buddy,” I told him honestly.
“Love you both,” Bella told them.
“Love you, Mommy,” they sang back. “Be safe!”
With that said, we ended the chat, and I disconnected the satellite phone, stashing it all back in the bag. Bella turned in my arms, straddling my lap.
“Thank you,” she sighed against my lips as she held my face in her hands.
Chuckling, I kissed her back. “That was for me just as much as for you.”
“I swear, when we get back, I’m wrapping them both up and hiding us all in our room for like twenty-four hours just so I can love them to pieces,” Bella vowed with a silly grin.
“Sounds like a plan, sweetness.”
I simply stared up at her beautiful face for a moment. A light breeze through the trees was the only sound heard. It blew a lock of her hair across her face, and I reached up to tuck it behind her ear. Her eyes looked lighter, but still tired.
“Wanna talk about what happened back in Dad’s room?” I asked her softly.
She’d scared the fucking shit out of me. It wasn’t so much the panic attack, or the sound of my dad’s voice calling me from upstairs, but the force in which it had hit her. She’d clung to me as hard as the day I’d pulled her from Miller’s fucking dungeon…and that shit wasn’t cool.
Bella’s eyes dropped between us, and she fiddled with the zipper of my jacket. “I’m sorry about that.”
Tilting her face up, I said, “Don’t be sorry, Bella, but if you need to talk about it, we will. Here…where no one can hear us.”
She smiled a soft, sad smile, giving our surroundings a long slow gaze. “This is so pretty,” she sighed, and to me, it sounded a little relieved. When her eyes looked back to me, she wrinkled her nose adorably. “You kinda thought it was coming…”
“I did, baby, but that’s okay,” I soothed her, smiling when her forehead fell to mine.
“It was a touch of reverse déjà vu. Even your dad said it…that the roles were reversed. He’s gonna have scars on his wrists, Edward,” she admitted in a whisper. I opened my mouth to speak, but she stopped me with a kiss. “It’s not his fault. It was the sight of his injuries. I thought I was okay, and I wanted to take care of him, but he was…and the skin looked…” Her rambling sputtered to a halt, and she sagged in defeat. “Yeah,” was all she ended with, making me chuckle.
“Love you, sweetness.” It was all I could say.
“Love you, too, Edward.”
“As long as you’re okay, that’s all that’s important to me. You know that, right?” I asked her, wrapping my arms all the way around her so that our bodies were flush.
She nodded, reaching up to take my baseball cap off. Her fingers clawed deliciously through my hair, and she giggled when I moaned out loud. “You know,” she purred, leaning in to kiss my chin, my jaw, and finally my earlobe, “we’re completely alone out here.”
“We are?” I gasped dramatically, narrowing my eyes at her, only to give the lake behind her a quick glance. “I never would’ve noticed, sweetness.”
“Shut up.” Her laugh was loud, carefree, and music to my fucking ears after her panic attack.
I moved quickly, rolling us so that I was pinning her down onto the blanket under the shade. Dark hair spread out across blue plaid, and I kissed her. It was slow and deep, thanking her for helping me find my dad, for having patience when mine was gone, and for being brave when I knew she wasn’t always feeling it.
When I pulled away from her, we were both breathing heavy, but Bella’s eyes were dark, sexy, and a bit more relieved. “So…what should we do with all this privacy, Bella?” I asked her.
“I don’t know. But keep kissing me like that, and I’m sure we’ll come up with an idea or two,” she ordered, pulling me by my neck to kiss me again.
Chuckling, I answered her with a simple, “Yes, ma’am.”
~oOo~
The sun was setting behind some low mountains when I stopped for gas on the way back to Irina’s. I was pretty fucking convinced my wife could get me to do just about anything as we took a seat in a small bar. And I do mean small. The bar itself maybe held six stools, and there were a couple of tables, most of which were pretty full. A radio played softly from a shelf behind the bar.
“Aw, hell,” I groaned, giving the rest of the patrons a glance.
It was obviously full of hard-working men having a cold one at the end of the day, not that I blamed them one damn bit. Hell, I needed one myself. However, they were the foundation of this tiny village we’d stopped in and were apparently starved for pretty brunette scenery, because every last one of them drank in the sight of Bella as she shrugged out of her jacket.
“You know, we’re probably the only English-speaking fuckers in here,” I murmured to her, raising an eyebrow at her, “which means if someone gets stupid, they won’t understand why I’m kicking their ass.”
“Shut up, Edward,” she said with a silly laugh that made her cheeks blush.
Maybe I was still reeling from the stellar blowjob she’d given me back at the lake. In fact, her lips were still red and bruised and swollen – from my cock and my kisses. When she made me come like a fucking freight train, I’d kissed the ever-loving shit out of her, only to return the favor with my hand…because she’d begged for it. Again, the woman could get me to do anything she damn well wanted. Probably because she gave said stellar blowjobs.
I grinned at my own inner musings, but turned to her when she elbowed me.
“What’s funny?”
“Nothing,” I said with a chuckle, looking up when an older woman approached us. When Bella ordered two beers in Russian, my eyebrows raised up. “Irina?” I asked.
She giggled. “No, a translator app on my phone.”
I kissed her forehead, wrapping my arm around her shoulders. “Damn, baby… When was the last time we just stopped for a fucking beer?”
“Just us?” she asked, and I nodded. “I don’t know. Long time. We’ve always had to get home to the kids.”
Smiling, I nodded. We’d started a family early. Bethy had been a surprise, but I’d never, ever call her a mistake or an oops. She may have been unexpected, but she’d been a gift – my little sweetness, a mini-Bella. Not long after was lots of work through Gravity, and we’d been balls-deep in trying to find Bethy’s kidnapper when we found out about Samuel. I wouldn’t trade them for anything, and I missed them like fucking crazy. They seemed to complete Bella and me in a way I’d never expected.
“You’re thinking awfully hard over there, Cullen,” Bella teased, reaching up to rub the wrinkle between my brows. “Do you—”
“If you fucking ask me about regrets, sweetness,” I growled low, narrowing my eyes playfully at her, “I will have no shame in putting you over my knee in front of all these people, God, and everyone.”
Bella grinned. “Promises…”
“Don’t tempt me, Isabella,” I warned her.
“You’re a tease, Edward,” she sighed, nudging me. “Anyone ever tell you that?”
“Uhh…no.” I leaned in to whisper in her ear. “I’m a sure thing, sweetness. You should know that by now; I always follow through. You want a spanking? I’ll tear that sweet ass up. You just say the word.”
Her grin was accompanied by a sexy as hell bite to her bottom lip. “Not hard…just to sting.”
“Whatever you want, baby,” I sang with an evil grin before sipping my beer.
“Note to self,” she whispered, pretending to add it to her calendar.
Chuckling at just how much I loved this flirty, much more relaxed Bella, I kissed her and then took another sip of the beer in front of me. I’d have to nurse that bad boy; it was strong – more like an ale than a beer.
“I’m ready to get the fuck outta here, though, Bella. That’s for sure,” I admitted, grimacing a little.
“Me, too,” she sighed, sipping her own beer. “What’s your dad say about this Stefan guy?”
“He’s pretty sure – and Alec agrees with him – that Stefan wasn’t behind his kidnapping. They both say it’s not this guy’s style. And considering what the man does for a living, I’m inclined to agree with them,” I explained to her. “As far as I’m concerned, we did what we came to do. We got Dad back.” I shrugged a shoulder, looking over at her. “But I can’t just—”
“I know, I know. We can’t just bolt now, if there’s another part left to clean up.”
“Exactly,” I agreed. “I’m kind of with El on this one. He wants to take it over, and I wanna let him, but again, I don’t want to leave him high and dry. Apparently, this Stefan guy has been selling shit all over the world, selling to people he shouldn’t. Technically, he’s American, so he’s El’s responsibility. Boris is fighting my dad about helping.”
“By going underground… I heard him.” She nodded, looking to me. “That’s dangerous. If they sniff him out, he could get killed,” Bella said with a shake to her head.
“Which is why Dad’s telling him no.”
“So I guess we’re waiting on Carlisle for this one?” she asked.
I took a deep breath and let it out, sipping my beer. “To be honest, sweetness, I’m just happy he’s back to make that sort of decision. If he’d been in charge of this one, I’m pretty fucking sure we wouldn’t have run into so many roadblocks.” I peeled the label on my beer, but a small, warm hand covered mine.
“Edward, sweetheart, look at me,” she whispered, and when I did as she asked, she smiled. “You did amazing. I know you were worried about me coming along, but I never once felt like I wasn’t protected, you know?”
My eyes glanced around us again as I nodded that I’d heard her. For the most part, we’d been forgotten by the patrons of the little bar, except for a young guy sitting on the last stool. For some reason, his dopey smile reminded me of Jacob Black, and I was ready to get the fuck back.
“You ready, sweetness?” I asked, reaching for my wallet. I tossed some money down onto the table and stood up, holding Bella’s jacket for her. Once she was in, I linked our fingers together and led her outside to the bike. Before she could get on, I wrapped my arms around her. “Thank you, Bella. For saying that in there. B-But I-I h-honestly d-don’t kn-know i-if I-I’d h-have g-gotten th-through h-half th-this sh-shit w-without y-you.”
Bella leaned into me, turning her head so that she could kiss my cheek. “Yeah, you would have, but I’m glad you didn’t have to.”
I gave her another squeeze before turning her around and lifting her up onto the bike. “C’mon, love. We’ll get back and check on Dad.”
~oOo~
Morning dawned to another crisp, clear day. I sipped a cup of coffee, thinking if we were to fly out today, the skies would be just about fucking perfect, but no one had made a decision yet. I set my mug down and picked up a wrench, walking out to the chopper. I needed to remove the machine gun out of the cargo bay. It didn’t take long, and soon, I was lugging stand and weapon back inside the hangar to store with the rest of Eleazar’s cache.
My eyebrows rose up in shock at the sight before me.
“No, no, Bellisima,” Alec said with a chuckle and a slight shake of his head. “Your body needs to be to the side, then pull back and release…”
I leaned against the nearest pole, folding my arms across my chest as Bella tried shooting a bow and arrow. And it wasn’t exactly some cheap fucking toy, either. The bow in my wife’s hands was complicated and high-tech and deadly looking. She aimed toward the other end of the hangar at a makeshift target made up of what looked like a burlap sack with one of the paper targets we’d used when practicing with the Sig. She let go, and that fucker was pure silence until it nailed the silhouette somewhere around the shoulder area.
“Damn, this would’ve been helpful in Norilsk,” Bella muttered, grinning over at me. “I want one.”
“I bet you do, Robin Hood.” I chuckled, “but God help the next cheater we take on.”
“No shit,” Alec agreed with a laugh.
“You take that one, Bella,” Eleazar told her from the table in the living area. “It’s all yours. Take the arrows, too. There’s a shit-load of them over there.”
Bella squeaked in happiness, and she rushed to kiss him on the cheek before running to grab the rest of the arrows.
“She’s too easy to spoil,” Eleazar said with a smile.
“Who’re you tellin’?” I asked rhetorically, rolling my eyes.
Alec laughed, squeezing my shoulder, but we joined El at the table. Peter’s wife had dropped off enough food to feed an army, everything from eggs and sausage, to fried chicken and potatoes.
“Kid, you should know that Kurt will be staying here when we finally leave,” Alec stated. His smile was filled with amusement, but the decision wasn’t a surprise. “He’s gonna finish out the week here, and then Peter’s gonna fly him and Irina to Alaska.”
“Really?” I asked, not expecting Irina to leave her farm, and I looked to Eleazar, who knew her best.
“Yeah, I figured it would happen eventually,” he explained, smiling when the rest of the crew started to trickle in from their small rooms. “She only came back here when her father was ill. Peter can take care of their grandmother, but I’m damn sure Irina misses the States. Plus, she really does like that kid.”
Bella giggled, sitting next to me. “He’s pretty easy to like.”
“Do we know when we’re leaving?” I asked, looking between El and Alec.
“Your dad’s trying to convince Boris to return to Alaska with us, to get out of Russia for a bit. I’m not sure how that conversation ended last night,” Alec replied, shrugging a shoulder. “Those are two stubborn old men.”
Smirking, I simply nodded. I could well imagine. Boris seemed pretty fucking intent on getting revenge – or maybe it was preemptive – on George Stefan. My dad, who knew Stefan was merely a businessman, was ready to get the hell out of Dodge, but only if he was sure the last piece of the puzzle was well on its way to being captured.
“You’re taking over?” I asked El. “I mean, I know Felix took the casings last night. He’s heading to Turkey, right?”
“Yeah, Ed. He knows some people down there that’ll destroy those casings, and I’m gonna head out in a few hours. I’ll make my way back to Moscow, meet up with some operatives that are undercover there, and then we’ll start to follow Stefan’s trail. Felix will meet me when he’s finished.”
“And the uranium?” Bella asked, stealing my cup of coffee with a funny little smirk on her face and then taking a sip.
“I’m taking possession of the crate. We’ve already removed the trackers and the cameras, and before it’s shipped off to Canada to be converted, we may need to use it as bait,” Eleazar stated, shrugging a shoulder. “I don’t like having it, but my bosses are pretty adamant that we keep it.”
Jasper chuckled, holding up a hand. “Never mind, don’t tell us. We don’t wanna know what the CIA wants with that uranium, do we?”
El grinned. “No, probably not.”
I actually felt better that Eleazar was taking control of the Stefan situation, but it all fell to whatever my dad decided to do. If he wanted to stay in Russia and help, we’d follow that order, but if he was ready to hand it over to his brother-in-law, then I was more than okay with that.
Bella stood up, saying, “I’m gonna go check on Carlisle, see if he’s up yet.”
I stood up to go with her, but my father’s booming voice echoed from the open hangar doors.
“Where the fuck is he?” he yelled, walking with Kurt, who still had a hell of a limp and looked rather frightened of my father at the moment.
“Who, Dad?” I asked as I walked to him.
“Boris! I told him not to run off to Moscow, but the Humvee’s gone,” my dad said, and he was so fucking pissed. “Stupid, stubborn bastard…”
My dad looked better after several good meals and some decent sleep. His ribs were tender, so he walked carefully, but I could tell he was going to run full-throttle from this point on.
“Carlisle,” Bella said, guiding him to a chair and making him sit down. “Boris was determined to help you. You should know that. He feels he owes you,” she explained to him, using the same calm tone she used with the kids when they were upset, I noted with a touch of amusement.
My dad scoffed, rolling his eyes. “He’s more than repaid that debt. His helping you was plenty.”
“Maybe, but he doesn’t quite see it that way,” I sighed, pointing to Eleazar. “El’s taking the uranium today. Felix has already left with the missile casings. This Stefan guy has to start from scratch to get his buyers what they need. Hell, maybe we’ll luck out and the North Koreans will take care of him for us for not delivering on time. And Boris… Well, he’s kinda on his own, so… What do you wanna do, Dad?”
He sat for a moment, his brow furrowing as he shook his head slowly. He gazed unseeingly around at all of us. Not one of us would dare tell him we were ready to go home. He knew. He could see it in Jasper’s steady gaze as he rubbed his bottom lip, in Mickey’s fidgeting as she took small glances at her phone, most likely sneaking peeks at pictures of Obie and Kaitlyn. Emmett’s leg bounced impatiently at the table. Alec, Bella, and I simply waited.
Eleazar chuckled softly. “Carlisle, go home. Go, so my sister doesn’t kick my ass for keeping you. I swear, I’ll keep in touch, if I have to send encrypted messages to Alice.”
My dad sagged a little, but pointed a finger at him. “If you think for one second…”
“If I need you, I swear, I’ll call you,” El vowed, holding up his hand.
Bella finally sat in front of him. “Carlisle, you haven’t seen the changes at Aunt Kate’s,” she told him, raising an eyebrow. “We can monitor from there. Trust me.” She glanced over her shoulder at Eleazar, saying, “Though, if El would be so kind as to put a tracker on, that would be most helpful.”
He grinned, nodding, and waved her on.
My dad glanced between them, and I could see that she’d given him reassurance, but Bella could usually calm him when no one else could – like she did with me. He finally took a deep breath and let it out. And I saw that he, too, really just wanted to go home, but his sense of honor and duty was holding him here. The promise Bella had just made to him gave him back a feeling of control. He trusted her, trusted the girls, and knew that if El really needed him, he’d call.
He nodded once, looking to me. “We leave on your order, son.”
Smiling, I gripped his shoulder. “Ten-four, Dad.”



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