Wednesday, December 18, 2013 | By: Drotuno

Fire & Ice Chapter 17 & Pics

Chapter 17
“I can’t believe Kurt,” Makenna said with a giggle, shaking her head before taking a sip of her beer. “I mean, I thought he’d stay the Mack Daddy.”
Grinning, I aimed my arrow at the target Alec had been kind enough to put up for me. “I wish you could’ve seen him. Every time Irina would step inside the door, he’d just about fall out of his chair,” I told them, pulling back on the bow, lining up my shot, and letting go.
The beauty of the bow and arrow was the silence. The only sound heard was the dull thunk of it hitting the target, and that was only because it was a bale of hay with a thin cardboard target on it. I wrinkled my nose at the fact that I only caught the outside ring, but turned to my girls.
Mickey laughed, nudging Makenna. “Poor Kurt. We gave him shit from the get-go.”
“How hurt is he?” Rose asked, kicking back in her chair.
“He caught a ricochet to his thigh. Either the bullet had disintegrated, or it was a piece of concrete that nicked him, because there wasn’t anything in the wound,” I explained, pulling out another bow.

We were all outside today. It was too pretty not to be. Summer in Alaska wasn’t exactly boiling temps and beach weather, but the sun was out, the sky was blue, and it seemed my husband had finally settled down after our return from Russia. Though, it took the two new hand-carved rocking chairs on Aunt Kate’s front porch to do it, not to mention my own version of calming Edward down. I fought my smile as my eyes raked over him, because a needy Edward was a fucking sexy Edward. I couldn’t deny that if I tried.
I heard squeals of laughter, and I looked up and smiled at Emmett, who was currently being attacked by every kid. Edward and the guys were tossing a football around with them. I shook my head at little Kaitlyn trying to tackle Alec. Even Lock and Load were in on the game, running around the entire little field.
Aiming the arrow again, I let go, nodding once in satisfaction that it came closer to the bull’s-eye than my last shot. One more arrow, and I was in the black center. This was a completely different type of weapon for me, but I liked it. A lot.
“Is there anything you can’t shoot?” Alice asked, setting her tablet down in her lap.
“Is there anything you can’t hack?” Makenna shot back with a laugh.
Grinning, I shrugged at Alice, who was shaking her head. “Rose’s dad used to hunt deer with one of these,” I said, pointing to Rose, who was nodding, but her eyes were closed to the sunshine. “I never saw the appeal, but after Norilsk, I can understand why this would’ve been helpful. It’s silent, invisible, and shot the right way, in the right place, using the right tips, it’s damn deadly.”
“Eddie called her Robin Hood.” Mickey laughed, her head falling back.
Rose stood up, holding her hand out. “Gimme that thing. Let’s see if I remember what Dad taught me.”
Chuckling, I handed the bow and quiver of arrows to her. I fell down in a chair next to Alice, glancing up when Aunt Kate and Esme joined us. A look over at the little football game, and I saw Carlisle relieving Edward so he could start the grill.
“Barbecue?” I asked Aunt Kate.
She smiled victoriously. “I have you all under one roof, aside from young Kurt, who will be here in a few days. Carlisle’s on his way to recovery, and everyone’s safe. My birthday was last Monday. It’s time to celebrate it.”
“What?!” we all yelled, looking at her like she was crazy.
“Why didn’t you say something?” I asked her.
“And what good would it have done? Hmm?” she countered, raising an eyebrow at me. “All of you were spread all over hell and back, not to mention we didn’t know where Carlisle was. I’m saying something now.”
Esme chuckled, shaking her head. “You’re about to get into trouble in three…two…one…”
“Now we can’t buy you anything!” Makenna wailed.
“What the hell do I need?” Aunt Kate countered, sounding indignant. “Everything I want is on my property right now. What I want is Edward’s steaks, Alec’s mashed potatoes, and a beer or two with my family.”
“That sounds rather…perfect, actually,” Esme agreed softly, giving the lot of us a glance before looking over at the football game that had continued on without Edward.
I got up, reached into the cooler, and grabbed two beers, handing one to Aunt Kate and one to Esme. “Well, then, let’s get this shit started. Happy birthday.” I tapped her beer bottle with my own, grinning at her.
A dull thunk from behind made me spin around. Rose smiled in triumph as she jerked a chin toward her arrow, which was closer to the center of the target than mine.
“Oh, hell no!” I growled, snatching the bow from her. “Bitch, it’s on,” I muttered on my way past her as I walked to the target to pull out the arrows.
Rose and I took turns taking shots as the girl talk continued to wage around us. We shot a few rounds, calling it a draw when both of us started nailing the black center over and over. I’d finally found my aim and rhythm, and Rose had remembered what her father had taught her. Finally, Aunt Kate told us to give it a break, that she’d send Tom to Anchorage for another bow.
I sipped my beer, leaning my head back on the chair as my eyes drifted to Carlisle. He was still favoring his ribs, but Esme had said they weren’t broken, just probably severely bruised after too many punches and kicks. His face still looked a mess, but the black eye and cuts were already starting to fade into a harsh yellow-green. His wrists were no longer covered, already healing. If he was lucky, the scars wouldn’t be that bad. At least they were able to be concealed by a watch.
“Huh,” I hummed to myself, meeting Esme’s gaze when she heard me. “I was just thinking. What happened to Carlisle’s Rolex? Has he said?”
That caught the attention of all the girls in the group. Conversations about movies, men’s bad habits, and celebrity romances came to a stop.
Alice sat forward, frowning a little. “We lost that GPS signal at the small industrial airport just outside of Moscow. From what I can put together, it was destroyed.”
“What’s he said to you?” I asked Esme, knowing she’d never betray his confidences, but would provide information if needed.
She glanced over at her husband, smiling when he let himself get tackled by Abby and Bethy. “He told me he was knocked out at the hotel. When he came to, he had a black bag over his head, his wrists and ankles were bound, and they’d left his wedding ring. That’s it.”
“They could’ve scanned him at the airport,” I said, looking to Alice. “It wasn’t a big place, but I could imagine they had that type of technology. Did you ever find out what flights went out that day?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Alice chanted in her usual manner. “Alec and Kurt spoke to some girl at the control center. She sent me the flight schedule for that day. Well, she emailed it to Alec, along with her phone number and work schedule.”
We all cracked up, especially when Sarah snorted into a laugh, saying, “There’s a shock. Shameless thing.”
“Well, in his defense,” I started with a laugh, “he worked her pretty hard. I’d told him to turn it on pretty thick. We had nothing to go on at that point.”
Sarah grinned, waving the explanation away. “Sometimes, it doesn’t take much. Hell, the girl at the pharmacy counter practically trips over herself every time we go. Last time, she dropped a whole bottle of pills.”
We all cracked up, and I pointed to her.
“Remind me to take you with us to the ice cream shop in Forks sometime,” I told her, raising an eyebrow. “There’s a girl…she’s not even twenty-one, if she’s a day. Edward gets a free scoop. Every fucking time we go.”
“That shit works both ways, you know,” a deadly velvet voice stated from behind my chair. “Wanna tell them about the diner, sweetness?”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Edward,” I sighed, rolling my eyes. “Ernie’s sixty years old! I remind him of his daughter, who lives all the way in New York.”
“And the college kid at the library?” he added, leaning his hands on the back of my chair. “Oh, let’s not forget the guy at the self-defense class in Port Angeles.”
Grinning, I shrugged a shoulder. “What? It was a free lesson…or three…for the kids,” I explained, giggling when the girls exploded in laughter.
“Shut up, pretty boy,” Mickey warned him with a raised eyebrow and a deep laugh. “You work it…still. Don’t lie.”
He chuckled and dropped a kiss to my head, saying, “Get yourselves ready to eat, ladies.”
“Sweet,” Mickey sang, getting up.
Most everyone followed her, but Alice walked to me, Edward, and Esme.
“There were a couple of flights the day Carlisle’s GPS tracker stopped transmitting – a couple to St. Petersburg, one to the Siberian Plateau, one to Poland, and a couple of others that didn’t raise any red flags to me,” she rattled off efficiently, but she had our attention. “However, the way I’d attached that tracker, they would’ve had to smash the watch in order to stop its transmission.”
Edward’s eyes narrowed as he rubbed his chin. “Why are we worried about that watch?”
“Not worried, really,” I told him. “I was just curious if your dad had said anything about it.” I turned back to Alice. “What information could they have gotten from it had they cracked the damn thing open?”
“Nothing,” she stated firmly. “Not a damn thing. I specifically used an unmarked tracker with no serial number, no identifying marks whatsoever. And despite the registration through Rolex, they would’ve come to a dead end. I hid him that way, too. Carlisle’s taught me a trick or two about staying below the radar. I just jack that up a notch with what I can do.” She smiled proudly.
“Could they have read the signal?” Esme piped up, causing us all to look her way.
“I don’t know, but again, it wouldn’t matter. Tracking my signal from that chip would lead them not only through Ben’s FBI servers, but through Eleazar’s CIA ones. I did that as a warning,” Alice answered.
Edward seemed satisfied with that answer and started back toward his grill and the tables that Obie and Tom were setting up, and Alice followed him.
Esme stopped me, though, asking, “Why did you ask about his watch?”
“I don’t know.” I shrugged a shoulder. “I was just noting how much he’s healed in the last couple of days we’ve been back. His watch popped into mind, because I was thinking he could hide the scars with it.”
She nodded in silence, but made no move to continue toward the tables. Finally, she said, “I almost lost him. And I can’t decide if I’m mad at him or the people that hurt him.”
Smiling sadly, my nose wrinkled. “It’s probably a little of both.”
She huffed a laugh. “I’m sure you understand.”
Laughing, I nodded. “Sure. But I also know you’re grateful he’s okay, that he’s back in one piece.”
She nodded, swiping at her tears. “I am. Very much so.” She let out a deep sigh, seeming to collect her emotions. “What about you? I heard things…”
Smirking, I asked, “From whom? Edward? Carlisle?”
“Yes. They said you were very strong.”
I shrugged a shoulder, but leaned in to hug her. “I tried to be. I was just glad I didn’t lose my shit at the wrong time. It would’ve been easy, considering where Mickey and I found him and what condition he was in.”
“Wanna talk about it?” she asked, cupping my face.
Tilting my head at her, I debated it, but decided against it. She didn’t need to hear about the way Carlisle looked or how similar his wounds were to mine. Esme was always my sounding board, my council, and my very good friend. She was like a mother to me, and it was for that reason alone I wanted to spare her the details of what I’d seen. This shit was too close to home for her.
“No.” She opened her mouth to speak, but I interrupted her. “Only because it’s over and it wasn’t a big deal this time. I promise. Besides, Edward talked me through it, and I’m well aware he held me through a nightmare or two, despite the fact that I told him to ignore them.”
Chuckling, she shot a look Edward’s way. “Yes, he said something about that.”
I looked up to see my son looking sort of grumpy as he ran our way. Kneeling down, I welcomed him with open arms.
“What’s this?” I asked, rubbing the wrinkle between his brows.
“Kaitlyn won’t stop following me!” he complained, giving the little shadow a harsh look as she wobbled up to us.
“Ah, I see,” I sang, picking him up. “She looks up to you, Sammy. You’re older. You did the same thing to Caleb and Bethy not so long ago.”
Kaitlyn looked up at us, her dark almond-shaped eyes looking hopeful. “Dotdawgs, Sammy.”
“I know!” he growled, sighing impatiently.
Esme chuckled, cupping Samuel’s grumpy face. “You are your father’s son, aren’t you?” she asked him, making me laugh and bury my face in my son’s neck. “I think Edward wore that same expression the first time I told him he was attached to the baker of the apple pie, not the pie itself.”
I giggled again, smooching Sammy’s cheek. “I love you, buddy, but you gotta relax. Kaitlyn just wants to play with you.”
“She’s a baby,” he argued in somewhat of a whisper, not that Kaitlyn was fazed by the insult.
“Mmhm, she is,” I agreed. “Which means you have to take it easy on her, Sammy. One day, you might not mind so much. Okay? For me?” I asked him, jiggling him in my arms a little.
“Yeah…” he said in his usual slow, soft way, but it was still disgruntled.
“Promise you’ll try?” I asked into his neck, making him squeal into a giggling protest. “Promise, or I’ll tickle you to pieces.”
He curled in on himself, laughing and fighting my fingers, but I finally got a loud, squawking, “I promise, Mommy! Now, stop!”
Laughing, I pulled back to kiss his nose. “That’s my boy. Now…let’s go tell Daddy to feed us. Hotdog or steak?”
“Chilwi?” he asked.
“No, not this time.”
He looked forlorn that his daddy hadn’t made chili for the hotdogs. He thought for a moment as we walked up to Edward as he manned the grill.
“Steak, Daddy,” he ordered, and Edward did a double-take, looking adorably confused.
“Really? Not a hotdog?” he asked, turning a few steaks over.
“No chilwi,” Sammy stated, holding his hands out and shrugging, like it was an obvious decision that he’d made by weighing all the options.
“My bad, buddy.” Edward laughed, kissing his son’s forehead.
I giggled at my boys, kissing Sammy before setting him down onto the ground and telling him to go sit at the table. I then kissed Edward’s sharp jaw, whispering, “Love you.”
Edward’s smiled was easy, crooked, and sweet. “Love you, too.”
I took a deep breath and let it out, but I looked up at him. “After we eat, we need to check in with El.”
The smile slipped from his face as he pulled the steaks from the fire and stacked them on a plate. He nodded, meeting my gaze. “Yeah, you’re probably right.” He nodded again, handing me the plate with the hotdogs for the kids. “After dinner. We’ll give Aunt Kate the birthday she wants, okay?”
Smiling, I kissed his lips. “Okay.”
I stepped into the computer room to find my dad standing in the center of it, looking a little lost. The noise from the kitchen was a happy, easy, fun sound as the girls cleaned up from the barbecue. It helped that there was probably a couple that had had a few beers too many. But none of that laughter registered on Dad’s face.
“How’d you do it?” he asked, glancing back at me.
“Do what?”
“Walk us through the hotel in Moscow,” he replied, gesturing a hand around the room. “It was just about perfect.”
“Ah, well…you haven’t really seen Igor really work yet,” I explained with a wry smile. “Without Alice’s latest genius invention, I’m not sure we’d have been able to help you.”
His brow wrinkled, and he gazed slowly around the room.
“Let me show you,” I told him, stepping to the table. “Igor, engage.”
Yes, Mr. Edward…”
“Give me the satellite images for Aunt Kate’s property up to a hundred-mile radius.”
As you wish…”
The large flatscreen monitor on the wall lit up with flashes of the globe, narrowing down to the United States, only to zoom in on Alaska. It magnified once more until there was perfect overhead shot of the property on which we were currently standing.
“Perfect. Now, Igor, along the back wall, show the video surveillance from the edge of the property,” I commanded.
Grinning when my dad’s mouth fell open, I urged him to step forward. “This was how we were able to do it. We had eyes on every inch of that hotel in Moscow. Igor locked in on every moving body on video, not to mention you and Esme.”
Igor was fucking impressive. I had to give Alice all the damn props in the world for it. The holographic monitors popped up on the back bare wall, which scanned every part of Aunt Kate’s fence. The ones on the four corners rotated back and forth, capturing almost everything. There were a few designed with motion detection. We didn’t monitor them all the time, but Alice had patched them into her system.
“Alice hacked into the hotel’s security. We pulled the video feeds up just like this,” I concluded.
My dad nodded, his eyes wide, but a small smile played at his lips, making me chuckle and squeeze his shoulder.
“I have to say, Igor was fucking helpful as hell while we were in Russia,” I told him. “Igor, on two separate screens, please show me Kurt’s and Eleazar’s locations in real time.”
As you wish… Monitors six and seven, Mr. Edward.”
Two more monitors lit up, both showing a map, but one was clearly of Irina’s property in Central Siberia, while Eleazar was smack in the middle of Moscow.
“Fuck,” my dad whispered, grinning as he looked to me. “I bet this thing frees up Alice’s time.”
“He does, he does, he does,” Alice chanted, stepping into the computer room with a grin. “He accesses information for you guys while I work the more hands-on stuff.” She looked to me, her face all business. “Bella said you wanted to contact El. Are you ready to do that? She said she’d be in here in a few minutes.”
“Yeah, just about,” I told her. “Actually, I’d like everyone in here for this conversation.”
“Okay, I’ll tell ’em,” she said, walking toward the door, and on her way out, she barked her command to Igor. “Igor, send Eleazar an encrypted video chat request. Put him up on the big monitor so everyone can see it.”
As you wish, Miss Alice…”
Dad and I took seats at the table in the middle of the room. As the large monitor changed from a map to a video chat, everyone filed into the room. Bella took a seat next to me while the room slowly filled with everyone but Aunt Kate, Sarah, and the kids. Esme was the last to take a seat next to my dad.
Eleazar’s face filled the screen, and he smiled down at all of us. Behind him was a beehive of activity in what looked like an office of some sort. If I’d had to guess, it was the CIA office in Moscow.
“I was just about to contact you.” He shifted a little, closing the door to a small room. He glanced over the lot of us. “Es, you okay?” he asked his sister.
“I am now,” Esme said softly, giving him a grateful smile.
“Good,” he grunted, typing away at a keyboard. “I have some interesting news for you guys.”
“You found Stefan and squashed him like a bug?” Emmett asked jokingly, but there was an edge of hope to his voice as well.
“I fucking wish,” El groaned, rolling his eyes. “However, he lost his buyer. North Korea backed out since there’s obvious heat all over George Stefan. The last thing they need is the world knowing what they were up to.” He took a deep breath and let it out. “The advantage we have is that Stefan doesn’t know that he’s lost his buyer. He still thinks he’s getting fifty million for this shit. And he also thinks he’s got everything under control, despite the hiccup in Norilsk. We’ve intercepted his deal, and we’ve leaked the location of the transport of that uranium you guys confiscated. He thinks it’s shipping out through the Barents Sea and heading to Canada. He thinks he still can take it. And how do we know this, you ask?” He grinned, holding up a finger. “Stefan has an undercover MI-6 operative under his employ. You tagged him a long time ago when this shit-storm started. Nicholas Gruber. Though, I’m pretty sure you understand I can’t tell you his real name.”
“That’s understandable,” my dad told him. “He’s your contact? And is he running this false connection? ’Cause it’ll get him killed if Stefan finds out.”
“We know,” El replied. “And yeah, he’s faking it all right about now. He’s been undercover for years, worked his way into Stefan’s trust, and he’s the one that barters all the deals for him. Since Yury is no longer alive, the responsibility for locating, tracking, and obtaining weapons, uranium, and equipment now falls to Nicholas, which is beneficial for us.
“Alice,” he continued, typing quickly, “I re-tagged that uranium transport using the same GPS chips you’d originally calibrated. I’m sending you the information now just so you’ll have it. We’re putting it on a boat in a little over a week’s time. And I think I have a problem.”
My dad sat forward, his face an iron mask. “What’s the problem?”
“I’ve been ordered to take the man out by any means necessary, but the problem is where Nicholas says Stefan wants to hole up after they steal my uranium. They know it’s now U.S. property they’re taking, and they know shit will be hot for a while after I allow them to have it. They won’t be able to move it right away. They’ll have to hold onto it, waiting until we ‘give up’ looking for it.”
“Where?” my dad asked.
“A cluster of islands that sits between the Kara and Barents Seas just off the coast of the North Pole. Technically, I can’t touch it. According to the information Nicholas has sent us, there’s an old science research station on one of the bigger islands. It’s Russian land, but it’s a privately owned lab. It’s also an area that has been deemed a preserve – there’s all sorts of wildlife they’re trying to protect there. The owner of this lab owed Stefan big money over some automatic weapons, and he never paid up. He reneged on the deal for whatever reasons. Therefore…”
“Lost his property,” Dad surmised, nodding his head slowly. “Guess we found where Stefan is based out of now.”
“Exactly,” Eleazar said with a grin.
“What’s his name?” Alice piped up, pulling a keyboard to her.
“Viktor Gavlik,” Eleazar told her.
She immediately started researching the guy, piping up with, “He still owns that lab. It was originally a telescope. They lost funding when the preserve went into effect.”
“We know. And I can’t help him. He’s not American, so he’s not under my protection, nor can he get out from under Stefan. I can’t get clearance to simply invade this island and go kick this guy’s ass. Someone above me is an environmentalist and won’t clear it. I’m fucking wrapped up in diplomatic red tape. And Gavlik doesn’t want to lose that lab, either. He can, however, hire someone to clean house. Someone not connected to anyone’s government.”
The room went deadly quiet, and we looked to my dad, who was studying Alice’s screen over her shoulder.
He glanced up at El on the screen. “And Boris?”
“He’ll be on the ship when it’s overtaken,” Eleazar replied, but his voice was solemn. “I can’t guarantee his safety, but he’s determined to wriggle his way into this shit.”
My dad looked pissed, but he nodded in understanding. “Boris is clever. He can take care of himself.”
Alice muttered soft instructions to Igor, and along the wall, a map showed the Barents Sea. She zoomed in on the little cluster of islands, finally locating the one with the abandoned lab. She looked up at my dad when he got up from the table to study it.
He rubbed his chin slowly, and I could tell that he was thinking over every angle – strategy, pros and cons, and possible outcomes.
“You’re sure he’ll land here?” he asked Eleazar.
“Nicholas is betting his life on it.”
“And what if we waited until he makes his move?” he asked, pacing back and forth. “Could you get him then?”
“Possibly, though we run the risk of this house of cards crashing down around us before that happens. I’ve had to work quickly since I left Norilsk. MI-6 is helping, but again, our hands are tied. They won’t make a move unless we do. They don’t want to risk it, especially since North Korea was involved.”
“Mm,” my dad hummed, gazing around the room, but his eyes landed on me as he spoke to Eleazar. “What are you asking me, El?” he asked, turning to face the monitor.
“I can’t ask you anything, Carlisle. You know that. I can, however, convey a message from Gavlik, requesting assistance. I can provide you a ride – off the record, of course. If you don’t want to do this, I completely understand. You just got back, you’re still recovering…”
“Tsk,” my dad scoffed, rolling his eyes. “How much time have I got?”
“Like I said, I’m putting that uranium on the boat in a little over a week’s time. Ten days, actually.”
My father glanced around the room, finally locking eyes with Esme, but he turned back to the monitor. “We’ll call you back. I have to think about it. I can’t ask these people to take another mission so soon after—”
“Dad…” I started, but shut up when he held up his hand.
“I need to think, son,” he sighed wearily. “We’ll talk it out, but we’ll come to some sort of decision. Soon.”
Bella’s hand rubbed my thigh, and I looked down at her. “I’m in,” she stated firmly, but in a whisper only meant for me. “Whatever the vote comes to, I’m in. This guy should be stopped. Guns and shit are one thing. Nuclear weapons are a serious level of hell, baby.”
She was telling only me so that I could make an informed decision. I nodded, kissing her forehead. “Okay, sweetness. We’ll weigh it all out.” Looking down at her, I added, “What he’ll do is ask for volunteers at this point.”
She nodded. “I figured, but I’ll go with what you want. You let me know.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I breathed against her hair.
Eleazar’s voice caught our attention. “Carlisle, you asked me to keep you informed, and I am. I can get you some help, if you need it, but in order to take this guy down, your crew will have to do it.”
My dad nodded and sat back down at the table. “You’ll hear from me soon.”
“Copy that,” Eleazar replied. “Esme,” he stated with a nod, and then the screen went black.
Not a single body moved from their spots around the room. We all waited. My dad sat forward, leaning his elbows on the table, and still we waited.
He inhaled sharply, looking to me first. “It’s unfair of me to ask you to do this mission. I’ve done my fucking best to relieve you of this life, to give you a chance to flourish, and you have. All of you have done amazing things with your lives.” He nodded once, standing up again. “When I put my last crew together in hopes of keeping my goddaughter safe, I never imagined the force I had created.” He smiled sadly, pointing to Bella. “Your girls, my son and crew…” He let out a chuckle, shaking his head. “A powerful force to contend with,” he sighed. “I owe each and every one of you an enormous thank you. I’m conflicted.” He placed a hand over his heart. “I know what it took for you to come for me. I know what it cost you to leave your families behind, what awful fucking decisions you had to make, and how many close calls there were.
“Normally,” he continued, pacing slowly back and forth in front of us, “I don’t dig too deep into politics – it’s why I started my first crew in the first place. I knew there were causes that bureaucratic bullshit wouldn’t allow, and I knew I could help. I had the connections and the means to do it. But I feel responsible for this situation, considering it was someone from my past that clued George Stefan in on this uranium. I’ve worked with the man before, and while he provides a service to people who are willing to pay, I feel that this bomb business is my responsibility to stop.” He braced his hands on the back of an empty chair, looking more to me than anyone. “This isn’t a command, this isn’t a requirement, and this isn’t something I’m taking lightly. I need your opinions on this. This is millions of lives at stake, and I’m well aware that deals like this probably happen all the fucking time, but this one, I know about. So…I’m asking you…this crew…all of you… What should I do?”
I let out a deep breath, biting down on my bottom lip. “I had this same conflict when I was following Stahl’s bullshit hostage requests. The thought of someone having that kind of power was…maddening. If push came to shove, I would’ve faked the exchange, taking my chances on getting you back another way.”
Jasper, who had been standing in the back of the room, stepped forward and studied the map of the small islands. Alec and Emmett joined him.
Alec tapped the screen, looking to my dad. “If we don’t do this…not only could this MI-6 operative get killed, but Boris as well, which would be a damn shame, ’cause I kinda like the old guy. Not to mention the fact that Stefan will just sell to the next highest bidder once he finds out North Korea has turned tail. And therein lies another problem. That weasel that was holding you captive said that Stefan was pissed and looking for revenge. It’s quite possible he’ll come for us. He’s got backers and power…and he most certainly has the weapons at his disposal. He knows you. It wouldn’t be hard to track you back to Seattle.”
I sighed, running a hand through my hair. “He makes a fair point, but how sure are you that we can do this?”
“I’m not. At all.” His voice was firm. “It’s why I need you all.”
Jasper spoke up, his eyes never leaving the screen in front him, and I knew him well enough to know that he’d been strategizing from the moment he’d set eyes on that island. “Given the location, the weather, and the touchy shit about the preserve, this’ll be a tough mission. It’s gonna be fucking cold. It’s summer, but this area…” He tapped the screen. “You’re talking low thirties in the summer. It could still snow, for fuck’s sake. And rain? Seriously chilly. The advantage we’d have is the darkness and location. This place is almost the top of the globe, so the sun stays low, barely above the horizon. Because it’s an island, we can essentially come in from all sides, dress for stealth, and take this lab down. However, we’d have two people inside we’d have to watch for.” He finally faced my father. “With the right planning, and depending on who El gets to take us over, we could do it. I’m willing to work out a plan.”
Emmett nodded just about the whole way through Jasper’s speech. “Yeah, I think… Yeah, we can do this.”
Alec smirked, shaking his head. “Sarah’s gonna remove my dick, I swear…but I’m in.”
Mickey stood up, looking to Obie. “You’re sure?” she asked, and when Obie nodded, wearing a small smile, she looked to my dad. “I’m in. I think we can come up with something, and if we can’t, then we don’t go.”
Dad looked to me, and I gazed down at Bella. A part of me knew that she’d be pissed at what I was about to say, but I also knew that Russia had been a gamble. We’d come out on top, but we’d been damn lucky. I couldn’t take that chance again. I’d needed her on the ground with me over there. On this, I needed her sharp, beautiful mind.
“If we do this, I want you to lead info,” I told her, bracing myself for an argument, but she tilted her head at me before getting up from the table. “Sweetness, I…”
She held up a finger, causing Jasper and Emmett to smirk my way. “Hang on,” she said, studying the map. “Not info, Edward,” she countered, looking back at me. “Sniper.” She shrugged a shoulder. “It’s the best option. You don’t need me in addition to the girls. With Igor, they’re perfect. However, looking at this lab, and seeing who’s going…you’ll need another eye.”
My eyebrows shot up as I thought it through quickly. Setting her up and away from the thick of things would keep her safe, and fuck me, if she wouldn’t be a sharp-ass shot.
Finally, I nodded. “Okay. I can deal with that, but you’re to stay up and away from everything. Plan B, Bella. Not up for negotiation.”
“Fine,” she agreed, nodding a little. She turned to my dad. “We’re in. The girls can run info from here.”
Dad stood up straight, giving her shoulder a squeeze, and finally looked to the one person that hadn’t said much: Esme. “You say no, and I’ll agree to it. Your call, sweetheart.”
She laughed, though there was no humor behind it. “I can’t tell you no, Carlisle. I don’t like it, but the thought that this guy knows you and may come for revenge? No. Do this. Be done with it.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He shot her a smile and turned to me. “How do you want to do this?”
I snorted, shaking my head and standing up. “You want me taking lead?”
He grinned. “I’m old, Edward. I’m ready for this to be over so I can go camping with my grandkids on their summer vacation. We have time to do this and come back. I’m willing to concede this to you.” He walked to me, placing a hand on my shoulder, whispering, “I need you on this one. I hate to ask it, but the truth is, you’re in charge. You know it, and I know it.”
Smirking at him, I sighed. A part of me had known he was going to hand the reins to me.
“Okay,” I said, nodding a little and looking around the room. I eyed the map, but that wasn’t enough for me, so I decided to go ahead and get started. “Igor, I need a three-dimensional map of that island. I need weather predictions for the next two weeks. And someone get Kurt on the phone. He can’t come home yet. He needs to go meet up with Eleazar.”
Yes, Mr. Edward…”
The holographic image rose up from the table, the details slowly filling in. I heard Rose calling Kurt as I stepped to the table.
“Sweetness,” I called, turning to look at her. “Once we have a clear idea of what we’re doing, you’re gonna go work with Jasper.”
“Yup,” she agreed, grinning when Jasper gave her a fist-bump.
“Makenna.” I smiled when she looked up at me. “Get me all you can on Stefan. Not that we need much, but I’d like to know who else he’s employed.”
“Sure thing, Edward.”
I looked to Dad one more time. “Okay, call El back, tell him we’re in, but I need to know exactly how we’re going in. Let him know we’re sending Kurt his way.”
“Thank you, son,” he answered.
“Don’t thank me, Dad. I just want to get this done in time to see you take my kids camping before they go back to school,” I told him with a grin. “That shit alone is worth it.”
Dad laughed, patting the side of my face. “Then let’s start planning.”


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