Tuesday, December 24, 2013 | By: Drotuno

Fire & Ice Chapter 18 & Pics

Chapter 18
BELLA
“You ready, Bellsy?” Emmett asked over my earpiece. “I’ve got you four targets in place.”
“Thanks, Em,” I answered, placing my eye up to the scope. “One, two…three…four,” I muttered to myself as I located every target down the small mountain.
“Bells, account for wind, the downward slope of the mountain, and don’t forget, this is for speed,” Jasper advised patiently and calmly from my side.
He’d set me up with one of his own personal sniper rifles. It was an intense-looking, high-powered, deadly piece of equipment, and the one in front of him was just like it. We’d been at this shit all day. Alec, Jasper, and Emmett had hiked me up into the woods just outside of Aunt Kate’s fence. It gave us plenty of room to work, but also kept the sound of gunfire from scaring the kids.
“You gonna remind me of this stuff when we’re on opposite sides of that island?” I asked snarkily, but he merely chuckled, bumping my shoulder with his.
“I can, and I most likely will, but you’re gonna do fine,” he soothed. “You’re a good shot. You just gotta get used to doing what you do from a hundred or more yards away. Yeah?”
“Yeah,” I replied in a whisper, readying my weapon.

Jasper was an amazing teacher. I imagined it was due to his laidback personality and his skills as a sniper. He could sit still for hours, which wasn’t something I was used to, but for this mission, I just simply needed to suck it up.
I reached down and adjusted the sandbag beneath the barrel of my rifle. Glancing over at the small ribbon Jasper had tied to a branch, I noted that the wind was blowing from my left to right. Finally, I gave one more adjustment to my scope – two clicks.
“Emmett, clear out,” I ordered, simply because I couldn’t see him down there.
“Copy that. You’re good to go,” he replied.
Letting out a long, slow breath, I pulled the trigger four times in rapid succession, working my way through the targets from my left to right and following the wind’s direction. Four watermelons exploded one right after the other.
“Seems like a waste of good fruit,” I teased, shaking my head when Emmett laughed as he knocked the green and red mess to the ground. I cracked up when he set a few more up, because this time, they had horrified cartoon faces drawn on them. “Really?”
“Hey, you’re gonna scare these assholes, Bells. This is what they’ll look like. And don’t hate on my artwork!” Emmett rambled, though I could see his grin through the scope. “Besides, this is the best target we could find. Tom bought the poor guy out of every melon he had at that roadside stand. No clean up!”
“Fair enough,” I sighed, sitting up for a moment as Emmett finished resetting my targets.
“You sure you wanna do this?” Jasper asked, holding up a hand. “Don’t get me wrong; you’re kickin’ ass and takin’ names with this shit. I had guys in the service that weren’t as good as you are, and they were trained for years. I’m just sayin’…”
“I know what you’re saying, Jasper,” I sighed, wrinkling my nose a little. “Edward wants me out of the line of fire. If he hadn’t needed me for Russia, he wouldn’t have let me come, but he did. I understand why, you know?”
“Bethy and Sammy,” Jasper stated, nodding slowly, but then his eyes lit up. “Ah, ‘Plan B.’”
“Yeah,” I sighed, sitting back on my heels. “I just…” I shrugged, looking down at my hands. “I just remember how helpless I felt when Sam died, you know? I couldn’t go with you guys back then, but I always wonder if I had…”
“That wasn’t your fault, Bellisima,” Alec stated, stepping up onto the small rock formation where we’d set up. “I told you that back then.” He dropped a kiss to the top of my head and sat beside me.
“I know, but sometimes, it feels that way,” I grumbled, fighting tears. “Would I have been able to stop that asshole with the RPG? Maybe Sam would still be here…”
“Or maybe Edward wouldn’t be,” Alec countered, raising an eyebrow at me. “Amore, you can’t say if anything at all would’ve changed.”
“I get that, too,” I admitted, nodding once, my heart hurting at the memory of Sam’s death and Edward’s injury. I’d been a mess that day, and not because I’d been pregnant with Sammy at the time. I’d lost a good friend, but I’d almost lost the man that meant everything to me. “I’m just… I’m willing to do as Edward wants by staying out of the heavy shit, but I can’t…not go. I just can’t.”
“He knows that,” Jasper said with a grin, nudging my foot with his own. “Edward is very protective of you, Bells, but he’s not fucking stupid. He’s well aware of what you can do. If you were anyone else, I don’t think he’d agree to it, but you’re…well, you’re you. And you keep a damn level head when needed. I think that helps him. Hell, it helps all of us.”
Smiling, I whispered, “Thanks, Jazz.”
“Yup,” he drawled, patting my leg. “Now, let’s see where Emmett is. Aim at him; it’ll make him move faster.”
“Aw, shut the hell up, J!” Emmett growled. “I’ve been waiting for you assholes. No offense, Bellsy.”
Giggling, I settled myself down behind my weapon. “None taken,” I told him over the radio. “That’s impressive, Emmett.”
“Thank you, thank you,” he sang. “Nail ’em all, B. I’m cleared out.”
“’Kay,” I sighed, letting out a breath and mentally going over the checklist in my head that Jasper had taught me: wind, distance, aim.
I ignored the sound of shuffling behind me, figuring Alec and Jasper were moving around. I counted off five watermelons, all in various places – on top of rocks, peeking out from behind shrubs, and sitting on branches. I jumped a little when strong arms braced on either side of me, but the smell of fresh cut wood assaulted my senses. Even more was the feel of a warm, hard chest pressing to my back.
“What have I told you about distractions, sweetness?” Edward’s deadly velvet voice asked right in my ear. “Concentrate, love.”
I felt his smile against my cheek when I giggled, but I eyed my shots quickly.
“Anything could be happening around you, Bella,” he said softly, but his voice wasn’t teasing anymore. “We don’t know what weapons they’ll have, so you have to move quickly. Take them out. All of them…now.”
I popped off five shots, letting out the breath I’d been holding. Surveying the damage, I was happy that I’d cleared all but the one that was partially hidden behind a bush.
“Well?” Edward asked, kissing my cheek. “Let me see.”
He closed an eye, gazing through the scope. I glanced around to see that Jasper and Alec had moved out of the way to let Edward into our little spot.
“Not bad, baby,” he praised, grinning when he pulled back to look at me. “Is that the first one you’ve missed?”
“Yeah,” I said with a laugh and a nod.
“That’s my girl,” he purred sweetly, kissing my lips. “How do you feel you’re doing?”
“Okay. I can do this, Edward. Promise,” I vowed.
He reached up to tuck a stray hair behind my ear. His eyes were the same shade of green as the trees around us, but there was a look behind them I couldn’t quite place. They were loving, yet wary at the same time.
“I know you can,” he said softly. “Thank you for not fighting me on this, Bella. I need you away from it all and safe. We were lucky in Russia and Norilsk.”
“Yeah, I know. I just—”
“Have to watch my back,” he finished for me, and even though it sounded like he was teasing, the smile on his lips didn’t reach his eyes. Leaning closer, he cupped my face. “Sam wasn’t your fault. He wasn’t mine, either. He’d made his decision all on his own. You’re forgetting his letter to us.”
My eyes widened a little at the knowledge that he’d been listening in, but it made sense that he was always watching over me.
“No, I’m not,” I argued, shaking my head, but I played with his fingers in my lap. “I remember it. I remember it every time I see your scar,” I told him, tracing the outside seam of his jeans, where I knew there was a twisted mark from that day. “I remember it every time I look at our son, Edward. Every time he imitates you, I’m grateful for Sam, who allowed us to keep you.”
“Bella…” He sighed, but leaned in to kiss my forehead almost roughly. He cupped my face, his expression fierce when he looked at me. “Baby, the only reason I want you out of this shit is so that if something fucking stupid happens you can get the fuck outta there. Hmm?” When I nodded, he smiled. “I have the utmost confidence in your ability to keep us safe. I can’t think of anyone else that I’d rather have watching our backs than you and Jasper.” He sat up a little, bumping my chin with his finger gently. “This plan will work, sweetness. Done just right, we’ll not only catch them by surprise, but we’ll surround them, essentially trapping them on that island. But you know me… I need a safety net for you to get home. I can’t function now without it.”
Nodding, I stood up, offering Edward my hand to pull him up. I couldn’t argue with him on this. Not at all. When the handsome thing in front of me had rescued me from Miller’s basement, he’d been a free man, single, no attachments. He was almost careless and gung-ho about everything he did, and I’d been just as stubborn. And while that worked for what he’d done for a living up until that point, it didn’t work now. The reason he’d stopped working as a soldier for hire was because he now had so much at stake: me, Bethy, and Sammy. He was a lethal weapon, but he had to approach everything differently.
“Emmett, bring it in,” I told him over the radio. “We’re done.”
“Roger that. Awesome job, Bellsy!” he praised.
Edward stood before me, glancing up at Alec and Jasper. “El called. They’re putting the crate on the boat tomorrow night.”
“So it’s a go,” Alec verified.
“Oh, it’s a go,” Edward said with a nod of his head. “Kurt will be loaded up at the same time. He’s been paired with Boris as ‘security’ for that shipment.”
“So we have three asses we gotta get out of there. Those two and the MI-6 guy,” Jasper stated. “Fair enough. And just when do we head out?”
“Three days. Anchorage. Our ride won’t wait for us, so we’ll head out day after tomorrow and stay over before we leave. Alice has already made all the arrangements,” Edward explained.
Alec nodded, reaching down to pick up my sniper rifle. “Then I guess we’d better get back.”
Jasper quickly disassembled the two rifles, stowing them in their case and slinging it across his back. Emmett met us at the head of the trail back toward Aunt Kate’s, but Edward let them go on ahead.
“Look at me, sweetness,” he whispered, reaching up to take both of our earpieces out – first mine, and then his. “About Sam…” When I opened my mouth, he placed two fingers gently on my lips. “Wait, love. Hear me out, okay?”
I nodded and kissed his fingertips before he pulled them away.
“That day…th-that m-mission…” He shook his head, his eyes filling with sadness. “Bella, not even Jasper was quick enough to stop the guy with the RPG. A-And S-Sam, h-he w-was d-determined t-to sh-shadow m-me. He insisted that he be on my team so that he could follow my every move. H-He…” He groaned, clawing at his hair. “Look, I’m really kinda glad you didn’t go on that one, baby. It was a mess, and so many of us got hurt. And I couldn’t imagine what you’d have done seeing all that in person. I-It w-was b-bad e-enough l-listening t-to y-you p-panic o-over th-the r-radio, o-okay?”
“Okay,” I sighed, shaking my head. “I don’t know why he’s on my mind today.”
Edward smiled sweetly, cupping my face before dropping a light kiss to my lips. “Because our plan is very similar to that one, love. The timing is about the same, too.” That beautiful smile fell from his face as quickly as it had appeared. “And it doesn’t help that we have to leave Bethy and Sammy again, Bella. I-I g-get th-that. I-I d-don’t e-even b-begin t-to kn-know h-how t-to g-go a-about t-telling th-them.”
I stood up on my toes and kissed his lips. “I know,” I whispered. “We’ll just…have to be honest with them. Well, as honest as we can be.”
He nodded, looking down at the ground. “Let’s take them to my mom’s spot,” he suggested softly. “We’ll take them riding and tell them there.”
Smiling, I nodded, because I knew that place was special for Edward. His mother took him there when she wanted to talk to him privately, so it seemed fitting for him to continue the tradition. We’d even told Bethy about Sammy’s impending arrival there.
“They’d really like that, I think. Tomorrow?” I asked him.
He sighed, taking my hand. “Yeah, tomorrow.”
~oOo~
“Down,” Sammy ordered, and he was almost gruff about it, but I kissed the top of his backwards baseball cap.
“At ease, little soldier,” I teased him. “Can you wait until Daddy can come get you?”
“Yeah,” he sighed as his hands ran through Samson’s mane.
I pulled the horse to a stop, waiting until Edward dismounted, set Bethy on the ground, and tied off Goliath. Sammy wasn’t exactly a huge fan of riding. He loved to pet, feed, and groom them all, but the sheer size of them unnerved him. And if anyone understood that, it was Edward. He’d told me once that he’d been the same way growing up.
“C’mere, buddy,” Edward soothed, reaching for Sammy, who immediately went to him. Once he set our boy onto solid ground, Sammy took off like lightning. Edward chuckled, looking up at me. “You got this?”
“Yup, I’m good,” I told him, dismounting and tying Samson next to Goliath.
When I turned around, I had to smile, because Bethy had already spread out the blanket. Edward and I weren’t exactly sure how the two would take us telling them we had to leave again, so we’d decided to spend the day just the four of us…well, six if we counted Lock and Load, who had tagged along behind us on the trail through Aunt Kate’s woods.
It had been way too long since we’d come out here. I gazed around, taking in the subtle changes of Edward’s favorite spot. Because it was summer, there were small flowers blooming everywhere, the trees were lush and green, and the birdhouses that he’d hung out there were all occupied – a few were obviously the sparrows that he’d originally built them for, but there were a few other birds that had moved in, as well.
Remembering the first time Edward had brought me to this little meadow made my eyes tear up with the sweet memory. We’d talked about our mothers, about how it was in this very spot that Edward had found out his mother was sick. She’d told him an old legend about the sparrows watching over him once she was gone. And the sad little boy had spent years adding birdhouses so they’d have a place to live. A glance across the field showed me that same boy – now all grown up – adding another birdhouse to a tree branch. This time, his own children had painted it.
“You look sad,” Bethy noted, pulling me to the blanket.
Smiling, I cupped her face and smooched her lips. “No, not sad, just remembering the first time your daddy brought me here.”
She grinned. “A date?” she squeaked.
Laughing, I said, “Something like that.”
Edward’s chuckle was adorable as he lifted Sammy to pour birdseed into the new house. He carried him to the others, spreading some on the ground.
“Yeah, kind of a date, little sweetness,” he concurred when the two joined us at the blanket. “I was really bad at dates back then.” He grinned, shooting a wink my way.
“How hard is dinner and a movie?” Bethy asked, rolling her eyes, and I was pretty damn certain my little girl watched too much TV.
Edward cracked up. “Your mother said the same thing.”
Giggling, I wrapped my arms around Bethy. “Smart girl,” I praised in her ear. “Dates aren’t hard, and the guy doesn’t always have to go crazy. But this?” I gestured to the tiny field. “This was one of my favorites that Daddy took me to, so don’t let him fool you.”
Edward’s smile was sweet, shy, and a touch sad, which told me he was remembering our first time out there, too. He’s eyes drifted around us, landing on each and every one of his birdhouses. I didn’t want him to tell our kids about the sparrows. I just didn’t think I’d get through the conversation. And it seemed that he was feeling the same way, so he changed the subject, reaching for the lunch I’d packed.
“Let’s see what Mom put in here,” he said, rummaging around in the basket.
Lunch was filled with light chatter and the kids sharing their potato chips with Lock and Load. Bethy got up at one point and picked a handful of wildflowers, handing them to me. Smiling, I turned her around and braided a few into her hair while Edward and Sammy went “esplorin’” – which actually meant that my two boys went off to use nature’s restroom, but I made no mention of that to my daughter.
“When we goin’ campin’ with Poppy?” Sammy asked, walking up with Load by his side, as always. His little fingers dug into white and gray fur without even thinking about it.
Lock had his head in Bethy’s lap, eyes closed as she toyed with an ear over and over. “Soon, right?” she asked, turning when I was done with her hair. “Daddy’s suh-posed to make s’mores, and Aunt Kate got a whole bunch of sleepin’ bags.”
Edward sat down next to me, but decided to take his cues from his kids. “Well, that’s kinda why we’re out here,” he told them. “I’ve got some good news and some bad news. What do you guys want first?”
“Good news,” they both told him.
“The good news is that we’re staying at Aunt Kate’s longer than we thought,” he told them.
Bethy’s brow furrowed, giving a cheering Sammy a side-glance. “Why?” she asked shrewdly, her eyes narrowing on her dad.
“That’s the bad news, little sweetness,” he sighed wearily, looking to me. “We are going camping, but not until your mom and I get back.”
“From where?” Sammy suddenly gasped.
“We’ve got a little bit more work to do,” I said softly, waiting until he turned my way. “All your uncles and Poppy are going, too, so camping’s been put on hold for a bit.”
“Aww,” Sammy groaned, plucking a few blades of grass. “I don’t want you to go.”
“We don’t want to go, either, buddy.” Edward leaned back against the tree trunk behind him. He tugged off his baseball cap, raking his fingers through his hair. “I know you guys have your hopes up about camping with Poppy, but there’s a bad guy out there that we have to stop.”
That got their attention, and Bethy crawled over to her father’s lap. “Is he the one that hurt Poppy?” she asked him in a whisper, but Sammy perked up for the answer.
Edward smiled, leaning in to kiss her forehead. “In a way…yes.”
“And you’re gonna catch the bad guy?” Sammy asked, looking between us, eyes wide.
“I hope so, pal,” I said, smiling at him simply because he’d taken his own cap off and was running a hand through his hair.
Edward kicked my sneaker, giving me a withering glare that dared me to say it out loud, though. Snorting, I shook my head. God, I loved all three of them with a sickness, but I simply adored how much our children were like us. Some things were exactly like us – Sammy’s sweet, shy personality with a touch of fierceness, and Bethy’s sharp-witted, clever mind. But both were loyal and brave and strong.
“We won’t be gone as long this time,” I said, opening my arms for my son. He scrambled into my lap, and I wrapped my arms all the way around him, kissing his sweet chubby cheek. “Couple of days. Four or five at most.”
“I don’t want you to go,” Sammy mumbled into my neck, and I glanced over at Edward, who was having his own conversation with Bethy.
“When are you leaving?” she asked him, looking back at me.
“Tonight, baby,” he told her, kissing her temple. “We need you guys to be good for Gamma.”
“Can we watch you like before?” Sammy asked, sitting up a little. “On Igor?”
Grinning, I nodded. “Absolutely,” I vowed to both of them. “In fact, we’ll tell Aunt Alice when we get back. Okay?”
“Are you flying?” Bethy piped up, turning around so that her back was to Edward’s chest, but she looked back at him.
“Not this time,” he said softly with a shake of his head. “This time, we’re going on a boat, so you don’t need to worry about who my co-pilot is,” he teased her. “I can’t replace you anyway.”
She absolutely beamed at him, taking on a smug look that he’d worn more than few times since I’d known him. I simply shook my head.
“And we’ll all go campin’ when you get back?” Sammy asked, trying his damnedest to find a silver lining.
“Yes,” Edward and I said at the same time.
That seemed enough for them at the moment, and Bethy’s face then took on a wicked, mischievous expression.
“Did you guys kiss out here?” she asked, which made her dad laugh and his ears turn pink.
“Maybe,” he growled into her neck, wrapping her up and wrestling her to the blanket, where she squealed and wriggled in his arms.
“You did?” Sammy gasped.
Giggling, I tickled him. “We kiss all the time. This shouldn’t be a surprise, handsome boy.”
“Yeah, but…” Sammy started, but his sister interrupted him.
“It was so long ago,” Bethy guffawed.
“Not that long!” Edward argued. “But before you, yes.”
“Did you love him then?” she asked in a sing-song manner.
“I’ve loved your dad since I was twelve years old. I just didn’t know it until we were all grown up…when he became my hero,” I told my daughter honestly, giving a shocked Edward a wink.
Bethy grinned, scooting over to me. “Yeah?”
“Yes,” I stated firmly, kissing my little girl’s forehead. “Your dad was too cute the first time I met him.”
Edward chuckled, shaking his head. “And shy…and awkward…and skinny.”
“All of that just made him cuter,” I whispered to her with a giggle, and she and Sammy laughed with me.
My husband groaned, rolling his eyes and standing up. “We should get back, guys. We have to get ready to go.”
We all got up and packed our things. I set an uneasy Sammy onto Samson while Edward helped Bethy onto Goliath. When I looked up, I caught him staring at me.
“What?”
“You mean that?” he asked in a whisper as we led the horses on foot toward the head of the trail.
“That you were cute?” I teased him with a grin. “Yes.”
He snorted, shaking his head. “No, silly girl. About loving me since you were twelve.”
I stood up on my toes, kissing his lips. “Yes, Edward. I meant it. I was crushing on you hard at the end of that day. And from that moment on, not one guy measured up. I’d be willing to bet that, had we stayed in touch, things would’ve turned out differently.”
I was merely reiterating something we’d talked about before, but I honestly believed what I was telling him. Edward stayed quiet for a few more steps, but finally locked those warm, green eyes on me.
“Maybe,” he allowed. “Th-Though, I-I’m p-pretty h-happy w-with th-the w-way th-things t-turned o-out.”
How he could cause me to swoon in the middle of the woods, I had no idea, but he was damned good at it. He’d been doing it for as long as we’d been together. But the face he was giving me truly looked like that boy I’d met all those years ago – stuttering, shy, and just plain cute. On a bad day, Edward was sexy and handsome. But it was those moments – those stuttering, honest moments – that I would fall in love all over again. It was in those moments that he was my apple pie eating, awkwardly honest, wide-eyed crush again – the one who’d tripped me by accident in my own front yard.
“Me, too, baby,” I simply said, kissing him briefly before putting my foot in Samson’s stirrup. “I said they’d be different, not that I would change anything.”
His smile was brilliant and sexy and crooked as he mounted Goliath behind Bethy. “You know what’s cool about that, sweetness?” he asked, and I shook my head. He pointed his thumb at his chest. “I got to show you Alcatraz.”
Laughing, I wrapped a protective arm around Sammy. “Yes, Edward. Yes, you did.”
~oOo~
EDWARD
The sun wasn’t even up yet as the entire crew walked our way down to the docks, and we were all quiet. We were heading for the end, and even from shore, I could tell that the bastard wasn’t just any fucking fishing boat. I smirked at it, shaking my head.
I’d figured out pretty damn quick that when Eleazar set us up with a ride to this island, there would be more to it. As we approached, my military mind saw it for what it truly was: a disguise. At first glance, the gray commercial-size ship was equipped with all the shit one would think would be required to get the job done. A closer inspection, however, showed a few fifty cals stashed under piles of nets and hidden in windows, and a satellite on the top, and the men manning it carried themselves like soldiers.
“Fishermen, my ass,” Bella muttered to me, and I grinned her way. “That one walking toward Carlisle is packing in his left pant leg.”
“Indeed, sweetness,” I agreed, eyeing the guy that was shaking hands with my dad. “Though, I’d rather talk about your ass. Didn’t I—”
“Don’t you dare,” she hissed at me, but her smile was wicked and all things naughty. “Evil, evil wake-up call, I tell you,” she grumbled, rolling her eyes at my chuckle.
“Oh, yeah,” I sang, draping an arm around her shoulders, “and here I was thinking about the shower.” When her eyes glazed over, I snickered, kissing the side of her head. “Thanks for that, by the way.”
We’d taken advantage of the hotel in Anchorage. Having the room to ourselves and the impending mission made us unable to keep our hands to ourselves. I’d not only waken Bella up prior to the alarm, but it had all carried over to the shower, where I’d taken her from behind. I was pretty sure we bent the track of the shower door, but I hadn’t paid it much attention. I’d been unable to resist slick, soapy skin, and I’d needed to lose myself in Bella before we left land.
“Mmhm,” she hummed, shaking her head and fighting a smile.
“You loved it,” I growled in her ear. “I sure as hell didn’t hear you complaining. Though the people in the room next door definitely know my name by now…”
“Edward…” she groaned, but looked up at me with pure amusement all over her beautiful face, and we stopped in the middle of the dock.
“What?” I asked with a grin.
She huffed a laugh, but then kissed my lips quickly. “And no, not your name. However, I’m pretty sure they think I’m really religious.”
“Huh. We’ll have to fix that when we come back,” I stated, nodding once.
She giggled. “Well, there’s a goal if I’ve ever heard one.”
“That’s my girl,” I rumbled, but let her drag me up the dock to join everyone else.
I needed that flirty, sexy shit from her, that simple, silly bullshit, and she probably knew it. This next mission had me worried, not because I didn’t think the crew couldn’t handle it or the plan wasn’t solid, because they could and it was, but there were so many fucking lives at stake. Not only were millions of innocent people at risk with the sale of this uranium, but Kurt, Boris, and the MI-6 operative all had fallen neck deep into this fucker’s web. I wasn’t sure what the crew would do if something happened to one of our own.
Kurt was young, brave, having proven himself over and over. Boris, on the other hand, was pretty hardened to this type of work, but my dad wanted him out safe. The only one I didn’t know was the MI-6 guy, Nicholas, but he’d obviously put his neck out to catch George Stefan, and that shit took balls. He’d been undercover for years. One look at my girl, and I fucking knew I’d go crazy if I had to leave her. I couldn’t imagine how he’d done that.
“Edward?” my dad called.
“Sir.” I stepped forward to meet the man standing next to him.
He was older, somewhere between my dad’s age and Alec’s. If I’d had to guess, the man would’ve been around his early fifties, but it was obvious he was in shape and that this wasn’t the first time he’d done this sort of thing.
“This is Lee Finley,” Dad introduced. “He’ll be our captain.”
“Nice to meet you, sir,” I said, shaking his hand.
“Nah, no sirs around here. Everyone calls me Finn,” he said with a kind smile. “And if I were you, no salutes, and try not to indicate who’s in charge. You never know who’s watching.”
“Fair enough,” I said with a nod, turning to introduce him to everyone, who also shook his hand.
“Let’s get you on board. I’ll introduce you to the rest of the crew and show you where you can store your things. I figure we’ll cast off around sunrise,” he explained, guiding us onto the boat. “We can really talk once we’ve left land.”
The ship was crewed by Finn and three others. We were introduced to an older gentleman, Tex, who immediately struck up an easy conversation with Jasper. It seemed they were from the same area in Texas. There were two guys around my own age, as well – Shane and Paul. The former was polite, quiet, and went right back to storing rope. The latter eyed Mickey and Bella like he’d never seen a woman, but once he caught sight of Alec, Emmett, and me, he found something better to do than stare.
Finn led us below deck, pointing out a few rooms with bunks. It would be tight quarters, but we were only going to be on the boat for a couple of days. We just needed somewhere to catch some sleep.
“Edward,” Finn called, leading me back up on deck. “When we hit open water, we’ll go over your plan. Eleazar told me a few things, but I may have some ideas.”
I smiled, but not in humor. “Can I ask… How do you know El? These people are my responsibility. I just like to know where I stand.”
“It’s a fair question,” Finn stated calmly with a nod. “El and I were in the Navy Seals together. He brought me into the CIA a few years after he started with them.” He smiled, pushing up the sleeve of his thermal shirt to show me the same ink that El had. “We troll waters for pirates,” he said with a chuckle, “and not the Johnny Depp kind. Nasty fuckers that attack transports, rich men on yachts, and innocent commercial fishermen trying to make an honest living.”
“Well, that explains your extra equipment on board,” I told him with a smirk. “Sounds like a sweet gig, actually.”
“It’s not bad.” He laughed. “I prefer the warmer climate to the shit we’re about to go into, but hey, I go where the work is. Which reminds me… We need to go over the weather. We’re gonna hit some pretty foul stuff. You’ll need to dress for it.”
“We know,” I groaned, shaking my head. “My info team alerted me this morning. Snow in the fucking summer.” I shook my head slowly.
He grinned and patted my shoulder. “This won’t take long.”
“True.” I sighed, catching sight of Bella and Mickey laughing with Alec, and I wasn’t the only one.
Paul had emerged on deck and was pulling up anchor, though his eyes betrayed him. I wasn’t fucking blind or stupid; I knew those girls turned heads all the damn time. I also knew the girls were always aware of their surroundings, no matter what. It was something I’d taught Mickey ages ago and something Bella had absolutely instilled in her girls way before I came along.
“Pretty girls,” Finn noted. “They any good?”
I laughed. Hard. “Yeah, you could say that.”
He grinned, glancing their way as my dad walked up to join us. “Beautiful and deadly. They don’t distract you?”
My dad snickered. “Quite the opposite, Finn. The one on the left? That’s his wife…and my goddaughter. The one on the right? She’d break his neck for hurting the one on the left.”
I cracked up, but nodded and shrugged at the same time. “Yeah, pretty much.” I eyed Paul again, jerking my chin his way. “Is he going to be a problem?” I asked, the smile slipping off my face.
“Paul?” Finn verified, and when I nodded, he smirked. “He’s…a ladies man. I’ve pulled him outta more bar fights than I can count. He’s an excellent sailor, a sharp shooter, and loyal as all hell, but he’s got an ego the size of Texas.”
“Hmm,” I hummed, narrowing my eyes.
My dad squeezed my shoulder, but looked to Finn. “He tries those two, and they’ll knock that ego down a peg or two, if they don’t throw him overboard.”
“Then it would serve him right,” Finn huffed, grinning our way. “This sounds like it’s gonna be a helluva trip. Let’s get outta here.”
“Excellent,” my dad said.
“Feel free to set up your equipment in the galley. There are also plenty of supplies, so make yourselves at home. I’ll join you once we’re out on open water. We’ll see what you’ve got planned,” Finn stated, walking away toward the bow to yell instructions to his crew.
My dad and I walked toward the bow to join our crew, and they all looked to me.
“Finn says we can set up in the galley. So Bella, if you could do that,” I said, looking to her, and she nodded. “Treat this ship like a safe house. Got me?”
“Sir,” they muttered back.
“Once we’re out at sea, Finn’s gonna tell us what he knows. After that, if you need rest, sleep in shifts. And you two,” I grunted softly to Mickey and Bella. “One problem, and I wanna fucking know about it.” I raised an eyebrow at my wife, who smirked my way.
“Eh, he’s just a gawker, pretty boy,” Mickey teased.
“What-the-fuck-ever. If it goes beyond that, I want to know. I’m not fucking kidding,” I countered. Looking to Bella, I said, “Promise me.”
“Promise, Edward.” Her reply was instant, but she gave the guy in question a quick once-over.
She had sharp instincts, but she trusted mine, too. I couldn’t imagine she’d put herself in an awkward position, but some arrogant assholes didn’t always pick up clues. The last thing I fucking needed was Bella beating the shit out of a CIA agent simply because he touched her wrong. Then I’d have to kill the bastard. Eleazar would be pissed.
Before I left them, I said, “Last thing… Em, Jazz, go snooping. I wanna know what other weapons and shit they have on this ship.”
“Hooah,” they grunted, giving me grins before wandering off.
I felt Bella’s hand slip into mine, and I gazed down at her.
“C’mon. You can help me set up, Edward. I wanna check on the storm that’s brewing up there,” she ordered as we slowly started pulling away from the docks.
I took a deep breath, watching the skyline grow smaller. I wanted to get back ASAP.
Bella’s hand squeezed mine. “You okay?”
Tearing my gaze from the shore, I locked eyes with her and nodded. “Yeah, I’m okay. I just want this done.”
She smiled. “Me, too. So we need to focus. Equipment setup…weather report? I’ll need to sync up to this satellite, check in with Alice, and we still need to wait for Finn.”
Chuckling, I was grateful for her ability to center me. “Yes, ma’am. All of the above. Lead the way.”






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