Thursday, April 24, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 14 & Pics

Chapter 14
December 2001
“Bella?” I whispered against the side of her head. When she hummed, I smiled into her hair. “Not that I’m complaining, but how long can I keep you?”
She snickered a little, pulling her head away from my shoulder and looking around the hotel room. “I can stay out until my curfew,” she stated.
Smirking, I tilted my head. “And that is?”
“Eleven,” she sighed, looking down at her hands. “I don’t want to go yet.”
“Okay, well…unfortunately, I’m stuck inside until the sun goes down, love,” I told her, pointing toward the window.
“I figured,” she murmured, smirking a little. “I’m kinda glad. At least you were here.”
I kissed her nose. “Had you called me, I would’ve come to you from anywhere…even if I hadn’t been here.”
She nodded and smiled, slipping off my lap and wandering around the room. She finally took off her coat and draped it across the bed before turning to me.
“You’ve been stuck in here?”
“Not completely,” I said with a chuckle, gesturing to the computer, “but I’ve worked a little, too.”
“Sounds…boring,” she teased, wrinkling her nose at me adorably.
Laughing, I sat forward on the edge of the sofa, resting my elbows on my knees. “Unfortunately, my favorite piano student was otherwise occupied, so I had to entertain myself.”
I was rewarded with the sweetest smile, but she pointed to the desk. “What’s all this, anyway?”
Standing up, I walked to her. “Some of it is school stuff – payroll, billing, budgets. Some of it is…” My voice trailed off because I wasn’t sure she wanted to know exactly how much I’d been looking into the police report.
“My case.”
“Yes,” I whispered nervously.
She turned to me, reaching up to push the hair from my forehead. “Will you tell me?”
I sighed, swallowing thickly. “Sweetheart, it’s possible we’ll find out something you may not want to hear,” I stated carefully, gauging her reaction, only because my theories were hitting close to home for her now that I’d seen those PI photos.
“You must think there’s some connection,” she hedged, tears starting to appear. “Does this…have to do with my trust fund?”
My eyebrows shot up. “You know about that?” I asked, but she nodded.
“Yeah, I heard everyone arguing about money more than once. Mom and Phil tried to contest my dad’s will,” she said with a shrug of her shoulder. “It was after he moved in. I never thought about it, but…”
“I don’t know, sweetheart. Money can make people do terrible things, but it may have nothing to do with your parents at all. It could simply be someone that sought revenge against your father due to his job. Believe me, I’ve tried thinking of it from every angle. I even asked Carlisle for his opinion.”
Bella’s brow furrowed, but she sat on the bed, folding her legs beneath her. “What’d he say?”
I rolled the desk chair over and sat down, scooting closer to her. “He was able to get his hands on the police file…and the autopsy report.” I groaned, sinking my fingers into my hair. “Jesus, Bella… Are you sure you want to hear this stuff?”
“Stop,” she whispered, tugging at my hands. “You’re gonna pull it all out.”
Snorting, I looked up at her. “It would be rather difficult.”
“Don’t care,” she argued. “I like your hair, so leave it where it is.”
I grinned, but pulled myself closer. “I need to know you’re okay with this topic, sweetheart. I need to know if it gets to be too much.”
She took my hands and linked our fingers together. “I promise to tell you if it does,” she vowed, and when I nodded, she repeated her question. “What did Dr. Cullen say?”
Picking up our hands, I kissed the back of hers. “Nothing I didn’t already know, or that you didn’t confirm when you told me your story,” I hedged, but gave in when she looked at me exasperatedly. “Okay, fine. From what we can tell from the evidence, two men broke into your home a little after midnight. They seemed to have gone straight to your father’s room. Your dad, however, put up a helluva fight,” I explained, smiling sadly when she nodded in confirmation. “You ran in on them, and they attacked you. They made their way downstairs, where they took several pieces of electronics, some jewelry that was on the kitchen counter, and some silver and crystal. You said they wore masks, so they must’ve worn gloves as well, because no prints were identified…”
“And no witnesses. My neighbors weren’t home.”
“Yes,” I whispered, studying her sweet face to make sure she was still good, which she seemed to be. I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly because this was where things got…complicated. “We…We looked into your dad’s court cases, particularly bad ones or violent ones, and there was only one name that raised a flag.”
“Who?” she asked.
“Phil Dwyer. Your dad presided over a case in which he was a character witness.”
She paled, but nodded. “I remember Phil talking about that. He was a witness…some baseball, steroid thing. My dad was the judge?”
“Yes, ma’am.” I kissed the back of her hand again. “Bella, what else do you remember?”
“I’ve told you everything about—”
“I know, love, but what I mean is…” I frowned, cupping her face. “It seems that they weren’t exactly discerning when it came to discussing things around you. Is there anything that happened before, during, or after that night that seems to stand out to you? Anything, Bella. Something strange happening? Maybe someone’s said something to you? Maybe Phil’s said something to you?”
“No! Never,” she argued, shaking her head. “Phil barely acknowledges me, except occasionally he’ll put his foot down about something.”
“Like what?”
Her brow wrinkled. “They wanted to skip me a grade at my last school, but he said no. That was one thing. He almost didn’t let me come to Masen. He said I wasn’t ready.”
Nodding, I rubbed my jaw. That was certainly food for thought, but I wanted to hear what else she remembered.
“Okay, what about…familiar smells from that night, or voices?”
Narrowing her eyes at me, she said, “You read that, MG.”
Cracking up, I kissed her softly once. “Yes, I know. Last Christmas…panic attack. Who was that? You never mentioned names.”
“Alec…Alec Brown. He used to work with Phil, but they’re still friends,” she mumbled, looking away. “In fact, he was at my house the other day…”
I needed to see her face, so I reached up, cupped her chin, and turned her to face me. “He makes you uncomfortable,” I surmised.
She floundered for a second. “No…just… His voice, it’s deep like…”
“One of your attackers,” I finished for her, and she nodded reluctantly. I let go of her hands and rolled across the small space to snatch up the PI report on Phil. I tapped the page, seeing Alec Brown as one of the names we hadn’t seen on any police report. The other one was Felix Sumner. “Interesting,” I whispered to myself, setting the papers back down.
I rolled back to Bella, who was watching me intently. “Sweetheart, I’m going to ask a few more questions, and then depending on how you answer those questions, I’m going to ask a favor or two.”
Her lips quirked up a little. “Okay,” she said, dragging out the word.
“Do you still want me to look into this for you, Bella? I mean it. Say the word, and I’m done, but I’m worried as to what we’ll find out,” I said as honestly as I could.
“More worried than if those men are still out there?” she countered, her hands fidgeting a little in her lap.
“No,” I stated, shaking my head. “I meant it, love. No one will touch you.”
“Edward, you can’t be with me twenty-four-seven.”
“Like hell,” I growled, shaking my head. “I’ve been closer than you think the entire time you’ve been home.”
I expected her to be mad, but again, she surprised me with a giggle, asking, “You’re stalking my house?”
“Maybe.” I grinned, but I leaned forward to kiss her, nuzzling her nose with my own. “I told you, I can’t help it.” Without moving away, I whispered, “Do you want me to do this?”
“Yes, but…I’m scared, Edward.”
“What scares you?”
“I can’t…lose you. It seems I just found you, and I…”
I stopped her with a kiss. “You won’t.”
She reached up, grasping at my neck and my face. “You swear…you’re all bulletproof, knife proof…”
Grinning, I said, “Human proof. I swear it, love.”
“Right, technically top of the food chain. Got it,” she muttered, nodding a little. “Okay.”
I snorted, but nodded. “Okay. Next question… Do you trust me?” I asked, but held up my hand to explain. “I might not be able to tell you everything, Bella. I don’t always…play fair. But your safety and innocence comes first.”
“No, no…I get it,” she answered. “I trust you.”
I sighed in relief with her reply; I had a feeling that I needed to learn a bit of self-control if I decided to chat with either or both of those men.
“Last question,” I said, holding up my finger. “When we get back to school, will you please just set this aside, focus on your work, and let me worry about it? We have time. None of it is going anywhere.”
“Yes,” she said with a derisive snort, but looked down at her bracelet. “And us?”
My whole being melted with that countered question, and I pulled her to me. “I’m yours, Bella. Nothing can change that. We just have to be careful what some might see. Only for now.”
Her smile was a little shy and secretive and a whole lot sexy. “For now.”
“That’s my girl,” I praised her. “Now…favors, please.” She waved her hand to urge me on, rolling her eyes a little, but I asked, “Can we please let all of this go for the time being? I’ll order you room service, we can watch a movie or something, and you can do me the huge honor of letting me take you home in a few hours.”
Her smile was my reward. It was big and happy and beautiful. A sweet giggle escaped her, and she nodded. “Yes. Anything else?”
“Yes,” I said, my face sobering quickly. “I want to meet your parents, Bella, because I have every intention of still taking you out day after tomorrow, and they should know.”
Her cheeks heated with a blush, but I wasn’t so sure it was nerves. It looked like anger, but she nodded.
“Okay,” she whispered, but then tilted her head. “You have a story?”
Grinning, I snickered a little. “I do. And you’ll never guess who helped me with it.”
I laughed a little harder. “Esme.” When Bella laughed, I couldn’t help but join her. “That woman can be quite devious, so don’t let the headmaster act fool you.”
“I bet,” she said with a giggle. “You’ll tell me?”
“Of course,” I vowed, but pointed to the nightstand. “Food first, then story. Let’s go, love.”
“You’re sure this’ll work?” Bella asked, fidgeting with her wool cap as I pulled on my leather jacket.
“Positive,” I promised her, taking the cap from her and pulling it onto her head. I leaned in, pressing a kiss to her forehead. “Not everyone is as observant as you…and Alice, for that matter.”
Bella chuckled, but shrugged a shoulder.
“So, that being said, most accept the lies we give them,” I told her, adjusting her scarf and then waiting for her to tug her gloves on. “You’re different, Bella, but most humans avoid us. They sense deep down that we’re dangerous, so they tend to steer clear of us. When we give some false explanation to something, they merely wave it on, simply not to have to think about it.”
“I’m different?” she asked, taking my offered arm as I snatched up my wallet, keys, and hotel room card.
I stopped at the door, my mouth opening and closing, and I tried to think of a way to avoid the mate conversation. It was intense and she’d already dealt with so much.
Looking her way, I asked, “Do I scare you, Bella?” When she shook her head no, I asked another question. “Do my cool skin, strange eye color, and quick movements bother you?”
“No, of course not,” she answered, sounding indignant. “Your eyes are beautiful to me. And I never feel the cool, just the warm tingle when you touch me.”
Smiling, I kissed her again. “Giselle may have seen you coming, love, but she also said you’d be made for me. You’re different because—”
“We belong,” she finished for me in a whisper with a sweet smile. “Together, I mean.”
My still heart wanted to burst out of my chest when she just…got it. And the fact that not only did that fact not bother her, it seemed to make her incredibly happy.
“Yes,” I whispered against the crown of her head.
How I thought I could’ve avoided the truth with Bella when she first arrived to school was beyond me. She’d changed everything about me, but in turn, she was talking. It was a non-stop thing with me. She may have stayed quiet around others, but she was completely comfortable laughing, teasing, speaking with me. And looking back on her first few days as I’d run around the walls of the castle like a rat, I felt like an idiot. My heart hurt as I sent up a silent thank you to Giselle…wherever she was.
“Come, love. Let’s get you home.”
“Yeah, I’ve avoided it long enough, huh?”
I led her down the hotel corridor and into the elevator. “You have every right to be angry, Bella. No one can blame you. It might’ve been easier to deal with had Charlie not known about it.”
“Yeah,” she whispered.
I guided her to the hotel’s garage, opening the door of my car for her to get in.
“Pretty,” she said, smiling over at me when I folded myself behind the wheel. “What is it?”
Chuckling, I started the car. “An Audi, but you should see my other one,” I told her secretively, giving her a wink, which made her smile and roll her eyes.
Bella stayed quiet the whole way to her street, where she looked over at me, saying, “You really are stalking my house.”
Chuckling, I shook my head and parallel parked my car next to her driveway. “Not stalking, Bella. Protecting you. It doesn’t help that I can’t forget anything, so once I saw your address, it was stuck forever.” I tapped my temple so that she’d understand. “In my defense, I never stayed long. Just enough to hear your breathing and heartbeat, and then I’d go. Everyone was asleep.”
She smirked as I opened her door. “Where?”
Grinning, I bent down, pointing to the tree by her window. “There.”
“Hmm,” she hummed, rolling her eyes up to me. “Next time…don’t go. And don’t hang out in a tree like a bat.”
Narrowing my eyes teasingly at her, I asked, “That’s a vampire jab, right?”
She giggled, but hugged me. “Thanks for today, Edward.”
“I love you,” I answered simply, dropping my head to her shoulder and sneaking a kiss to her cheek.
“Love you, too.”
“Ready?” I whispered.
She shook her head, but I could see the walls come down around her. It had been so long since they’d been up around me, that it was shocking to witness. Her warm eyes turned dark, angry. Her shoulders set back in some sort of determination, but it was the foul look she gave the manila envelope that broke my heart for her. The realization that not all she knew was the truth must have been a hard pill to swallow, and it seemed that more of that truth was coming. I wasn’t sure how much stronger she could be.
Placing a hand at the small of her back, I guided her to her front door steps. Bella started to insert her key, but the door was suddenly yanked open. A woman who looked like an older version of Bella glared angrily down at her.
“Do you have any idea how worried I’ve been? You just leave, stay out all damn day? Isabella…” Renee’s voice trailed off as she caught sight of me, but her thoughts and her words matched.
She’d been absolutely ruined that Bella had found out about her affair, but even more worried that Bella had just taken off. What had blown her mother away was that Bella had been so angry that she’d spoken more words just before she left than she had in an entire year. I found it most interesting that she hadn’t told her husband why Bella had been angry.
All that dissipated at the sight of me. Curiosity took hold as she assessed my clothes, my looks, and my possible age. Then she wanted to know exactly how I knew her daughter.
Smiling, I held out my gloved hand. “Hello, I’m Edward Cullen. You must be Bella’s mother, Renee. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Yes,” she answered softly, her eyes glancing between Bella and me.
“I’m afraid it’s my fault that she’s late,” I stated smoothly. “She’d texted me quite upset, so I invited her to get something to eat. I’m afraid we got to talking and lost track of time.”
“Talking,” Renee repeated slowly, her eyes narrowing. She didn’t quite believe me, but she didn’t have a chance to ask before two other people were standing behind her.
Both I recognized from Esme’s memories. Phil was a larger man, not overweight, but simply a big presence. His expression was a mixture of shock and suspicion at the sight of me. The other person was Chelsea, and her thoughts were warm, kind, and rather humorous, because she thought me to be handsome. She instantly knew that I was important to Bella, due to some conversations they’d had.
She was also the first to break the tension.
“Well, let’s get you guys inside out of the cold,” she said pleasantly, waving us in. “Come on, I’ll take your coats, Bella and…”
“Edward,” I told her.
“Nice to meet you, Edward,” she said, giving Phil and Renee an amused glance, but she gestured to the former. “This is Phil Dwyer, Bella’s stepfather.”
“Sir,” I greeted with a smile, and I offered him my hand. I wanted to laugh at the extra strength he thought he was using, but I let it go.
“Thank you for seeing our Bella home,” he stated, and to the room, it sounded grateful, but in his mind, he was extremely wary because Bella hadn’t brought home a friend in years, and never a boy.
“Oh, it was no problem, sir,” I replied politely.
His thoughts were muddled, not particularly easy to read, but it might have been because he couldn’t quite settle on a specific line of thinking. He was all over the place.
Chelsea’s mind was the easiest to listen to, only because she saw more than she let on. With a squeeze to Bella’s shoulder, she said, “Go on into the kitchen. I’ll make you two some hot chocolate.”
Bella and I handed her our coats and followed her to the kitchen. Renee and Phil tagged behind silently. I held out a chair for Bella to sit down, something that wasn’t lost on either woman. They found it to be old-fashioned, but extraordinarily polite. I sat next to Bella, smiling at her parents when they sat down across from us.
“So…Edward,” Renee started, trying her best to ignore the manila envelope in Bella’s hands. “How do you know Bella?”
“Cullen,” Chelsea said, smiling my way as she started to make the hot chocolate she’d promised. “Are you any relation to the woman from Bella’s school?”
Smiling, I nodded, giving Bella a quick smile, but also an assessing glance. She wasn’t looking to her parents, but to Chelsea and then to me. I had a funny feeling that, had Phil and Renee not been in the room, she’d most likely have spoken aloud.
“Actually, yes, ma’am,” I replied with a nod. “Esme’s my aunt. She and my uncle, Carlisle, were kind enough to take care of me after the death of my parents. I live in Hunter’s Lake. That’s where I met Bella.” I said, gesturing to my girl.
She was smirking, but stayed silent.
“Oh, you poor thing,” Chelsea cooed, frowning at the thought of me losing both parents, but she could see what had probably brought Bella and me together.
“How old are you, Edward?” Phil asked, narrowing his eyes at me. “Are you in class with Bella?”
“No, sir,” I answered. “I just recently turned nineteen. I’m out of school, but taking a year or so before I consider college. I’m helping my aunt and uncle out at the school a little before my trust fund is released. Just little odd jobs here and there. I’m good with numbers, so she puts me to work in the accounting office more than anywhere.”
My eyes shot to Phil when the words trust fund met his ears, and I had all the answers I needed. To an outsider – and Chelsea, too – the way Phil looked at Bella was almost creepy, predatory. But he didn’t see her sexually. He saw her as a cash cow, a walking bank account. He made okay money writing his sports articles online, but he knew the majority of his comfortable living was due to the monthly paycheck his wife received. And it was all coming to an end as soon as Bella turned eighteen in approximately nine months.
When Bella became a legal adult, she’d be one of the richest women in Boston, and my girl couldn’t have cared less, which made Phil’s reaction a little humorous to me. What wasn’t funny was that he’d been biding his time, simply waiting to step in on behalf of her mental health. Under the table, my hand balled up into a fist, but I controlled my temper.
“That’s nice of you,” Renee said, bringing me back to the conversation, “to help your aunt and uncle.”
“Oh, it’s the least I could do. They’ve been there for me more times than I can count,” I replied honestly. “Which is why I’m in Boston,” I continued before anyone could voice the question. “Another favor to Aunt Esme.” I chuckled, shaking my head. “She and my uncle are renovating an apartment not far from here, so I’m overseeing the last bit of it for her. You know, the final walk-through and stuff.”
Chelsea set a steaming mug down in front of me and then Bella, saying, “Then I’m glad Bella has a friend from school nearby.”
“Me, too,” I agreed with a nod, smiling at Bella. “I was going stir-crazy by myself.”
Bella giggled, shaking her head a little. She brought the cup to her lips, sipping the warm drink.
Chelsea could see the attraction instantly. And she loved it. She thought we made a sweet, beautiful couple. Renee thought my manners were perfect, but she, too, liked the way I looked at Bella. However, both wanted to know just how much Bella “talked” to me.
Phil, however, noted the change in Bella, her carefree chuckle, and the way she looked at me. He didn’t like it, and he already hated me, but he said nothing.
“Oh, which reminds me,” I gasped, turning to Bella. “Are you still free New Year’s Eve? Esme gave me tickets to a party downtown,” I said smoothly. “Please don’t make me go alone.”
Bella grinned, but shocked everyone by saying, “Yes.”
“New Year’s…” Renee hedged. “That’s kinda late, Bella.”
Placing a hand on my chest, I vowed, “I promise to have her home just a little past midnight.”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure you’re ready for dating, Bells,” Phil started, but I fought the urge to punch him in the face, not because he didn’t like me – that didn’t matter to me whatsoever – but the sneer and flinch Bella gave him at the sound of that nickname made my hackles raise.
I didn’t have to say a word. Both women came to Bella’s rescue, and it couldn’t have been planned better.
“Oh, stop, Phil,” Renee said with a chuckle and an eye roll. “She’s seventeen, most certainly old enough. And it’s about time.”
“I think a party sounds much more fun than watching that ball drop on TV,” Chelsea added, giving Bella a wink.
He raised his hands in surrender, but he wasn’t picking a fight. What bothered him was that if Bella was dating, then she was getting better. If she was getting better, then his chances of fighting her trust fund were slowly ebbing away. That thought caused him to stand up and give a fake smile and a wave.
“Okay, I can see I’m outnumbered here.” He chuckled a little. “Edward, thank you again for seeing Bella home.”
I smiled, though inside, I was seething. I didn’t know, simply because I couldn’t see it cross his mind, whether he was involved with the attack on Bella and Charlie, but I could damn well see that he had his sights on Bella’s money. That wasn’t going to happen. I wouldn’t allow it, not because Bella cared, but because he didn’t deserve a damn thing from her. I’d follow Charlie Swan’s wishes to the very end if I had to.
“Anytime, sir.” Once he’d left the room, I turned to Bella. “I should be going. Text me later?”
She nodded, but stood up, and I followed her to the front door. She opened it, shivering against the cold, but smiled up at me.
“Thank you,” she whispered, but then narrowed her eyes. “You okay?”
“Mmhm,” I hummed, leaning in to kiss her forehead and knowing I’d need to tell her what I’d heard, but it wouldn’t be right there, where we could be interrupted. “Yes, ma’am. I’ll pick you up around seven, okay? Dress warmly.”
She giggled and nodded again, then gasped and grabbed my arm. “Wait,” she hissed, holding up a finger. She ran to the Christmas tree where there was one last gift. Picking it up, she rushed back to me.
“Bella, you… I said I didn’t need anything,” I whispered to her, taking the wide, thin package from her.
It was wrapped in shiny blue and silver, but her silent nudge and sweet dark eyes made me tear the pretty paper right off. The scent of new leather hit me first. It was a black binder, but it was my initials engraved on a gold plaque at the bottom that made me smile.
“Look,” she whispered, opening the binder and tapping the paper inside, which was personalized sheet music. “Now you can rewrite your mom’s song. Or write a new one.”
I was speechless for a moment, but also well aware we were on the other side of the wall from the kitchen. I wanted to kiss her until she was breathless.
Leaning to her, I kissed her forehead instead. “Thank you, sweetheart. It’s beautiful.”
She grinned, but glanced over her shoulder at the sounds of running water in the kitchen, but she turned back to me. “Don’t stalk, Edward. Sneak in if you need.”
Shooting her a wink, I twirled my keys in my hand. “We’ll see, love.”
I leaned against the tree across the street from Bella’s home, listening as the house was fairly quiet. I’d left just about an hour before, but walked back to simply listen. The house had been pretty tense for the last few minutes that I’d been standing there in the shadows.
Renee had tried repeatedly to get Bella to talk, about anything – me, the upcoming date, but specifically, the affair with Phil prior to Charlie’s death. Bella, however, had shut down the very second I’d left the house. No one could get her to say a word. Phil was pacing inside the library, a crystal glass – which he’d refilled several times since I’d been back – in his hand. The actions were so similar to my own father that I couldn’t help but worry. Phil didn’t seem like a violent man, but I didn’t trust him. And whether Bella could admit it or not, she didn’t trust him any farther than she could throw him – a thought that made me smile. She just needed to say the word; I’d throw him wherever she wanted me to.
I glanced down at my watch after everyone but Phil went to bed. I wasn’t leaving my spot in the shadows until I knew Bella could be guarded. But I also had things to do before the sun came up. Shifting on my feet a little, I grew antsy. Part of me wanted to scale the side of the house, crawl through Bella’s window, and wrap my girl up in the safety of my arms while she slept. The other side of me needed to hunt – not to feed, but to find the answers to some very nasty questions.
To calm myself, center myself, I closed my eyes and smiled. Even from where I was standing, Bella’s heartbeat called to me. I couldn’t smell her, but I could hear the distinct thump-thump-thump of her heart, despite the surrounding neighborhood filled with humans. Another twenty-seven minutes passed by, allowing me to focus on the task I’d attempt later.
A snap of a twig, the crunch of footsteps in snow made me tense, but I knew it was done on purpose. Jacob was as silent as a vampire when he needed to be, but I smirked when I could smell him approach, so I turned to face him.
“Thank you for this,” I sighed sincerely.
“I don’t know why you ask. You know I’m in.” His easy, slow smile crept up his face as he eyed the house across the street from the park. “So…what’s the deal, Edward?”
He stood tall and strong beside me, his heat radiating off him as he faced the house.
“I need her safe, Jake. Please,” I begged him. “That’s all I’m asking. See the man downstairs?”
“The stepdad, right? You think he’s up to something?”
“Yeah, Phil… And I don’t know if he had anything to do with the night Bella was attacked, though I aim to find out, but he’s definitely up to no good concerning her trust fund,” I told him.
Jacob sneered, his head spinning to face me. “And just how is he planning to get that shit accomplished?”
Smiling ruefully, I glared at the man in question through the windows as he poured another inch or two of caramel-colored liquid into his glass. “He was banking on Bella’s…issues. He was thinking Masen Academy wouldn’t work out, that she’d fail and stay silent. He also was banking on her staying alone. He knew she didn’t have friends at her old school. If she’s still suffering, still quiet, and there’s no one to back her up, he could have her hospitalized.” I turned to face Jacob fully. “There’s a clause in the trust fund paperwork that says if Bella is incapacitated in any way, her guardians can take control of her money.”
“But it’s not about the money.”
“Hell no, it’s not about the money! It’s the principle of the damn thing. Her father wanted her to have it, and by God, I’m gonna make sure she gets it…if only to keep it from that man.” I pointed across the street.
“So why panic now?” Jacob asked, glaring at Phil with disdain.
I laughed humorlessly. “Bella now has a boyfriend, she’s doing incredibly well at school, and she looks better than she has in years, according to him, and his plan is flying out the damn window.”
Jake chuckled. “Didn’t like you, huh?”
“No, not at all. Though the mom and housekeeper loved me.” I grinned at his soft laugh. “Just…make sure he either passes out or goes to bed. But he needs to stay away from that room up there,” I instructed, pointing to the second floor window on the corner. “I don’t think he’ll try anything with both her mother and the housekeeper in the house, but I don’t trust him either way.”
“Sure, sure,” he agreed, stepping back into the shadows. “Where are you goin’?”
“I’m gonna go ask a guy or two some questions,” I stated with an evil smirk.
“Don’t kill anyone. My mom’ll be pissed,” he taunted. “You’re lucky she saw this and sent me on my way. She told me to tell you the death cards aren’t for tonight.”
Growling low, I nodded. “Fair enough.”
He shifted slowly, quietly, into his wolf form, settling down onto his haunches beneath the brush. If he was seen, he could escape farther into the park, which would leave the witness thinking they’d simply seen a large stray dog.
Yo, Edward! Jake thought to me, tilting his large head. Want me to follow his ass if he leaves in the morning?
“Yeah, that’d be helpful. Keep me posted,” I told him, starting for the sidewalk. “And thanks again.”
Anything, Edward. You know that.
I waved over my shoulder, turning the corner of the street at a human run. I’d changed clothes, so at first glance, I looked like a jogger – a poorly dressed jogger in mostly black. About half an hour later, the surrounding neighborhood had changed from extremely wealthy to quite the opposite.
I’d called Jenks on my way back to the hotel from Bella’s. He’d promised me he’d contact the private investigator, Harry Clearwater, for me, but he also took a minute to look up some information concerning the two men, Alec Brown and Felix Sumner. Sumner lived closer and had done some jail time for petty theft and some minor drug charges. As far as Jenks could tell, Sumner had no association with Phil, but he had plenty with Alec Brown. Felix Sumner was my first stop.
Stopping a few houses down from the one I needed, I pulled the hood up on my sweatshirt. My eyes scanned my surroundings, seeing that the rundown working-class neighborhood was pretty quiet, except for an arguing couple four houses down, a blaring TV in the house next to me, and several barking dogs. The latter was due to my presence, but the humans didn’t know that.
I darted between two houses, leaping short chain-link fences. I scared a large pitbull that was chained to a tree, but landed silently in Sumner’s yard. No lights came on, the snow softened my steps even more, and I popped open the back door with little to no sound. Smiling, I couldn’t have imagined a better scenario than the one laid out before me. Felix Sumner was passed out on his sofa, beer bottles covering his beat-up coffee table. He reeked of sweat, motor oil, marijuana, and beer. He was completely wasted.
Poking about his house for a few minutes, I made sure he was alone. The place was disgusting, filthy, and there was hardly any food in his fridge. Sniffing once to prepare myself, I gently stepped back into the living room. Glancing around one time, I finally reached down, grasped Sumner’s shirt, and tossed him across the room.
He hit the wall with a sputter and a string of curses and then scrambled up to his knees.
“Don’t move,” I ordered softly, toying with the knife I found on the coffee table. I didn’t need it, but he didn’t know that. “The next time I throw you, it’ll be in out of a moving car on the highway.”
“Wh-Who the fuck are you?” he asked with slightly slurred speech. His mind was reeling with questions of whom he may have pissed off, whom he owed money to, and some girl who had a brother looking for him.
I reached inside the front pouch of my hoodie and pulled out a stack of hundred dollar bills. “I’m a guy that’s gonna ask you some questions. It may prove beneficial for you to answer them truthfully. And believe me, I’ll know if you’re lying. Lie to me, and no one will find you in this house for days, but they’ll find parts of you in every single room.”
He sat back against the wall, still a touch inebriated and now extremely tired, not to mention scared. “What’choo wanna know, asshole?”
“What do you know about Phil Dwyer?” I asked, slowly setting a bill down onto the coffee table, internally smirking when his eyes followed the movement.
“Don’t know him.”
“Hmm, that’s not quite true, is it?” I countered, reaching for the hundred to take it back.
“Wait! I know of the guy, okay? Sports writer. Lives in a posh neighborhood.”
I left the bill, reaching for another one. “How do you know him?”
“A friend…he knows him. Used to work with him.”
“Alec Brown.”
“Yeah, yeah…that’s him,” he said, his eyes lighting up when a second hundred was added to the table. “Alec buys his junk from me. He likes the expensive hydroponic weed, the strong shit.”
“Where can I find him?” I asked, holding up another hundred.
“Um…I just saw him. He needed a bag, ’cause he said he was going outta town.”
“What do you really know about Alec Brown?” I asked, my eyes narrowing behind the shadow of my hood.
“Nasty fucker. Bad temper. But he’s a whiny little bitch, too. Does anything Dwyer orders. They go way back…somethin’ about baseball. Brown had a connection to steroids.”
“Oh, of course he did,” I muttered to myself, setting the bill down. “What do you know about Charlie Swan?”
The man paled, started to shake his head. His mind went everywhere, and I caught brief flashes of things.
“Nothin’, man. I don’t know nothin’!”
I snatched up a beer bottle, smashed the lower half of it on the side of the coffee table, and was instantly on him. I moved so quickly, he had no chance to see me, nor could he fight me when I was behind him, the sharp points of brown glass now aimed at his throat.
“That…was a lie,” I growled low in his ear. “Care to rethink that answer, Felix?”
“They’ll kill me, they’ll kill me…” he chanted, now breaking out into a cold sweat.
I’ll kill you, but if you answer me honestly, you’ll have enough money to hide out somewhere. Maybe even start over somewhere…maybe get your mother a better place… She still in Shady Pines retirement facility? Rethink the fucking question, Sumner!” I snarled, dragging the point across his throat, much like the scar Bella had.
The sweet tinge of blood hit the air when I lightly nicked his skin, but I fought my instinct to finish the disgusting slug off. I swallowed back the venom with a burning throat, knowing my eyes blackened with thirst.
“Okay, okay, okay, okay…” he pleaded, his eyes squeezing closed, and he shook in my grasp. If I held him with any more force, I’d break his neck. “Swan was a judge. Brown needed him to either take a bribe or go away. He didn’t do either. From what I heard, the old man couldn’t be scared so easy, ya know?”
“Keep going.”
“A lot of men went to jail over some baseball drug ring. It wasn’t that they were pumpin’ ’roids. It was that they were getting them from the streets. Alec was pissed when a bunch of his boys did time. I…I heard a rumor they were gonna take the old man out. I don’t know…I wasn’t there. I was in county for a B&E.”
Nodding slightly, I released him a little to think a second. Shoving him away from me, I moved back to the sofa, pulling out several hundreds and holding them up.
“Look, man, I’m just a fucking petty dealer. I don’t know nothin’ about this shit!” he begged, though his mind was dying to see my face.
“I know,” I told him. “And you’re going to stay ignorant. Spill a word about this conversation to Brown before I find him, and I’ll come back, tear you apart, and then head over to Shady Pines and do the same to your mother.”
“Shit, shit…no, man…don’t. She never hurt nobody!”
“Then answer a few more questions, and I’ll double what you’ve already earned,” I stated, shaking the money. When he nodded at the same time he scrubbed his face, I kept going. “When does Brown come back to Boston?”
“Coupla weeks. Went to Florida with his girl.”
“Good. And who would he have gotten to do his dirty work?” I asked him, toying with the broken bottle again.
“Damn, I don’t know…um, maybe his brother? Demetri? They’re both fucking crazy!” Felix said. A few bar fights over girls came to his mind, along with a girl with a black eye.
“Good to know,” I said softly, nodding a little. I reached down, snatched up all the money and held it up. “There’s fifteen hundred here. Get the hell out of town. Take your mom, or don’t. I don’t care, but if Brown knows about this conversation when I finally catch up to him, I will find you, and I will end you. Are we clear?”
He nodded, flinching a little when I threw the money at him. I stood up and made for the door I’d broken into, but he yelled, “Aw, man…who the fuck are you!?”
I stopped, keeping my back to him. Who the hell was I? My sweet, beautiful girl’s face came to mind, and I smiled, knowing I was hers. That’s really all that mattered, but everything I was about to do was for her. All of it. Whether I killed Dwyer or Brown or simply handed them over to the authorities. I wasn’t sure which I would do just yet. My innocent, sweet girl needed justice. But most importantly, my Bella needed to feel safe.
Giving him one last glance over my shoulder, I said, “I’m no one. I’m a ghost. Make the right decisions, Felix, or I’ll be back. And I promise you…you won’t see me coming.”



LittleBella13 said...

Awesome chapter!!! Glad we are getting somewhere on finding out who killed Charlie!! Can't wait for the next update!!

Eaglerise said...

Loved this chapter. Excited to see how this mystery unravels!!

aelita48 said...

Really a good chapter!
I love this "avenging" Edward, he(it) is going to find the murderers...
Thank you.

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