Thursday, June 4, 2015 | By: Drotuno

Man Behind the Mask Chapter 27 - Epilogue & Pics

Chapter 27 – Epilogue – Ladies and Gentlemen
Ladies and gentlemen please
Would you bring your attention to me?
For a feast for your eyes to see
An explosion of catastrophe

Like nothing you've ever seen before
Watch closely as I open this door
Your jaws will be on the floor
After this you'll be begging for more

Welcome to the show
Please come inside
Ladies and gentlemen

Do you want it?
Do you need it?
Let me hear it
Ladies and gentlemen

Ladies and gentlemen good evening
You've seen that seeing is believing
Your ears and your eyes will be bleeding
Please check to see if you're still breathing

Hold tight cause the show it not over
If you will please move in closer
Your about to be bowled over
By the wonders you're about to behold here
“Ladies and Gentlemen” – Saliva
Rubbing the towel over my head after pulling on a pair of jeans, I leaned back against the counter in the shower room. My ears were still ringing and my throat felt like I’d swallowed steel wool, but my soul felt…light. The last show under the Volturi Records contract was done.
I let that sink in for a moment while rubbing my face with the towel. Four years. Four long, tedious, yet successful years. For a split second, panic started to creep up my spine. My band was on their own. No more big record company to take the hit, no more knowledgeable producers, no more financial net to fall back on… It was all on our shoulders.
However, just as quickly as the panic descended, the anger of what Volturi Records had put us through over those four years started to grow. It bloomed, expanding so big that the panic was no longer there. Four years of pretending to be something I wasn’t. Four years of jumping through needless, humiliating hoops. Four years of fighting to keep our music pure, untouched, un-fucked-with. And four years of that condescending, Aston Martin-driving, cheesy-ponytail-wearing, evil fucking bastard.
He’d made us compromise ourselves, our beliefs, our vision of what Radiant Eclipse meant to us. We’d had to fight and scratch and push back to keep some things the way we wanted, but he always seemed to weasel something out of us. He always seemed to manipulate the situation in order to get his way.
That shit was over.
What caused me to brace my hands on the counter was the memory of my angel’s tears. Her fears, her panic…all because that bastard thought he could still manipulate, still control, still spin a story in order to keep the money rolling in. He’d dared to touch her, not physically but emotionally. He’d dared to lie to me, to my band, that James was “just a studio drummer,” when in reality, that motherfucker was his son. And they’d both come at me, at what was most precious to me in the entire fucking world… Had they succeeded, I’d be in prison because I would’ve killed them both.
All over fucking money.
Money. That was his passion. And that would be the key to Aro’s undoing. He may have been “forced” into retirement, may have bought his way out of trouble, but Karma had a funny way of slapping the piss out of someone when they’ve dealt in bullshit for too long. My freedom from Volturi Records now gave me the option to maybe…just maybe help Karma along a bit. It would take time and patience, but I could wait. I could watch for it. And I knew just who would help me.
My eyes drifted down to my braced hands on the counter, my inked left ring finger catching my attention. The smile on my face couldn’t be stopped. I was home. I was done with the longest tour I’d ever done, and I’d come home…to my wife.
I heard the door click, and warm arms slipped around my waist from behind as lips pressed to my shoulder blade.
“Listen, lady… My wife is just outside,” I hissed dramatically.
Bella cracked the fuck up, nipping at my inked treble clef with angel’s wings. “Shut up, Edward.”
Chuckling, I turned around in her arms, leaning back against the counter. She pressed a giggly kiss to my chest before meeting my eyes. I pulled her hand to my lips, loving on the inside of her wrist, that lower case E, and then I gave her ring finger the same love.
I dropped a kiss to her lips, smiling into it. “You’re an amazing sight for sore eyes, angel.”
She hummed, kissing me again, but she pulled back. “I’ve missed you.”
“Me, too.”
She frowned, turning to reach for my mug of tea. “Drink, baby. Your voice is pretty shattered.”
Nodding, I did as I was told. Tanya had pretty much kept a constant batch of it at the ready since San Francisco. I downed what was in there before setting the mug back down.
“I’ll be okay in a few days. Promise. I kinda went a little crazy out there tonight, but I always do at home shows.”
She smiled and nodded. “It was good. Bree left about halfway through…told me to tell you goodbye.”
Grinning, I raked a hand through my still damp hair. “Seeing her was…good. She’s gotten so big!”
Bella chuckled. “She loves you. Loves Jasper, too, but…I think my brother may be her new favorite.”
Laughing, I shrugged. “He’s younger. Makes sense. We noticed he brought a few younger fans in.”
Bella merely nodded but slowly slipped her arms back around me. “Oh, and your parents said they’d call us later this week.”
I hummed that I’d heard her and pressed kisses to the top of her head, saying, “Angel, I’m ready to go home.”
She nodded, pushing back enough that I could drop kisses to her lips. “Then let’s get you home.”
I popped her sweet ass in those tight jeans, grinning when it made her squeak, and then reached for my shirt. Snatching up my leather jacket, I slung it over my shoulder, wrapping my free arm around Bella. We stepped out into the main dressing room to see everyone just about ready to go. Jasper and I made plans to get together in the next few weeks, as did Bella and Mike. That whole thing just turned into a giant invitation for a big party, which would most likely end up being at my brother’s house.
The backstage area was busier than normal, simply because it was the last show. We said goodbye to Marcus, the road crew, and worked our way through the backstage-pass holders. Rose made sure to let Marcus know that our guitars and instruments needed to go to storage, but I knew they would eventually be moved to Chainsaw Records when the renovation was completely done.
Tony met me in the hall, handing Bella her keys. “I moved you to the back and put your things in there for you, Mase.”
I grinned and thanked him, pulling him in for a rough one-armed hug. “Thanks, man. Enjoy the break, Tone. You’ve earned it.”
He grinned, hugged Bella, and leaned in to her kiss to his cheek.
It seemed like forever since I’d sat behind the wheel of my own damn car, but as Bella and I got in, my whole being shivered a little with the fact that I was finally back. The stress, the tenseness in my shoulders all started to ebb away.
I carefully maneuvered out of the parking lot and out onto the street. After shifting gears, I pulled Bella’s hand to my lips, enjoying the comfortable silence. My ears were still buzzing, my skin still prickling from the show, but there was nothing like being with Bella afterward. Nothing. I could come down easier in her presence, though the adrenaline still pumping through my system made me want her like nothing else before. The need to get home, however, was overriding all of it.
I wanted my wife in our place. Ours. While Masen wanted to pull the car over and take her in the backseat of my car, Edward wanted to carry his bride over the threshold of the apartment she’d worked so damned hard on while I was gone. I made a mental note to ask her who’d helped her, but it wasn’t important at the moment. Pulling into the alleyway beside what used to be Charlie’s Pub, I parked next to Bella’s car. There was the bare minimum of paps across the street, though they started forward.
Shutting off the engine, I turned to face Bella, whose head was turned my way yet resting against the car seat.
“Are you quiet because of your voice? Or because of something else?” she asked.
Chuckling, I leaned over and kissed her lips. “Maybe I’m saving up in order to tell you dirty things once we’re inside.”
Her grin was ridiculously adorable. “Well, that sounds like fun!” she teased but reached up to rake her fingers through my hair. “I want to show you what I’ve done…and not just the apartment.”
My eyebrows shot up at that, and I studied her face. It seemed she needed this, so I nodded. “Okay, then show me, angel.”
“I know you wanna get inside, but…”
I kissed her lips. “Show me, Bella.”
Her eyes lit up, and she reached for the door of the car. Both of us ignored the catcalls of the paps on the sidewalk, and Bella pulled out her keys to open the back door of what used to be her bar. There wasn’t a drop of liquor in the place anymore. I gazed around at what used to be the kitchen or storage, and it was all gone. It was now a break room – a long table and folding chairs, a fridge and microwave, and a coffee maker.
She led me through the swinging door, and I stopped cold. I’d seen pictures throughout the whole process of renovation. I’d seen where part of the bar had been torn out and blocked off. I’d seen bar tables tossed out, carpet put down, and the walls covered with the noise-absorbing material. Hell, I’d even helped Jasper and Harry decide on some of the recording equipment, but looking at it now, I shook my head slowly.
“Whoa…” I whispered, eyeing the console of the production room and then the recording room through the window.
The original stage was still there, but it was incorporated into the whole soundproof room. Everything had been sanded and refinished, microphones were in various spots, and the old red curtain was completely gone. There were instruments already inside – piano, guitars, drums – but the place was large enough for all of Radiant Eclipse’s equipment…and then some.
“That’s fucking awesome,” I breathed again, stepping through the door and onto the recording stage.
Bella’s laugh was soft, sweet, and I felt her hand in mine, tugging me toward another door – a door that hadn’t existed before. A wall had been added to separate the studio from the front door – essentially a reception desk – but what they’d done to it was nothing short of stunning. Bookcases lined one wall, and it was filled with awards and trophies, all from my own collection. Next to it was all of Chainsaw Charlie’s achievements and a few of Harry’s. There were some mounted posters of my band and Bella’s father. The wall behind a sleek, modern desk was covered in gold and platinum records – Radiant Eclipse’s and Charlie’s on either side – and in the middle was a new sign.
Chainsaw Records
The sign was simple, black and white, the font resembling someone’s handwriting, but it was perfect.
“I thought…maybe…your awards and stuff could stay in here. I mean, you’re part owner to this, too,” she rambled, and I could see she was nervous. “It wasn’t that I didn’t want those upstairs, I just… I thought… Although, there wasn’t a lot of room once I started moving you.”
I waited until she nervously met my gaze. “This is…exactly how I fucking saw it, Bella. Not even bullshitting you on that.”
She grinned, letting out a little giggle. “Yeah?”
“Oh, fuck yeah…” I nodded, gazing around the reception room again. Everything smelled new – new carpet, new furniture, new paint. “If this place looks this good, I can’t even fucking imagine what our home looks like.”
Her breath caught on the word home, and her eyes watered a little. “Fuck, you’re home… I need to let that sink in.”
“Aw, angel,” I said through a sympathetic chuckle. “C’mere,” I whispered, pulling her to me and pressing my lips to the top of her head. “The very second I start driving you crazy, then it’ll officially ‘sink in.’”
Bella giggled into my chest, but her arms squeezed me closer. I held her close, swaying her a little as my mind still reeled with how gorgeous this studio had turned out. I could see us blowing the roof off this place, writing, creating, and succeeding.
Pressing a kiss to her head, I dragged my lips down to her ear. “Home?”
“Yeah,” she said, nodding and pushing back a little, and I kissed her lips.
“Yeah,” I agreed and then guided her back through the place to the alleyway door.
She set the alarm and locked the door, then helped me unload my bags from the car, opting to carry the guitar.
For some strange reason, my heart was hammering in my chest, not unlike the night we’d first had sex. I felt unsure and nervous, like I was standing on the edge of a cliff about to jump off, because really, this whole married thing was about to get really just…real. It was one thing being on the road, but it was another living, sleeping, eating together all the time, all under the same roof.
We got to the landing in front of her door, and she set the guitar down to unlock the deadbolt.
“Angel, wait…” I called softly, setting my hand on her shoulder. “Just…don’t move, okay?”
She looked at me like I was crazy, but I hurriedly moved the guitar inside the door, leaning it up against the kitchen wall. I tossed my bags into the kitchen, only to reach for my girl. Swooping her up into my arms, I grinned at her squeak of surprise.
“Humor me, angel.”
Her arms immediately wrapped around my neck, and her face was adorably amused as she giggled at me. “Your face is so red, Edward…”
“Shut up, Bella,” I said with a laugh. “I just…give me some traditions, okay?”
What I loved was that nothing changed about us. No amount of distance or time apart could stop that silly, flirty shit that had been there since I’d knocked the poor thing over that fateful night as I ran from the media. It all stayed the same. And as I kicked the door closed behind us, I gazed down at her and just knew it would always be that way.
I could hardly tear my eyes away from the beautiful thing in my arms, but she made me. She pressed fingers to my chin to force my gaze to the apartment. My eyes widened at what she’d accomplished. It was nothing short of stunning.
She’d blended us together in utter perfection – some of my furniture, some of hers, not to mention a few new things here and there. She’d used bookcases to separate different portions of the large open space, giving it a feel of actual rooms. My treadmill, books, and music were all in the far corner, situated in the living room. The bedroom was where she’d always had it, but it seemed blocked off a bit with dividers and, again, bookcases. Gone were the girly colors she’d had, and in their place were much more neutral ones. But the best was that she’d taken my bed stuff from upstairs and put it on her bed.
“Sweet Jesus,” I breathed, shaking my head as I just took it all in. “It’s like you put the two of us into a blender.”
She giggled, kissing my cheek. “You change anything you don’t like. The only thing I couldn’t get down here was dad’s old piano.”
“Who… Who helped you?” I finally asked her, keeping her in my arms as I wandered around a bit.
“Tori and your mom. Most of the stuff we could just drag down here ourselves. The big stuff was Garrett and your dad. Demetri and Harry helped a little.” She nuzzled my cheek with soft kisses. “As Tanya would say…all your shit’s still here.” She pointed around. “Jeans, T-shirts, sheet music.”
I couldn’t stop the laugh that erupted out of me. I walked her to the bed, setting her down in the middle of it, only to brace myself above her. She was beautiful and happy, with her dark hair spread out around her on my comforter. She pushed at my leather jacket until I shrugged out of it and let it drop off the side of the bed. Her light touch ghosted up the ink on my arms, following every swirl of color.
“I don’t care about my shit, Bella. All I care about is right here,” I whispered, my brow wrinkling at just how true that was. We were still completely dressed, but I brushed her hair from her face as I made no move to change that. “Are you ready for this, angel?” I asked, shaking my head at how dark her eyes became. “I don’t mean this honeymoon that I still owe you…us. I mean this…” I gestured between us and then around the apartment that looked fan-fucking-tastic.
“You’re worried?” she countered, reaching up to place her hands on either side of my face.
Chuckling softly, I kissed her. “Not worried, just… It’s new now. Different. Everything’s about to change. I’m…I’m home. We’re married. This shit’s the real shit. I just…”
“We’ll figure it out, Edward,” she stated, bringing my face closer so she could kiss me again. “We always do. It is new and different and about to get very real. I, for one, am very happy we’ve come this far.”
Smirking down at her, I let my forehead drop to hers. “That sounds familiar,” I teased her, because I’d said those very words when she’d decided to close Charlie’s Pub.
Her giggle was soft and very sexy. “Yes, well…the man who said them… He’s pretty awesome, and he was right. We’ve come a long way. And I’ve waited a long damn time for this…right here.”
Grinning, I couldn’t help but shift over her. My hands toyed with her jacket, and she sat up enough to let me remove it.
“So…let me get this straight,” I said in a falsely serious tone as my hands couldn’t stop from touching – her arms, her fingers, down her stomach – as I bent her leg up a little to untie her sneaker. I did the same to the other one, raising an eyebrow at her as those sneakers thumped to the floor. “No clothes, ordering in, and essentially being… What’d you call us?”
“Slugs!” she erupted with adorable laughter as I pushed at her shirt in order to tease her bellybutton piercing with my tongue, my teeth. Diamonds looked fucking phenomenal on my girl. “I’m glad you think so, Edward, since you put them on me.”
Grinning at my lack of verbal filter, I nipped at her skin. “I did, didn’t I?”
“Y-Yes…” she sputtered as my fingers glided across skin and ink, pushing at her shirt until she had to lift up to let me remove it.
Not letting me get the advantage, Bella reached for my own shirt, and then it was messy kisses and clothes being tossed off the bed and my Docs thumping to the floor. When my angel was bare and beneath me, I couldn’t help but love on those sexy-ass piercings.
“Hello, ladies,” I crooned, just to hear Bella snort into soft laughter as I swirled my tongue around each one. “Brace yourself, girls. I’m home.”
“Mmm,” Bella hummed, pulling me to her. “Yeah, you are…”
I wanted to take my time, love every inch of her. I’d missed the hell out of my wife since she’d gotten on that plane in San Francisco. I wanted to revel in each part of her, unwrap her like a gift, much like I’d done the first time we’d made love. But it didn’t happen that way.
Things spiraled out of control. We were lost to deep, needy kisses, moaning at touches and gripping hands. It was as if our bodies knew, just fucking knew that this was the beginning of everything – our new lives, our still-new marriage, our new business endeavor.
Our new normal.
My tongue tasted ink, diamonds, and then pure Bella from the spot between her legs that I could never get enough of, but once she was calling my name – my real fucking name – I slipped up her body in order watch that gorgeous face of hers when I finally slid deep inside her.
She held me close, our eyes locked, and just before I started to move, I couldn’t help but whisper, “I want it all, angel. This…always. Us.”
Bella smiled, lifting her head a little to kiss me. “Me, too. And I can’t wait to figure it out.”
Four months later…
“Angel, I don’t see it,” I muttered into the phone as I pushed shit around in the kitchen drawer. I flinched at the pouring rain that spattered hard against the windows. Well, it was snow trying to be rain, when really it was just a fucking mess outside.
“Well, try my desk…”
“Okay.” I slammed the drawer in the kitchen and went to her desk. I yanked open the middle drawer. “Ah! Got it,” I exclaimed in victory, holding up the thumb drive she’d asked for. “Need anything else while I’m up here, Bella?”
“No, baby, that’s it. We’re about to finish up this Facebook page for Chainsaw Records. I wanted you to see it before we went live,” she explained.
We’d decided that once Radiant Eclipse started to work in the studio, we were going to let social media be our biggest ally. Bella was going to run the page, using real pictures, small video clips, and she’d post interviews and shit. Rose loved the idea, stating that we could essentially control everything said and done about us, the band, and the new album we were taking our time putting together.
We’d had an amazing break over the holidays. My voice was rested, Jasper and I had worked on new music, and we’d moved all of Radiant Eclipse’s equipment into the studio. We were all rested, but we were all taking our time getting back to work. Bella and I had split our holidays with Renee and Phil and my own parents, the latter of whom were doing really well. At the moment, Jacob was with his dad and Leah. They’d taken him to a small town outside of Seattle to not only go fishing but to see some of their relatives. Alec and Carrie, the proud parents, had taken small trips over the holidays to show Tia off to Carrie’s parent in Idaho and Alec’s mother in Port Angeles. The only ones fucking around in the studio today were Jasper, Mike, and myself.
“Cool. Headin’ back down,” I said, tugging open the door to our apartment, but I just about fell off the landing when something scurried across the mat. “Aw, shit!” I gasped, trying like hell to hold onto my phone and catch myself from falling and busting my ass.
“What’s wrong?”
“I almost…”
My voice trailed off as I caught sight of what had skittered across the welcome mat at the front door. My heart kind of broke at the sight. Curled up in the corner of the landing as tight it could get itself was a soaking wet, shivering kitten. It was orange striped with white paws…at least I was guessing they were white, because the little guy was covered in mud and rain.
“Edward?” Bella called over the line.
“Aw, hell…” I sighed, shaking my head. “Angel…are you allergic to anything?”
Her laugh made me smile, but her answer was no.
“Good,” I whispered softly, reaching out for the tiny thing. “Be down there in a second.”
I ended the call, pocketing my phone, and then scooped up the kitten. He started to fight me, despite the fact that he could fit into the palm of my hand.
“Easy, easy, tough guy,” I said through a chuckle. “I’m just trying to help you, buddy!”
His tiny body gave a shiver that, if he were a human, I could imagine would’ve rattled teeth. His bluish-green eyes blinked up at me as he completely gave up the fight. I gave him a brief onceover, noting he was indeed a he. Aside from being really young, he seemed okay, just a little skinny, not to mention freezing.
“Oh, boy,” I sighed. “Let’s get you warm, okay?”
Tucking him into the front of my leather jacket, I then zipped it up so he could get dry and warm, not giving a damn about my sweatshirt and his muddy paws. Holding him close and tugging up my hood, I rumbled back down the stairs and into the back door of the studio.
Harry was working with Mike and Jasper in the recording room while my brother was kicked back listening in, but Bella’s and Rose’s laughter could be heard from the far back office – the office that Bella hadn’t changed. In fact, that fuck-awesome desk of hers was still there. We’d now christened that bad boy more than that one time after filming the video at Charlie’s Pub. I loved that fucking desk.
I leaned in the doorway, still keeping the kitten close to my chest, though he was hidden. Rose, Bella, and Tori were all looking at the same laptop, smiling and laughing at whatever they were seeing. I pushed my hood back down as Bella glanced up from the computer. I tossed the thumb drive her way, and she caught it deftly.
“Damn, it’s raining that bad?”
I nodded, swallowing nervously, because suddenly I wanted to keep my little wet friend. “Angel…I…”
All three ladies were now staring at me.
“You okay?” Rose asked, her eyes taking in my rain-soaked clothes. “Did you decide to just stand in the rain, brother-in-law?”
“No! I kinda…” I ran a hand through my hair, which had still managed to get wet, despite my hood. “Never mind.”
Bella pointed to the screen. “You gotta see these pictures, Edward. Someone manipulated you in with Heidi, but it’s so bad!”
The girls burst into giggles, but it made my little friend jump. His curiosity had to have gotten the better of him, because he popped his head out the top of my zipper. At least he’d stopped shivering.
“Come look…” Bella added but then stopped, the warmest of smiles spreading over her face. “Who’s your friend?”
Laughing, I stroked the top of the little guy’s head, sending him into a loud, rumbling purr. “Well, he just about killed me when I came out our apartment door. I think he was trying to get out of the rain. He’s so young, angel…”
When I pulled him out of his warm spot, he argued with me, but that only sent the girls into soft coos of how cute he was. Bella got up and walked to me, holding her hands out.
“Oh, God, you’re starving,” she whispered to him, her nose wrinkling when the little man rubbed his face against hers. Her eyes locked with mine as he scrambled to get closer. When he found some sort of happy place in the crook of her neck just beneath her hair, she snorted. “Your face reads like a book, Edward.” I stayed silent but smirked her way as her eyes never left my face. After a beat or two, she shook her head. “Fine, baby. What’re we naming him?”
“Um, well…I…” I shrugged a shoulder, shaking my head, because I honestly had no idea, but my girl was wearing her dad’s shirt. That same damn shirt I’d peeled off her the first time we’d made love, so the word, “Fender,” came blurting out of my mouth unhindered, but I felt my face heat with the reason behind it.
The girls laughed, but Bella chuckled softly, running a hand down the kitten’s back as she glanced down at her shirt, only to raise a deadly-sexy eyebrow at me. “Fender, it is.”
Tori chuckled, shaking her head. “I’ll go grab some food for him across the street. But you two are in charge of litter and stuff!”
Grinning, I nodded. She’d taken Bella’s offer as the receptionist for Chainsaw Records, though Garrett had found another bartender job closer to his now fiancée, Maggie.
“Okay, fair enough,” I told her as she got up from her seat, and I turned back to Bella. “You sure?”
“Let’s see…” she said, but I could see her teasing expression. “He’s pitiful, adorable, and practically caused you to bust your ass. Sounds familiar. Maybe we should name him Masen?”
Laughing, my head fell back. “Funny, Bella. No. Fender works fine.”
She grinned up at me. “You’re too cute, Edward. I swear. But we need to get to work. New family members or not. Tomorrow we’ll take him to the vet, get him all checked out, okay?”
“Just don’t let him name him Ozzy. He named his fish that, and I swear to God, the thing didn’t last a month!” Rose said, grinning when I shot her a glare. “What?! It’s true!”
Unfortunately, she was right. Shrugging as I hung up my jacket, I sat down at the computer, taking Tori’s spot next to Bella. “Okay, angel…show me what we’re doing.”
Fender’s happy purr was loud, which made us all smile at Bella as she pulled out a towel left over from the bar days. She buffed him gently, wiping ears, face, and paws as the little guy swatted at her. Keeping the small towel around him, she set him in her lap, and he proceeded to finish up the cleaning job himself.
“Pretty much the same thing she did to you,” Rose stated sarcastically, pointing a finger my way.
Despite the fact that her statement was true, I flipped her off as Bella chuckled silently. Glaring Rose’s way as she laughed her ass off, I shook my head. Fingers gently grabbed my face, forcing me to look at my wife.
“No stray will ever be as cute as you are, baby,” she crooned my way, making me snort into a chuckle, but I kissed her lips. “Though, he comes damn close.” She laughed, kissing me roughly before pointing to the screen. “Look…”
The picture on the computer was hideous. Someone was either high or fucking drunk when they’d decided to make it. It was of Heidi and me, but it so bad, no one would ever believe that shit. Never mind that my inked wedding band was clearly on my hand.
“Pfft…” I scoffed, rolling my eyes. “Fuck, I look cross-eyed!”
The girls laughed but got rid of the picture. However, it was Rose who explained what they’d been working on.
“Pay attention, doofus,” Rose sighed, smirking my way, but she pointed toward the screen. “Instead of you and the guys actually creating Facebook pages or Twitter accounts, we thought it would be easier if we posted updates about the band members, tours, appearances, and the new album via Chainsaw Records. In order to keep it fair, we’ll do the same for everyone that records here, but obviously, you guys will be the bigger name.”
“This way,” Bella added, but she paused, her fingers trailing over Fender’s head. His eyes were closed like that shit was the best thing in the damn world, which I knew for a fact felt like heaven. “This way, it’ll be me who controls what people know, whether it’s personal or band business. I’m fully aware of what you guys like and don’t like to be out there, so…we’ll keep it under control with this. But…” She held up a finger. “It’ll be a pretty amazing marketing tool. See?”
Looking over the screen as she scrolled down the page, I could see that there were links to buy our stuff – CDs, T-shirts, and eventually concert tickets. There were places for photos, videos, and future online chats with featured recording artists. Not to mention samples of our older stuff, which was linked to Volturi Records by legal necessity.
Thinking about it, I muttered, “This is what you meant, angel.” I gazed over at her. “When we were on tour… You said that we should let the fans do the work, that we should cater to them. This…this is it, right?”
“Exactly,” she said with a grin. “See, once this page goes live, Tori will spread it to your buddy, Donna. And in no time, Donna will have it around the globe. We’ll have followers from everywhere. Her page is pretty damned popular, not to mention she runs it well.” She tapped the screen. “Nothing goes on here that you guys don’t want. No more drinking, partying, man-whore, paparazzi bullshit. You guys can communicate with your fans however you wish to do it. Tease them with new music, give them short video interviews, give them fun photo shoots…”
“Which we’ll need to set up soon,” Rose added. “But you guys control it. Bella will just maintain it.”
“Yeah, I won’t allow anything on here that you don’t want.”
Giving her a wry grin, I said, “I trust you, Bella. That’s not an issue.”
“I know, but I didn’t want you to think that this would be like last time. I’m not ‘marketing’ you, just running the page.”
I laughed, and Rose joined me. “Uh, no, angel. Nothing could be like last time, short of hell itself.” When Bella smiled, I cupped her chin, kissing her lips. “Do it,” I whispered against them. “It’s perfect. If anyone on this planet can protect us…me, it’s you, baby.”
“Excellent,” Rose exclaimed, grinning and nodding. “Now, onto bigger things… I’m going to set up a photo shoot soon. Not yet, but soon. Probably once you’ve truly started to record. We’ll all sit down to decide what kind of look you want for this album, even the next tour. Once I have a better idea of that, we can figure out if you want to shoot it here or L.A. or New York.”
“Here,” I groaned, waving the rest of her words away. “Here. We’re independent, Rosie. Let’s use independent people…local people.”
“I agree, but I wasn’t sure…” She picked up her phone. “One more thing. Milton. He’s offered us his video-director services again, should you want him.”
“Hell, yes.”
“Yeah, thought so on that. I told him the same thing.” Rose smirked and stood up from the desk. “Okay, let me know how it goes once you go live with the page. I’ll have it linked to the website.”
Bella nodded, focusing back on the screen, but her fingers continued to play with Fender. Rose left us, but then Tori came back, carrying two ginormous bags of stuff from the market down the street.
“Seriously?” I laughed at her.
“Shut up! So I lied, okay?!” She grinned, setting all the stuff down. “I got you everything – toys, litter boxes, litter, food and water bowls, and food. I figured he’d chill down here when you were working and then go home with you, so I got stuff for both places. And this… How badass is this?!” She held up a small black collar, and I had to chuckle and take it from her. “Fender is a rock band kinda kitty! He’s gonna need to dress the part.”
Grinning, I turned the thing over in my hands. It was tiny, black, and leather, but it had small little spikes around it. It was, indeed, badass.
“Oh, fuck yeah…” I yanked off the tag and buckled it around Fender’s little neck, making sure it wasn’t too tight.
Tori poured him some food before leaving the office, and he was immediately ravenous when Bella set him on the desk. Watching the little man scarf down his food while in that collar was hilarious. He looked like a contradiction all the way around – tough but tiny.
Smiling Bella’s way, I nodded. “Hell, yeah… He’s star material.”
“Edward,” she huffed in a laugh, shaking her head at me. “If you’re this proud over a kitten, I can’t imagine you with a kid.”
Shrugging, I pushed that feeling down, but she saw it all in the heat of my cheeks, and she grabbed me by the back of my neck, planting a toe-curling kiss to my lips. It was deep and possessive, sweet and heated. I wanted more. I wanted to shove everything off the desk and take her hard, just like the first time we’d done it in her office.
“When, Edward?” she whispered, pulling until my forehead thumped to hers. “When?”
“Fuck, angel… I don’t know,” I barely breathed aloud. “But when we do, I’m…so in.”
She nodded, smiling a little. “Not yet. Maybe…next year?”
“This…” She sat up a bit, gesturing around. “This is stressful enough. And then you’ll tour. I vote next year.”
I nodded the entire time she was talking, like a fucking bobble-head doll, but it was true. “Okay. Next year.”
Fender stepped to the edge of the desk, his purr loud and raspy, but his little mewling call made us smile at each other and turn to face him. He headbutted me, using the scruff of my unshaven face to scratch his own face, only to ram his little head into Bella’s cheek. With that simple action, we were done. Fender was officially a Cullen.
One month later…
“Edward,” I heard from somewhere deep and foggy. When I rolled over, burying my face farther into the pillows, a soft sigh and chuckle met my ears. “Edward… I know you were up late writing with Jasper, but…Jenks is downstairs asking for you.”
Groaning, I managed to open one eye to look up at my wife. Hot damn, I was a lucky fucking bastard. Even in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, she was hot, beautiful…deliciously sexy. She was the best thing to open my eyes to first thing in the morning…or afternoon, as it was in this case. My eyes felt like there was sandpaper lining my lids, and it seemed like I’d just fallen into bed. I’d been writing with Jasper downstairs in the studio until way late.
A small squeak, a shift on the bed beside me, and a light purr caused my eyes to drift to Fender, who had grown like a damn weed since I’d found him. He stretched out across Bella’s side of the bed, eyeing her like it was too damn early. The little guy turned out to be a mellow dude, following me everywhere around the apartment and downstairs to the studio, but he loved to snuggle with Bella. However, right now, he looked at her with narrowed green eyes that seemed to dare her to disturb the sweet sleep we’d been enjoying.
Bella snort into a soft giggle. “Peas in a damn pod. C’mon, baby. Jenks needs to see you.”
“Okay, okay…” I grunted as I succumbed to a long-needed stretch, but then I opened my arms for Bella, who grinned at me as she shook her head. “C’mere, angel…”
“Oh no,” she sang through a laugh. “I know how that story ends, mister. You…all sleepy and naked and needy first thing when you wake up. Not a chance. ’Cause then I have to call down and tell everyone to go home.”
A laugh barked out of me as I rubbed my face. “Fair enough.”
It was slow going, but eventually I was up and dressed, sipping a cup of coffee Bella had handed me.
“Did he say what he wanted?” I mumbled around my cup.
“Just something about Volturi,” she said, staring shrewdly my way. “Is he watching Aro for you?”
I nodded. “Yeah, and James, too, actually,” I replied softly, turning toward the bed. “Fender, you comin’ or what?”
“Meewp!” was all the reply I received, and he came running, tail up, eyes wide. The long, lean thing was smart as shit; I had to give him that much.
Bella chuckled at us again, shaking her head as she led us out of the apartment and down the stairs. Once we were in the studio, Fender darted off in search of Tori, who he loved to play with when she was working. Jenks was waiting with Harry in Bella’s office.
“I’m sorry Bella had to wake you, Masen,” Jenks greeted, but I waved it off, shaking his hand and giving Harry a nod. “If you hadn’t asked for information, I would’ve come back later, but this is a timing situation.”
I sat on the corner of Bella’s desk, waiting to hear what he had to say.
“You wanted to know when James’s release was drawing near… Well, soon, actually. Like this morning. Now, I took the liberty of keeping the orders of protection on this place and your wife. It was what you wanted, yes?”
“Oh, yeah. Neither of them should come any-fucking-where near her.” I pointed to Bella, but my gaze stayed locked on Jenks. We knew James’s release was coming up, so I didn’t want to take any chances with any of it. Despite the fact that his lawyers got him out for good behavior and time served, James was unpredictable and dangerous, not to mention stupid, which made for a deadly combination.
“I wanted to ask if you wanted that extended to you.”
“Pfft…hell no. I hope those assholes come at me. I’m home for a bit longer, so…if they’re feeling froggy, then by all means let them jump.”
Jenks grinned, shaking his head. “As your lawyer, I have to advise against—”
“I’m aware,” I sighed, getting up to pace, and I raked a hand across my face. “I’m not making promises.”
“Edward,” Bella huffed. “They aren’t worth you going to jail.”
“It’ll never happen,” Jenks assured her but focused back on me. “It’s also come to my attention that Aro might not be as…retired as we may think.”
My eyes narrowed on him. “Why?”
Harry sat forward, his elbows resting on his knees. “My friends over at Slammers have seen him in and out over there, watching new bands, new singers. He’s recruiting again.”
The grin that spread across my face felt evil, so I’m sure it looked it. “Aww…Aston Martin payment due soon?”
“Probably,” Harry answered with a laugh. “Thing is… My friends wanted me to check out a new band. They know I’ve been working with a few musicians. They thought I’d be interested. That Chainsaw Records would be interested.” He leaned on the label name, raising an eyebrow at me. “Rock band. Young female lead singer. I hear she’s pretty damn good, kid. But knowing what I’d warned them about Volturi, they thought I could intercept him. My friends say Slammers is packed on the nights she’s there.”
“Eternal Blackness,” Bella surmised, and Harry nodded.
My head spun her way. “You know them, angel?”
She shook her head. “No, not really, but Mike was talking about them. He says she’s young and really good.” She smirked, rolling her eyes. “Apparently, she’s very pretty…or ‘hot’ if you’re talking to Mikey.”
Grinning, I nodded. “Well, he is single again.”
“Mm, don’t remind me. I liked Lauren, but I’m glad her true colors came shining through before he did something stupid.”
Bella’s eyes were narrowed at that, but I had to agree, if only for her brother’s sake. His girl had started to see dollar signs…and other men when Mike wasn’t around. He’d dropped her like a bad habit. I locked gazes with my angel, thanking whoever the hell I needed to thank for her. Being in the spotlight caused all sorts of nefarious shit, and people couldn’t always be trusted. It sucked even worse when the heart was involved. But Bella was my safe haven, my calm in the storm, and my protection against all the bullshit in this world.
She smirked, like she could see what I was thinking, but then focused on Harry. “Should we see this band?”
“We can. They’re at Slammers again tonight,” he answered her.
“And if Aro is there?” Jenks countered, looking to me. “I know you feel…unsatisfied when it comes to him, Masen. I just… I’m merely asking you to be careful. If his son is released, then it’s possible they’ll be together, though if I were James, I’d be pissed off as hell. His dad threw him to the wolves, so to speak. Aro pretty much let his son take all the blame for what happened that night with Bella,” he explained, holding up his hand when I opened my mouth, “and I know that doesn’t sit well with you, kiddo, but sometimes, you have to let things play out.”
Jenks and I had come to an impasse when it came to Aro and James – though, more the former than the latter. James was just a dumb, angry guy, guided by a man who was a master of manipulation. James had gone to jail, lost his countersuit against Radiant Eclipse when we’d released him, and he’d be saddled a sexual predator for the rest of his life. He was paying for what he’d done to Bella. And he’d continue to pay for a long damn time…all because of his dad. Aro, on the other hand, had walked away from it unscathed. He’d been lit on fire in the media, but he’d apparently stayed low long enough that he felt like he could crawl out from whatever rock under which he resided.
Jenks wanted to bide his time, while I wanted retribution for daring to scare my Bella, for thinking they could touch something so fucking precious to me that I’d kill for her. Jenks and I had finally stopped arguing about it, because really, there wasn’t much either of us could do. And I was pretty damn sure Jenks adored my wife, which made him just as protective. He merely tried to stick to the legal side of it all.
Fuck the legal shit; I wanted blood.
Jenks gave me a warning glare, and I nodded. “Yeah, I get it. Aro will screw himself eventually, but how many have to suffer until then?”
“I don’t know, Masen. Honestly.” He sighed, sitting back in his chair.
I looked to Harry. “You and Demetri feel like scoping this band out?”
“Umm, you’re not going without me,” Bella piped up, glaring my way as she muttered about Aro and tempers and young, pretty, blonde lead singers.
Grinning, I leaned over and kissed her temple. “Hush, my sweet angel. I’m pretty sure I’ve proven my tastes run along the brunette lines, and specifically one brunette. And anyway, I just assumed you’d be going.”
“Oh. Okay, then.” She seemed placated for the moment but added, “And Demetri is out of town visiting his kids.”
Harry nodded once, looking to me. “Tonight?”
I thought about it for a second and then nodded. “Yeah, tonight. If anything, we can scare Aro out of Slammers.”
Slammers was packed when we finally pulled into the parking lot. Jasper, Harry, and Mike were meeting us there. Emmett and Rose opted to ride with Bella and me. My brother was coming out of pure curiosity but probably protection, too. Since Bella had created that Facebook page and my interview with Music Mania Magazine had come out, the media was quiet, and it helped that Heidi’s people had finally shut the fuck up, too. It seemed to have taken several months, but my marriage to Bella had finally calmed the hell down. We were old news…for now. In fact, I hadn’t seen much of anything in the last month or two, except for some actor who broke up with an actress and some football player arrested for beating another player over some shit. I tried not to pay any attention to any of that gossip madness.
Harry thought it would be best if we didn’t tell anyone we were coming. We wanted to see this band without the pressure of it being in front of us.
Once inside, we settled down at a table that Harry had reserved for us. He’d already ordered a few pitchers of beer, and I poured a couple for Bella and myself.
The place was almost wall to wall people, and the stage was already set up for what looked to be a small band – a drum kit, couple of guitars, and a couple of microphones. Mike was next to me when they finally took the stage, and I heard his sigh, despite the cheers that rang out over the bar.
Smirking, I gazed over at him. “You crushin’ on the singer, buddy?”
“Oh, fuck, she’s hot… Look…” He pointed toward the stage, and my eyebrows shot up at the girl.
It wasn’t that she wasn’t pretty – she was truly hot – it was her youth that made me study her. She had to still be in her late teens, no more than twenty. Hell, I wasn’t even sure she was old enough to drink. She wasn’t very tall, but she was thin, her blonde hair long with streaks of black in it underneath, and her eyes were made up dark and smoky. She had an edge to her look, as did the boys joining her, but it was natural, easy. However, the sound that burst out of them was fan-fucking-tastic. A heavy sound mixed with an acoustic touch. Their timing was good and their lyrics were smart, but having a female lead singer made them unique, different.
Her voice was strong, trained, but it was harsh, raspy, and edgy, too. She played an acoustic guitar, working the men at the front of the stage, but her band was damn talented. With a push in the right direction, the song she was singing could easily be on the radio.
Harry seemed to be completely enamored with her. Chuckling, I bent to Bella’s ear. “What do you think, angel?”
“I think she’s damn good,” she replied, shrugging at me, only to kiss my jaw. “But I’m not the musical genius, Edward.”
I watched the band start a new song, something softer but not a ballad. Linking my fingers with Bella’s, I kissed the ink on the inside of her wrist and then her ring finger.
Shaking my head at that, I said, “She’s good. The band is good – really fucking good. She’d be easy to promote. Harry’s in love, I think.”
“She’s beautiful,” Bella stated, and I spun to read her face with narrowed eyes, thinking she was testing me again, because she owned my ass. Her grin was cute as hell. “You’re allowed to say she’s hot, Edward,” my girl said through a laugh, pointing toward the stage. “I know you love me, married me. You’re not blind.”
I nodded and shrugged a shoulder at the same time. I saw pretty, but I saw young, and I saw the music in her more. “You think that’s all anyone will see?” I asked her, kissing her lips softly.
“No, no… I’m saying that could work for her or against her. Being a guy in this business is easier than being a woman, unfortunately. Rumors are uglier, suspicions are foul, and women have to be tough but girly and shit. Too tough and you’re labeled a bitch. She’s young, too, so…”
“Tough chicks are hot, baby,” I crooned in her ear, giving the lobe a teasing nip. “That’s why I married you.” I sucked at the sweet spot behind her ear, grinning when she laughed.
Bella chuckled when she pulled back to look at my face, but it faltered, her eyes widening at something off to my left. When I turned to look, I gritted my teeth in hatred of the cheesy ponytail I’d recognize anywhere. Hell, if the bastard wasn’t recruiting again. I’d know that look anywhere. He saw dollar signs all over that poor girl on the stage, and suddenly I felt the need to step in his path, if only to protect the band on that stage. I knew him; he’d rip her away from the band and let them fall by the wayside, while only pushing her. And he’d do it all while filling her head with bullshit.
Aro had to have felt my stare, because he turned his head, locking gazes with me, and I draped a heavy arm around Bella, smirking his way, because he wasn’t allowed within a hundred feet of her. And at this point, I didn’t give a rat’s ass who had gotten there first.
I tapped Harry’s shoulder and then Jasper’s and Emmett’s, jerking my chin to where Aro was sitting. And he was alone – no James, no Caius.
Rose eyed him shrewdly, her eyes narrowing, only to turn back to us. “I want her,” she stated firmly, pointing to the stage. “I want that band. And I want them before that devil sinks his claws in her.”
Harry chuckled, took a long drink of beer, and stood up. “Let me find out if we can see them after their set.” He walked away to the bar, grinning and shaking hands with the guy behind the bar.
“That fucker isn’t supposed to be within a hundred feet of you, B,” Mike sneered, glancing over his shoulder and then back to his sister.
Bella shrugged, pointing to all of us at the table. “I think I’m safe, Mikey.”
Laughing along with my brother and Rose, I kissed her lips. “That’s my girl.”
Harry joined us back at the table. “It’s a go. Liam’s gonna take us back there when the set is done.”
The rest of the show was just as good. A few songs could use some work, but their covers were fantastic. They even did a Radiant Eclipse song, which made us proud, and it sounded pretty damn good with a female voice.
Just before the last song, I noticed Aro was gone. I raked my gaze all over the damn bar but couldn’t find him. My hope was that he’d wised up and left, considering he could be arrested for being in the same place as Bella. The place started to empty when the show was over, and Harry’s friend, Liam, came to the table to lead us to the back.
And that’s where we found Aro. That weasel was already cornering the poor lead singer in the back hallway, where it looked like she was coming out of the restroom.
“You can’t imagine the things you can do, the places you’ll go…” he was saying when we all entered the hallway from the bar, all while holding up his business card. His eyes widened, and he stepped back from her.
“Chelsea, love, this is…”
“Masen,” the girl gasped, only to catch sight of Jasper and Mike. “Jasper…Mike… You’re…”
“It’s good to meet you,” I stated, holding out my hand. “You guys are really good. Impressive, actually.”
“I believe I was here first, Masen,” Aro snapped.
Chelsea eyed him with a pinched look of disdain. She was repulsed by him. “I wouldn’t sign with Volturi if you made me a queen. Your reputation precedes you, Aro.”
Grinning, I looked to Harry and then Jasper, who were beyond amused. The kid was pretty and smart, not to mention brave. It would serve her well. It was already serving her well, because she had a hell of a following here in town.
Liam stepped forward. “They’d like to speak with you and the boys, Chelsea. In private,” he tacked on the last thing, raising an eyebrow at Aro. “And if this man is bothering you, I can have Max escort him out.”
I looked at Aro, seeing the man who’d controlled my life for so damn long. I saw the man who’d dared to threaten Bella.
“Aro, why don’t I see you to the car? We should chat. You guys go on in with Chelsea.”
“E… Masen…” Bella faltered on my real name, most likely due to the people around us we didn’t know. “Don’t…”
“I have nothing to say to you, Masen,” Aro snapped.
“Oh, but I have plenty to say to you, motherfucker,” I said with a grin. “We either have this conversation outside, Aro, or I call the cops because you’re violating the order of protection on my wife. Pick.”
The hallway was deadly silent as we waited for his answer. When he nodded, Liam gripped my shoulder. “No cameras out the back door, Masen. Just sayin’,” he stated, wearing a small smile.
Aro wasn’t given much longer to debate. Emmett’s hand landed heavily on the back of his neck, guiding him by us and down to the back door. I followed behind, but Bella’s hand gripped mine, pulling me to a stop.
“Baby, don’t!” she hissed, glancing Aro’s way as Emmett kept him in the doorway. “He’s—”
“It’s just a talk, angel,” I reasoned, but I knew it was a lie when it left my lips. “Okay, maybe more than that, but… He needs to know to stay away from you, from us. I won’t… You’re my wife, baby…”
Aro scoffed at the word wife, and Bella’s eyes narrowed dangerously at him. It was right there, right at that moment, when we both heard the word whore leave his lips in a belligerent hiss that she backed away. Emmett’s large hand squeezed the back of his neck, making him buckle just a bit, but my reaction came without thought. I was out the door with my own hand around his neck, slamming him up against the rough brick of the building.
“Say it again. Call her that again. I fucking dare you.” I squeezed my hand harder, sneering when he couldn’t answer. “You call my wife a whore one more time… Do it. Do it, and I’ll bash your skull against this wall.” I pulled him back, only to slam him into the wall again, but I let him go. Interestingly enough, he stayed on his feet. “Un-fucking-believable!” I scoffed, shaking my head as I raked a hand through my hair.
I paced back and forth in front of him, feeling my brother’s presence, but I realized he’d come with me to watch my back from witnesses, not Aro himself. He was leaning against the wall, his eyes scanning the back area of the bar.
Coming to a stop back in front of Aro, I pointed a finger in his face. “I promised your brother that if you ever came anywhere near me or my band or Bella again, I’d put you in the hospital. I was told you were retired.”
“You ungrateful piece of shit… I made you.” He tapped the center of his chest but flinched when not only I stepped forward, but Emmett did, too. “I made you a fucking household name, you bastard.”
“No, you made me something I wasn’t. My music…my band’s music…made us a household name. And we wouldn’t have gotten here had we listened to you. Every fucking chance, you pushed your shit on us. Four years of lies and scratching and clawing our way through each album just to keep it ours. Four years of bullshit. And now…it’s over.”
Aro shifted, and I stopped him from moving with a firm hand to the middle of his chest. He grunted when his back met the unforgiving brick behind him.
“I did it all. I finished everything we signed on that contract, but there wasn’t a fucking ice cube’s chance in hell I’d re-sign with you. Not after what you and James did. I should kill you for even coming anywhere near her.” My lip curled in hatred. “And I realize that beneath that fuck-tarded ponytail of yours, it all made some sort of twisted sense.” I tapped the middle of his forehead with two fingers once, twice, three times. “Even your own brother was disgusted by you. Here’s what’s going to happen, Aro. Every bar, club, or small venue show you attend, I’ll make sure that the band or singer is warned away from you. You won’t stay retired? Then we’ll make sure you don’t make another dime from Seattle’s music scene. Not a fucking penny.”
“You can’t—”
“I will!” I snapped. “I’ve played them all, Aro. I played them all before you slithered into my life, and if I have to play them again just to keep you away, I will. I still know all the owners, dumbass. Also…the media works both ways, buddy,” I said with a derisive chuckle. “The whole world will know that you’re a piece of shit, that you threw your son under the bus, that you cheat and lie and manipulate. And I’ll do it without even lifting a finger… It won’t even break the nondisclosure agreement.” I laughed in his face. “But the next time you see my wife, you’d better fucking run.”
“That bitch’ll ruin you,” he hissed, shoving me back.
My fist flew before Emmett could move, before Aro even blinked. It hit the bastard perfectly across his face, giving a satisfying crack as his nose broke. Emmett was on me, pulling at me, but I grinned in Aro’s face as his knees finally buckled.
Bending down in front of him, I smiled at the trickle of blood escaping his nose. “No, Heidi would’ve ruined me, considering she was sleeping with your son…and probably you, too, right?”
It was a pure guess on my part, truly. It seemed fitting, like it would’ve been something he’d do to keep the upper hand. When his eyes widened, I sighed as my suspicions were true.
“Wow, you’re just… Does your wife know, Aro?” I laughed, shaking my head and standing up in front of him. “How ’bout James?”
“I think James knows now, bro,” Emmett said through a chuckle, smacking my shoulder lightly and pointing toward the door of the bar.
“I’m gonna sue you all!” Aro grumbled.
James was a blur out the door, and another smack to Aro’s face resounded around us. He loomed over his father with balled-up fists. “Shame, Dad,” he spat, his lip curling. “Looks like you’ve tripped and fallen. I’m willing to bet no one saw a thing… What’choo think, Mase? Em?” he asked, never breaking his gaze from his dad.
My eyebrows shot up, glancing to Emmett, who was standing like he was waiting for James to turn our way. He didn’t move from in front of Aro but turned his head toward us.
“I know we’re not supposed to be within a hundred feet of Bella. We’re not staying. So…no need for cops. I’ve seen enough of them, thanks to this asshole. Go!”
Emmett gripped my shoulder to pull me inside, but I watched as James handled his father roughly, shoving him toward the side of the building toward the parking lot.
“It wouldn’t shock me if Aro ended up on a milk carton,” Emmett muttered, smirking when I snorted a little and shook my head.
Suddenly, I sighed deeply. It was in relief, in the lifting of something heavy that had been on my shoulders for so damn long. It was a sigh of pity, too. I just felt sorry for all of them; not that it changed my hatred of them, but they were just a big fucking mess – Heidi, James, and Aro. And as of that moment, they could all have each other. They could wallow in their misery together. But I’d meant what I’d said… I’d tell every act in Seattle about Aro Volturi, if only so he never made another dime.
I turned to go back inside, and that’s when I saw my angel standing in the doorway. Her eyes narrowed on me, like she was checking me over to see if I was okay.
Opening my arms for her, I waited until she walked to me, and then I lifted her up in a big hug, burying my face into her neck.
“You okay, Edward?” she whispered, dropping kisses to my jaw until I grinned.
Nuzzling her neck, I closed my eyes at the feel of her, the smell that I simply couldn’t live without, and the pure love of her.
Pressing a kiss just below her ear, I smiled, whispering, “I am now.”
Three years later…
Sweat poured down my face as I screamed, “Thank you, Seattle! Good night!” I pushed off the mic and threw my shirt into the audience.
Pyro and lasers flashed in a frenzy of color and heat as I ran from one side of the stage to the other, reaching out to touch my audience. We always made Seattle the last stop of the tour. It worked for us. It was fantastic to make home the final show.
Masen! Masen! Masen!
I love you, Masen!
One more! One more! One more!
Grinning, I saluted them as all the boys came to the edge of the stage to take a bow before Emmett led us toward the back.
If I’d ever had doubts about Chainsaw Records or producing our own music – or other bands’ music, for that matter – I’d been mistaken. It was the best music we’d ever made. From the song that I wrote for my angel, all the way down to the album we’d produced with Eternal Darkness, who toured with us regularly, we’d now solidified ourselves in the music business. Award after award, platinum records, number-one hits, even movie scores – we’d done it all. And we’d done it honestly, with hard work and laughter. It reminded me of the days Jasper and I had first started Radiant Eclipse.
Our tours were shorter now, even the ones overseas. We played to bigger audiences but with fewer stops. We were happier, healthier, and better that way.
Emmett guided me through the back halls, along with the rest of the guys. We were all still there – Alec, Jasper, Jake, and Mike. We’d grown, we were family, and we were as tight as we’d ever been. And despite my last run-in with Aro and James, we never saw them. They avoided us, and we were too fucking busy to give a shit.
The dressing room was pretty hectic, bustling with activity. Kate and Tanya were packing up, helping Alice, whose tummy was bigger that she was, it seemed. She and Jasper were expecting their first, after a few heartbreaking tries. Carrie was there with Tia, who wriggled down from her mother’s arms to launch herself at Alec. She was going on five and looked like her dad more and more every day.
“Hi, Uncle Masen!” she sang, her little cheeks blushing pink.
“Ah, my fairy girl!” I said, bending to kiss her neck with raspberries that never failed to make her squeal. Grinning, I tugged her braids, catching the bottle of water that Tanya tossed my way, along with a towel right behind it. “Thanks.”
Jake was married now, and he and Leah were chatting in the corner. He’d lost his father two years ago, and we thought for sure the band would lose him, too, but he pushed on. Honestly, I think he needed the band, needed us. For a bit, he was lost, going back to his weed smoking, but he got through it, cleaning up okay.
“Hey, Masen,” I heard behind me as I plopped down onto the sofa, wiping the sweat from my face. I smiled up at Chelsea, who had her fingers linked with Mike’s. They’d been inseparable the moment we’d signed Eternal Darkness to Chainsaw Records.
“Rose says we have an interview.”
“Yeah, me… Music Mania Magazine,” she replied, looking nervous. “Should I be worried?”
“Nah, Jessica’s cool. Just keep your head straight when talking to her. She’s good at what she does. Who’s the photographer?”
“Keep his ass out of your meeting.”
“Rose said the same thing. Felix is walking him out of the building.”
“Then you’re good, kiddo.” I smiled her way, taking another water from Tanya. “You’d think Laurent would get the hint after this many years.”
Tanya grinned. “You’d think. Your parents were here, but your dad got an emergency call, so he said to tell you they’d see you later. He also said to tell you his five-year ceremony is coming up. He wants you guys there.”
“I’m aware. I think Rose scheduled the whole fucking tour around it,” I muttered, smirking when Tanya laughed.
“I did,” Rose called out from the other end of the sofa. We smiled at that, but we were so proud of my dad for all his hard work and only a handful of panics along the way. He had stayed completely sober.
Nodding, I wiped my face again. I was tired but still amped up from the show. I was ready for this break. I wore so many hats, so many masks, these days that I was exhausted…happy and satisfied but exhausted. Hopefully, the next few months would be a vacation. I was still Masen to the world and my fans. I was Edward to my wife, friends, and family, and I was producer, songwriter, and lead singer. It felt like I’d been constantly on for some time.
The thought of my wife made me smile behind the towel, but I glanced around the noisy dressing room. She was busy as ever these days – talent scouting, bookkeeping and web manager for the studio, and…
“Daddy!” I heard from the door, grinning as the other half of my heart was set down on chubby legs in order to rush to me. “Daddy…Daddy…”
I scooped up my son, falling back against the cushions of the sofa. He was almost three and the carbon copy of me, with a dash of Bella thrown in for good measure. He had my hair, only a bit darker, my crooked smile, but he had her warm, deep-brown eyes, with flecks of green and gold in them.
Benjamin Charles Cullen had been born while I had been home recording. Bella and I had specifically scheduled it that way, almost from the second she’d found out she was pregnant. I wanted to be there for almost every damn second, and aside from a few shows that required us to travel – talk shows, award shows, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where Radiant Eclipse had proudly inducted Chainsaw Charlie Swan, and finally, much to my wife’s and Rose’s happiness, Saturday Night Live – I was there for most of Bella’s pregnancy. Even better, I was there the day he took his first look at the world around him.
“Benny, did Aunt Tori do your hair again?” I asked in a chuckle, because he was spiked up with that spray-in blue sparkly shit in his hair. He actually looked pretty damn awesome in a tiny Radiant Eclipse T-shirt, dark jeans, and the smallest pair of Docs I’d ever seen.
“Yup! Rock star like you, Daddy!”
Laughing, I cupped his face, kissing his forehead. “I love you, buddy.”
“Love you…” He sat happily on my lap, his fingers tracing my ink, but we both looked over to Bella when she sat down on the sofa beside us. “Mum…mumumum,” he sang to himself, bouncing a little.
Grinning, I leaned over to kiss her lips. “Missed you, angel.”
“Missed you, too, Edward,” she sighed happily. Pulling back, she looked at us both, smiling a smile that was just for us. “My handsome men,” she crooned, kissing me again. “I’m glad you’re back, baby.”
We’d only been apart for a few weeks, but we’d gotten used to it. Benny loved to see me on the video chat, and Bella and I continued our traditional games and texting, but coming home to her and Ben was always the best part of it all, even though the two of them met me out on the road occasionally. There was nothing like home. It was where we’d met, where I’d fallen in love with her, and where I’d leave my heart when I’d travel. It was the studio apartment that now included the space upstairs where we’d added a staircase, turning the upper floor into our bedroom, a nursery for Ben, and a small office. It was where I’d play the piano for my son – or Bella – when sleep couldn’t be found. And it was where my soul ached to be, so I could play with Benny and Fender, who was happy, fat, and lazy, and where I’d love my wife once our little man went to bed.
Hugging Ben, I sat up to kiss my wife, my love, my best friend. My angel. She knew me better than anyone, better than I knew myself, and she was my best friend and the best thing to ever happen to me. She’d given me a safe place to land, open arms to fall into, and a smile on my face. She was my protective angel, my smart girl, and the mother to my son. And despite the fact that she was my biggest fan, I just wanted my family. She smiled against my lips as she probably knew the next words out of my mouth.
“Angel, I wanna go home.”
She kissed my lips again, nuzzling our son’s chubby cheek. “Then let’s get you home.”


Southern pur-rica said...

Can't wait for this and a few others to become pdfs, loved this and sad to see it done, but can't wait to see what you do next, or continue(miss Mercward sooooo effing much!) Oh and if possible will you see if when you do them as pdfs, could you do them thru dropbox like the majority of your stories? The ones that are thru 4share i cant download them :( . xoxo, Nicole

Brenda Massey said...

So sad to see this end! But loved how it ended! Loved this Bella and Edward!!

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