Sunday, October 18, 2015 | By: Drotuno

A Few Tables Away Chapter 22 & Pics

Chapter 22
BELLA
I sat near the fireplace that Edward had been so very sweet to build up to a roaring flame. The snow, while really pretty, was just too damned cold, and I smiled at the memory of Edward’s teasing me with a picture of it not even three days ago. He’d said my thin Floridian blood would not be able to hold up. My handsome, silly thing was right. Whether it was from the nasty events at the police station or from the extremely cold temperature outside, I was shivering once we followed everyone back to the Cullen home.
And I mean…everyone.
Edward’s house was full. Most of them were sitting at the dining table, the conversation ranging from what had happened over the course of the last few weeks, to Dr. Cullen’s despicable behavior, to my mother’s awesome fried chicken.
My dad was in deep conversation with Pastor Liam, who seemed to be a kind, patient man. He was a handsome older gentleman, and he spoke of Edward’s mother with nothing but respect and love. Edward’s brother, Emmett, commanded the head of the table. He was loud, like Edward had teased, but he seemed to be a great big lovable guy, and his fiancĂ©e was stunning.
Rose had to be the prettiest girl I’d ever set eyes on, and to look at her, I’d expected snobby or stuck-up, but she was neither. She was kind and strong and treated Edward and Alice really sweet. Her father, on the other hand, was soft-spoken and extremely smart, if not a bit intense. Marcus Hale was at the opposite end of the dining table as Emmett – laptop open, cell phone to his ear, and a fierce look on his face. He was here for one reason – to financially destroy Carlisle Cullen.
And I hoped to God he succeeded.
I gazed into the fire, remembering the night that Edward had told me the story of his mother, of the wreck, and about his father’s treatment. I thought back to how I’d been shaking with anger, how I’d never considered myself a violent person, but that night, I’d wanted to hurt the man who’d hurt my Edward. I’d been so mad that I’d had to tell my dad through angry tears that I was keeping Edward, that he’d almost died, that his father blamed him. And that came nowhere near how pissed I was after seeing the piece of shit in all his wretched glory.
The way he sneered at Edward, cursed his very existence, laughed at his son’s questions, his pain, his threats. It was all I could do not to beat him to death right there in that room. When Emmett had burst into the room, there was a part of me that wanted Edward to let him go.
A steamy mug appeared in front of me, and I took it, gazing up to see my favorite person. Edward knelt in front of me, those warm green eyes looking so damned weary, so sad. Leaning in, I pressed a kiss to the middle of his forehead.
“I thought some cocoa would help warm you up,” he whispered, touching my fingers and then my cheek. “Better?”
“Much, thank you.” I took a sip, smiling his way, but I trailed a finger beneath his eyes. “You look so tired.”
“I’m okay. I think I need to take the contacts out.”
“Well, I can’t say that I’d hate the reappearance of those glasses.” I giggled at his pink cheeks.
“No? I don’t look like a dork?”
I outright laughed, placing my hand flat on his cheek, and kissed his lips, whispering, “Oh, sweet Lord, Edward…” I giggled again. “You couldn’t look like a dork if you tried.”
His grin was that beautiful flash of embarrassment and disbelief, not to mention sexy in its crookedness, but it was his next words that made me tear up.
“I love that you see me that way, pretty girl.”
“I love you. All that comes with you, baby.” I kissed his lips but turned when the table got a bit louder. “Shouldn’t you be…”
He snorted, rolling his eyes. “I’m so over it all. I just… I’m ready to go home, Bella,” he said so softly and with a bit of a plea to his tone. “I’m tired of this house, this shit surrounding it, and I’m…” He sighed, looking down at the floor as he shook his head a little.
“What? You’re what, handsome?” I prompted him, tilting his face up.
“I’m… I want… I just want you. I want all those things you said this morning.” He shrugged a shoulder. “I’m ready to live my life without threats and hate. I’m ready for that ‘always’ you said you wanted before I came here.”
“Oh, God, baby. Me too.” I took a sip of cocoa, setting my mug down on the table next to me. “C’mere,” I whispered, holding my arms out. His knees thumped to the carpet, and he hugged me close, his face in the crook of my neck. “I love you…so much, and I’m very, very proud of you, Edward.”
He nodded against me, taking a deep breath and letting it out before pushing back just a little. My forehead touched his as I waited for those incredible and enviable eyelashes to open. When they did, I could see he was a touch better, a little more in control.
Brushing my lips across his, I smiled when he licked his lips adorably, just like our first kiss. His smile back was soft and sweet. However, his sister’s laugh was loud from the library, and both of us looked over to see her and Jasper trying to fix the window Carlisle had busted.
“I think my cousin is flirting with your sister,” I whispered, grinning at Edward’s snort and the slow shake of his head.
“I think my sister doesn’t mind, pretty girl,” he murmured back with a side glance my way, and we both chuckled.
He met my gaze, shrugging a shoulder. “I’d warn them both, but… I’m pretty damn certain it would be like the pot calling the kettle black.”
Giggling, I nodded. “Jasper’s a lot of things, but he’s—”
“He’s a good person. I know, baby.” Edward kissed my lips and stood up. “And my sister can hold her own.” His eyebrow quirked up, and I giggled again.
“Yo, baby bro!” Emmett called loudly from the dining room. “Get that folder Liam gave you. And get the midget… We gotta talk.”
Edward nodded, and I stood up next to him, but he turned to me. “Will you… Can you…”
“I’m here to hold your hand, Edward. Remember?”
He smiled a bit but told his brother that the folder was upstairs, all while he rubbed his eyes.
“Baby, go take those contacts out if they’re bugging you that badly,” I urged him gently.
“’Kay. I just think they’ve been in too long,” he muttered, rubbing again, but then he kissed me before heading upstairs.
I walked to the library door, smirking my cousin’s way. “Jasper, Emmett needs Alice for a minute.”
I wanted so damned badly to tease Jasper about the pink that colored his cheeks as he sealed the pane of glass he’d had cut today. Even funnier was the glare he sent my way, but I fought my smile as Alice walked by me. Once she was out of the room, my cousin’s middle finger shot up.
I snorted into a laugh. “Is that your I.Q., genius?” I asked him, smiling at his chuckle, but I took a quick moment to gaze around the room.
It was beautiful and obviously Edward’s mother’s room. There were shelves of books, like my own library at home, not to mention a pretty desk and view out to the snowy afternoon. On a small table was a copy of The Secret Garden. Tears welled up in my eyes, because Edward and I had just chosen that book to read next before the bullshit all started. I picked it up and held it close.
“Bells?” Jasper called softly. “You okay?”
Nodding, I glanced over to him. “Yeah. I’m just…worried for him, you know? All of them. This is…sad and ugly, and I wish I could make it better.”
Jasper closed the window he’d fixed and wiped his hands on his jeans. “You know…I figure they’ve kept each other sane all these years. That’s good. I can imagine if it had been different, they wouldn’t be as…I dunno…as well-adjusted as they are.”
“Yeah, but I get the impression that their mom was nothing short of amazing.”
“No shit,” Jasper said through a soft chuckle as he picked up a bag from the sofa he’d slept on. “C’mon. Let’s see what shit-storm is about to hit Daddy Dearest.”
We walked into the dining room just as Edward came down the stairs. I couldn’t help but grin at those sweet wire-framed glasses now gracing his handsome face. His smile was soft and shy, and his cheeks pinked as he shook his head. But his eyes didn’t look so irritated.
“Better!” I praised him, nodding once.
He huffed a laugh. “Thanks, pretty girl.”
Edward, Jasper, and I all took seats at the table. I was between Edward and my dad. Emmett and Mr. Hale were at either end, with everyone else in the middle or leaning against the wall. Edward set a manila file folder onto the table in front of him, but it was Liam who spoke up first.
“Edward, I think in order to help you guys quicker and easier, those accounts, that insurance policy, can be shifted immediately to you three. I’ll sign it all over to you.” Liam set his elbows on the table, rubbing his face. “Maybe…maybe that’s why your mother left me in charge of it. I don’t know, but I’m following my heart, my gut on this one. I’m pretty sure she’s looking down on all of this urging me to just…do something.”
“Let me see what you’ve got there, Edward,” Mr. Hale requested, and the folder was slid down to his end. He flipped through the papers, nodding, smiling, and looking up at Emmett. “Oh, she was smart,” he praised. “This insurance policy alone is worth six figures, all in care of the good minister’s name. The bank account, since no one’s touched it in seven or eight years, is…right up there, also with Liam’s name on it. And that’s good. That’ll help the three of you since you’ll be severing ties with your father.”
“I’d like to sever his head.” Emmett’s voice was soft but no less menacing, and I couldn’t stop the snort of agreement that escaped me. He grinned my way, shooting me a wink when Edward slipped his hand into mine. “Spunky, Bella. Good! My baby brother needs that.”
I laughed, as did most everyone else in the room, and when I looked to Edward, his smile was warm before he pressed a kiss to my temple, whispering, “Yes. Yes, he does.” When he saw in my lap the book I’d taken from the library, he squeezed my hand but said nothing.
Emmett turned back to Rose’s father. “Okay, so what do we do, Marcus?”
Marcus took a deep breath and glanced around the room slowly. “Well, since you’ve opted not to press assault charges on Carlisle but instead filed a restraining order against him, then we’re in a bit of a time crunch.” He took a sip from his coffee mug before setting it back down. “This house, understandably, is his. Completely and totally. With the passing of Esme Cullen and with the timing of the divorce papers, he would’ve removed her name like any other widower. The only reason he’s not here now is because his lawyer, Mr. Jenks, and I agreed that Carlisle should give Edward and Alice a chance to vacate the property without violating the restraining order. However, he’s currently not out of the proverbial woods yet with Chief Yorkie.”
“What do you mean?” Edward asked, adjusting his glasses and then raking a hand through his hair.
Marcus smiled a little, and it was a bit evil, but he tented his fingers in front of him on the table. “Considering all that I’ve found out since Emmett and Rose asked for my help, I was able to show Chief Yorkie a few things. Carlisle is now being held on a pending fraud charge, not to mention resisting arrest, which I think was for the chief’s personal shits and giggles.” He chuckled with the rest of the table, but he sobered up quickly. “As of this moment, all of your father’s accounts are frozen, and they’ll be audited penny by damn penny. Everything he’s done for the last seven years or so is about to come out into the open.
“If we find that he’s misappropriated funds from an account that should’ve been a trust, then he will be responsible for paying back all that he’s taken from it. If he’s unable to pay it back, then this house will have a lien on it, along with his income from the hospital.”
“They’ll dock his pay?!” Alice asked, her mouth hanging open in shock.
“And then some,” Marcus answered calmly. “I will tell you three… This will get ugly. You’ll hear things about your parents – both of them – that you may not want to hear. Your father, in all reality, may lose his position at the hospital altogether when they catch wind of his troubles, which will make getting anything paid back much more difficult. It’s quite possible that he’s doing something illegal with the money. The board of directors of any hospital is going to want to make this go away, but in a small town such as this? They’ll crucify him. They’ll want no part of any of it.”
“What do you mean…illegal?” Emmett asked slowly, his eyes narrowing.
Marcus tapped his closed laptop. “That’s a lot of money missing, though it looks like some of it was your mother’s doing. She moved small amounts here and there over the course of a few years.” He held up the folder from Liam. “And it’s here. But there are a few expenditures that don’t add up as of yet. Not to mention, he’s been able to get into the account for some time now. I want to know who let him and how he managed to withdraw so much. Something about that sounds fishy or illegal. I wouldn’t put it past that lawyer of his to have done something unethical.” He sighed, sitting back in his chair. “Now, there were normal things that I could see. Expenses for the three of you – cars, education, food, clothing, medical and dental bills. All fine. Though, he makes enough at the hospital to have covered those things, so we’re looking into his personal accounts as well.”
“Cars,” Edward scoffed, rolling his eyes. “He sold mine.”
“Did he now?” Marcus asked slowly, his eyes lighting up dangerously as he jotted down something on the pad in front of him. “Good to know, son. What was it?”
“A Volvo.”
Marcus smirked. “So he buys you a higher-end car but then yanks it from you… Damn, kids,” he sighed deeply, shaking his head. “I… I don’t know what to tell you that’ll make this whole thing easier. I understand uncaring parents, or strict ones, but I can’t seem to wrap my head around this asshole.”
Emmett chuckled. “Try living with the little fucking ray of sunshine, Marcus.”
Marcus grinned, saying, “TouchĂ©, son.” He stacked his stuff up, nodding to his daughter. “I’m willing to take this one on pro bono…on one condition.” He eyed Emmett, raising an eyebrow. “When you marry my daughter, you’d better treat her right.”
“Without a doubt, Marcus,” Emmett replied instantly, his cheeks reddening.
“And…don’t invite your father to the wedding,” he added on.
“No shit,” Rose sighed, but it turned into a soft, beautiful laugh.
“I’m pretty sure Daddy Dearest wouldn’t come anyway,” Emmett drawled wryly.
Marcus stood up, loading his briefcase. “I’ll keep you posted on everything. I’ll expedite these accounts of Liam’s so that you guys can split it equally. You’re all over eighteen, so it’ll be easy to pay it out. No minors to file paperwork for. Your mother was probably advised to make the age twenty-one, because she expected to be able to control the accounts herself, but considering the accident, it didn’t quite work out that way. And for that, I’m truly sorry.”
The room went rather quiet, but he looked to Edward. “Damn fine job you did at the station, Edward. Can’t say that I blame you for punching him.” He smiled a bit. “Unfortunately, you can’t lag on this. You guys have two days to vacate the house.”
Edward flinched a little, but he spoke up before Marcus left the table. “Sir, umm…” He swallowed nervously, glancing to his brother and then Alice before meeting the lawyer’s warm gaze. “What are we allowed to take? Well… What I mean is… There are some things – some of my mother’s personal things – that I…we…would like to keep. If left here, we may lose them.”
Marcus nodded. “Fair enough. I tell you what… Keep a list, maybe snap a few pictures with your phone, and send them my way. Do it quickly, and I’ll present it to his lawyer before you leave. If your father takes issue with it, I’ll fight for it. Perhaps I’ll remind him just what he’s taken from you.” The man was dead serious about that statement too, but he gave everyone a nod and a smile. “It was nice meeting all of you. I’ve got a plane to catch back to New York, but I’ll be in touch. Don’t hesitate to call me if you have any issues or questions.”
He kissed Rose’s cheek, whispering something to her, and she nodded solemnly but pulled back to smile at him.
“I think I’ll head out, too,” Liam said, standing up from the table as he thanked my mother and aunt for lunch. However, his smile was sad. “If there’s anything I can do, just let me know. I’ll be happy to help.”
He followed Marcus to the front door and closed it behind him with a soft click. Edward shifted nervously before looking to Emmett, but his brother spoke first.
“What’choo want, baby brother? What of Mom’s do you want to take?”
A lump formed in my throat at just how gentle Emmett spoke to Edward, and right there, I saw their dynamic. Emmett may have been the loud boisterous one. Hell, he may have been the one with the sharpest temper, but holy shit, did he love his siblings. And he treated Edward with love and respect and a gentleness that I wasn’t expecting. Suddenly, I realized that Edward had saved Emmett’s life during the accident, and Emmett had watched his brother be punished for it – all of them were punished for it – their whole lives. He knew what every damn bit of it had done to Edward; he knew what the scars, the hate, the fears had done to his baby brother, and he sheltered him as best he could. It was all I could do not to tackle-hug the big guy, but instead, I turned to Edward, who was playing with my fingers in his lap.
“Books, right, baby? You said you wanted some of her books,” I answered softly for him, and he snapped his gaze from our clasped hands to nod my way. “What else, Edward?” I asked him.
His brow furrowed, but he looked to Emmett. “There’s… There are some of Mom’s things in the attic – clothes and her jewelry. Those are for Alice. Remember? We saved them when we cleaned out their bedroom?”
“Oh, yeah. Okay, we’ll get that stuff down.”
Edward grimaced. “I… We…We need to take the photo albums. I doubt he’ll give a shit, since he’s hardly in them.” That came out a little bitter, and when he realized it, he grimaced. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, baby,” I whispered against his cheek.
“Damn, son… You’ve earned the right to be pissed off,” my dad piped up, which made all of us chuckle at Edward’s sweet crooked grin.
My handsome thing cleared his throat, looking around the table, but focused on Alice. “Ali…” He trailed off, smiling warmly her way when he saw her shifting nervously with watery eyes. “You tell us what you want, Mary Alice. We’ll… I mean, whatever you want to do.” I watched Edward struggle with what he was about to say next, but he took a deep breath. “I know you wanted to graduate from the same school as Em and me…and Mom, but…you can’t. I wish…” He sighed wearily. “We aren’t leaving you here.”
Alice, who had been a pretty strong thing throughout the whole damned ordeal, finally allowed tears to spill, and Edward gently let go of my hand. He and Emmett got up from the table. Emmett pulled her chair out, and to watch the two very tall men kneel in front of her was almost overwhelming with the emotions that were spilling from all three of them.
They looked at her like she hung the damn moon, and I imagined that in their world, she did. Edward had more than one time said that his sister was the one person who was innocent of the whole thing. She’d never been involved in the wreck – hell, she’d been home that night. She’d been their rock after the accident, too, taking care of them as best as a ten-year-old could.
“Tell us what you want, midget,” Emmett soothed her. “We’ll break our necks to get it done.”
Alice crumbled, nodding as she swiped at her tears. “I know… I love you both…so fucking much.”
Edward smiled, pulling her head down so he could kiss her forehead before making sure she was looking him in the eye. “And we love you, Ali, but… You can finish out school in Seattle and stay with Em, or you can come with me, but we’ll have to figure out where you’ll stay…”
“She’s more than welcome to stay with us,” my mother piped up gently, her voice thick with emotions – she and my aunt were teary messes, “if that’s what you guys choose to do…at least until you figure out something different or Alice goes to the dorms next year.”
When Edward looked to her and then my dad, who was nodding, he went back to his sister. “There’s one option, Ali.”
She wrinkled her nose as she thought it over, glancing around the dining room as she gripped Edward’s shirt sleeve. “I… I’m already accepted to Edgewater, big brother. I…I might as well… I want to go with you.”
Edward smiled sadly yet so warmly, it was breathtaking. “I figured, but I just wanted to double check. It makes more sense with you starting school with me in the fall.”
She quickly turned to Emmett. “But…but… Will you guys still come this summer?”
Emmett grinned, cupping her small chin in his large hand. “You just try to stop me, Ali-boo.”
Alice glanced up at Rose, who smiled warmly. “A whole summer in Florida? I’m in!” she teased, but I could see it was her way of lightening things up a bit.
“Okay, so we need to pack Alice and Edward up, and we need to sort out the stuff to take pictures of for Marcus,” Emmett said, dropping a kiss to the top of Alice’s head as he stood up. “Liam said he’d help, so I wonder if he’d be willing to ship things down to Florida for us. If not, I suppose I could do it.”
“You’re gonna need some boxes,” Jasper pointed out. “Where around here could I find some? I’ll go.”
Edward stood up from in front of his sister. “Um, the market and maybe the diner. And there’s a sporting-goods store on the edge of town.”
“On it,” my cousin stated, catching the rental car keys from Aunt Jane. “Oh, and here’s your new phone, buddy. They were able to move everything over, despite the condition your old phone was in. Number’s written on the box.”
Edward’s eyebrows shot up, and before he could thank my cousin, Jasper had left the house.
I stood up from the table, walking to Edward. “Put us to work, Edward. That’s what we’re here for, okay?”
Edward nodded, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. “We’ll start with the library and then move on to Alice’s and my rooms.”

Emmett clapped his brother on the back. “You heard the man… Let’s get to work. And maybe we can be rid of this place once and for all.”



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