Sunday, October 23, 2016 | By: Drotuno

Six - Chapter 16

Six – Chapter 16
Palm Island, Florida
Edward and I stepped out to the pool deck hand in hand, and all conversation came to a standstill. My face warmed, and I had the sudden need to disappear back into the room – I hated being the center of attention – but Edward squeezed my hand and pulled me forward, leaving me no choice but to follow.
As we made our way over to one of the small tables, Carlisle, Eleazar, Rae, and a handsome guy I didn’t know looked up at us. Carlisle smiled warmly, glancing down at our hands and then up to Edward, who nodded, as if answering a silent question.
“Rude,” Jasper teased from his position at a nearby table, where he was sitting with Alice, Kate, and Garrett. “Holding a conversation the rest of us can’t hear.”
“If you’ve got it, flaunt it,” Edward snarked, grinning his way.
The man I’d never seen before stood, and Rae’s introduction had my eyes widening in surprise.

“Edward, Bella…meet Benjamin Amici,” she said, gesturing. “My son.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said quietly, taking his hand when he reached out to shake it with a smile.
“You as well.” He looked at Edward and nodded, shaking his hand as well. “I’ve heard a lot about you both.” Looking around, he said, “Have a seat. Apparently there’s a lot we need to discuss.”
Emmett brought over two of the deck chairs, setting them at the table.
“Thanks,” I muttered softly, smiling up at him.
He reached out and gently ruffled my hair before retreating back to the outside of the group to watch over Rose, who was in her beautiful, fluffy, gray-and-white cat form, and Maggie, who was petting her and talking softly.
“Benjamin is FBI…and a sixxer himself,” Eleazar explained, drawing my attention back to the table. “We were just telling him about Maggie’s kidnapping and rescue, as well as how you escaped your captivity, Bella.”
“Impressive,” Benjamin said to the group at large. “I’ve never seen a group of – sixxers, Eleazar called us? – work together like that.”
Edward was watching Benjamin closely and suddenly asked, “What’s your talent? You’re blocking me pretty heavily.”
Benjamin grinned sheepishly. “Sorry. Force of habit. I’ve learned over the years that I never know who might have what talent, so I tend to keep my thoughts closed-off as much as possible.”
With a wave of his hand, Benjamin started a gathering of fallen leaves, cut grass, and dirt to spin up and up and up, forming a small whirlwind right over the patio.
A gasp from off to the side made me look at Maggie, who was staring entranced at the little tornado.
As soon as the wind died out, Benjamin flicked his fingers, and the water in the swimming pool suddenly split, much like I imagined the Red Sea parted in biblical days. It grew and grew, until it formed an arch of water and then slowly began raining back into the pool.
“I can also control earth and fire,” he said once all the water was back where it belonged.
“That’s so cool,” a small voice piped up, and I realized that Maggie had gotten up and come over to us. “I didn’t know there were so many people like me,” she said a little more quietly.
Liam, who’d followed her over, put a hand protectively on her shoulder. “I’d told Maggie that I knew there were other people with abilities, but this is the first time she’s really gotten to see them.”
Edward smiled over at the little girl. “Well then, we should give you a show, hmm?”
Maggie nodded shyly when Edward reached out and tweaked one of her curls.
“Think of a number,” he said to her.
She squinched up her nose, as if in thought, and then nodded.
“Seven,” he said quickly. Then he grinned and added, “Point three six four two seven.”
Maggie giggled. “What am I thinking now?”
Edward put a finger to his lips, tapped a couple of times, and then grinned. “You want pizza for dinner – pepperoni and cheese. No black bug-like olives.”
“Yes, please!”
Rae laughed and stood. “Pizza coming right up. Gio’s makes a fabulous pie. They’ll get them here in half an hour.” She headed into the motel’s office, Esme and Carmen following behind her.
“What else?” Maggie was looking at Edward, her eyes bright.
“We-ell,” Edward said, drawing out the word and looking to me. “You were asleep the last time we took a trip through Bella’s windows…”
I smiled and popped open a window to our room.
“Where’s that?” Maggie asked, straining to see more.
“My room,” I said, gesturing to the door at the end of the building. “Go ahead. Just step through.”
Cautiously, Maggie poked a finger into the window, giggling. “It tickles.”
Nodding, I said, “Yeah, a little bit.”
Maggie straightened her shoulders and then did a little hop through the window.
I grinned and closed the window, and we all laughed when Maggie opened the door to the room, looking amused as she came back to us.
“Cool,” she said. “Who else?”
One by one, Emmett, Jasper, Rose, Kate, and Garrett gave her demonstrations of their abilities. Maggie was clearly enamored with everyone, although I could see she was trying hard not to stare at Edward.
She has a crush, doesn’t she? I asked him in my head.
He grinned, his cheeks going pink as he pushed his thoughts at me. A little bit, yeah. She thinks I’m “cute,” but she finds Emmett sweet and thinks Jasper and Garrett are cool too.
I chuckled softly and then watched as Maggie made her way to Alice.
Running a finger softly down Alice’s temple, Maggie whispered, “Do they hurt? Your eyes, I mean…”
Alice smiled and shook her head. “No, sweetie, they don’t hurt. They just look kinda funny, don’t they?”
“I can heal them,” Maggie said, glancing at her dad and then back to Alice. “I mean, if you want…”
Shaking her head again, Alice quickly said, “No thank you.”
Maggie frowned. “Oh… Okay.” She looked upset, and I wondered why.
She wants to help Alice see, and she’s sad that Alice doesn’t want her help, Edward said in my head.
“Alice,” I ventured aloud, “why don’t you want Maggie to try to heal your eyes?”
Alice frowned for a moment and then smiled, reaching out for Maggie’s hand. When the little girl took it, Alice said, “Oh, sweetie, I’m sorry. I know you could help, and I’m thankful that you want to. But I’m afraid that if you fix my sight, my visions will go away, and if we’re going to take down the people who took you and Bella and came after us, we need those visions. Does that make sense?”
Maggie’s brow furrowed. “Couldn’t you check and see if you’d still have your visions if I healed you?”
Grinning, Alice nodded. “You’re a very smart girl, aren’t you?” Then she sobered. “But sometimes my visions about myself aren’t…reliable. I’m afraid what I want to happen can influence them. Does that make sense?”
Maggie smiled then and nodded. “So maybe after we get the bad guys?”
Alice squeezed her hand. “Maybe then, yes. Thank you for wanting to help.”
Maggie shrugged, grinning. “That’s what I do.”
The rest of us laughed and then turned our attention to the motel office door when it swung open.
“Pizza should be here in a few minutes,” Esme said sweetly. “Come inside and choose something to drink. Then you can either eat inside or come back out here once the pizza’s here.”
As everyone began to head in, including Rose in her human skin, Maggie came over to Edward and me, holding her dad’s hand.
“Thank you for saving me,” she whispered. “I was really scared when the bad guys took me from Daddy, but he said you guys helped rescue me, even though you were scared too.”
I swallowed hard. “They are scary, aren’t they? Did your dad tell you that the bad guys took me before too?” When Maggie nodded, I continued. “Believe me, I know how scary it is. But you’ve been very brave, and you’re a strong girl with a lot of brave, strong people around you, and we’re all going to help keep you safe. Okay?”
She smiled finally and nodded. “Okay.”
“Thank you,” Liam mouthed over her head as the four of us headed inside.
“So, Benny,” Jasper drawled wryly. “How is it that you’re FBI but Volterra is still able to do what they do? You did know what they were up to…” He gestured to Rae.
I glanced up at Jasper but kept my face blank. I’d wondered the same thing all through dinner but hadn’t voiced it aloud.
Benjamin opened his mouth, but Rae spoke before he could.
“Part of that is my fault,” she said quietly. “My son has always known I left VI after he was born, but I never told him the full truth.” She was quiet for a moment, worry and sadness creasing her face. “When he was two, we were at the park, and suddenly the sand from the playground began swirling into a tornado. Seeing the expression on Benjamin’s face and the way he was concentrating on the sand and moving his hands, I knew he was responsible – and I knew then that we needed to leave. I couldn’t let Volterra – let Aro – get their hands on my son. I knew what Volterra did to those who volunteered to be part of their testing and experiments – because up to that point, that’s what it was… All volunteer. But I also knew that Aro wouldn’t stop there, that when he ran out of volunteers, he would resort to…other means to find test subjects. I had my suspicions about some of those who were already there, but I’d been too afraid to try to find out. I knew what would happen if I got too curious.”
Eleazar jumped in then. “Rae and I had known each other for years at that point, and she came to me with concerns about another scientist who had begun asking questions, and one day, she simply didn’t show up for work. They were told she’d moved, but even using all my resources as an investigative journalist, I was unable to find any information on her. She had no family and no close friends – so no one reported her missing – and there were no signs that she had found a new job there in Seattle or moved out of town.”
Rae shook her head and frowned, looking at Benjamin. “I couldn’t stay, couldn’t take that risk, so I didn’t hesitate to ask for El’s assistance. He helped us disappear, helped keep my son safe – and part of keeping him safe meant I never told him my suspicions about how bad I thought Aro would get.”
“I’ve been monitoring Volterra Industries for a while,” Benjamin said. “From all outward appearances, they are a legitimate company working on disease research – HIV/AIDS, chikungunya, malaria… And they are indeed working on those. But from what Mom told me and from what little I’ve been able to gather on my own, I’ve known for a while that there’s more to it than that. Unfortunately, there’s been nothing solid to go on—” he looked around the patio at the group of us “—until now.”
“You can help us take down Volterra,” I gasped, eyes wide.
Edward shook his head, frowning as he watched Benjamin. “It isn’t that simple…is it?”
“Unfortunately, no,” Benjamin agreed. “As I was telling Eleazar and Carlisle earlier, sixxers aren’t out to the world or even to the government, so we have to handle this with a certain amount of care. I think we can all agree that coming out publicly isn’t something we’re comfortable with, correct?”
There was a unanimous agreement around the courtyard.
“Right,” Benjamin continued. “So we have to work on another way to bring them down.”
“Too bad Bella can’t just open up a window under the VI building and drop the whole thing into the ocean,” Garrett said with a laugh, pointing my way.”
Everyone turned to me with wide eyes.
“Uh, I don’t think I could open a window that big,” I said quickly.
Eleazar raised an eyebrow and smiled slyly. “Yet…”
Laughing, I shook my head. “More training?”
He nodded. “And now we can include Benjamin.”
“So if dropping them into the Pacific Ocean isn’t an option,” Tanya said, sounding a little snarky to my ears, “then how do we bring them down?”
When no one spoke after a moment, Edward looked over at Benjamin. “Have you heard anything about people saying they escaped from VI?”
Benjamin frowned. “There have been a few rumblings of people saying they couldn’t remember where they were. Unfortunately, some were homeless before or had no family so they weren’t reported missing, so no one is putting much credence in their stories.”
Edward nodded, as if he’d expected as much. “Then we need to find out exactly how many sixxers and who were able to escape once we cut them loose. There may be some talents out there that we can use.”
“If Bella can open a window,” Rose said cautiously, “I could go in undercover again.”
No one looked shocked at her statement, and although Emmett looked pained, he kept his mouth shut. I could see the stress and worry even just the suggestion caused, but I knew he would support her if that was what was decided.
After a moment, Eleazar and Carlisle nodded. “If you’re okay to do that, Rose,” Carlisle said, “that would be a good way to figure out where VI is right now in the aftermath of your last visit. If you could get your hands on a list of who is still there and who escaped, that would be perfect.”
When she nodded, Eleazar spoke. “Okay, Rose can go over tomorrow, and the rest of us can do some training. We’ll work on seeing if Bella can open a bigger window and see what it does if we add Benjamin’s talent into the mix. Right now, I’d like to try—”
“Right now,” Esme interrupted, “everyone take the rest of the night off. Rae mentioned that she has a big TV in the main part of the motel, and we brought some movies with us, so we can have popcorn and watch a movie. Or there are several board games and packs of cards if you’d rather. There will be plenty of time tomorrow to plan and practice,” she finished, narrowing her eyes at Eleazar and Carlisle, as if daring them to disagree.
Edward held out his hand. “Movie?”
“Yeah, sure,” I agreed, smiling and taking his hand, allowing him to help me to my feet. It would be nice to just hang out and do something normal for a few hours.
Before long, most of the group was gathered in the “lobby” of the motel – basically it was Rae’s living room, and that’s what it felt like. There were two large couches, two puffy recliners, and a large coffee table, as well as the promised big-screen television mounted on the wall opposite the check-in desk on the other side of the room.
After a quick discussion, the guys decided they wanted an Expendables marathon, which the girls and I were okay with, since it meant we could watch for not only the fun action but also drool over Jason Statham. Once Liam had okayed them for Maggie to watch, everyone rushed to grab a seat.
Edward, Emmett, and I settled on one end of a couch, with Rose in cat form on Emmett’s lap. His big hand ran across her back, gently stroking the fur and bringing out a quiet rumbling purr. Alice and Jasper took the rest of the large couch, while the others settled in on the other furniture and on the floor, reclining against the sofas and coffee table, wherever they could find space. Benjamin was sitting in one of the recliners nearest the other couch, where Tanya had basically shoved her sister out of the way in order to grab a seat at the end.
She’s got her eye on Benjamin, Edward thought to me, and I glanced over at them, hiding a smirk behind my hand.
He would eat her alive, wouldn’t he? If he knew she was using her talent to pull him in?
Edward nodded once, not bothering to hide his grin.
As Carmen put in the movie, Rae and Esme headed to Rae’s kitchen to start popping the promised popcorn.
Tanya leaned over and began speaking quietly to Benjamin, her smile bright. With the rest of the group holding conversations as well, it was hard to hear what she was saying, but I could clearly see Benjamin beginning to lean her way, showing obvious interest – even though he’d barely paid her any attention up to this point. He’d been more curious about Irina, who I’d noticed had been just as interested in him, even though she’d been quiet about it.
When Tanya reached out and ran her hand down Benjamin’s arm and he leaned even farther toward her, Alice spoke up from the other side of Emmett.
“Tanya, your talent might work on him, but Benjamin won’t be happy about it…”
Turning her head toward Alice, Tanya glared. She opened her mouth to speak but then shut it before turning back to Benjamin and smiling brightly. “Ignore her… She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”
Benjamin shook off his dazed expression and sat back in his chair, frowning, clearly out of whatever spell Tanya had been casting over him.
Tanya tried a couple more times to get Benjamin to engage with her, but he was clearly heeding Alice’s warning and doing his best to ignore her, much to Tanya’s displeasure.
“Freakin’ meddling psychic,” Tanya finally muttered, glaring once more at Alice, who startled Tanya by wiggling her fingers in a small wave. Tanya stood and grumbled, “I’m going to bed. Nothing interesting happening out here for me.”
Good riddance, I thought to Edward, who snorted and nodded, squeezing me closer as Tanya flounced out of the building.
I couldn’t help my amusement when I noticed Irina slip quietly back up onto the couch where Tanya had been sitting, giving a small smile to Benjamin, who returned it easily. Then distraction arrived in the form of several large bowls of popcorn and the start of the movie once someone pressed Play on the remote, and I leaned back against Edward, prepared to get lost in the world of make-believe for a while.
When the credits rolled, Edward pushed a thought into my head. Wanna go to the beach?
Can we? Is it safe?
He shrugged but asked aloud, “Dad, Eleazar, is it safe for us to leave the motel at all?”
Before they could answer, Rae cautioned, “My shield only covers the motel and its grounds…”
Edward nodded. “I know, and we’re all very grateful for that,” he said sincerely.
Carlisle rubbed his jaw and looked at Edward. “El and I have talked about that. After speaking with Rae and what she remembers, piecing that together with some of the things Rose saw and found in Seattle, we believe Volterra must have someone like me who is able to track groups of sixxers – more than just one or two together, such as a family,” he said with a glance around the room.
Eleazar took over then. “We believe two sixxers together alone wouldn’t…ping on the person’s radar, so to speak. If you’re cautious, we think it should be safe for people to leave, if you go no more than two at a time – and not alone. Take someone with you if you want to get away for a bit, so you can watch each other’s back.”
“We’re going for a walk on the beach,” Edward told everyone after looking at me for my agreement. “We’ve got our phones, and I’ll be able to hear if someone’s coming or if you need us.” He tapped his temple and then smiled at me, holding out his hand. “We won’t go far,” he promised Esme, who still looked worried.
Together, we stood, I waved a general good-bye to the room, and then Edward led me out of the motel.
“Why the beach,” I asked as we crossed the street to where the oceans waves were slowly rolling in against the sand.
He shrugged. “Because of how late it is, it should be pretty quiet and private. I’ll be able to hear anyone who comes near us, but I can also block out the rest of the group a bit easier.”
I smiled and squeezed his hand. “I could’ve taken us away somewhere…but I get why you’d want to stick close for now.”
We walked down onto the sand and kicked off our shoes.
“Here,” I said, opening a window to our room. We tossed the shoes in and then continued down the beach.
After we’d walked awhile, just holding hands and enjoying the balmy night air, I looked up at the moon and spoke softly. “It’s beautiful here.”
I squeaked when I was suddenly pulled around to face Edward and his arms slid around me.
He nodded, his voice tender when he said, “It is. But you’re even more beautiful than the ocean, Bella. And you bring me even more peace just being here with me than I could find in ten lifetimes at the beach.”
Wrapping my arms around his neck, I leaned up and kissed him softly. “The things you say…” I murmured, a smile curling the corner of my lips.
“I only speak the truth, pretty girl,” he said, and then he took control. One hand slid to my lower back, keeping me against him, while he slid the other into my hair, angling my head in order to kiss me. Top lip, bottom lip, barely brushing light, feathery kisses across my mouth until I opened for him, needing more. Then he took advantage and let his tongue slide alongside mine as he deepened the kiss.
As hands grasped and clung, tongues tangled, and our breathing became heavier, waves started lapping at our feet. Behind me, I could hear the branches of the palm trees and knew if I looked, they’d be swaying as if a strong wind was blowing through.
“Oh, shit,” I breathed when Edward began kissing his way down my neck, stopping to suck at the skin and dip his tongue into the hollow at the base of my throat. “E-Edward…” I groaned, my eyes slammed closed, and my hands gripped his biceps hard as he moved a thigh between mine and nipped at my throat gently, which caused me to shatter, my orgasm hitting me hard.
So fucking beautiful when she comes…
The thought forced its way into my head as I floated back down to earth. “Edward,” I breathed, my heart thudding in my chest.
Say it again, Bella, he thought to me as he cupped my face, his thumbs stroking lazily over my cheekbones. Out loud. I need to hear you say it.
“I love you, Edward,” I said without hesitation, and when his eyes lit up, I knew I’d said the right thing.
“Oh, pretty girl,” he murmured, “I’m so fucking in love with you…”
I nearly climbed him like a spider monkey, the urge to hold him was so great. We couldn’t seem to get close enough as we came together once more. There were no more slow, easy kisses. No more tender caresses. With a hand in my hair, he tugged my head back, angling me just so, and then dominated the kiss, licking, sucking, nipping at my lips harshly until we were panting, shaking with need.
A noise forced my attention away, and I watched as the pier nearest us shook enough that the seagulls that had been sleeping along the railing took off with a squawk, cawing as they flew away.
Somewhere in the distance, thunder boomed and the sky lit up with a flash of lightning. But it was when the sand shifted under our feet that Edward pulled away sheepishly.
“Sorry,” he said, his face a mix of embarrassment and pride when I struggled to take a calm, even breath.
I giggled. “I’m not,” I promised, leaning up to kiss him gently once more. Then I took his hand and began walking down the beach again. Then, in a teasing but serious voice, I continued, “But we gotta get that under control if we’re ever going to make love without causing an earthquake…”
His groan made me grin.
“C’mon, Edward,” I told him, squeezing his hand. “Let’s walk a bit more and then go get some sleep. I have a feeling Eleazar is going to put me to work tomorrow.”
At that, Edward sobered, and we were quiet for the rest of our walk before I opened a window and we jumped back to the motel room.
After shooting a text to his parents to let them know we were back, we got ready for bed and slid under the sheet. Edward automatically curled his arm around me, pulling me up against him. I tucked my nose into his neck, breathing deep. He smelled like the ocean and Edward, and it soothed me more than anything ever had. I was asleep before I could think any more about the next day’s training.


Kristi said...

Earth shattering has an entirely new meaning when Edward and Bella get into a heavy petting session. Hehe.
Is Ben at risk now when he returns to work?

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