“Damn it, I ruined another suit,” Edward growled, looking down at the blood splatters and pieces of brain matter staining his jacket and pants.
“How many does this make?” Jasper asked, holstering his gun, giving his brother a smirk.
“Nine, ten. Shit, I don’t know,” Edward answered, glancing down at the body. He had hoped that he had found the person that had shot his father, but this asshole was too stupid and obviously didn’t have the skills that the shooter needed to shoot two guards in a precise kill shot.
For the last five months, he and his brothers had helped their father to get adjusted to the fact that he was in a wheelchair and to search for the person who had put the hit out. When Carlisle woke up in the ICU, he was surrounded by his family as Garrett explained the damage to his spine.
“Carlisle, the bullet nicked the Thoracic Nerve T-12 close to the Lumbar Nerve L-1,” Garrett explained. “Currently you have no nerve stimulation to your lower extremities.”
Carlisle couldn’t believe what he was hearing. How could this have happened? “Will I walk again?”
“I don’t think there is a possibility,” Garrett advised his heart heavy with telling the leader of the family this news.
“Sweetheart, we are going to get through this together. You are alive and strong,” Esme said, taking his hand and bringing it up to her mouth to kiss.
Carlisle smiled at Esme, the love of his life. “Oh my, love, I am not ready to leave you yet.”
Edward placed his hand on his father’s shoulder. “Dad, we are going to find out who did this and make the fucker pay.”
“Edward, I know you and your brothers will do everything within your power,” Carlisle confirmed. “But, I want all of you to know that I am not giving up, however, I can not effectively run the family from this bed or while I am fighting to get back the use of my legs. This was going to happen in a few years anyway, it seems as though the timetable has just moved my decision into the present..” Sliding the ring from his right-hand ring finger, he held it up. “Mar cheannaire ar theaghlach Cullen, cloisim tríd an gceannaireacht a chur ar aghaidh chuig m’fhuil, mo chéad rugadh, Edward Liam.” (As the leader of the Cullen family, I hereby pass the leadership to my blood, my first born, Edward Liam.) He then placed the ring on Edward’s right-hand ring finger.
Emmett stepped forward, handing his father his knife. He had never seen this part of the ritual, but his father had explained every process with his sons.
Carlisle made a small cut in his hand, then made a similar cut on Edward’s hand. Clasping the bleeding hands together. “Fuil mo chuid fola, rialaigh agus cosain an teaghlach ar gach costas.” (Blood of my blood, rule and protect the family at all costs.)
After his father had released his hand, Edward looked down at the ring that now resided on his finger. He knew that he would one day be wearing this ring, though it was supposed to be some time in the distant future. Was he nervous about assuming all the responsibilities of becoming the Captain? YES. Was he prepared to be the Captain? YES. His father had been thorough in preparing him for the longest time and would be behind him as he began his reign as Captain. Turning to his brothers, he knew without a doubt who would be his second and who would be the Warlord. “Jasper, I name you, Clan Chief and Emmett, I name you, Warlord.”
“I am honored, Captain,” Jasper and Emmett stated at the same time.
Captain. He was now Captain of the Cullen Family.
After that day, he took over the business of running the family, both the legal and illegal aspects, as well as dealing with every fucking attempt to kill him. He knew this was just the way the other families tested a new leader, but damn it; it was getting old. And it was taking up valuable time from discovering who had called the hit, and who had carried it out.
Looking down at his watch, Edward grumbled. “Shit, we are going to be late for this gala thing.”
“Fuck, Mathair is going to kill us, ” Jasper groaned. “In ainm Dé! (God Save Us!)
”Alright, there is no reason for all of us being in the dog house. I will call the cleaners and stay until they get here, ” Edward advised.
”Thanks, deartháir, ” Emmett and Jasper said together. They may not look alike, but they often spoke the same sentence at the same time. They had a unique connection, somehow knowing when the other needed something or was in danger. It drove their parents crazy.
His brothers left, chatting away about finding some hot phis (pussy) tonight at the gala. These events always had the usual group of women looking for some rich man to sink their nails into. He was only going tonight to keep an eye on his parents because he didn’t have time for a woman. Then his thoughts went once again to Bella and wondered how she was doing. Had she found a job that she liked? Was she happy?
“Captain,” Morgan called out, carrying in the large roll of plastic wrap, followed by George and Matthew. They were the best at disposing of a body and meticulously cleaning up all the evidence. Edward was lucky to have such an excellent team as part of the family. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the white envelope, handing it to Morgan. “go raibh maith agat.” (Thank you.)
Morgan nodded his head. He felt uncomfortable with being thanked by the Captain, being that he was just a cleaner.
Edward watched the expressions crossing Morgan’s face. He never thought he had his father’s gift of reading people, but over the last few months, he began to recognize the subtleties in expressions. He knew what Morgan was thinking. “Morgan, without you and your team, the family would be vulnerable to rival families and law enforcement authorities. Never feel that you are just the cleaner.”
Morgan was shocked. Had he said his thoughts out loud? “Yes, Captain. I promise to ensure that not one drop of blood or speck of evidence will ever be found.”
“I do not doubt that. Now I must get out of here,” Edward advised. He turned, walked out of the building, and towards his car. After he had become the Captain, he hardly ever drove anywhere. His caddie, Phil Dwyer, chauffeured him where he needed to go and was always followed by two guards, Riley Biers and Royce King. Until they found out who had put the hit out on his father, the security would be on high alert.
His armored BMW X5, Bentayga, incorporates the same heightened level of ballistic protection, also achieving a B6 rating. But this bulletproof beauty was opulent, thanks to the Bentley badge. The all-black brute can withstand two of the German military’s DM51 hand grenades exploding simultaneously from beneath its floor and take a barrage of bullets from assault rifles, such as an AK-47 or AR-10. It was a beast. His parents were chauffeured in a Rolls-Royce Cullinan limo. The added space was needed for Carlisle’s wheelchair, but they were just as protected.
After a week in the hospital, Carlisle was released for home care and physical therapy. Garrett visited three times a day and had found that three of the wives of family members were nurses. He set up a meeting with himself and Edward. It was Edward’s final decision if the women would be acceptable. Edward met with each one and afterward had his Counselor, Jay Jenkins, do an extensive background check on each prospect as well as their entire family. He wasn’t taking any chances when his father was in such a vulnerable condition. All three of the nurses passed with flying colors and began working in shifts at the Cullen Mansion.
Not having anyone in the family who was qualified in physical therapy, Garrett went in search of the top person in the field, knowing that no one else would do. The name that kept coming up was Bree Tanner. She was top in her field, working with people with spinal cord injuries. Garrett contacted her and asked if she would be willing to take on a patient with Carlisle’s injuries. She requested to see his file and x-rays before making a final decision; several days later, she agreed. Edward didn’t interview her but did have Jay do his usual background check. Two days later, Bree moved into the Cullen Mansion, working with Carlisle daily on the advanced trunk, pelvic, and leg function in the areas of movement, coordination, strength, and balance. No expense was spared and whatever equipment was needed was purchased. A new gym was designed and constructed out of one of the bedroom suites on the lower level. Thankfully the mansion had an elevator system, so it made it easier for Carlisle to get from one floor to the next.
Most days, Carlisle was in high spirits, though there were times when he became depressed and frustrated that he might never be the same man as he once was. On those dark days, Esme didn’t baby him, instead, she reminded him that together they would get through this as a family.
Edward arrived at the building garage where his penthouse apartment was at, even though he had only spent a few hours there a day, it was home. He had only slept in the bed one night when he was too exhausted to make it across town to his office. His mother had furnished and decorated the apartment. Of course, she had incredible taste and knew what he liked. The closet at his office held his suits for everyday business, but his casual attire and tuxedos were housed in the closet at the penthouse. His personal elevator from the garage seemed to take forever to get to the top floor. It finally stopped and he stepped out into his foyer. Rushing through the apartment, he stripped out of his bloody suit, placing it in the special hamper, so that it could be appropriately destroyed. He would call one of the cleaning crew to come pick up the basket tomorrow.
After a quick shower, ensuring that all the blood was washed away, he got out and sprayed the walls, floor, drain with bleach. He brushed his teeth and tried to tame his hair, though it was useless, it had a mind of its own.
“Mhac na galla,” he grumbled, throwing the brush on the counter. (Son of a bitch)
Stomping into the bedroom, he slipped on a pair of boxers, socks, white tailored shirt with french cuffs, and one of his black Armani tuxedos. Pulling off the shelf, the Derby cap toe shoes with double buckles and the Testoni belt to match. After dressing, he opened the cabinet door, selected his Cullen Crest cufflinks and Hublot Big Bang watch from the collection. He loved this one because of the 1,280 diamonds that circled the face. Adjusting his family ring on his finger, he was ready to go. Sending a text to Phil, he walked out of the apartment and back to the elevator. His guard was waiting on the ground level for him unless there was a security breach or someone shady gaining excess to the upper floors.
As it began to descend, it stopped on the floor just below his. A middle-aged man was waiting, holding a beaded bag, looking very uncomfortable. Edward had never seen this man, but that might have been the case since he had only been here a few times and that was usually late at night. This floor had three apartments. Garrett, the family doctor and surgeon, and Victoria, the family Artiber, lived in two of them, while the third and largest belonged to Robert Hale, the CEO of Hale International. The company was an import/export company that the family had used from time to time. Robert didn’t live in the apartment, but his daughter and two of her friends did. He never got their names, though Jay Jenkins said that they were clean, with no ties to other families or Garda Síochána. (Police)
The man stepped onto the elevator. Once the doors were closed, Edward cleared his throat. “Nice bag.”
Robert smiled nervously. “It is not mine.”
“I figured,” Edward chuckled.
“Bells forgot her bag and it was demanded that I come pick it up,” Robert explained. Bella had only agreed to call him Robbie if he would call her Bells. He loved her as much as he did his feisty daughter, Rosalie.
“Wife?” Edward questioned.
“No, daughter. Sorry, I am Robert Hale,” he said, holding out his hand.
“Edward Cullen,” he replied, shaking his hand.
“Cullen? Carlisle Cullen’s son?”
“You know my father?” Edward questioned, knowing that he did but wanted to see what he would say.
“Yes. How is he doing? I heard about the incident,” Robert explained.
“Getting better every day. I am in control of the family business now,” Edward informed, his face blank from emotions.
“I hadn’t heard,” Robert replied. He didn’t have first-hand knowledge, though the rumors suggested that the Cullen’s were a mafia family. The business dealings that his company had with the family had been on the up and up. His text message tone sounded from his phone. He looked down and he saw that it was from Bells. She was having a craving for a chocolate bar. He chuckled as he read the text. “Bells is having another craving.”
“She’s pregnant?” Edward questioned.
“Yes and doing it all by herself,” Robert growled.
“The father not around?”
“No. She had a one night stand and the asshole gave her a fictitious name. We have looked everywhere for him, but he just disappeared,” Robert informed, his jaw tight with anger.
“Baligeard,” (Bastard) Edward snarled. He didn’t know the man who had done this, but if he did, he would take him to the warehouse and teach him how to treat the woman carrying his child.
Robert didn’t know what Edward had said, though the look on his face told him it wasn’t nice. The elevator bell chimed, indicating that they had arrived. “Mr. Cullen, it has been a pleasure.”
“It has and I will be in touch if I need your services,” Edward stated.
Robert stepped off the elevator and headed to the town car that was waiting on him. As he opened the back door, he glanced back and noticed Edward getting into a BMW X-5, damn he didn’t know that they were available in the states. Edward Cullen was a dangerous man, but the look on his face when he told him about Bells showed that he also had a good heart.
Bella was circulating through the crowd, making sure that the donors were happy. The place was packed and she had only gotten rave responses concerning the exhibits. She had slipped away from the crowd to send a text to Robbie that she had forgotten her purse and asked if he could pick it up. Rose and Alice were already here, though she had only seen them when they arrived. She figured they had found a couple of guys and were flirting their asses off. They had been complaining this morning that it had been a long time since they had seen some action.
Thirty minutes later, a craving hit and she sent a text to Robbie to pick her up a chocolate bar. He had been so supportive during her pregnancy, making sure that she had everything she wanted and things that she didn’t know she wanted.
After sending her chocolate fix text, she walked back towards the crowd and as she came around the corner of the Moai statue, or Dum Dum statue from the movie Night at the Museum, she came face to face with Esme Cullen.
“BELLA!” She squealed, putting Alice to shame on hyperactivity and volume, then wrapped her arms around her, giving her a tight squeeze.
“Mrs. Cullen,” Bella murmured as she hugged Esme back.
Esme pulled back and shook her head. “What did I tell you earlier? I am Esme, Mrs. Cullen is my mother-in-law, I like her, but we fight over who makes the best Colcannon, ” she said, her green eyes sparkling, then leaned closer and whispered. “Mine is better.”
Bella couldn’t help but giggle over the confession. “Alright, Esme,” she agreed with a smile, then she noticed a man in a wheelchair beside Esme.
“A Chroí, this is the young woman I was telling you about,” Esme said as she placed her hand on his shoulder. “Bella, this is Carlisle.” (My heart)
Carlisle reached out and took Bella’s hand, bringing it up to his lips, kissing her knuckles. “It is a pleasure to meet you. Esme hasn’t stopped talking about you and your friends.”
“Mr. Cullen, the pleasure is all mine,” Bella announced.
“Carlisle,” he insisted.
“Okay, Carlisle and I want to thank you both for your generous donations to the museum,” Bella declared.
“Oh, we love the museum. We brought our boys here as soon as they were old enough to enjoy it,” Esme explained.
“You have three boys, correct?” Bella asked.
“Yes. Our oldest is Edward and we have a set of twins who are three hundred sixty-four days younger,” Esme proclaimed with a smile.
“That is called Irish Twins, isn’t it?” Bella quizzed. She had heard the term before and was curious about what it meant.
“Yes. Are you Irish?” Carlisle wondered.
“I don’t think so, though I don’t know much about my family heritage,” Bella shared. Growing up, her father had demanded that he be the center of attention and he never spoke of his parents or his in-laws.
“Where are Rose and Alice?” Esme asked, looking around the room for them.
“I don’t know. They disappeared a few minutes after they got here.”
“Jasper and Emmett did the same thing when they arrived. I am sure they are at the New World mammals exhibit. Emmett is as big as a bear and Jasper loves the cougars,” Esme explained. They were grown men now, all with influential positions in the family business, nonetheless in her eyes, they were still her little boys.
“And Edward?” Bella quizzed.
“He is late,” Carlisle smirked. Esme had told Edward specifically not to be late for the event. This was the first time he had been out in society since the shooting and Esme wanted to show everyone how strong the family was together.
Esme looked around Bella and grinned, raising her arm and waved. “Here he is now. Edward, come meet the lady who put this event together.”
Edward stepped around the dark-haired woman, not looking at her, instead kissing his mother on the cheek. Then he reached down, gave a warm squeeze to his father’s shoulder. He turned to greet the woman with his parents when his world came to a complete stop. “Bella?” She was even more beautiful than he had remembered. He couldn’t believe he had finally found her.
Bella’s heart stopped at the sight of him. “Tony, ” she murmured, the memories of their night together washed over her. His touch, his kisses, the energy that flowed between them as they made love. Suddenly, Esme’s voice broke her memories. She had called him Edward. He wasn’t Tony Masen, but Edward Cullen. He had lied to her, used her, and left her like a discarded piece of trash. The reality of the situation hit her like a slap in the face. Taking a step back, she hauled off and slapped him across his face. “YOU FUCKING LIAR!”