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After Edward dropped Bella off at her parents’ home, he drove to the location of the latest fire. He parked his Bronco next to Charlie’s department vehicle in the staging area across the street. He pulled on his Seattle Fire Department jacket and grabbed his kit. When he turned, he blew out a breath. The coffee shop where Edward and Bella began their relationship was a pile of smoldering rubble. His heart was shattered.
A part of their history had been erased.
Along with the life of an innocent victim.
God damn it.
He saw Charlie, wearing his turn-out coat, standing on the sidewalk near the coffeeshop. He made his way toward his boss. “Chief,” he barked. “What happened? When did this happen?”
“I don’t know what happened until we can get inside,” Charlie sighed, his eyes haunted. “The call came through a couple of hours ago. They just struck it. There were some issues with the gas main shut off. They couldn’t get it to move and the gas obviously fueled the flames, resulting in this.”
All that remained of the once vibrant coffee shop was a pile of ash and a skeleton of steel beams. Steam radiated off the still-hot debris. The smell of burnt plastic, charred wood and ozone permeated through the air. There was also a hint of burnt flesh mixed in. It was a pungent, unpleasant scent.
The scent of death.
The scent of destruction.
“You said there was a fatality?” Edward choked out.
Memories of that horrific night flashed in Edward’s memory; the night where he lost Angela and she plummeted to her death. The heat from the flames licking his turn-out gear to the heavy pants of his breathing while he searched for survivors pierced his memories. His thoughts were cyclical until he got to the point where he lost his grip of Angela’s hand. Her screams as she fell would forever be seared into his brain.
“Edward, look at me,” Charlie said calmly, stepping into Edward’s line of sight. “Deep breaths, son.”
“I’m okay, Chief,” Edward muttered, shaking his head and clearing it of the nightmarish memories.
“Are you sure, Edward? You look like you saw a ghost,” Charlie asked.
He blinked slowly. In a way, I did, Chief. Taking another deep breath, he tried to give Charlie a reassuring smile. “Just a flashback,” Edward said.
Charlie nodded, completely understanding why Edward’s mind went back to that night. The first thoughts he had were of his daughters, Bella because she lived so close to this location, and Angela because she died in a similar fire. His second thought was of the poor soul who died in the fire. “Same for me, son. I get it.”
“Has the medical examiner picked up the body?” Edward asked, shaking his head, trying to clear it.
Charlie looked to the white coroner’s van. “They just loaded up the victim and they’ll perform an autopsy. The body was so burnt that it was unrecognizable. We couldn’t tell if they were male or female. Do you know the employees? I know that you and Bella frequent this coffee shop.”
“I know faces, but not names,” Edward shrugged. “Except for Eric. He’s the owner of this place. Bella knew one of his family members as a patient or something. He stepped in when we dealt with an overly flirtatious barista.”
Charlie nodded, his face pale and his mind reeling at the implications of this fire. He took a few deep breaths, clenching his hands into tight fists.
“Are you okay, Chief? You look spooked,” Edward asked.
“I was working in the office when I heard the call over dispatch,” Charlie explained. “The address was so familiar and I panicked that it was Bella’s condo. But, obviously it’s not.”
“Do we want to start investigating?” Edward asked. “Where’s Rose?”
“She was on a date with Emmett,” Charlie replied, shuddering. “I think I called when they were … getting it on.”
“Knowing my brother, probably,” Edward snorted, shaking his head.
“To be honest, we’ll have to wait. They just finished putting out the hot spots,” Charlie said. “I just think that you and Rose were correct in suspecting someone is targeting me and my family.”
“Do you have anyone who could be considered an enemy?” Edward asked.
“That’s the thing,” Charlie growled, taking off his helmet and running his hand through his sweaty hair. “I can’t think of anyone who would be …” He gestured to the destroyed coffee shop. He looked at Edward and Rose, who was walking toward them. “Sorry, Rose, for pulling you away from Emmett.”
“From the look of my partner in crime, I’m not the only one who had their evening disrupted,” Rose quipped, elbowing Edward. She rubbed her neck and Edward blushed. Bella had suctioned her mouth to his neck, leaving a large hickey on his skin. “Did you apologize for disrupting his evening?”
Charlie looked at Edward. “I’m sorry for pulling you away from Bella,” he sighed. “In retrospect, I should have waited to call you both in, to be honest. We can’t really do anything about this right now.”
“We can go back to the office and figure out why the gas main shut off wasn’t working properly,” Edward suggested. “We can also speak to management and get a list of employees to help in identifying the victim inside.”
“If the victim was an employee,” Rose said.
“The victim was an employee. Why else would they be here so late?” Charlie shrugged.
“It could be a robber, breaking and entering,” Rose suggested.
“We’ll see,” Edward sighed, scrubbing his hands through his hair. “Come on, Rose. Let’s check out the gas main. Chief, could you get in touch with management and get a list of the employees?”
“Sure thing, Boss,” Charlie quipped, giving Edward a wry smile. “I’ll see you guys back at the house. Let me know if you see any evidence of tampering.”
“We probably will,” Rose said, sliding on her turn-out coat. Edward scowled at her. “The firemen had to do some finagling to turn it off, right? There will be evidence that their tools caused some damage.”
“Then, we’ll need to find proof that it’s not their tools, Negative Nancy,” Edward chided, picking up his pack and camera. “You’re not the only one who had their evening interrupted, Rosalie.”
“Don’t kill each other,” Charlie snorted. “Call me on your way back.”
“Will do, Chief,” Edward nodded, walking to the rear of the building.
“Sorry about being a raging bitch,” Rose sighed as she followed her partner. “It’s just that Emmett and I were … going to …”
“Get it on?” Edward smirked, opening the access to the gas main for the entire strip mall where the coffee shop was located.
“Um, well, yeah,” Rose said. “We’d fooled around, but hadn’t pulled the trigger on having sex. Emmett said he wanted to woo me.”
“I never realized that my brother knew how to woo,” Edward chuckled.
“The night of the benefit? Emmett and I started to go hot and heavy, but he put the stops on it. He wanted to get to know me, especially with how Peter acted toward me. So, we talked and I told him about my lackluster history with men. Your brother also had some shitty luck with women, too. So, we decided to slow things down and really get to know each other before we jumped into bed,” Rose explained. “Look at this … could this be from the firemen?” She crouched down near the valve. She held up her camera, taking several photos.
Edward examined the damage to the pipes, measuring the gouges in the metal. “Maybe. We’ll need to check with the guys’ equipment, but can’t you see the red paint chips? Our equipment is yellow. Right?”
“Good point,” Rose mused, her nose wrinkled. “We’d have to check.”
They spent nearly an hour, searching for clear indications that the valves had been tampered with. The only thing they found was evidence from the crew who’d struck the fire, but that was all supposition. The valve that controlled the coffee house was difficult to move, but it didn’t indicate that it was tampered with. If the valves were not worked on a regular basis, they would stick. The gas main could have been just stuck from lack of use, not necessarily due to tampering.
“Let’s head back to the house,” Edward grumbled, picking up his tools. “My eyes are crossing and it’s late. We can load up the photos onto the computer, approaching this with fresh eyes tomorrow morning.”
“Are you going back to Bella’s?” Rose asked.
“Charlie was freaking out and he wanted her with her mom, but Bella refused to go, wanting to sleep in her own bed. I’ll head back to my parents’ place.”
“I thought you were moving out,” Rose smirked. “That’s what Emmett said.”
“When would I have time? We’ve been working insane hours and my new relationship with Bella?” Edward snorted. “I did check to see if I had enough money in my account to put up a down payment, but I haven’t had a chance to actually look for a new place.”
“You could always move in with your girlfriend,” Rose sang, putting her pack into her car.
Edward smiled softly, wanting to do that. However, it was way too soon. “Not yet, Rose. Eventually, we will, but for now? We’ll figure it out. I’ll see you back at the house.”
“Drive safe, Cullen,” she nodded.
Once he got into his car, Edward took out his cell phone and dialed Bella. She picked up right away and he told her that he was stuck working. He also told her that the coffee shop they frequented had been destroyed by the flames. Bella was quiet and he could hear quiet sniffles. “Love?”
“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s just a part of our history is gone.”
“I’m just as sad, but we can … I don’t know … we have our entire future, Bella,” he murmured. “Right?”
“You’re right. Every day is a gift and I’m happy that I get to share them with you, Edward,” Bella breathed. “I love you.”
“I love you more,” he whispered. “I’ll call you tomorrow?”
“I’m going out with my mom. We’re spending the day together, having a day of beauty,” Bella said. “Manis, pedis, massages …”
“Have fun with your mom, love,” Edward smiled. “Sleep well.”
“I’ll try. I’ve only slept well with you next to me,” she admitted. “Good night, baby.”
He replied in kind and ended the call. With another longing look at the coffee shop, he started his car and pulled away, driving to the firehouse.
It was going to be a long night.
Bella felt as if she could float on the clouds. Love was definitely a wondrous thing, she thought as she was driving through the city, and enjoying the sun. They were calling for a horrible storm later in the afternoon. Though, that was hard to believe with the cloudless sky and the hot sun beaming brightly. It wasn’t a typical day in Seattle, which was known for its overcast skies and drizzling rain. Taking advantage of the weather, she opened the sunroof to her car, allowing the warm breeze and sun whirl around her. This was the type of day she was thinking about when she purchased a car with a sunroof. When her father first saw the car he commented on how stupid it was to have a “sun” roof in Seattle. The sunroof didn’t seem stupid now. It was pretty perfect.
As she drove down the street back to her parents’ home, sipping on the large cup of coffee, she thought about her conversation with Edward the night before. She was when she told him that she slept better when he was beside her, curled around protectively. She spent most of the night twisting and turning, subconsciously trying to find his strong arms so they could wrap around her with their warmth and security.
Was it too early to ask him to move in with her?
Yes, but she could see them doing it sooner rather than later. Life was too short. She saw her future and it included Edward in every way.
Pulling into her parents’ driveway, she finished off her coffee, upset that it wasn’t from La Marzocco. Edward and her father would eventually figure out the cause of the fire, but it didn’t lessen her feeling of loss over their coffee shop. Stepping out of her car, she walked to the front door, but before she could turn the knob, her mother swung open the door.
“Bella,” she cooed, opening her arms and pulling her into a tight hug.
“Mom, I was gone for twenty minutes,” Bella murmured into her mother’s hair, squeezing her tighter.
“I know, but I just wanted to give you some love,” Renee breathed, pulling back and staring into Bella’s eyes. “You are so beautiful, Bella.” She embraced her again, cupping Bella’s head.
This was what she missed when she closed herself off after Angela’s death. She did not realize how much she missed her mother’s touch, her affection.
When they finally stepped back from the hug, both of them had unshed tears in their eyes. Renee looked deep into her daughter’s eyes and smiled tenderly. “I’m not sure if I said anything yesterday, but I am so happy you have found your other half. Edward is such a good man and loves you with every ounce of his being.”
“How do you know this, Mom?” Bella asked. “You’ve only seen us interact at the benefit.”
“Nonsense. I can see it in the way he looks at you. It’s the same way your father looks at me,” she answered, guiding Bella into the house. “It’s the same way I look at him. He’s my other half and I love him as much today as I did when we first met.”
“I never expected to find a love like that,” Bella said, sitting down at the kitchen table. “I mean …”
“What?” Renee asked.
“When Angela died, I turned off that part of my mind,” Bella shrugged. “The world seemed like a dark place and what was the point of loving anyone, if they were just going to go away. So, I just went through the motions, never really living.”
“What made you want to try with Edward?” Renee pressed. “I mean, he’s absolutely gorgeous …”
“He’s more than that, Mom,” Bella chided. “He’s beautiful, inside and out. He’s funny, kind, patient and perfect. I mean, no one is perfect, but Edward’s perfect for me.” Biting her lip, she looked at her mother.
Renee squeezed her daughter’s hand. “Well, I’m looking forward to spending some time with my baby girl today. Let’s go out for breakfast and you can tell me all about Edward.” She looked at the coffee cup, arching a brow. “You know, we do have a coffee maker here, Bella.”
“You only have decaf, Mom. Sorry, but I need caffeine,” Bella chided. “It’s an addiction.”
“Just like your father,” Renee snickered, picking up her purse and phone. “Why don’t we take my car?”
“Really?” Bella beamed. She loved her mother’s car that she purchased when she completed her first large interior decorating job. It was a champagne-colored Lexus LF-1 Limitless SUV with white leather interior. It was one sexy car. “Can I drive?”
Renee looked at her with a dash of wild color spreading over her cheeks. “You know, your father has never driven it?”
“What? I thought for sure he would have done so, just to make sure that it was ‘safe’ enough for you to drive?” Bella snorted, giving her mother a wry look.
“Yeah, he tried that trick. Though, it didn’t work,” Renee chuckled, handing over the key fob to Bella. “Once you drive it, you will want to sell your car and get this one. It’s fabulous!”
Bella rushed over to the driver’s side, opening the door, and took the seat behind the wheel. This leather feels like butter. After several minutes of adjusting the seat to the right position, she pushed the power button and the engine roared to life. The purr of the engine … it even sounded sexy. Once Bella was sure that her mother was buckled in, she put in reverse and eased out of the driveway.
“You might want to take it easy on the gas because it does have a kick,” Renee advised, her eyes sparkling mischievously.
Bella shifted into drive, pressing the gas pedal she thought was lightly, nonetheless it was still too much. Her body was pushed back in the seat by the surge of power. “HOLY HELL!”
“I told you,” Renee sang, grabbing onto the ‘oh-shit handle’ above her head. She was certain there was some technical name for it, but she only remembered her father telling her that name. It stuck and forever would be known as the ‘oh-shit handle.’
It took Bella several more minutes to get used to the power of the engine and as soon as she did, they were on their way to the restaurant for breakfast. Every time Bella thought of the name she had to smile. Whomever had thought up the name, must have a glorious sense of humor. The Biscuit Bitch served southern style foods, with their signature ‘Bitchwich Biscuit’. She had never found another place that had such a variety of cheeses, meats, vegetables, and sauces that could be combined on the flaky buttermilk biscuit. The Biscuit Bitch was the ultimate in comfort food.
“Your father called me last night after we went to sleep about the fire at the coffee shop near your condo. It was so sad someone died,” Renee sighed. “Do you have an idea who was there?”
“It is and I pray that whomever it was didn’t suffer too badly. I don’t know who it could have been,” Bella murmured, her thoughts going to Angela and the night of the fire and said a little prayer that she had not suffered.
“It’s all a little too close for home, in my opinion,” Renee said, as a shiver of fear zipped through her body. Angela’s death had left a void in her heart that would never go away. Anyone who lost a child felt that emptiness. She was happy to see Bella, with glimpses of her being the loving careful little girl that she once was, but morphing into an intelligent young woman..
Bella reached over and placed her hand on top of Renee’s. “Dad and Edward will figure it out.”
“They will,” Renee said, squeezing her daughter’s fingers.
Twenty minutes later, Bella parked in front of the restaurant. They got out and strolled into the small cafe. It didn’t look like much. Still, it had the best breakfast food in Seattle. After they placed their order of the speciality biscuit, they found a table near the window, enjoying the sunny morning. Once their food and drinks arrived, Renee looked up at Bella with anticipation. “So, tell me everything I don’t know about Edward,” she breathed, a secretive grin on her face.
Bella took a drink of her Ghirardelli White Chocolate Mocha infused with fresh orange zest. “Mom, when Angela and I were teenagers, we would talk about our dream boyfriends. Hers of course would be musical prodigy, while my dream guy would be a scientist. They would love us and no one else and would make us feel that we were the most precious thing in the world. Edward might not be a scientist, but he does make me feel special and loved.”
“Edward is a scientist. He works with forensics every day to determine the cause of the fires he’s investigating,” Renee said.
“You’re right. I did find my scientist,” Bella smiled. “When I was a teenager, I was thinking more of a doctor or researcher, but the adult me will gladly take a sexy, brilliant arson investigator.”
“Oh baby! I’m overjoyed that you’ve found your other half. Edward compliments you in ways you don’t even realize,” Renee cried, wiping a lone tear that had escaped her eye. “Are you happy that you found your dream guy?”
“I am. For the first time since Angela’s death, I’m truly happy,” Bella declared, her eyes sparkling with the thoughts of Edward.
“I can see it. Love is written all over your face,” Renee smiled, cupping Bella’s chin affectionately. “Now, when can I plan your wedding?”
“Mom,” Bella groaned, tossing her napkin at her mother.
“What? It’s a legitimate question, Isabella. You’re not getting any younger. I’d like grandkids,” she quipped. “So, when?”
“When we’re ready, Ma,” Bella deadpanned, shaking her head.
They finished their breakfast. They walked back to the car and drove down the street to the White Lotus Salon. Renee called ahead and arranged for a complete spa treatment for the both of them including manicures, spa pedicure, brow shaping, and waxing. Walking into the shop, they were greeted by a lovely red-headed woman with an infectious smile. “Welcome to the White Lotus. I’m Amber. How can I help you today?”
“We have an appointment under the name Swan,” Renee declared.
“Oh, Mrs. Swan, we were expecting you. This must be your daughter?” Amber gushed.
“Yes, this is Bella,” Renee replied, sliding her arm around Bella’s shoulders. .
“Come with me. Let’s get you pampered,” Amber said, directing them through the frosted double doors.
“I’m so fucking tired,” Rose groaned, scrubbing her eyes. “And smelling the coffee grounds mixed in with the rest of this shit? It’s making my stomach turn.”
“We need to figure out this fire, Rose,” Charlie snapped. “The preliminary autopsy results are inconclusive because the body was so badly burned. Where did this fire start?”
“It was obviously fanned by the gas main,” Edward said, reading his report from his tablet. He scrolled down, scanning the paperwork from the fire company who had arrived first on the scene. “They said that the fire appeared to be stronger in the front, but quickly spread because of the involvement of the gas.”
“Okay, Edward, you focus on the front of the shop. Take any pictures you can,” Charlie commanded. “Measurements … all that shit.”
“And me, Chief?” Rose asked.
“We’re going to check in the back where the body was found,” Charlie said. “We need to see if there was a struggle. If that’s the case, we need to call in the police to begin their investigation. Collect any and all forensics.”
Shouldering their packs, they walked into the destroyed coffeeshop. Edward’s heart lurched within his chest, seeing the skeleton of the once-vibrant La Marzocco. His memory filled in the blanks of the counter where Bella ran into him, spilling coffee all over his shirt. Turning slowly, he looked around the charred, black room. In his mind’s eye, he saw apparitions of the patrons. He heard the echoes of laughter, clinks of spoons mixing coffee and the din of conversations. Blinking, he stared at their booth – the booth where his relationship with Bella began, slowly burning into the love they had today.
The booth was destroyed. Beyond the damage of a fire … it had been attacked. He walked slowly over to the booth, mindful of the debris littered on the floor. He examined the booth. There was evidence that the leather seats had been chopped into bits. Springs and material were poking up in a macabre twist combination of fire and anger. He took out his camera, taking several photos of the damage to the benches. The table also appeared to be hacked by a sharp object, like an axe or a knife.
It was hard to look at this objectively. This place held such a personal connection to his Bella.
Take pictures, focus on the job, Cullen.
One thing that he knew for certain, this was the flash point of the fire. It had started here. He took pictures of the flame patterns on the walls and the floors, as they spread further away from the booth where his relationship began with Bella. There were indications that an accelerant was used. A trail of that accelerant disappeared behind the door where Rose and Charlie were working.
Edward took pictures, meticulously measured fire patterns and gathered evidence. He worked in the front of the La Marzocco for well over two hours before he walked into the back of the shop. The damage wasn’t as bad in the kitchen, but as he moved further back toward the office, the damage grew infinitely worse. “What did you find?” he asked.
“This is the starting point of the fire,” Rose said definitively.
“I disagree,” Edward argued, looking around the room.
“Why, Edward?” Charlie asked. “Look at this destruction …”
“Look at this trail of accelerants,” he said, pointing to the pattern near the feet, etched into the concrete floors. “The fire started at a booth in the front of the building, spreading through the building with this. Where you’re standing is where the victim was found. It was clear that they were doused in gasoline or oil. But, the fire wasn’t started here.”
“Show me,” Charlie said.
Edward walked them back out front and showed them the damage to the booth. After his description, it was clear that Edward was correct with the supposition of where the fire started. Charlie blinked to Edward, the man who finally captured Bella’s heart, and he saw how pale he was. “What’s wrong, Edward?”
“Someone was following us, Chief,” Edward choked out.
“Why would you say that?” Rose pressed.
“This booth? This was our spot,” Edward explained. “Bella and I sat here. Every day. Every single day. It further goes to show that you’re the target, Charlie. Angela’s apartment, the rug shop that Renee uses for her clients, your barbershop, Bella’s coffee shop? And with the death, this firebug is escalating.”
“I think Edward is onto something,” Rose said. “Each of these locations are connected to you. I think we need to get the police involved and we need to recuse ourselves from these cases. We’re all too involved.”
“Who else can I trust? You are the best investigators in the department,” Charlie snapped.
“Regardless of that situation, we still need to call the cops,” Edward grumbled. “We need to make sure that your wife and Bella are safe. Are they at your place?”
“No,” Charlie said lowly. “Renee said she was taking Bella out. It’s been so long since they spent time together. Bella just shut down after she lost her sister. We all did … Renee and I struggled, but with the help of grief counselors and your parents, Edward, did we survive that dark time after Angela’s death. Bella lost a part of her soul with the death of her sister. She flew back to New York, throwing herself into work. She avoided coming home … too many memories.”
“She said that she hated being a reminder of what you lost,” Edward explained. “A mirror image of the daughter that died …”
“Fuck,” Charlie said. “I should have known. I was so consumed with my loss that I never realized …”
“Well, regardless of that, you need to get a hold of Bella and Renee, Chief,” Rose said. “As Edward said, this arsonist is escalating and the timeline? It’s getting shorter. The fire at Angela’s was five years ago. Ludwigs? Four months ago … Rudy’s Barbershop? A month ago, just before the benefit. They could strike at any time.”
“Call the cops, Charlie. I’ll get in touch with Bella,” Edward said. “Rose, get in touch with the fire commissioner and let them know about our findings. They need another team on these cases.”
They left the destroyed cafe and made their calls. Edward contacted Bella, but her phone went directly to voicemail. “Bella, love, I need you to call me as soon as you can. There’s a clear link that all of these fires are connected to your father. Please, baby … I love you and I can’t lose you. Call me. Soon.” He hung up the phone, looking at Rose. She gave him a sympathetic look, but he knew, knew, that something was going to happen.
He prayed that he could stop it before anyone else got hurt.
“This was a lot of fun, Mom,” Bella said, wriggling her fingers as the polish dried on her nails. “It’s been a while since I had a girl’s day with you.”
“I think the last time we did was just after you graduated from college and was admitted to medical school. You, Angela and I …” Renee trailed off. “I hadn’t realized it was that long.”
“Part of it was me, Mom,” Bella shrugged. “It hurt to be here, without Angela. I also figured seeing me would hurt you, too.”
“Oh, baby, no,” Renee said, taking Bella’s hand. “We … shit … obviously, we never dealt with our grief with losing Angela. Your father and I went to grief counseling, healing together, but selfishly, we never followed up with you. I’m so sorry, Bella.”
“Mom, it was me. I dealt with Angela’s death in my own way. I buried myself in work. But, recently, the wound was reopened,” she shrugged. “Did you know about Edward? His involvement?”
“Not at first, but eventually,” Renee answered. “After Angela’s death, we became close friends with Esme and Carlisle. Once Edward was well enough to travel, he put in his resignation and moved away. They struggled with his sudden decision to leave. But, it was Esme’s brother who helped him cope with Angela’s death.”
“Did he know Ang before that night?” Bella asked.
“No, he didn’t. He ‘met’ her when she was trying to escape the fire,” Renee explained. “Her death really hit him hard.”
“Yeah, he told me,” Bella murmured. “He hasn’t stepped into an actual fire since that night.” She sighed, looking out the window of the spa. “I didn’t know he was the firefighter involved in her rescue … not until recently. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It wasn’t my story to tell,” Renee breathed. “I still don’t know the whole thing. Charlie had nightmares since he was there at the fire. He wanted to spare me that torture. Bella … What happened with Edward?”
“He told me and I just shut down. I took a week or two to think about what he told me. But, it was my boss, Victoria and Angela, in a dream, who told me to pull my head out of my ass. So, we met at the cemetery and we moved forward. He told me everything about that night and I told him about my insecurities,” Bella sighed.
“What insecurities?” Renee asked.
“That you must hate me because I’m a cruel reminder of what you lost,” Bella said. “I’m the identical twin to Angela.”
“Isabella Marie Swan, your father and I could never hate you,” Renee said forcefully. “We adore you and we’re so proud of what you’ve accomplished. Yes, you and your sister were identical twins, but you are not a reminder of what we lost. You’re a reminder of the future. Bella, Angela may have died, but she would not have wanted us to live in the past.”
“I know that. Now,” Bella replied. “I just needed to pull my shit together.”
“And is your shit together?” Renee asked.
“For the most part,” she snorted. “Edward and I are very together and we love each other very much.”
“Good,” Renee smirked, standing up and walking to the counter, paying for their services. “I think we need to go shopping for …” Her cell phone chirped. “Bella, can you grab that?”
Bella picked up her mother’s phone and saw a text. “It’s a message from A. Volt.”
“Open it up, sweetie,” Renee said, looking at the receipt to calculate the tip.
Using the passcode, Bella opened up the message. “Mr. Volt said that he would like to see the samples you chose for his new condo and he gave you an address.”
“It’s about time. We’ve been playing phone tag for two weeks,” Renee grumbled, handing the receipt back to Amber. “Thank you for everything today.”
“We hope to see you soon, Mrs. Swan,” Amber chirped.
Renee took her phone from Bella. “Do you mind if we swing by the office and drop off the samples to Mr. Volt?” she asked. Bella nodded and Renee sent a reply to her client saying that she would be happy to oblige. “Then, we can go on a shopping spree. Perhaps we can pick up some new lingerie for Edward.”
“There’s a line, Mom, and you crossed it,” Bella deadpanned as they walked back out to the SUV.
Bella drove them to Renee’s office. It was closed for the day, but the Volt samples were in the back office. Bella and Renee loaded them in the back of Renee’s Lexus.
Renee took the wheel as they drove to a new building that was being constructed. It was near where Angela had lived. The Stockyards were high-end condos that were worth millions of dollars. Construction of the building was complete and there were basic layouts available. More prestigious clients wanted the opportunity to create something really special. Mr. Volt had reached out to Renee to do just that.
“Do you want to see the building, Bella? It’s gorgeous. I was considering having you come here, but it wouldn’t have been ready in your timetable,” Renee said.
“Sure,” Bella nodded. “This building is swanky.”
“And secure,” Renee added, parking in the front circle. They got out and were greeted by a security guard. “Yes, we were called by Mr. Volt. He asked us to drop off samples in his condo. I’m Renee Swan and this is my daughter, Dr. Isabella Swan.”
“He called down about ten minutes ago,” the security guard said. “He said to go right on up, Mrs. Swan.”
Bella and Renee walked to the elevators, pressing the button for the lift. “This place wasn’t always so swanky,” Renee explained.
“What do you mean?”
“This place used to be a burnt-out apartment complex. Your father worked on that fire. When was it? I think it was when you and Angela were just babies. This place completely burned down. There was one fatality, I think. Most everyone else got out in time. Minor injuries, smoke inhalation and stuff like that.” She tapped her finger when the elevator opened. “There was one fatality, and there was a victim who was horrifically burned. About seventy percent of third-degrees over their body. There was little hope that the victim would survive, but he did.”
“Oh, wow,” Bella breathed. She knew that burn victims were susceptible to so many infections and painful recoveries. “Do you know where the guy went?”
“After he was released from the hospital, he disappeared. I don’t know,” Renee said. The elevator doors opened. “Mr. Volt’s condo is down this way.”
They found the condo, but there was a note on the door. The writing was sloppy, but it said that Mr. Volt had to step out and would be back in a few minutes. It was important for him to talk to Renee. The door was open. Renee pushed through the door and smiled. “Isn’t this gorgeous? Look at the view overlooking Puget Sound?”
“It’s very barren, Mom,” Bella snorted, looking around the empty condo as she hovered by the door.
“That’s why we have this, smart ass,” Renee snickered, putting the sample boards in what would be the kitchen. “Mr. Volt wanted to make sure that everything gelled together. So, Alice and I created a couple of options for him.” She looked at her daughter. “Come inside, Bella.”
“It feels weird walking into a condo that’s not mine,” Bella shuddered.
“Mr. Volt will be here in a few minutes. He gave us permission, baby,” Renee argued.
With a sigh, Bella stepped away from the door, but left it open. When she turned the corner to enter the kitchen, the door slammed shut making both women jump. Bella looked around before running back to the door. Fruitlessly, it wouldn’t budge.
“You’re not going anywhere,” said a raspy, damaged voice. “You walked into this trap … like a moth to a flame …”
A/N: This chapter took a bit longer to crank out. Real life is so distracting … let us tell you. Clo has been pulling some crazy hours at her job and Josie is trying to reinvent how to teach choir over a computer. It’s been crazy.
We’re getting close to the climax. If you sat in on Josie’s Zoom meeting, we have about two, maybe three more chapters and an epilogue. We did some squishing of chapters in our master plan. So, we have it planned, but we just need to write it.
Anyhow, pictures from this chapter are on both of our blogs. You can also join us on Facebook: HeartForTwilight Productions, HeartForTwilight Book Group and Tufano79’s Twilight Fanfiction Appreciation. We’re also on twitter, too: tufano79 and HeartForTwiligh. Teasers and pictures will be posted on there.
We will find out about who was in the coffee shop and this crazy person who trapped Bella and Renee.
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HeartForTwilight and Tufano79