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Charlie appeared at the door of the ambulance, his face dirty and filled with anger. “Good riddance to bad rubbish,” Charlie muttered. “That asshole got what he deserved … to burn in hell.”
“Was he inside?” Bella asked. That’s when she noticed her father’s arm strapped in a sling. “Daddy?”
“He didn’t want to be saved. I tried, but he fell to his death,” Charlie explained. “He damn near pulled my arm from my body, but he’s gone.”
“Are you certain?” Bella pressed.
“He fell ten floors,” Charlie said. “Also, some of the guys saw him go down. Nearly every bone in his burnt-out body was shattered from the fall. He also landed on some rebar, severing his brain stem. You can’t get much deader than that.”
“No, you can’t,” Bella mumbled.
“You are all the most stubborn humans ever,” Jane grumbled. “Chief, back to your ambulance. Your wife was loaded up with you. You’re being transported to Virginia Mason.”
“What about us?” Edward asked.
“So are you,” Jane said. “I take it you’re not leaving this rig?”
“Nope,” Edward answered, tightening his hold on Bella.
“Fine. But, she needs to be put back on the gurney. Chief, let’s go,” Jane said, helping Charlie. They scuttled away.
Edward sighed as the EMT came back with a smirk, moving Bella back to the gurney. The doors were closed, and the ambulance lurched away.
Bella pulled the mask away, her eyes filled with tears. She coughed. “Is it bad that I’m relieved that Aro is dead?”
“No, it’s not,” Edward said, putting the mask over her face. “I’m relieved, too. He’d wreaked so much havoc on your lives, Bella.”
“He kept saying this one thing … ‘like a moth to a flame,’” she whispered. “Moths keep flying to the flame, even if it results in their own death. It’s poetic. Aro was the moth. It was his obsession with the flames that ended his life.”
“It’s poetic justice, Bella,” Edward breathed. “He got what he deserved.”
The ambulances rushed through the busy streets as the blue and red lights flashing brightly through the dark night while they traveled to Virginia Mason Hospital. All of the patients were in stable condition, though they all needed blood work, oxygen, and chest X-rays. The EMTs had their hands full with Edward and Renee, who wanted to ride in the same ambulance as their loved ones.
Charlie had the most serious injuries with a dislocated shoulder, practically torn from his body, and facial burns. The EMTs heard how he had run through a wall of fire with only his turnout coat and came through with only minor burns to the skin that was not protected by the coat.
Bella was the next in line for serious injuries. Though Bella’s injuries were from the physical altercation with Aro and Peter. Her face was covered in bruises, scrapes, cuts and a deep laceration at her hair line. She also complained that it hurt to breathe, like something was poking her on the inside. More than likely, she had several broken ribs, and one was pressing against her lung. They needed to move her carefully, preventing the rib from piercing her lung and causing it to deflate. Bella also had a splint around her wrist from a broken wrist.
All of them dealt with smoke inhalation, ranging from minor sore throats to deep, body-wracking coughs. It appeared that Bella and Charlie suffered the most in that regard with their other injuries causing them to breathe in most of the noxious fumes.
Arriving at the hospital, Charlie was brought into a trauma room, while the other three were placed in the emergency department on gurneys that were all in the same relative location, close to Charlie’s trauma room. Edward refused to lay down on the gurney, choosing to sit next to Bella. Renee was arguing with a nurse, pleading to be with her husband. Unfortunately, her oxygen levels were too low to abide by her desperate pleas. She was coughing deeply, which caused the doctors concern that she’d had more physical injuries than she led on.
Esme and Carlisle arrived at the hospital shortly after they’d arrived at the emergency department. Rose had called Emmett, who had reached out to his parents, informing them of the incident that happened at The Stockyards. Upon their arrival, Esme threw her arms around Edward, sobbing in relief.
“You’re okay,” she cried, pulling back, and looking at her son. His face was covered with soot, and he had an oxygen mask over his mouth and nose. “Edward, you’re okay. Thank GOD!” She turned to Bella, who looked worn out and her pale skin was almost translucent. Esme was deeply concerned about her son’s girlfriend and her former doctor. Her eyes were closed, but her rest was clearly not relaxing, and she was shivering, almost uncontrollably. Her face was also covered with soot and every inch of her skin was covered in bruises. “Bella …”
“She’s sedated,” Edward said, picking up Bella’s tiny hand. “She was … it was a nightmare for her, Mom. For both her and Renee.”
“What happened?” Carlisle asked, giving his son a hug before stepping back.
“Renee and Bella were lured into an unfinished condo at the new condo complex, The Stockyards. Renee had been seemingly hired by a supposed owner and that was a complete ruse,” Edward explained. “The owner turned out to be Aro Volturi.”
“Should we know that name?” Esme asked.
“I do,” Carlisle frowned. “He was the man who’d tried to sue the city for a fire that was caused by the negligence of the apartment management company. He named Charlie specifically in the suit, blaming him for his brother’s death. Nothing ever came of the suit.”
“The department presumed that Aro died because he had burns covering a majority of his body. Nothing ever came of that lawsuit. It was dropped and Aro was believed to be deceased,” Edward said. “Apparently not, and he was a man unhinged. He still blamed Charlie for the death of his brother. His response was to kill everyone surrounding Charlie, starting with Angela.”
“What?” Esme cried. “Charlie and Renee’s other daughter? Bella’s twin sister?”
Edward nodded, covering his face with the oxygen mask. “That nightmare began at the fire where I lost Angela, the fire that changed the entire direction of my career,” Edward sighed, picking up Bella’s hand and pressing a soft kiss to her bruised knuckles. She shuddered, whimpering quietly. He gently caressed his hand along her cheek, and she calmed. “He was pissed that she hadn’t burnt to death, but happy that she’d died, regardless. Just so long as Charlie experienced the pain of losing his loved ones.”
“But, Angela died years ago. Aro, why did he wait until this year?” Carlisle asked.
“I honestly don’t remember, but I think it was either he was in jail or dealing with his injuries since he is the human torch,” Edward coughed. He removed his mask, taking a sip of water. He blew out a shaky breath with his gaze focused on Bella’s sleeping form. “The fires he set were replicas of the fire that killed his brother. The fire in his apartment was caused by faulty electrical wiring that had been overlooked by the inspectors, exacerbated by flammable and caustic cleaning materials.”
“And, so Aro was trying to make Charlie pay for something he had zero control over,” Carlisle grumbled. “I hope Aro is in custody.”
“Aro is dead,” Edward said coldly, his lips pursed, and eyes narrowed angrily.
“Did he burn?” Esme asked, her eyes narrowed. “That would have been poetic justice.”
“No, he fell to his death. We fought and he fell out of the window. Charlie might have tried to save him because that’s who he is, but Aro didn’t want his help,” Edward answered. “Long story short, Aro is burning in hell, where he belongs.”
“Good,” Esme scoffed. Edward looked up at his mother, shocked at her admission. “What? That asshole caused enough damage. He hurt my best friend and her daughter. He hurt you.” She leaned forward, kissing Edward’s temple, wrinkling her nose at the sooty scent coming from her middle child. It was a cruel reminder that she’d almost lost him. He was injured, but alive.
“I’ll live,” he shrugged. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in an active fire, but I had to get to Bella and Renee. We couldn’t let them suffer at the hands of that monster.”
“You said he was heavily burned. How the hell did he do all of this?” Carlisle asked, sitting down on a stool.
“He had an accomplice,” Edward sighed. “A disgraced firefighter … Peter. He sat at our table for the benefit. He was Rosalie’s date until he decided to act like a perv. Charlie summarily fired him and apparently, he started working with Aro after that public humiliation.”
“What did you say about me? I heard my name as I walked inside,” Rose asked as she stepped into the room. She was still dressed in her turnout coat, holding her helmet in her hand.
“When did you get here?” Edward asked.
“The battalion chief noticed that I was worthless, worried about the chief, Renee, you, and Bella. I can’t exactly do an investigation until the fire is completely struck. With the chemicals that were used, it’s still going strong. They have to approach it differently and with the fire being up in the condo with no elevator service. It’s taking longer than anticipated. Though, they may bring in another arson investigation team since we’re so closely tied to this event,” Rose answered, shrugging out of her coat. “You said that Peter worked with Aro? I didn’t see him.”
“His choice was a deadly one,” Edward frowned.
“Aro killed him,” Bella muttered behind her mask, blinking sleepily at the people in her room. “Peter wanted to have his way with me and Aro didn’t like that. He shot him, killing him.”
“On top of that, a burning beam fell onto his corpse,” Edward explained. Turning to Bella, he picked up her good hand and chided, “You need your rest.”
“I can’t. I was listening to you talk and I … my mind started to panic,” Bella whispered, tears streaming down her bruised face. “I also hurt. A lot.” Edward softly wiped her tears away.
“Let me find the doctor,” Carlisle said, giving her a gentle smile. “Edward, are you okay?”
“I’m fine. My throat hurts, but I’ll be okay,” Edward replied, squeezing Bella’s hand. “I’ve had worse, to be honest.”
Carlisle left in search of a doctor or a nurse. After Bella had been settled into the gurney and had an IV along with a sedative administered, no one checked on them. Edward reached up to Bella’s cheek, brushing her hair back. Bella leaned into his touch but grimaced as his palm came in contact with one of the bruises.
“I can’t believe that Peter was working with Aro,” Rose mumbled, almost absent-mindedly.
“He was humiliated by my father,” Bella wheezed. “He wanted my dad to pay, just like Aro. Little did he know that choice would be his undoing.” She shifted and grimaced. Her vitals were erratic, and she whimpered.
“What is it, Bella?” Edward asked.
“I can’t catch my breath,” she rasped.
As she said that, a nurse and a doctor came racing in. They pushed Edward, Rose, and Esme out of the room and closed the curtains. Edward listened as the doctor ordered a chest x-ray, and a repeat blood-gas. The tests confirmed that one of the broken ribs had caused damage to her lungs, puncturing it. She needed a chest tube to relieve the pressure. He tried to go back into the room but was stopped by Rose. “Let the doctors take care of her, Cullen,” she ordered quietly.
Esme scurried off to tell Renee about what was happening to Bella, and they returned a few moments later since Charlie was in a CAT scan to see if he’d had any more injuries other than the dislocated shoulder. The level of pain that he was in indicated there was more going on with his injury.
While the doctor handled Bella’s care, Edward was checked out. He had some minor smoke inhalation and was given a nebulizer to clear up the gunk in his lungs. He could breathe easier with the first hit of the treatment. He was nearly done with the nebulizer when the doctors opened the curtains to Bella’s room. She was sedated again. Her clothes had been removed and she was in a hospital gown. There was a tube coming from underneath her covers. She was not intubated, but still had a mask covering her face.
The doctor explained to Renee that Bella did have a punctured lung. It had been aggravated when she was transported from the ambulance into the hospital. The injury was already precarious and being jostled from the movement of the gurney, plus being shifted to the hospital bed, forced the bone to puncture her lung. Because of that, they put in a chest tube since she’d been bleeding internally while they waited for a doctor to check on them. After the chest tube had been placed, her vitals improved significantly but she’d have to stay in the hospital for observation for a couple of days to regulate her pain and injuries.
“But, she will be okay, right?” Renee asked fretfully, worrying her fingers.
“She’ll make a full recovery,” the doctor nodded. “She might need some assistance with moving around and taking care of herself until her body recovers.”
“I can do that,” Edward chimed in, stepping forward. He couldn’t not be near her. That monster almost took her away from him. He was going to help her as she recovered, every step of the way.
“Edward, you need to worry about yourself,” Esme chided, rubbing her son’s arm.
“I’m fine. Bella’s not. I’m helping her,” he shot back, almost harshly, arching a brow at his mother. “I have to do this, Mom.”
Esme looked up at her son and saw the longing in his eyes, the concern. He would not back down. Even if he was on his deathbed, he’d want to be there for Bella. “Okay, son. I can see that you’re not going to back down and I don’t blame you.”
“Thank you, Edward,” Renee said, hugging him tenderly, rubbing his muscular back. She reveled in his warmth because she was chilled from being inside the hospital. She’d been taken out of her smoky clothes and was wearing a thin set of scrubs. Turning back to the doctor, she gave him an arched look, “You can share information about my daughter with her fiancé. He can make decisions for her since I’m … being pulled in so many directions.”
“Of course, Mrs. Swan. You do need to get better, as well,” the doctor said. “Let me take you back to the trauma room. I believe your husband is back from CT.” He nodded to the nurse who walked Renee out of the room. Looking at Edward and the rest of the people in Bella’s room, the doctor continued, “We’re arranging for a room for Dr. Swan.”
“She was a victim of an awful crime,” Carlisle said, his voice filled with authority – the authority of the mayor. He looked powerful. It was rare that he wielded his mayoral authority outside of the office, but the oversight of the staff with Bella’s punctured lung was too much. This woman would soon be his daughter-in-law and that mistake would not do. “I hope that she will not slip through the cracks. Please ensure her comfort.”
“Of course, Mr. Cullen, um, Mr. Mayor,” the doctor stammered. “Let me go check on those accommodations.” He turned, leaving them, and scurrying to the nurse’s station.
“Way to go, Carlisle,” Rose smiled. “I can probably bet that Bella’s going to get the VIP treatment, with a private room and gold-plated toilets, now that you’ve gone all mayoral on his ass.”
“Nothing but the best for the woman who saved my wife and who loves my son,” Carlisle said, his cheeks warming. “Do you need anything, Edward? I’m assuming you’re going to stay here with Bella.”
“Some clothes that don’t reek of smoke and chemicals,” Edward answered, plucking at his polo shirt.
“We’ll head home and pick up an overnight bag,” Esme said. “We also have keys to the Swan’s house. I can pick up something for Renee and Charlie, too.” She hugged her son, kissing his sooty cheek. Carlisle squeezed Edward’s shoulder, leaving the hospital emergency department.
Edward reached into his pocket and pressed his keys into Rose’s palm. “Can you pick up some things for Bella? I have keys to her condo. I don’t want to leave her … Also, drop off my car? It’s at the station.”
“I’ll get your brother to help me,” Rose said, hugging Edward. “The cops may have questions.”
“They can find me here,” Edward said. He sat down wearily, picking up Bella’s hand. “The nightmare is finally over, but not … At least, we can move forward, make plans.”
“I can’t even imagine,” Rose murmured, kissing his cheek. “I’ll probably drop off the car and stuff for Bella tomorrow. I need to give my statement and begin a preliminary report for the police.”
“I thought another arson investigation team was going to finish this,” Edward said.
“They are. You were a victim of that fire. However, since we connected the dots, the team needs our information to put together in that final report,” Rose explained. “The police want our notes about the fires Aro started prior to today, along with information about his own injuries. It’s all in the archives. We did the work and research on that, and we know the intricacies of the cases. I’ll handle that. You need to get some rest, Edward.”
“Once we’re settled in the room and I’m out of these clothes,” he snickered humorlessly. “The smell of fire and smoke is making me nauseous.” His eyes deadened as he looked back at Bella. His heart stammered against his ribs, beating erratically at the thought that he almost lost Bella because of Aro and his insane need for vengeance.
“She’s going to be okay, Edward,” Rose murmured. “It could have been so much worse. You could have been too late …”
“Don’t remind me,” Edward whispered.
Rose hovered by the door, concerned for her friend and partner – the best partner she’d ever had during her tenure as a fire investigator. She knew that this situation had rocked him to the core, and it would be some time, if ever, before he’d returned to work. With a heavy sigh, she left the emergency department.
Everything had changed and only time will tell if those changes would be for the better.
A couple of days later, Bella was waiting to be discharged from the hospital. Her arm was encased in plaster thanks to the fracture in her wrist. The chest tube had been removed and stitched closed. She was not happy at that turn of events since she knew what was wrong, but could not do anything about it since she was so out of it. The chest tube could have been avoided and Bella spoke to the chief of staff about her emergency room physician’s negligence.
Normally, such a comment would be investigated, but not really addressed. The ER in a major city center was busy, but since Bella was a world-renowned physician, famous for her work in cancer research and oncology, discovering and implementing many cutting-edge cancer treatments, her complaint was taken quite seriously. Women flocked from across the country to see her because of her notoriety in the medical community, for Dr. Isabella Swan to provide their care. Suffice it to say, the doctor and nurse were put on probation for their lack of care. Additionally, Bella would not have to pay for her treatment as the hospital would cover her entire stay, along with any subsequent visits because of what had happened.
Bella’s recovery would take a couple of months, at the very least. She would have to complete respiratory therapy for her lung injuries from the smoke inhalation and there was a possibility that she would have to have surgery on her wrist. The x-ray indicated that it was a clean break, but an orthopedic surgeon, specializing in hand surgery, did note some concerning markers on her films.
Charlie, however, would have a longer recovery. His shoulder was completely dislocated, torn out of the socket and many muscles were shredded when Charlie held onto Aro before he plummeted to his death. He already had one surgery to put the shoulder back into place. He’d have to have at least two more surgeries to deal with the muscular and nerve damage. More than likely, Charlie’s career in the fire department would be over. He was close to retiring, but he’d hoped to have at least a couple more years. He wanted to go out on his terms.
Not on the terms of a psychotic madman who was hell-bent on killing his family.
Fate, however, had other plans in mind.
“Are you ready to blow this pop stand?” Edward asked, walking in a pair of jeans and button-down. He’d been staying at the hospital, sleeping in the recliner next to Bella’s bed. He used the doctor’s locker room to shower and change, not wanting to be too far away from her.
He’d been Bella’s rock while she was in the hospital. He was there for her when she woke up in the midst of horrific nightmares where she didn’t survive the ordeal or if Peter had gone through with his threat taking her choice away. He held her while she cried out in pain from her broken ribs. He calmed her down when she struggled to catch her breath.
His patience was endless.
Bella loved him all the more because of it.
“I’m ready to shower,” Bella said. “I feel so grimy.”
“When we get back to your condo, you’ll get a nice shower,” Edward grinned.
“I’m assuming I can’t shower by myself,” Bella frowned, pouting adorably.
“You’ve got a broken arm and you’re recovering from a punctured lung,” Edward snickered. “Prepared to be pampered, princess.”
“I hate this,” she grumped, shifting her arm in the sling. “I want to snap my fingers and be back to normal. You know? No plaster. No respiratory therapy. Just normal.” No nightmares, too. Those are worse than the physical injuries.
“At least with the respiratory therapy, you won’t be alone,” Edward shrugged. “I didn’t take in a ton of smoke, but I have to meet certain expectations before I get cleared to go back to work.”
“Do you still want to work as a firefighter? Or an arson investigator?” Bella asked.
“I don’t know, Bella,” he answered honestly. “After seeing what Aro did and what he was capable of, it shook me to the core. I loved my job. I loved being able to solve a mystery, but this whole situation with Aro has left a bitter taste in my mouth. But, it’s all too close right now for me to make any sort of decisions. The department brass is giving me time to explore my options.”
Bella opened her mouth to say something but didn’t get a chance. Victoria ambled in, holding a folder. “What are you doing here?” Bella asked, gaping at her boss.
“I was doing a consultation and I wanted to check on you,” Victoria said. “You eager to get out of here?”
“I’m eager to leave and to get back to work,” Bella smirked. “Can you make that happen?”
“Hmmm, that’s what this is for. Leaving? You’re all good. Back to work?” Victoria replied, handing Edward the folder. “Bella, I love you and I know you’re a workaholic. You have, however, experienced a traumatic situation and need time to heal, physically and emotionally. I’m telling you as your boss and as your friend, take some time.”
“I can still work,” Bella argued.
“You are off until, at least, the cast comes off, Dr. Swan,” Victoria said.
“I have patients with treatments, clinical trials, dictations,” Bella grumped. “I don’t want my patients to think I abandoned them.”
“You keep meticulous notes, Bella. I’m taking some of your patients and my oncology fellow will be overseeing the people who are undergoing chemo and need tests. She’s an amazing diagnostician. Not as good as you, but pretty damn close,” Victoria said. “Bella, since you’ve begun your career, you have never taken any time off. The longest break you took was when your sister died. Even that was short – an extended weekend, if that!”
“She’s got a point, Bella,” Edward said, sitting down next to her and twining his fingers with hers. “I know you want to jump back into work, but be a little selfish. Focus on you, your physical healing, and mental and emotional recovery.”
“I’m not going to win, am I?” Bella asked, her lips pulled down into a deep frown.
“Nope,” Victoria replied.
“Fine. I’m off on the worst vacation of my life,” Bella huffed. She hated the fact she was off due to injury instead of enjoyment. Damn, it would be wonderful to lie on a beach, with Edward by her side sipping on cocktails. At the mere thought, her heart skipped a beat, thinking of Edward shirtless, wearing a pair of swimming trunks, showing off his lean, muscular legs, and sexy-as-fuck feet.
Focus, Swan. It’s been a long time, but you are still recovering, and your entire body is sore as fuck. No sexy times with Edward until there’s no more pain when you breathe.
Edward stepped closer and placed his arm carefully around her waist. “I promise we will make the best of the time off together.”
Bella turned and looked into his sparkling green eyes. How had she gotten so lucky to have a man like this love her as much as he did? At that moment, she knew she needed to stop feeling sorry for herself and concentrate on getting better. The future with Edward was what she needed to focus on because she knew that she would never love anyone else as much as she loved him. “I looked forward to every moment.”
With a crooked grin, he dipped his head and brushed his lips over hers. Victoria made a gagging noise before scurrying away to continue her consultations.
The storm abated. Calm sailing and smooth seas were on the horizon … until an orderly showed up with the wheelchair. “I don’t need a damn wheelchair,” Bella gritted through her teeth, glowering at the chair like it was a poisonous snake.
“Miss Swan, it’s hospital policy,” the young orderly advised.
“It’s Doctor Swan, and I don’t give a damn about hospital policy. I have two good legs, and I’m walking out of here.”
“Bella, get in the chair,” Edward whispered into her ear. “This isn’t worth the fight, my love.” A tender kiss behind her ear, just above her pulse point.
She melted, thanks to Edward’s sexy manipulation. With a huff, she begrudgingly sat down in the wheelchair and allowed the young orderly to push her through the hospital and out the front door where a black Town Car was waiting. “What is this?” she asked.
“Dad wanted you to be comfortable when you left the hospital,” Edward explained.
Bella shook her head, knowing exactly where Edward got his chivalrous ways. “That was very kind of him.”
Edward helped her from the wheelchair and into the back of the car. She was clearly in pain, panting through it when Edward sat down next to her. The drive to her condo was quiet, neither one of them speaking much. The stress of the last few days weighed heavily on their minds. Bella had survived a situation that could have gone tragically different if the fire had reached chemicals before Edward had gotten to her. They made it out alive and everyone would make a full physical recovery.
Mentally, their recoveries were a different story.
Bella was afraid to fall asleep. Nightmares plagued her each night of that fire, of how close she came to losing everything. Instead of them making out alive, she dreamed that everyone she loved died in the fire, leaving her all alone. She hated feeling so helpless.
Once they arrived at Bella’s condo, Edward helped her out of the car and up to her home. She was moving slowly. It was evident her lungs were still healing. Walking with her to the bedroom, Edward placed their overnight bags on the floor.
“Would you like to rest first, or get a shower?” Edward asked.
“Shower,” she replied as she shuffled back to her bathroom.
Edward reached into his bag and took out the plastic bags that he had been given at the hospital to cover her cast so it wouldn’t get wet while showering. When he got into the bathroom, he found her sitting on the bench trying to remove her shirt. She was struggling and pain was etched onto her face. “Let me help you with that,” Edward said.
Bella hated that she was too weak to get undressed. Looking up at Edward, she saw his eyes swirling with concern and the unadulterated look of pure love. She held up her arms as much as she could without screaming out in pain, allowing Edward to grasp the edge of her shirt, pulling it carefully up her arms and over her head. He continued to help her remove each item of clothing, never taking his eyes off her. When she was naked, he placed the plastic bag over her hand and secured it so that no water could get inside.
“Can you bathe yourself, or would you like me to help?” Edward asked, not wanting to overstep.
Bella looked at the shower and then at her plastic-covered arm. She knew that she could figure out a way to bathe, though it would take longer, and she didn’t think she had the strength. “I would love the help.”
Placing a kiss to the top of her head, Edward turned the water on in her shower, removing his clothes. Once he was naked, he helped Bella to her feet and into the shower. He loved that she had jets that hit from three sides, as well as the rain shower head. “Why don’t you take a seat on the bench and let me wash you, hmmm? Let me take care of you, Bella.”
Take extra care to make sure he didn’t injure her anymore, Edward washed her lovingly. Once he was done, he picked her up and placed her on the counter, where he took one of the towels from the warming rack, wrapping it around her. Carefully, he dried every inch of her delicious body. Though, she still had bruises covering her alabaster skin. They were turning color, healing slowly, but they still marred her body. Wrapping a towel around his waist, he picked her up and carried her to the bed. She changed into some loose, comfy clothes while Edward dried off in her bathroom. She snuggled onto the bed. He placed a sweet kiss on her lips before turning to get her medicine. Getting both her pain pills and antibiotics, he walked back and put them in her hand.
“I hate taking these damn pills,” Bella grumbled, placing them in her mouth and taking the bottle of water from Edward.
“I know you do. But, it’s only temporary, love. Lay back and take a little nap.”
“Will you lay with me?” Bella asked, panic swelling in her chest, not wanting to be alone while she slept, terrified that the nightmares would return.
“Of course,” he answered, walking around the bed, and climbing in. Moving closer to Bella, he cuddled closely, careful not to hit her arm or her side. Minutes later, they were both asleep, both deep in peaceful dreams of a beautiful day surrounded by flowers.
A couple days after Bella was released from the hospital, she received a call from a couple of detectives. They needed to wrap up the case. Of course, they had a few questions and could only get them from Bella and her mother, who had been held captive by Aro Volturi.
Bella was an anxious mess. She still relived the fire in her nightmares. Every night, she was caught in that fiery hell, but unable to escape. The only thing that soothed her was being safe and secure in Edward’s arms. He’d been a constant at her condo, holding her while she thrashed about, lost in her terrible dreams. It drove her into madness that she couldn’t move past what happened to her. Her mind attacked her relentlessly when she drifted off and her body bore the brunt of her pain. She hated Aro Volturi and what he did. He’d taken away some of the semblance of peace in her mind.
He also helped her when she couldn’t do things for herself, thanks to her broken arm and still recovering lungs. There were so many things that she simply could not do. It frustrated her to no end.
“Are you ready, love?” Edward asked. He was in a pair of jeans and a sweater.
“Yeah,” she nodded. “I want to close the chapter to this part of my life.”
“I think we both do,” he smiled, holding out his hand to her. She slid her good hand into his. Together, they rode down to the garage in the elevator. Edward unlocked Bella’s car and helped her into the passenger seat. Jogging around to the driver’s side, he turned over her car and backed out of her spot. The drive to the police district was quiet. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Bella worrying her lip. “Hey, it’s going to be okay. Aro is not going to pop up from Hell and torment us anymore.”
“I know that,” she said. “I just … what if … UGH! I hate feeling so disconnected from everything.” She drew up her legs, curling up in the front seat. “Is he really dead?”
“He fell ten stories, Bella. No one could have survived that. Especially not Aro,” Edward said. “He was so fragile.”
Bella nodded absently, looking out the window and taking a few breaths as they drove to the police department. They arrived a few moments later, parking in a visitor’s spot. Walking into the lobby, Edward spoke to the desk sergeant and told her that they were there to speak to Detectives Clearwater and Black.
Detective Jacob Black met them and guided them into a conference room. “Can I get you something? Some water? A coffee?”
“Water would be great,” Bella said.
“Me, too,” Edward grinned, taking Bella’s hand.
Detective Black nodded and ducked out of the conference room. He went to the small kitchenette, swiping two bottles of water for Edward and Bella. Detective Leah Clearwater walked past the kitchenette to the conference room. Detective Black followed her, sitting next to his partner. He handed the bottles to Edward and Bella. “Thank you for coming in,” Jacob said. “How are you both doing?”
“Okay,” Bella answered. “Sore, but every day, I’m feeling better.”
“That’s good to hear,” Leah responded. “Now, I know that you’re probably eager to move on with your life. This will be relatively quick. We just have a few questions for both of you.”
“I get that you have questions, but Aro’s dead,” Bella said sharply. “Why? Why do you need to speak with me?”
“We have a pretty clear picture of what happened, but we need to fill in a few holes before we can call this case officially closed,” Leah explained.
“So, Aro is really dead, right?” Bella asked.
“Nearly every bone in his body was broken from his fall,” Jacob said. “He’s gone. He can’t hurt you anymore. He can’t hurt your family anymore.”
“Good,” Bella nodded.
“What do you need from us?” Edward asked. “I know you’ve spoken to Charlie and Renee.”
“Renee was a little confused as to what happened before Edward and Charlie arrived,” Leah said, looking at her notes.
“My mom, I love her, but she doesn’t handle stress well. It would make sense that my mom was confused,” Bella sighed, shaking her head. “What do you need to know?”
“How did you get to the apartment?” Leah asked.
“My mom got a phone call from a client, and he asked to meet us at the apartment. She’d been hired to do the work, setting up the condo for the new owner. We arrived at The Stockyards and my mom was giving me a tour since the apartment was empty when we’d arrived,” Bella said. “Shortly after that, the door slammed shut and Aro trapped us inside.”
“Was he working alone?” Jake asked.
“No,” Bella said, shaking her head. “He had a partner. The man, Peter, used to work for the fire department and he was very publicly fired. Peter set up all the chemicals. He … he threatened to r-r-rape me and Aro lost it. He shot Peter.”
“Aro’s mother was raped, and it led to her alcoholism. She couldn’t handle it and she self-medicated. Ultimately, her alcoholism led to her demise,” Leah said, frowning. “Aro may have been a monster, but he had some twisted sense of honor.”
“He was just twisted,” Edward grumbled. “He totally lost it. He was talking to a ghost.”
“Yeah, he kept saying that he was doing it for Marcus,” Bella murmured. “Is that his brother?”
“His brother died in a fire that started this whole mess,” Edward explained. “Aro believed that Charlie deliberately killed him.”
“My dad would never do that,” Bella breathed.
“We know that and according to the reports we received from arson investigation services indicated that Marcus was trapped and died in his sleep. That fire was just a fluke accident,” Leah said. “You’re right in the assumption that Aro is twisted.” She read a statement and blinked up at Bella. “Did you lose consciousness or anything?”
“I blacked out for a few moments after Aro beat the shit out of me, breaking my ribs and wrist, but I managed to stay awake after that. I only crashed when I got to the hospital,” Bella said. “But, that was due in part to a rib deflating my lung and the incompetence of the emergency department staff. That’s a whole other can of worms, to be honest.”
“Do you need anything else?” Edward asked.
“No. We’ve got everything,” Jake replied.
“What will happen now?” Bella asked. “Is my father going to be charged?”
“No, Dr. Swan. He was trying to save Aro and Aro chose to end his life,” Leah replied, giving Bella a soft smile. “Pardon my language, but Aro was fucked up. He had a first-class ticket on the crazy train.”
“That train took him directly to hell,” Bella snorted humorlessly. She picked up her water and she struggled to open the bottle. Edward did it for her and she took a sip. Her eyes closed. A tear fell down her cheek. “Edward?”
“Can we go?” Edward asked.
“Of course,” Jake answered.
“I mean this in the nicest way possible, but I hope I never have to see you again,” Bella quipped.
“We get it,” Leah snickered. “Best of luck in the future.”
They shook hands and they left the police department. Bella was exhausted, slumping in the front seat. Edward drove them back to the condo. By the time he parked the car, Bella was down for the count. He brushed her hair back, reveling in her beauty and her strength. He got up, picking her up and carrying her up to her condo. She barely moved. She just snuggled closer to his warmth.
Once inside, he tucked Bella into bed and went to make some dinner for them. As he was chopping some peppers for fajitas, his cell phone rang. He saw his parents’ landline dance across his phone screen. He pressed the speaker phone icon so he could still chop while he talked to whomever was on the phone, “Hello?”
“The prodigal son responds,” his mother laughed.
“Funny, Mom,” he deadpanned. “What’s up?”
“You haven’t been home, and I miss you,” she said. “Your father has some event tonight. I’m not going. I want to see you.”
“Mom, today, Bella and I went to the police to give our statements,” he breathed. “I really don’t think … I don’t want to leave her.”
“Go, Edward,” Bella urged, yawning as she sat down at the counter. “I’m fine.”
“Bella,” Edward argued. “I …”
“Look, I talked to Alice and Rose. They’re eager to have a girl’s night. It’s been a while and I think I need to have some girly pampering with them,” Bella replied. “I’ll send him home to you, Esme.”
“Soon, Mom, I’m going to leave the nest,” Edward quipped, pulling Bella into his arms. “I’m thirty-five, almost thirty-six. It’s about time I got my own place.”
“I know, I know,” Esme snickered. “For now, I just want to spend some time with my son. When can I expect you?”
“He’ll be over in a half hour,” Bella smiled.
“Excellent,” Esme sang. “I hope you’re feeling better, Bella.”
“I’m eager to be freed of the plaster, but I am doing better,” Bella said. “Perhaps we can get together for coffee …”
“I look forward to that,” Esme breathed. “See you soon, Edward. Love you both!”
The call ended and Edward frowned. “I can stay,” he whispered.
“You can, but your mom misses you,” Bella said. “Besides, Alice and Rose are coming over.”
“Are they?” he pressed.
“Not yet, but they will be,” Bella grinned, sidling into Edward’s arms. “Look, you’ve been by my side since all this happened. Your parents also had a scare. Go to your mom. Let her love up on you. Besides, absence makes the heart grow fonder, hmmm?”
“I don’t like this,” he muttered, cupping her face, and kissing her lips. He pressed his forehead to hers. “But, you’re right. I’ll be back tonight.”
“No, stay with her,” Bella urged.
“I’ll be fine,” she smiled.
“Okay,” Edward sighed. “Let me, at least, put the chicken fajitas into the marinade and we’ll have them tomorrow.”
“Sounds perfect,” Bella said. “Edward … I don’t know how I’d handle this without you. I love you so much.”
“I love you more, Bella,” he replied, gathering her in his arms and kissing her deeply.
They worked together and their meal was put into the fridge. Edward picked up his bag from the bedroom, not wanting to go, but obliging Bella’s request and his mother’s plea to spend some time with his family.
He walked back to the living room. Bella was on the phone, chattering with Rosalie. She ended the call. “You’ll be back tomorrow?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he nodded. “Call me if you need me, love.”
“I will,” she said. “Give Esme a hug and a kiss, okay?”
He kissed her gently and walked to the door. When he opened it, he saw Alice standing outside, holding some bags of Chinese food. “You got here fast,” he laughed.
“I needed to be here for my girl,” Alice chirped. “Rose is bringing the booze.”
“I can’t drink with the pain killers, Alice,” Bella snickered. “But, I’ll watch you.” She blinked at Edward. “See? I’m in good hands.”
“Riiiight,” Edward snorted.
“Be safe, Edward,” Bella said.
“Always,” he said, turning on his heel and riding down to the parking garage. As he backed out his car, he felt a twist in his heart. It didn’t seem right to leave. He didn’t want to leave.
What if something happened?
A/N: We’re close to the end. We have one more chapter and the epilogue. Thank you for sticking with us, through RL and delays. The story should be done by August 25th … I cannot believe that it’s so close to the end.
Anyhow, the pictures from this chapter are on our blogs. You can access mine through a link in my profile. Clo’s blog is linked in the updates we post in FB: Tufano79’s Twilight Fanfiction Appreciation and HeartForTwilight Productions and HeartForTwilight Book Club. We’re also on twitter, too: tufano79 and HeartForTwiligh.
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Tufano79 and HeartForTwilight