Fire of Your Soul ~ Chapter Twelve

Thank you, again, for sticking with us and for leaving a review, if you did. We appreciate you sharing our love of Twilight. Unfortunately, this is not ours. We just like to play with the characters created by Stephenie Meyer.

Up next, we’ll hear a bit from Bella and move forward in time. What will be her decision? We’re also going to find out a bit more about the firebug wreaking havoc in Seattle. What is the connection?

Chapter Twelve

  She took his hands and cupped his cheek. His face blurred as more tears fell onto her cheeks. Leaning forward, she kissed him and reveled in the softness of his lips. Pulling back, she stood up on shaky limbs. Edward did the same, his heart shattering. “I know what you told me tonight was tough to say. It was beyond difficult to hear. I need time, Edward. Time to process what you told me.”

“I understand,” he said. “Do you want me to take you home?”

Bella nodded. They walked back to Edward’s Bronco. The ride back to her home was tense and silent. The only comfort that Edward held onto was that Bella’s fingers were threaded with his. Once he pulled up to the condo, he parked the car. “Do you want me to walk you up?” he asked.

“Not tonight,” she replied, her voice cracking. “I need time, space to think about what you told me.” Bella opened the door and walked on unsteady legs into her building.

“I love you …” Edward muttered in his empty car. “I’ll always love you.”

Woodenly, Bella walked into her complex. She barely acknowledged the security guard, waving her hand weakly. Her mind was repeating Edward’s confession, over and over again. The nightmare of losing her sister was replaying in her memory and the man that she’d finally let into her heart was the person responsible for her death. Unlocking the door, she pushed inside and walked directly to the refrigerator. Grabbing a bottle of wine, she uncorked it and drank it directly from the bottle.

Numb. I need to be numb, she thought to herself desperately.

Before she got too drunk, she sent a text to Victoria and Maggie, saying she needed to take a sick day. Thankfully, tomorrow was Friday. She was not on call over the weekend. She needed this time to just crumble. She so rarely took days off, but the bomb that Edward dropped definitely necessitated time away from her job. Bella needed to process this.

Bella turned off her phone, tossing it into a drawer. Swiping her bottle and a blanket from the couch, she walked outside and lit the fire pit. She kicked off her shoes, curling up on the outdoor chaise and drank herself into a stupor.

No, not stupor … back into numb. I needed to be numb. No more feelings. No more pain. No more loneliness.

“Angela, I miss you,” she whispered, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Why did you have to go away?”

She stayed outside, drinking the entire bottle of wine. She stared, unseeing, into the flames dancing in the fire pit. When a storm came rolling in, Bella tightened the blanket around her shoulders but didn’t move. The cold rain helped. It rebuilt the walls around her heart, reinforcing her anguish. The freezing water helped her fall deeper into the numbness, the emptiness.  The rain camouflaged her tears. The thunder drowned out her sobs and when the rain stopped, it helped dull her agony of losing her sister, a raw open wound that had been torn to shreds with Edward’s confession. Bella was exhausted from her emotional loss of control.

Understandably, so.

Dragging her wet and weary body into her condo, she blindly walked to the bathroom. She stripped out of her ruined clothing. Stepping into the shower, she warmed her body up, but her heart was frozen. Her lips were blue from being outside in the freezing rain for hours. After blow-drying her hair, Bella stumbled into the guest bedroom. She couldn’t sleep in her bed.

Not there.

She’d given her body, her soul to Edward in that room and just being in there cracked the fragile walls rebuilding around her heart. Curling up underneath the duvet cover, she cried herself to sleep.

Her sleep, however, was not restful. Nightmares assaulted her mind. Nightmares of her sister falling to her death, being burnt alive. However, in these dreams, Edward was standing off to the side allowing her to fall, even though she cried out for him to save her. Staring at her impassively, not caring if she’d fallen or not.

Her worst nightmare.

~o~o~o~o~

Early the next morning, Edward walked in like a zombie into the coffee shop. He had tossed and turned the previous night, battling nightmares of that night. Instead of losing Angela, he’d lost Bella. It was Bella who had fallen to her death, screaming for him. Her last words from her bloody lips were that she loved him. When Edward woke up, his heart shattered at the cruel way his subconscious was torturing him.

He’d given up on sleep after that. So, he went for a run and got ready for work. He’d hoped, in his heart of hearts, that Bella was sitting in their booth.  The reality was that there was an older gentleman sitting there, working a crossword puzzle and eating a blueberry scone.

With a sigh, Edward walked to the register and ordered his coffee, to go. Paying for his beverage, he looked longingly at the booth before driving to the firehouse. He might as well fall into old patterns … working to dull the pain.

Unfortunately, his plan wasn’t working.

Each morning, Edward went to the coffee shop in hopes of seeing Bella. He was disappointed each time. So, he dove head-long into investigating suspected arson fires. He was working on the more active cases, but Rose was focused on a string of older cases. She believed they were all connected.

A week after Edward had dropped Bella off at her condo, he walked into the lab. He dropped off a cup of coffee to Rose. “Thanks, Edward,” she said, taking a sip of the hot beverage. She looked up at him, frowning deeply.  “You look like shit. Bella still hasn’t called you?”

“Thanks, Rose,” he deadpanned, scowling at her. “I really don’t need the commentary on how shitty I look. I do see myself in the mirror each morning.”

“She still hasn’t called you?” Rose repeated, staring directly at him with a quirked brow.

“Nope,” he grumbled.

“Do you blame her?” she asked, wrinkling her nose.

“Not really. I just hoped that she’d … I don’t know …” he shrugged, giving up on ever hearing from Bella again. With a sigh, he redirected the conversation away from his relationship woes. “What are you working on? Those same cases?”

“Actually, now I’m looking at some current cases, too. You remember the rug store? Rudy’s? The barber shop?” she said, pulling out the files. “Both of these cases have some similarities with each other and with another case that happened about five years ago.”

“What’s that?” Edward asked. “What are the similarities?”

“Well, when we arrived, it appeared that the fires were accidental, but upon further investigation, they weren’t,” Rose explained, pulling up a file on her computer. “The first clue is this.”

“The fire patterns on the floor,” he muttered.

“Then, there’s this,” she said. “They both have deliberate electrical wiring issues. Their inspections, however, were clean and up to code. The inspections were recent, within a couple of days of the fires. These fires were set deliberately.”

“Yeah, we determined this, Rose,” Edward said. “Did you ever figure out the accelerant?”

“Still trying to determine that,” she answered. “Whatever it was in all of the locations. The flame patterns are almost identical.”

“You said you also found proof that there was another fire with the same signature?” Edward asked.

“I found an older case with the same clues,” she breathed, digging into a box. She tugged out a thick file and dragged her partner next to her. “An old apartment fire, off Boysenberry. It was near Benaroya Hall.”

“Fuck,” Edward spat, scrubbing his face.

“What?” Rose asked.

“I worked that fire, Rose,” he said, his vision narrowing. “It was the fire that …”

“Oh, shit,” she whispered. “I’m sorry. I’m such an insensitive bitch.”

“No, you were looking for similarities to the previous fires,” he whispered. “How did you link this together?”

“I did a search on the computer,” she answered. “It’s all exactly the same, Edward. The ‘accidental’ spark to begin the fires, with the use of an accelerant to fan the flames, recent clean inspections with obvious tampering of electrical wiring.”

Edward sat down, reading Rose’s findings. She was meticulous in her research, discovering the connections among all of the fires she’d linked together. “I want to look into this further, Rose. Do you mind if I take over your investigation?”

“Actually, I would love another set of eyes to look this over. I’ve read the reports so many times that the words are blurring together,” she breathed. “I’ll take over your cases if you could find more connections with these three.”

“I think that we need to bring these to Charlie,” Edward said.

“Not yet,” Rose disagreed. “I want you to find the connections and type up a separate report.”

“Okay, I got it,” he nodded.

Rose smiled, rubbing Edward’s back as she took over his station. Edward began his own research by reading the report about the worst day in his career as a firefighter.

Nothing like rubbing salt in an already festering, rotting wound.

~o~o~o~o~

Like Edward, Bella was a zombie. She was focused on her patients, solving their problems and ignoring her own. Her cell phone was only on while she was at work. She ignored phone calls from Alice, Rose, and her parents.

She needed space. Didn’t they understand that?

When she wasn’t at work, she was drinking herself stupid and falling into an alcoholic-induced coma every night. Her nightmares were hellish, awful. Edward’s admission had reopened the pain of losing her sister all over again.

“Knock, knock.”

Bella looked up and saw Victoria standing at her office door. “Hello, Victoria. I haven’t seen you in forever,” she said, smiling. But, it was a fake smile. Inside, Bella was empty, hollow.

“I wanted to check in on you,” she replied, walking into Bella’s office and closing her door. She sat down, crossing her legs and looking at the younger woman. “You never have taken any time off and when you called in sick last week, I was surprised, to be honest. Then, this week, you’re spending every waking hour here at work. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Bella answered airily, waving her hand. “I just wanted to submit some paperwork for that clinical trial. They needed a progress report on the status of the drug’s performance. Plus, I had to catch up on my charts.”

“Bella, I’m not talking to you as your boss, but as your friend,” Victoria said calmly. “You’re here, first thing in the morning, maintaining your office hours, then spending countless hours in the lab and you leave well after midnight.”

“It’s not a crime to work too hard,” Bella snapped. “I have several patients that are hoping for a miracle. I want to give that to them.”

“At the risk of your own health? Career? Bella, you’re burning your candle at both ends and in the middle,” Victoria chided gently. “I’d figured you’d want to be with your boyfriend.”

“What?” Bella whispered.

“You think I don’t read the papers? This picture posted from the benefit with you on the arm of the mayor’s middle son is beautiful,” Victoria smirked, sliding her cell phone across Bella’s desk. “He’s probably the most handsome of the Cullen sons. You make a striking couple.”

Bella looked at the photo on Victoria’s phone. Edward was looking down at her, his gaze soft. His arm was around her waist protectively. Bella caressed Edward’s face on the screen of the phone as memories of that night flooded her brain. The way he looked at her lovingly when they’d made love for the first time. After they’d shared that moment, the gentle way he took care of her afterward and how he curled around her, needing to be as close to her as possible.

Shaking her head, she handed Victoria back her phone. “We did make a striking couple, but something happened. It’s all moot.”

“Well, since I canceled all your appointments for the rest of the day, you’ve got the time to tell me,” Victoria retorted.

“I had a full schedule, Victoria,” Bella argued. “Follow-ups, initial consultations, and …”

“The appointments are being rescheduled with your partner,” Victoria explained. “She’s just as capable as you.”

“No, she’s not,” Bella grumbled.

“Maybe not, but the follow-up appointments are being handled by her. Maggie is rescheduling your consultations for next week. We’re going out to eat and you’re going to tell me why you’re not riding that baloney pony as often as you can,” Victoria grinned. “Grab your purse.”

“Where are we going?” Bella asked.

“White Swan Public House,” Victoria smirked. “Fitting, Dr. Swan? Hmmmm?”

“Very,” she deadpanned.

The restaurant was close by and they walked there. It was a sunny day, but chilly. After settling into the seats and ordering their early dinner, Victoria took a sip of her glass of whiskey. “You’ve been like a cast member of the Walking Dead. Talk to me, Dr. Swan.”

Bella blew out a breath. She told Victoria about her sister, her death and how Bella adjusted to it. More specifically, how she shut off her heart after Angela died. Her relationships were non-existent, except with her parents. Even, that was a struggle. “It’s hard to be home when you share a face with someone who died,” Bella said, her voice dark and angry. “Angela and I were so different. She was graceful, soft, elegant, silly, goofy. I was more analytical, brash, sarcastic, snarky and detached. She was a musician, artistic. I’m a doctor … more focused on facts than aesthetics. We were as different as night and day. I don’t know how to be soft. It’s not in my personality. I can solve problems, not be all touchy-feely.”

“Not with your patients,” Victoria argued. “You’re empathetic with them.”

“I’m very analytical with them,” Bella snorted. “How else do I get the results I do?”

“True,” Victoria said. “So, how does this hunk of Cullen deliciousness fall into what you’re dealing with?”

“He was there. That night,” Bella answered, swallowing the lump forming in her throat. “Edward was the firefighter who entered Angela’s apartment and he dropped her from the window to her death.”

Victoria arched a brow. “Really?

“Okay, he didn’t deliberately drop her. He said that there was some sort of explosion, and he lost his grip. She fell. However, he knew this. He’s known this since the moment I met him at the appointment with Esme. Again, I share a fucking face with Angela. Yes, we have differences … my hair is longer, curlier, but the face is exactly the same. It’s a little hard for him to not notice. He had so many opportunities to tell me about that night. Damn it, we had coffee almost every morning together and spent hours on the phone with each other. Why didn’t he tell me earlier?”

“Would you have even entertained the idea of having a relationship with him if you’d known?” Victoria asked.

“I don’t know,” Bella answered. However, in her mind, she thought that if she’d known, she would have walked away. Too much history. Too much pain. 

“In your eyes, is this tidbit of information unforgivable?” Victoria asked. “Do you have feelings for him?”

“That’s why I’m a fucking mess. On top of all of that, Edward told me he loved me,” she said. “Does he love me? Or does he love the ghost?”

“Oh, Bella, I doubt that he fell in love with a ghost. He met Angela for a moment. He’s known you for months. You are a snarky pain in my ass, but you are so amazing. What’s not to love?” Victoria said, taking Bella’s hand. “But, back to my original question. Is that information he shared with you unforgivable? Do you truly think that he deliberately hurt your sister? Deliberately hurt you?”

“I talked to my dad and he said that not even Superman could have kept a hold onto Angela that night,” Bella whispered. “I can’t blame him, blame Edward, but it was all so much. She’s still dead and I miss my sister, so much.”

“You’re not answering my question,” Victoria admonished. “You’re ghosting him because of your sister’s ghost. Is this information unforgivable?”

“I don’t know,” Bella snapped. “That’s why I’ve been diving into work.”

“Can I share with you what I think?” Victoria said. “Even if you don’t want to hear what I think, I’m telling you. Now, this is coming from a career-minded, slightly jaded doctor. I’m not a relationship expert. In fact, I was a lot like you when it came to relationships. I still am, to an extent.”

“Fucking around with interns, residents and nurses in on-call rooms, closets and cars?” Bella asked.

“A bit,” Victoria snickered. “But, I think you’ve developed real feelings for Edward. Feelings that you don’t understand because you’ve been so focused on ignoring emotions. Who was your person? The one person that you talked to the most when your sister was alive?”

“That’s easy. It was Angela,” Bella replied, remembering the many times that she had been her sounding board when she was down, or exhausted after thirty-six hours on shift. Angela had been the person who she’d called when she lost her first patient as an intern.

“Who was your person after she died?” Victoria pressed.

“I didn’t really have one. Not really,” Bella shrugged. “Maybe my mom.”

“Since you met Edward, did he become your person?” Victoria asked. “The one human you can talk to about anything? You have a great day and you want to call him up. You’re struggling with a case and he’s there, giving you support? Is he filling the role that Angela once had in your life?”

“Yeah, he was,” Bella murmured, with a tinge of apprehension in her voice.

“Bella, I get why you are so upset by Edward’s confession. But, you need to think about what you’re feeling now,” Victoria explained. “I think you feel the same way that he does, but you’re terrified that he’s going to leave you. That you’re going to lose him like you lost your sister. She was your person. Now, Edward is healing that hole in your heart.”

“What should I do?” Bella asked.

“That, my dear, goes beyond my relationship expertise,” she laughed. “For now, let’s gorge ourselves on some Dill Fries, Seafood Chowder and a whiskey flight. Perhaps, you can tell me if there are any single Cullen men?”

“Sorry to say they are all taken,” Bella giggled, thinking that Rose and Alice wouldn’t give up their Cullen men.

Then, she thought about giving up Edward, allowing another woman to take her place. She closed her eyes briefly as the thoughts of him with someone else caused her heart to race. Shaking away those unwanted thoughts, she picked up her glass and downed the glass whiskey. Victoria had given her something to think about.

~o~o~o~o~

Hours later, Bella was sleeping. Her nightmares began once again. It started out like all the others that she had had over the previous week. She could see Angela’s apartment building, with the sun setting behind it. The orange glow was so mesmerizing until she realized that it was not the sun but an out-of-control fire. The flames were climbing up the walls, like arms reaching out to capture the inhabitants.

Suddenly Bella saw Angela in her window, trying to get away from the deadly flames. Unlike her previous dreams where Angela fell to her death, the flames magically disappeared. The sun broke through the darkness. The light was so bright, she had to cover her eyes.

“It is really beautiful isn’t it?” a voice asked.

Bella turned towards the voice, trying to focus her eyes on who said it. The voice was so familiar. “Yes. Who’s there?”

“Your jeans sharer,” she giggled.

“Angela,” Bella cried, frantically looking around for her. The brightness faded and Angela stepped towards her, looking ethereal, beautiful and happy. “How is this possible?”

“I don’t know. You were always better at this science stuff,” Angela said with a shrug. “I’m the music geek. You’re the science nerd.”

Bella reached out to pull her sister into her arms, crying her name over and over again. Angela eagerly hugged her back. When Bella had calmed down, she looked into Angela’s eyes – the eyes that were exactly like hers – trying to make sense of all this. “This has nothing to do with science, Ang. How are you?”

“I am okay, but I would be better if my sister would stop being an ass,” Angela chided, giving Bella an exasperated look and a playful shove. “Really?”

“What?” Bella gasped.

“You heard me. You’re being an ass. Edward told you that he loves you and you acted like it meant nothing to you,” Angela growled.

“It meant something. However, he dropped you and didn’t tell me until my heart had opened up to him,” Bella explained, tears splashing down onto her cheeks.

“He didn’t drop me. There was an explosion and knocked me out of his hold. I could see the pain in his eyes as I fell. It was the last clear memory I had before I took my last breath, Bells.

“He was so damaged after the fire and it took you to bring him back to life. I’ve been watching over both of you since that night. Now, stop being an ass, go to him, kiss the shit out of him, and live happily ever after. My nieces and nephews are waiting,” Angela declared with a smile and a twinkle in her eyes.

“Nieces and nephews?” Bella questioned.

“Your biological clock, you dork,” Angela snorted. “I didn’t get to have kids. So, I want to spoil my nieces and nephews from heaven. Get cracking on making that happen, Bells. Chop, chop!”

“Who am I to deny you, Ang,” Bella sniffled, taking Angela’s face into her hands. “I wish …”

“Me, too, Bella. I love you, Bella and I always will,” Angela said. “I’m always watching over you. You deserve this happiness.”

“I love you too. I miss you so much,” Bella murmured, her eyes filling with tears, trying to hold onto her twin sister.

“I’ve got to go, but I’ll keep an eye on you,” Angela grinned, kissing Bella’s cheek and caressing her fingers down her hair. “Stop being an ass. You’ve already opened your heart. Now, fully let him in. Love him, Bella.”

“Don’t go! Not yet,” Bella cried, as Angela faded from sight.

~o~o~o~o~

Charlie read the information that Edward and Rosalie presented him about the recent string of arson fires. His heart stammered against his chest when he saw the connection between the apartment fire that stole one of his children away.

“You’re certain about your findings,” he asked, looking at the two smartest people in his department.

“We both looked over the results and came to the same conclusion, Charlie,” Rose explained. “We even had an independent investigator from Tacoma look it over and she agreed with our findings. The apartment fire, the rug shop and the barber shop were all set by the same person, or by the same means.”

“It was a trigger to look like wiring damage and this chemical compound that made the fire spread too quickly, causing so much damage,” Edward said, pointing to chemical findings in the report.

“I’ve been looking for this asshole for five years,” Charlie spat. “The fire at Angela’s apartment was ruled arson, but we didn’t have any indication who set it.”

“There’s another connection, Chief,” Rose muttered, looking at Edward.

“What’s that?” Charlie asked.

“You,” Edward answered. “All of these fires are somehow connected to you.” Charlie arched a brow. “Angela’s apartment, Ludwig’s Rug Shop …”

“You mentioned that Renee used their services for her interior decorating firm,” Rose explained. “Hell, I’ve got a rug that Renee suggested from there in my apartment. A beautiful piece for an amazing price, thanks to her connections to Ludwig’s.”

“That’s two connections. What’s the third?” Charlie asked, his face paling.

“The barber shop … it’s the place you go to get your haircut and a shave,” Edward said. “Your specific location that you frequent. We have to expand our investigation and get the police involved. Someone is targeting you, your family.” His own heart stammered, thinking of Bella. It had been well over a week since he told her that he loved her and she’d ghosted him. Those emotions didn’t change, though. He still loved her and he did drop the proverbial bomb on her head. Could she be a target as well?

“Chief?” Rose asked. “Did you hear what I asked?”

“What?” Charlie replied, stroking his mustache, a habit he did when he was deep in thought.

“Do you have any enemies? If you could make a list, we may have a starting point on who’s targeting you,” Rose said calmly.

As she said that, Edward’s phone vibrated in his pocket. He pulled it out, seeing a message from Bella. He let out a breath, grinning at seeing her number on his phone. He slid his finger across the screen, reading the message.

Lake View Cemetery at 3pm. I’ll meet you at the entrance. I want to meet you to meet someone ~ Bella

I’ll be there ~ Edward

I’m sorry about being so distant, but I needed to make sense over what you said to me, about my sister. ~ Bella

I get it, Bella. I dropped a ton on you. I’ve missed you and my feelings for you have not changed.  ~ Edward

I’ve missed you more than you imagine, Edward. I’ll see you at three ~ Bella

Hearing from Bella gave Edward hope. Unfortunately, the information that someone was targeting Charlie made him sick. A pit of dread settled in his stomach and he needed Bella to be okay. He needed to make sure that she was protected until they found out who was starting the fires. Losing Bella was not an option, he needed her as much as he needed air.

“I’ll make that list, but I cannot imagine anyone targeting me,” Charlie sighed, scrubbing his haggard face. His heart was pounding over the idea that someone would be targeting his family.

~o~o~o~o~

Bella arrived at the cemetery thirty minutes before Edward. She needed some time alone to gather thoughts, trying to figure out what to say to Edward. Getting out of her car, she picked up the bouquet of blue hydrangea, walking over to the bench under the large weeping willow tree. She sat down, taking a deep breath. The warm afternoon breeze was blowing through the branches, causing them to gently sway back and forth. Closing her eyes, she murmured the words she was going to share with Edward once he arrived.

God, she hoped she could convey the love she had for him and that she wasn’t too late.

Edward pulled into the parking space beside Bella’s car and ran his hand nervously through his hair. His heart was racing. He feared that she was going to end everything and kept creeping inside his head, spreading like wildfire. She was the love of his life and he knew that he would never love anyone else like he loved her.

Taking a deep cleansing breath, he got out of the vehicle and looked around. The cemetery was quiet, somber and reflective. He was early, wanting to see her face and hopefully to be allowed to explain. As he walked toward the gate, a movement caught his eye. When he turned, he saw Bella sitting on the bench with her eyes closed. Steeling his nerves, he proceeded cautiously to her. As he neared, she opened her eyes and gave him a small smile.

“You came,” she murmured, her eyes swirling with so many emotions.

“Of course,” he declared.

Bella stood up, picking up the hydrangeas, reaching for his hand. Once his large hand was wrapped around her tiny delicate one, she began walking through the gate and up the hill. Neither said a word, though the energy that they shared when they touched pulsed between them. Once they got to the top of the hill, she led him to a black marble gravestone, with a white marble angel statue wrapped around the top. The stone had an engraved image of a violin and the name of Angela Swan.

Loving Daughter

Beloved Sister

Forever Friend

Laying the bouquet next to the gravestone, then running her hand across Angela’s name, Bella whispered, “Blue hydrangeas were always her favorite. Mom had several bushes around the house and just a few weeks after they started to bloom, she would have pulled all them off, placing them in jars and glasses around our bedroom,” she said, her voice wistful as she recalled the memory. “She was always the funny one and living life to its fullest. I’m the brainiac, analytical one. I need to think and rethink everything.”

“Angela sounds a little bit like Emmett,” Edward replied with a smirk.

Bella smiled, nodded, then looked back at the stone. With a shaky breath, she murmured,  “Angela, this is Edward.” Her voice cracked as tears began falling down her cheeks. Edward threaded his fingers with hers, giving her the strength she needed. Bella gave him a watery smile, moving closer to him before continuing, “This is Edward and he has made me see that there is more to life than work. He makes me laugh – his jokes are not as good as yours – but he tries. He was there that night that you died and he tried with all that he had to save you, but he couldn’t. I love him and he loves me.”

Edward let out a gasp when he heard her declaration of love. God, how he loved this woman. He knew, without a shadow of a doubt, he wanted to spend the rest of his life making her happy. Taking a step closer, he wrapped his arm around her waist and looked down at the grave. Clearing his throat, he breathed, “Angela, I promise to love your sister and to take care of her. She is my life, my heart, and my soul.”

As they stood, looking at Angela’s grave,  the sound of a solo violin being played filtered through the air. The tone solemn, heartbreaking.

“I recognize that,” Bella whispered.

“You do?” Edward asked.

“When Angela was a kid, she learned this as a solo for a competition. It’s from a movie … The Red Violin,” she sniffled. “It was one of her favorite pieces. The movie was so sad, especially this scene when this song is heard for the first time.”

“What happened?” Edward questioned. “In the movie?”

“The movie is about this violin, from when it was created in Renaissance Italy until it was sold at auction, spanning centuries. When the violin was made, the artisan’s wife had just died in childbirth. He used her blood to create the varnish for the violin, to deal with his grief,” Bella explained. “That song, it’s called Anna’s Theme.”

Then, as the breeze picked up, it changed to a light, airy feel. Bella and Edward looked around, noticing the sound was coming from a young girl, with curled brunette hair and a simple black dress. She was playing at a grave at the foot of the hill. Once the girl was finished, they watched her tuck her violin under her arm and take the hand of elderly woman.

Bella’s throat tightened as she listened to Edward talk to Angela. Then, the song that was played by the young girl, it was like Angela was giving her one last concert. Her final farewell. “Goodbye, Angela and I promise to come back soon,” she whispered, wiping away the tears from her cheeks. then turned to face Edward. Blowing out a breath and giving him a tender smile, she said,  “I could use a cup of coffee, how about you?”

“I think that sounds like a wonderful idea, love,” he answered, bending toward her and placing a soft kiss on her lips. Taking her hand, they walked back down the hill, getting into their vehicles and leaving the cemetery.

Watching from the shadows of the dense trees, just a few feet from the cemetery entrance, the man dressed in black watched the young couple drive off. Surveying the area, and once he was sure he was alone, he stepped out of the darkness and walked up to the grave. Taking off dark sunglasses, he glared at the bouquet resting against the beautiful grave. He picked up the bouquet of flowers, tearing the fragrant blooms from the stems.

“Don’t worry, Angela, your family will be joining you soon. Soon, all the Swans will be nothing but dead flowers.”

He threw the bouquet on the ground, stomping away and planning his next step in bringing the Swans down … effectively decimating the family tree. Just like Swan did to him.

Swan would pay. They all would pay.

A/N: A lot of stuff went down in this chapter. We have some more clues as to what’s happening with the fires and delving inside Bella’s brain. She’s an analytical science type … very much a cerebral woman … she needed to come to grips with what Edward had told her.

But, was there any doubt she didn’t feel the same for Edward? Her actions clearly said that she loved him.

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 HeartForTwilight. Teasers and pictures will be posted on there.

You’ll hear from us soon!

Lots of love,

HeartForTwilight and Tufano79

Chapter Nine – Normal Blood Pressure

Edward arrived at the apartment building with the girls and Bella’s driver when Harry told them what was happening, it was as if his heart stopped. He had just found her and he couldn’t bear to lose her again or the lives that they had created together on that magical night. As he looked up into the ambulance, seeing Garrett, he felt a little better knowing that she had someone in the family with her. He turned back to Emmett and Jasper, motioning them to where he was standing he needed a little privacy. “Get Bella’s security detail lined up and to the hospital immediately. She is not to be left unsecured at any time.  I want at least three guards assigned to her at all times. Also, make sure that the security in the building is increased, especially on her floor.”

“Captain, what are going to tell Rose and Alice?” Jasper asked. 

“Nothing, ” he replied, his jaw clenched.

“They are not stupid and are very protective of Bella, ” Emmett advised.

“Are you prepared to make them more than a quick lay?” Edward questioned. He had told Bella about the family, due to the fact that she was carrying his children, who were the princes, heirs to the family, and would be the next in line to one day take over.

Emmett and Jasper both paled and shifted weight from one foot to the other. “Ahh, hmm, ahh,” Emmett stuttered. 

“We just met them,” Jasper whispered, looking briefly over his shoulder at the gorgeous petite woman who had captured his attention at the museum.

“Then they are not to be told about our family business. If they ask, give them the information that we allow the press and cops to know,” Edward declared, his mouth set in a hard line. 

Before they could agree, Rose and Alice walked up. “We need to get to the hospital,” Rose said, her face full of fear for Bella and her babies. 

“We are going as well,” Edward proclaimed, his voice hard and authoritative.

“Rose, Alice, if it is okay, I will ride with you,” Jasper said.

“We would like that,” Alice whispered her stomach churning with fear of the unknown.

Edward and Emmett walked purposely to their car, while Jasper helped the girls into the car that Bella had taken. “Phil, get us to the hospital as fast as possible.”

“Yes, Captain,” Phil answered, putting the car into drive and gunning down the road. As they traveled, Emmett was going through the list of security personnel. 

“Edward,” Emmett began. “What do you think about placing several of the women guards on Bella’s detail?”

“Who?” Edward asked.

“Claire, Cora, and Gianna,” Emmett replied.

Edward knew them well, not in a sexual way, but with their abilities. They were just as good as the men, hell better than a lot of them. “I like that idea. It would make Bella feel more comfortable having females looking out for her, I believe. Which men are you looking at?”

“Demetri, Embry, and Mark,” Emmett answered.

Thinking about each one of them, Edward thought of each of their strengths and weaknesses. Each had proven themselves as lethal killers, proficient in numerous types of weaponry and hand to hand combat. “Alright, I want the first shift to be at the hospital in an hour.”

“Sure thing,” Emmett declared, sending a text each one explaining their assignment. They wouldn’t have to be told of its importance, they all knew protecting the mother of the next heir was a huge honor.

Pulling up to the emergency room, Edward didn’t bother to wait for his security team, jumping out of the car and rushing through the doors and stopping at the desk, where a young girl, no more than sixteen, was sitting behind the counter. “My fiancee was brought in by ambulance. Can you tell me which room she is in?” He asked, giving her one of his panty-dropping smiles.

“Her name,” the girl asked, looking up the fucking handsome man before her. Damn, whoever the girl was, she was one lucky bitch.

“Isabella Swan,” Edward answered, watching the girl type Bella’s name on the computer.

“It looks like she is in exam room six,” she replied.

“Thank you,” Edward said, turning to walk through the doors that lead to the rooms.

“Sir, you can’t go in there,” the girl called out.

Edward continued as if he didn’t hear her. He needed to get to Bella and no one was going to stop him. Looking around, he got his bearings on how the numbering of the rooms were and once he figured it out, he began towards the back of the room. He got a few feet before he was grabbed by two rent-a-cops.

“LET ME GO, ASSHOLES!” Edward growled.

“You are not allowed back here,” one of the security guards said, pulling Edward’s arm back.

“I don’t fucking care,” Edward barked. “My fiancee is back here.”

“Sir, you are not going in there.”

Edward kept arguing with the guard until Garrett walked out to see what was going on. When Edward said that he knew whose room it was, he could see first the shock on Garrett’s face, then the eventual understanding a few moments later when he had worked it out.

Garrett looked at the two guards who were holding Edward back. “ I am Dr. Garrett Martin and if I assure you that I can control Mr. Cullen, will you let him go?”

The two guards looked at each other, then back to Dr. Martin. “Fine, but one more outburst and he will be escorted out of the hospital in handcuffs.”

”Mr. Cullen, do you agree to their terms?” Garrett asked, hoping Edward’s Irish temper wouldn’t get in his way. 

“Yeah,” Edward murmured, his blood still boiling with the fact that they were blocking him from getting to Bella and his children.

The guard let Edward go and as soon as they did, he straightened his suit, then followed Garrett to a room two doors down from Bella’s room. Before walking in, he turned and motioned for Alec and Royce to guard Bella’s door. Stepping into the room, Garrett closed the door behind them.

“Edward, why didn’t you tell me about Bella?” Garrett asked.

“Because I didn’t know until earlier this evening. I lost track of her when I had to rush home after the hit on Carlisle. When things were settled, I searched for her, coming up empty, as if she just disappeared from the face of the earth,” Edward explained.

“God, I wish had known,” Garrett offered.

“How is she and the babies?” Edward probed, running his hand against the tight muscles of his neck.

“Her blood pressure is high and she is having irregular contractions. She said that she had had a stressful night, which is probably the cause,” Garrett explained.

“Fuck,” Edward murmured, slamming his fist down onto the wooden table beside him. He had caused this.

Garrett reached forward, grasping Edward’s hand that he had just smashed, seeing redness across the knuckles. He didn’t think it was broken, but it was going to hurt like a motherfucker later on. “Edward, you need to calm down. Bella is going to be able to feel your anger and she doesn’t need that.”

“Can I see her?” Edward asked.

“Not now. Dr. O’Neil is going to admit her for observation and once she is settled, we will see if she wants to see you,” Garrett answered.

“But,” Edward began.

“Right now it is important to keep her calm. It is way too early for the babies to be born and you need to do everything possible to make sure that they stay secure in her womb,” Garrett pleaded.

Numbness infused his body. “She hates me.”

“I doubt that. She and I have become close over the past few months and her desire was to find Tony, to tell him about the babies,” Garrett said.

Edward was shocked to hear that and it gave him a slight glimmer of hope. Maybe he would be able to make it up to her. “Alright, but I am not leaving the hospital and promise to wait in the waiting area. Her security team will be here in a little bit and I need the hospital security not to get in their way.”

“I can do that and I will keep you up to date on her condition,” Garret advised. “Why don’t you stay here and I will come get you when she is moved to her room.”

“Alright,” Edward said, hating the fact he couldn’t be the one who was giving her the support and comfort that she needed. After Garrett left the room, Edward pulled out his phone and called his parents explaining what was happening. Esme informed him that his father was tired from the night’s activities and once he was settled she would come to the hospital. Once he hung up with his parents, he stood and looked out the glass door. He saw Alice and Rose being ushered into Bella’s room. Even though he really wanted to be beside her, at least she had her friends for support. 

Jasper and Emmett kept in touch by texting, keeping watch on the entrance of the emergency room, while their guards secured all the other doors. Claire and Demetri had arrived, relieving Edward’s guard at Bella’s door. Once they were relieved they came over and stood guard next to his door. Thirty minutes later, Bella’s bed was wheeled out of the ER room and taken to her room on the labor/delivery floor. Edward had called the hospital’s President and made sure that Bella was placed in the best suite on the floor. Her guard followed, no one really paying attention to them, which was perfect. Ten minutes after she was moved, Edward left the room and made his way to the waiting area outside of Bella’s room, sending a text to Jasper to bring up their mother when she arrived. Finding a chair that was positioned so he could watch her door, he sat down and began his wait, hoping and praying that they would be okay.

***********

Bella was finishing up her lunch two days later. Her blood pressure was down but was inconsistent, fortunately, the contractions had stopped. The babies were healthy and secure in her womb. Savoring the last bite of the gourmet chocolate layered cake, her thoughts went to Edward. He had arranged for her meals to be brought in by restaurants from all over the city. Rose and Alice had supplied him with her favorites. He had also filled her room with vase after vase of flowers, roses of every color, gardenias, hydrangeas, and peonies, making the room smell like a florist. At first, she had refused the flowers, asking for them to be given to other patients in the hospital, but over time he wore her down, sending her heart filled notes. She had been shocked when Esme showed up, offering to sit with her while Rose and Alice went home to rest. Rose would come back in the evenings after work and Alice stayed overnight since she proclaimed she was using the chair that turned into a bed.

Esme mothered her, something that she had missed since her own mother cared nothing for her. When she had felt the sheets and pillows on her bed, she cringed. An hour later the bed donned Charlotte Thomas sheets, which Esme explained were sheets that were made of high-quality Merino wool fabric that is woven with small amounts of gold carat and silk jacquard. Bella had never felt anything like it before and didn’t think she would be able to sleep on anything else ever again. However, Esme didn’t stop there, she had the hard flat pillows replaced with European White Goose Down pillows. Bella thought she was sleeping on air since they were so fluffy. Esme had brought in her lunch, placing it on real china plates and pouring the purified water in a crystal glass. After she finished the last bite of her cake, she turned to Esme.

“Esme, this is too much,” Bella argued when she saw another package being laid on the bed. Esme shook her head and pushed the bag towards her. Knowing she couldn’t say no, she took the tissue from the top and pulled out the luxurious pajamas and robes. They were so comfortable and stylish, that even Alice would be impressed. 

“Nothing is too much for the mother of my grandchildren,” Esme explained with a warm smile and a kiss on her head. “Can I help you change?”

“Yes, but we might need a nurse to help with putting all the monitors through the pajamas,” Bella suggested. 

“You are wired up aren’t you,” Esme chuckled. Bella rang for the nurse. A few minutes later, Tracey came in with a smile.

“What does my favorite patient need?” She said.

“Esme brought me these lovely pajamas and we need help getting all my lead wires put through them,” Bella explained. All the nurses on the floor had been extremely nice, but Tracey was the one who made her feel most at ease.

“They look so soft,” Tracey cooed and began helping Esme to get Bella changed. After Bella was in her new pajamas, Tracey went ahead doing her vital checks of temperature, O2 saturation, and lastly the most important blood pressure check. Taking the cuff off after she got the reading, she typed the reading onto Bella’s electronic chart.

“What is it?” Bella asked, hoping that it was once again was normal. Dr. Neil had said if it stayed normal for twenty-four hours, she would consider releasing her, even though she didn’t want her going back to work full time until after the babies were born.

“122 over 82,” Tracey answered. “Much better than what it was when you came in.”

“Bella that is really good. It looks like you might get home tomorrow,” Esme chirped.

“Yes, except I can’t go to work full time, only a few hours a day. How am I going to be able to afford all these doctor bills?” Bella trembled, the color draining out of her face. She had been able to save her salary up to this point since Robbie refused to take any money for the apartment.

“Don’t you get upset over the bills. Edward has already taken care of them and will continue to take care of any expenses,” Esme explained, taking hold of Bella’s hand and leaning close to her ear so Tracey couldn’t hear her. “Please, a pheata (my darling) don’t argue about it, you are part of the family and we take care of family,”

Tears shimmered in her eyes. Could she really take so much? She had always taken care of herself, only in the past year had she allowed Rose and Alice to buy her things that she needed, when she couldn’t afford them. “Alright,” she whispered quietly.

“If you need anything else, please just ring,” Tracey said, wanting to give the two of them some privacy. She had been advised by her supervisor that Bella was a very important patient and not to be shocked by the two armed guards who would always be by her door. She was new to New York, coming from Charlton Heights, West Virginia. Before becoming a nurse she worked as an ambulance driver and EMT in her hometown. Her dreams were to work in a big hospital where she could make a difference. Never believing that she would get the job when she saw it listed, but by some divine intervention, New York-Presbyterian Hospital maternity ward offered her the job. Moving in with two other nurses from the hospital, she settled into a city that never slept. The news of Bella spread, as well as the rumors of who the Cullens actually were and what they did for a living. Tracey couldn’t believe that Esme or any of her family that she had met were criminals.

After Tracey left, Esme sat down beside Bella and allowed her to mentally accept the money. Bella was a strong independent woman and those were traits that Esme admired and would be needed when she became Edward’s wife. Yes, she was getting ahead of herself, but she could see the spark of love in her son’s eyes.

“Esme, thank Edward the next time you see him for all that he has done while I was in here,” Bella muttered, waiting breathlessly for her reply.

“Bella, he is here,” Esme advised.

“Here, as at the hospital?” She asked.

“He hasn’t left since you were brought in. The staff has allowed him to take showers and change clothes. His brothers and I have been bringing him food every day,” Esme advised.

“Where does he sleep?” 

“Hardhead won’t leave the waiting area, so he has been cramming himself on a soft loveseat,” she replied.

“Why won’t he leave?” Bella asked, her heart ached for him. She was still upset with him, yet she couldn’t quit remembering how she felt when she was in his arms.

“Due to the fact that he wants to be near if you ever need anything,” Esme explained. 

“Oh.”

Hours later Rose called to state that there was an emergency at work and wouldn’t be able to come until much later. Esme offered to stay, but Bella told her she would be fine. After dinner, Esme left placing a kiss on her forehead and wishing her goodnight. Dr. O’Neil came in with smiles over the vast improvements in her vitals and if they continued through the night, she would release her at noon. 

“I am going to take off the monitors, the babies heartbeats haven’t changed in the last twenty-four hours, remaining steady at a healthy 150. Tonight, I would like for you to get up and take a walk down the hallway and back. The nurses will take your blood pressure afterward to see what changes happen if any.”

“Alright,” Bella said.

“You are doing great Bella and I feel that if you avoid stressful situations, that in four months we will be delivering two healthy little boys.”

“Thank you, Dr. O’Neil.”

The night nurse came into the room and removed all the leads to the fetal monitor. They had turned down the sound, though Bella could always look at the monitor and see the rhythmic peaks. 

“Dr. O’Neil wants you to take a walk,” Jessica said.

Of all the nurses, Jessica was her least favorite. Not because she had done anything wrong, just the sound of her high pitched voice. “Yes, she told me.”

“Well, let’s get going. I have a ward of patients.”

Bella swung her feet over the bed, slipping on her slippers, and putting on her robe. Jessica gasped Bella’s elbow and helped her to stand. At first, she was wobbly and her steps were slow. She had only been up, placed in a wheelchair and wheeled to the bathroom to relieve herself. Finally reaching the door, she stepped out of the room and was shocked to see someone standing on either side of the door. 

“Come on, Miss Swan,” Jessica said, leading her further out the door.

Shuffling her feet, Bella continued forward. Once she was out in the hallway she looked over to the waiting area and sitting in a chair was Edward. He looked pale, a light beard on his chiseled jaw, and his white shirt open at the neck. 

Edward had been thinking about what gift he could send Bella next when he heard Bella’s name. Looking up he saw her standing with a nurse holding her elbow for support. Glancing over her body, his eyes finally made it to her face and instead of anger, he saw a small smile.

“Jessica, I know you are busy, I am sure that Edward would be happy to assist me down the hall,” Bella stated,  looking at Edward.

Edward jumped to his feet and was by her side in seconds. “I would be honored.” 

“Fine, but if she gets dizzy make sure she sits down and call the nurses’ station,” Jessica huffed.

“I promise,” Edward said, taking Bella’s arm and linking it over his. They started down the hall and he hoped they were taking a step in the right direction.

If the Boughs Break, Blow Will Flow ~ Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight

High Blood Pressure

“What do you mean, ‘you found Bella’?” Alice asked, her eyes narrowing.

Edward looked around and this was not the place to be having this conversation. These two women were Bella’s friends and for all intents and purposes, her family.  He needed to take this elsewhere, as they might not take the news very well that he was the man who had gotten Bella pregnant, then disappeared. “Why don’t we give you ladies a ride home?”

“We can’t leave yet,” Rose explained, then looked around the room, I presumed to see if she could see Bella.

“Rose, dear, Bella left a little bit ago,” Esme said, hoping to curb another incident that would garner them more attention. “Why don’t you allow my boys to take you home?”

Rose looked at Esme, who gave her a knowing look. “Alright, but we’re ready to leave now.”

Emmett stepped up and offered his arm to her. “Our driver is waiting out front.”

Once Alice had her arm around Jasper and was walking towards the door, Edward looked at his mother. “Thanks. I have a feeling this is not going to be a nice ride, but at least we will be out of the public.”

“I am sure once you explain, they will be okay,” Carlisle interjected. 

“You mean like Bella was okay?” Edward huffed.

“She was the one who was hurt. These are just her friends,” Carlisle explained.

“Just let them get the anger out and remain calm,” Esme said, shaking her head at her husband. He was able to handle tense situations with gunmen all around him; however, he knew nothing about how to handle a madwoman. Her jewelry box at home was filled with his attempts to curb her anger. 

“I think I can do that. Thanks again and I will call you later on,” Edward said, giving Esme a hug, then headed out of the museum. When he walked outside, his guard surrounded him and escorted him to the bulletproof vehicle where Phil was standing guard by the backdoor. Phil opened the backdoor and Edward stepped inside to find his brothers on one side while Rose and Alice sat across from them. Keeping his cool calm demeanor upon his face, he waited for Phil to get behind the wheel and once he did, Edward called out. “172 Madison Avenue.”

Alice’s eyes grew large. “HOW THE FUCK DID YOU KNOW OUR ADDRESS AND WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE TO BELLA?!?”

“She is fine. Mr. Hale had her taken home after our meeting,” Edward advised in a dry tone of voice.

“What meeting?” Alice growled a frown creased upon her forehead.

“We hadn’t seen each other for several months and it was a surprise to run into her here in New York,” he said vaguely.

Alice looked over at Rose, both their expressions the same, worried over Bella. Esme had been so warm and friendly at the spa and meeting Jasper and Emmett, they knew where they had gotten their charm. Regardless of that, they really don’t know anything about these men and Edward had a coldness about him. “Where do you know her from?” Alice asked.

“Boston,” he answered. 

At that moment, Alice shrieked, her hand balled into a fist and she lunged towards Edward, her fist making contact with her intended target, his fucking dick. “YOU BASTARD!”

Edward groaned, covering his throbbing dick with his hands. “Ifreann naofa.” (Holy hell)

Rose had suddenly understood why Alice’s sudden outburst, Edward was Tony, the man that had gotten Bella pregnant and disappeared. As she began to move to beat the fucking shit out of the man, Emmett caught her, pulling her into his massive arms.

“Let him explain,” he whispered into her ear, his hot breath sending shivers down her spine. 

“Fine,” she conceded.

Jasper moved beside Alice and took her tiny hand into his. Leaning down, he murmured into her ear. “I do so love feisty women.”

Alice looked up at him, his deep green eyes, causing her panties to become damp and her core tightened with the evil thoughts of what he could do with those full pouty lips.  Quickly clearing her head and coming back to the topic at hand, she obliged, “Alright, spill.”

Edward explained what happened that evening that he had looked for Bella everywhere, but could not find her. “I even sent one of my men to Washington to her homeplace.”

“Damn. Did he find her father?” Rose gulped.

“Yes. He is a fucking blaigeard (bastard),” grunted.

“What did you say?” Alice asked.

“Sorry, my Irish blood comes out when I am upset. I called him a bastard,” he explained.

“Irish?” Rose quizzed.

“Yes, a chumann (sweetheart),” Emmett verified, his smile breaking out, showing off his dimples. 

“A chumann?” Rose quizzed, her heart racing 

“Not telling,” Emmett replied, raising his eyebrows in amusement. 

“Hmm, I guess I will have to ask Siri later,” Rose mused.

“I would not have left her that night if it hadn’t been that my father had been shot,” Edward pleaded. 

“Is that the reason he is in the wheelchair?” Alice asked, her temper much calmer at the moment.

“Yes,” Edward murmured. 

“Bella was really destroyed when you left and when she found out she was pregnant, the pain intensified,” Rose explained.

“I will make it up to her and assure her that I will never do it again,” Edward vowed.

Rose looked at Alice and gave her a slight nod. She didn’t know why, but she believed the sincerity in his voice and face. “If you hurt her again, I will sic Alice on you for a repeat performance.”

“And I will stand by and allow her to do as she wishes,” Edward declared. The car made its way down the busy streets, Edward’s thoughts were of Bella and their sons. 

Bella held it together as she weaved her way through the crowd and out to the waiting car. Harry was standing by the rear door and as soon as he saw her, he flashed her one of his bright smiles, then opened the door. Not wanting to talk about what had happened, she forced a smile.

“Thank you, Harry,” she murmured, climbing into the back of the Towncar. Harry went around the car and they were soon driving towards home. Taking deep cleansing breaths, she tried to calm herself down, knowing that it wasn’t good for the babies for her to be so upset. Closing her eyes, she thought about everything that happened tonight, and the discoveries concerning Tony, no Edward. He was in the mafia, no he was the leader of the mafia, which meant that her children’s father was a criminal. Her heart began to race and her breathing became labored. 

Harry could tell that something was wrong with Bella as soon as he looked at her. Not wanting to pry, though he was deeply concerned about her, he discreetly kept an eye on her through the rearview mirror. When he had gotted behind the wheel, he shot a text to Mr. Hale with his concerns, making sure that Bella didn’t see him do it. Mr. Hale sent a text back asking him to keep an eye on her and if he felt she was in trouble, health-wise to call him immediately. As he neared the building, he glanced back and saw that she was breathing heavily. “Miss Bella, are you okay?”

At this point, Bella was gasping for air, then suddenly, a sharp pain stabbed her in her lower belly. “No,” she cried, tears pouring down her face.

They had arrived at the apartment. Harry quickly parked in front of the building, rushed around the car opening the door and taking a good look at Bella. Her breaths were still labored, her face showed that she was in pain, as she held her belly. He quickly called Mr. Hale. “Sir, Miss Bella is not well.”

“What is going on?” Robert asked, his brows tense with worry.

“Her breathing is wrong and she is having pains,” Harry explained.

“FUCK!” Robert growled. He had been afraid of this and was kicking himself for not going after her when she walked out of the room. “I am on my way. Keep her calm.”

“Yes, Sir,” Harry said, then turned to Bella. “You just stay put, Mr. Hale is on the way.”

“No, I should be fine,” she gasped between words then began to swing her legs from the car and stood. As soon as she did, a piercing pain stabbed her abdomen, causing her to bend over, clutching her stomach.

Harry rushed to her, helping back onto the seat of the car. Pulling up the seat opposite of her, he opened the small refrigerator taking out a bottle of water. “Here, take a drink.”

Bella brought the opened bottle to her lips and took a small sip. Tears still fell from her eyes. Was there something seriously wrong with her babies? What if she was losing them? “Please, God,” she prayed.

“Bella,” Garrett exclaimed. He was just getting back from dinner and was about to walk into the building when he heard a woman’s distressed voice. Turning, he saw Bella sitting in the back of a Towncar, tears running down her face, and she was clearly in pain. Dashing towards her, he climbed into the car, took her wrist, checking on her pulse as he did his assessment. Something was wrong and he needed to get her to the hospital. “Call 911,” he said to the man standing by the car. Garrett figured he was her driver. 

“Who are you?” Henry asked.

“I am Dr. Garrett Martin, now call NOW!”

Henry dialed 911 and five minutes later, they heard the sounds of sirens coming down the street. 

“Bella, sweetie, I need you to take some deep breaths and try to calm down. I am here and I won’t leave your side,” Garrett pleaded.

“It hurts,” she cried. “I am scared for my babies.”

“Shh. They are fine. Now take some deep breaths for me, please.”

Bella took a few breaths, but the stabbing pain was still happening. A couple of minutes later, she was on a stretcher being placed in the back of the ambulance. Garrett had called Rachel O’Neil, Bella’s OB and advised of the situation. He climbed in the back of the rig. Just as they were about to pull away, a black Towncar pulled up with a black SUV on its tail. Suddenly, three men jumped from the SUV and he recognized them as Edward’s guard. Edward exited the vehicle along with Jasper and Emmett, then Rose and Alice got out. Why were they with the Cullens? Bella’s driver rushed forward and pointed towards the ambulance. All their faces whitened, but when he glanced at Edward, he was shocked. He looked visibly distraught. As the ambulance began to pull away, Edward started running towards it. What the hell was that all about? Did Edward know Bella? He had never said anything about her. Turning back to Bella, Garrett checked that she was hooked up to the blood pressure cuff, O2 sensor, and heart monitor. A bag of saline was hung and the needle was placed in the top of her left hand. 

Looking at the monitor, he became slightly alarmed at her blood pressure. It was way too high and she was still in pain. He didn’t want to do a pelvic in the back of an ambulance and Rachel had said she was already at the hospital and would meet them in the ER. Seven minutes later, they were pulling into the ambulance bay, the crew wheeled out her stretcher, the monitors and IV still intact. Rachel met them and directed them to a room, where she had already had a fetal monitor and a portable ultrasound machine waiting. 

“What are her stats?” Rachel asked as she helped them move Bella from the stretcher to bed. The nurses transferred from the ambulance equipment to the hospital units and removed her evening gown, placing a hospital gown on Bella. Garrett told Rachel her stats, which made Rachel shake. She didn’t like this one bit. “Bella, are you still having pains?”

“Yes,” she cried.

“Did something happen that could have caused them?” Rachel asked.

“I had a stressful evening,” Bella confessed. 

“Alright. I am going to do a pelvic exam and an ultrasound.”

“Please don’t let me lose my babies,” Bella sobbed.

“Calm down, it is not helping  your blood pressure,” Rachel advised, looking over to Garrett giving him a concerned look.

He stepped over to the side of the bed and took Bella’s hand into his. “I am not leaving your side. We both know that Rachel is the bomb and will do everything in her power to ensure that those little munchkins stay put for another four months.”

“Okay,” she whispered, taking deep breaths. 

Garrett adjusted her O2, while Rachel hooked up the fetal monitor. When she was finished she turned up the volume, the room filled with the fast strong heartbeats of the babies. “Listen how strong they are,” Garrett urged, squeezing Bella’s hand.

Hearing their heartbeats, helped Bella to calm down somewhat. They were fighters. She felt her gown being raised and the cold gel dropped on her belly. Dr. O’Neil had the ultrasound wand and began rubbing around. 

Rachel was pleased with the fetal heart rates and as she began the ultrasound, everything seemed to be fine. Bella’s blood pressure was still high, though lower than it had been when she came in. “Bella your babies are fine. I am not sure what happened. I want to keep you a few days, keeping you on the monitors.”

“But, my job,” Bella began.

“Your job right now is to take care of your babies and yourself,” Garrett explained. 

Bella nodded, knowing he was right. Suddenly there was shouting coming from the hallway and she could have sworn that it was Edward. “What is happening?”

“I don’t know, but I’ll go check it out,” Garrett said, standing up and walking to the door. When he walked out into the hall, he was shocked to see Edward being held back by two large security guards, while Edward’s guards were trying to get through three other security guards.

“Sir, you are not going in there,” one of the security guards said.

“I fucking will. She is carrying my babies,” Edward growled.

Garrett stopped and shook his head. “Edward, calm down. This is Bella Swan’s room.”

“I fucking know that, I have to see if she is okay,” he growled.

Garrett thought about the conversations that Bella and he had had about the father of her children. She had told him that the father’s name was Tony, then it hit him that Edward’s alias was Tony. Holy shit, Bella was carrying the next heirs to the family.

If the Boughs Break, Blood Will Flow ~ Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

Blood Bonds

Edward stood staring at the open door that Bella had just walked out of his mind still racing from the news. What the fuck had just happened? For months he had thought, hell dreamed of her, but instead of the happy reunion that he had dreamt of, it turned into a horrible nightmare. What the hell was wrong with him to treat her so badly?

“Edward, son,” Carlisle said coming alongside him.

“Dad,” he whispered.

“We will work this out, but she needs protection,” Carlisle advised, concerned for his son and for the mother of his grandchildren.

Fuck he was right. Why had he allowed her to leave without one, or fuck a contingent of guards following her? His mind was racing on how he could find her, then he remembered that Bella had told Robert to give her number to his parents. Turning toward him he looked Robert in the eyes with the look that could cause many a man to quiver in fear. “Where does she live?”

“Get your head out of ass and think,” Robert snapped, not caring that he was poking the bear. Bella deserved a man who treated her well, taking care of her and her children.

“Don’t you think that if I knew where she lived I would have been with her before now?” Edward fumed, his hand itching to grab his gun and put it between his eyes.

“Where did you see me first this evening?” Robert asked.

“Here you asshole,” Edward growled, then he glanced at Robert who held up his hand like he was holding something. The memory hit him like a knife to the gut. “Are you telling me that Bella lives in the apartment one floor below me?”

Robert nodded his head with a grin. “I purchased the apartment for my daughter and her two friends. I have known Bells for years, as she always came home with Rose from school. If she hadn’t, she would have been all alone for holidays and school breaks. I liked the building for the reason that it had the best security system in the city.”

“What?’ Esme gasped. “She lives on the same floor as Garrett?”

“Dr. Martin?” Robert questioned.

“Yes. He is the family doctor,” Carlisle answered.

“He has been helping Bella, finding her an OB and checking on her several times a week,” Robert replied. “He has formed a special attachment to her. She has this way about her that people instantly love her and want to protect her.”

“Who is her OB?” Esme asked, her mind still racing with the news.

“Dr. Rachel O’Neil.”

“Thank God,” Esme wheezed.

“Is she the best?” Edward probed. Bella and his children deserve the best no matter what it costs. The expense was of no concern to him; his legal enterprises had placed him in the top one percent of the country’s wealthiest.   

“Yes,” Esme confirmed with a smile. “Her father was my doctor.”

“Alright. But why didn’t Garrett tell us about her?” Edward pondered.

“He didn’t know you were looking for her,” Carlisle supposed.

“No. Sorry, my mind is going in every different direction,” Edward muttered.

Mo Mhuirnin (my little darling), please come sit down with me,” Esme cooed, patting the cushion beside her. Edward came over and sat down. “I want to say that I am sorry for letting my temper get the best of me.”

“I deserved it, Mathair (mother),” he confessed. 

“You were just shocked,” Esme remarked, patting his knee. 

“What am I going to do?” He asked, his voice low and unsteady. “The way I yelled at her tonight, she is never going to forgive me.”

“You are going to apologize to Bella,” Esme replied.

“Do you think that will do it?” 

“No, but it is a start. She has been hurt and she feels like she has been deserted. That is something that doesn’t just go away by words, you will have to prove to her that you will be there for her no matter what,” Esme explained, wondering what Robert meant by his comment of her being alone. Where were her parents? That would be something that they would have to discuss, but not tonight. “You will also have to remember that right now her body has an unusual amount of hormone pulsing through her body. One moment she will be happy, the next she will be in tears.”

“And the next she will be threatening to cut off your balls,” Carlisle interjected, remembering the numerous times that Esme had said that exact same thing to him when she was pregnant with both Edward and his brothers.

“Well you did deserve it a time or two,” Esme chuckled. 

“I know how to run the family business and kill a man a hundred different ways, however, I know nothing about being a father,” Edward groaned.

“Being a father is something that you learn as you go, but some aspects will come naturally,” Carlisle shared. “I know that you could be a great father, son.  You just need to trust your intuition, instincts.”

Edward lowered his head and rubbed his neck, the tension seemed to be settling there. “I hope so.”

Robert had been hearing the conversation and was happy to hear the sincerity in Edward’s voice. It sounded like a colossal amount of events had prevented him from finding her. Given time, he knew that Bella would give Edward another chance. He took out one of his business cards and wrote Bella’s cellphone number on the back of it. He stood and handed it towards Edward. “This is her cell number. I know what you do, what you are capable of, that you could take me out with a blink of an eye, but if you hurt her again I will have to hurt you.”

Edward took the card and cleared his throat. “And I would allow you to do it. I promise you, Sir, that I will do everything I can to make her happy.”

Robert nodded his head. “I know you will. Carlisle, Esme, if there is anything you need from me, just call.”

Esme stood up and wrapped her arms around him. “Thank you for taking care of her.”

“I consider her as my own flesh and blood,” Robert said with conviction. Esme released him from her tight hug, allowing him to walk out of the room.  Robert felt that Bella was going to be okay.

“We should be leaving as well. People are going to get suspicious about us being in Bella’s office,” Carlisle proposed. “Edward, you need to get Emmett on her security detail ASAP.”

Edward looked around the room once more, enjoying the fact that while he was in the room he felt closer to her. Walking over to her desk, he picked up a piece of pink paper and a pen. Thinking for a moment he began to write. I never meant to put you through pain. I promise, to never to do it again. After reading the note several times he signed it with his name. Leaving the note in the center of her desk, knowing that she would see it as soon as she sat down. Taking a deep cleansing breath, he glanced around her desk and his breath caught. In a tiny silver frame was an ultrasound image of his children. Picking it up he stared at the tiny little ones and his heart, soul, mind, body fell in love with them. They were part of him and Bella, a creation of the night that they had spent together. He knew that night, that this wasn’t just sex, but something special. As he began to place the frame back, even though he would have loved to have a copy of it, he noticed the writing. Baby 1 – Boy, Baby 2 – Boy. He was going to have a son, no sons. Taking out his phone he took a picture.

Mo Mhuirnin (my little darling), what are you looking at?” Esme asked. She had been watching him as he wrote something then picked up the frame.

Mathair (Mother), it is a picture of my sons,” he said, his voice cracking with emotions. 

Esme wrapped her arm around him. “They are lovely. Please send me a copy of the picture. I will print them out for the family members to have, though I will wait until Bella gives us permission to do so.”

“Thank you,” he said, clearing this tightened throat. “I am ready to leave now.”

They walked back over to Carlisle and proceeded out the door, their guard falling into step as he spoke into the microphone in his sleeve, making the other guards aware of their movements. Edward looked at Riley. “We are leaving, have the cars brought around.”

“Yes, Sir,” Riley replied, then relayed the information to the others.

As they walked back into the main lobby of the museum they came face to face with someone they all wished they hadn’t seen.

“Carlisle, it is so good to see you up, no I mean out and about,” Eleazar Ortiz teased. 

“Eleazar,” Carlisle responded, his tone void of any emotion.

“Oh, Edward,” Irina crooned, as she rushed over to wrap her arms around him, placing a kiss on his lips before he had a chance to stop her. She ran her hand down between them until she reached his cock, palming it through his pants. 

Edward jumped back, pulling himself away from her. “Irina,” he growled, his brow arched in outrage. 

“Oh, Eddie, I am so happy to see you. I’ve missed you so much,” she purred, undressing him with her eyes.

“Carlisle, they make such a lovely couple. It would be so lucrative for both families if they would marry,” Eleazar insisted. He had been planning for years to take over the Cullen territory and their rule over the docks in both New York and Jersey. He needed them so it would make it easier for him to ship in his heroin and cocaine. The hit he had taken out on Carlisle had been foiled, the fucker was still alive though in a wheelchair. Instead of the family becoming weak, Carlisle places Edward in charge of the family and all its dealings. In his book, Edward was nothing but a pretty boy and could easily be controlled if he could get his daughter married to him. 

Carlisle itched to pull his gun and blow this fucker away. He might be in a wheelchair, but nevertheless, he was always carrying and tonight he had his Ed Brown 1911 Signature Edition. It was the Liberace of handguns with the detailed metal work on the flat surfaces on the frame, the slides, the grip screws, the slide stop, the mag release and the mag itself. It was a sight to behold. He hated Eleazar Ortiz, the drug lord, mafia wannabe from Columbia. For years he had been trying to slime his way into his territory and now it seems he thinks that marrying his slutty daughter to Edward would make it happen. “Sorry, Eleazar, Edward is already taken.”

Eleazar was shocked. He had not been informed that Edward was seeing anyone. He would have to call his contact within the Cullen organization and get the details of the woman. Once he had, he would make the bitch disappear.

“Eddie, tell me it is not so,” Irina cried, sticking her lip out in a pout.

“I am very much in love,” he answered. As soon as the words left his mouth, he knew that they were true. Fuck, how the hell did that happen? 

Irina wasn’t going to let some whore steal Edward away from her. She knew if she could just get him alone and in bed, she could make him see that she was better than anyone else. She began walking towards him when suddenly she was blocked by a broad chest.

“Take a step back,” Emmett growled. He and Jasper had met two women in the New World mammals exhibit. They began talking and before they knew it, they were making plans to go out on a date. He only had eyes for the feisty brunette with soulful brown eyes. Her name befitted her because she was as beautiful as a Rose. Never had he met a woman who knew as much as he did about the exhibit and that intrigued him. They were coming out of the exhibit so he could introduce her to his parents and Edward when he saw Eleazar Ortiz and his family. He didn’t trust them. Weaving his way through the crowd, he quickly approached, getting to his brother just as the bitch Irina started towards him. She didn’t see him, until he placed himself between her and Edward.

Irina blinked several times before scurrying back to her father’s side. Eleazar glared at Emmett. “Well, Carlisle, it seems we need to move along. I will be in contact with you very soon.”

“As you know I am no longer the head of the family, so if you have anything to say, you need to contact the Captain,” Carlisle informed.

Eleazar clicked his tongue, took Irina by the elbow, turned and walked into the crowd. He was going to take them down and their blood was going to flow through the streets.

After the Columbian trash had left, Emmett turned to Edward. “What the fuck was that all about?”

“I really don’t know, but we need to keep an eye on him. There is something in his eyes that I don’t like,” Edward explained. “I also need a new security team.”

“For what?” Emmett questioned.

“Not here. Come let us get mathair (mother) and athair (father) in their car. Where is Jasper?”

“He is with the girls,” Emmett answered.

“What girls?” Edward asked.

Emmett peered around the room and once he saw Jasper, he nodded his head. He had given him the warning not to follow when he saw Eleazar, not wanting to put Rose and Alice into danger. They had no clue who they were and wouldn’t unless they became serious in a relationship. He couldn’t help but smile when he saw Rose coming towards him. As she neared, he couldn’t help but smile, remembering how nice it felt when she had her arm around his. He was about to say something smooth to her, but she sidestepped him and rushed over to Esme.

“Esme, I was looking everywhere for you,” Rose cooed as she welcomed with a warm hug.

“I am so glad that you found me,” Esme exclaimed.

“ESME!” Alice screamed, running towards her and wrapping her arms around her. 

Jasper and Emmett stood wondering how the hell they knew Esme. They were talking over each other and it was almost impossible to understand a word they were saying. Finally they stopped and Esme looked over to her sons. “So you found two of three lovely ladies that I had the pleasure to meet today.”

“Two, who was the third?” Jasper questioned.

Edward stepped up with a sly grin. “That would be me. I found Bella.”

Fire of Your Soul ~ Chapter Ten

Thank you, again, for sticking with us and for leaving a review, if you did. We appreciate you sharing our love of Twilight. Unfortunately, this is not ours. We just like to play with the characters created by Stephenie Meyer. 

Up next will be a continuation of the previous chapter, discussing the mysterious fire and then the benefit. 

Chapter Ten

 “Is everything okay?” Bella asked. 

“There was a mysterious fire and they need us to investigate to see if it was arson,” Edward muttered. “My boss is calling me in, so I have to go. I’d much rather be here, dealing with the fire burning between the two of us.”

“You’re not the only one,” Bella moaned. 

“This,” he said, pulling her back into his lap and kissing her deeply, “is not over. To be continued, Bella.”

“I’m aching,” Bella smirked. “And so wet, Edward.”

“I’m hard as a rock, Bella. I want nothing more than to …” he trailed off, pressing his forehead to hers. “The benefit … you’ll be mine.”

“Is that a promise?” she asked. 

“It’s a fucking vow,” he said, kissing her once again. “I’m going to go before I fuck you out here on the patio.”

“I wouldn’t complain,” Bella giggled. 

“I would. I fully intend on taking my time with you, Bella. You deserve more than just a frenzied fuck,” he breathed, standing up while holding her. His hands rested on her ass as he gathered himself. “You deserve it all. Think of me while you deal with your ache.”

“Be safe, Edward,” she murmured. “And I will definitely think of you while I take things into my own hands.” 

He kissed her once more, stepping back. He made his way to the patio door and just as he put his hand onto it, Bella cleared her throat. “Edward, I want to be yours and I want to take my time, but there is nothing wrong with a frenzied fuck,” she purred. 

“I’ll remember that, beautiful,” he smirked. 

Edward hated to leave Bella. He wanted nothing more than to go back and be with her. He was about to pull a U-turn when his phone rang again. Pursing his lips, he saw Charlie’s number. “Cullen,” Edward barked. 

“Are you on your way?” Charlie asked. 

“Rose just called me,” Edward replied. “I was out, but I need to swing by my parents to change. I’ll be at the fire station in a little bit.”

“Rose is on her way here,” Charlie said brusquely. 

“Where’s the fire?” Edward asked. 

“Rudy’s Barber Shop in Capitol Hill,” Charlie answered. “Do you know where it’s located?”

“Affirmative. I’ll meet you there, Chief,” Edward replied. 

“Do you have your kit?” 

“In the back of my truck. See you in a bit,” Edward said. 

Charlie grunted his goodbye. 

Edward drove away from Bella’s condo toward Rudy’s Barber Shop off Pine Street. When he arrived, he had to show his badge to be granted entrance into the neighborhood. He parked his Bronco next to Charlie’s department SUV. He opened the rear of his truck. He quickly changed into some work boots and swiped an SFD jacket before slinging his bag over his shoulder. He nodded at some of the guys who were cleaning up the scene. 

“Edward!” called Rose. 

He made his way to his partner and whistled lowly. The shop was gone. It was a smoking pile of rubble. “Wow,” he said. “Was there any damage to the surrounding businesses?”

“Only at the barbershop,” Rose explained. “Charlie was actually coming here to get a haircut for the benefit. This is his usual stop. They give amazing straight razor shaves, supposedly. When Charlie got here, it was up in flames.”

“That’s why he called us in?” Edward asked. 

“Yeah. He wanted to fight the fire, but instead, he was determined to figure out what the hell happened. I told him it’s too hot, but you know Charlie,” Rose shrugged. 

“Were there any casualties?” Edward pressed. “This looked like it burned fast and burned hot.”

“No deaths, thankfully. There were a few injuries because of the chemicals in there, but everyone will make a complete recovery,” Rose said. 

Charlie came out, his face was covered in soot and his lips were pressed into a grim line. “You’re both here. Excellent. They’re almost done,” he said tersely. “I was walking to this place when it exploded. It fucking exploded. Nearly everyone was outside. The owner was inside, trying to get some of the building’s information.”

“He’s okay, right?” Rose asked. 

“Smoke inhalation and second degree burns on his arms and hands,” Charlie grunted. “I just want to start the investigation. I know we can’t do much because of the heat, but something about this fire is rubbing me the wrong way.”

“Well, perhaps it was the fact that you were almost inside it would rub me the wrong way,” Rose snorted. 

“It’s not like I was the target or anything,” Charlie snapped. “Grab your shit. Let’s check it out, take some photos and head back to the lab.”

“It’s still smoking, Chief,” Edward argued. 

“Cullen, so help me, I do not want to put you on report,” Charlie snarled, glowering at Edward. He held up his hands in surrender. Charlie spun on his heel and went inside, wearing a helmet and carrying a Halligan. Edward picked up a helmet, following Charlie with Rose coming up the rear. 

The barbershop was still unbearably hot. It smelled of burnt rubber, smoke and toxic chemicals. Edward turned on a flashlight as he carefully walked through the debris. The front of the shop was not the flashpoint of the blaze. The fire patterns clearly indicated that it traveled from somewhere deeper in the shop. “Is there a basement?” he asked. He took some pictures of the flame patterns, along with snapshots of the damage to the chairs. 

“I’m not sure if there’s a basement. Backroom, maybe?” Charlie said. “I only hung out in the front getting my hair cut and my treat of a shave once a month. It was your father who turned me onto this place. Carlisle goes to the one closer to city hall, but I liked it here because it was on the way to the station and close to home.” He coughed, wrinkling his nose. “We probably can’t stay much longer. The smoke is aggravating my lungs.”

“Agreed,” Rose said. Her mouth and nose were covered by a mask and she wore a pair of goggles. “Chief, go outside. Edward and I will get the photos in the back of the barbershop. We’ll come back tomorrow once this place has had a chance to cool down.”

Charlie huffed out a breath, handing Edward the Halligan. “Get as many pictures as possible.”

“We’ll be out in ten minutes,” Edward said. “We’ll go to the lab and check what we’ve got, but we may not see anything until it’s cooler and lighter. It’s pitch black in here, Chief.”

Charlie gave Edward a scowl but left the shop. Rose and Edward made their way back to the storeroom. Using flashlights, it was clear that the fire had started back here. There was far more damage in the storeroom. It was completely black and ruined from the flames. Rose took photos while Edward looked for evidence of the use of accelerant. He couldn’t find anything outwardly, but he noticed some frayed wires. “This is a bust, Rose. It’s too dark.”

“Agreed,” Rose sighed. “I got some pictures and took some samples of the debris. Let’s head back outside and talk to the Chief about coming back tomorrow when it’s daytime.”

They did one more walkthrough, taking more photos as they made their way back out to the sidewalk. Edward noticed Charlie was talking to an older man with dark hair and a thick beard. His clothes were dirty and there was a bandage on his arm. He made his way to his boss. “It’s too dark, Charlie. We’ll have to wait.”

“Sounds like a plan. This is one of the owners of the barbershop, Wade,” Charlie said, gesturing to the other guy. 

“Sorry for your loss, Wade,” Edward said, shaking the man’s hand. “Were you inside?”

“Yeah. I was talking to one of the clients when we heard some popping in the back,” Wade explained. “Matthew, one of our stylists, went in the back to check to see what it was. No sooner than he went back there, he ran right back out. The entire back room was on fire. Another stylist, Victor, went further inside to grab his shirt and he was hit by the initial blast. I grabbed him and we limped out, barely making it outside before it went completely up. The explosion rocked the entire street and I still can’t fucking hear.”

“Have you been to the hospital?” Rose asked. 

“I was just released. I’ve got some minor burns and damage to my ears, but I’ll be okay. Victor will have a longer recovery,” Wade said. “I just wanted to make sure no one else was hurt.” He looked at the burnt-out shell of his shop. “And, to see the damage. I’m shocked that no one was killed.”

“It was due to the fact that Charlie was close by,” Rose explained. “I’m certain he got the fire department here really quickly. Are you familiar with this shop?” 

“I am, but right now it’s unrecognizable,” Wade muttered, his face pulled into a grimace. “What do you need?”

“Could you come back tomorrow? When it’s light out?” Edward asked. “We’d like to know if there is anything out of place.”

“Of course,” Wade nodded. “I’ll also need your report to submit to the insurance company. What time?”

“Probably as early as possible,” Charlie said. “The benefit … I need to help my wife with the setup tomorrow afternoon. The shit I do for that woman. It’s why I was getting a damned haircut today. Fuck.”

“Don’t hold back, Chief,” Rose deadpanned. “It’s almost eleven now. Meet here at eight?”

“You both need to be at the lab by seven,” Charlie commanded. 

“Without any doubt, Charlie,” Edward said. “Again, we’re sorry for your loss.” He handed Wade his card. “Call this number if you’re delayed, but we’ll be here by eight. Wear thick-soled shoes and bring a mask. It will be stuffy and smoky in the shop.”

“Thanks,” Wade said, taking the card. “I’ll see you all tomorrow.” He tucked the card into his pocket and he ambled away. 

“Did you get any pictures?” Charlie asked once Wade was gone. 

“Some, but we’ll get more tomorrow, Chief,” Rose answered. “Go home. We’ll meet you at the lab tomorrow morning.”

Charlie nodded and he walked toward his car, with Edward moving in step with his boss. “You look awfully nice for a call, Edward,” Charlie said. 

“I was out, on a date,” Edward answered. “With Bella.”

Charlie’s brows shot to his hairline. “Really?”

“Yeah. I went to one of my mom’s doctor’s appointments. It’s where I met her. Since then, we built a friendship and things have progressed to more,” Edward said. If only Charlie knew what he’d done with his daughter just a few hours ago. My mouth was on her delectable tits. Don’t tell the boss that. “We’re going to the benefit together.”

Charlie smiled softly. He was happy that Bella was opening up to someone. Heaven knows that she didn’t talk to anyone and she was so closed off after Angela’s death. His smile fell as he looked at his protege. “Does she know about that night? The night of the fire?”

Edward gulped. He did not want to tell Bella. She was the first person that he felt some sort of connection with since that night. “Not yet, Charlie.”

“You need to tell her, Edward. She deserves to know,” Charlie murmured. 

“She’ll hate me. Just like you do,” Edward said. 

“Son, I don’t hate you. I don’t blame you. Not anymore,” Charlie said, stepping in front of him. “I did for a long time. I’m not going to lie. I needed to blame someone. Angela’s death was so fucking senseless. You were right there and …” He blew out a harsh breath. “I don’t blame you. I am sorry for my actions and how I treated you after Angela’s death. I was an asshole.”

“You lost your daughter. You had every right to be an asshole,” Edward countered. 

“Not to the man who was with her and tried to save her,” Charlie whispered. “I forgive you and I will work my ass off to make things better between the two of us. You are one of the best firefighters I’ve known and you are a phenomenal investigator. Your uncle taught you well.” He clasped his hand on Edward’s shoulder. “But, you need to tell Bella.”

“I will, but not until after the benefit,” Edward said. Charlie cleared his throat, giving Edward the look. “I promise, Chief. I just want to give Bella a couple of nights without bringing up those horrible memories.”

“Okay, son,” Charlie said. “I’ll leave it up to you.”

~o~o~o~o~

The next day, Rose and Edward were at the lab after they spent several hours at Rudy’s Barber Shop. Pictures were taken, evidence was collected and Wade gave his description of the shop, alerting Edward, Rose and Charlie to any concerning changes. They both felt like zombies, sucking down coffee to wake themselves up. Sitting in front of computer screens and analyzing the evidence was not helping in their exhaustion. 

Charlie had left shortly after their examination at the barbershop, driving to get his hair cut at a sister location of Rudy’s Barber Shop – the one frequented by Carlisle. After his appointment, he would then help his wife in setting up the benefit at the Edgewater Hotel. 

“Edward, come here,” Rose said, her eyes squinting at a photo she’d taken in the back storeroom. “Does this pattern look familiar?”

He put down the sample he was analyzing, walking over to Rose’s laptop. “A bit. It was clear that this was caused by an electrical fire, but that looks like an accelerant. However, couldn’t it be some of the styling products?”

“No, they were kept upfront,” Rose explained. “The stuff in the back was mainly towels, paper products for the bathrooms and extra cleaning supplies.”

“Cleaning supplies can be used as an accelerant,” Edward said. 

“No, stuff like brooms, dustpans, and shit like that,” Rose muttered. She clicked through the pictures. “See? This is the room with the cleaners and stock for the styling shit. It was right near the front. There was very little damage up here.” Clicking back to the original photo, she pointed to a spot that clearly indicated tampering. “This looks fucking familiar.”

“The rug shop,” Edward said, snapping his fingers. He slid her laptop closer to him and searched the files. “Here … the same pattern.” 

Side by side, the photos looked nearly identical. The only differences were the materials that had been charred. The rug shop had a concrete floor, but the flame pattern clearly indicated the use of an accelerant. The barbershop had a hardwood floor, making the pattern a bit more difficult to discern, but it indicated the use of an accelerant. “These may be linked,” Edward said. “What did we learn about the rug fire? How did it start?”

“Electrical short in a storeroom, spreading quickly because of the materials inside the store and an accelerant,” Rose read from her notes. “Though, the use of an accelerant was inconclusive because of all of the rugs. That place would have gone up quickly because of the merchandise.”

“Our preliminary findings for the barbershop fire are the same, Rose,” Edward said. “There was an electrical short in the back storeroom. But, that doesn’t make sense. Wade gave us the most recent inspection forms. They were clean. No issues.”

“Wade could also be lying,” Rose said. 

“I don’t think so,” Edward muttered, shaking his head. “The inspection guys came through the day before yesterday. There’s no way that they could cause this much damage in two days. Look at the wires close to where the fire started. They look cut, clean through.” He pointed to the picture. “This was deliberate and from Wade’s conversation with us, he’s just as flummoxed as we are as to how it happened.”

“Check with the rug shop. See if there are any indications that they had any inspection issues,” Rose said, flipping through the file. 

Edward typed on the computer, pulling up the inspection records. “Like the barbershop, they’d had a clear inspection a couple of days prior to the fire. No issues. Nothing to report. In fact, the inspector wanted to take photos to share with other business owners,” he said. 

“I think we have a firebug,” Rose frowned. “Someone is deliberately causing these fires. This must be their signature.”

“Could there be more?” Edward asked. “Two fires do not indicate a pattern. Yes, it’s highly suspect, but it could be just a fluke.”

“I want to run this through the database. I want to see if we can find any other possible arson cases. Start typing, Cullen,” Rose nodded. “It may take some time, but I have a sneaking suspicion that something fucked up is happening.” 

“Okay, what we know,” Edward murmured. “Recent inspections, coming up clean with no issues.”

“Electrical fires with possible tampering. Cut wires, incorrect fuses, and possible rodent damage,” Rose added. Edward typed it in. “Oh, both places are family-owned, private companies. Not large corporations.”

“Okay, got it. We also suspect the use of an accelerant,” he said. “Time frame?” 

“Let’s go back ten years,” Rose suggested, arching a brow at Edward. 

“Hmmmm, that may be too long of a time. I’m not sure that the files from ten years ago are held on the same computer database,” Edward said. “Let’s try five years. If we don’t have anything, we can go further back in the archives. We’d have to go to the commissioner’s office in the city center, but we can start here.” Edward put the dates and hit enter. “Damn.”

“What?” 

“It’s going to take at least a day for the computer to go through the files,” Edward snorted. “Maybe longer.”

“Okay, let’s wrap up the paperwork to send over to Wade so he can submit it to his insurance adjuster. We’re ruling this accidental or intentional?” Rose asked. 

“Intentional, but the owner is not at fault. He’ll get a payout to rebuild,” Edward said. “And, I don’t know about you, but I need a nap.”

“You can get a nap. I’ve got to get beautified for this benefit tomorrow. I’ve got a date with my stylist. All of this is going to be upgraded,” Rose smirked, flipping her golden hair over her shoulders. 

“Who are you going with?” Edward asked. 

“Peter,” Rose shrugged. “He works on the second shift.”

“Peter is a douche, Rose,” Edward snorted. “Why are you going with him?”

“Because he’s got a big cock,” Rose answered. 

“And, you know this why?” Edward laughed. 

“I may, or may not have walked into the guy’s locker room when he was showering,” Rose smirked. “It’s been a long fucking time since I’ve had sex. Peter is mildly good looking with a ginormous dick. Yes, he can be a douche, but it’s not marriage. It’s a benefit and I want to get laid.” She picked up her phone, tapping on it. 

“What are you doing?” Edward asked. 

“Adding a bikini wax,” Rose answered. “If Peter is going to fuck me, I better be smooth like a baby.”

“And on that note, I’ll drop this paperwork off and I’m going to go. Too much information, Rosalie. I swear,” Edward grumbled, picking up the insurance forms for Wade. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

~o~o~o~o~

Before Bella began getting ready for the gala, she made sure that the apartment was cleaned and that the sheets were changed. A girl could hope, she thought. She had been so aroused last night that it took less than a minute for her to come after Edward left. Once the apartment was in tip-top shape, she took a bath, since her hair had already been styled, being careful not to get it wet. Her stylist had added more conditioner, then blew it straight. To add some drama, the stylist pulled the one side over while the other draped over her shoulder.

Opening her panty drawer, she selected a pair of lace LaPerla panties. The lace created a beautiful trail of winding florals against her skin and is finished with a delicate scalloped edge. “Edward is going to like these,” she said aloud, examining herself in the full-length mirror. She would have to forgo a bra, placing a set of black lace petals over her already erect nipples. Fuck, she was going to be a hot mess before the evening even started. Thankfully, the dress didn’t have a zipper in the most awkward location and she was able to step into it, pulling it up over her hips, then sliding the straps over her shoulders. 

Admiring herself once more in the mirror, she smiled as she ran her fingers along her shoulders. She loved the dress, though it was purchased because she hoped that it would make Edward’s knees go weak. It showcased every inch of her curves. 

Mission accomplished. I hope. 

Sitting on the bench at the end of her bed, she slipped on her black lace Monolo Blahnik pumps with stiletto high heels. Standing, she went over to her jewelry armoire, selecting a pair of diamond linear drop earrings and a diamond tennis bracelet. After placing her ID, some cash, compact and lipstick in her clutch, she made sure that the lamps by the bed were on, just in case and went out to the living room to wait for Edward.

Looking up at the clock, she knew that Edward would be arriving at any moment. As much as she loved seeing him in his tight jeans and work t-shirt, she couldn’t wait to see him in a tuxedo. Before she lost herself completely in her thoughts of Edward, her phone rang. The security guard announced that Edward was there. Bella granted him entrance and waited for his knock. It came a few moments later. 

Walking to the door, she checked the image on the control panel, seeing that it was Edward she unlocked the door and opened. The sight before her was beyond anything she could imagine. He was dressed in a black custom-fitted tuxedo that emphasized his broad shoulders, trim hips and muscular body.

Edward couldn’t form words to describe the goddess before him. It wasn’t just her beauty that took his breath away, but it was also her intelligence and caring, her empathy and dedication. He had seen her at work when she had given his mother her medical exams and spoken to her with compassion, love and understanding. Her tone was like a butterfly’s caress, easing the worries of her patients away. 

He had to have her in his arms. Reaching out, he pulled her close and buried his face into her neck. Inhaling deeply, he allowed her soothing, but sexy scent to calm his nerves. All day he had been concerned that he would say or do something stupid, ruining the evening. When she was in his arms, all those fears drifted away. 

Placing a lingering kiss behind her ear, he pulled back. He stared at her, taking in her beauty. “You look exquisite.”

“Thank you,” she breathed, her skin tingling with excitement. “You look mighty fine as well, Mr. Cullen. A man in a well-cut tuxedo? That’s porn for most women.”

“Come on. We need to leave before I pick you and carry you back to the bedroom; the benefit be damned,” he growled with a cheeky grin.

Stepping out of his embrace, Bella picked up her phone from its charger, placed it in her clutch, and took Edward’s arm. The ride down on the elevator was done in silence. The air sizzled with anticipation. Both were excited for the gala, but the prospect of time afterward. They arrived in the lobby, strolled outside, and towards a car parked in the front.

“Edward, is that your car?” Bella questioned. She didn’t know the name or year of the car, but it was a classic.

“No. It was my grandfather’s. Dad keeps it in the garage, only taking it out for special occasions. This is the first time he allowed me to take it,” Edward disclosed.

“What is it?” Bella asked, rubbing her finger along the fender.

“A 1939 Alfa Romeo,” Edward answered.

“Wow. I can’t believe it’s that old,” Bella murmured. “It’s in pristine condition.”

“Grandfather purchased it new. Over the years, he became an avid collector of fine automobiles. His enthusiasm rubbed off on my dad,” Edward explained with a chuckle. “I don’t think Mom even knows how many cars he has. We have garages all over Washington with cars like this.”

“I would love to see them,” Bella said.

“Bella, my father would do anything or give you anything you ask,” Edward breathed, giving her a tender smile.

“Why?”

“Because you healed the love of his life,” Edward explained, placing a kiss on her temple.

“I just did my job,” Bella whispered, her face warming. 

“Baby, you did more than that. You healed my mother, giving her a new chance at life. I spoke with her and she said that when she was first diagnosed, she was resigned to a death sentence. After meeting with you, you gave her hope and it was your compassion that made her stronger.” Edward took her face into his hands, caressing the soft skin of her face. Bella’s eyes were brimmed with tears at his fervent proclamation. He wiped a tear away, not wanting her to feel sad. With a crooked grin, he chuckled, “Now, let’s get that sexy ass on the leather seat and get going to the benefit.” 

With a watery giggle, Bella nodded. “That sounds perfect.”

Edward helped her into the front seat, closing the door behind her. Jogging around to the driver’s side, he slid into the smooth black leather. He started the car, revving the engine. With a wink, he pulled away from the curb. Bella loved the car and asked question after question about it on the way to the gala. 

At the Edgewater Hotel, Edward got out and hurried around the car. One of the valet attendants was about to open the passenger door. “I’ll do that,” Edward called out, arching his brow. Opening the door, he held out his hand to Bella, who took it and stepped out. When her palm touched his, electricity zipped through their skin. He brought her hand to his lips, kissing her knuckles. 

“Thank you,” she said, her brown eyes sparkling with excitement.

Edward handed the keys to the attendant.  He shot him a look that if he put a scratch on the car, the attendant would be a dead man. With an anxious nod, the valet handed him a ticket, his hand shaking nervously. Edward could help but chuckle. 

They walked up the steps, arm in arm, as the cameras were flashing and the press were calling out to Edward. They all knew who he was because of Carlisle. The handsome son of the mayor was always news.

“Mr. Cullen, who is your date?” several reporters called out. “Is she your girlfriend?” 

Edward had always hated the questions, the invasion of privacy. Tonight, he was incredibly proud and honored to have Bella on his arm. “Dr. Isabella Swan.”

“Dr. Swan, how long have you two been dating? Are you living together?” the reporters yelled.

Ignoring those questions, they continued up the steps and to the front entrance where a volunteer in a tuxedo was checking invitations. “Name?” 

“Edward Cullen and Dr. Isabella Swan.”

After finding their names on the clipboard, the volunteer smiled and stepped aside, “Thank you and enjoy your evening.”

Walking in, they were in awe of the decor. The black and white theme filled every corner of the reception hall. Tables were covered in black and white striped tablecloths, black napkins, and gold silverware. The most striking element of the decor was the dance floor. It had black and white stripes with a platform where a big band was playing.

“Edward, Bella,” Esme called out, rushing over to them with Carlisle following behind. She hugged both of them, a wide grin on her face. “Don’t you two look spectacular.”

“So do you, Esme. I love your dress,” Bella exclaimed, admiring how great she looked, even after her cancer diagnosis. Damn, she hoped that looked that good when she was Esme’s age. Bella looked at Carlisle, who was eyeing his wife, much like his son eyed her. 

“I told you this was the one. Doesn’t she look stunning, Edward?” Esme asked, taking Bella’s hands. 

“Yes,” he said, smiling down at Bella’s lovely face. “Words cannot describe her beauty.”

Esme felt like crying. Her son was in love. There was no doubt about it. The look in his eyes as he looked at Bella showed it clearly. “Carlisle, do you see it?” she whispered, her voice cracking.

“Yes, my love,” Carlisle answered, wrapping his arm around her waist and pulling her close. 

Edward was lost in Bella’s eyes and didn’t hear anything until he was slapped on the shoulder.

“Cullen, didn’t know you were coming to the shindig,” Peter boomed, then he saw Bella. He looked at her, his eyes penetrating as he took in her form. “Damn, aren’t you a sweet little thing?”

“Johnson,” Edward growled, fisting his hands ready to strike.

“Edward, Bella,” Rose called out walking towards them. When she stood beside Peter, he put his arm around her waist and began to pull her close. However, Rose pulled away giving Peter a dirty look. He held up his hands with a smarmy grin. Rose looked back to the group, seeing the mayor and his wife. “Oh, Mrs. Cullen, thank you for seating us to your table.”

“Of course, my dear. Have you seen Alice?” Esme asked.

“Not yet, but she said she was bringing someone special,” Rose remarked.

Bella turned to Rose and mouthed, Jasper?

Rose nodded with a wicked smile. 

“Damn,” Bella murmured under her breath.

Edward leaned down, and whispered in her ear. “Who is she bringing?”

Biting her lip, she looked into his crystal green eyes, “You’ll see.”

“Vixen,” he groaned.

“You have no idea how much,” she purred.

“Come on, everyone. They’re getting ready to serve dinner,” Esme said.

The couples made their way through the crowd, stopped several times by people wanting to greet the mayor and his family.  Finally, getting to their table, which was the best seat in the house, they saw Charlie, Renee, and Emmett already there. 

“Has anyone seen Jasper?” Esme asked, looking around the room.

“No, though I do know that he has a date tonight,” Emmett grumbled, upset over the fact that his date had to bail at the last moment dealing with food poisoning.  

Everyone sat down, greeting each other and introducing Peter and Rose to Emmett. Peter barely acknowledged Emmett, while Rose greeted him with one of her killer smiles. Why hadn’t Bella or Edward ever told her what a drop dead handsome man Emmett Cullen was?

As they were placing their drink orders, Bella saw Alice and Jasper making their way through the crowd. When they reached the table, Esme looked up and gasped. “Jasper, Alice! When? How?” she stuttered. 

Taking the two remaining seats, they told Esme the story on how they met and how long they had been seeing each other. The fact that they were fucking like rabbits was obviously not discussed.

Over the next hour, everyone at the table drank and ate the perfectly prepared meal. The caterers had done an exceptional job. At the end of the meal, the chairwoman for the foundation for underprivileged children, Megan McDonald, came to the microphone to thank everyone for their donations. The foundation would receive the money that had been raised that evening. The dinner was a thousand dollar a plate and there had been a silent auction for donated items. Both Bella and Edward had put in bids on items, in hope that they would win. 

“I would like to thank all of you who came this evening. The foundation would like to give a big thank you to the Cullen Foundation for the generous million dollar donation, Emmett Cullen of Cullen Enterprises for his million dollar donation, and Dr. Isabella Swan for her five hundred thousand dollar donation. Please accept these white roses as a symbol of your generosity,” Megan said, motioning to the server who brought over the roses.

Esme, Emmett, and Bella accepted the roses and nodded their heads to the crowd who were giving them a round of applause. The room finally quieted down and Megan announced that it was time to dance. 

 Peter leaned over and whispered into Rose’s ear. “Come on baby, lets go rub our bodies together.”

Rose turned, giving him a cold expression. Sure, Peter was nice to look at, but Edward was right. He truly was a douche. “Peter, we can dance if you like, but I don’t appreciate your comment.”

“Sorry, babe,” he retorted, not sounding apologetic at all.

Peter, Rose, Jasper, and Alice all got up and headed to the dance floor. Bella was having a conversation with Esme concerning the new center that was being built with the funds raised that evening. Edward had been shocked when he heard the amount of money that she had donated. Picking up the white rose that she had laid by her plate, he began staring at it, thinking about her. He couldn’t believe that he had been blessed to be with someone as kind hearted as her. She had brought him back to life, healing the deep jagged scars on his soul. Placing the rose behind his ear, he reached out and took her hand.

“Come dance with me,” he murmured, his eyes full of emotion.

“Excuse us,” Bella said to his parents and hers. They walked out to the dance floor and the band began playing “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Taking her into his arms, they began to sway to the music. His hand held hers above his heart. Their movements were fluid, sinuous.

As they danced, Bella stared into his eyes. However, something caught her eye over Edward’s ear. Bella saw the rose and giggled. “It looks good on you.”

Leaning into her ear so she would hear him, “And, you will look fantastic draped naked over my body. I can’t wait to make love to you.” 

Bella’s gaze heated and she stepped closer to him. “Kiss me, Edward.”

“You don’t have to ask me twice,” he murmured, brushing his lips over hers. She melted into his arms, lost in the softness of his mouth and the security of his embrace. They lost themselves in the kiss until the music changed to something more upbeat. 

A loud smack broke them a part. “God damn it, Peter. I told you to stop!” Rose sneered. She was glaring at him, her eyes blazing. 

“Come on, Rosie. You’ve been wanting to fuck me for years,” Peter said, stepping back toward her. “You want this.”

“Yeah, I want you,” Rose scoffed. “I saw you flirting with Bella. You got the number of our waitress and got a blow job from the bartender.”

“We were just kissing,” Peter argued. 

“With  your dick?” Rose asked snidely. “You are a walking, talking sexual harassment suit. I should have listened to my inner voice. Lose my number, Peter.” She walked away, making her way to the bathroom. 

“I should go,” Bella frowned. 

“Rose needs a friend. I’d go, but I fear for my manhood,” Edward said, looking over at Peter, who was seething. “I’ll deal with the douche.”

“Do you know him?” Bella asked, narrowing her eyes at him. 

“He’s an arson investigator, but he works on another team,” Edward muttered. “Go, beautiful. I’ll be right here.” 

“Thank you,” Bella said, kissing him sweetly before scurrying off the 

dance floor, following Rose. 

Removing the rose, Edward blinked at Peter and walked toward him. Charlie was already on the dance floor. From the red color of his face, he was not happy. His boss took Peter’s arm, dragging him toward the entrance. 

“Chief, it’s not what you think,” Peter snapped. 

“You represent the department, even when you’re not on a scene,” Charlie growled. “You were invited to this event. You were on a date with one woman and you were openly flirting with my daughter, got the number of the waitress and …” He couldn’t say the last thing. It wasn’t like Charlie didn’t enjoy an occasional blowjob, but at a thousand-dollar-a-plate benefit? Not even remotely appropriate. “Peter, I’m extremely disappointed in your choices. Take a few days.”

“You’re firing me?” Peter yelled. “Talk about an abuse of power!”

“I’m not firing you. I’m sending you to a sexual harassment seminar seeing as you need a refresher on how to treat your colleagues,” Charlie answered, crossing his arms. 

“Can you believe this shit?” Peter asked Edward. 

“I know, right?” Edward snorted. “The Chief is well within his rights to send you to that seminar. It was my date that you were undressing with your eyes.”

“So? Dr. Swan has got some amazing tits,” Peter smirked. “I bet she’s hella freaky. I’d slide into her tight …” 

Charlie was about to hit Peter, but Edward held him back. “Chief, I know you’re pissed. I am, too.” 

“Again, she’s my daughter,” Charlie yelled, pulling away from Edward. He glowered at Peter. “Abuse of power or not, you’ve crossed the line. I was going to just suspend you until you took the sexual harassment course and then let you back. But, to disrespect my daughter? That crosses the line. Your shit will be mailed to you. You’re done with the Seattle Fire Department.” He blinked at a security guard. “This man is no longer welcome here.”

“I’ll take care of it, sir,” the guard said. 

“Come on, Edward. I need a drink,” Charlie sneered, walking back into the venue and to the bar. He looked at the bartender, eyeing her skeptically. “Scotch, neat. Make it a double. The same for my friend.”

“I’ll just have some water,” Edward said. “I have to drive home, Chief.”

“Renee got us a limo and a room in the hotel,” Charlie said, taking the drink from the bartender. “Do you know Peter?”

“Not that well, but he’s a jerk, obviously,” Edward answered. “I warned Rose about his douchiness.”

“He’s gotten several letters in his file for inappropriate behavior. He has some pretty backward thoughts about women in the workplace, especially female firefighters,” Charlie sighed. “He’s a great investigator. If he wasn’t such a good investigator, I would have fired him years ago. However, you’re so much better.” He finished his scotch, staring at nothing. “Take care of my daughter, Edward. I see how much you love her.”

“Chief, we’re just starting to build a relationship,” he said. 

“You look at her like she’s your world,” Charlie breathed. “Thank you for your help with Peter. I’m going to find my wife. I need to dance with my bride.” He walked away, finding his wife talking to Megan. He spun Renee away and they disappeared onto the dance floor. 

Edward walked back to the table and found Bella. She was sitting with his mother, but they were watching Emmett and Rose on the dance floor. “Everything okay?” he asked his two favorite women. 

“Rose is fine. Emmett was already talking to her when I found her near the bathroom,” Bella explained. 

“Mom?” Edward asked. 

“My feet hurt. It’s been a long time since I’ve worn heels,” Esme answered. “So, your girlfriend was keeping me company.” Bella blushed, blinking to Edward with a sexy smile. “Now, my feet may hurt, but I’m certain you two are not done dancing. Go. Have fun!”

“You sure?” Bella asked. 

“I’m fine,” Esme chided. 

Edward stood up, holding his hand out to Bella. She took it and she put the rose back behind his ear. He laughed, spinning her into his arms and dipping her deeply. With a kiss to her neck, he led her to the dance floor where they spent the rest of their night. Their dances were just prolonged foreplay. After another slow dance, Bella looked up at Edward through her lashes. “I think we’ve been here long enough, Edward. Spending the night in your arms … it makes me yearn for more,” she whispered. She kissed his lips, barely grazing his mouth with hers. “Make me yours, Edward.”

He pulled back, searching her eyes. They were sparkling with desire, certainty. “No turning back, Bella. I’m yours and you’re mine.”

“Yes,” she nodded. “Want to get out of here?”

He crashed his lips against hers, forgetting where he was momentarily. Pressing his forehead to hers, he nodded. “Fuck, yes.”

A/N: We had every intention to get to the citrusy goodness in this chapter, but it was already a beast. So, that’s coming NEXT chapter. 

Pictures for this chapter are on our blogs. We’re also both on FB: HeartForTwilight Productions, HeartForTwilight Book Group and Tufano79’s Twilight Fanfiction Appreciation. We’re also on twitter, too: tufano79 and HeartForTwiligh. Please come join the fun! 

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HeartForTwilight and Tufano79

If the Boughs Break, Blood Will Flow ~ Chapter Six

Blood Ties

Edward couldn’t believe that Bella had slapped him and called him a liar. Well, he did tell her his name was Tony, but that was for both of their protection. He felt his arm being pulled back and his mother stepped around him, placing her arms around Bella’s shoulders before he could even ask where she had been.

“Sweetie, is there a room we can go to that is more private to straighten out this situation?” Esme said, keeping her voice calm even though she was pissed as hell. Being the quick thinker she was, Esme had surmised that her son left this lovely young woman carrying his children and gave her his alias, Tony. She had raised him and his brothers better than this.

Bella nodded her head, tears running down her face and pointed towards the back of the room.

Once they were away from the crowd of people who were all staring and murmuring among themselves concerning the outburst, Esme turned and gave Edward a look that he had only seen a few times in his life. One of them had been when he had broken her treasured vase that her grandmother had given her. He had thrown a football in the formal living room, which she had told all them not to do, but he did it anyway and it struck the vase dead on, causing it to teeter, then crash to the floor. He deserved an ass-whooping, fully expecting it; instead, she gave him something much worse. Reaching down, she picked up the largest piece and with unshed tears, she gave him a look of disappointment. He swore that day that he would never see that look again; however, he had today.

 He followed Bella and his mom down a hallway, wishing it was him that had his arm around her shoulders. The few moments that he had seen her face, the memories of their night flooded his thoughts and somehow, she was even more beautiful than he had remembered. When they got to the door, he noticed her name on a plate beside the door. Isabella Swan Curator. She had been worried that she wouldn’t find a job and here she was with her own office, planning huge events like tonight.

Esme opened the door and assisted Bella inside, once inside she saw a sofa against the one wall. “Bella, let’s have a seat and talk.”

“Alright,” she whispered, her heart heavy. For months she had looked for Tony, wanting to tell him about the babies and all along he was here in New York. Why had he lied about his name? Esme was such a warm, loving woman and Carlisle seemed to be caring as well, so how had Edward turned out to be so cruel. Damn it,  had he done this with other women. How many other children were out there without a father and no means to support them? 

“Bella,” Edward began but was quickly cut off by his mother.

Blaigeard, duin do ghob,” (Bastard, shut the fuck up)  Esme growled. Bella wondered what she said, though the tone told her it was not nice.

Esme sat down beside Bella wrapping her arm around her once again,  pulling her close. “Bella, I promise you that we will be here for you.”

“You will?” Bella asked, sniffling and needing a tissue. She saw the box on the corner of her desk, so she stood and reached over. At the moment, she heard Edward’s intake of a deep breath.

“YOU’RE PREGNANT!” He yelled.

Bella turned towards him, giving him a better view of her protruding stomach. “No shit, you Irish dick.”

“Who’s the daddy? Some other guy that you picked up at the bar, where you picked me up?” Edward threw out the insult with no regard, his jaw taut with anger. She had allowed someone else to touch her and he didn’t like it one bit.

Bella was about to answer his extremely hurtful insinuation when she saw Esme jump to her feet, pull something from her bag and point it at Edward’s head. Shit, it was a gun. Why did Esme have a gun?

“One more word, toll-thon (asshole),” she hissed, pointing her Jessie James Unlimited engraved 45 caliber 8-shot handgun at Edward’s head. “She is five months pregnant with your twins.”

Edward looked between his mother and Bella. Could this be true? How did his mother know so much about her?

A choroi (my heart), put the gun down,” Carlisle said, wheeling close to Esme. He knew that she wouldn’t shoot Edward, but Bella didn’t know that; from the look of confusion and fright on her face, she didn’t need this stress. He had been shocked to see what had taken place, but he could also see that Edward had feelings for this woman. 

Esme had come back from the spa this afternoon relaxed and smiling.  She had told Carlisle about the three young ladies she had met at the spa.  It was apparent that she had already formed a bond with Bella when she had met her and her friends . Then she shared with him how she felt this overwhelming need to help and protect the girl. He had remembered his Seanmháthair  telling him the tale of Anu, the Irish Goddess from whom all life emerged. She graced each good Irish mother with the ability to sense when their children or grandchildren would be in need of help. She had said she had witnessed it several times in her life.  Looking at what was transpiring before him, he thought maybe it was true, and this is why Esme had felt this connection to Bella.

Esme’s heart was still racing with rage over her son’s callous words to Bella. Nonetheless, Carlisle was correct and she lowered her gun. Looking back at Bella, who was currently staring intently at her. “Bella, dear, sorry about this. My Irish temper gets the best of me sometimes.” Sauntering back to Bella, she motioned for her to sit down. Once they had, Carlisle motioned to Edward to sit, by the look on his face, Edward knew to hold his tongue.

Bella opened and closed her mouth several times before the words finally came. “Why do you have a gun?” 

Esme glanced over to Carlisle, who gave her a slight nod. Only people who were or would be part of the family were to ever know the truth. Bella was carrying the next generation, he was sure, for that fact, she had the right to know. 

“She has it for protection,” Carlisle answered. 

“I don’t understand,” Bella replied, looking between Esme and Carlisle. She had only glanced at Tony, no Edward, since he had sat down. The anger she had seen when he had noticed her belly was gone and its place was a look of what looked like worry.

“What I am about to tell you, you can’t tell anyone else without permission from Edward,” Carlisle began.

“Why, Edward?” Bella questioned, her brows knitted together.

“Because he is the Captain of the family,” Carlisle explained.

“Captain? Are you part of the Navy or a boat club?” She asked.

Esme couldn’t help but giggle over the comment. The Irish mafia family had different names for their members than the greasy Italian bod ceanns (dickheads) that were idolized in the movies and tv shows. 

Carlisle smirked. “No, Bella. Do I have your promise not to reveal to anyone what you are about to learn?”

Bella thought for a moment, deciding that she was already tied to this family because of the babies. “Yes, I swear.”

“Good. Edward is Captain of our family, as I was before I passed the duty to him, like my father, his father before him and so on. Now know that from this day forth, you will be protected, as will our grandchildren that I am sure you are carrying,” Carlisle began, then took a deep breath. This next part was going to be the hardest. “The Cullen family is part of the mafia. We control New York and New Jersey, running guns, racketeering, gambling booking, art theft, and rare car theft.”

Bella’s mouth fell open. There was no way this could be happening. The Cullens were the biggest benefactors to the museum. They weren’t gangsters and murderers. Looking over to Edward, she stared. Was this the reason he had given her a false name? Maybe, though, it didn’t excuse him for leaving her without even a goodbye. They had shared something special, she knew this with all her heart. Searching his soulful green eyes for any sign that she hadn’t just imagined the feelings between them, she thought for the briefest of moments that she saw the man she had spent that special night with. 

Esme placed her hand on top of Bella’s, giving it a squeeze. “Bella, do you have any questions?”

“Only about a million,” she murmured.

“Just know that even though we make a living a little differently than most people, the main thing to remember is that family comes first in all things,” Carlisle noted.

“Bella,” Edward said, his voice cracking. “I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you.”

“Sorry? Really?” She snapped. “All you had to do was to wake me up that morning or leave me your phone number.”

“I left a note,” Edward replied.

“Yeah, stating that you would call me,” she scoffed.

“I didn’t realize that I didn’t have your number until I was able to think straight after the accident. By then, I tried to find you, but you had already graduated and moved away. The only address the university had was the one in Washington State. I did have one of my men go and snoop around, but they only found your parents at the address we had. “ he shared.

Bella gasped. “They talked to my father?”

“No,” Edward answered, then ran his hand through his hair, thinking the best way to say the next part without hurting her feelings. “From the information, I have received, your father is…different.”

“No, shit. The man is an egotistical, religious zealot,” she retorted.

Edward let out the breath he was holding. Jared had come back, giving him a detailed report on Pastor Charlie Swan. He had attended a tent meeting, secretly videotaping the sermon that Pastor Swan had preached. The shit that came out of his mouth about women and how they were the downfall of mankind from the very beginning with Adam and the evil Eve. God commanded that women were to be chattels, subservient to their husbands. Never to speak their thoughts and to always obey the commands of their husbands. Edward couldn’t believe that the woman he had met in a bar had been raised in such a stringent life. Bella had been so open, so full of life, and had given him her virginity so freely, telling him that she knew he was special.

“Yes, he is,” Edward chuckled.

“Bella, the reason Edward left the way he did was because I was shot that night.  There was a hit made on me, putting me in this chair,” Carlisle explained. “It doesn’t excuse what he did, but I wanted to let you  know the reason why he left you.”

“Thank you, Carlisle,” Bella declared. “Be that as it may, where does this leave me now?”

Before anyone could answer, she heard a voice outside her door.

“Out of my way. My daughter is in there and you are not stopping me,” Robbie growled.

Edward stood and went to the door, opening up to find Robert Hale standing toe to toe with Riley. “Mr. Hale, what are you doing here?”

“What are you doing in my daughter’s office?” Robert growled, trying to look around Edward. “Bells, are you okay?”

“Bella is your daughter?” Edward asked, then looked back at Bella. “I thought you said your last name was Swan. Did you fucking lie to me? What else are you lying about?” 

Robert began to reach out to grab Edward but was quickly wrapped up in the massive arms of Riley. Bella jumped to her feet and rushed across the room.

“Let him go NOW!” She yelled.

Riley looked at Edward, who gave him a nod. Once Robert was free, he dashed to Bella. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine for the most part,” Bella answered, giving Edward a look that could kill.

“Do you care to explain?” Edward growled.

“Not to you, asshole,” she fumed. “Robbie, come to meet Carlisle and Esme.”

Bella went back to where they were sitting. “Carlisle, Esme, this is Robert Hale or Robbie. He is my best friend’s father, who adopted me in a way. Without his support, I really don’t know what I would have done.”

“Robert, good to see you again,” Carlisle stated, holding out his hand, which Robert took and shook.

“Mr. Cullen, a pleasure as always,” Robert declared. “Mrs. Cullen it’s a pleasure to meet you finally.”

“Robert, what did I tell you? Call me Carlisle and this is Esme. Please have a seat.”

After Robert sat down beside Bella, he handed her her purse. “What you wanted is inside.”

Bella opened her bag, pulling out the chocolate bar. “Thank you so much.” 

“Go ahead and eat it, dear,” Esme urged. “We wouldn’t want our grandkids to be deprived of their urges.”

Robert gasped loudly. “Grandchildren?” He wondered when and how Bella had found the asshole who got her pregnant. Then the realization hit him, the father of her children was part of the mafia.

“Yes, Bella is carrying our grandchildren,” Esme beamed.

“Who is the father?” Robert asked.

“I am the father,” Edward acknowledged.

“You are nothing but the sperm donor,” Bella hissed. She had enough of his two-faced attitude. One moment he was the sweet man that she had made love to and the next, he was a fucking bastard. 

“THOSE ARE MY CHILDREN!” Edward yelled. “You can’t keep them from me.”

Bella stood, stepped in front of Edward, and looked up into his eyes. “You want to try me because I assure you that I won’t be bullied into anything I don’t want to do.” She asserted as she crossed her arms over her chest, then turned back to Esme and Carlisle. “Carlisle, Esme, it was a pleasure, please leave your number with Robert, I have to leave before I do something I will regret.”

Robert handed her the purse. “I’ll text your driver. Text me when you get home, please.”

“I will,” she replied. Taking one last look at Edward, she couldn’t believe she had wasted so much time trying to find him. Stepping around him, she proceeded to her door.

Edward couldn’t believe what was happening. So much had happened this evening. He had found her, she was pregnant with his children, and now she was walking out on him. No woman had ever stood up to him like she had. They needed to talk, to work this all out because there was no way he was not going to be the father to his children. Just as she was about to open the door, he called out to her in a pained voice. “Bella.’

She didn’t look around or stop, knowing that if she did, he would see the hurt in her eyes.

Fire of Your Soul ~ Chapter Nine

Thank you, again, for sticking with us and for leaving a review, if you did. We appreciate you sharing our love of Twilight. Unfortunately, this is not ours. We just like to play with the characters created by Stephenie Meyer. 

Up next, Bella will find her dress and we’ll get a date for our two favorite lovebirds. Will they kiss? Will they do more? 

Chapter Nine

 Bella was sitting in her apartment. Perusing her laptop, she was looking for the dress for the benefit. Why was it so hard to find the perfect dress? One would have the right top, but a hideous bottom. Or, it was either too slutty or too matronly.  She wanted a dress that would make Edward drop to his knees and beg. 

After looking at hundreds of dresses, she made some notes on the designers she liked and decided to go to a few shops to try on some. There were several formal shops in the Seattle area. There were reviews for Dolce Bleu that were outstanding. Changing into something more conducive for formal dress shopping, Bella picked up her purse, and left for the shop.

She made her way to their coffee shop to pick up a coffee to go. Edward was working the early shift so that she couldn’t meet up with him this morning. It was strange walking in the shop and not seeing his smiling face. After she had her hot liquid of life in her hand, she stepped back out of the shop and headed towards the shop. It was a glorious day with no rain and the sun shining brightly. Sipping on her coffee, she hoped and prayed that she would find the right dress. 

Turning right on Main Street, she was happy to see the shop ahead. Bella stood outside and looked at the store window display of Dolce Bleu. It was decorated with a magical wedding gown. It was form-fitting, covered with crystals in the design of flowers, and long sweeping training. Damn, it was something she could see her wearing if she was ever lucky enough to find that special man who could put up with her. Finishing up her coffee, she threw the cup in the trash and went in the door. 

“Welcome to Dolce Bleu,” a tall red-head said with a sincere smile. “My name is Marci.”

“Hello, Marci, I’m Bella,” she replied.

“What can I help you find today, Bella?” Marci asked.

“I am looking for a dress for a benefit. It’s a formal event and I checked online, loving what I saw,” Bella smiled

“Is there something, in particular, you are looking for?” Marci asked.

“It has to be either black or white. I am looking for something that will stop my date’s heart,” Bella grinned with her eyes twinkling.

“We have several dresses that would work for the benefit. You have a killer body and our designs would work wonderfully on you,” Marci giggled.

“Um, well, thank you,” Bella replied, unsure about Marci’s compliment. Bella had a nice body and she was comfortable in her skin, but she wouldn’t describe herself as ‘killer.’ 

Marci showed Bella to one of the dressing rooms. They were larger than a standard room, giving the customer room to try on full-skirted gowns. The room had a plush tufted bench, a pedestal, and a full-length mirror.

“Please remove your clothing and place this on,” Marci urged, handing her a white silk robe with the boutique logo on the right breast. “I’ll be back in a few moments with some dresses that would work for the benefit.”

“Thank you,” Bella replied. Once Marci closed the door, she removed her dress and slipped on the robe. Ten minutes later, there was a small knock on the door and Marci came in with an arm full of gowns in plastic bags. Hooking each hanger on the rack, she began to unzip each bag. 

“I’ve brought in a wide array of styles,” Merci began. “This one has a full skirt, off the shoulder with an ombre effect.”

Once Bella tried on the dress, Marci helped her out of the room to see herself in the three-way mirrors on the showroom floor. As they rounded the corner, Bella heard a gasp.

“Bella, sweetie, what are you doing here?” Her mother exclaimed, making her way over and placing her arms around her. 

“Looking for a dress for the benefit,” Bella replied, holding out her arms to show her the dress that she had on.

“Esme, what do you think?” Renee asked, turning to her friend. Marci helped Bella up on the pedestal, allowing her to view the gown from all sides. 

“I like the ombre effect. It’s elegant, but different,” Esme answered as she appraised Bella in her gown. 

Bella agreed with Esme’s assessment. She liked the dress, but it was not what she was looking for. The skirt was so full that she would be able to get close to Edward and feel his delicious body against hers. 

“It is charming, but it’s not the dress for her,” Renee mused.

“You are so right, Renee,” Esme agreed. “How is the young man going to get close to that body?”

Bella blushed over that statement. You read my mind, Esme. How could her mother and Esme talk about such things? 

“Esme, you do have a point. How are we ever going to get grandbabies if they don’t get close?” Renee snickered.

“MOM!” Bella barked. Her face flushed and she hid her face behind her hands. “Marci, I’m so sorry. Please excuse them. They apparently lack a filter.” 

“I’ve heard worse,” Marci shrugged, 

“The dress is nice, but not what I am looking for,” Bella muttered, shooting a glower at her mother. “Maybe something a little more form-fitting?”

“I think I have something that would be more suited to what you want,” Marci said, helping Bella down and taking her back to the dressing room. She took out the next gown. “This one is also off the shoulder, with a plunging neckline, thigh-high slit, and it’s backless.”

Bella liked how the dress looked on the hanger. She tried it on and it fit her like a glove. Once again, Bella walked out to the mirrors, where her mother and Esme were sitting with glasses of champagne in their hands. Stepping up on the pedestal, she looked at the mirror to see how it looked.

“Much better, but this leaves very little to the imagination,” Esme said, then blurted out, “Who is your date?”

“Do you have a date?” Renee asked, looking at Bella.

“Well, if she doesn’t, I am sure I could convince Edward to ask her,” Esme suggested. 

“Oh, how perfect,” Renee gushed, grasping hold of Esme’s hand and getting a faraway look in her eyes. “They would make beautiful babies.”

“MOM!” Bella snapped. “This is not appropriate to be talking about in public.”

“Why not? I have a beautiful daughter. Esme has a handsome son. You two would be wonderful together. We’ve discussed this for years,” Renee confided, taking a sip of her champagne. 

“I don’t need help to find a date,” Bella growled as she walked past Marci and headed back to the dressing room. She was so embarrassed. 

Marci came into the dressing room. “Bella, don’t feel bad about your mother. I can tell you now that I have heard and seen worse.”

“Thank you,” Bella said, her head hanging lower. Taking some deep cleansing breaths, her head rose up and she placed a determined smile. “I came in here for an amazing dress and I’m going to find it. What else do you have?”

“Good,” Marci said, unzipping the next bag and pulling out a stunning black and white dress. The bottom of the dress was black, tight-fitting, and the back was backless except for a row of fabric flowers flowing down the back of the dress, along her spine. 

Bella loved this dress and once she had it on her body, she knew it was the one. Her face broke out in a broad smile and every cell in her body began to tingle at the thought of Edward seeing her in it. She didn’t care what her mother or Esme thought about the gown. This was the dress. This time she walked out to the showroom with a strut and sexy sway of her hips. 

Renee and Esme were speechless. 

Standing in front of mirrors, Bella could almost picture her and Edward dancing. His large hand was resting on her back while he slowly rubbed in pinky down the waist of the dress, causing the most beautiful euphoric sensation. Bella sighed over that thought, turning towards her mother and Esme. She was determined that this was the dress and nothing they could say would change her mind. “Before you say anything, I love this dress and I can’t imagine wearing anything else,” Bella said with confidence. However, she was so worked up; she forgot to hold her tongue. “And I know that Edward is going to love it also.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she could have kicked herself in the ass.

“Edward?” Esme quizzed with a smirk. “My little Edward?”

Bella turned back around. “Not so little,” she mumbled under her breath, remembering the numerous times she had seen the outline of his cock in his tight jeans. It was those images that kept waking her up at night wet with need. She felt a hand on her arm.

“Sweetheart, you are stunning and Edward is one lucky man,” Renee whispered. “We’re sorry about earlier. We didn’t mean to embarrass you. It wasn’t our attention, Bella.”

Blowing out a breath, Bella turned, her eyes misty with tears, “You like it?”

“I love it,” Renee said, opening her arms.

Bella fell into Renee’s arms and sighed. After a few moments of drinking in her mother’s loving embrace, she pulled back. “Marci, I’ll take it.”

Marci had been standing back and watching the entire interaction and was overcome with emotions. Wiping away a stray tear, she smiled. “I’ll ring you up. If you come back tomorrow, the dress will be pressed and steamed. Do you need accessories? Jewelry?” 

“I do need a purse and some shoes, but I’m good with jewelry,” Bella answered. 

“I’ll pull some options,” Marci smiled. “I’ll meet you out front.” 

Bella nodded and waited until Marci left after she unzipped the gown. Slipping on the robe, Bella sent a text to Edward. 

Would you like to come over? Dinner? I’d like to see you ~ B

I’ll bring the wine and dessert ~ E

I’ll text you my address. Come over around six? ~ B

I’m counting the minutes, Bella. See you tonight ~ E

With a smile, she redressed, leaving the gown in the dressing room and walked out to the main showroom. Marci was at the counter, speaking with Renee. Bella scurried over to the counter just as her mother signed a credit slip. “Mom, I can afford my own dress,” she chided. 

“It’s a mother’s prerogative to spoil her daughter,” Renee chided. “And Esme is also doing some spoiling, too.”

“I can’t, Mom. She’s still a patient of mine,” Bella hissed. Renee just gave Bella a smirk, handing her daughter the claim slip for her dress. She looped her arm through Bella’s and they walked to the showroom. 

“I think this would look lovely with your dress,” Esme said, holding up a simple black beaded clutch. “With these shoes? They’re not as fancy, but still elegant.”

“The swoop across the arch of the foot matches the back of the dress,” Renee said. “Try them on, Bells.”

She slipped off her shoes and crossed her legs daintily. Taking the black, open-toed pumps, she put them on and stood up. They did wonderful things to her legs, making her calves look shapely and her legs a mile long. She walked a bit in the shoes, loving them. “I do like these. Very elegant, but comfortable.”

“Marci?” Esme called, holding up her hand, with her credit card between her fingers. “This purse and shoes, please?”

“Esme, I can’t accept these,” Bella argued as she sat back down to take off the shoes. “I’m appreciative, but …”

“Nonsense,” Esme insisted, pushing her credit card into Marci’s hand. “This is a gift. If I’d sent over a gift basket or an expensive bottle of scotch as a thank you for your help, would you send it back?”

“No, I wouldn’t,” Bella said. 

“Then, consider this a thank you, Bella. You saved me, gave me back my life,” Esme breathed, taking Bella’s hand. “These shoes and purse are the same thing as an expensive bottle of scotch, except you can wear them. I won’t take no for an answer.”

Bella sighed, looking at Esme. Her eyes were sparkling and she wore a crooked smirk, looking so much like Edward. “Okay, Esme. I accept. Thank you so much for the accessories for the benefit.”

“There are also an adorable pair of earrings,” Esme snickered. 

“I’m good,” Bella laughed. 

“We still need to get our gowns, but do you want to go out to eat afterward?” Renee asked. 

“Actually, I have plans,” Bella said. “I’m going to the grocery store and then …” She trailed off and her face flamed. “I’ll see you at the benefit.”

“No, you’ll see us at the salon. I’ve made an appointment for all of us, Alice and Rose included, to get some relaxation and beautification before this benefit,” Renee sang. “The appointment is at noon for a full spa day. Ummelina Spa … just let them know you’re with the Swan/Cullen party.”

“Okay, Mom,” Bella said, hugging her mother. “I love you and thank you for the dress. I appreciate it, more than words can say.”

“Meh, you deserve it, Bells,” Renee sang, cupping her daughter’s cheeks. She smiled tenderly at her remaining child, seeing some life and sparkle in her eyes. “I love you so much, baby girl.”

Bella nodded, kissing her mother’s cheek and trying not to cry. Turning, she gave Esme a brief kiss and a hug. “Thank you for the accessories for the dress, Esme. I’m looking forward to the benefit,” she murmured. 

“For the first time in a long time, so am I,” Esme nodded. “Have fun tonight with your plans.”

“I fully intend to,” Bella giggled, taking the bag from Esme that held her shoes and new purse. “Good luck finding your own dresses. I’ll see you at Ummelina.” 

She looped the bag over her arm, leaving Dolce Bleu. She clambered into her car and drove to the Whole Foods close to her condo. She picked up some steaks, asparagus and potatoes. If Edward was anything like her father, he’d enjoy steak and potatoes. She also picked up some ingredients for a salad, red wine, a six pack of beer, Stella Artois, and some dessert. She paid for the groceries, hoping that Edward would enjoy the meal. When she got into her car, she sent a text to Edward with her address. 

Arriving back at home, Bella went up to her condo and put her groceries away. She showered and changed into a pair of jeans, a camisole and a long sweater. She went outside, grateful that it was a sunny day. The sun was slowly setting in the west, bathing the city in a warm glow. She lit the fire pit, leaving the door open to the kitchen. 

Bella was working making dinner when her phone rang. It was the lobby. “Hello?”

“Dr. Swan, we have an Edward Cullen down here,” said the security guard. 

“Send him up,” Bella smiled. “He’s a welcomed guest.”

“Yes, Dr. Swan. Do you want us to add him to the list of approved guests?” 

“That would be great,” Bella replied. She hung up the phone and padded to the door, opening it up. When she did, the elevator dinged and the sleek doors slid open. Edward walked out, wearing a pair of jeans and a sexy button-down shirt. He held a bouquet of colorful flowers and a bottle of white wine. “Hey, Edward.”

He strode over to her and grinned crookedly. “Hello, beautiful,” he said, kissing her cheek and handing her the bouquet. “For you.”

“They’re gorgeous,” Bella breathed, inhaling the fragrant blooms. “Come in, come in! Would you like a glass of wine? Some beer?”

“Wine would be great,” Edward answered, following her into her home. “Oh, wow. This place is gorgeous. That view!”

“It is a wonderful view,” Bella said. “Red or white? I picked a bottle of red when I was shopping, or I can open up the white wine you brought.”

“What are we eating?”

“Steaks, roasted asparagus, and baked potatoes,” Bella answered. 

“Red, then,” Edward said. “I’ll open it.”

Bella handed Edward the bottle and the bottle opener. While he opened up the bottle of wine, Bella took out the steaks and began making dinner. “It’s not very often that I cook for myself. Cooking for one is a lot of work. It was easier to eat at the hospital or to grab something from a restaurant on the way home. I can cook. I like to cook. I just don’t want to cook for just me.”

“I’m glad I could help you in that endeavor?” Edward chuckled, handing her a glass of wine. “But, I was in the same boat. Either I ate at the firehouse, or I hung out with my uncle and his wife for meals. Can I help with anything? I am pretty hapless in the kitchen, but I can chop things.”

“Can you make the salad?” Bella asked. Edward nodded and she grabbed the lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots from the refrigerator. She placed a wooden bowl in front of him, along with a wooden chopping block and a large knife. Edward began by washing the vegetables before cutting them. “So, I found a dress for the benefit.”

“You did?” Edward smirked. “What does it look like?”

“Sexy,” Bella answered, giving him a coy grin. “Very, very sexy.”

“I cannot wait to see you in it, beautiful,” Edward said, grateful that he was standing behind the counter. His cock was pressed uncomfortably against the zipper of his jeans. “You’re not the only one who got their attire for the benefit. My dad took me and my brothers to get tuxedos. Well, my brothers already had tuxedos, but they needed  to be fitted. I had to get one since most of my clothes look like this.” He gestured to his clothes, which were cut exactly to his muscular form, “Jeans, button-downs and hoodies. When I’m at work, I wear a pair of cotton pants and SFD polo.”

“Even when you’re on site?” Bella asked. 

“Sometimes I’ll wear turnout gear if we’re on site close to when the fire is struck, but usually not,” Edward said. Bella shuddered, her lips puckering out into a sexy pout. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, but I … sometimes hearing about fires and such … it freaks me out. I’m proud of what you do, of what my father does, but it’s such a dangerous job,” Bella murmured, sipping her wine. She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to …”

“It is a dangerous job. I had a close scrape and I couldn’t go into another fire after that night,” Edward said, frowning deeply. It was my fault that your sister is dead. I’m so sorry, Bella.  “That’s why I decided to make the move to arson investigation. I may not be able to fight fires anymore, but I can help stop them.”

“You have the body of a firefighter,” Bella blurted, taking an appreciative look at his muscles. Her face flamed as her filter disappeared. Just like Mom and Esme’s at the dress salon with all that talk of grandbabies. “Shit … that was … I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” Edward laughed, his smile wide and bright. “Thank you for the compliment. I may not go into active fires, but I still maintain my certification and I work out.” He reached over, taking her slender hand into his. He gently tugged her closer, staring into her eyes. “You definitely don’t look like any doctor I know … Granted, I went to Dr. Gerandy for as long as I can remember. He should have retired years ago. He has hair growing out of his ears.”

Bella bit her lip, sliding her hands up his arms. “I don’t have hair growing out of my ears,” she giggled. “The only hair I have is the hair on my head, Edward.” Her fingers tangled into his hair, which was as soft as she’d imagined. “I’m also not a million years old.” She rolled her hips, stepping into his personal space and feeling his length against her thigh. “Just because I’m a doctor doesn’t mean I don’t know how to have a good time.” 

“Fuck,” Edward whispered, his arms sliding around her waist and cupping her ass. Their lips were a hairsbreadth apart, but the oven buzzed. Bella jumped, stepping away. 

“Saved by the bell,” she murmured breathily. She walked back to the counter, picking up a sheet of asparagus. She drizzled some olive oil on the vegetables along with freshly shaved romano cheese before sliding it into the oven. “I was seconds away from dragging you back to my bedroom and fucking the hell out of you.”

Edward’s eyes bugged out, staring at the sexy woman who worked easily in her kitchen. She turned toward him, giving him a sly smile. “Shocked, Edward?”

“A bit, but it’s good to know that our feelings are definitely mutual,” he growled. “And we haven’t even kissed yet.”

“Good things come to those who wait, baby,” Bella purred, sipping her wine. 

“Indeed,” Edward smirked, eager to make her words come to fruition. He wanted to fuck her, claim her. But, there was something else, burning deep inside him. He wanted to be owned by her and protect her. He wanted to love her. His cold, dead heart was beating inside his chest for the first time in nearly five years. 

“It’s a nice night. Want to eat outside?” 

“Sounds perfect,” Edward said, the spell breaking. 

Edward carried out the dishes to the patio while Bella finished cooking their meal. Once the food was done, they both carried out the steaks, roasted asparagus and baked potatoes with all the trimmings. It smelled delicious and looked even better. “I hope you like it,” Bella said, sitting down next to him. 

“I have no doubt, Bella,” Edward said, cutting into the perfectly grilled steak. “How did you find this place? It’s beyond gorgeous. Just like its owner.”

Bella grinned, blushing at his sweet compliment. “My mom found it for me. I was working insane hours at Sloane Kettering, wrapping up my fellowship, before I moved out here. I gave her my list of needs, a budget and sent her on her way. This place is amazing, a sanctuary for me.”

“It’s very warm and comforting. Usually, modern, contemporary homes can be cold, but this is elegantly you,” Edward said sincerely. 

“Well, besides my family, you are my first house guest. I’ve been a horrible host and I haven’t offered you a tour,” Bella said. 

“After dinner, beautiful,” Edward chuckled. “I don’t want this wonderful meal to go to waste, unless you become the meal.”

“Perhaps I’m dessert,” she purred, winking at him. 

Their meal was spent sharing sexy banter. Edward shared some stories of his time in college and then in Boston. Bella was enthralled by his passion for firefighting. The way he spoke about fires and his investigations reminded Bella of her father. But, Edward was drawn to the power of fire, where her dad was drawn to its destructive beauty. 

When they finished their meals, they moved to a couch on the patio. Bella talked about her time in medical school and her residency. Edward was in awe of her empathy and desire to make the lives of her patients better, enhancing their lives. When her patients struggled, so did Bella, desperate to make things right for them, to ease their pain. 

While they talked, like magnets, Bella and Edward moved closer together until Bella’s legs were draped over Edward’s. His fingers were gliding along her arm, reveling in the softness of her alabaster skin. His hand moved up to her neck, caressing her jaw. “You are so fucking beautiful, Bella,” he whispered. 

“So are you,” Bella said, biting her lip. His thumb moved to her lip and removed it from her teeth. He blinked down to her mouth, wanting to taste her. “Edward …”

“Do you want this?” he asked, tracing her lips with his thumb. 

“More than anything,” she replied. “Every time you touch me … I want more.”

“Bella,” he breathed before closing the gap and capturing her mouth with his. Her lips were soft and pouty, moving perfectly with his. She tasted of wine and something that was inherently her. He tugged her closer, burying his fingers into her hair as he deepened the kiss. She moaned against him, draping her leg over his and moving so she was straddling his legs. Edward held her tightly against his body as she rocked over his growing erection. “Fuck, baby.”

She pulled back, staring into Edward’s eyes. They were black with desire as he looked at her. His lips were swollen. Bella reached up, caressing his features. “Are you real?” she asked. 

“Are you?” he retorted, taking her hand and kissing her palm. “Being with you here is a dream, Bella.” 

She traced his lips, feeling fireworks ignite in her belly. She shrugged out of her sweater, revealing her camisole. Edward’s eyes blinked down as he stared at her heaving breasts. Gripping his hair, Bella nipped at his lips as Edward held her so close to his body. Her fingers moved down, working to unbutton his shirt to feel his skin. He moaned when her fingers scraped down his nipples. His mouth moved down her neck as he gently cupped her breast over her shirt. Bella was rolling her body, panting for his touch. “More, Edward. Touch me.”

He growled against her fragrant skin, pulling her shirt down to reveal her pert breast. He rolled her nipple with his fingers, making it even harder before his lips moved from her neck to her tit. He sucked on her, tasting her and desperate to take her to her bedroom to see all of her. He wanted to see her creamy skin. He wanted to touch her breasts, curious if he could make her come by touching her there. He needed to taste sweetness, her pussy, as she was coming from his mouth, his cock. 

He tore his mouth from her breast and kissed her again, palming her.  She was everything he loved in a woman … soft, sexy, writhing, curvy, breathless and his. He stopped kissing her, staring up at her as she panted heavily. His fingers traced along the curve of her breasts. “You’re fucking perfect, Bella,” he said, twisting her nipples. She whimpered. He went to kiss her again when his phone rang. “Fuck.”

“Let it ring,” she pouted, sucking his earlobe between her lips. “Let’s continue this in my bedroom, Edward.”

He groaned, wanting nothing more than to carry her to her room, strip her bear and slide into her warmth. He was lost as she sucked on his neck, rolling her body over his, making him even harder. If she kept doing that, he would have a mess on his hands. Or rather, in his boxers. The phone stopped ringing and he kissed her neck before devouring her mouth once more. He was getting ready to flip her onto the couch to tease her more when the phone rang again. “God damn it,” he spat. “It’s work.”

“How can you tell?” Bella pouted, moving off his lap and adjusting her top so her breasts weren’t hanging out. 

“The ringer,” he frowned, pulling out his phone and seeing the station’s number on the display. Sliding his finger across, he barked, “Cullen.”

“Hey, Edward,” Rose sighed. 

“I thought we were off tonight,” he grumped. 

“So did I, but there was a fire that needs our expert attention. Charlie is calling us in. It’s all hands on deck,” Rose said. “I was here looking over some of the evidence from another fire when I got the call. I’m so sorry, Edward.”

He scrubbed his face, looking over at Bella. She was deliciously rumpled and effortlessly sexy as she sat next to him. “Okay. I’ll be there in a half hour,” he retorted. 

“See you in a bit,” Rose replied. 

He hung up the phone, tossing it onto the table surrounding the fire pit. “I’ve got to go, beautiful,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

“Is everything okay?” Bella asked. 

“There was a mysterious fire and they need us to investigate to see if it was arson,” Edward muttered. “My boss is calling me in, so I have to go. I’d much rather be here, dealing with the fire burning between the two of us.”

“You’re not the only one,” Bella moaned. 

“This,” he said, pulling her back into his lap and kissing her deeply, “is not over. To be continued, Bella.”

“I’m aching,” Bella smirked. “And so wet, Edward.”

“I’m hard as a rock, Bella. I want nothing more than to …” he trailed off, pressing his forehead to hers. “The benefit … you’ll be mine.”

“Is that a promise?” she asked. 

“It’s a fucking vow,” he said, kissing her once again. “I’m going to go before I fuck you out here on the patio.”

“I wouldn’t complain,” Bella giggled. 

“I would. I fully intend on taking my time with you, Bella. You are deserve more than just a frenzied fuck,” he breathed, standing up while holding her. His hands rested on her ass as he gathered himself. “You deserve it all. Think of me while you deal with your ache.”

“Be safe, Edward,” she murmured. “And I will definitely think of you while I take things into my own hands.” 

He kissed her once more, stepping back. He made his way to the patio door and just as he put his hand onto it, Bella cleared her throat. “Edward, I want to be yours and I want to take my time, but there is nothing wrong with a frenzied fuck,” she purred. 

“I’ll remember that, beautiful,” he smirked. 

A/N: In our description, we put that ending part as a schmexy little kumquat … we hope you liked it. Also, thank you for your patience with this story. Clo and I had some lack of mojo, and then, time just ran away with RL. 

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. 

Up next will be a continuation of the previous chapter, discussing the mysterious fire and then the benefit. Leave us some loving!

Lots of love, 

HeartForTwilight and Tufano79

If the Boughs Break, Blood Will Flow ~ Chapter Five

Blood Stained Suits

“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. 

~~0~~

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.

~o~

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!”