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COULD BE WORSE RIGHT?

By Savage

Could Be Worse, Right?

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Prologue

I want a sex slave. Fucking sue me.

I watched Kates delectable backside as it sauntered out of my ofce and out of my life. I should have known it wasnt going to work from the very beginning, when she wouldnt even let me open the car door or choose the fucking wine. If she refused all that on the rst date, I probably should have ended it after the second. She lasted longer than the last few, at least nearly a month. Apparently she had decided I was way to Neanderthal for her tastes. Neanderthal. Nice.

Maybe it was my fucked up childhood, or maybe it was just because there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I didnt really care. I just wanted a beautiful woman at the beck and call of my cock. Its not like I didnt return the orgasms. Id fucked my name out of the mouth of every woman Id been with, and usually had them begging for more. The problem was they just werent always on my time schedule. They had careers, or families or friends or whatever that got in the way of focusing on me and what I wanted. Did that make me a selsh prick? Fine, it did. I didnt fucking care.

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I was not a BSDM guy, really. I didnt have a play room full of canes and shit like that, though I didnt see anything wrong with some silk scarves and maybe a pair of handcuffs. Having a woman listen to what I say and do it when I said it, yeah I liked that idea. The thought of having a naked woman on her knees when I got home at night, ready to make me dinner or just bend over one of the dining room chairs I liked that idea, too. I especially liked it when it came to me wanting to have a little stress relief in the form of a blow job in my ofce. I just wanted a hot chick to suck me off when and where I wanted it, and maybe be willing to take my cock up her ass. That would be a nice bonus. Damn Kate. She didnt even really consider that it might be fun for her, too.

I sighed and thought about calling Aro. The last three failed relationships had resulted in the same thought, but I had been way to chicken to consider it. I mean he didnt exactly run a dating business. The guy sold fucking slaves. Even if I managed to transfer the funds without one of my numerous accountants being all up my ass about it, it was still in every sense of the word slavery. The illegality of it aside, it was just fucking wrong, wasnt it? Did I have any scruples left?

Aro had been at a New Years Eve party at the Country Club when I had just been dumped by yet another Im not here to be your slave girlfriend. I had indulged just a bit too much Markers Mark 46 and must have spilled my drunken guts to some degree. Aro ended up having a little private conversation with me, and had certainly gotten my attention. I didnt know where he got them, and I wasnt about to inquire. I did value my life to some degree, and I knew when not to ask any questions.

I shook my head, silently telling myself not to entertain such ridiculous ideas. I wasnt going to sink as low as to support that sort of illegal trade. I had plenty of

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other shady businesses to keep me a little paranoid I didnt need to bring my sex life into it as well.

For some reason I thought of Tanya, my high school sweetheart, if you could call her that. She was a strict vegetarian refusing to eat anything that ever had a face or a mother. It didnt stop her from sucking my cock, but she wouldnt swallow, sighting the same beliefs. I always gured it was pointless I mean, just because she isnt going to eat the burger doesnt mean it wasnt going to get eaten. She could walk away with her moral nose in the air, but some fucker was going to sit down and bite into that big, juicy chuck of meat. The cow was dead, and her refusal to eat it wasnt going to change that fact.

The girls are already slaves. They could end up with anyone who could use them for anything. It could be some fat bastard who would beat the shit out of them for fun, or some nutcase who makes snuff lms. Shit, it really could be something like that. If I didnt take a bite, someone else was going to in my place. If one of his girls didnt end up on the end on my cock, shed just be servicing another. My hand was shaking as I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and started dialing the number. I didnt know who she might be, or how she might have gotten herself into such a predicament, but in some ways I would kind of be saving her, wouldnt I? I mean, I wasnt interested in hurting anyone I just wanted to stop with the dating game and still get my rocks off whenever and wherever I saw t. Volturi here. Hey Aro, I found myself saying into the phone. Edward Cullen here. I would like to talk to you about a purchase.

She had to be better off with me, right?

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Chapter 2

Good to see you again, Edward.

I shook Aros cold, pale hand and sat back down with my back to the door. Aro scooted one of the other chairs to sit next to me instead of across. The coffee shop he had chosen for us to meet was nearly empty this time of day, and there wasnt anyone near us to hear the conversation. He leaned close to me anyway.

Thought about exactly what you want? Not exactly, I admitted. My old jeans shrunk up on me, and I need a new pair. There are a lot of options out there button y, stone washed, boot cut I gured you could tell me whats in style.

Aro laughed heartily at my metaphor and tucked his long, black hair behind his ears. A server came over and brought us both some coffee. Aro eyed her appreciatively as she walked back to the counter.

There is a large variety to choose from, he said with a nod. He took a portfolio from his briefcase along with a shiny silver pen. We can start with the basics, if you like. Hair color? No blondes or redheads, I said vehemently. Brunettes, then? Or black? Aro chuckled and I shrugged. No worries.

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I was limiting myself a bit, but I didnt care. Id dated exactly one blonde and one redhead, and I was pretty much scarred for life. I focused back on Aros questions.

Body type? Slim, but with curves, you know? Athletic build? Gotcha. Eyes? No preference, I guess. Race?

Again, I shrugged.

As long as she speaks English, I said. I dont really want to have to teach her the language before Iwell, before she does what I say.

Right, no worries. Aros head bounced around like he was listening to music inside his brain. Whatever it was, it wasnt the Duran Duran variety muzak being piped through the coffee shop speakers. Demeanor? Wellobedient. Isnt that what everyone wants? No, Aro said as he raised his eyebrows at me. Not at all.

I determined I really didnt want any further information on that particular topic. We went back and forth for a few minutes on my preferences everything from straight teeth to real tits. Aro took a lot of notes and said no worries about twenty more times. I tried not to think too much about how he was able to accommodate so many different tastes. I started wondering about

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the actual selection process would I get to try her out? How many other guys would have already tried her out and not wanted her, for whatever reason?

Question, I said. What is it? Well, how do I know that shell bewellclean? I held up my hands defensively. Not that I believe you wouldnt have her tested or whatever, but if theyre with a lot of people before mewell, you understand why I could be concerned. No worries, Aro said as he marked up another little note onto his form. Want a virgin? Shit, seriously? You can do that? Of course. He nodded and kept writing. I ddled with the little napkin under my untouched coffee. That is what you want, correct? Yeah, I said quietly. Damn. It will cost you more, but I dont think thats really an issue, is it? Not really. Good. Aro sat back and looked up and down at the notes he had taken while we talked. He leaned back, scratched something off the sheet, and then wrote a minute longer. I was starting to dget, and it was hard to stop once my leg started bouncing up and down. Shell come already on the birth control shot, but youll have to keep it maintained if you dont want to breed any new little slaves. Okay. I cringed. Hymen intact? Fuck! Maybe I wasnt ready to do something like this. Just the questions were kind of freaking me out a little. I mean, I hadnt thought about any of this.

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How does a virgin end up as a sex slave? Did that even make sense? Wasnt it kind of an oxymoron or something? Did I want to know?

No, I didnt.

Let me ask a different question, Aro said. It may help you answer the last one. How old do you want her to be? Its hard to come up with a girl like that without going pretty young. Eighteen, I responded. I swallowed hard, and my chest felt tight. I grabbed a pack of cigarettes out of my jacket pocket and glared up at the no smoking sign. Do you think we could take this outside for a sec? You go ahead, and Ill get the paperwork nished up. Were almost done here anyway.

I pushed open the door to the patio area and lit up as I leaned against the brick wall. What the fuck was I doing? The implication of Aros questions was wellhorric. I took a deep drag off the smoke and ran my free hand through my hair. I wanted this, I knew I did I just didnt want to have to think about it as well. I just wanted a nice, docile, beautiful chick who would drop to her knees at a word and beg for my cock on a regular basis. Someone who wouldnt just fucking walk out on me when I asked for one, simple, sexual favor. Someone who would always be there for me, whenever I wanted her. Someone who wouldnt leave me. Ever. I took a nal drag and tossed the butt into the ashtray by the door. I was going to do this, damn it. I deserved a little something, didnt I? For all the shit cards life has dealt me thus far? Fuck yes, I did. I walked back in and sat myself down.

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So, eighteen? Aro looked up at me, and I nodded. At least. No problem, but most girls dont have a hymen at that age. Thatsumne, I stammered. He started writing again. Need another coffee? The server came back to the table and looked through her lashes at me. No thanks, Aro answered for us both. Were just about done here. Let me know if I can get you anything else. She walked off, leaving the check behind. One more question, Aro said, and then well be done here. Yes? Ive got several that will meet your requirements, Aro said, his voice low. His nonchalance was kind of disturbing. Some of them cry a lot, and some of them dont. Theyll all still t your other requirements. Fuck them whenever you want, make them do all kinds of shit they wont complain. Its just that some of them will cry the whole time, and some wont. You like it when they cry?

Fuck the word escaped without my permission. My chest tightened up again, and suddenly one cigarette wasnt enough. I pushed all the thoughts out of my head again. Uhno, I dont want one that cries. Give me about a month, Aro said as he stood, effectively ending our discussion as he took his notes and walked out of the coffee shop.

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I spent the next twenty six days jacking off, refusing a handful of dates, because I didnt want to have to end any kind of relationship when the time came. Aro nally called one morning while I was at my ofce.

Theres a little restaurant on the corner of Walnut and Tenth Street, he said when I answered. Meet me at one-o-clock for lunch. He hung up, and I took a long, deep breath before grabbing my jacket off the back of the chair and heading out the door.

This was good news, right?

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Chapter 3:

Aro was already there in the quaint little sandwich shop, ordering pastrami on rye to go. He didnt acknowledge me when I walked in, though he did turn in my direction, so he must have seen me. I stood beside him and ordered my own sandwich, also to go. I was handed a small paper sack just as Aro nished lling up his fountain drink, and I followed him as he walked out the door and into the back parking lot. I took a deep breath as I reached for the door to the restaurant, guring there really wasnt any turning back at this point. For a moment, I thought I had lost him completely as I came around the corner and didnt see him anywhere, and I felt somewhat relieved. Then, from the open window of a stretch limo, I could see Aro sticking his head out and calling to me. I altered my course, wiping my sweaty palms on my jacket as I walked over and climbed into the back.

My heart was pounding a little as I eased in and immediately saw a young woman on her knees on the oor of the limo. Her head was bowed, and her long dark hair hung in shining waves down her back and around her shoulders. She was dressed in a dark blue top with a V shaped neckline, which exposed the rounded tops of her breasts, but not in an obscene way at all. She wore a owing black skirt that billowed around her legs, hiding the lower half of her underneath the cloth. Her ngers rested on top of her knees. She was small, young, and incredibly beautiful.

I aim to please, Aro said softly. My eyes darted to his, then back the girl at our feet. Looks about right, I take it?

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Perfect, I replied. I meant it, too. I didnt realize I had a girl of my dreams until I looked down at my feet, but I did and she was right here, waiting for me to buy her. Fucking hell. All your requirements met, Aro said with a smile. Shes a good girl, and knows her place. I think youll be quite happy with her. If not, well, there is a return policy, per se. If you fuck her rst, she loses value. Id have to charge you arestocking fee, if you will.

I could only nod. She hadnt moved, not even inched when Aro talked about me fucking her. My mind was already wondering just how she would look on the oor of my apartment, kneeling by in front of me while I sat in my favorite chair. She could look up at me and run her tongue over her lips, silently begging me to let her get her mouth on my cock. I swallowed hard, and forced my thoughts to divert before I embarrassed myself.

How old is she? Shell be nineteen in September.

I wondered how she felt about being sold to a guy who was closer to thirty than to twenty. Before I could wonder about that any more, one more image went through my head in this one, she was running away from me, screaming and crying that she didnt want thisthat she didnt want me. Whatever starts of an erection I was getting from the previous thought was immediately countered by the latter.

Question. I licked my lips and swallowed. How do I know she wont try to leave?

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She wont, Aro said with authority. She knows better than that. If for some reason she lost all her senses, shes also chipped so we can always locate her, and she knows it. Good idea, I heard myself say. It was, too. Kind of sick, but still a good idea. I breathed a sigh of relief. She would really be mine she wasnt going to try to leave. So, you want a better look? Want her to blow you before you decide? Her pussy and ass are totally virgin, but shes learned to be a good little cocksucker.

Her lip twitched just the smallest amount, barely noticeable at all. I might not have noticed if I hadnt been staring at her so intently, or if she had made any other moves what-so-ever since I got in the car.

No, I dont need to do that, I told him. Ill take her. Fantastic. Aro sat up and pulled some paperwork out of his portfolio. Five minutes and a substantial amount of money later, I owned the girl at my feet.

Oh fuck. It was real now, really real. I just bought I slave. I bought a fucking sex slave. My heart started pounding again. I had to get a grip on myself. She still hadnt moved, not a fucking inch. She hadnt said anything, she hadnt moved, and I just bought her anyway. She was mine. She was my property and I could whatever I wanted to with her. She would do anything for me, because she knew she was mine. Why? Why would she let this happen to her? I felt Aros hand on my forearm.

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One nal rule, Aro said, as if he was reading my thoughts through his ngers on my arm. She will do anything and everything you say. Do whatever you want with her it doesnt make any difference to me. Kill her off if you get tired of her, just let me know so I can write her off the books. Same goes if you resell her. But dont ask her where she came from or how she got here. She wont tell you, and its none of your goddamned business. Its the one and only rule of mine both you and she must obey. You understand that, dont you Bella? Yes, Master.

Fuck. I hadnt even asked her name. Bella. Beautiful Bella.

Call me Sir, Aro corrected. Edward is your Master now. Yes, Sir, she said quickly. This time her ngers twitched on her knees. She didnt look up. Got it, Cullen? Yeah I said, looking over to him with narrowed eyes. Mind telling me exactly why? Simple business protection, Aro said with a shrug. When I buy WMD components from you, I dont ask you who your supplier is. You dont need the rule, because what you trade doesnt talk back. Point taken. I glared at him. If nothing else, my curiosity was going drive me nuts, but I also saw his point. I didnt reveal my sources, and neither would he. For whatever reason and I might never know what that is she wasnt going to tell me, either. That much was clear.

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Some of them come willingly, Edward, Aro said as he stared in my eyes. Just like some of the hardware you sell ends up on the moral side of a revolution. Just tell yourself shes one of the willing, you know what I mean? Yeah, sure, I responded.

He reached over and shook my hand.

Pleasure doing business with you, Edward as always. You too, I said, but my eyes were still on my slave. My Bella. Edwards going to take you to your new home now, Bella, Aro said to her. You be a good girl for him, or he might return you.

She moved then or at least her eyes did. She looked up to me with big, wide brown eyes. Ill be good, Master. I promise.

I reached out my hand, and she took it without hesitation. I directed her out of the back of the limo and over to my Audi, parked around front. I opened to door for her, and she bowed her head in appreciation, acceptance, and obedience.

This was going to be fantastic, right?

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Chapter 4:

Angela, cancel whatever I have schedule this afternoon and hold all my calls. I wont be back in the ofce today. Of course, Mr. Cullen. Will you be in tomorrow? Possibly. Ill let you know.

I ended the call, and glanced over at my slave. My slave. Holy shit As far as I could tell, only the quality of the road surface caused Bella to move in the slightest. She sat in the passenger seat as still as she could possibly be. She kept her eyes on the oor in front of her, never even glancing out the window as we pulled out of the parking lot, down the street and onto the freeway.

I, on the other hand, could barely keep my eyes on the road at all. I kept looking at her. Everything about her was captivating. The way her hair lay over her shoulders which I wanted to touch. The way the tight fabric of her shirt framed the top of her breasts which I wanted to touch. The way her skirt had slipped slightly between her legs, so I could see them outlined which I wanted to touch, or at least see. Well, there wasnt any reason I couldnt at least see them, was there?

Pull up your skirt, I said.

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How far, Master? I wondered idiotically what her response would have been if I had said jump. I want to see your legs.

She reached down and grasped the edge of her skirt with both hands, pulling it up to the top of her thighs all the way to where I could see the slightest hint of lacy white panties. Her long, pale legs were beautifully shaped, and my cock apparently agreed, since it seemed to want to stand up to get a better look. I reached over with my right hand and touched her thigh with my ngertips, immediately enamored with how silky smooth her skin was. My hand wrapped a little farther around, so my palm could get a little of the action as well, and I squeezed her thigh gently. My pinkie nger reached out to touch the edge of her panties. Fuck!

A loud, rumbling noise echoed through the car, and I placed my hand back on the wheel and steered out of the median and off the damn road hiccups as the guy behind me blared his horn. I tried to get my breathing back under control as I gripped the wheel with one hand and ran the other through my hair. I glanced back at Bella quickly, and saw her eyes wide and one of her hands

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covering her mouth while the other was grasping the edge of her seat. She looked like she was holding her breath. Im sorry, Master, Bella whispered. Sorry? I asked. Sorry for what? Im sorry if I distracted you, Master I didnt mean to. You are distracting, I mumbled, then spoke up. But Im the one holding the wheel. Yes, Master.

I sighed and wondered not for the rst time what the fuck I thought I was doing. Again not for the rst time I pushed those kinds of thoughts out of my head. Prepared or not, the big part of this was already a done deal. I owned her. She was mine. My responsibility. I let that thought push out the other ones while I merged back over to the right. She was my responsibility, completely and totally. Id have to give her everything she needed. Fuck! I yelled again, and for the rst time, I saw her jump a bit. Goddamnit!!

I hadnt prepared anything for her. I didnt have any clothes for her or even a fucking toothbrush. I punched the gas and took the next exit that led to the nearest mall. If nothing else, I probably needed to be off the damn highway, just to get my thoughts in order. I pulled into the mall parking lot near the Macy's, and parked out as far away from the door as I could. Since it was the middle of the week in the middle of the afternoon, the mall didnt appear to be too crowded, so I found a spot without any other cars around and stopped.

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I tried to collect myself a bit, and then looked over to her. Her skirt was still up high on her legs, her hands were placed delicately on her knees, and her eyes were on the oor of the car.

Look at me, I said, and she complied immediately. I could feel my lungs struggling for enough oxygenated blood to supply both of my heads, but I didnt think it was really working. I looked at her face more closely, her lovely cheekbones, gorgeous, deep brown eyes and her full lips. I reached my hand out and palmed her cheek, then ran my thumb over her cheekbone, then her lips. You are a beautiful girl, Bella.

She didnt respond, just kept her eyes trained to mine. I could see the slight swell of her chest as she breathed in quick, shallow breaths. I wanted to kiss her, and felt my tongue dart out over my lips. I hesitated, and then realized I could kiss her. I could do whatever I wanted with her. I could lean the seat back and fuck her right here in the parking lot if I wanted to. At least a little of that oxygen must have been reaching the head on top of my shoulders, because I didnt think moving quite that fast was the very best idea. I did move my hand to her chin, lean over the seat, and take her mouth with mine. Her lips were soft, warm, and she tasted like heaven. She kissed me back, quietly and tentatively, but I could still discern the pressure from her lips. She opened them slightly, and I took the invitation to explore her mouth with my tongue. She tilted her head minutely, allowing me better access to deepen the kiss, but I pulled back to look at her instead. Her eyes opened, and she must have let some of her guard down a little, because I was fear in them for the rst time. But I didnt want her to be afraid of me, right?

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Chapter 5:

Im not going to hurt you, I said to her. The look she had before the one showing her fear disappeared immediately, but I wasnt so sure I could really trust it, so I reiterated. I mean it. I dont have any intention of hurting you at all. Do you believe me? Yes, Master.

Hufng out my nose, I sat back in my seat and ran my ngers through my hair. I hadnt thought about this not any of this. All I had thought about was getting what I wanted, but there was a lot more to this, and I was more than a little out of my element. But still, ultimately, this was a business deal. Gather the requirements and make it happen. I let my business mind kick in, and started with the basics.

We need to get you some clothes, I told her. And whatever else you are going to need, so were going shopping. Yes, Master.

Okay, that had to stop, at least for now. Not that I didnt like it, because fucking hell I did.

No more master while were inside, got it? When we are in public, you call me Edward. Yes, Master. I will call you Edward. Good girl. The words seemed to visibly relax her, if only slightly. Once we have what you need, well go home, all right?

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Yes, Master. Lets go.

As soon as we walked in, I knew I had no idea what-so-ever about what to buy her. My business brain kicked in again clothes, shoes, toiletrieswhat else? Shit, should I buy her a collar?

Taking a deep breath, I pulled her into the rst shop I saw that seemed to have a lot of womens clothing in it. Bella trailed behind me, her hand in mine. I walked with purpose to a rack of dresses, and asked her what she liked. Her wide eyes peered up at me again, and I saw the fear return.

You want to buy me clothes here? Her voice was so soft I could hardly hear her, and I was almost certain her eyes were starting to tear up. Before I could respond, a sales woman walked up to us. Hello there! she said with a frighteningly gigantic smile. She addressed Bella. Why dear, you arent even showing yet! How far along are you? Oh, holy shit, no.

Id walked into a maternity shop. I blithered like an idiot for a few minutes before getting us the hell out of there. I sat us both down by one of those little bubbling fountains full of pennies and ran my hands through my hair. Damn, if this wasnt going to make me go bald. Id had far less frustrating deals involving arms to guerillas than dealing with one, young woman in my care.

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I had no fucking clue what I was doing.

I guess I should have read the damn sign over the door, huh? I looked over, and saw Bellas hands were shaking. Hey, I said, and I took one of her hands in mine. I remembered the look on her face when we rst walked into the shop, and realized what must have been going through her head. Shit, Im sorry I just didnt look. Im not going toI mean, I dont plan onon Fuck.

This really wasnt going well. Thankfully, there was another clothing store right across from us, full of mannequins wearing trendy jeans and T-shirts.

Lets just go over there and get you a few things to get you by, and Ill nd someone to help you get the rest later, okay? Yes, Edward.

Two pairs of jeans, a couple of vintage-looking T-shirts and a pair of sneakers later, I thought we were ready to go. Then I saw a drug store, and realized I hadnt gotten her anything for the bathroom, so I dragged her through the aisles of a Walgreens until I had all the basics covered. Id have to nd someone a little more feminine to take her shopping. Who the hell would that be?

Damn...you need panties and bras and shit, too dont you?

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A middle-aged woman with a horrible haircut glared at me from behind a rack of shampoo.

If that is your wish, Edward. Fuck.

That one earned me a humph from the shampoo woman. I took Bellas hand again and paid for her stuff.

Victorias Secret was next. What the hell was supposed to be secret about it, anyway? I mean, most of it was completely see through! I had never been in such a place, and had no fucking idea what to do.

Can you just pick some things out? I asked her. My voice was starting to betray my frustration and general lack of knowledge when it came to womens undergarments. What do you want me to have? Bella asked. Her eyes were wide again, but at least there wasnt anything worse than apprehension in them. I have no fucking clue what to even call most of this shit! I exclaimed as I threw my hands up in the air.

The weirdest fucking thing happened at that point. It was tiny and brief and wouldnt even have been noticed if I hadnt been really paying attention to her expressions, but it was there.

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Her mouth twitched into the very faintest of smiles - tight lipped, like she was trying to stie a laugh. Along with it, her eyes twinkled ever so slightly.

This is progress, right?

Chapter 6:

I was never, ever going back to a mall again. I was going to come up with some woman I could trust to take Bella shopping. I had no idea who it was going to be, but I was going to come up with someone. Bella had managed to select a couple of bra and panty sets, and had then brought them to me for my approval. One set was black, the other blue. I just nodded and told her they were ne, bought them, and got the fuck out of there. With the bags loaded into the backseat, I drove Bella back to my apartment while trying to get my jumbled thoughts to form some kind of order in my head.

Obviously, I hadnt thought all this through. That was a given. Now that I had my head back on straight at least, comparatively where did I need to go from here? I bought her for a reason, and that reason was still completely clear in my mind. I wanted to fuck her. I wanted her lips wrapped around my dick and I wanted her naked in my apartment so she was readily available for me any time I wanted to get off. I never wanted to use my hand in the shower by myself again. If I was going to jack off in the shower, I wanted her hand on my cock, not mine.

I wanted her to do what I told her to do, when I told her to do it. I wanted her to have dinner on the table when I walked in the door, and I wanted her to smile when she head to reheat it because I decided to fuck her beforehand. That was

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why I wanted a sex slave in the rst place. I still wanted all of that, and now I had her here to fulll my every wish, my every fantasy. What I didnt know, was all the other stuff that went with owning a slave. What would she do while I was at work? Aro was pretty condent that she wouldnt try to leave, but was she just going to sit around and wait for me, thinking up new ways to please me? Is that what I wanted? Yeahkind of. Like I said fucking sue me.

There wasnt much of anything I wanted to do more than take her into my great room and have her kneeling between my legs, sucking my cock. But I also realized I was going to have to talk to her rst. I needed to work out some ground rules, or I was going to keep oundering. I needed her to know I wasnt going to hurt her. Yeah, she was still mine, and she wasnt going anywhere, but I wasnt going to beat her or anything like that. I didnt want her to think I would.

I pulled the Audi into its parking space in the underground garage, nodded to Mike, the doorman, and hauled both Bella and the packages up to my penthouse.

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My apartment wasnt incredibly ostentatious. It was big way too big for one person, but not ridiculous. It was way below my means, really, but I had to keep up appearances. If I lived as high as I could, it would be pretty obvious that my legitimate company and its hi-tech gadgetry werent doing nearly as well as I seemed to be doing personally.

Bella continued to keep her eyes to the oor as I brought her inside and deposited all the bags on the couch in the great room. I was still a little apprehensive since the mall trip asco, and I plopped myself down in my favorite, overstuffed chair and let my head drop back against the cushion. I felt Bellas presence near my leg more so than actually hearing her move.

I looked down to nd her kneeling next to the chair on some side of my legs. Her hands were back on her knees, and her eyes were cast down just as she had been in the limo. Her hair was falling over the sides of her face, and I had to reach out and touch it just long enough to tuck it behind her ear. It was so soft, if felt like strands of silk through my ngers. I leaned forward a bit and stroked her hair from the top of her head to half way down her back, where it ended. Still, she remained perfectly motionless.

I sat up a little more, so I could reach her better. I stroked down her hair again, but didnt stop when I got to the end. I let my hand go a little farther, until I reached her waist and the hem of her shirt. I slipped two of my ngers inside, just to feel the softness of her skin on her back, and then sat back in the chair again.

We should probably talk a bit, huh? I said, as much to myself as to her.

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If you wish, Master. Her voice was so soft, she was hard to hear. You know why I bought you? Yes, Master. I bought you for a very specic reason, I told her frankly. No point in beating around the bush, as they say. I want someone to be ready for me anytime I feel like it. This is about the sex for me, and having you do what I want you to do. But Im not a sadist, and I dont want to beat you up, okay?

Yes, Master. Do you believe me, or are you just saying that?

She hesitated for the rst time, unsure of what to say. I reached out and placed my ngers around her chin, turning her head towards me so she was looking straight at me.

I expect you to tell me the truth, Bella. Yes, Master. Do you believe me? II want to, Master, she said quietly. So you dont get off on pain? The bluntness of my question must have surprised her a bit, because she paused with her mouth open slightly before answering me. No, Master, she nally admitted, and then quickly amended. But I am here for you, and whatever you want. If you wish toto do such things, I will do as you ask. I promise, I will be good, Master. I told you, Im not a sadist.

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YesIm sorry, Master. You dont have to say master at the end of every phrase. Only when you need to address me specically.

She hesitated again, and I could see the confusion in her eyes now.

What should I say? Just talk to me, Bella. Tell me something about you. How long have you been a slave? Her eyes went wide with fear again, and she shook her head slightly. Im sorry, Master, but I am not to speak of such things. If you need to punish me, I will accept whatever- Enough, I cut her off and released her chin. I leaned back in my chair and tugged at my hair. I had absolutely no idea what I was supposed to do now. I just wanted someone to fuck. I wasnt expecting all these other issues to come up as well. I didnt have time for this shit. I just wanted to get laid. Constantly. On demand. Now. Fuck.

I have no idea what Im doing, I grumbled and rubbed my ngers into the corners of my eyes. I should just call Aro and have him take you back. This was a mistake.

I felt her hands grip my thighs as she raised herself up on her knees in front of me. Her eyes met mine, and the sheer terror I saw there was far beyond any of the subtle looks she had given me before.

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Please, Master please! she begged. Please dont send me back! I swear Ill be however you want me to be, just please, please keep me! Holy shit.

You can take me right now, she said, and a moment later she had pulled her shirt up and over her head before placing her hands back on my legs. Let me suck your cock, please. Ill show you how good I can be. I promise, I swear-

Whoa! Bella! Relax! I sat up straighter in my chair, and reached out to grip her by the shoulders and trying not to let the sight of her beautiful, nearly bare torso get the better of me. The urge to sit back and let her do exactly what she was suggesting as a very, very strong one.

Her teeth sunk into her bottom lip, and her eyes continued to plead with me. I had no idea what Aro or his associates might have done to her. Truthfully, I wasnt sure I wanted to know, I only knew that the idea that he might have hurt her hurt my slave fucking pissed me off. She was obviously frightened out of her mind at the very mention of being sent back to him. Fuck that.

She was mine. My slave. My Bella. She didnt want to go back, and I sure as hell wasnt going to send her back for some other asshole to get a taste of her. No fucking way.

I wasnt a monster, right?

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Chapter 7:

Ill keep you. Bella dropped her head down and closed her eyes as she breathed heavily through her mouth. Thank you , Master.

I took a couple long breaths myself and tried to gure out my next steps. I had exactly what I wanted now I just needed to gure out what came next. One thing I did know things were not going to be business as usually around here for a while. I grabbed my phone.

Mr. Cullen? Angela, Im taking the rest of the week off. I should be back Monday. If there is anything that absolutely cant wait, call, but otherwise just deal with whatever it is, okay? No problem, Mr. Cullen.

Okay, the easy stuff was out of the way. Now for the hard stuff. I glanced down at my phone and saw it was already after six in the evening. Bella was still kneeling in front of me with her hands on my legs, back to her unmoving state. I tossed the phone onto the side table and ran my hand through her hair again.

Can you cook? I asked. Yes, Master.

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Good see what you can nd to cook us for dinner. Yes, Master.

She rose quickly and headed up the four stairs to the kitchen area. I watched as she rst opened the refrigerator, checked what was there, and then started opening up other cabinets to gure out just what I had in the apartment to eat. I wasnt really sure I just needed to think without her distracting hands and hair. Of course, with her shirt now discarded on the oor, she was walking around in the kitchen with only a white lace bra on the top. Distraction came again pretty quickly.

Bella, I called out. She turned immediately to face me. Take off your skirt, too. Yes, Master, she replied of course and she slipped her skirt down to the oor, stepped out of it, and hung it carefully over the seat of one of the island chairs.

I was most denitely distracted now, as well as hard as a rock. What the fuck was I thinking, asking her to do that? All right stupid question. Now she was in a white lacy bra and panties only, because she must have discarded her shoes as well as her skirt, and she was cooking me dinner. The caveman in me, or at least the Cleaver in me, could not have been more thrilled.

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Starting with her bare feet, I let myself take in the curves of her ankles and calves. She had beautifully shaped legs, which ran on up to a perfectly delicious looking ass, mostly covered by those lacy panties. Her back looked smooth and straight, and I absolutely loved the way her hair swished back and forth as she moved from one pot to the other. With her back to me, I didnt have nears as good of a look at her tits, but I probably didnt need that much of a distraction anyway.

After a few minutes of watching her, and licking my lips like a starving man, I managed to focus my thoughts again. She was mine, and she was going to stay mine. I bought her for a reason, and that reason hadnt changed. I just freaked myself out a little when I realized how ill prepared I was for the whole thing. It didnt matter at this point Id get prepared right now.

The guest room across from my bedroom would be the place she could put her clothes and have her own space. It was blandly decorated, but she could change it how she likes. Shed still be sleeping with me, but she could stay in that room when she was out of town or if one of us was sick or something. She obviously knew her was around the kitchen from the tomato sauce-y smells coming from the other room, so I didnt think eating was going to be an issue. She could go to the grocery store and get whatever she wanted to make. Bella, can you drive a car? Yes, Master. Good. She could get groceries herself, and if I couldnt get away from the ofce at noon, she could bring me lunch and a blowjob. Perfect.

Well, this was what I wanted, right?

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Chapter 8

Baked ziti became my new favorite food that night. I didn't do a lot of cooking myself, sticking to only the very basic of meals that could either be prepared in the microwave or in a single pan dumped straight from a box along with a cup of milk and a half stick of butter. Anything else was out of my league. When your parents ditch you at the age of fteen, you don't tend to get a lot of domestic training.

Bella seemed a little shocked when I told her to sit at the table and eat with me, but once she did, it was obvious she was completely ravenous. I would have asked her when the last time she ate was, but I knew I wouldn't react well to the information, so I decided not to ask at all. Afterwards, she cleaned up everything, got the dishwasher going, and then immediately knelt down beside my chair again.

My mind had been far too busy trying to gure everything out as we ate, but once she was on her knees next to me again, clad only in her virgin white underclothes, my body began to remind me exactly what I wanted out of all of this. For a while, I just looked at her, watching her completely still state in front of me and wondering what the hell I was going to do next. I wanted her. There was absolutely no question about that. I wanted her in my bed and on my cock in the worst possible way.

Fighting the urge to just whip it out and start stroking myself, I took about four hundred slow, deep breaths, closed my eyes, and tried to remember what needed to be done rst.

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"Let's get you settled in, shall we?" "Yes, Master." "Come on then," I said as I reached out for her hand. She laid her ngers into my palm, and I helped her up from the oor, and then led her back into the guest room across the hall from my bedroom, grabbing the bags of clothing I had already purchased for her along the way.

Bella's eyes wandered around the room from the bed, to the dresser and closet door, and then to the window overlooking the city.

"This room is yours," I told her. "You can do anything you want with it. I can have it painted or whatever you want to make it moreumcomfortable for you?" She looked at me briey, and then dropped her eyes to the oor.

"Is it okay?" I asked. "This is where I will sleep?" she asked quietly. "No," I said. "You'll sleep with me. My room is across the hall." She nodded.

"I go out of town on business sometimes, though," I said. "If you don't go with me, you could sleep here then, if you like." "Yes, Master."

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She looked around the room again, and I became distinctly aware of her quickened breathing and the slight shaking in her hands. She must have realized it, too, because she clasped her hands in front of her to try to make them stop. She had her back to me, and I reached out to place my hands on her shoulders before trailing my ngers down her bare arms. She inched just a little, surprised by my touch.

"You are too beautiful to have you so far from me at night," I told her. My heart was beginning to pound in my chest, and if I had taken a half step forward, my growing erection would have been pressed into her back. I ran my hands back up to her shoulders and slowly turned her around to face me.

It was the rst really good look at her I had indulged. My eyes moved from her shoulders, down to her partially exposed breasts, her at stomach, curved hips and beautifully shaped long legs, and back up again to her eyes, still downcast. She was an incredible thing to behold.

"I think it's time for bed," I heard myself murmur. "Yes, Master," she replied. She nodded and I could see her chest rise in a deep breath. "Do you want some time to yourself rst?" I asked. I reached up and placed my ngers under her chin, tilting her head to look up at me. "There's a bathroom right next door, and another one off of my room. If you want to, you could take a shower or something rst." First. When I said the word her eyes shifted away from mine for the briefest moment. "Is that what you would like, Master?"

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"I'm asking you what you would like." "I want whatever you wish, Master." I sighed and ran my hand through my hair again. This was going to get easier, right?

Chapter 9

That was when the very rst brilliant thought appeared in my head since I had decided to buy a slave in the rst place. Because this wasn't going to be easy, was it? Whatever may have happened to her before she got here either by choice or not she was only going to do what she thought I wanted her to do. I had to give her a way of expressing herself so that I knew what she was thinking.

"How about we try something?" I suggested. Her eyes found mine again, and her head nodded slightly.

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"If I ask you a question, and you don't know what I want from you, you can answer me in two ways." Her eyes narrowed in confusion. "If it is something you want to do, you say 'if you wish, Master.' If it is something you do not want to do, you say 'only if you wish, Master.' That way, it's my choice as to what you do, but I'll still know your preference. Make sense?"

Bella's mouth parted slightly, and she let a breath of air escape her lips and she shoulders dropped. The immediate relaxation in her face and shoulders was so evident; it made me realize just how nervous she had been before.

"Yes, Master." "Good girl," I said and smiled. The corners of her mouth turned up just slightly at my words. "So, do you want to have some time to yourself take a shower, whatever you want? "If you wish, Master." This time her smile was much more evident.

I smiled again, and reached up to touch her face and slowly stroke her cheek with my thumb. Her eyes dropped to the ground again, but I could have sworn she leaned into my hand the very tiniest amount. It was subtle, but still noticeable to my sensitive hands. Completely unable to help myself, I bent over and gently touched my lips to hers.

"I'll come for you in an hour. Five minutes later, I was I the shower, taking care of myself again. I hated jacking off.

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It was just so mechanical and always gave me a nearly sterile feeling, like brushing my teeth or trimming my ngernails or just eating incredibly bland food. It gave me the release I needed, but the feeling I was left with was hollow and empty. It just made me feel alone.

I washed up, toweled off and shaved just to give me something to do for a few minutes while I tried to clear my head and forget that there was a beautiful woman probably naked in her own shower by now not thirty feet away from me. I had only managed to waste about twenty minutes by the time I walked out of my bathroom and pulled on some lounge pants. I ran my hands through my towel-dried hair, and decided I needed a little relaxation help, so I headed for the wet bar.

I poured myself a shot of Makers Mark 46 and sat down. After it was gone, I went out to the balcony and had myself a cigarette. Then I went back to the bathroom to brush my teeth again, and then I grabbed another shot from the bar. I didn't know what I was so nervous about I wasn't this nervous on other rst dates, if that's what this was.

Fifty-seven minutes after I left her room, I was standing back at the door trying to gure out if I should knock or not. Finally I did, just a couple of times before I grabbed the knob and turned it. I opened the door slowly, and Bella was there in the center of the room wearing the blue bra and panty set she had picked out at Victoria's Secret. Not surprisingly, she was kneeling on the oor with her hands on her thighs and her head down. The color against her pale skin was made her absolutely, unequivocally stunning. Now what?

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What was the proper protocol when you were collecting your slave for the rst night ofofwell, of whatever was going to happen here? I hadn't actually managed to get to this part of the plan, and I was kind of playing all of this by ear.

That's worked out so far, right?

Chapter 10

"Come with me," I said nally managing to get some actually words out of my mouth. Bella stood and followed me out of her room and into the great room, where I nished my drink and took a couple hundred more deep, cleansing breaths. Where was my yoga instructor when I needed her? I picked up another glass and held it up. "Want a drink?"

About four seconds after the words were out of my mouth, I realized she wasn't actually old enough to drink, legally. I wondered if I could get in trouble for that, and nearly spit out my own drink when I realized how ludicrous a thought that was. I bought a slave, and I was concerned about getting into trouble for giving her a drink. Genius doesn't even begin to describe me.

"Only if you wish, Master," Bella said softly. I looked to her and smiled, glad she not only remembered, but used it as well. I placed the glass back on the counter and moved to stand in front of her. The little blue panties were denitely going to be the death of me. I wanted to kiss her along the hem of them, and then

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maybe slide them down her legs and see how pretty the panties were lying on the oor. Bet the bra would look nice lying next to them.

Unlike Bella's panties, I was feeling a little ambivalent about the lounge pants I was wearing. While they were nice and roomy easily accommodating my rock hard cock, they also made it pretty darn obvious I was sporting the king of boners. Bella had gone all still again, and considering her downcast eyes, I had the feeling she hadn't missed it. I reached out and cupped her face, angling her head to look up at me. When her eyes met mine, I couldn't decide what exactly I saw there. Nervousness? Apprehension? Resignation? Shyness?

I leaned in and kissed her again lightly, like I had before her shower, but I left my mouth just barely touching hers as I reached out with my tongue and tasted her lips. They were warm and tasted minty as she opened her mouth for me. I touched her tongue with mine, opening my mouth more and curling my hand around the back of her head. As I pulled her closer, I felt her hands against my chest before they moved upwards to my shoulders and around my neck.

My free hand rested on her hip, and I resisted the urge to grip her harder and pull her against me. Instead, my ngers played with the edge of those little blue panties, literally twitching to get inside. Retreating from her mouth, I kissed her lips once more before pulling away.

My eyes drifted downward to the tops of her breasts as my hand moved up from her hip, over her side, and slowly cupped her. I felt her shiver, but I couldn't take my eyes away from where my hand was. I ran my thumb over the top edge of her bra, then a little lower, circling her nipple and feeling it pebble under my touch as Bella took in a sharp breath.

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I looked back to her eyes then, and they were so wide and beautiful, I could hardly stand to look at them. The strangest thing was she looked more surprised than apprehensive now.

"What's wrong?" I asked, and for a moment I think I forgot how she arrived at my apartment and under what circumstances. "N-nothing, Master," she said in her quietest voice.

I tilted her head back a little so she was looking up at me.

"I won't hurt you," I told her again. She nodded and took a breath, causing her breast to push further into my palm. I leaned over and kissed her again while my hands moved back to her waist and then around her back, holding her body close to mine and pressing my desire for her against her stomach. I moaned into her mouth as my cock nally made contact with her, even if was through the cloth of my lounge pants.

I pulled back from her mouth and tried to catch my breath. She was so, so beautiful, and I really, really wanted to go slowly with her. My there also a big part of me well, a part that was getting bigger by the moment, anyway that couldn't wait to be pounding into her as often as possible. She was exactly what Aro had promised me from her looks to her demeanor and I couldn't have been more eager to have her naked and underneath me. I may not have been prepared to take her shopping or work out some ground rules, but I knew exactly what I wanted from her now.

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This was why she was here. This was exactly what I wanted. I took her face in my hand again. "Come to bed now." "Yes, Master."

I would go slow, and everything would be ne, right?

Chapter 11

She only hesitated once, when we rst walked into my room. I think it was when she looked at the bed, but I wasn't really sure. I placed my hand on her lower back, enjoying the feel of her skin under my ngertips, and guided her over to the edge.

"Lie down," I said.

I dimmed the light on the nightstand but turned off the overhead light. I didn't know if she had a preference or not, so I went with what seemed right. I wasn't going to delude myself into thinking it was more romantic or something, because there wasn't anything romantic about this in the least, but it gave the illusion ofintimacy at least? Maybe. Whatever it was didn't matter to me at the moment I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to touch her and remind myself why she was here. Bella laid down on her back on one side of the bed, scooting herself close to the pillows, but she didn't place her head actually on one of them. Instead, the top of her head just grazed the bottom of the pillow. I crawled in the other side and propped myself up on one elbow so I could see her.

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She kept her eyes focused down, and I took the opportunity to look at her again. I really wasn't sure how Aro managed to take the answers to my questions and nd the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Mahogany brown hair, deep, rich brown eyes and a body that I just wanted to run my hands over again and again. And I could. So I did.

First, I reached over and touched the top of her shoulder with my ngertips. I followed the strap of her bra down around her shoulder and to the top of her breast, slowly tracing the edge of it with just one of my ngers. I went back up the other side before running my hand down her arm to her wrist where it lay next to her hip. I pulled her arm across her body and placed it on my side, then moved my hand back up to her shoulder so I could reposition her on her side. She obliged my non verbal requests and rolled to her side, giving me access to her back and most importantly the clasp to her bra.

Because I fucking needed to get a look and a feel of those tits without anything in my way. The blue bra fell away from her shoulders, and she lifted her lower shoulder so I could slip it off her arms and leave her chest bare before me. I tossed it on the oor and looked down at her again.

Damn, she was a sight, but pressed against me didn't give me the optimum position to look and touch them, so I rolled to my back and propped myself sitting up against the pillow, and then pulled her over bon top of me so she was straddling my stomach with her gorgeous tits right in front of my face. My

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hands slid from her waist up her sides and around to cup them both in my hands.

Her skin was so soft, and her nipples contracted instantly when I ran my thumbs over them. I could feel my own breathing increase as they hardened and elongated between my thumbs and ngers. I leaned in and took one of them in my mouth, licking all around it before sucking gently.

Bella gasped, which made me look up into her face. Her lower lip was stuck between her teeth and her eyes were closed. I leaned back slightly, pulling at her nipple between my lips until it popped out of my mouth.

"Open your eyes, Bella." She did, releasing her lip from her teeth at the same time and gasping again. With her mouth open just a little and her eyes staring down at me now, I realized she had been holding her breath. Still watching her eyes, I took the other nipple in my mouth and sucked it a little harder. Her eyes widened some more, and her hands gripped my shoulders a little tighter. "Do you like that?" I murmured at her. "Itfeels good, Master," she said quietly. I tried to determine if she was speaking truthfully, but could see no sight of deception in her eyes. "Do you want me to do it again?" I pressed. "If you wish, Master."

I smiled and went back to the rst breast again, tossing over the top before icking my tongue over to tip of her nipple and sucking it again. Her tits tasted so good, and I loved the way her ngers gripped my shoulders as I sucked them,

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going back and forth between each of them, and making sure my hand was keeping track of whichever one I wasn't sucking on.

I was also completely and totally rock hard, and the tip of my cock was touching her back every time she shifted position. I kissed each nipple once more, then kissed up to her neck and to her lips, running my tongue over hers for a minute. Then I leaned back and looked at her again, my thumbs still brushing against the sides of her breasts.

"Would you like me to suck your cock, Master?" "Oh, fuck, yes," I blurted out. Seriously was there any other available answer given the circumstances?

She did ask, right?

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Chapter 12

My heart was pounding in my chest, apparently trying to see if there was some way to pump even more blood into my dick. I was pretty sure it was full, but didn't really have the opportunity to dwell on the subject. She rose up and swung her leg around so she was on her knees beside me, glanced quickly to my eyes, and then focused on my stomach. Her hand reached out, and she touched me lightly with her ngers at the top of my abdomen, then slowly moved down, following the thin line of hair in the center of my stomach until she reached the top of my lounge pants. She tucked her thumbs into the elastic of the pants and pulled the up and over my erection, then down my legs and off. She knelt next to my hip and looked down at my cock, then glanced up to my eyes, and then down again.

She used the pads of her ngers to stroke me from tip to base, and I had to stop the moan trying to force its way out of my mouth. I felt like some adolescent kid with his rst girlfriend trying to keep from coming all over her hand. And I had jerked off less than an hour ago! When she wrapped her little ngers around the base, and I saw they weren't even close to getting all the way around me, I just about saw stars.

Using her hand to hold my dick in place, she leaned over and ran her tongue all around the tip, then icked it across the very edge, collecting whatever precum was already gathered there. I held my breath as she reached out with her tongue and licked from tip to base down one side, then back up the other. Then she wrapped her lips around the end of my shaft and I threw my head back against the pillow, shutting my eyes and letting out the moan that had been trying to escape since the rst time her ngers met with my skin.

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There was no doubt she had been taught some techniques. She sucked half of me into her mouth, then raised back up and licked around the tip like she thought it was a fucking lollipop, then wrapped her lips around me again, increasing the suction before coming back up for another lollipop lick. For some idiotic reason I thought about the Tootsie Pop commercial with the owl. I wondered if she was prepared for when she licked enough to get to the center?

I tossed my arm over my eyes and just concentrated on the sensation, because this was it. This was exactly what I wanted, and I was nally getting it. My cock in Bella's mouth, and she wasn't going to stop until I wanted her to stop. She also wasn't going to just do it once she was mine, and she wasn't going anywhere. I felt my shoulders relax into the mattress at the thought.

I felt her taking me in a little deeper, and the end of my cock bumped up against the back of her throat. She backed off, then pushed her head farther over me again. I both heard and felt her gag, but she didn't stop. She pushed herself down again, and gagged again.

"Bella?" When I looked down my body, I could see her on her knees beside me with her hair pushed back behind her shoulders so it would stay out of the way, bent over with my cock in her mouth. The sight of her was almost enough to make me explode if I hadn't been confused at the same time. She had more than half of my cock in her mouth, but she kept trying to push herself down father. She'd gag, wince, then do it again. "Bella?" I repeated when she didn't look up at me. "Bella, stop!" She release me from her mouth and looked up to me, her fear once again evident.

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"I can do it," she insisted. "I've practiced and I know I canpleaseyou're just bigger than him. Please, give me another chance, Master. I will make you feel good, I swear I will" I stared at her with an open mouth, totally abbergasted, while she didn't wait for any response, but dropped her mouth back over my cock until she gagged herself again. "Bella! Stop it!" I grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her off of me. As I lay back, I pulled her along with me until she was lying with her head across my chest. "I don't want you to hurt yourself shit!" "I'll get better," she promised as she wrapped her hands up around my shoulders. "I promise, Master I just need to practiceplease, let me try again." "Bella, you don't have to do that," I said, shaking my head. "I want to be good for you," she said again. She looked up at me, her eyes pleading. "I'll learn to be perfect for you. I know you want this" "What do you mean, you know?" I questioned. "Hehe told me you did." She looked away again, and I could see her blinking rapidly. "You told you?" "Master Aro," she replied quietly.

Some of the conversation we had the prior month about what I wanted in a slave came back to me, and I tried to gure out just what he might have said to her. Just that I liked blow jobs? What guy doesn't? There had to be more to it.

"Do you remember what he said?" I asked tentatively. Did I want to know this?

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"Yes, Master." Her voice had dropped to a whisper as her head tucked against my chest, hiding her face from me. "I remember it word for word." "Tell me."

She went completely still. For a moment, I didn't think she was going to say anything, and I was about to call her out on it when she nally spoke. "You are going to be sold to man named Edward Cullen. He a nasty sort who deals on all kinds of nasty business. He likes guns and blow jobs, and he's looking for a virgin who looks just like you. Once he's fucked your pussy he's going to head straight for your ass next, but ultimately it's your mouth that has to keep him happy. If he isn't happy with your mouth he's going to end up putting a bullet in your pretty little head, or he's going to return you, and you don't want that, do you?" Holy shit.

In a way, his assessment was somewhat accurate, if embellished. I did like guns, and I was involved in a plethora of illegal activities involving weapons. I had been since I was sixteen. When my parents took off and didn't come back, and then the trailer we had been living in was repossessed, I had very few options at my disposal. The one that guaranteed me the most money was working with Marcus and Caius delivering guns to their contacts on the coast. A thousand dollars a week to a kid was way too attractive, and all I had to do was drive the truck. It snowballed from there. But I never would have considered killing the girl I had just bought. Of course, I also hadn't considered what she would need to live, either. This was who she thought I was.

But she was wrong about that, right?

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Chapter 13

"Bella, I'm not going to do that." I felt her head nod, and might have heard her respond with another yes, Master, but I wasn't sure. "I'm not going to shoot you because youyou" Fuck, I couldn't even say it.

For the thousandth time since lunch, I had no fucking idea what to do. Bella seemed to have been perfectly resigned to gagging herself on me until she somehow managed to deep throat my nine-inch cock. There was no fucking way. And in case that wasn't enough, Aro had pretty much convinced her that if she couldn't, I'd kill her.

She was not just still as she lay where I placed her over my chest, but completely frozen. I could feel the tension of her muscles on my skin. Her ngers were wrapped around my shoulders in some sort of death grip, like she

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thought she might blow away if she let go of me, and her breathing was shallow. Neither of us has spoken since she revealed what Aro had told her about me. I wondered what else he had said.

Bella sniffed once, and I was pretty sure she was holding back tears. She still hadn't moved, and she was so stiff I wondered if she would end up pulling a muscle. I ran my hand up her back and then down again, thinking maybe it would help her relax. Girls liked backrubs, didn't they?

Since I had been on my own, I had always had a take what you can get attitude. When I was younger, I was a pretty good kid mostly staying out of trouble despite the neighborhood we lived in, if you could even call a trailer park with four broken down trailers and a dog run a neighborhood. Going to high school across town was what started changing me, I suppose. That's when I started hanging out with Alec, who eventually introduced me to Marcus and Caius. I learned enough about the industry in the two years after I was ditched to take over completely. I told Marcus I wanted to start running things, and he said over his dead body. I get what I want.

Taking over the business hadn't been smooth sailing in the least it had been a lot of work, a lot of planning, and a lot of blood. Now business was booming, and everyone in the know about such things came to me for their needs. I'd worked hard for what I had, and I deserved to reap the rewards for those efforts. I thought of it as making up for the shit hand of cards I was dealt as a kid. I night have come from shit, but I was making it as well as some of the bug guys. There were maa families in Chicago that at least knew who I was, and one in Italy that had become a regular customer. Aro's extended family, actually.

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Buying a slave shouldn't be any different than any other kind of business deal. Figure out what each side of the deal wants, nd something in the middle that makes everyone happy, dene the timeline and execute. I just needed to approach Bella with the same method.

The rst part was easy, because I already knew what wanted. Constant sex. Well, all right, maybe not constant, but certainly daily. Or twice a day. At least. Maybe three times. Maybe I needed to start a little closer to the beginning. I wanted the other half of the blow job she started. Okay now I had a clearly dened goal. Next came the timeline. That would be tonight. Execute. Easy enough. I just need to have her give me a Damnit. I forgot about the second half of the rst step. What did Bella want?

I looked down at the top of her head. She still hadn't moved, and her arms and legs were still tense. She said before that she wanted what I wanted, but that wasn't the kind of answers I needed. All right, new goal get Bella to tell me what she wants.

How the fuck do I do that? I decided to start with the obvious.

"So, what do you like?" I asked her. She looked at me like a couple of pork chops had just popped right out of my nostrils or something.

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"What do I like about what, Master?" "Well, about anything, I guess. Do you like jewelry and that kind of shit? Or cars? Shoes?" "I'm sorry, Master," Bella said as she shook her head. "I don't understand what you mean." "Fuck."

Next new goal how the fuck do you talk to a woman in such a way to get them to tell you what the fuck you want to know? I had this same shit with Kate and every other girlfriend I ever had, too. You're supposed to buy them the perfect fucking gift for whatever the occasion their birthday, Christmas, President's Day whatever, just make sure you don't fucking forget any occasion but they aren't going to give you any ideas about what they might want. "Whatever you want to give me" is a total line of bullshit, too. And of course, that was all Bella was going to say to me. All right, let's try a more direct approach.

"Bella, let me tell you about the worst blow job I ever received in my life." She looked back to me, her eyes full of confusion. "Yes, Master?" "It was fucking fantastic." I don't know if she got the joke or not, but she wasn't smiling or laughing. I sighed and ran my hand through my hair. "There isn't a right way to do that. Just having your mouth on any part of me iswell, is what I want. You don't have to take all of me, Bella. Shit, I can't think of anyone who ever could. I don't expect that." "You don't?" "No."

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I shifted my hips a little. When I had pulled her up close to me, I had ended up with one of her legs right between mine, and I couldn't think let alone carry on a conversation with her thigh on top of my cock, and we obviously needed another conversation.

A little talking would work it all out, right?

Chapter 14

After about three minutes, it was clear talking was getting me nowhere. I was a complete and total failure when it came to communication with women I had dated. I was not sure why it came as a surprise to me that talking to my slave wasn't a whole lot different than talking to any other woman. I sucked at it. She wouldn't answer me with any information I could actually use, I was getting upset, and she was starting to try to curl up in a ball and hide right in the middle of the bed. It was fucking frustrating, and I kept trying to guess at things she might like, and was about to go out and buy her a pony, because I was pretty sure someone told me once all girls wanted a pony at some time in their lives.

"Why don't you just tell me what you want?" I asked again. "Or what kinds of things you like?"

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"Please, MasterI don't know what you want me to say!" She tucked her head tighter against my shoulder. She had done that a couple of times now, and I couldn't gure out why she was doing it. I liked it, though. "Just tell me!" I said, exacerbated. She took a deep breath I could feel the rise and fall of her chest pressed against mine. "I just want to make you happy, Master. Pleasemay I?" "May you what?" I dropped my head back on the pillows and rubbed my eyes. She probably just wanted me to shut up so she could go to sleep at this point. That was all right, because I didn't think I would be able to take a lot more of this. Shit, I'd gotten more information out of women I had picked up in bars, fucked in my car, and then taken back to the dance oor ten minutes later than I could get out of Bella. "Try again?" "Try what?" "Please, Master let me try to suck your cock again." Oh. That.

You would have thought I was too wound up to get it up, but the lower half of my body didn't really have any diplomatic consultations with the upper half. As soon as I gured out she was now offering exactly what I wanted again, all other coherent thoughts just jumped out of the bed and ran into the other room to watch some TV or something. With the actual thinking head totally out of the way, my cock started speaking out of my mouth, and then next thing I knew she had turned herself around and was going to continue where she left off. I was powerless to stop her.

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All right, I wasn't going to stop her because I wanted this. Fucking sue me. Her eyes looked up and me as she took the base in her hand again, stroking me twice before speaking. "It's really okay if I only go part way, Master?" "Yeah, it's ne. Don't go so far down again, okay?" "Yes, Master," she said quietly, and then her lips wrapped around the head of my cock. I watched her take it about half way down as her hand wrapped around the rest of it. Any remaining thoughts I had prior to that point decided to join the rest of my brains on the couch in front of Welcome Back Kotter reruns. The rest of me gave over to sensation her touch, the sounds in the room most of which were coming out of my mouth and the way she looked bent over me. Damn, she was beautiful especially like that. I don't know if it was my sheer level of frustration already, watching her walk around mostly naked for a good portion of the day, or just the talent of her mouth and tongue, but it wasn't all that long before I was trying hard to hold back and not come. Then I wondered why I was holding back. "BellafuckBella, I'm going to come soon." Her eyes opened and she looked right at me, but she didn't stop. Not at all. In fact, she looked rather determined. "You don't have tohave tooh fuck!" I groaned and reached my hand down to touch the top of her head. "You don't have to keep goingnot with me in your mouth. Ohfuckyou canstopoh fuck"

She didn't stop. If anything, she increased the suction. I gave up and let myself go until I could feel the tightening in my legs and abs as she started moving

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faster over me. I might have actually screamed out her name as the sensations rippled through my skin, down my cock and past her lips. She just kept me in her mouth and kept sucking on me until I was completely done. The fact was it just felt so fucking good warm and soft and wet and everything I loved about having my cock in a woman's mouth. If she wanted me to come in her mouth, then I wasn't about to refuse her the opportunity.

This was way too good to ever refuse, right?

Chapter 15

When my eyes stopped rolling into the back of my head, I pulled her back up onto my chest and wrapped my arms around her back. My ngers touched her hair, and I ran my hand over it slowly stroking from the top of her head nearly down to her waist, where her hair stopped. I took a bunch of deep breaths, which was a little difcult with her lying on top of me, but I didn't mind. After a few minutes, I felt Bella's body slack a little, and realized she had fallen asleep. I stopped stroking her hair and just looked down at her for a while, trying to gure out what the fuck was going on in my head. This was not how I had envisioned any of this. I wasn't sure if envisioned was really even the right word. Fantasized was probably more accurate as a description, since the only thing I had really thought about was how many pieces of furniture I might bend my slave over to fuck her from behind. There might have been a bit of a vision involved, but that was mostly the sight of a rounded ass in my mind, and I wasn't so sure that counted.

I felt sick to my stomach.

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I bought a slave to suck my cock, and now that she had, I didn't feel sated or relaxed or whatever it was I thought I was going to feel. Instead, I felt like a total shit. This was not what I expected. The lines between fantasy and reality were not quite as blurred as I thought they would be. In my head, the faceless slave had been all into it giving me exactly what I wanted because ultimately, she wanted it, too. I thought reality would t my fantasy, but it just didn't. I couldn't pretend this was a willing participant in my game here, and if I thought too much about how she might have gone from whatever she was before, to willingly gagging herself in order to please her new master, I was going to go ballistic.

I obviously wasn't going to be able to sleep, so I wrapped my arms around Bella and rolled us both to our sides, disentangled her arms from my shoulders and lying her down on the mattress so I could go smoke a cigarette. I pulled my lounge pants back on and headed for the foyer. When I pulled my pack out of my jacket pocket, I found the sealed white envelope Aro had given me when I bought her. I took them both with me and went to sit on the balcony.

I lit up and then tore open the envelope. Inside was a single piece of paper with just the name Isabella typed neatly at the top, her birth date and some general height and weight information. Isabella. Bella. Huh. There was also some of the other information we had discussed what to do if I decided I wasn't happy with my purchase, restocking fees equating to half of what I paid for her, and that she would essentially become "repossessed" if anything ever happened to me. There was also some reference to transfer of ownership documentation I'd have to send him if I sold her to someone else.

I wondered if there was an online website where I could ll out the warranty information in case there was a recall.

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I denitely felt sick to my stomach.

Other than her rst name and birthday, there wasn't any personal information about her at all. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, especially since Aro had made it perfectly clear I wasn't to ask about her past at all, but I think I still expected a little more. Had she nished high school? Where was she from? Her accent was typical northern United States, but that could be almost anywhere from Washington to Pennsylvania. I stuck the paper back in the envelope and stubbed out my smoke, and then lit another one. I tried to clear my head as I polluted my lungs, striving to understand why those two acts went so well together. Once the second one burned to the lter, I tossed the butt into the ashtray, dropped my elbows to my knees and leaned over to place my forehead on my crossed arms.

She'd done it. She took my cock in her mouth and sucked me off. Swallowed every fucking drop. As advertised.

The summer breeze felt good on my skin, but I was wondering if Bella was okay in my bed alone. I didn't want her waking up all disoriented or anything, did I? I stood up and went back inside. I hit the bathroom, crawled back into bed, and propped myself up on one elbow to watch Bella sleep.

She was truly beautiful. Maybe she was not stunning in some people's eyes, but she had more of what I guess would be called quiet beauty subtle, and in my opinion, better. I pushed some hair off her forehead, and her eyes tightened up a bit before relaxing again. As the minutes went, by I continued to watch her

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breathe evenly. Sometime later, her eyes started to move in REM sleep, and a couple minutes after that she started to talk.

"Pleaseno" Her voice was just barely a whisper choked and hoarse sounding. "I'll be goodI promisepleaseI won't crywon't cry" If I hadn't felt sick before, I certainly did after that.

Her face scrunched up like she was in pain, and she kept repeating those same words over and over again until I couldn't stand it anymore. I reached over and wrapped my arms back around her, holding her against my body as her eyes tightened once again before opening wide and panicked.

She blinked a few times, and I could see relief wash over her face for a second, replaced quickly with shock and horror. Just as quickly, her eyes closed, and when they opened again, she had switched back to her complacent and docile norm. I didn't have to be a mind reader to understand what had just gone through her head. Thank God, it was only a dream. It wasn't a dream. Back to slave mode. Fuck this. This is not what I wanted. It's not too late to x it, right?

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Chapter 16

Bella's eyes met mine, but she quickly dropped them down and tucked her head against my chest. I felt her take a deep breath.

"Are you okay?" I asked. "Yes, Master." "You wereumyou looked like you were having a bad dream." She didn't respond, but I felt her go all still again. She had closed her eyes tightly, and her shoulders were curled up a bit, like she was trying to make herself smaller. "Tell me what they did to you," I said. "I can't," she whispered. "Please, Master don't ask me to do that."

Seeing her like that was starting to really piss me off, and ideas about just what I might be able to do to make sure she knew for certain they would never touch her again started dancing around in my head. Aro's little "nal rule" bullshit was nothing more than a way to keep her afraid of him when she was supposed to be completely mine now. I understood where he was coming from on the business side of things, but I still wanted to know how my property was treated when it was in his possession.

Yeah, it was a sick way to think, but it was what it was. I bought her. I couldn't change that, even though it was obvious to me at this point that I had made a really, really big mistake. It was also quite clear it wasn't one I could get out of easily. I couldn't send her back to Aro no way. I might not know exactly what he had done to her, but there was no fucking way I would ever let him

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anywhere near her again. Even if I could have taken her back, I really didn't want to get rid of her. I touched her cheek with the back of my knuckles.

"It all right," I told her. "You don't have to tell me." Her shoulders slumped, and she nodded slowly. I tilted her head up, and her eyes focused on mine for a moment. Even in the darkness of the room, I could still see them clearly shining out at me. My attention was drawn to her lips. They were full, and felt soft when I ran the pad of my thumb over them. I remembered how they tasted when I rst kissed her in the car, and I wanted to taste them again. I really wanted to, but I didn't. Instead, I licked my lips and lay my head back on the pillow, bringing her down with me to rest her head against my shoulder.

"Go back to sleep, Bella," I said softly. "Yes, Master."

About three things I was absolutely certain. One, I had totally fucked this up. Two, I was going to have to gure out a way to x it somehow without fucking it up any more than it already was. And three, I wasn't going to be able to do this without some help. Specically, a woman's help. Once Bella had settled back down in to sleep, I climbed back out of bed and went into the next room to make a call.

"What?" the sharp, harsh, yet still feminine voice snapped. "It's four-o-clock in the fucking morning here, asshole. This better be good."

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"Yeah, I know sorry." I ran my free hand through my hair. I ended up with a couple of stray pieces stuck between my ngers. This really was going to make me go bald. "I wouldn't have called, but I need your help, Alice."

She would be able to tell me what to do, right?

Chapter 17

After an extremely brief conversation with Alice, I dumped the phone on the coffee table and went back to bed. Bella was curled up on her side, mumbling something into the mattress. When I crawled back into the bed, it was obvious she was having another nightmare. I put one arm around her waist, trying to forget that she was only wearing those little blue panties, and shook her gently.

Her eyes opened, but they were unfocused when they met mine. She blinked a few times, and then her eyes closed again as her head rested against my shoulder. I pulled her a little closer to me and wrapped one arm around her head. With my cheek pressed into her hair, I dropped off to sleep, but it wasn't restful at all. I woke several times, nally giving up only a couple of hours later. Instead of sleeping myself, I watched Bella sleep. If she started to stir, I held her closer and she seemed to doze back off again.

As the sun came up and light ooded the room, Bella's eyes opened slowly. Again, I saw her confusion at rst, then the realization of where she was and ultimately what she was and who she now belonged to. She looked up to my face, her expression somewhat shy.

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"Good morning," I said. "Good morning, Master," she replied. "Would you like me to suck your cock?" Despite realizing how badly I had fucked up this whole situation, hearing those words still went straight to my dick. No Go passing. No money collected.

"ShitBella." I took a deep breath and tried to gain a little composure. "You don'tI meanfuck, you don't have to just ask that all the time, okay?" "I'm sorry, Master," she whispered as she ducked her head.

I couldn't see her face very well at that point, but she almost seemed distressed that I wasn't telling her to just go to town on me. Not that I didn't have morning wood the likes of which even God has never seen, because I did, but I was also pretty damn sure she didn't really want to do that.

"Do you want to fuck me now?" Yeah, my cock heard that one, too. "Yes," I heard my mouth utter. Shit! "I mean no! I do, butshit! Bella, please don't say anything like that, okay?" She was quiet for a moment, her head still tucked down. "You don't want me?" she asked quietly.

Shit. Did she really think I was rejecting her? This was so fucked up, I couldn't even see straight.

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"Fuck yes, I want you. But not now, all right? We're going to have a visitor soon, anyway." That seemed to get her attention.

"A visitor, Master?" "Yeah, a friend of mine. She should be here in about an hour." "What should I do?" Bella was actually sounding just a little bit panicked. I reached up and ran my hand over her cheek. "Get dressed in those clothes we bought yesterday," I told her. "Then you could maybe nd something for breakfast? I know there's some cereal and I think maybe some of that instant pancake stuff is in the pantry." "Yes, Master." Bella leaned over me and placed a single kiss in the center of my chest before she rose from the bed and walked out of the bedroom.

The kiss sent what felt like a shock wave from the place where her lips touched my skin and outwards throughout my body. When I caught my breath again, I rolled myself out of bed, took a quick shower, jerked off damnit and went out to the kitchen to be assaulted by the glorious smells of another home cooked meal. Without a doubt, Bella knew her way around my kitchen better than I did.

"You are amazing," I said as I dug into another forkful of pancakes. I watched Bella take her bottom lip between her teeth, and her cheeks were tinged with pink. She was wearing one of the pairs of jeans I bought along with a sepia toned shirt with a bunch of artsy ower images all over it. I was about to go on about the food someone, when there was a knock at the door.

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"Shit," I mumbled, "she's early." "Master?" "It's all right," I said. "Justumdon't kneel or anything. And no Master, okay? Justumkeep quiet for a little while until I can kind of explain some shit, okay?" "Yes, Master." I shook my head and tried to collect myself. A couple of deep breaths check. Hands run through hair check. Slave not looking too much like a slave check. Okay I was ready.

I opened the door and there stood Alice, clad in black from head to toe, including some pretty vicious looking boots with buckles all over them. Her shirt and jeans were so tight, I knew she didn't heave on a bra underneath, and I was pretty sure any panties she might be wearing had to be the kind with no back only a little string up the crack. She tossed the black leather jacket that was over her arm towards my face, and then walked through the door, immediately snapping at me.

"I never did get back to sleep, you fucker." "Good to see you again, too, Alice."

Alice was about ve feet tall a tiny little thing. Even with all the black and the attitude, no one would ever guess that under her wild-child black hair, was the best hired killer in the business. If you wanted someone dead, she was the girl to call. She never failed, and her price was about as astronomical as they get. Still, if you needed it quick and discreet or long, drawn out, and painful she could cater to your needs.

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Before I could throw her jacket over the back of a chair, she had stopped dead in her tracks. Bella was standing in the entryway to the great room with her head bowed, her hands clasped in front of her, and her lip caught between her teeth.

"Who's this?" Alice asked. She turned her head to look back at me with narrowed eyes. "That's Bella," I said. "I sort ofumbought her." "You what?" Her voice had gone all soft. I had never heard that tone out of her mouth before, and I was pretty sure I didn't like the sound of it. "I bought her," I repeated, "from Aro."

I honestly thought conniptions were just kind of a saying before that moment. I didn't realize people could actually have one, but I swear Alice did right there in my foyer. The next couple of moments became kind of a blur. Her left st knocked really hard into my jaw, catching me off guard enough that I ended up dropping down on the oor. As I rolled over to protest, I was looking straight into the barrel of a Beretta 92. "What the fuck did you just say, Cullen?" Alice growled through her teeth. "Because if you are telling me what I think you are telling me, I'm going to fucking end you right now."

Um, she was still going to help me out, right?

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Chapter 18:

As I stared into Alice's eyes black with fury I waited. At rst, I wasn't sure what I was waiting for exactly if it was to hear the mufed shot that ended my life, her demands for more of an explanation, or maybe just to hear myself breathe, which I didn't appear to be doing. After what felt like a long time, but was likely only a second, I realized I was waiting for my life to ash in front of me. That little bit of your mind that replays all the signicant bits to remind you where you have been and how you ended up here, at the end. It didn't happen. I was pretty glad it did happen, because I really didn't want to relive any of that shit. What I did hear was Bella's scream.

"No!"

I felt the impact in my chest instead of my head, where I was expecting it. And instead of a single, small point of contact of a bullet, it was Bella's body against my chest. We were both thrown backwards and away from the Beretta, with Bella frantically scrambling to cover me with her body. That sick feeling in my stomach was denitely back.

"No! No! No!" she cried out over and over again.

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"What the fuck, Cullen?" Alice snarled. I looked around Bella long enough to see Alice had at least dropped the barrel off to the side, no longer aiming at my face.

Bella was still screaming into my ear. I grabbed her shoulders and tried to pull her off of me, because shit if she ended up in the line of re somehow...well, I didn't want that to happen. I couldn't get her off, though she had what could only be described as a death grip around my neck. She was still screaming at Alice.

"No! No! Please, don't kill him! Please! No!" "Bella, it's all right shit!" I tried pulling at her arms again, but I didn't get anywhere. I looked up to Alice, praying she was going to give me at least a little bit of a chance to explain. "Alice come on! Help me out here! I'll tell you everything, just fucking help me out!" "Fuck you!" Alice took a step back, holstered her gun in her boot and put her hands on her hips.

Bella tucked her head against my chest and tightened her grip again.

"She put the gun away, Bella it's okay." I didn't have the slightest idea if it was okay or not, or if Alice was just going to wait and off me at the next opportunity, but I had to say something. "I'm not going to kill him."

Bella turned her head and looked over her shoulder. Alice's eyes narrowed, and for a while they just looked at each other. Bella's grip slowly loosened, and I felt

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her chest rise and fall with her slowed breaths. Eventually she looked down again, then over to me, then back to the oor.

"I think we need to talk, Edward," Alice said as she glared at me. She turned on her heel and went straight for my whiskey. At eight in the morning? After she had her glass, she pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit up. "Balcony, please!" I reminded her. "Fuck you."

Fine. It wasn't worth the argument. I convinced Bella to let me up, and as I rubbed my bruised jaw, she ran to the freezer and collected a bag full of ice for me. She seemed to be prepared to hold it right there for me for the recommended fteen-to-twenty minutes, but the look on Alice's face told me I wouldn't last that long if I let her. Instead, I took the ice from Bella and told her to hang out in her room for a while so I could talk to Alice. Once she was convinced Alice was not going to shoot me at least, not yet she went and left us alone.

"You better start talking right now, Cullen," Alice said. "I'll have you tossed off this building if you don't come up with a pretty damn good story."

I did have a good story, right?

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Chapter 19:

Deciding it didn't really matter at this point anyway, I went ahead and lit a cigarette, breaking my own no smoking inside rule. Alice leaned back on my couch and rested her ankle on her knee. Her eyes narrowed at me as she huffed out her nose.

"What the fuck did you do?" she demanded. "I bought her," I said sheepishly. There really wasn't any point in sugar coating it. "Kate left. I justgot tired of it, I guess." "So you gured since you've fucked up every the relationship you have ever had, getting one who didn't have a choice in the matter was the right way to go?" "I didn't really think of it like that." "I don't think you have a fucking thought in your head."

I couldn't begrudge her that, so I just shrugged. Alice gulped the last of the whiskey and dropped her glass onto the carpet, daring me with her eyes to complain. At least it landed open side up. "Why?"

Good question. At one point, I thought I knew the answer. "I didn't wantI mean, I thought it would beIfuck!" I heard the click of the gun, and looked up to see the barrel pointed at me again.

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"You said you weren't going to shoot me," I reminded her. "Maybe I lied." "You can'tAlice shit," I ran my hand through my hair again. "If you kill me, Aro gets her back, okay?" "Shit," she growled, but didn't lower her weapon. "You've really fucked this about as hard as it could be fucked, haven't you?" "Yeah," I admitted. It was really, really hard to have a conversation with a gun pointed at you, but I was pretty sure I wasn't getting a choice in that matter. "That's why I called you." "Why me?"

I shrugged. "I didn't know who else to call. You've xed shit for me before." "I've killed for you before." "Yeah, and it xed shit."

She continued to give me the stink eye, and I honestly didn't know what else to tell her except everything, so I just blurted it all out.

"I admit it, okay?" I said. "I wanted to buy a chick to fuck whenever I wanted one that wouldn't just leave me when I did something stupid. I didn't think about what I was doing, and I don't know what to do now. Please, Alice just help me x it."

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Her eyes slowly lost their re, and she placed the Beretta back on her lap, but not away. She shook her head slowly, tossed her cigarette butt into the empty whiskey glass, pulled out another one, and sighed.

"Where's your family, E?" "I don't have a family," I growled. "You know that." "Yeah, but you did at some point, didn't ya?" "Not really." "Do you have any brothers or sisters?" "No ." "What happened to your parents?" "Fuck if I know." "Are they alive?" "I have no fucking idea, okay?" I nally yelled. "What the hell is with the twenty questions game, huh? We're supposed to be talking about what the fuck we can do to get out of this mess!" "So what, did you call me in to kill her?" "No! Shit!" "Good thing, because if you had said yes, you were going over the balcony. So why did you call?" "I don't know what to do!" I nally admitted. "None of this is how I thought it would be, and I can't send her back." "Why not?"

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"Fuck, Alice did you see how she reacted just now? If you kill me, she goes back to him. No fucking way." "What do you care?" she snarled. "You're the reason she's here in the rst place. If you don't like her, why wouldn't you send her back? Try out a new model?"

She was being snarky, I knew. She practically oozed sarcasm when she wanted to make a point. I didn't know what to say to make my point. I didn't know if I had a point. I just knew I needed Alice's help if I had any chance what so ever of making this right.

"She had a nightmare," I said. I turned my eyes to look at her. "She won't tell me what happened, but I heard enough when she was asleep. I'm not sending her back." "So what are you going to do?" "I'm going to hire you to help me eliminate Aro's organization." "You want to what?" The snarkiness was gone. The sarcasm was gone. The only thing left was utter incredulity. "Are you out of your fucking mind? Do you realize what you are saying?" "Yeah, I do." "Do you realize how deep this goes? How many crime lords you're talking about? It's not just Aro he's tied to all of Volturi in Italy as well as Laurent's group here. You're talking about twenty hits, and that's just the big guys. It will end up being more." "I know." "What are you going to do with her?" She nodded her head towards Bella's room, her eyes narrowing again.

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"Once they're gone, I can tell her she's free. She can go back to her family, if she has one. Whatever she wants. I buy her a fucking house. I'll set her up for life. Whatever she wants, I'll make it happen."

"You don't have enough money to pay me for this job," she said denitively. "So I'm not doing it for you."

It felt like my heart stopped beating a few times, and the pressure in my chest was threatening to push me right through the bottom of my chair. If she didn't help me, I had no fucking chance. I wouldn't be able to set this right. Forget passing Go without Alice, I wasn't even on the fucking board.

"But I will do it for her."

Everyone needs a partner in crime, right?."

Chapter 20

Alice was adamant we tell Bella exactly what we were planning. I wasn't so sure. It's not like I was trying to keep her in the dark about it not really I just didn't want to freak her out, and I was pretty sure her reaction to this wasn't going to be what I would expect.

"I think we should just do it," I said for the tenth time. "Bella doesn't need to know what's going on."

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Alice stood up from the stool at the kitchen island, walked around the table to the back of my chair, and punched my hard enough in the kidney to make me see stars.

"You are a fucking idiot," she growled as she grabbed another whiskey and sat back down like nothing had happened. I still couldn't breathe right. "This is her life you are dealing with, asshole. You aren't doing any of this without her understanding what the fuck is happening. This is about her, dickhead, not you."

"All right," I gasped as I rubbed my back and side. "We'll tell her. You want me to get her now?" "No reason to keep her locked up, is there Edward?"

Nice," I gave her my most sardonic grin and went to get Bella from her room. She was kneeling on the oor in the middle of the room, obviously just waiting there for me to retrieve her. I still liked it. Fucking sue me. The words that had once been a challenge in my head to anyone who cared to listen were now dull and lifeless.

For a minute, I just looked down at her and tried to gure out what it was I actually wanted, but I didn't really get anywhere with that. Why did I like her on the oor, waiting for me? It wasn't just that I found it an attractive pose, though I did. I wasn't just that she was at the perfect height to just tilt her head

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up and take me in her mouth though that was also true, and I couldn't pretend I didn't notice. It wasn't just visual, and it wasn't just sexual so what was it?

I gave up, shook my head sharply and called her name. She responded without moving an inch.

"Come on back to the other room" I said. "There's some stuff we wanted to umtalk to you about, I guess." "Yes, Master," she said. He voice was so quiet and small, and I could only gure she was scared, but I didn't know what to do about it. "It's okay," I told her, realizing what a stupid fucking statement that was as it was leaving my mouth. I ran a hand through my hair. "I mean, Alice is here to help, okay?" "Yes, Master."

We went back out into the living room, where Alice had set up shop on my couch with yet another shot of whiskey and a cigarette. She had an iPad one of the new ones, I thought out on her lap and she was poking around at it.

"You have shit about Aro on there?" I asked. "Nah playing Angry Birds," she said. She hit a couple more buttons and tossed it off to the side, retrieving her gun instead. "Did you tell her what you want to do?" "Not yet."

Without any kind of preamble, Alice started spelling it all out.

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"Edward's decided to stop thinking with his dick long enough for his head to grow a conscience," Alice said as she looked at Bella. "Never seen him use one of those before. I guess buying a person is about low enough you start rethinking your lifestyle, huh?" "She knows what I am?" Bella looked to me. "Yeah." I tossed myself into my chair. "And what the fuck, Alice? I don't have a conscience? You blow people away for a living!" "Yeah," she grinned and her eyes went wide and sparking. She looked like an insane, goth clown. "But only the ones who deserve it."

Bella looked down to the ground and started worrying her lip with her teeth.

"Bella?" I reached out my hand and she came to me, taking my hand, dropping to the ground on her knees in front on me, and bowing her head. "What the fuck?" Alice snarled again. I felt Bella inch. "Don't fucking do that! Get up! Now!" Bella cringed against me, her eyes darting up to mine and her fear evident in her expression.

"Is she going to kill me?" Bella whispered. "No, Bella," I said, trying to sound reassuring. "She's just seriously pissed off at me." "You got that right!" "Alice, come on," I said. "You're scaring her."

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"I'm scaring her? God, you're dumb." Alice stood and crossed the room in just a couple of strides. I felt Bella lean against my leg as Alice reached down and grabbed her arm, attempting to haul Bella to her feet. Bella's ngers wrapped around mine tightened their grip. "Shit, Alice you're still holding the damn gun!"

She glared at me, but holstered it again. She released Bella's arm and crouched down next to her instead.

"I don't know what they did to you," Alice said, "but they're going to fucking pay, you hear me?" Bella turned back to me, her eyes wide. "Pleaseno, Master," she begged. "Please don't do anything." "Master? Holy fucking shit, Edward!" Alice stood and stomped back across the room. She turned abruptly and glared back at me. She pulled her last cigarette butt - still burning - out of the glass on the oor and dropped it onto the carpet instead. She used her heel to grind it in. At least she knows how to make her point. "Seriously? How fucking sick are you?"

Bella's hand was shaking in mine, and I reached down and placed my other hand on her shoulder, then ran it up the side of her face.

"It's all right," I said, hoping I sounded reassuring, but I probably sounded more like a lunatic, considering the topic. "Alice is going to help. Aro's never going to touch you again." "Please, Master," she pleaded again.

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"Don't be scared," I said. I wondered if that was actually a more brilliant statement than offering her a drink or not. "I mean it we're going to help you, okay? And when we're doneumwell, you can go. You know wherever you want." "Go?" her confusion was evident. "Go where?" "Wherever you want. Home?"

She stared at me, wide eyed, then looked down, and then back up again.

"I have to be yours," she nally said. "Why?" I glanced at Alice, who was glaring at me with narrowed eyes and her hand reaching reexively for her gun. "If I'm not yours, I have to go back," she said. Her voice was so low I didn't think Alice could have heard her. "If you wish, Masterplease I want to be yours." "Bellayou don't have to belike that," I stumbled over my own words, because I had no idea what I was supposed to say. "I'm going to take care of Aro, and then I'll make sure you are taken care of, too."

Her eyes went wide with fear.

"Not that way!" I retracted, realizing she thought I was going to take care of both of them in the same way. "Shit that's not what I meant. Alice! Help over here, would ya?"

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"We kill Aro and everyone else who would know enough to know about you," Alice said bluntly. "Then, either Edward makes sure you're set free and gives you at least twice the cash he paid Aro for you, or I'm going to show him my special way of making death last the whole weekend." "Thanks," I mumbled. "It will be my pleasure if you don't follow through," she conrmed.

I looked back at Bella, trying to gure out how she was taking the latest news, but I couldn't understand her expression. It wasn't happiness, I was pretty sure of that. Finally, she looked back to my eyes.

"Please don't," she said. "If anything happens to him, and they know it was youplease, Master please don't."

I reached back down to her and placed both hands on the side of her face. I leaned close and looked directly at her. "Tell me why not," I demanded. "Please, Master," she whispered. "Please, Edward. I can't tell you."

I leaned back and sighed. Alice had plopped back down on the couch and was shaking her head slowly. Apparently, she was also at a loss. Bella was begging me not to go after the man who made her this way, whatever the circumstances. How was I supposed to make this right if the person who needed to have me make it right for them didn't want me to make it right in the rst place?

That sentence made sense, right?

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Chapter 21

No matter what Alice or I said, Bella was adamant that we not go after Aro. She wouldn't say anything about why, only begging me to just keep her, promising to be a good slave until I thought Alice was going to puke on my shoes. I nally managed to get Alice to sit on the balcony while I tried to talk to Bella myself, but made no progress. Eventually I gave up, and allowed Bella to start making dinner at her own request. I grabbed my bottle of Makers Mark 46, growled under my breath at how empty it has suddenly become, and poured myself a glass before joining Alice.

"You suck at this," she said as the sliding door clicked shut. "At what?" I asked, guring her list was probably a pretty long one. "All of it." She responded. "You don't know how to be a master, or whatever the fuck, and you don't know how to let her go and be herself. You totally suck at this. All of it."

I sighed and lit a cigarette while Alice continued to berate me for being an idiot. I couldn't really argue with her, it just wasn't helping the current situation. Bella made some kind of casserole for dinner with noodles, peas, and cream sauce that was just awesome. By the time we were done it was pretty late at night, and Alice had already conked out on the couch with her boots up on the fabric, snoring really loudly.

Bella followed me to the bedroom, which was the rst inclination I had that I needed to discuss different arrangements.

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Yeah, so I hadn't thought that far ahead. Fucking sue me. "Heyum, Bella?" "Yes, Master?" "You can sleep in your own room, if you want."

She looked up to my eyes, obviously confused.

"Aren't you going to fuck me tonight?" "What?" I exclaimed. My hands found my hair and tugged a bit. "Umshit, noBella. Did you hear what we were saying before? How we're going to kill Aro and you'll be free?" "Yes," she said quietly. She ducked her head down so her chin was just about against her chest. "So I'm not going to fuck you, all right?" "You aren't?" "No," I said as I shook my head. "I'm not. That's what I was trying to tell you before." "I don't understand, Master," Bella admitted. "You said you weren't sending me back, but you still don't want me?" "Fuck." I tilted my head back and stared at the ceiling while I walked around in a little circle and tried to gather my thoughts. "I shouldn't have bought you, Bella. I justdidn't think about what I was really doing. But I'm getting it now, and I'm not going to hurt you. That includes fucking you or anything else, for

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that matter. Justwhy don't you sleep in your own room tonight, and we'll gure it out in the morning, okay?"

"Yes, Master," she replied as she turned and went into her bedroom. I went into my room, showered, tried to ignore the burning need for some release, nally gave up, jacked off, and then tossed myself into bed wearing only my boxers. The whiskey must have helped, because I fell asleep pretty quickly. I didn't sleep for long, though. I woke up when Bella came into my room. "Bella? What is it?" Her eyes danced around, not meeting mine, though I could see the glimmer of the light from the hallway on her irises. "May I stay herewith you?" "Yeahsure." She placed her hands and one knee on the bed and crawled in, lying on her back with her head just below the pillow and staring at the ceiling above. I remembered her doing that before. "Why don't you use the pillow?" She looked up to me, her expression confused. "I'm not supposed to," she said quietly. "Why not?" "I'm notgood enough for a pillow." Her words were so soft, I could hardly hear them, but that didn't stop them from driving straight into my gut. Not good enough for a fucking pillow? What the fuck is that all about?

"Use the pillow, Bella."

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"Yes, Master." She shifted up and laid her head on the pillow beside me. She seemed on edge I mean, more on edge than she always was. "Did you have another nightmare?" I asked. "Yes, Master." "Tell me about it." I didn't really think I was going to get anywhere, but it was worth a shot. "I can't," she said. Of course.

I wondered if she had talked in her sleep, and kind of wished I had heard her. If she wasn't going to tell me anything directly, I should at least be able to hear her talk about it while she slept. If I heard her talk in her sleep often enough, maybe I could put some of the pieces together and gure it all out. Of course, not all of her dreams would be about the same thing, right? And not all of her dreams would even be something that had happened to her, of course. She could dream about freaking kittens and shit, too. That's when I had the rst actually brilliant thought in the past month. If only I could convince Bella it was a valid argument.

"Bella, if you just tell me what you dreamed about," I told her, "you aren't telling me anything they did. You aren't breaking any rules. You are only telling me what you dreamed about. And dreams aren't real, right?" "Sometimes they feel real," she said quietly. "I know," I acknowledged, "but they aren't. It's only a dream, and you can tell me what happened in your dream."

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She looked at me and nodded slowly. I watched her lip hide beneath her teeth as her eyes narrowed and even closed for a moment. She opened her eyes and spoke. "I was in his playroom," Bella said. Her eyes glanced up to me quickly. "In my dream." "I know only in the dream." I nodded at her to continue.

I wanted to hear this, right?

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Chapter 22

"Only a dream," Bella said softly. She looked away from me, and I reached over and placed my hand on her side, on top of the t-shirt she was still wearing. She jumped a little at my touch, so I pulled my hand back. She glanced at me again, and then started rubbing her ngers together as she spoke. "Master Aro told me toto, umservice himwith my mouth. I had been trying to be better, but when heumin my dream"

Her breath caught, and she was completely still for a moment. She seemed to get herself together and take a deep breath so she could continue. I wasn't breathing at all.

"Master Aro kept pushing so hard and fastand Master James was yelling at me not to crybut when he nished and I couldn't breathe, he saw I had tears, and Master James hit me with the taser." "Taser?" The word dropped out of my mouth and onto the bed, just kind of lying there like a dead frog in the road. She cried, and he tased her? TASED her? She only nodded.

"Master Aro told Master James to make sure it didn't happen again," she said. "So Master James told me I had to practice more. He wouldhold it" Again she stopped to collect herself. When she spoke again, I could barely hear her.

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"He held it in my throat, and I couldn't breathe, and my eyes would tear up. Then he would hold the taser on myumbetween my legsand then he'd do it again until I could do it without any tears."

I heard a hitch in her breath again, and when I looked to her face I could see her teeth biting hard into her lip. I reached out my hand again, this time making sure she was the movement before I touched her, and touched her cheek with the backs of my ngers. She looked at me.

"I won't cry," she said quickly "They aren't here, Bella," I reminded her. "You can cry if you want." "You don't like it when they cry," she said quietly, then quickly looked away. Oh fuck.

Realizations and rationalizations rolled over me like a fucking Hum-Vee driven by a ve-foot-nothing suburban housewife through the parking lot at Target. I couldn't bring myself to even say the words, even in my mind, but I did understand what had been done to her, and whose request made it a necessity.

"You can cry, Bella," I told her. "I don't care if you cry. I want you to cry, if you need to."

Her eyes stared up at me for the longest moment of silence I had ever endured. Her chin began to quiver, and she sucked in a long breath before wailing out the most gut-wrenching sound I had ever heard.

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I held her tightly against me as her body shook with sobs, and my chest was coated with her tears. I could not pretend that I was not the cause of this, not this time. Whatever lines I had tried to blur between fantasy and reality were deadlocked in place now, in dark, bold sharpie. My whole body felt cold, even though the temperature in the room was warm. Moving and breathing were difcult, and my eyes wouldn't even close.

What else had they done, and would she ever tell me any more of it? How much of what she had been through was directly because of the specications I had outlined in the application?

Sometime later, Bella had cried herself to sleep on my chest while I continued to stare at the ceiling. At some point, I must have drifted off as I tried to empty my mind of the horrors bouncing around inside of it. Strangely enough, I had my own dream pulled from the dark recesses of my childhood memories.

I was dragging Eric the boy a couple of years younger than me and the only other child in the small trailer complex up the rocky hill, across the railroad tracks and down again into the city landll. It wasn't really a landll, like they called it, but just a trash heap. No one ever covered anything up.

We were looking for bicycles, because the rich people threw away all kinds of good stuff and all we had to do was nd it under the nasty stuff. A lot of my toys had been found in that place. We didn't nd any bikes that day, but I did nd a small, plastic, tinny sounding toy piano. It was in the shape of a snail, with the keys kind of lodged into the front of the spiraled shell. I hauled it back home, and tried to make it sound like a real piano.

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I asked my mom if I could have lessons so I could learn to play it. I only asked once.

Eventually, I gured out how to play some songs Mary Had a Little Lamb and Heart and Soul. It didn't sound right, but I still really liked it, and I would pretend I had a real piano and I was in a concert hall where everyone could hear me play. They would all cheer when I was done, and I would bow.

In the dream, I remembered playing the piano next to the driveway. There was a little concrete patio underneath the torn green awning jutting out from the window of the trailer. I heard the roar of the car engine, looked up, and saw my mom heading straight for me. I had to roll out of the way to avoid the tires, but the piano was smashed. My mom was holding one of her funny smelling bottles in her hand when she got out of the car and yelled at me for leaving my toys in the way.

My eyes ew open. I hadn't had a dream about where I grew up in years, nor had I thought of the little toy piano in all that time. I remembered crying when I realized it wouldn't play at all any more, no matter how I tried to t the plastic pieces back together. I never touched another instrument after that day.

Bella woke shortly after I did. After her initial disorientation, she looked up at me. Her expression was confused.

"What are you thinking?" I asked.

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"You aren't angry about me crying?" Her words seemed to be both a question and a statement. "No," I replied. "You can cry whenever you want to." "Are you still my Master?" "Notreally," I said. "I'm not going to make you do anything. I think you should stay with me for now, though. Once Aro is out of the picture, you can go what you want." "Out of the picture?" "I'm going to kill him," I said. "I know you didn't like the idea yesterday, but there is no way I'm going to let him live. Not him, and not anyone else who hurt you." Her eyes sparkled with tears again. "There are so many of them," she said quietly. "If he kills you rst" "If he kills me, I know you go back to him. I'm not going to let that happen. I'm going to do this, and I'm going to win."

I get what I want, right?

Chapter 23

When I got out of the shower yes, after jerking off Bella was sitting up in my bed, staring down at her hands. I felt a little weird standing there in nothing but a towel, which was especially odd because she did have my dick in her mouth just a couple of nights ago. Thinking about that now, after she had revealed what they had done to her, was about as good an erection killer as they come,

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though. If fact, it didn't just make me droopy, it also made me sick to my stomach. Yeah, that was you, Edward Cullen. Fucker.

Bella glanced up at me, and the back down to her hands. I mumbled some excuse before taking my jeans back into the bathroom with me to dress. When I came back out, she was in the same position, her ngers twisting around themselves like she was trying to make pretzels out of them. She shifted a little, and the sheet feel off of her leg, exposing some of her thigh and the panties she was wearing the black ones.

"Shit." She looked up at me quickly, her eyes widening. "I need to get you more clothes, don't I?" She just shrugged and went back to twirling her ngers.

"Maybe Alice could take you," I said, though I wondered just where in the hell Alice even shopped. Something about her just didn't ever scream mall-rat to me. "I mean, she would at least be better at it than I am, I should think." I tried to laugh it off, but the sound was hollow. Bella didn't look up at me again, so I turned and grabbed a button up shirt from the closet and shoved my arms through the sleeves.

"Edward?" Bella said softly.

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"Yeah, what is it?" I answered. She still wasn't looking at me. "Will he know?" she asked. "I mean, won't he nd out if you are going to um what you said?" "Is he going to nd out I'm going to kill him?" "Yeah." "Hopefully no more than a second or two before there's a bullet in his head." No point in subtleness now. She nodded and bit down on her lip. "What?" I asked, because it was clear she had something else to say. "So, he wouldn't know about me talking to you? About my dream, I mean?" "My place isn't bugged, if that's what worries you. I have it checked and there is monitoring equipment." "So, if I told you something else, he wouldn't nd out?" My hands went cold. Something in her tone was just a little too foreboding, and I honestly wasn't sure if I could hear any more of what she had to say. Then I remembered just what the hell I had done, asking for a virgin with a good handle on oral, and gured whatever she had to say, I was going to listen to it. I walked over from my dresser and sat down on the edge of the bed. "He won't nd out," I told her. "I promise." I hoped I was right. She looked up to my eyes, and I could see them tearing up again. After last night, I wouldn't have thought she had any tears left. Can you get dehydrated from crying too much? Fuck if I knew. "He has my mom." Oh fuck. This is as bad as it can get, right?

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Chapter 24

It was a good thing I hadn't had any breakfast yet, because I pretty sure I would have lost it.

"Your mom?" I squeaked. "When they took me, they took her, too." Bella said. She was back to staring at her hands. "Took you?" "We were coming out of a movie," Bella said with a shrug. "We always go to the late night movie every Friday. Mom doesn't like crowds, and the later ones are usually not as full. It's kind of a tradition." "What happened?" I asked. I didn't want to know I knew I didn't want to know, but I also needed to know. I didn't want to need to know, and I knew that, too. Fuck.

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"We went out the back," she said, "through the alley. I guess they were waiting for us." She stopped and took a deep breath before she went on.

"Master Aro said if I wasn't good enough for you, he would kill her, too." She turned suddenly and raised herself up on her knees. Her arms went around my neck and she held on tightly. "Please, Edward if you can really do thatif you can really kill himplease, please! You have to help my mom, too!"

I shook my head to clear it as I tried to comprehend everything she had just told me. They were waiting for her. Had they been stalking her for weeks before they grabbed her, or was she just a random victim with the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time? How long had they watched her beforehand? How long had she been with them? My stomach churned.

"When?" I asked, my voice barely a whisper. "When what?" "When did theyumtake you? How long ago?" "I don't know exactly how long it's been," she admitted. "But I think it was June twentieth when we were at the movie." June twentieth. My birthday. Four days after I lled out the application with Aro.

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I disentangled myself from her grip and ran to the bathroom. Breakfast or not, whatever was there wasn't going to be staying in my stomach. I couldn't pretend anymore that this was just Aro's doing. I was completely at fault. He didn't just pull her from a batch of girls he had hidden away somewhere, but had chosen her off the street to meet my requests. And it wasn't just her.

I dry heaved over and over again until my stomach cramped up and my knees gave out. It was hard to breathe, and I could feel myself hyperventilating. No wonder she was willing to do anything and everything asked of her. No wonder she was even willing to throw herself between me and a gun-toting assassin. No wonder she was so scared out of her mind. She wasn't just worried about her own life and what I might do to her, she was protecting her mother.

A mother who took her to movies and probably taught her how to cook and other shit like that. An actual mother the way they were supposed to be.

I washed my face and brushed my teeth again. The minty toothpaste wasn't doing anything for the nausea, though. I swallowed a couple times before dragging myself back out to the bedroom on shaky legs. Bella was in the same spot on the bed, with tears running down her face. I tried to speak, but all I managed to do was make a sound like a frog in heat.

"You don't have to," Bella whispered through her tears. "I shouldn't have said anything" "Fuck! No!" I yelled, then immediately felt like a total ass when she jumped half out of her skin. I took the couple of steps to the edge of the bed and dropped

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down next to her. I reached up and took her face in my hands and stared into her deep, brown eyes. "I will nd her, too. I swear to God, I'll nd her, too." I wiped her cheeks with the pads of my thumbs, and the realization hit me again and again, like there was a heavy-weight champ taking pot-shots at my chest. Wham! Wham! Wham! You did it! You did it! You did it! Your fault! Your fault! Your fault!

"This is all my fault, Bella." I had to swallow hard again to keep speaking. "All of it. I can'tI can't take it back now, but I swear to you if it is the last thing I do I swear I am going to nd her and I'm going to kill every fucker who laid a hand on either of you." I loosened my grip on her, and she fell against my chest with her arms around my shoulders. Did she realize it was all because of what I asked for? Did she know she was chosen and beaten into what I wanted her to be? I didn't actually hold the fucking taser, but I might as well have. "I swear to God every one of them is going to pay."

I could at least make it better, right?

Chapter 25

"Here's where we're going to have a problem." Alice stubbed her cigarette out on my table and tapped one of the empty boxes on her org chart. It depicted Aro's organization from the top down, outlining all the known key players within the structure. "There two people are unknown, and just getting a name is

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going to be an issue. The Italian group is also going to be a problem, and we can't forget their Paris outt."

"There's only three of them there," I said, pointing at the diagram. "None of the others in France have strong loyalty ties. I can take them out, and I think we could even save them for last. They're isolated, and it will take a while for them to get the news." "A while?" "Well, a few hours at least." "We have to hit Italy and Paris at the same time." "We have to take out both Aro's group and Laurent's here, rst." "Denitely." Alice leaned back and lit another cigarette. "We're going to need reinforcements." "Who?" "The Hales, I think. Maybe McCarty, too." "What do we need the Hales for?" I asked. I didn't really care much for Rosalie Hale, and she sure as hell hated my guts. McCarthy was a good guy, though. He was efcient, and denitely one who took pride in his work. "Well, Jasper can get the documentation you are going to need to get her out of the country," Alice said with a nod towards Bella. "Besides, I've been fucking him on the side for a while now." "Damnit, Alice!" I leaned back as the mental image infested my brain. I was pretty sure it actually left little, irreparable holes in my occipital lobe. "Do you really have to tell me that shit?"

She just shrugged.

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"He's got a fucking huge penis," she said. "He might even give you a run for your money! Oh, and his tongue, let me tell you" She giggle-snorted, and smoke billowed out of her nose. "Alice, shut the fuck up." I tapped my nger on the iPad screen to get her attention back on target. Well...on targets, really. Ha! I slay me. "Who are we missing?" "There were seven people at their last meeting," Alice continued once she had nished her little giggle-fest. A chick wearing her boots really shouldn't giggle, if you ask me. It just wasn't right. "I have some surveillance from right outside, and there is one person I can't identify. This may very well be the guy we want." Alice pulled up a group of grainy photographs. "That's James," Bella said softly.

I looked up into her suddenly very pale face, and I remembered the name from her dream. I was abruptly overcome with anger.

"He's theumtrainer." She could hardly get the words out of her mouth, and I stood quickly, afraid she was going to actually collapse. She kept staring at the photograph until I reached for the touch screen and pushed the image away. "Bella, look at me," I said, but she kept her eyes trained on the iPad screen, though the picture was now of a guy named Felix. Fuck, what if he had hurt her, too? "Alice, turn the fucking thing off." She pressed the button on the center bottom of the device and moved the whole thing back away from Bella.

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"Come on, Bella," I said. "Let's go out on the balcony, okay? A little fresh air, maybe?" She nodded mutely, allowing me to lead her through the sliding glass doors. "Want a smoke?" I asked as I pulled one out of my pocket. She looked up to me, her expression confused. "II don't smoke." "Right," I said, and sighed. "This is impossible, isn't it?" Bella said quietly as she stared out across the cityscape. "There are so many of them."

Bella turned and stepped closer to me.

"Edward, maybe you shouldn't do this," she said. I could see the beginning of tears in her eyes again. Ever since I gave her permission to cry, she'd been doing it. "I mean, I can justbe with you like you wanted. I could still be yourum your slave. And then you don't have to do this and my mom will be okay."

I icked the butt over the railing and watched it spark as it hit a balcony farther down. I thought about telling her that whatever Aro was going to do with her mother, he had probably already done it. She could already be dead, and just the thought of it would be enough to keep Bella in line. I didn't say that though, because I didn't know what the fuck she would do if I did say it.

"I'm not going to do that to you," I told her. "And I'm going to fuck James up personally for what he did to you. I'm going to rip him apart, and if you want a souvenir you just let me know what piece of him you want on a chain and I'll make sure you get it."

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I cringed, realizing how fucking stupid not to mention morbid that sounded. Bella turned and furrowed her brow at me, looking a bit disgusted. I couldn't blame her for that. But then, she pinched her lips together tightly and the corners of her mouth twitched.

A moment after that, she laughed out loud, her hand covering her mouth as she literally screeched with laughter. She actually doubled over with her arm wrapped around her stomach as she kept guffawing. With one more snort, she turned towards me.

"How about nailing his dick to the wall for me?" "Gladly," I responded with a smile. Her laugh sounded beautiful. She laughed again, but then her face suddenly fell, and the laughter abruptly changed to sobs again. A moment after that, I was holding her tightly to my chest.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "Don't be," I replied. "I will kill him for you. He'll never hurt you again, I promise you that." Bella nodded, wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, and allowed me to lead her back into the apartment. Alice was back to playing Angry Birds, but also seemed to be on the phone with someone. "Yeah no fucking clue what he's doingyeah, I thought so, tooobviously better at arms deals that anything personal ha! Yeah?...okaylet me check. Hey Edward!"

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"Yeah?" "You gonna need a passport, driver's license what else for her?" "I don't know," I said, realizing she must be talking to Jasper Hale. "What does he suggest?" "He wants to know what else he should getyou think? Yeahokay. Jasper says you should get a marriage license, too. Makes things easier." "Marriage license?" "Yeah, dude you're getting married!" Alice began to laugh.

This just keeps getting better and better, right?

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Chapter 26

"One more ought to do it," Jasper Hale said as he snapped another picture of Bella.

I had to admire her ability to actually smile for a good picture under such circumstances. It didn't quite hit her eyes, but it at least appeared genuine enough as good as any driver's license picture, anyway. Emmett and Rosalie were standing over her laptop, bringing up dozens of schematic layouts of Aro's primary residence, where he housed his operation. Alice was attacking my wet-bar, and I was going over the lists of names of the people we were going to kill. Al in a days work. "I'll get these forwarded on to my contact," Jasper continued. "He should then have everything he needs, and we should have these back to us by tomorrow." Good," I said. "We need to discuss more about Aro's layout." "I got it," Rosalie said. It was the rst words she actually spoke responding to me directly. I let Alice explain what was going on to Jasper, and Jasper explained it to Rosalie. He still had to hold her back when she got in my presence, but she had since resorted to near silent treatment instead. She activated the projector, and her laptop images displayed on the wall in my great room.

For the next few hours we went over the layout of the building, mapping out just how many people we were going to need to both inltrate the building and eliminate all the key players. There were nine people at the top of Aro's organization, and we'd have to take them all out. Once eliminated, it would just be a matter of divvying up the remaining low-rung people between my

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organization and the Hale's. Only the big players cared about which team they played on the others would go to the highest bidder. It happened the same way when I eliminated Marcus and his cronies, with Alice's help, and it would be the same this time.

Laurent's group was also tied to Aro, though only when it came to drug running, illegal imports, and money laundering. Laurent didn't do slaves. There were only four in his group with loyalty to Aro, and we were counting on Emmett McCarty's own greed to solve that for us. He was loosely associated, but also in competition when it came to some of the importing Laurent's group did. He wanted the whole group to himself, which made it easier a hostile takeover versus elimination.

"We'll use The Pack to go after Aro," Emmett said. "They should be more than enough. I can use my boys to get Laurent they'll love it. The Pack was the group led by Alice there were ten of them, and they were the best of the best of the best. With honors. "That leaves Italy and Paris," Alice noted on the screen. "I've got Paris," I reminded her. "I can handle them."

"Alice and I will take Italy," Jasper said. He winked at Alice. "We should be able to take half The Pack and get it done without a problem. They're not near as well guarded as they think they are." "What are you going to do with Bella?" Alice questioned. "I'm taking her with me," I said. "She's chipped, and we need to look into removal when this is over, because I don't know who outside of Aro's group will have access to the slaves' whereabouts. She stays with me."

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"Fuck you, Cullen," Rosalie stood up and poked me in the chest. "What makes you think she's going anywhere with you?" "She's coming with me," I said, but I kept my eyes on the screen, not looking at either of them. "How about you give her a choice in the matter, asshole?" Rosalie poked me again. "Why the fuck would she want to be anywhere near you now?" "I'm taking her with me," I muttered, and I shoved Rosalie's hand away from my chest. I nally looked over at Bella where she sat on the couch and stared at us. She looked from me, to Rosalie, then back to me. Alice jumped up off the stool in the kitchen and walked over to me, pushed Rose away, then sucker punched meagain. "Owww! Goddamnit, Alice!" "You are an asshole," she said with a shrug. "Amen to that," Rosalie echoed. "Will you all cut this shit out?" Emmett growled. "She should stay with him, because fuck if she is coming with me, and he's right this is his fuck-up in the rst place. Let him deal with her. It's not like we can leave her on her own at this point." "I'll stay with Edward," Bella nally piped up. She was looking at the ground now, and I went over to her and sat down next to her on the couch. She looked up at me. "What do I need to do? "First, you learn how to shoot," I said. "You shouldn't need it, but it's best to be prepared." "I know how to shoot. "Good," I said, somewhat surprised. Slave with a gun who would have thought? "What can you shoot?"

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"Most hand guns," she said. "I've red a few shotguns as well." "Fuckin-A!" Alice cheered. I narrowed my eyes at her, and thought about asking Bella just how she knew about guns, but gured that could wait for another time. "You're with me," I told Bella as I glared over at Rosalie. She shot a few eyedaggers in my direction before slumping back down next to her laptop and growling under her breath.

I couldn't say exactly why I was important, but I was going to be the one to get Bella out of this. I wasn't going to ditch her with one of the others to drag her through cleaning up my mess. As long as Aro lived and she was chipped, she was in danger. I had to make sure both Bella and her mother were safe. I started it, and I was going to end it.

She was my responsibility, right?

Chapter 27:

"So this is how it goes," Jasper said. Rosalie tapped a few keys on the laptop and brought up a bunch more diagrams. "We hit Aro and Laurent simultaneously Emmett's group takes Laurent, which should be fairly quick and easy. Aro's group will be tougher, but we have The Pack and they have absolutely no idea we're coming."

"We have the ights booked," Alice informed us all. "Jasper and I head off immediately for Itlay, and Edward, Bella will be on a ight to Paris six hours later."

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"Why later?" Bella asked. She had been occasionally inserting herself into a bunch of the planning, which I foundinteresting, at least. Surprising, too. "You and I are going to make a pit stop," I told her. "See if we can locate your chip."

Her eyes met mine and her teeth bit into her lip. She nodded and dropped her eyes to the ground. She still did that all the time, even though I told her she didn't have to anymore.

"Look here where there's a dark spot on the surveillance camera," Rose said as she pointed back to the video of Aro's abode. "There's a lot of electronic locks not just at what looks like the main doorway, either. A whole bunch of them in a row. Get it?" "The slaves," I said quietly as I glanced at Bella out of the corner of my eye. "Has to be," Alice agreed. "Bella's mom could be there," I replied with a nod. "What's your mom's name, Bella?" Jasper asked. Of course he would ask. It hadn't even fucking occurred to me to ask for her name. "Renee," Bella said. "You think she is there?" "Denitely," I responded. "What the fuck, Edward?" Rosalie snapped at me. "You have no idea if she is there or not! Stop giving her false hope, asshole! You don't even know if she's-" "Shut the fuck up, Rosalie!" I screamed at her, nally losing it. I didn't need her this badly. She was only here for the tech, not the killing, so I didn't fucking need her at all anymore. I denitely didn't need her saying anything to make Bella feel worse than she already did.

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I yanked open the nearest drawer in the kitchen and pulled out a Heckler and Koch and aimed it at the bitch's head. At the same time, Alice stood beside me, her Berretta a mere half dozen inches from my temple.

"I'm fucking sick of your mouth!" I shouted at Rose. She just continued to glare at me, guring I wasn't about to pull the trigger I may have had her in my sights once or twice before. I could hear Alice's breathing next to me, but I didn't look at her. I did remember she said she was fucking Jasper, and the chances of her letting me fuck up his sister probably weren't all that great. Emmett stood up from his chair, walked slowly around the table and stood between us.

"Put the gun down, Edward." "Fuck you." There wasn't a lot of oomph in my voice left, but the sentiment was still there. "Edward, you're scaring your girl there." Okay, that got my attention. My eyes swiveled to Bella, curled up on the couch and biting her lip with wide, terried eyes. "Fuck," I mumbled, and I shoved the gun in the back of my jeans. "It's all right Bella," I heard Jasper saying. "They've done this before." "I think we're done for now anyway," Emmett said. He took Rosalie by the hand and folded her laptop up for her, kissed her on the cheek and said they'd be back in the morning. Rose just glared at me, but I didn't acknowledge her.

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"You wanna come home with me?" Alice asked Bella. "You don't have to stay here with ass-wipe." "Yes she does," Jasper said.

I was about to say the same thing, but I was kind of glad he spoke up rst, because I really didn't have a good reason other than wanting her here. I wasn't even sure why I wanted that, since it just seemed to continue to lead to more jerking off. "Why?" Alice asked. "She's still chipped," Jasper told her. "I doubt Aro is checking up on her, but he may notice if she's spending her nights away from his place, you know?" He was right, of course.

With that settled, everyone started to leave, with Rosalie managing to smack me upside the head on the way out, promising the next time I pulled a gun on her to turn it around and blow my face off. Alice followed with another kidney punch. Jasper was the last to leave, and I walked him to the door while Bella excused herself to the bathroom.

"I should have all the paperwork from Jenks tomorrow," he said. "We spend tomorrow night planning, Alice get's The Pack ready for their part of the show, and we'll be hosting this little party come Monday morning." "Good." I nodded. "She's going to need you," Jasper said as he nodded his head in the direction of the hallway. "You suck at this shit, so I hope you can handle it "Handle what?" Jasper shook his head.

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"You're so fucking clueless, Cullen," he said, but his tone really wasn't that pissy or mean. "I've seen the way you are with women before, you know. You suck at it." "Thanks," I said sarcasm set to stun "You do," he conrmed with another nod. "You know you do, which is why you went this route in the rst place. Anyone with a fucking clue would have hired a hooker, or at least checked out a legitimate Dom/sub club or something but not you. You have to take it to the extreme. Well, the extreme is going to bite you in the ass, now. Good luck with that."

He walked out the door without another word. I dropped down onto the couch next to where Bella had been sitting and dropped my head into my hands. Several minutes passed in silence while I contemplated my hatred of Rosalie Hale, and wondered again how the same parents could have produced both her and Jasper, who was kind of a decent guy all things considered. Eventually, I felt the couch shift as Bella sat back down beside me.

"Were you really going to kill her?" Bella asked quietly. "Maybe." I shrugged. "I usually want to kill her. She needs to keep her fucking mouth shut." "I thought you all were friends or something?" "No, it's just business." "Who are your friends, then?" "Don't have any," I replied. "Never saw the point." "But you and Rosalie really don't like each other, do you?" "Not much."

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There was another long pause before Bella spoke again.

"She thinks my mom is dead, doesn't she?" "No!" I cried out as I raised my head back up to look at her. "Shitno, she isn't, okay?" "She might be, though?" I watched the pain ood over her eyes, and I couldn't lie to her. "I don't know," I admitted. "He said ifif I did what he wantedshe'dshe'd" I held her again as her tears soaked my shirt, and prayed to a God I didn't believe in to make her mom all right, because there were some things I just couldn't x enough to make a difference.

Her mom had to be okay, right?

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Chapter 28

By the time everyone else had left, it was already past midnight. Bella looked wiped out, which is how I felt. I suggested going to bed, and as we walked from the great room to the hallway together, Bella hesitated as she looked to the door of her room, and then down to the oor.

"Bella?" I asked. "Do youwant to stay with me?"

She continued to look at the oor, and for a minute I thought she was going to start crying again, but she didn't. She just nodded, so I held the door to my room open for her. It was about that time I realized I still didn't have any more fucking clothes for her.

"Shit," I mumbled, and Bella looked up to me with her brow furrowed as I griped about being an idiot. I ried through a couple of dresser drawers and came up with a pair of boxers and a t-shirt for her. She smiled and took them from me before heading into the bathroom to change.

I was so fucking useless when it came to the most basic shit. Jasper was right it was no wonder I couldn't keep a girlfriend for more than a month. I just didn't think about that kind of shit. I never had. I would go all day without eating just because I got wrapped up in whatever else I was doing and forgot about it. Then I'd realize my stomach was growling, look up and gure out the whole day had gone by. I would run out of shaving cream but totally forget to pick any more up at the store for a week, too. I would have hired someone to

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take care of that kind of shit, but there just weren't too many people I trusted, and I didn't want anyone with a key to my place. Obviously, it wasn't just myself I couldn't take care of.

I changed into a T-shirt and pajama pants and climbed into bed, still propped up on the pillows and not really lying down. I was really exhausted, but my mind was ying by at a mile a minute. The details of our plan, wondering what to do about clothing for Bella, and some of the shit Jasper had said to me was all trying to compete for attention in my head.

Bella came out of the bathroom, and damn if seeing her in my clothes wasn't seriously hot. I don't know why I'd never had a woman wearing my clothes before but something about it just made my heart start to pound. She was looking at the oor again, and didn't make any eye contact with me as she slowly lowered herself to the other side of the bed. She laid down on her back, and had to scoot herself up onto the pillow when she apparently remembered she could use it. That shit still pissed me off.

"Thank you," Bella said quietly while she dgeted with her ngers. "You know for letting me stay here." "I don't mind," I said. I almost opened up my mouth to make a crack about how I bought her just so she would have to be in my bed, but managed to stie myself before it escaped. I was not a complete idiot. Well, at least I could learn. Sometimes.

Bella wrapped her arms around herself and lay on her back, staring up at the ceiling. Now that I had a better idea of what was contained in her dreams, I was

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not surprised she didn't want to be alone. I was surprised she wanted to be near me. I was alsoglad?

I wanted her close to me it just seemed safer for her, though I wasn't sure exactly from what at this point. Aro and I had been doing business for eight years, and he had no reason to think I was anything other than a satised customer. It just might have been all the talk of wiping out a major crime organization that made me get a little paranoid. Ever that was odd, though. Even when I knew I was going into a situation where I could die, II didn't usually care that much.

"I don't want to go to sleep," Bella suddenly said. "I'm so tired, but" "Nightmares?" "Yeah." Bella nodded. "When Rosalie was talking about the umthe place when he kept us" She took a deep breath. "I just can't stop thinking about it now, and I know I'm going to dream about it."

I knew I should say something. I mean, I was supposed to say something at about this time, wasn't I? What the fuck it was supposed to be, I didn't know, though, so I just kind of hummed at her like the moron I was. Fuck, I had to do something, or say something, didn't I? All this shit was my fault, but I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to make it any better for her. Oh waitI guess I could ask.

"Is there anything I can do?"

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Bella turned towards me and we locked eyes for a moment.

"Will you just talk to me?" she asked. "Take my mind off of it?" "What do you want me to talk about?" "Anything," she said. "Tell me something about you?" "Like what?" "Well, I don't really know anything about you," she said with a shrug. "I know youumhave a thing for guns. Did you always like them? Did you get a BB gun for Christmas or something when you were a kid?" I had to laugh at that one.

"Um, no," I said. "We didn't do Christmas." "Are you Jewish?" "Nowe justum" I was back to having no clue what to say. How do you explain that your parents never told you about Santa because they couldn't buy gifts and a tree to put up? When your parents both spent more time on unemployment and welfare half the time trading the food stamps for beer there just wasn't a whole lot of gift giving going on. "We just didn't celebrate it. Actually, I didn't know about it until I went to school." "You didn't know about Christmas?" Bella's eyes went wide.

I shook my head.

"How can you live in the United States and not know about Christmas?" she exclaimed. "I mean, the stores have all the decorations up by mid August, it's on

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television constantly how can you miss the most commercialized holiday ever?"

"I never went to a store," I told her. "I don't really remember ever leaving our trailer park until someone from the school district came by and told them I had to be enrolled or they'd lose some of their welfare check. So, they put me in school when I was about seven, I think. I hadn't seen a lot of stuff before then." "Oh my God," she whispered. "You're serious, aren't you?"

I nodded again. "No big deal," I said. "My income more than makes up for it now." "Where are they?" "Who?" "Your parents?" "No idea," I told her. I really didn't want to take this any father, but if it would help get her mind off of what she had been rememberingwell, maybe I should talk about it.

I kind of owed that to her, right?

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Chapter 29

Bella was still looking up from her pillow at me, and I tried to think about what I could actually tell her. I had no idea where to start I had never talked to anyone about my past, not even social services when they nally gured out I had been left there, unsupervised. There was counseling at the school across town, and they made me go see her once a week, but I refused to talk to her. I had no idea what to say now. I took a deep breath, and gured I'd start at theend.

"I came home from school one day and they were just gone," I said with a shrug. "I mean, they were gone a lot, and sometimes even for a few days, but this time they just didn't come back. There wasn't a ton of food I the house, but one of the neighbors would usually give me a burger or something when he was grilling out, so I didn't starve or anything. I gured they would be back eventually, but aboutI don't know maybe a month or so later, a couple of guys showed up with a big tractor trailer and told me to get my shit out, because they were repossessing it." "They took your house?" "Yeah," I said. "I guess they hadn't been keeping up on the payments or whatever. I don't know who was dumb enough to actually give them a loan." "What did you do?" I shrugged again.

"I grabbed my clothes and shoved them into my school backpack," I told her. "There really wasn't anything worth keeping."

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"Butwhere did you go?" Bella's forehead got all scrunched up and she peered at me with this cute little confused look on her face. "I juststayed there." "With the neighbor?" "No," I said. I stopped for a minute. How do you explain shit like this? "There was a little tent thing over the cement where the car parked a kind of canopy thing. I juststayed there."

"How old were you?" "Fifteen." "So what happened to them?" "Who?" "Your parents!" Bella yelled out, obviously exacerbated by my lack of input. I really just didn't know what to say. "I don't know never saw them again." "Oh my God, Edward that's horrible!"

I had to kind of smirk at that the chick who was kidnapped and tortured into slavery thought my life was horrible. It was a freaking picnic compared to the last month of hers.

"Not really," I said. "They weren't exactly model parents to begin with." I didn't really know what so say after that, so I just kind of sat there. My life hadn't really been all that bad, at least, up until they left. Being a ward of the state sucked, because they kept wanting me to do shit all the time. Once I

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starting working for Marcus and Caius I just dropped out of school and took off. Things got better then. Bella just kept looking at me, waiting for me to go on, I guess.

I didn't want to talk about this shit, I really didn't. I also didn't want her to start thinking about the place she was held prisoner, either, so I was kind of stuck with conversation. Not my forte. I tried to gure out what she would want to hear, and ended up just babbling, of course.

"Momshe dranka lot. Dad just wasn't there most of the time. He did odd jobs and whatever, but he was gone more than he was there. When he was there, he was usually yelling about the place being a mess or whatever. Mom just drank and ignored him, mostly. I don't know why they were together at all." "What did you do?" she asked. "Do?" I had no idea what she meant. "Do about what?" "When your parents wereacting like that."

I looked away for a minute and tried to think about what she was asking. What did I do? I didn't really remember doing anything. Speaking up or getting into the middle of it in any way was an extremely bad idea, as I learned early on.

"I usuallywent outside, I guess." "And did what?" "I don't know," I shrugged again. The whole line of questioning was starting to aggravate me, but I didn't want her to know that. I really just never thought about it, and didn't know how to answer. I never cared what my parents did they were justthere. Sometimes. If I ran out of food or something I always

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managed to fend for myself okay, so what difference did it make? "Justwent outside. There was another kid who lived close by for a while. Sometimes we went looking forstuff." I really didn't want to talk about looking for toys in the dump.

An awkward silence followed. I think she was waiting for me to continue, but I didn't know what else to say. I was a crappy conversationalist, unless you wanted to talk about guns or something. I didn't really think she'd go for that. I nally glanced over at her, and saw her eyes start to droop. "You should get some sleep," I said.

Bella nodded, but kept her eyes trained to my face for a while. I couldn't gure out her expression, but it was making me a little nervous, so I looked away, and then shifted myself down so I was laying at on the bed, but still up on my elbow and facing her. She just looked kind ofsad. I didn't know why.

"You never had anyone take care of you, did you?" Bella nally said. "I can take care of myself," I said with another shrug. I was getting really good at shrugging. Maybe there was a contest or something. "That's not the point." Bella rolled over and maneuvered herself just a little closer, and I felt her arm run up and around my waist. I didn't know what the point was, but my arm went on autopilot and reached out to wrap around her, too. Before I had the chance to ask her about it at all, she had already conked out. So I watched her sleep.

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She looked soyoung. Eighteen was an adult, sure, but she just looked so much younger in sleep. Maybe it was because I had a full ten years on her that made me think of it, but mostly she just looked young and really innocent. Which, of course, she was before I decided I needed her in my life. Well, not her specically, but someone who looked like her. Eighteen. Virgin. Cocksucker. My chest clenched.

I thought a little about what she had said. No one ever took care of me, that was true, I guess, but I didn't really know what I was supposed to do with the information. I guess she was right, in a way. I just never thought about it. Is that what other people's parents did? So why didn't mine?

I pushed the thoughts away and went back to thinking about her. I wondered if she would have another nightmare, and if she did, would she tell me about it. I wondered if I wanted to hear it, and was pretty sure I didn't.

But I was going to listen anyway. Because it was my fucking fault. All of it, and I couldn't take it back.

But I was going to make up for it, right?

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Chapter 30

I hovered in that little space between being asleep and being awake. I had just faded out of a dream of some sort. Nothing substantial just cement, rain, and some ashing lights. There was a scent that was only vaguely familiar like something I had smelled only a couple of times before, but never associated the scent with its source. It was fresh and cleansing, like spring rain. Bella.

I felt the corners of my mouth twitch, and my eyes opened slowly to look straight into hers, a mere few inches from my face. One of my arms cradled her head, which was using my bicep as a pillow, and the other was wrapped tightly around her waist. Bella's shirtwell, my shirthad ridden up a bit, so my ngers rested on her bare skin right above her hip. Her expression was strange and indenable, and I would almost have called it empty, but that didn't t either. Like my arm around her, I could feel her forearm against my side, and the tips of her ngers grazed my back. She continued to just stare at me, and I her. It was extraordinarily uncomfortable.

I gured I was probably supposed to say something now, but I had no idea what. Good morning? Want some breakfast? Did you sleep well? I really didn't know, and none of the girls I had ever dated or slept with had spent the night in my bed, or I in theirs. Maybe I should just say hi?

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Instead, when I nally couldn't stand the silence any longer, I just babbled. "Did youumdream?"

Her eyes dropped for a minute, then looked back to mine. They were dimmer now, and not as lively. Her look answered my question before she nodded. "Do you want totell me?" "It wasn't bad," she said, her voice hoarse from sleep. "Justcold." "Cold?" I echoed as I reached down for the blanket and pulled it up a little higher. "No, not now." Bella shook her head. "You're warm."

She blushed. Just a little twinge of pink in her cheeks as she looked away from my eyes for a moment. I had no fucking idea why she would blush, but I was kind of intrigued. "It was cold in thein the cells they kept us in."

It gured she ended up dreaming about it anyway. So much for distracting her. I didn't know what I should say, as usual, but when I didn't say anything she kept going.

"The oor was bare cement, and it never really got warm." "Were there others by you?" I asked. "I meanothergirls." "Yes," she said. "But we were not allowed to talk to each other. I did the rst time."

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I didn't want to know. I knew I didn't want to know. "What happened?" I asked anyway. Bella took another deep breath and looked down towards my chest, though her eyes appeared unfocused.

"I was yelling for my mom," she said quietly. "I think she was there, but maybe they already told her she wasn't allowed to talkI don't know. She didn't answer though. I just wanted to know she was okay. I hadn't seen her since they took us. Not since we were in the back of that van."

My silence seemed to be working for me, which was a very good thing since I seemed to be completely incapable of making any kind of conversation. Bella went on without any more prompting.

"James came in with a couple other guys. That was the rst time he hit me with the taser. I'd never felt anything like that at allI couldn't move at alland it hurt not just where he touched me, but everywhere."

I nodded I knew this. I'd been hit with them a couple of times. I waited for her to go on again, but she stayed silent. When I tilted my head to get a better look at her face, she had gone completely pale.

"Bella?" I rubbed my hand against her side a bit, just to get her attention. She nally looked up to me. "I don't think I want to talk about this," she said, her voice barely loud enough to hear. I nodded.

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"I'll nd your mom," I whispered. I meant it. I wanted to mean it. I hoped I meant it. "Don't say that, please," Bella looked back up to me, and the pain in her eyes was unlike anything I had ever seen before. "You don't know if you will or not, Edward. Rosalie was right." "Fuck Rosalie," I growled. Just hearing her name had me itching to blow her head off, and hearing her name and knowing how much Bella was hurting at the same time just further imbedded my hatred. "But she could be right," Bella said. "I have toat least be prepared for that."

I went back to silence, because I was good at it and I wasn't any good at any of this other shit. It worked, for a while at least. I had nally stopped thinking of the best gun to use against Rose and had moved to what's for breakfast? instead.

"Why did you buy me?" Bella suddenly asked. Fuck. I wasn't ready for this. If nothing else, I needed a gallon of coffee and a pack of cigarettes rst.

I felt my chest constricted again, which was beginning to be a really common feeling for me. Actually, all of my body seemed to have tightened up a bit, clenching and unclenching as if the sheer muscle force could somehow make the right words expel out of my mouth instead of the total pig-swill that was a lot more likely. "I wantedumsex?" I nally blurted. It sounded like a question.

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"Why didn't you just hire a prostitute? Or go to a bar and pick someone up? Why did youwhy did you want someone like me?" "I didn't thinkabout what it meant." I rolled to my back and covered my eyes with my hand. "I didn't know what I was doing." "Didn't think about it?" Her voice cracked a little, the pitch spiking until she took a harsh breath into her lungs. I moved my hand and looked back to her, seeing the tears stating in her eyes. "You bought me without thinking about it?" "I thought he justhad girls there," I told her. I wasn't really trying to defend myself, justexplain. "I didn't know he was taking everything I said so he could gogo look for a match. I didn't know Aro would take you off the fucking street just for me" "Is that why?" Her throat was obviously tight, keeping the air from owing correctly and making her voice off. She sat up, and I pulled the arm she had been resting on back to my chest. "You gave him your order, and I t the bill? Do you have any idea how fucked up that is?"

I didsort of. I mean, I knew I didn't understand what was happening when I rst met with Aro, but I also knew I hadn't wanted to understand. Some of his questionsI had refused to think about it. I still didn't want to think about it. All I wanted was sex without having to go through all the work associated with a girlfriend or the randomness of a hooker. One that wouldstay.

"I can't take it back," I nally told her. "If I could, I swear to you I'd change it all. But I can't. I can't take it back." "No," she agreed, "you can't."

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I wanted to say something else. From the moment I woke up, I had wanted to nd the right words to use with her, but I oundered, as I always did. I scooted back against the pillows so I could sit up next to her.

"I'm sorry," I said quietly. I didn't know what fucking difference the word made, but I said it anyway. For a while, she looked down at her hands in her lap and didn't look at me at all. I stared off the side of the bed, like I thought some wise old little gnome would pop out from under the bed and give me everything I needed to know about women in a little box or something. Or did gnomes just x shoes? Fuck it.

"The others should be here before too long," I nally said before the silence literally killed me. Bella nodded and started to get up, but then she stopped and turned to me. "Thank you," she said simply. "For what?" I asked, confused. "For apologizing," she replied. "And for trying to distract me last night," "Ohumno problem," I mumbled back. I didn't really know how to take what she had said. Did people really thank other people for saying they were sorry? As far as distraction went, I guess that's what I was trying to do, so mission accomplished there. "Parents aren't supposed to be like that, Edward," she said. I felt her hand on my arm, her ngers just lightly brushing my skin. It felt odd and out of place, which counted for the twelfth thing I hadn't understood since waking up ten minutes ago. She released me almost immediately and headed into the bathroom while I wondered what she had meant.

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My parents didn't hit me or anything, so it's not like I was abused. Dad would yell, yeah, and we didn't have much of anything, but it wasn't all that bad. By the time they left, I could take care of myself. The group home I ended up in the rst few months kind of sucked rules and chores and curfews, oh my but I took off and had been making shitloads of money ever since. If nothing else, the money I had now I could use to do whatever the hell I wanted. I had the apartment I wanted, the cars I liked, and a couple little beach houses and shit.

I had everything I needed, so it couldn't have been all that bad, right?

Chapter 31

"Come on, Alice please?" "No fucking way, Cullen. I don't do malls. Haven't you heard of the fucking internet?"

I was getting nowhere. Rose had only communicated to me in nger gestures, and Alice would rather cut off a tit than walk into the mall. I couldn't wait on the internet entirely, though it might be a better long-term solution, I wasn't letting Bella go anywhere by herself, and Bella needed clothes today. She only had two outts, and she had to wash those this morning to have anything to wear at all.

"Look," Emmett said as he popped open a can of Coke and slurped the fuzzy stuff off the top. "We've got the action for Aro's place all ready, and we have a

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few things to go over on Laurent's. Why do you take her, and we'll see you back here later?" I ran out of reasonable arguments and female acquaintances, soI gave up. Yeah, I probably should have sucked it up and taken her somewhere, even to fucking Wal-Mart, but I just couldn't cope with another scene like that. Instead, I got her on the computer with my credit card and made sure it was next-day shipping. Tomorrow was Saturday, but since it was before noon it would still get here in time. One less thing to worry about. Back to the killing, which made me a lot more comfortable.

Over the next day and a half, the plans were made, studied and practiced. Jasper was like a fucking drill sergeant about the whole thing, and would quiz us over and over again about strategy, positions, who was targeting whom, and all this other shit that was about to make my head explode. The entire entourage that made up The Pack was also there ten huge motherfuckers with shoulders that made them remind me of Sasquatch. They didn't talk much, and if I had to guess I would have said they were sharing a brain cell between the ten of them. Bella took it all in stride.

During the attack on Aro, she'd be armed, but it was mostly just to keep her safe. She'd stay right behind me until we had the front of the house cleared, then she'd stay with Jasper while Alice and I lead The Pack to the lower level to eradicate whoever else doesn't give up and free anyone we found there.

It was nearly three in the morning on Sunday when we nally decided we were ready. We would hit them Monday afternoon, because really who the fuck has

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the energy to wake up early and plan an attack on Mondays? Element of surprise and all that shit.

"Where did Alice and Bella go?" I asked. They had been sitting on the couch together not too long ago. "I think they went back to the ofce to order something else," Jasper said. "Alice said something about clothes for Paris?"

I walked down the hall, trying to keep my eyes open, but I was getting really tired and hoping a hot shower would help me relax enough to sleep. I wasn't really sleeping much at all. Mostly I justwatched Bella sleep. I heard them talking as I got close to the door, which was ajar. No it wasn'tit was a door. I snickered a bit.

"never showed him any love when he was a kid," Bella was saying. "I can understand how he ended up not knowing how to even function properly." I couldn't help it. I knew they were talking about me, and there was no way I wasn't going to listen in. "I always knew he was fucked up," Alice responded. "I kind of gured his home life had to be shit. I mean they all are, aren't they? I've never know anyone who should have been allowed to breed. Not my mom and dad, that's for sure." "My parents are wonderful," Bella said. "We didn't even have a ton of money, but we had enough and everyone loved each other." "Well, it's good to know there's hope out there, I guess." "Edward said he didn't think about what he was doing," Bella said. "When he bought me, I mean."

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"He never does," I heard Alice say in the most un-Alice voice I had ever heard. "I think you got more out of him in a couple nights than anyone else ever has. But still" I could hear a chair scrape across the oor and the rustle of clothing. "That doesn't give him a free pass, Bella. And some shit just isn't forgivable. Given that, I have one question I want you to answer." "What's that?" "Did he fuck you?" Oh shit.

I heard the tone in her voice, and there was no doubt in my mind what it meant. My hand reached around to the handle of the Heckler and Koch stuffed behind my back.

"Umno, Alice," I heard Bella answer. "He didn't." "It's a good thing," Alice said with a huff. About thirty second of silence later, I started hearing the distinctive sounds of a keyboard clicking about. "There ya go!" Alice suddenly said. "All set to be delivered to your hotel in Paris." "Thanks, Alice."

I decided it was probably time to show myself, so I pushed the door open the rest of the way.

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"You two about done in here? I think Jasper's ready to go."

They both popped up, and Alice shoved her way past me. After a few more exchanges of words, I closed the door behind the last of them, and once again Bella and I were left alone. At least she had clothes to wear now.

"I'm going to take a shower," Bella said, and she headed off down the hallway and to the guest bathroom. I took my own shower with the hope that the hot water would relax me enough to sleep. I kind of doubted it, though. I tried to think about how in forty eight hours, Aro would be dead and Bella and I would be on the way to Paris to nish off the last of them. All was going quite smoothly, right?

Chapter 32

"Tell me something else about you."

Bella was lying on her side with her head propped up on her hand and looking at me. She said had too many thoughts in her head to sleep, and complained that her hair would go all crazy if she fell asleep when it was still wet. Then she gave me shit for not having a hair drier.

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I wanted to be annoyed by it, which I would have been if I had imagined Kate in Bella's place. But with Bellawell, I guess at this point I had fucked up her life so much I wasn't about to be annoyed with her.

"I don't know what else to say," I told her. "I think I told you everything about me." "There has to be more," Bella pushed. "What did you do in high school?" "Dropped out and started running guns." "How old?" "Sixteen." "But now you don't just run guns, do you?" "No," I said. I didn't like where this was going. "I also have a pretty successful technology company."

She glared at me for a minute, but didn't push any more. It was good, too, because I would have had to shut that down. I have never talked about business with any woman I had ever dated. Woman I dated? Where the fuck did that come from? Because the woman in my bed denitely didn't t that description. Still, I wasn't going to talk about my business. The less she knew the better.

"Do you think it's going to work?" "What?" I asked.

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"This wholeplan of yours," she claried as she waved around the hand that wasn't holding up her head. "Yeah," I replied. "If I can get some sleep, anyway." "You haven't been sleeping?" Bella's eyes narrowed a bit. "Is it because I'm here? I can go back to the other-" "No! It's not that!" I sat part way up, and the idea of her going back to her room was justwrong. I didn't want her going anywhere. Sleep or no sleep, I wanted her herewith me.

I had no fucking idea why, but it was really important.

"Stay," I said. A second later I realized how much it sounded like I was commanding a dog, but I didn't know what else to sayso I didn't say anything. And then I looked back down at her.

Bella's shoulders were hunched, her head tipped forward and her eyes gazing blankly down towards the mattress. Her teeth had embedded in her lip, and her handsher hands were shaking.

"I'm sorry," she started saying over and over again. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, MasterI'm sorry" "No, Bellano," I murmured back to her. I put my hand against her cheek and tried to tilt her head so she would look at me. It took some coaxing, but she nally did. "We're not like that, Bella. You're notyou're not my slave anymore. You don't call me that anymore." "He'll kill her."

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"No, he won't. I'm not going to let him hurt you or her. We're going to get her out of there."

She nally seemed to really focus on me, and at least stopped saying she was sorry repeatedly. She looked scared, and ashamed, and like she was going to cry again. I really wasn't sure if I could handle any more crying.

"You want to hear more about me?" I asked, knowing she had wanted more before. She blinked a few times before nodding her head. Okay, so far, so good. Now I just had to come up with something she wanted to hear about. The business stuff that was still out of the question. She knew too much about that side already. She did seem to be interested in stuff about me as a kid, though, so I thought I'd try one of those. "I could tell you about when I rst went to school," I suggested. Again, she nodded. "Okay," I said as I ran my hand through my hairyet again. "IumI hadn't gone before." I laughed.

"That's why it's the story of when I rst went to school," I added. Though she didn't actually smile at my lame joke, I did see her relax a little. "The kids my age were mostly in second grade, and it was already October too, so school had been going for a while. I was put in the kinder-rst class, which was mostly kids who had been to kindergarten already, but for whatever reason weren't quite ready for rst grade or something. I was still older than most of them, though, but they were at least learning to read. They knew their letters and shit. I'd never seen any of that before."

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"You never had any books?" "I had a picture book," I said. "The neighbor lady gave it to me when one of her grandkids left it behind, I think. I don't remember what it was called. It had a woman in it who wanted pancakes for breakfast, and she has to go through all this work to get all the ingredients, but then her cat and dog eat the stuff. She goes next door and they give her pancakes instead." "What about Sesame Street?" "What, a cartoon or something?" "Sort of muppets. Grover, Big Bird and Oscar. You know Sesame Street!" "Yeah, I remember Big Bird from a puzzle at school." "You never watched it?" "We had a TV," I said, "but you could never really get a picture on it so well, and Mom was usually watching it. I remember trying to watch a couple things through the fuzz, but it just wasn't worth it." "So when did you learn to read?" "I struggled for a while," I said. "But I got the hang of it eventually, and caught up with most subjects byI don't knowfourth or fth grade? The teachers were always trying to get me to talk about shit, and they'd try to get my parents in for conferences, but they never came. We didn't have a phone, so they couldn't call. I do remember one of the people from the school ofce not sure if it was the principal or the vice-principal or what, but she came over to our house, and my mom yelled at her." "What did she say?" I shrugged. "I don't remember exactly. Telling her to mind her own business, basically." "Edward, can I ask you a question?"

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Just the way she asked had me pretty damn nervous.

"Okay, I guess." "Did your mom or dad ever take you anywhere, or do anything with you? Play a game or with toys or anything?" My mind went blank as I tried to think of things my mom did with me.

"My mom would sometimesgive me a bath," I said. "I remember when she would make grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup."

Something ashed in my head an image of my mother standing by the rusted stove as she poured part of a bottle of ketchup into a pan of hot water and started stirring it around. I remembered she let me dunk the sandwich in the soup.

"I thought you wanted to hear about my rst day of school?" I reminded her. Bella told me to go on. "Okay, so I was in this kinderrst class, and when I got there, all the kids were already at their desk and they already had all their papers out. I remembered looking at the teacher and thinking she was really, really fat, and wondering if she was going to explode, because she kind of looked like it. I didn't know what I was supposed to do, so I guess I kind of panicked. I ran out the door and hid in the boy's bathroom." I laughed.

"I don't know how long I was there, but the teacher eventually came in and talked me into coming back to the class. All the other kids were at lunch by then, and she gured out I didn't have any lunch, so she gave me some of hers.

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She talked to me while all the other kids were at recess and showed me where I was going to sit and stuff. She was nice, but she was only there for two weeks before sheumwent on maternity leave." Bella's eyes narrowed a little.

"I thought she was really fat, remember?" Bella cracked the slightest of smiles and shook her head at me. "She was nice to you, though?" Bella said. "Yeah," I replied. "Did she come back?" "Not for a couple of years," I said. "I think she waited until her baby was in kindergarten or something. I remember seeing her once or twice when I was older." I looked down at Bella, and saw a strange look ofunderstanding?...across her face. "But she didn't stay," Bella said softly. "What?" I asked. She looked up at me again, but I still didn't understand the look on her face, and I was about to pass out from lack of sleep, which she apparently noticed. "Lay down, Edward," Bella said quietly, and I did what she said, though a little tentatively. She continued to keep herself propped up on her elbow, so I couldn't really watch her without be really obvious about it, so I closed my eyes, and was asleep almost immediately. I woke when it was still dark outside to Bella thrashing on the bed and crying.

I pulled her to me, grabbing her around the waist and pulling her back against my chest.

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"ShhBella, it's all rightit's all rightjust a dream."

She woke with a start and covered her mouth with her hands. Her head turned to the right and she looked up at me over her shoulder for a moment before dropping back to the mattress. She used her heels and hands to push herself closer to my chest, took a few deep breaths, and was then asleep again.

Nightmares can't last forever, right?

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Chapter 33

When I awoke, I was in a cold sweat with a single thought in my head. She's my responsibility. The nal images of the dream did a few cartwheels in my conscious mind before fading Bella, out in the sunshine wearing absolutely nothing, and Aro standing beside her, offering her a toothbrush.

"Sorry, Edwardyou didn't take care of her, so I'm afraid I'll have to take her back" "You have no idea what you are doing," Dream Bella told me. "It's for the best, EdwardEdward.Edward" "Edward?"

I opened my eyes to her voice and the warmth of her hand on my cheek. She was holding herself up with her other hand and hovering above me, though I could just barely make out the outline of her head and shoulders in the darkness.

"You were dreaming," she said in a whisper. My responsibility. Just mine. Mine.

I was fucking this up so bad, how could I ever make anything right with her? Even if I killed every one of them that hurt her, I still I hadn't gotten her enough clothes. Even if I saved her mother, I had no idea what she wanted and needed. Wasn't there likeshit she needed for the bathroom to be found in the

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drugstore aisles where men dare not tread? How was going to gure any of that out? It was the crux of the problem, wasn't it? I had no fucking idea how to deal with women what they wanted and needed, how to talk to them and that hadn't changed It had to change.

I had to gure this shit out, and make her the priority all the time. I couldn't just think that she needed clothes, and then forget about it. But how do I gure out what she needs? Maybe you could ask, asshole.

Okay, yeah I guess I could. It was kind of like stopping and asking for directions, which hit some sort of anti-instinct bone. It made me want to drive around in circles on purpose, just to make some kind of obscure and indenable point. I owe her, though, and I always will. I had never asked her what she wanted or needed, and that was going to change.

I reached up and grasped her face in my hands, immediately loosening my grip when she jumped, but not letting go.

"I'm going to take care of you," I told her in a harsh whisper. I felt her ngers trace over my jaw, and then the backs of her ngers ran over my temple. "I'm going to take care of you, too, Edward." My ears had to be messed up, right?

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Chapter 34

"I don't need anything Bella," I told her. "I've got six cars, and the cheapest was seventy grand. You don't need to take care of me I need to take care of you." "That's not the kind of care I'm talking about," Bella said. "You going toshoot me?" I asked sleepily as her hand kept touching my face. Every time her ngers traced over my temple or across my brow, my eyes closed themselves. Bella's soft laughter made me smile.

"No, I don't think so." Her ngers traced from my temple to my chin, and my head leaned into the touch, though I didn't recall telling myself to move. I remembered a question I wanted to ask her. "How come you know how to shoot?" I asked. "I'll tell you later," Bella whispered. "Go back to sleep, Edward." "Hmm" I mumbled. I felt myself ease back against the pillow. The slow, stroking touch from her hand continued, and the darkness in the room invade my eyes and mind.

We went over everything for the ve hundredth time. Aro and Laurent would go down rst, then Alice and Jasper head to Italy and strike the Volturi, while Bella and I pay a visit to a certain doctor to have her scanned for her chip. Then we head to Paris, take out the last three targets the Volturi's French branch.

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Once everyone was eliminated, Emmett would take care of dividing things up here at home, Alice and Jasper would take care of Italy, and Bella and I would go into hiding. "Why are we hiding?" Bella asked. "Final precaution," I told her. "If we didn't account for someone, I need to make sure you are safe until things have settled down." "What about my mom?" she asked. "What will we do with her?" "She'll be with Emmett," I said. "Once we've taken care of France and Italy, she'll join us in hiding. I'll keep her safe, too." "How long?" "A couple of months," I said "Then what?" She looked through her lashes at me, and I could see the worry the panic starting in them. "Whatever you want," I said quietly. "I told you, I am going to take care of you whatever that means. I'll get you and your mom a house, I'll buy you a fucking castle whatever you want, you get. If you justwant to go home, I'll take you home. As long as I am sure you are safe rst." Bella nodded.

"What will you do?" she asked. "Come back here and see how badly Emmett cheated me out of my share of the take-home," I said with a grin. Emmett punched my shoulder, which fucking hurt, but I only smirked at him. "Have I ever cheated you?" he said with mock indignity. "Yes." "Ohyeah, I have."

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"Ready then?" Jasper asked. "We've got a couple of stops to make, but we'll be at the check point tomorrow at one-o-clock." "I'm ready," Alice conrmed. Rose and Emmett echoed her response. "Papers, Jazz I need all her papers," I reminded him. "Here ya go." I looked through the little manila folder he gave me. Driver's license, passport, social security card all in the name of Isabella Cullen. I tried not to let the name freak me out too much. "Marriage license?" "Ahshit. " Jasper reached up and scratched the top of his head. "I forgot about it." "Can they go without?" Alice asked. "I got her name down as Cullen, and everything else is set to make them look married. They have to have a license to go with it. "Can't your contact guy justget one made up tomorrow?" "He just left the country himself," Jasper said. "No way would we have it before Monday night." "Fuck," I growled. "No problem," Emmett said. "We don't hit until three-o-clock. You have plenty of time to just run down to the courthouse and get it done." "We're not really getting married," I reminded him. "You are now," Alice said with a laugh.

They had to be joking,

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Chapter 35

I could hear all kinds of chatter going on in Bella's room, and I didn't like what I was hearing at all.

"I didn't have anything white," Rose was saying. "But we at least have to get some pictures, and I was sure this would t you" "What the fuck are you doing, Rose?" I growled, but Alice shoved me out into the hallway and slammed the door shut. Next thing I knew, her Beretta was in my face again. "No seeing the bride in her dress before the wedding, fucker!" "Goddamnit, Alice!" I yelled back. "This isn't for real." "Yeah it is," she snickered. "But it's notit's not really!" "Well, you will have to get it annulled at some point," Jasper said. "But I do think they have a point about not seeing Bella in her dress. Bad luck and all." "Are you fucking shitting me?"

"Edward," Jasper took another step forward and put his hand on my shoulder. Alice took a step back, giving him a little more room as she holstered her gun. "We're about to take out three decent sized crime families in twenty-four hours. I'm not willing to chance any kind of bad luck. So you and I are going to get ready and head to the courthouse, and the girls will bring Bella there when she's ready." "You people are crazy," I mumbled, but let him drag me out.

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Apparently, a "wedding outt" had already been chosen for me. Black slacks and jacket along with a light blue shirt that was supposed to match Bella's dress. Fucking kill me. "Last touches," Jasper said as he handed me a tie. "I'm not wearing a fucking tie." "Just put it on," he grumbled. "No," I said. "I put my foot down at a fucking noose. I'll wear the rest, but the tie is out."

I ignored Jasper's protests as I headed out to the balcony to smoke. Rain was pouring straight down, and the overhang was just barely keeping it off me as I leaned against the bricks. As I dragged smoke into my lungs, I thought about the things Bella had said in the middle of the night and tried to make some sense out of them.

She said she was going to take care of me, and I had no idea what she meant. I didn't need anything I had everything I could possibly want, so why had she said that? And why had those words been crawling around in my head all day? I keep thinking about some of her questions as well the ones about my mom and what she did for me, and asking about that teacher I had when I rst went to school. She didn't stay.

I knewsomewhere inside of myself that I wasn't like other people I knew not even other criminals in the same kind of business. Others had families and friends they hung out with each other and had dinner, even when they weren't

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talking about the next deal. I didn't do that not ever. I never saw any reason to do it.

I thought about the last time I had sex with Kate how warm it was inside of her, and how I felt when she said my name as she came. It feltgoodhearing my name said like that. Like whatever I was doing was something she wanted, and that if I could just make her feel like that again, then maybe she would She didn't stay. They never stay. I heard the sliding door shift, and Jasper joined me. "You about ready to go?" "Yeah," I answered. He looked out over the city for a minute. "Hey, Jasper? Could I ask you a question?" "Sure." "Is theresomething wrong with me?" Jasper laughed. "Compared to whom?" he snorted. "We're all kind of fucked up, you know." "But youyou and Aliceyou guys are really a thing now, aren't you." "Yeah, we are." "And Emmett and Rosalie have been together forever." "Pretty much." "So, is there something wrong with me?" Jasper looked at me sideways and narrowed his eyes a bit.

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"Yeah, Edward, there is." "What is it?" "The fact that you don't know pretty much sums it," he replied, cryptically. Puzzles. Fucking awesome. "Is that supposed to help?" He just shook his head.

"Jasper, I've know you as long as I've known anyone," I said. "I wouldn't say we're friends, but we're at least a little better than acquaintances, aren't we?" "Not by much," he answered. "Aside from strictly business, you've probably said more to me in the last three minutes than you have in the last three years." I sighed, guring he was probably right.

"Am I that fucked up?" I nally asked. Jasper turned so he was facing me head on. "Yeah, Edward," he conrmed. "Out of a group of seriously fucked up people, you take the cake." "What's wrong with me?" "You have no idea how to deal with people. To you, everyone you come across is either a commodity or a liability. You hoard one, destroy the other. This is the rst and only time I think you have tried to do something that wasn't purely for your own gain, and I'm not completely sure the end result isn't just to alleviate guilt."

Well, yeah I felt guilty. I was guilty.

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"Of course, the idea that you are actually feeling guilty about anything is a step up." I leaned my head back against the bricks and blew smoke up at the sky. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do." "No shit." I glared over at him.

"I don't know what you expect me to say," Jasper commented as he leaned his shoulder against the wall. "But for what it's worth, you seem to have more emotion towards the girl you bought than anyone else I have ever seen you interact with, including every girlfriend of yours that I met. I don't know if that's a good thing for her, but I would call it improvement on your part." I icked the butt of the cigarette off the balcony. "That's all you got for me, huh?" "More than you deserve," he said. He pushed off the wall with his ngertips and went back inside, leaving me to the rain. My shoes were wet, and I remembered waking up after a rainstorm a day or two after my parents left. My shoes had gotten soaked, and when I walked to school they made strange, squishing sounds. They kept doing that all day, and when one of the kids made a comment about it, I decked him. I really didn't know what Jasper seemed to think I was lacking, but I was pretty sure it had something to do with what Bella was talking about. She said she was going to take care of me, which I had believed was ludicrous. Now, I wasn't so sure. Maybeif she could tell me what was wrong with memaybe I could x it. I could learn, right?

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Chapter 36

I was going to get married. To my slave. Well, ex-slave, really. I mean, she wasn't anymore. My slave, that is. She was going to be my wife instead. God, this was fucked up.

I ddled with the ring in my pocket recently purchased on Jasper's insistence. I wouldn't have even thought of it. I just went into the store and asked for the biggest one, but Jasper nudged me and pointed to a beautiful, delicate one with rows of small diamonds circling the larger one in the center. It was perfect for Bella's petite ngers. There was a matching wedding band for me somewhere in Jasper's clutches.

At the courthouse, we approached the side of a really large room with a roped off partition where people could stand in line to get married. A chunky bald man sat atulently in his chair as he pulled various papers out of his desk drawers and ddled with a bunch of ink stamps. As he gathered up the paperwork, he bitched under his breath about needing a real ofce.

"You'll need to sign here," the magistrate told me. "And you ance will have to sign as well."

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"She'll be here soon." Jasper was as helpful as always. Chunky glared at him. I lled in all that I could, which was most everything except Bella's name and signature, and handed all the paperwork back to the magistrate. He went over it, stamped it a couple of times, and then leaned back in his creaky ofce chair. "There are others waiting," he said, indignant. "If she isn't here soon-"

The door opened behind us, and I turned to see rst Alice in her usually black-on-black ensemble then Rosalie in a bright red dress with little spaghetti straps, andBella.

Bella in an extremely short, light blue dress with rufes wrapping around her body in the most deliciously suggestive way. Her arms were totally bare, with one shoulder also completely naked, and the skirt was high enough to expose most of her beautifully shaped thighs. Her hair was tied back in a long ponytail collected high on her head, and she carried a small bouquet of wildowers. I almost wished I had put on the tie, or at least tucked my damn shirt in.

I could only assume by the smirk on Rosalie's face that she had given Bella a little coaching on the whole wedding thing, especially when Bella practically skipped up to me, ducked under the ropes, and placed a kiss on my cheek.

"Missed you," she giggled and looked from me to the magistrate. "Sorry I'm a little late. He's used to it, but" She giggled again, ipping her ponytail off of her bare shoulder. Holy shit.

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I didn't even recognize her.

"Identication, please," The magistrate said curtly. Bella pulled out the driver's license I had just handed to her that morning, before everyone else showed up. "Isabella Cullen?" Chunky questioned. "That's me," she said. She actually sounded very believable. "But I go by Bella, not Isabella." "Most people wait until after they are married to change their name," he said as he looked up from his desk at her. Fuck.

All her identication had her listed as Cullen Jasper had made sure of it. How in the hell had I not thought about that before we were actually standing here? My stomach ipped over and I was afraid I was going to lose breakfast. While I freaked out inside, Bella's hand slipped into mine as she handled everything with grace.

"I know!" she exclaimed in this new, sing-song voice I had yet to encounter before this moment. "Isn't that bizarre? We tried to gure out if we were related when we rst met, but we're not at all thank God at least not as far back as my mom could track it. After he proposed, I gured it was just destiny." Holy shit, could that woman lie.

I just stood there and tried to keep my mouth from dropping down and having a little cuddle with my shoelaces.

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"Makes the paperwork easier, too," she went on. "I won't have to have my name changed on everything." "Humph," the magistrate huffed. "I suppose that's true." "Destiny," Bella said with a big, goofy grin. She reached over and ran her hand along my jaw. "Right, Edward?" "Whatever you say, baby." I was completely awestruck. The whole "ceremony," if you could call it that, consisted of Chunky saying "do you want to marry this man" followed by "do you want to marry this woman" and me trying to get two words out of my face without passing out. I was doing all right, I thought, once I managed to croak out "I do," until he said the nal ve words. "You may kiss the bride." I felt the blood drain from my face. It was one more thing I hadn't considered. I should havebutwellI didn't. Fucking sue me.

My eyes darted over to Bella's, and she was looking up at me with her head cocked to one side and that same goofy smile on her face, but it wasn't in her eyes. Maybe it would have been enough to fool Chunky and the other bystanders, but I could see the hesitationthe worry. Of what, I wasn't sure exactly. Did she think that I would hurt her here, in the middle of the fucking courthouse? Or was it just the memories in her head of what she had endured that I would never be able to understand.

I hadn't kissed her since she went down on me, that very rst night. My tongue darted over my lips, I reached over and touched the edge of her jaw, and then

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leaned in. I looked at her eyes once more as they uttered closed, and I placed my lips lightly against hers. It was incredibly brief, because I backed away immediately. But during the brief moment our lips touched, my stomach churned and my chest clenched. I was hard to breathe for a second, and though I knew I had to I did not want to stop. I opened my eyes again, and I could see the relief wash over her face the instant I moved away. It was followed by a far more genuine smile and the slightest tinge of pink in her cheeks. I smiled back at her and rubbed her knuckles with my thumb. Ten minutes later, we walked out into the crisp, clean sunshine that can only follow a rain shower, hand in hand as Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cullen. There were still plenty of people around, smiling and saying congratulations to the newly wedded couple they had never seen before. Rosalie snapped pictures, and Emmett threw fucking rice at us as he guffawed at the whole situation. I slipped my sunglasses out of my pocket and over my eyes, looked over to mymy wife

I had to be dreaming, right?

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Chapter 37

It was two-fty-ve in the afternoon. Five minutes to execution. Bella and Rosalie had gone back to my place to dress in much more appropriate attire. We had two large vans for the Pack, plus the tech van, where Rosalie would be staying with the monitoring equipment and her handy-dandy computers. She would be close to Emmett and his group in Laurent's area of town.

I made some nal preparations before heading right up to Aro's front door to blow him away. I began sorting through the guns that were laid out on top of the table built into the side of the van. I determined which one I would be using, and mentally logged when I would draw them and exactly when I would use them. Each one had its purpose, each one had its forte. I knew them all. They calmed me, they focused me, and they told me under no uncertain terms that I was deadly powerful.

I had a pair of FN 57s my favorites. The Heckler and Koch was good in close situations because of the short recoil, which was paired with the Glock-17 for the same reason. An FN-SCAR assault rie was strapped to my back, just in case. I handed Bella one of the FN-57s. "Ever re one of these?" "I don't think so," Bella said. I had been a little focused for a while, but I was pretty sure she hadn't said anything for quite a while. "But I have used one of those."

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She pointed to a Beretta of the exact same type Alice liked to use. I would have preferred her using one of the others, but familiarity was important. I took the FN back and handed her the Beretta instead. Weird that she knew how to use that one, though.

"You just stay right behind me, okay," I said to Bella. I quickly checked over my guns, as well as the variety of other weapons I had strapped under my jacket, in my boots and down my pants. "I need to know exactly where you are."

Our eyes met, and her lips smashed together as her eyes narrowed. I knew she was nervous about all of this, though I didn't know which bothered her more the killing or just going back to the place where she was tortured.

"Edward, if we don't"

I placed my hand over her mouth before she could get any farther and shook my head slowly. I knew where she was going, and you don't say shit like that not right before you go in. She nodded, and I pulled my hand back.

Without warning, her arms were around my neck and her cheek was pressed hard against my chest as she hugged me tightly. My gun-lled hands found her waist, but I didn't know what she was doing, or how I was supposed to react.

"Thank you," she said against the fabric of my shirt. "For what?"

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"All of this." I froze, and that strange clenching feeling happened in my chest again. It seemed to be happening a lot, and I wasn't sure what to make of it.

"Don't thank me for this." I pulled back away from her. "I got you into this don't fucking thank me!"

Bella took a step back and her eyes widened at the sharpness of my tone. I didn't really mean to be snapping at her, but her words just reminded me how she wouldn't be here at all if it wasn't for me, and her mother wouldn't still be in there, trapped andand whatever they were doing to her.

As I looked at her, her eyes changed narrowed and darkened. I could see the tension in her jaw as her teeth clenched together. "I know what you did," she spat back at me. "You seriously fucked this up."

I wasn't like the news shocked me, but to have her say iteverything inside of me tightened, not just my stomach, even as her tone softened somewhat.

"But you are trying to make it right, and I will thank you for that. You can't tell me not to."

I opened my mouth to say something, but I didn't know what to say. I couldn't argue with her sentiments, because I was pretty sure she was right. Or at least, that I was wrong.

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"I haven't even started making this up to you," I told her. I wanted to reach out to her. I wanted to touch her, but I didn't understand why. "Not even close. Once we're all done here, we'll get your chip removed so you can be safe again, okay?" Bella nodded, and the corners of her mouth turned up just a little. "Let's go." I said.

This was going to work, right?

Chapter 38

One of The Pack parked the van on the street, and Bella and I walked up to the guardhouse together. She walked behind me with her head bowed and her hands behind her back. Her hands also covered the Beretta hooked into the back of her shorts, but that was just a bonus. Aro's gates were secured, and the rst thing we would have to do was get past the guard at the front. Fortunately, he was an idiot. I ought to know, right?

"All clear." Rosalie's voice came through the earpiece I wore, letting me know the security system had been disabled. Indeed, I could already see the guard in his little hut next to the gate as he poked at a couple of monitors. I walked straight up to the gatehouse and nodded at Felix, the big ugly guard who always stood at the entrance to Aro's place. He took a step forward, glancing only briey Bella behind me. I knew the drill, and he knew I knew it. He'd frisk me, and then send me in just like always. Only this time, things were going to go a little different.

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"Hey Felix, I'd like ya to meet my wife," I said. I watched his eyes widen, then narrow, then roll over Bella's body. It fucking pissed me off, too. If I hadn't already planned to kill him, I probably would have anyway. Then I saw Bella's face. She knew him. And let's face it, there was really only one way should could know him. "Hey, aren't you?"

His body dropped to the ground before he could nish his sentence. I put an extra bullet in his head for good measure, and because I wanted to. Bella gasped and put her hand over her mouth. I looked over to her pale face. She looked like she was about to vomit, and for a moment I wanted to hold on to her and tell her to be brave, but another part of me knew that wasn't going to work.

"Don't you fucking mourn for him!" I snapped at her. Bella looked up at me with wide eyes. "Don't you dare feel sorry for any of them! They're all going to get this, you hear me? Every one of them fucking deserves to have one of my guns shoved right up their ass before the trigger is pulled. If you can't handle it then you need to get back in the van." I could see Bella swallow hard, and for a moment I thought she just might go off and hide, but she didn't. She stood up a little straighter, took the Beretta out of the back of her shorts and looked me straight in the eye. "One down," she said. "One down," I agreed as I holstered one of the FNs. I stepped into the guardhouse and released the gate's locking mechanism. As the gates opened, two vans full of heavily armed muscle-maniacs rolled through, stopping only

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briey to sniff at the re hydrant and pick us up before driving to the front door.

As The Pack led out of both vehicles, their bright orange striping looking a lot like taped on suspenders reected in the afternoon sun. Alice made them all wear it, because apparently they had difculty identifying who the enemy was on occasion. I kept Bella a ways away from them. I always preferred a straight on assault. Everyone always expects you to be sneaking around, but anyone who has played enough video games knows the straight forward grunt attack is always a sure re. Overwhelm with numbers when they are least expecting it. Zergling blitz, people!

With Bella at my heel and Alice to my right, followed by nine of the ten members of The Pack, we walked right through the front door of Aro's house. To the left and right were a total of six men, none of whom I recognized. Not that it mattered they fell too quickly to bother with their names. As the shots rang out, I could hear commotion down the hallway on the left, and we quickly split up with Alice and half The Pack going one way, Bella, me and the other half going towards the noise. It was also the direction to Aro's ofce.

I heard the muted thunk of a pistol with a silencer, and one of The Pack guys dropped down in front of me. I reached back and touched Bella's arm just to make sure I still knew where she was and then opened re down the hallway. Three on the left, just as the hall turned the corner. The FN-57 took them down. There were more on the right, but two of Alice's guys ran straight forward, screaming their heads off and ring AK-47s. Suddenly, there was nothing but gunre, and I shoved Bella back behind me wedging her into a doorway as I

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red over and over again. When the FN was empty, I dropped it and grabbed the H&K.; I don't know how long it lasted. I know at one point I felt heat across my shoulder, and I was pretty sure I was grazed, but not badly. I know one more of the remaining four of The Pack who had come down this way with us went down, and that Alice had circled around the backside of the house, and was going to cut them off from the other direction.

"I can see him," Alice's voice buzzed in my ear. "He's still in his ofce. They are denitely on alert, but blind without the monitoring equipment. He doesn't appear to have a backup system." "Too condent," I said. "Take about twenty steps forward, then turn to the right. That's the door you want." "On my way." "FYI I've eliminated two of the seven." "I've got two as well. That leaves Aro, Demetri and James." "Demetri isn't in Aro's ofce with him there are two guys behind the door, though." "Distraction?" "You got it." The explosion rocked the entire upper part of the house, and Bella stied a scream with her hand over her mouth. Taking a few steps forward, I could see the door Alice had directed me to was now completely blown off the hinges. "One of them is down. Aro's panicking." "Good. Positions in the room?"

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"As you walk in, at the doorway seven-o-clock, nine-o-clock, Aro at noon, one-o-clock, two-o-clock, and two of them at four-o-clock." "Got it." "Edward," I felt her soft hand on my arm, and I turned just for a moment to see her eyes. "Almost over," I told her. "Stay right outside here." I placed her right next to one of the Pack guys and motioned for Sam to come with me, leaning over to him briey to tell him the positions of the people in the room. "You make sure you get the two on the right," I told him, and he nodded. I walked into the broken doorway.

This was going to be spectacular, right?

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Chapter 39

Debris was everywhere in the room wood, glass, and God knows what else. There was at least one guy down and screaming to my left, and bullets began to y in all different directions. With the assault rie's strap wrapped around my shoulder, I riddled bullets throughout the left half of the room, noting two more of Aro's entourage as they went down. Sam yelled out a battle cry and began hammering at the two attempting to take cover on the far side of the room.

Aro was behind his desk, partially masked in the smoke from Alice's percussion grenade and the reght. As my FN rie emptied its load, I pulled out the H&K; and aimed at his head as he started to stand. Yeah, the problem with all the super hero movies and comics? All the fucking yak-yak-yak right before they'd nally decide to off someone. I don't play that shit. Aro dropped over the desk in a pool of blood with his long black hair spread out all over his desk calendar. Goal for the day to go down in a shootout complete. Sam yelled and dropped to the ground beside me, and I felt the sting of shrapnel on my left thigh. Alice appeared suddenly jumping through the window with two of her guys and screaming bloody murder, in every sense of the phrase. She took out the guy standing next to Aro's desk. Within about a minute and a half, it was over.

"No Demetri," Alice growled. "He must be on the other side of the house." "Or not here," Sam groaned from his place on the ground. He was holding his side, and blood was starting to seep through his ngers.

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"How bad?" Alice asked. "Had worse," he replied. "Edward, your leg is bleeding." "Yeah." I looked down and noticed the top part of my pants was shredded. It burned, but not too badly, and I could still put weight on it. "It's all right." A shot rang out from the hallway.

I'd heard that expression about having your blood run cold before, and I always thought it was just an expression people used. But I would have sworn my actual blood dropped in temperature and I could feel it freezing my veins. I raced into the hallway, the tightness in my chest beginning to feel familiar, with two guns drawn.

Bella was sitting with her back up against the wall of the hallway, facing down the corridor. Her eyes were wide and glazed, and she wasn't moving at all. Not even breathing.

In her hands was the Beretta, the end still smoking from its recent discharge. Her Pack member accomplice was face down on the oor, and I could see the thick, wavy hair as it cascaded over another body lying several feet away from them both.

"Bella?"

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Her mouth opened as if to speak, but her eyes remained transxed on the body before her. She began to breathe, at least, in short sharp pants. I checked the hallway quickly, found it empty, and dropped to her side as Alice took off down the hall to further secure the area.

"Bella? Look at me." Her eyes swiveled to mine, and the gun dropped from her shaking hands. "Edward." My name escaped as nothing more than a breathy whisper. "Are you hurt?" She looked down at herself and seemed to take mental inventory at the same time. "I don't think so."

I holstered both guns, shoved the Beretta into my pants, and slipped my arms under Bella's legs and behind her back. I lifted her up off the oor, and her hands reached for the back of my neck. I followed Alice's trail down the corridor with two of The Pack close behind, carrying Sam. We congregated in the large open foyer, and I placed Bella on one of the chairs. I had to reach up and pull her hands from my neck so I could stand, but she gripped one of my hands and wouldn't let go.

"I killed him." Her eyes looked up at me, and I saw tears starting to form. I shook my head. "Don't you cry for them," I reminded her. She took a deep breath, wiped at her eyes and gave me a quick nod. I kept her hand in mine as I turned back to Alice for her report.

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"Emmett reports Laurent is on his knees and bawling, expressing his undying loyalty to whomever will let him live," Alice said. "All the top members of his organization have been eliminated. Emmett's still debating on what to do with him."

"Kill him," I said into my communication piece in my ear. "I don't want any leftovers." I heard a gunshot sound out in my ear. "Done," Emmett said.

A couple of Pack guys started dressing Sam's wounds, while the others tied up the one and only survivor a grunt guy who surrendered to Alice outside the building. Alice went through the rest of the listing. All of the big guys in Aro's group were accounted for except for two Aro's idiot nephew, Demetri, and James.

"According to the layout Rosalie had, they must keep all the slaves on the lower levels. They could be down there." Alice tapped on the touch screen of her phone, enlarging the maze-like structure underneath the mail part of the building. "It looks like honeybombs down there." One of The Pack bobbed his head up and down a few times, looking every bit like the Mortimer Snerd he was. One of his "brothers" whacked him on the back of the head. "It's honeycombs, not honeybombs, stupid!" "Nuh-uh," the rst one argued. "That's what I had for breakfast." Alice stepped up and knocked both of their heads together.

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"It's catacombs, you fucking idiots! Now shut up and go nd someone to shoot!" She sighed heavily and placed her hand on her hip as she looked over to me. "Ya see why I make them wear the stripes?" Yeah, I did.

We were close now so close. The entire upstairs had been destroyed, with only one survivor, and that guy was trying to negotiate with Sam. He was marginally more with it than the others, but his negotiation skills didn't seem to go past his wrists. Fortunately, I didn't care if he had the guy beat to death. I had two last people to locate and kill.

Two more couldn't be that hard, right?

Chapter 40

I opened up an oversized door that led to a long stairway heading down.

"Is this the way?" I asked Bella. She nodded quickly, and was still breathing heavily. I reached out and put my hand on her arm. "Breathe, Bellajust breath normally you're going to hyperventilate." She looked into my eyes and slowly drew air into her lungs, then pushed in back out again. She nodded again and pointed towards the stairs. "I'm pretty sure that's the way." "You sure you want to go down there? You can stay up here with a couple of the"

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"This is why I'm here, isn't it?" Bella reminded me. "To show you the way?" "Yeah, but" The look on her face as she held the smoking gun ashed in front of my eyes. "If you've had enough" "No I want to go with you. " I stared at her until I was sure she really meant it, and then held the Beretta out to her again. She took it from me slowly, like the gun weighed more now than it used to, but she did take it. I gestured towards the stairway with my chin. "Let's go." "Hey Edward!" Alice called to me. "Take this with you." She tossed me a key ring with three keys on it. One belonged to a Mercedes, but the other two could t a lot of types of locks. "Found them on Aro. May come in handy." "Thanks."

We walked down slowly, trying not to make any noise as we crept down, me going rst and Bella at my heel, Alice and a couple others behind her. As we got to the bottom of the stairs, there was a stereotypical surveillance guy with a row of fuzzy monitors across his desk, ear-buds shoved into his ears, leaning back in his chair with his eyes closed. I pulled out the Glock with the silencer, walked up behind him and shot him in the temple. He probably never even woke up.

I looked at Bella, and she pointed towards the hallway straight in front of us. I kept her behind me as she pointed out directions as best she could remember them. We had to back up once when we missed a turn, but soon we came to a pair of double doors. One of Aro's keys t neatly in the lock.

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The smell hit me rst stale sweat, vomit, shit, and semen. It was overwhelming, and it was bad enough to make me have to ght off retching. If I thought about Bella living here I couldn't think about it. Not right now. I wondered which of us would have the worst nightmares tonight.

"'Bout fucking time," I voice I vaguely recognized called out from the other side of the room. Demetri. He didn't turn to look at us, but continued to go over a bunch of papers on the table in front of him. "You were supposed to be down here twenty minutes ago to help sort through the bitches. Uncle Aro ain't gonna like what I have to say" The Glock took him out, too.

His body slumped over the table, scattering the papers papers that were grotesquely familiar with their lists of requirements and check-marked boxes of preferences all over the oor. I glanced down the row of a dozen or so metal boxes maybe ve and a half feet tall, three feet wide and six feet deep. Each one had an electronic lock on the front of it, and a small barred window in the door.

"Need those locks released now," I said into my communicator. "On it," Rose replied. "Step on it," Alice snapped into her mouthpiece. "Piss off," Rosalie replied with a laugh. "I have the hard part here, you know. Something that requires more than just the ability to rhythmically move your nger over a trigger."

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Alice didn't seem to nd the sentiment amusing, but then, she could hear what I could hear. Rosalie wouldn't have been able to pick up on the soft whimpering coming from those metal boxes. Bella was holding herself tight up against my side and staring at the oor with her eyes transxed on nothing at all. I rubbed the heel of my hand against my chest, wondering if I was developing acid-reux or something.

"You got it, Rose?" I asked after a couple more minutes, my patience waning. "Almost," I heard her choppy breathing and the clacking of the keys. "There!"

I heard the sound of the locks as they released from right to left. I went up and opened the rst one, but it was empty. The second held a young woman of maybe twenty, huddled against the wall in the back.

Even though she was blonde, older, and denitely taller, all I could see was Bella. Bella huddled against the cement she said would never get warm. Bella dragged out of this hole to a fate much worse. Bella throwing herself in front of a mad woman with a gun rather than return to this place. Bella on her knees next to my chair, justwaiting.

The girl inside didn't look at me, and I couldn't convince Bella to walk into the tiny little cage to get her. Alice pushed past us both, and I have no idea what she said, but she managed to get the girl up on her feet, bawling her eyes out, to leave the little room. Alice yelled some orders at a couple of the younger Pack members, and they started systematically moving the occupants of each cell outside to one of the waiting vans. A couple of them fought with us, not understanding what was happening around them the same way a stray dog

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might snap at you. It didn't take long, though, before we had removed eight young women from the twelve cells in the basement. None of them were old enough to be Bella's mother.

"Where will they go?" Bella asked quietly as a couple more slaves were all led up the stairs. I reached over and took her hand. "Rose has it all planned out," I told her. "She's got a doctor and some friend of hers who works on a rape crisis line waiting in a hotel not far from here. She's taking them all there." "My mom's not here." "I know."

Truly, everyone one here was much closer to girl than woman in age. I didn't think there were any over twenty-one, and Bella's mom would have to be in her late thirties or early forties, at least

"We'll nd her," I promised, but Bella didn't even look at me. I couldn't blame her. I didn't really believe it myself. "Where else could she be?" "There's another level," Bella informed me. Her voice was tight and she sounded so tired. "It'sumwhere they did a lot of the training." "Can you show me?"

I left Alice and the rest of her group to sort out the remaining slaves while I followed Bella's instructions through the maze of halls and small rooms towards a locked door at the end of a long corridor. The other key on Aro's key ring t neatly, and I opened it to reveal a steep, nasty looking staircase with only a single, bare bulb in the ceiling at the bottom.

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"Stay up here," I told Bella. "Alice probably needs some-" "No." "Bella, I don't think-" "I'm going with you." Her voice was just a little louder than a whisper, but it didn't leave any room for argument. I took a deep breath, readied my gun, and took the rst step down.

So far, so good, right?

Chapter 41

We headed down the dark staircase, my gun held up close to my shoulder as I walked along the edge of the wall, careful to look around the corner before stepping out. The bottom of the stairs opened into a large corridor leading in two directions.

"Which way?" I turned to ask Bella. She nodded towards the left, and I followed her directions with her close at my back.

There was a large, round, steel tub on one side of the room, lled with water. At the edge of it was a man with a blond ponytail, and in his hands was a woman naked and bent over the tub with her face held under the water by his beefy hand. He was laughing and shaking her by her hair as he sodomized her, pulling her head up only briey so she could catch a breath before he shoved her back under.

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I recognized him as the man in the grainy photographs from the surveillance cameras. It was him James the trainer. This was the man who gave Bella nightmares, here in the same room with me. The sudden, intense fury that rushed through my body was unlike anything I had ever experienced.

I felt Bella stiffen behind me, and a small high pitch noise escaped her mouth.

I never had strong emotions nothing that could ever be considered passionate. Not desire, not hate, and certainly not love. I never cared one way or another about things enough to feel anything so strongly that it had much of an effect on me. Even business stuff was just that business stuff. It either worked as I wanted it to or it didn't, and it didn't impact me signicantly either way. But when I saw him holding that woman much like the one in the rst of the metal cages we opened I only saw Bella in his grasp. I had never wanted someone else's blood on my hands like I wanted his. I didn't even want to use the gun. He hadn't stopped what he was doing. He didn't even realize we were there.

I ipped my gun in my hand, gripping the barrel end of it in my st as I marched over to him and slammed the weapon into the side of his head. He yelled out as he fell to one side, getting wrapped up in his jeans around his ankles.

The woman he had been abusing fell off the side of the tub into a wet heap on the oor, coughing up water as she tried to crawl away from us. My focus was too much on him, though, and I ignored her as she scampered to the far side of the room.

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I bent down over him, the butt of my gun smashing into his face several times before he managed to block it with his arms. He kicked out at my ineffectively, since he was still wrapped up in his clothing. I slammed the toe of my steel toed shoe into his balls, and he rolled over to his side and moaned.

I kicked his ribs, silently thrilled when I heard the sharp crack of bone splintering. I used my st in his face, resolved to have this man's blood on my hands in actuality, not just guratively. Finally, I hauled him to his feet and tossed him head over heels into the steel tub of water. He came up sputtering, his eyes wide and staring straight at me.

"Who the fuck?" he babbled as he coughed up water and blood. "Death," I replied. I brought my gun back up, leveled with his head. "No! Edward, STOP!" I heard Bella scream, and my eyes ashed to hers for only a moment. I could not imagine she was actually asking me not to end this fucker right here and now, and I wasn't so sure I was going to bother listening to her. My nger inched over the trigger as I aimed the gun right at his face.

Bella yelled at me to stop again, and as she raced up to the side of the metal tub, the re in her eyes was nothing less than glorious like an avenging angel traveling down from the heavens to wreak havoc in the unrighteous. In her hand was a taser.

His eyes met hers, and the recognition was immediate and apparent. His mouth opened to say something, but he closed it again. His gazed swept over the weapon in her hand, and he understood. He knew exactly what she was about to do.

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Chapter 42

I jumped back, pulling Bella with me as James began thrashing and jerking around in the water.

"Holy shit," I mumbled as all of his muscles went taut.

Alice took the shivering girl up the stairs as Bella started rummaging through all the papers scattered on the oor. I contacted Rose, and told her we were ready for the cleaners to head over our way and clean up our mess, asking her to warn them about the potential electrical hazard to avoid in the basement. Once I was done talking to Rosalie, I turned back to Bella. She was still ipping through the papers and mumbling to herself.

"There's nothing here," Bella said. At rst her voice was quiet, but quickly rose in both volume and intensity. "There's nothing here! Not her name, or anyone who ts her description - nothing!" Not that it was any great shock, but I had no idea what to say. Bella was becoming more hysterical by the second, and I had no idea what to do about it. So, I said the rst thing that came to my mind, which is probably never the correct course of action.

"Maybe that's a good thing."

As soon as I said it, I wanted to take it back.

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"A good thing?" Bella said, and then she screamed at me. "A good thing? How in the fuck could this possibly be a good thing, you self-centered son of a bitch!" Without much more warning, she rushed forward and slammed her palms into my chest, shoving me backwards. "She might be dead! I might never see her again and it's all because you wanted someone to fuck on command, you sick bastard! It's your fucking fault! I hate you! I hate you!"

She kept pounding my chest with every word, and I let her. The impact of her sts had little effect on my body, but e very word she hurtled towards me was like a bullet straight into my heart.

"I'm sorry," I tried to say, which was just another asinine phrase from my useless mouth. "Sorry? You're sorry? What difference do you think that makes to me now, huh? Why don't you say it a few more times and see if that makes my mom magically appear."

Bella continued to pummel me for a while, and then suddenly stopped and looked up at me. As I watched the pain, frustration, anger, and God knows what else pass over her face, all I could do was stare at her. I didn't have any magic words for her, or even any unimaginative, useless words, either. All I could do was watch as tears suddenly welled up and spilled from her eyes, and Bella's arms reached up around my neck, and she held herself to me as she cried for her mother.

I guess I should have expected this, right?

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Chapter 44

I nodded over to Bella.

Do you recognize her? I asked him, and I could see his bloodied face go pale. He knew there was no good way to answer. If he said no, hed die and he knew it. If he said yes, he might end up in worse shape. I could hear Bellas breathing behind me labored and near hyperventilating. I didnt look over to her I had to focus on what was in front of me and just how I was going to get out of him the information I needed if he decided to be less than cooperative. He chose the less painful path.

Yeah, he nally said. He squirmed back and forth in his chair, trying to get some feeling back into his tightly bound hands. How? She one of the girls, he said. He looked quickly to Alice, then back to me again. His tone was actually pretty controlled considering he was facing death. And how, exactly, do you know that? My voice was calm and cold. If hed done anything to her, I might very well rip his cock off with my hands. She umshe was picked up by my team. What the fuck does that mean? Alice growled from the side. I waved a hand at her. I needed to do this one my way, and I was having just a little bit of difculty with that, knowing Bella was behind me and watching. Explain your team to me, I said. My hand slowly came around from my side, and rested easily on my leg, pointing right at his dick. His eyes nervously danced between the gun, Bella, the couple of Pack members still in the room, and me. His eyes were wide, and he nodded in acquiescence.

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We go all over the country, he said. Theres a couple other groups that go outside the US. We pick them up from different areas so it doesnt get traced to one place. We pick them up and ship them back here for training before theyre sold.

And you picked her up? Yeahkinda by accident. What the fuck do you mean by that? Wellumshe t one of the orders, but we werent casing her out beforehand. We were gonna pick up another one, but we saw her and grabbed her instead. Wheres my mom? I could hear it in here tone Bella was just barely controlling her voice. She took a step forward until she was just behind me to my left. I didnt want her that close to this guy partially because I just didnt want her that close to him, but also because I didnt want her to see what I was going to do to him. Huh? The idiot looked from me to her again. Where is she? You didnt just pick up me, you picked up my mom, too. Where the fuck is she?

I moved my arm out to the side and kept her from going any closer to him. She pushed against my arm, but didnt really try to get past me. Our captive licked his lips a couple of times before her spoke again.

We dumped her.

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Bella started screaming. Alice, get her out of here, I ordered. She has every right Alice! Get her out of here! I repeated. She doesnt need to I looked straight into the guys eyes. see this. Fine! Alice glared at me, but put her arm on Bellas to take her away. Bella was still screaming at her, but Alice managed to get a grip on her and haul her out of the room and out the front door. I put my foot on top the chairs seat, right between our hostages legs. I knew the only thing Bella wanted to know was whether or not her mother was here somewhereor soldor dead. She needed closure in one form or another. But there was a question that was pressing more in my mind. You said she t one of the orders, I reminded him. What order?

His eyes went really wide as he stared up at me and licked at his lips.

Arent you Edward Cullen? he said. He sounded confused. Yeah I dont get it, he said with a shake of his head. Why do you need to ask? Just fucking say it, I heard myself growl. I didnt want to know, but I still had to know. She was to ll your order.

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I closed my eyes and tried to swallow, but it felt like my throat had swollen up, and I just couldnt. Completely and totally conrmed Bella was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, looking like my type. They were supposed to grab some other girl that night. There was no way in hell I could try to pretend this burger didnt come from a cow slaughtered for my sole benet. After a minute, I managed to take a breath, swallow, and speak again.

Now you are going to tell me exactly what you mean by dumped her. She wasshe was way too old for training, he told me. His voice was nowhere near controlled any more. He sounded almost as hysterical as Bella. No reason to keep her, and we already had three others in the truck. We needed to get back, so wedumped her out the door. Where? On our way up the ramp to the interstate. UmmI-5? Was she alive? At the time, yeah. The sweat on his forehead was starting to drip into his swollen eye. I dont know about after. I meanshe could have been, I would think. How fast were you going? I dunno I wasnt driving. Maybe fty?

I slammed my foot straight into his crotch, wondering if Bella could hear his screams from the van. I reached for the ngers on the guys right hand, and he inched and groaned as soon as I touched them. Realizing Alice had already worked over his right hand, I went for the left instead, snapping his smallest nger as he cried out in pain.

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So what you are telling me, I snarled, is that you never had her at all? You dumped her right after you picked them up? Umyeahpretty much. And all the time Aro was telling her he had her mother, he was lying just to keep her in line? Yeah...James says it helps train em faster, you know?

I slammed my forehead straight into his face, causing him to spit blood and teeth.

James is in the basement, fried to a crisp, I told him. You might get off that lucky if you can tell me who has access to the tracking systems for the slaves. I dont know, he said. I raised my st, slammed it into his eye socket, and then raised it again. I swear to God, I dont do anything except nd them. I swear! I dont know about the other shit!

I snapped another nger, because honestly I just wanted this asshole to suffer. I couldnt pretend he was solely to blame, because now I knew exactly why she was picked, but I could still take it out on him. By the time I was ready to walk out, he was begging to die. I obliged.

Bella was in the van, yelling at Alice. I pulled the door open wider and she immediately took another swing at me. I caught her arm and pulled it down to her side, because she was going to end up hurting herself in the close quarters of the vehicle, and told Alice to help out with the clean up crew, who were just arriving.

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Once Alice climbed out the back, I grabbed both of Bellas hands and tried to get her to llook at me through her anger.

BellaBella, will you listen to me, please? You had no right, no right to have her drag me out of there! Did you think I couldnt fucking handle it? Is that what you thought? Because I will tell you something- Bella they never had her! I nally yelled. She stopped her tirade and stared at me. Neverhad her? Nothey dumped her out of the car right after they took you. But theythey saidif I didnt They were lying to you, Bella. I moved back a little and let go of her hands. She was struggling against me anymore. They just said that so you would do what they wanted. Shes okay? I watched another tear drop off her lashes. I dont know, Bella, I told her honestly. But she might be. We have to get you to the hospital now, though, and get your chip out. While the doc is taking care of you, Ill see what I can nd out, okay?

It was the least I could do, right?

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Chapter 45

I sat outside the examination room on a laptop I swiped from Rosalie and looked for information. Bella had just gone into whatever full-bodied scanner the physician on my payroll could get her into, promising that if it was there, he could nd it. Yeah, well see. I just had image of playing Theme Hospital in my head. I always thought about that video game when I was around hospitals or doctors. They freaked me out. I mean, what kind of person wants to be around people who are sick and are going to die on them all the time? Why would anyone want to do that?

Bella didnt appear to be speaking to me, though I wasnt sure for what exact reason. It could be because I didnt let her stick around while I smacked some information out of that asshole, or maybe because I didnt let her do it herself. She might have been pissed about her mom, or maybe she was just fundamentally fed up with the numerous ways I had fucked up her life. Whatever it was, I had the feeling the nine hour ight to Paris was going to be a little tense. I hoped she would sleep for some of it.

While I waited, I dug through the on-line articles, looking for anything that sounded like Bella and her mom. It took a while, but I did nd an article from about a month ago in a Seattle newspaper. Seattle? Has she really been kidnapped three thousand miles away from the coffee shop where I lled out the details of what I wanted? Mother abducted thrown out of moving vehicle; daughter remains missing

Early Saturday morning, construction workers discovered an injured woman lying on the side of an entrance ramp to the I-5 just north of Lynnwood. The woman, later identied as Renee Swan, was immediately rushed to the hospital

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where she informed authorities that she and her daughter had been abducted as they left the movie theater Friday night. Renee Swan was treated for multiple fractures on her right side, including her arm and leg, as well as several broken ribs and lacerations. Authorities believe she sustained these injuries when thrown from a moving vehicle. She is reported to be in stable condition at this time. Her daughter remains missing.

Underneath the short article was what appeared to be one of Bellas school pictures, as well as a picture of her and her mother together. Standing behind them was a tall man with a moustache, who I assumed was her father, wearing a dark blue suit. Nonot a suit. A uniform. Fuck my life.

Theres no way her father could be a cop, right?

Chapter 46

I walked up to the end of the room and looked through the glass doors. Doctor Cope was staring at a bunch of monitors in a partitioned section of the room. I could see the huge-ass scanner machine, and Bellas legs sticking out of it, as it tried to gure out just what was inside her.

I was having a little difculty with what was inside of me as well. On the one hand, I couldnt wait to tell Bella he mother was ne and at home. Well, maybe not ne in the strictest sense, but would recover from her injuries. On the other hand, I now knew her father was a cop, and this complicated things far more

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than was really comfortable for me. As if this whole fucked up situation needed some additional complexities. Kind of the same way Rubiks Cube wasnt hard enough by itself, they had to make all those other puzzles as well, just to make sure you felt like even more of an idiot.

When I was sixteen and I started making the rst real money I had ever had in my life, I bought every fucking one of those puzzle games. I couldnt do any of them, but I gured out pretty quickly how easy it was to pop the things apart and put them all back together again in the right order. Maybe I didnt do things the traditional way, but I still got them done. Eventually not being able to do them the right way pissed me off, and I chucked them out the window of my car.

I bought a bunch of other shit, too stuff I had never had before. I put stand up video games and a pool table in the townhouse I bought, as well as a huge water bed. I always thought those were so cool. The novelty wore off pretty quick, though, and I switched to one of those squishy adjustable mattresses instead.

I bought a boat, too, even though I didnt know how to drive one. Wrecked it into a dock and just ditched it there. I pretty much bought everything I saw that held any interest for me at all including every set of Star Wars Legos to be found in the tri-state area. My living room became the Death Star trench run over that weekend. Once it was all built I was tired with it, and threw it all out.

It was quite a difference for a kid who had acquired most of his toys as cast-off trash before.

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Going from having nothing to having whatever you wanted pretty much over night denitely had its impact. I hadnt really thought about stuff and things when I was younger and then all of the sudden I could have everything, and I kind of felt I was entitled to it. After all, I had grown up without anything, so I denitely had it coming to me now that I could afford it.

As I watched Doctor Cope help Bella out of the scanning machine, I realized I had done the same with her. I didnt have what I wanted, so I bought what I thought I wanted instead. But what I originally thought I wantedwell, I didnt. Not anymore. Maybe I never did.

As I looked at Bella, though I knew I still wanted her. Fucking sue me. Doctor Cope gestured for me to enter, so I went through he sliding doors and sat down in the chair next to Bella as the doctor went over her ndings.

Isabellas in good health, and doesnt seem to have any permanent injuries, Doctor Cope said. Bella, I corrected her. Bella glanced over to me as the doctor apologized and started going through a million freaking vitals and such, until I told her to shut up and give me what I actually wanted. Doctor Cope looked up to me and batted her eyelashes a bit, then laid straight into the pertinent information. Edward are you still a bad news rst kind of guy? Dont fuck around, I growled. Just spit the shit out. I found the chip, but I cant remove it.

Well, I guess that was pretty straight forward, right?

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Chapter 47

Why the fuck not? I stood up and glared down on her, as if my intimidating presence was some how going to change any of the facts. It was inserted into the back of her head, and its lodged right next to her brain, Doctor Cope informed us both. Removal would almost certainly render her blind, and could cause paralysis or death. There is no way I can safely remove it. Does it even matter now? Bella looked over to me. I meanwho is going to be looking for me now? We still have the Italians and the French to deal with, I reminded her. Outside of them, I dont know, which is why were going to be in hiding while Emmett ushes out any extras. This does make things more complicated though.

Deciding the doctor wasnt going to be any more help, I led Bella back out of the hospital through the back doors and into the car. Once she was buckled in, I handed her the laptop with the article about her mom and stayed quiet while she read it.

Is this all you found? she asked. So far, I replied. Ill still look some more. Now that we have that much information, Rosalie and Jasper should be able to nd out the rest. Shes been at home all this time? It looks that way, yes. I nodded as I started up the car and pulled out of the parking lot. I mean, she might have spent a few days in the hospital, but it says she was recovering.

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Give me your phone, Bella suddenly demanded. Bella, you cant- Give me the fucking phone! she turned and screamed at me. I cant Bella, I told her. You cant call them not yet. Why not? Because its dangerous, and you arent safe yet. If you call them, you are going to put both yourself and them in danger. When its safe, you can call them I swear. When this is all over Ill take you home.

I really didnt want to elaborate on how someone might very well be watching her parents if word gets out who started this little feud. If one of Aros people who hasnt been eliminate or who slips through the cracks links everything back to me, they will denitely link it back to the girl I bought a week ago.

She argued a while longer, but I wasnt going to budge on this one, and eventually she gave up and we rode in silence until I called Rosalie on the way to the airport. I asked her what else could be done about this chip.

Let me look into it, she said. Weve got all these other girls with the same issue. I may be able to track the signals on their chips and nd a way of shutting them down or disabling the signal. Its going to take a while, though. How long? I could get lucky, she told me. It might only take a couple of weeks. Shit.

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Dont stay in one place, she recommended. All right well be in touch.

Rosalie had apparently packed a suitcase for Bella, though there didnt appear to be anything for me. Nice. I guess I deserved that, but it meant I was going to have to stop and at least get a change of clothes. We ended up in the duty-free shop, where I bought a nice sized carry-on and everything I needed to get by for the next forty-eight hours.

Bella had never own rst class before, and it was only us and one other business type in the whole front, so we almost had it to ourselves. She settled back in the window seat and refused the glass of wine offered to her. I went with whiskey, though they didnt have anything great. I drank it up quick, hoping it would stop my heart from pounding as hard as it had been since this morningwhen I got married. I got married to a woman who hates me. At least she was kind of speaking to me again.

The plane took off, and I glanced over to see tears falling down her face again. I looked back down to my lap, trying to gure out what the fuck I should do. Was I supposed to hug her or something? Would she even want that from the fucker responsible for everything she had been through? That seemed kind of unlikely. I wanted to do something, but I knew opening my mouth was only going to make it worse, and didnt know what my other options might be. I nally came up with something that I didnt think would make anything worse.

Can I get you anything?

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Bella shook her head and wiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. She looked over to me, and started crying harder. The business guy looked over the back of his chair to see what was going on, but I glared over at him and he decided to mid his own Ps and Qs instead. I looked back to Bella, who had her face in her hands.

Bellaplease, I said. Is there anything I can do?

Again she shook her head as she wrapped her arms around herself and bent at the waist until her forehead was resting on her knees. I couldnt take it anymore, so I lifted up the arm of the chair between us and reached out for her.

She came into my arms without protest, and though her crying was still tearing into me, I instantly felt more at ease now that I was touching her and holding her close to me. Her head went against my chest as her hand sted the front of my shirt. I turned sideways a little so business traveler dude couldnt stare right at her again, and wrapped my arms around her as tight as I could.

I was tempted to tell her how sorry I was, but I remembered how well that worked before and decided to hold off on any more apologies for a while. We were both exhausted at this point, and ended up falling sleep tangled up in each other. I woke at some point and looked out the window at the stars in the sky, wondering what time it was but not willing to risk waking Bella to check my watch. I lay my cheek on top of her head any inhaled her scent while I held her. My wife.

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My thumb reached across my hand and rubbed at the gold ring around my nger. As it twisted around, I wondered how long we would be married before we got back to the states and had it annulled. A couple of months, maybe? Maybe once the rest of the killing was done, I could at least take her on a honeymoon trip. We were going to have to keep moving around as long as her chip was active, so I might as well take her around Europe a bit. Maybe it would take her mind off all the other shit, and maybe her memories of being with me wouldnt all suck.

It could be fun, right?

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Chapter 48

I didnt sleep much on the plane I never could get comfortable sleeping in a seat like that. Bellas sleep was restless at best, but she seemed to get a couple of hours rest. I kept holding on to her, afraid to let go, though I wasnt sure exactly why. Maybe I thought this would be the last time she would let me hold on to her like this, because she really didnt have to put up with my shit much longer, or maybe it was because I thought she would cry again if I stopped, and I didnt want to see her crying any more.

At least this seemed to work, as opposed to any moronic words that came out of my mouth. Maybe I should give up on speaking all together. I wondered if that was the reason men in family sit-coms would grunt in response to anything anyone said, instead of actually talk. I could work with that.

Bella woke when the plane started to descend, and sat up, effectively removing herself from my embrace. She rubbed at her red eyes and shoved wild strands of hair behind her ears as she tried to smooth it all down. She glanced at me, and her cheeks turned pink as she looked quickly away, and I wondered what in the world would have made her blush.

We landed, made our way off the plane and to our hotel. I wanted to get settled in before I went for the killings. I checked in with Alice, and she informed me my guns were on the way. Five minutes later, there was a knock at the door. I hadnt ordered any room service, but I let the guy with the tray walk in anyway. After closing the door, he lifted the silver tray and exposed the half-dozen hand guns he had underneath.

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Sweet, I said with a crooked smile. I tipped the guy really well, lit a cigarette, and started going over each of the guns while Bella sat on the couch in the suite and watched me. She hadnt said much of anything, though she didnt appear to be giving me the silent treatment any longer. I ordered some actual room service so she would have something to eat, but she only picked at it. Not much longer, I told her as I slipped the last of the guns into my shoulder holster. Until what? Until the last of the fuckers who might have access to the information on your chip are dead. I pulled out another cigarette and lit it. Why do you do that? she asked. Do what? Smoke? I dunno, I said, narrowing my eyes. Its relaxing, I guess. You dont seem relaxed. Im not. Then it doesnt work? No, it does, I countered. Id be less relaxed if I didnt have it.

She was quiet for a while as she continued to poke at a baked potato.

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Its bad for you, she piped up. Ive heard that. I gave her a half smile with the cigarette sticking out of the corner of my mouth. So you should quit, she surmised. I doubt that. Why not? Why would I? I was starting to get a little annoyed with the line of questioning. No one had ever asked me about it before not even when I picked up the habit at the age of thirteen. Of course I knew it was bad for you, but who really gives a shit? You couldget cancer. She was still staring down at her plate, pulling bits of potato out of its skin and pushing it around. One less asshole in the world then, right? I smirked, but dropped the grin when she looked up at me sharply. You arent an asshole, she replied. Seriously? The guy who bought you isnt an asshole? Thats rich.

She went quiet, and again I wondered if grunting was a better option. She tossed her fork down and walked into the bedroom area of the suite. I thought about going after her, because she was obviously upset and I gured it must be because of something I said or did or whatever. I didnt though, because chances are I would just make it worse. I called Alice instead.

You done?

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Almost, she said. I could hear screaming in the background, which then abruptly stopped. Done now. Fabulous, I mumbled. Did they get word off to the group here? I dont think they did, but they knew about Aro here already. I dont think they knew about Laurent, but most likely the group there is already on alert. You want us to head that direction before you move? No, I answered denitively. The longer we wait, the more aware they will be. Best to go now, before they can really organize or enlist help. So, you going to head for the bar? Yeah. I stubbed my cigarette into the ashtray. Emmett says theyll be there in about a half hour. I plan on giving them a little time to settle, but not much. Hit should be quick. What are you going to do with Bella? Take her with me. I shrugged to myself. Shrugging and grunting I should make both part of my standard communication package. Shell have a vest and Ill le her hang at the bar, take care of them, then walk right back out. Did you get my gifts? Yep, I said as I placed my hand on top of the gun at my hip. All set and ready. Call when youre done. Will do. I hung up and looked over to the open doorway where Bella had recently disappeared. I took a long breath and headed through it. Bella was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking down at her hands. We need to go, I told her.

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Killing time again, is it? she snarked at me. Something like that, I said with a nod. This one will be quick and easy, though. Right. I didnt miss the sarcasm, but did ignore it. Bella stood up and followed me out.

After this it would be smooth sailing, right?

Chapter 49:

Bella was looking all over the place and making it obvious she was a tourist. Every time someone was speaking something other than English, which was most everyone, she would jerk her head around and look at them, as if eye contacts might make her understand. She admitted to taking a year of French in high school, but that it wasnt making any difference. I knew just enough French to understand the gist of what people were saying, but I couldnt speak it to save my life. Get slapped, yes save my life, no.

We entered a little drinking establishment within view of the Eiffel Tower, and I had to practically drag Bella inside to stop her from staring at the gigantic structure. I led her other to a table off in the corner and sat down with her and asked her what she would like to drink. She just gave me a funny look and shrugged, so I ordered two glasses of white wine.

Youre of age here, I said with a smile. She narrowed her eyes and sniffed at the glass before taking a sip. Her face scrunched up in the more adorable way at the taste. I had to laugh a little.

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I drank a big gulp of wine, which was actually pretty good. Well hell, I am in France. The wine ought to be good, right?

What now? Bella asked quietly. She had spread her ngers around the stem of her glass, and was tilting her left hand back and forth. The diamond on her nger sparkled in the low level lights. Do you like it? I asked. Like what? Bella glanced up at me. The ring. Oh. She looked down again and began turning her hand around. Its very pretty. Did you pick it out?

I was tempted to say I had, just because she seemed to like it, but I didnt.

Jasper did, I admitted. She quietly contemplated the rock on her hand for a minute before speaking again. So? So what? I asked. What now?

I had forgotten that question.

You stay right here at this table, I told her. I take care of the last piece of business, and then we go back to the hotel. Well head to Germany tomorrow.

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Germany? Theres a place we can stay there. Its near Heidelberg. Before all this happened I had never been farther west than Albuquerque, Bella said.

I wasnt too sure if she meant that as a good thing or not, so I had no idea how to respond. I looked down at my watch and decided it was probably time to get this show on the road, as they say. I pulled a one-hundred dollar bill from my wallet and a pen from my pocket. I wrote the word twilight across the bill.

Whats that? Bella questioned. My key, I said with a smile. Wait here. Dont move. Dont talk to anyone, okay? Fine, she snipped. This shouldnt take long.

I stood up and crossed to the other side of the room, where a big guy stood next to a closed door. I handed the guy at the door the bill in my hand. He nodded curtly and stepped aside, pushing the door open for me. I went through, and the door closed behind me. I was in a hallway, and at the very end there was an open door. I walked quietly towards it, pulling out both my gun and the silencer at the same time. As I approached, I twisted the silencer onto the end of the gun and listened closely to the conversation inside the small room.

According to my sources, it was the Hales, a deep voice proclaimed.

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Why would the Hales go after Aro? This voice was one I recognized Eric Yorkie from New York. Go gure. He had moved over to the European operation several years ago. I had met him once or twice regarding arms deals. Theyve hardly done any business together, and their businesses are only marginally related. If they were going to eliminate anyone, I would think they would go after Cullens group. He has the tech market down, and the Hales were always into hi-tech. McCartys involvement has been veried, the third voice said. I have my guy trailing him, and he is with Hales.

Of course he is, Eric replied. Hes tight with Rosalie Hale. I doubt shes all that tight, the rst voice said with a laugh. They all joined in. It was time for me to make my move.

It would all be over soon, right?

Chapter 50

I could feel my heart pounding as I started to lean forward, ready to step in, make my kills, and get out. I welcomed the adrenaline rush as it poured through my veins. Do we need to be concerned? the deep voice I did not recognize said. What are they saying in Italy?

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I havent heard back from them yet, Eric told him. Is that a concern? I was expecting to hear from them about ten minutes ago, Eric replied. Im not concerned yet. Should we be? Yes, I said as I stepped through the doorway. The gun red, and a bright red spot formed in the center of a large, burly mans chest. His name was Stephen Roma, and he led the operation here. At least, he used to lead it. He dropped face rst onto the small round table where they all sat. To his right was his brother Vlad. Another one I had never met before, but knew from his pictures. I shot him in the head before his sibling hit the table. Eric began to stand up, his hands going up in the air. Cullen! he cried out. What the hell? No loose ends, I said quietly. The rst shot threw him backwards and against the wall. I took a step forward and aimed between his eyes. He looked to his left at his dead comrades before looking back to me. I dont have any allegiance I ended him before he could nish. I stood there for a moment, considering the best course at this time. Having a cleaning crew come out and dispose of them didnt even seem worth the effort at this point, but it would be better than just leaving them to be found later. The guy at the door the one who took my cash he would have no reason to come back here for some time. It would be best to get out now, grab Bella, and get out of the country.

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I holstered the gun under my jacket and walked out, passing the doorman with a slight nod in his direction. He had obviously heard nothing. I walked quickly around the counter to the booth where I had left Bella. She wasnt there. This was bad, right?

Chapter 51

A tap on my shoulder nearly got Bella shot.

Where the fuck were you? I hissed under my breath. The bathroom, she replied with wide eyes. I didnt get a chance to go beforeand then there was this guy What guy? I asked, looking around. Bella looked over her shoulder before slowly scanning the bar. I dont see him anymore, she said. What was he doing? I asked. I didnt know who the fucker was, but I had plenty of ammunition left. He came up and talked to me, she said. But I didnt understand what he was saying.

I took her by the arm and started heading out the door. Now was not the time for chatting anyway. We needed to make a quick exit before any of my activities were discovered. I didnt need the guy standing at the door to the back rooms to remember me very well, and the longer I stayed the more likely that became.

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I hailed a taxi on the street, and took us to our hotel. I told Bella to get her things back in the bag since we werent staying. She wasnt happy about it, but she threw everything back into her suitcase and we were off again.

A couple hours later, we were on a train to Heidelberg.

I showed our passports to the conductor for what must have been the twelfth time before dropping down into the bench seat next to Bella. At least we had ended up in a car without company, and I was grateful for that. I took a deep breath, trying to relax for the rst time sincewellsince yesterday morning. Or maybe the night before. All the days were starting to run together. Was it Tuesday still?

I looked over the Bella, who looked completely exhausted as she sat with her hands in her lap, gripping the handled to her suitcase.

You want me to put that in the overhead bin? I asked, pointing at the bag. She shook her head. Ill just have to get it down again, then unpack it, then pack it back up, she said. Thats when I noticed her hands were trembling.

I wanted to open my mouth and saywellsomething, but low and behold, I had no idea what I should say. Saying nothing didnt seem right either, though.

Once we get to the next place we should be able to stay there a while, I said, hoping it sounded comforting, but doubting it. Bella just shrugged. I wondered if she had been watching me shrug and maybe practicing my methods. She

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seemed pretty good at it. I knew she was upset, but gured anything I would say or do would just make it worse. Then I remembered how asking her worked before.

I reached out and placed my hand on her arm.

What can I do? I asked her. Bellas eyes met mine briey, then she looked back to her ngers gripped around the suitcase handles. She shook her head and huffed out of her nose. I was just thinking, she said quietly, but did not elaborate. Because I am a glutton for all things anti-me, I had to ask for more. Thanking about what?

She let a humorless laugh escape her mouth.

When I was a kid, I thought about what my wedding night would be like, she admitted. I thought of a lot of different things, but this wasnt in the list. Fuck.

Add one more thing to the extremely long list of shit Ive fucked up in her life. I mean, thats the kind of things girls think about a lot, isnt it? I remember someone telling me they did maybe it was Emmett. Yeah, I was pretty sure it was him. Bella probably had some grand idea of love and hearts and owers and shit, and she was stuck with me.

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I hoped she would sleep on the train, because she certainly looked like she needed it. She didnt even nod off though, and we spent most of the time sitting in silence. When we reached the train station in Heidelberg, I rented a car and headed off into the countryside towards the little house just outside of Dilsberg. It was a small place, but secluded and pretty much unknown. You couldnt even see it from the road, and no one who didnt know it was there would ever have found it.

I carried Bellas suitcase and my bag into the one and only bedroom and dropped them down at the foot of the bed. I took a quick look around and made sure all the lights worked and the toilet ushed. Then did a quick scan for any electronic signals that might indicate a bug had been planted. Satised the place was pretty much undisturbed from the last time I had been there, I pulled out the phone and called Emmett.

You got a trailer, you know, I told him. Yeah, he followed us for a few hours, Emmett replied. At the moment, hes eating grit at the bottom of the river, though. Nice. Who was he? Dunno for sure, Emmett said. but he seemed to be alone. Well keep a look out. Oh, and since you arent here, I get rst dibs. Im taking Aros boats. Yeah, ne, I said. I didnt really care which portions of Aros business I ended up controlling. I hung up and went back to the bedroom where Bella sat on the edge of the bed, still looking about a worn out and miserable as she could be. Not that I could begrudge her any of that, but I still wished there was something I could do. I was still our wedding night, technically. There should have been something I could do to make it not totally suck.

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An idea popped into my head, and for once I didnt think it was totally fucked up.

Bella? Yeah? she looked up at me. I could see the remnants of tears in her eyes. Im sorry your wedding night sucks, I said. I immediately wished I could take it back, but there was nothing I could do once the words were already out of my mouth. Umcan I try to make it better? She eyes me warily. How? Would youumwould you give me the honor of dancing with you? I sucked my lower lip into my mouth, wondering how perfectly stupid my idea probably was now that it was out in the open. I looked back up to her, waiting to see if she was going to smack me across the face or anything, but she didnt. She just looked at me for a good long while before tears started dripping down her cheeks again. Shit. I had fucked it up. Before I could say anything else stupid, Bella nodded to me and stood up. I dont know how to dance, she said through her tears. I dont either, I said with a shrug. I took a step forward and put my arms around her. She put her hands around the back of my neck and lay her cheek against my chest. We didnt have any music, and all either of us could really do was sway back and forth a bit, but it didnt matter.

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Chapter 52

It was still really early in the morning, and the summer air was still cool as I stepped out the sliding screen door and onto the little cement patio in the back of the cottage. I dropped down into one of two small plastic chairs and lit up. Four weeks.

We hadnt left the cottage except for quick stops to the local market for food. Even then I made a point of making sure we wore hooded sweatshirts and dark glasses. I wasnt going to take any chances of some random security camera catching a glimpse of us.

Back in the states, Rosalie and Jasper worked on trying to deactivate the chip. One of the slaves had apparently found a doctor willing to try removing it, but it didnt go well at all. She didnt make it died right on the table. I didnt tell Bella about it, but I would if she ever pushed to nd a doctor willing to do the surgery to remove it. No way in hell was I going to let her take that chance. The last report I got from the Hales was some success with EMPs stopping the signal for a while at least, though it seemed to come back after a day or so. It would be better than nothing.

During the day, Bella tried to learn a little German by watching television and quizzing me on common words and phrases. I had done a lot of my legitimate business in Germany, and I knew enough to be able to hold a conversation and watch the local news, which was more than adequate for my needs. Other than being able to pay for groceries and whatever, I didnt plan on holding a lot of lengthy, deep discussions.

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At night she slept in bed with me, and when she had nightmares I held onto her until she calmed down enough to sleep again. I never said anything apart from reminding her that it was a dream, and that she was safe. If I had learned one thing during any of this, it was to shut the fuck up about ninety percent of the time. Anytime I wasnt sure exactly what to say, thats what I did instead. Sometimes I still had to answer one of her questions or something, but otherwise I stayed quiet Bella talked. Bella talked a lot.

I took the last long drag of my smoke, stubbed the butt out in the ashtray, and lit another one. I did my best to get all my smoking in while Bella was either asleep or otherwise occupied. I could tell it really bothered her when I smoked, though I didnt understand why. She kept saying it was bad for me, but really who would give a shit if I keeled over from lung cancer, really? Regardless, I had cut back quite a bit just due to the circumstances, and tried my best not to smoke right in front of her, even though sometimes when she started talking about her childhood, I really, really wanted one.

Bella talked about her parents and her friends at school. I was a little surprised to hear she still had a year left of high school, since she was obviously really smart. I didnt know why she would have started late or been held back or something, but I didnt ask either. I also didnt ask why she never mentioned what her father did for a living, though I could probably guess. Part of me wanted to call her out on it, because she talked about her moms job as school principal quite a bit, but never talked about Cop Daddy.

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I guess if I was in her position I wouldnt have mentioned it either, but it did make me wonder if she realized that I already knew. I gured that she didnt, which is why she wasnt brining up his career. Then again, she was obviously bright she had to have picked up on me not asking what he did, too. I guess that kind of put us at an impasse of sorts.

I had found enough articles on the internet to reassure Bella that he mother was ne, and had recovered from most of her injuries. That had served to keep her from asking me about calling them every single day. I had taken to sleeping with the phone. I also found plenty to tell me her parents were completely distraught, and had pretty much put their lives on hold to search for her. I didnt show such things to Bella, though I felt bad that I was kind of deceiving her. We were half way through the stretch now in another month, she could call them. It would be hell on them all in the mean time, but at least by then I could make sure she was safe and it wouldnt happen all over again I wanted to get her back her parents. But I sure as hell never, ever wanted to meet her dad.

Something told me Cop Daddy would not take too kindly to the guy responsible for his daughters kidnapping and enslavement. Nope, pretty unlikely, despite what the same guy might have done to get her out of it. Yeah, I was not going to be invited to the Policemans Ball or Christmas Dinner or whatever the hell cops did to raise money for whatever the hell they needed to buy. Or was it charity for something else? I had no freaking idea. Id probably donate anyway, if hed let me Why? Because over the past four weeks, I got a look into the way a family was supposed to be, and I had never known anything like it before. Bella told me about trips to the zoo the three of them took, and how her dad held her hand

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when she got scared going through the Nocturnal House and she saw the vampire bats. I heard about Bella cooking weird food with her mom, and the way her dad would try to eat it, even when it was awful. I learned about bedtime stories, holding on to the back of the bicycle, and swinging a baseball bat at tennis balls. I had never heard of any of this before.

For the rst time in my life, I gured out the way other people had lived, and how different it was from the way I grew up. Part of me gured I should be angry about it I mean, no one ever did any of that shit for me but I just wasnt. If anything, I felt more dead inside than I had before. It reminded me about some of the shit Jasper said to me out on the balcony. I didnt know how to deal with people, he had said. What the fuck was that supposed to mean, anyway? I knew how to deal with people, didnt I? All right, ne. I didnt I just wasnt sure what difference it made.

But nownow I was starting to understand something else. I couldnt put my nger on exactly what it was, but I knewI just knew that it should make a difference. I should want to know how to cope with people. If not people, a person. One person in particular. Bella.

Because ever since we danced on our wedding night, if you could call it that, I could not get her out of my head. The more she talked about her life, the more I wanted to know. I didnt know if any girl I had ever met or dated before had ever talked about their past I really couldnt remember. If they had, I didnt

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listen because I didnt care. But listening to Bella was like crack or something I couldnt get enough of it. And it scared the shit out of me. I stubbed the cigarette out as I heard the bedroom door open and Bella walked sleepily into the kitchen to make breakfast. She always cooked breakfast as soon as she got up usually just eggs and toast, but sometimes it was something more elaborate, depending on what we had to the kitchen. Yesterday she bought blueberries so she could make blueberry pancakes. I was pretty sure I had never had blueberry pancakes before. Her gaze met mine through the screen door, and I knew by the look in her eye that she was on to me and my early morning nicotine fests. I gave her a bit of a smile and a shrug before I went back inside, slipped past her in the kitchen and went to take a shower and get the smoke scent off of me.

At least she didnt have to smell it, right?

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Chapter 53

Oh my God, Bella whispered. Its beautiful. It had been nearly two months without incident. No more trailers, no activity from any of Aros previous businesses. Emmett did most of the monitoring, and he had certainly taken the lions share of the businesses he divided between the two of us. Other times I would have cared, but not now. Now I only focused on what I could do to make Bellas temporary life here with me more bearable. I glanced from Bella to Neuschwanstein the giant Bavarian castle. She had a real smile on her face, and those were rare. When I saw it on her face, my heart would start pounding in my chest like I had just run a mile or something. Or just walked up this fucking insane hill for a closer view of the castle. I had wanted to take her more places and do more things, but it just hadnt been possible after news of the second trailer on Alice and Jasper. Until we could conrm these people were more the curious and not a missed cell of Aros operation, there would be no outings for Bella. She took it in stride, as far as I could tell, but then she always seemed to take everything in stride. She only cried at night, when she had the dreams. Taking a little trip south was the rst time we had ventured out for something other than the necessities, and I wanted it to be something cool, at least. The castle made the most sense, and wasnt too far away from where we were staying. Considering the look on her face, I had the feeling I just might have done something right for a change.

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We took the usual guided tour, and I shoved a bunch of bills into Bellas hand so she could check out the gift shop at the end of the tour. I stepped outside to grab a quick smoke while she wasnt looking. While I stood there, my phone rang. It was Rosalie. I think we got it, she said. It was just a matter of the right frequency to cancel the signal She went on for a couple minutes about shit that made no sense to me before I cut her off. So, what you are saying is you can shut the chip off? Yeah, exactly. She hummed for a second. At least, were pretty sure we can. The ones weve tried this on have been down for four days so far and havent reactivated like they were before. Good news. I crushed the cigarette butt under my heel. Finally, she agreed. How long before you know for sure, and you can get here to deactivate Bellas? A week to ten days, Rosalie said with condence. Are you going to tell her? Yeah, I said. She should be pretty happy about that. At least she can get an idea of when she can go home. I know all this up in the air shit has been kind of nerve wracking for her. I hung up just as Bella was coming out with a small bag in her hand. Inside were a 3D puzzle of the castle and a model of it inside a snow globe, which she said was for her mom. Why are you smiling? she asked me with narrowed eyes. I shrugged, because I hadnt really realized that I was smiling. Looks like Rose and Jasper found a way to shut the chip off, I told her. Her eyes went wide for a minute as she bit down on her lip.

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I can go home? she asked quietly. Just another couple of weeks, I told her. Then yeah, you can go home. Two weeks? she said, and her face got all scrunched up like she was upset, which wasnt the reaction I was expected. I looked at her closely, trying to gure out where I could have misread her. For a brief moment, I wondered if she was going to miss being here with me, and then I told myself not to be so fucking stupid. The chances of that were about as good as me nding all the right words to say at the right time. Is that bad? I nally asked when I couldnt stand it anymore. No, she said softly. She started heading back down the trail to the bottom of the hill. I followed after her. Bella, what is it? She shrugged, telling me it was nothing, which was bullshit. Tell me, I said. I reached out and grabbed a hold of her elbow, which slowed her down, but she didnt stop. Please? She stopped and turned to look at me. Next week is my birthday, she nally said. I thought maybemaybe I would be home by then. I remembered the date from the paperwork Aro had given me. On September thirteenth she would be nineteen. Today was the eighth. As much as I wanted to be able to give her whatever birthday wish she desired, there was no way Rosalie would be ready by then. Im sorry, I said quietly. I let my hand slide down her arm, and I took her hand in mine. Her ngers were warm and a little damp with the humidity. I twined our ngers together, and we headed back down the side of the hill.

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Chapter 54

Bella started putting together her puzzle on the little table in the kitchen while I took a quick shower. The warm spray relaxed the muscles in the backs of my legs, which hadnt had near enough use lately and were aching after the long trek up the hill to Neuschwanstein. In the small house, even with the water on I could hear Bella in the kitchen. I heard the refrigerator door open and I thought about when she might be pulling out to eat or drink. Maybe she was thinking about making diner or something. Thoughts of Bella oated around inside of me as I washed, and I felt the constant urge to jerk off. I resisted the desire, which wasnt difcult. I never liked doing it on my own in the rst place, and now it just seemedwelleven worse. Every time I even considered taking it in my hand, I couldnt only see images of Bella in my head. As soon as I saw those, thoughts of the basement when she had been kept and what they did with her to train her to my liking pretty much killed the mood. When I tried to think of other women either ones I had dated before or even some freaking model or movie star wellnothing happened. If I wasnt thinking about Bella, apparently my body wasnt interested. I kind of wondered if Id ever want to fuck anyone again. Wrapping a towel around my waist, I made the quick jaunt between the bathroom and the bedroom. I could smell something really scrumptious coming from the kitchen, and didnt want to waste any time guring out what it was. I pulled some lounge pants on, but didnt bother with a shirt or anything. It was still pretty warm and humid, though the nights had cooled off a lot. I grabbed a hand towel to rub over my hair, but the rest of me was still pretty wet as I walked back out and into the kitchen.

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Bella was stirring something around in a big skillet, and kept adding bits of vegetables and sauce to it. It would crackle and hiss, and she would stir it around some more. What are you making? I asked. Bella turned slightly and her mouth opened just a bit, but she didnt say anything. Her eyes widened a bit, and I wondered what could be so shocking about my question. My hair fell all over my forehead it was really getting way too long as I stopped trying to dry it and wiped a few drops from my chest instead. Pad Thai, Bella nally said. Her tongue ran over her lips quickly as her eyes dropped, and then she looked back to the pan. Cool, I said. I honestly never considered that you could make something like that outside of an actual Thai restaurant, but she seemed to know what she was doing. Everything she made was fucking awesome. Going back to delivered pizza and Chinese carry out was going to suck. This is fucking awesome, I told her when I slurped up the last of what was on my plate. Is there more? Well, there are the ingredients for more, Bella said. I didnt cool any more though. Would you? I asked, trying to give her something like puppy dogs eyes. She laughed at me, which was almost as awesome as the Asian noodle dish. I have to pretty much start all over again! she complained, but she really didnt seem to be upset. Please? I asked. I leaned closer to her and looked up into her eyes. Purdy please? Bella pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes at me. She seemed to be thinking it over. Finally, she spoke. All right, but only on one condition.

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Anything. Okay I knew that was a stupid thing to say, but I was going to have to go with it at that point. No more cigarettes. What? Quit smoking, she said. Right now. No fucking way, I said. I wasnt sure if she was being serious or not, but just the very mention of quitting had me jonesing for one. No fucking Pad Thai, she said. She raised her brows at me in challenge. None? Nope. Not even a little? I asked. I pointed over to the stovetop in the kitchen, and when Bella glanced that way I grabbed one of the noodles off her plate. She looked back, catching me as I shoved it into my mouth. She glared at me. Not even any more of mine. She pulled her plate in closer and wrapped her forearms around it protectively. I sat back and thought about my options. The Pad Thai was freaking awesome, and I did want more. I also knew there was no way I was going to quit smoking not today at least. Maybe a compromise would work What could I get for no more smokes today? I asked. Hmm, Bella hummed and tapped her nger on her chin. A small portion, I guess. Deal, I said with a smirk. At least I was getting something out of this. I still wanted a smoke, though. I ate my second, smaller helping and watched the sun go down out the patio door. Usually Id be sitting out there having a cigarette while Bella was doing the dishes or something. I sighed, and decided to help her wash up to keep my

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mind off of it. She looked a little surprised when I offered to dry. I guess I really hadnt helped before. Sorry, I said as I took one of the plates and wiped it with a towel. I havent been much help, have I? Its okay, she responded. I wondered if I should say more, but gured that was a mistake, so I kept quiet. Did you have chores to do as a kid? Bella asked. No. Did your mom do everything for you? I laughed a bit. Umnot really, I said. I shrugged and placed the last plate back in the cabinet and started drying a glass. But your dad wasnt home much, right? Right. Who did it then? Did what? I asked. Things like this. Bella held up a soap suds covered bowl. Who washed the dished and vacuumed and cleaned the sinks and stuff? I tried to remember my mom doing any of those things, and couldnt really remember much. I remembered using the same plate lots of times in a row, and I think sometimes she would wash it. I didnt remember ever seeing a vacuum cleaner. I remembered the trashcan in the kitchen, and how the brown bottles would fall out of it onto the oor and make everything sticky. I looked at Bella and shrugged again. I guess my mom did, I nally said. Sometimes.

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Bellas eyes locked with mine, and for the longest time she just stood there with the soapy bowl in her hands and looked at me. She did that sometimes, and I never understood why. I would have questioned her on it, butwellI tried not to say much. It seemed to be working out pretty well. Eventually she looked back to her hands and we nished the dishes without any other words. It was weird but I kind of liked helping her wash them. Id never really done that before. I had some dishes at my place, but usually used paper. Cups and forks and everything else went in the dishwasher. That night, I was sitting up in bed with my back against eh headboard and reading a couple emails from Angela. She was asking if my extended vacation was going to conclude in time for the meeting with New Moon Technical Resources, or should she have someone else take care of it. I answered that one and a few others as Bella settled into the spot beside me. She propped her pillow up so she was sitting as well. I looked over to her and gave her a half smile, which she didnt quite return. Edward, can I ask you something? Sure, I said. I laced the phone down on the nightstand. Do you understand what you did to me? My chest and throat tightened up, and I couldnt really breathe correctly. This was not a conversation I wanted to have. There was no way I could possibly say anything that wouldnt make it all worse, but she had asked, and I felt like I had to answer her. Honestly was the best policy, right?

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Author's Notes: One last "Easter Egg" for ya today. Things are starting to get...interesting. And nothing I did now would ever, ever change that.

Chapter 55

I really, really didnt want to talk about this. Not at all. But when I looked at Bella and saw the earnestness on her face, I couldnt deny her anything.

I dont think Ill ever know, I nally said. I mean, not really. I have enough of an idea that I feel likewell, Id say I feel like shit, but that doesnt even begin to cover it. Bella bit down at her lip and kept her gaze on me.

They took me because of what you asked for, she said, and I nodded in response. She already knew, so it was only conrmation anyway. If you hadnt asked for someone who looked like me, what would have happened?

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They were there to pick up another girl, I told her. The conversation with the one hostage at Aros place ran through my head. If it wasnt for me, they would have picked up someone else, not you. Did they ever pick up that other girl? I dont think so, I said. He said they were full and drove back after getting you. She sat back a little and seemed to contemplate that information. I wondered what she thought about that other girl the one that was targeted but not picked up. Did she wish the other girl had lived through what she had? Or was she glad the other girl was okay? I wanted to say I wished it was the other girl, because then Bella would never have had all that shit happen to her. But if she hadnt, I never would have known her. When it all came down to it, I was still a selsh bastard.

Do you know why you did it? She asked quietly. Im a selsh bastard? I tried to smile, but it didnt work. I wondered if I was going to get the chance to go back into silent mode. Ever since Bella gured out she was going to go home soon, she had been peppering me with questions I felt like I had to answer. For every one I answered, two more unanswerable ones would show up in my head. Thats not why, she said. Her tone was completely serious.

I felt her hand reach out and trace over my cheek. I looked over at her for a second, but I really didnt have an answer for her. I wanted sex, but I had told her that before. I wanted someone who would obey me and do whatever I wanted. I still wanted all thatat least, I think I did. Sort of.

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I wanted her. I wanted Bella. And the idea that I could ever have her really, really have her, was as ludicrous as thinking your love life could be xed by buying a sex slave. Because the only way I could the only way I would even want to was if she wanted it as well. Its why I couldnt even masturbate to thoughts of her, because every time I did I felt like I was forcing her. Every image in my head would turn into her tears, and crying for me to stop. Even though she never did she never told me to stop. I knew there was a lot of shit I was pretty inept at doing and understanding, but I wasnt so stupid that I thought it made any difference. She couldnt tell me to stop she wasnt allowed to.

I didnt know what I was doing, I said. I wasnt trying to make excuses I justwanted her to understand. I never would have done it if I had known. I should have known all those fucking questions. I should have known and thought about it and not been so fucking stupid. But I didnt. And nothing I did now would ever, ever change that. Im sorry, Bella. I moved sideways on the bed so I could face her. Im so, so fucking sorryI cant make it right. I cant ever take it back. I dont know what I was thinking. I wasntI wasnt thinking, not at allI just wantedI wanted someonesomeone whowho

I didnt know how to nish. My head hurt, and everything inside of it was so jumbled up, I couldnt think straight. I kept seeing that little toy piano smashed on the patio, and Moms car askew on the driveway. Then they were taking the trailer away, and when I went into my room inside, there was nothing to try to

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keep before they hauled the rest away. Then Tanya was walking away from me, telling me not to bother to ever call her againand then it was Breeand then it was Irinaand then it was Jessicaand then it was Zafrinaand then it was Kate

You were always left alone, Edward. I looked away from her, no longer wanting to meet her eyes. I could still feel the tips of her ngers along my jaw, though. They felt like a line of tiny res on my skin. No one ever stayed with you. Not your parents or the teacher you liked. Not the women youve dated. You dont have any friends to speak of. You wanted someone who couldnt leave. Why would they, I heard myself mumble. I shoved myself up and out of the bed, grabbing the pack of cigarettes on my way out the patio door. Bella came out and stood behind me, and I remembered I wasnt supposed to smoke. I cursed and threw both the pack and the lighter against the brick wall before I dropped down into the plastic chair with my head in my hands. You arent all bad, Bella said. I let out a sharp laugh. I leaned back in the chair and looked over to her. My breathing wasnt right, and I could feel my heart pounding hard in my chest. Yeah, at least after I fuck someones life up I try to x it, I snorted, then backpedaled. Actually, even that is a rst for me. Usually when I fuck someone up they end up in the morgue. Edward, Bella sighed my name. What, Bella? I snapped. I didnt just snap at her verbally I actually felt like something inside me had snapped completely. I started yelling at her. You going to tell me how it all would have happened anyway? Tell me how you could have been sold to someone else, someone worse? Worse than me, the fucking arms dealer with a thing for oral? Because we both know that isnt true. If no one ever eats the fucking burger, the cow gets to live!

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I punched the brick wall, and besides the serious scraping of my knuckles, I was about ninety percent sure I cracked a knuckle Fuck! Edward! Bella was at my side an instant later, taking my hand between hers, then dragging me into the house and washing off my bloodied knuckles. Dont do this, I said over and over again. I didnt try to stop her, but I didnt want her helping me out when I was being a jackass, either. Im ne. It doesnt fucking matter.

Bellas eyes swiveled quickly from my hand to my face, and the re in them actually cause me to step back a little. Shut up, she said. I inched again. I mean it, just shut the fuck up. It does matter. You matter. Oh yeah? I growled back. To who, huh? Who gives a ying fuck? I do!

I laughed again a short, sharp and humorless sound. Bellas eyes continued to glare at me, and I couldnt hold her look for very long. She went back to cleaning up my hand, and I didnt protest any more. After she washed it all off, she put some ice in a little baggie, dragged me to the little couch and held the ice against my hand. As we sat there in silence, her eyes lost their re and eventually she was looking at me with what I guess was justI dont know pity or something. I preferred her anger.

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After the required twenty minutes, Bella lifted the bag of ice from my hand and examined it. It seemed okay, though it still hurt like a mother when I tried to make a st. Bella ran her ngers over mine, stroking them slowly up and down and over my hand. It feltnice. Then she pulled my hand up and kissed the back of it. I froze completely unable to move. Bella dropped my hand into my lap as she looked up at me. Her ngers reached out and traced over the edge of my jaw, reminding me that I hadnt shaved in a couple of days. Still motionless, all I could do was watch as she closed the short gap between us. Her ngers twitched, scratching slightly over my jaw as she moved. I watched her tongue dart out and moisten her lips as she paused, barely an inch from me.

You arent all bad, she repeated, and then her lips touched mine. I kept my own eyes open as I watched hers close. Her lips were touching mine, and they were warm and soft. And they were willing. She had to be out of her mind, right?

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Chapter 56

I didnt kiss her back. She pulled back away from me, and her hand dropped from my face. Dont do that again, I said. My voice was so quiet I could barely hear it. I didnt want to hear it. I didnt want her to hear it. I didnt mean it, and I wanted to take the words back. Why not? Its just not right. Whatever was going on with my mouth, there were a bunch of parts of me that did not agree with the decisions at all. One part in particular seemed to be planning a mutiny with a couple other parts within close proximity of the rst part. I focused on her eyes in order to stop myself from looking at her lips. If I looked at them, I was most certainly going to want to kiss her. Every muscle in my body constricted aching to reach out to her to touch her, to comfort her. Who says its not right? she asked. Anybody from the outside looking in, I replied. What if I dont care what they think? she said. Maybe you should. Why? Because! I cried out and stood from the couch. Because doing that was fucking crazy. I ruined your life! Why in the world would you do something like that? I crossed my arms in front of me and waited for her answer. My chest felt like it was caving in again, and I gured when I got back to the states I was denitely going to have to talk to my doctor about an acid reux prescription. I wanted to, she nally said softly. Ive wanted to for a while now.

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Thats justits justBella, thats nuts! I nally said. Its fucking Stockholm Syndrome or whatever. It is not, she yelled back at me. You dont dictate what I do or how I feel, Edward! Not anymore! Those words pretty much hit me right in the gut. Not that I didnt deserve them, because I did. I deserved a lot worse, too. Then there was the bit about how she was completely, totally, one-hundred and seven percent correct. And there was that little piece of me that really, really wanted it to be okay. It was the part I had shoved down and off to the side, because it was so fucking wrong I couldnt even stand to think about it. It was the part that wouldnt let me get off in the shower, the part that desperately wanted to drag this trip out as long as possible, and the part that was completely and totally, head over heels Oh fuck. I couldnt say it, not even inside my head. How? I nally blurted out. How what? Bella questioned. How can you possiblywhyI meanyou justkissed me. Her face turned red and she looked down at her hands. How could you want to do that? Im dangerous, Bella dont you see that? Havent you seen enough of that? Her head turned back up and she looked at me. It was nearly dark outside now, and we hadnt turned on any of the lights except in the kitchen. I couldnt see her well, but I thought I could see the reection of the lights in her eyes off of her tears. Dangerous, yes, but you arent bad, she spoke quietly. Youre not bad. Its just thatno ones ever shown you how to care about someone else. No ones ever cared for you, and youve never cared for anyone else.

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But that wasnt truenot anymore. There was someone I cared about. I care about you, I told her. I want you to be able to put all this shit behind you. I want you to be able to keep going. Bellas eyes dropped to the oor and she seemed to think for a while before looking back to me again. I think I will, she said, though she didnt sound completely convinced. The nightmares are better at least, arent they? Not as often, I agreed. But just as bad. Again, she went silent, and I thought better than to speak up. For a while she looked from me, to the oor, and then back to me again. I didnt know what else to do, so I sat back down on the couch, but I kept my distance. When I have them, Bella said, and I wake up and feel you there with meI know Im safe. I met her eyes and was sure there were tears in them again. My heart was pounding and my chest was tight. When she would have those dreams, she would cling to me for the rest of the night, but if I was holding her, she never had the same dream again. I might have killed all the ones who hurt her, but I couldnt take them out of her head. The very least I could do was try to make her feel protected from them when she did wake. I wouldnt hurt you, I swore to her. I wouldnt let anyone hurt you. I know, she said. If there is anything I am sure of about you, that would be it. Her words calmed me a little, and I settled back against the cushions of the couch again. I wanted her to feel safe. I wanted her to know that there was no way I would ever let anyone ever hurt her again. If anyone tried, they would never get a second opportunity.

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My mind conjured up the feeling of her lips on mine again, and I thought about what she said t hat she had wanted to kiss me. I didnt understand. I didnt understand it at all, but that mutinous part of me wanted to understand it better. You really wanted to kiss me? I heard myself ask. Bella nodded and her cheeks darkened. My hand reached out to touch her, but I brought it back close to me again before it could. Bella looked up, and she seemed confused and maybe even disappointed. I didnt want her to think I didnt want it when I did. I gured it was still stupid to say, but I needed her to know. I want you so much. Bella smiled ever so slightly. I think that was apparent the rst day we met, she said. Not like that, I said. I meanI do, but I didnt mean that was what I wantedI mean, yeah causewellI mean I do want towith youI mean the kiss wasI just didnt want you to think I didnt I didnt have the slightest idea how I was going to dig myself out of the instant hole I had created, and though I looked frantically around the room for a ladder or some rope or something, I was unsuccessful. What do you do when you dig yourself in that deep, and theres no way out? Make the hole deeper, of course! Im a guy! I blurted out. I always want that! I cringed at my own words and waited to see what she might throw at me. She didnt throw anything, so I looked up to see her covering her mouth to keep from laughing. Her eyes were so beautiful and so full of life, I had to smile. I shrugged a little, but I was too captivated by the light in her eyes to say anything else. I shifted a little bit on the couch, and this time I let myself reach out and touch her. My hand came up and cupped her cheek, and I ran my thumb over her cheek bone as I looked at her. Its not the same now, I told her, wondering how I was going to explain that my physical desire for her would probably always be present, but that wasnt the rst thing I thought of when I looked at her. I wanted to hold her hand,

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help her with the dishes and keep her safe. Now how did I say all that shit without sounding like a total ass? I know, she said simply. You know? I responded in disbelief. My eyes dropped down to her lips and the brief memory of how they had touched mine came back. Yes, she replied. Believe it or not, its pretty obvious what you are thinking about most of the time. It is? My eyes met hers again. This was denitely news to me, and not what I would consider good news. If she knew what I was thinking, then all the dumbass shit in my head I didnt allow myself to say was still known to her. I hoped that wasnt really the case. Did she know I was mentally at the bottom of a little sandy hole in the ground, tossing more and more dirt over my shoulder with a plastic toy shovel? Like right now, she said as she shifted a little closer. I know exactly what you are thinking right now. What am I thinking? I asked, a little terried she was going to say something about the tiny green beach shovel I was using inside of my head. That you want me to kiss you again. Oh. That. Yeah, I was thinking that, too. But that was obvious, right?

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Chapter 57:

Knowing that anything and everything that could potentially come out of your mouth is going to be the wrong thing to say, can really put a damper on conversations. Everything I had been feeling I had pushed away trying not to acknowledge it because everything about it was so entirely wrong. I wanted her. I knew I wanted her, and for some insane reason, she was pushing the issue. The desire to just move forward a little more, even if only to give her to go ahead to act, was so strong I didnt know if I would be able to stop myself from doing it. If she decided to take that initiative if she kissed me again I honestly didnt know what I would do. While my internal ramblings took over my conscious thoughts, Bella shifted in her seat. The movement was enough to cause me to focus on her again, and I could see my hand trembling where it cupped her face. She leaned forward, and nothing short of sheer terror gripped me. I couldnt let her do this. I couldnt bring myself to stop her. She reached out with her hands and ran the backs of her ngers over my jaw, across my ears, and into the hair behind my head. Her eyes stayed on mine until the very last moment, when they dropped to my mouth and close as her lips covered mine. It was so wrong it hurt. But I kissed her back anyway. Because it felt so good. She rose up on her knees, angling herself down towards me as she pulled at the back of my head to bring me closer to her. My hand on her cheek dropped to her shoulder, and I wanted to push her away I did, but I didnt. I knew I

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should, I should tell her to stop this, because wherever it was going was not going to be a good place. Somehow I have no idea how my hands ended up on her waist, and her tongue ended up in my mouth. My body took over, leaving my mind somewhere a long ways away probably hanging out in some gutter with a bunch of other trash. Her hands dropped to my shoulders and pushed me backwards until I was lying beneath her a she straddled my waist and ran her tongue over mine. I had to stop this. I couldnt. Just having her hands on me was like nothing I had ever experienced. Everywhere she touched, my skin grew hot and felt like it was vibrating under her ngers. It wasnt just the physical sensation of our skin connecting, it was something inside of me something that had never given itself a voice before, but was now screaming for satiation. I felt wanted. Not for my looks or my money or anything else supercial like that. It felt like she wanted me. Me. Just me. And it was so fucking wrong; I knew I shouldnt let her continue. My head knew how stupid this was, and had categorized every reason this would never, ever work. She had been hurt too badly, and I was directly responsible for that pain. I could make her safe again, but nothing I did could ever take away what she had been through. Even if she could somehow get past what had happened to her and my direct involvement in it, her father was a cop and I was a crime lord.

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Id give it up for her. It meant nothing to me. Id go to work in a fucking shoe shop if it would make a difference. It was all too muchway too much. I had to stop this before it went any farther. I knew I had to. But I didnt. I let her keep the lead, her tongue exploring my mouth and lips as her hands ran over my shoulders, arms, and chest until she ran out of breath and had to back away. She looked down at me with her eyes full of sparking excitement in the darkened room, and her tongue ran over her lips. She leaned against one of her hands for support as the other pushed my hair from my forehead before running over my jaw and neck. Her ngers traced over my lips and down my chin before she kissed me again. It was a soft kiss, gentle and unassuming. Take me to bed, she said quietly, and I tried to gure out if it was a question or a demand. And the terror that gripped me before came back a thousand fold. I had to stop this, right?

Chapter 58:

Bella I tried to speak, but I was completely out of breath, and I didnt want to say anything I wanted to say. Her mouth covered mine again, stiing any protest I may have had and denitely killing any desire I had to complain. She just tasted so goodand she smelled so goodand she felt so right in my arms. All I wanted to do was lean back and let her do anything and everything she wanted to do with me. Even as my more rational mind continued to tap at the

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back of my head with a ball-peen hammer as it chanted in rhythm with the hits stupid, stupid, stupid I didnt care. No, thats not right I did care. I just didnt want to care, because if I cared, then Id have to make her stop. If I made her stop, I just might never feel like this again. Like I was where I was supposed to be. Like I was where I was supposed to be, and the person with me actually wanted me here. Like maybe if I just let this happen, I wouldnt bewouldnt be Alone. My hands found their own way up her sides, around her back and to her shoulders. They slid back down to her waist, and even though there was a bit of a natural barrier there between the end of her shirt and the top of her jeans, my hands didnt pay any attention to it. My ngers wrapped around her backside and pulled her down against me at the same time my hips instinctively angled up, pressing hard against her. I was so hard for her. Bella gasped into my mouth, the heat from her breath mimicking the heat from between her legs, where my cock was pushing up against her. She pulled back from my mouth, and as I opened my eyes, the sheer enormity of how wrong this was hit me again like a fucking really big brick. The hands that held her tight against my raging cock pushed her back gently down my legs. Bella I said again, still not too sure what was supposed to come after that. I want to, she said quickly, but her eyes were just a little too much like they had been beforewhen she had to.

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I will take you to bed, I whispered up to her, because youre obviously tired and not thinking straight. I want to, she said again, though her tone had lost its urgency. Not tonight, I told her; because there was no way I could tell her no. Her eyes dropped and she bit down on her lower lip. I dont want to hurt you, I said quietly. She released her lip from her teeth and met my eyes again. I watched them slowly turn from disappointment, to hurt, to anger. Its a little late for that, dont you think? she snapped. She pushed back against my shoulders and removed herself from rst my hold, then the couch, and then the room. I heard the bedroom door slam behind her. I probably should have expected this, right?

Chapter 59:

I dropped down in the plastic seat on the porch and reached out to the ground where my pack of cigarettes and lighter lay next to the brick wall. I glanced at my watch to verify it was two minutes after midnight before I lit one and brought it to my lips. I let the smoke into my lungs, and then blew it back out again with a big sigh. Id obviously fucked up again, big time. What else was new? I put my hand over my face and closed my eyes, thinking back to what had transpired just a couple of hours ago, and what the hell I could have done differently to make it any better. Not surprisingly, I didnt know what else I should have done. If I had rejected her outright, wed probably still be in this same situation right now. If I had taken her to bed

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Fuck, what if I had? Id probably be laying there right now, with Bella in my arms, in the most intense post-coital bliss imaginable, thats what. I ipped the cigarette into my left hand and took another puff. In the darkness, I could just barely see the glint off the gold band around my third nger. Married. What the fuck did that mean, anyway? Nothing. I never thought I would be married, even under the circumstances that had necessitated this farce of a marriage. As soon as Bella was safe she would go home to her parents and wed get it all annulled or whatever. I didnt really even know what the whole institution of marriage was supposed to mean. I was never going to have kids no way in hell. I wasnt about to bring some kid into my fucked up life. No one deserved that. Bella was just a kid, really. Id brought her into my life, and look where that got her? She was trying to seduce the asshole who bought her for sex, and I probably would have let her if she had just asked one more time. If it had been anyone else in the world, I probably would have just rolled her over and fucked her on the couch. Then I would have gotten up and left. Maybe I would have called her again later. Probably not. She hadnt even nished high school. I wondered again why that was. I leaned back in the chair a bit, and my ngers rubbed deep into my eyes, like maybe if I shoved my ngers into my eye sockets hard enough Id stop thinking about all of this. Thinking about it didnt seem to help any, and it just left me feeling confused, stupid and useless. My hand dropped, and I looked up into the clear fall sky. All the stars were out, and this remote location had almost no

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light pollution at all, so I could see every point of light clearly. As I stared, little ecks of light shot across the sky tiny specks of dust blazing into a big ery ball as it hit the atmosphere. A moment later, blinding headlights from a car coming up the drive burned into my retinas. Shit. The cigarette forgotten, I pulled open the patio door, grabbed the H&K and checked the clip before trying to shove it into the elastic waistband of the lounge pants, which of course didnt work. Shit. Shit. Shit. I pulled my jacket out of the closet, slipped the gun into the pocket, and went back out the patio door, leaving it open as I went and silently cursing myself for being so unprepared. A couple months of non-violence and I had already lost my touch. The car was pulling up alongside the rental wed brought from Heidelberg. I watched from around the corner as the engine turned off, the dome light went on, and the drivers side door opened. There didnt appear to be anyone else in the car, just a single guy who pushed himself out of the car and looked towards the house. The light was still on in the kitchen, and he cocked his head to one side to peer in. I moved around the edge of the house, coming up silently behind him as he walked towards the door. I lifted the gun up and aimed at the back of his neck. Dont move, I told him. His steps halted, but he had enough sense to not turn around. Put your hands up on your head and tell me who the fuck you are and what the fuck you are doing here. He moved slowly, holding his hands out to the side as he brought them up over his head and laced his ngers together on the top. I couldnt see his face, and could only tell he was a tall guy and pretty big in general. He took a long

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breath, held it a second, and then breathed back out. My ngers tensed on the trigger. Edward Cullen, I presume? Him knowing my name wasnt necessarily a bad thing, right?

Chapter 60:

Considering which end of the gun is pointing at you, I think your name is a little more important here. I sounded calm, even to myself, but inside I was a freaking wreck. I had no idea who this guy was. His voice wasnt familiar, and I couldnt see him in the dim light well enough to determine if I knew his face. Normally, I might not have cared that much I would have either shot him or taken the chance, solely dependent on my mood but I couldnt do that now. Bella was inside, and if anything happened to me, shed be on her own. My name is Lee Stephens, he told me. I know you probably dont know me, but we have a mutual friend. Aro Volturi? Well, I guess hes an ex-friend. He laughed nervously. Umseriously, he continued. I was trying to work out a deal with you, through him, when hewell His feet shufed a little on the gravel drive. I took a half step forward and touched the back of his neck with the barrel. He went still. I just want to talk business, I swear. You want to explain why you showed up here, to talk whatever business you want to talk about at this time of night? I wasnt really planning on talking to you tonight, he said. I heard you were in the area, and thought Id take a chance on nding you. You knowto maybe talk about nishing the deal with you directly? I should have been here hours

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ago, but I got lost and drove around forever. I wasnt even sure I had the right place, but when I saw a light on His nervous laugh resurfaced. Hindsight is a beautiful thing. The thing that sucks about it is that you cant use it before hand. There were probably a dozen little alarms going off in my head. I didnt know why I didnt pay them any heed. Bella was far too distracting, and I really did seem to have a hard time thinking straight when every other thought was about her, even with my gun up to some idiot who practically snuck up on me in the middle of the night. A thousand thoughts about her safety were going through my head killing him would require either a cleanup crew of a big-ass hole in the ground, which I did not want to dig. I didnt want him to even see Bella, because even knowing I was here with someone could be a threat. At the same time, someone probably knew he was here, so killing him wasnt the best idea, either. He could even have a collection of thugs on the other side of the hill. If he was really just here for a quick dealwellit would be a lot more suspicious for me not to talk to him than it would be for me to talk to him. Besides, if I talked to him for a while I might get an idea of he was legit or not. If he was, I could make nice with him, talk a little business and send him on his way. If things got a little diceywell, Id deal with that as it comes along. I can leavecome back in the morning There was sweat collecting on the back of his neck, so at least I knew he was genuinely worried. I dropped the gun slightly, but still kept it aimed at him. Back of the house, I said. I followed behind him as we walked around the corner to the back patio. I reached over and shut the door, not wanting Bella to wake up or be seen. I motioned with the gun for him to sit in one of the chairs, and I sat next to him and nally got a good look. He was a tall guy, kind of burly and maybe about twenty-ve. He kind of looked like one of those suburban gang members who desperately wanted to be a bad ass, but just couldnt quite pull it off.

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Who are you again? I asked. Lee Stephens, he said. Ive been kind of an admirer of yours, I guess you would say. Ive done a few deals small time stuff only, nothing that would interfere with your business or anything. I was hoping I might be able to start using you as a supplier, to be completely blunt. His nervous laugh was starting to annoy the shit out of me. And? Andum His hand wiped the back of his neck. I tried to get an appointment with you, and I couldnt. So, I went through Aro. Maybe you should still go through Aro. I kept my gaze steady and right on him. Is that a joke or something? he asked. Am I laughing? Umno he mumbled. His hand rubbed at his forehead. Aros who organization got taken over. No ones seen him, so I kind of gured he was out, you know? No, I dont, I said. Im on vacation. Ohyeah, he stumbled over his words. Shit, Im really sorry about that. I justwanted to meet youyou know, start up a business relationship? I know you can get what my clients want, and Id like to work with you. How did you nd this place? Word gets around, he said with a shrug. I leveled the H&K with his face. Give me a better answer, I demanded. This guy was either stupid or extremely amateur. Maybe both.

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ShitUhI heard from Harry Clearwater that you had a place around here. I do some work with his son, Seth. They said you were out of the country out of the States, that is and that you werent too far from where I had a warehouse. I was here anyway, so I took the chance. Not good enough. I stood up and took a step towards him. His hands went in the air. I swear! he cried. Shit really! I only wanted to meet you! I tried to work through the Hales and a couple of the Pack guys, and they couldnt get me an appointment with you! I just want to buy some guns, I swear! I stared at him for a moment, making sure my calm and collected exterior remained and none of my internal thoughts and worries were displayed. His story was plausible. I didnt tend to take appointments for new customers I had enough business and I was pretty exclusive. It was entirely possible a small times dealer like this guy obviously was would go through Aro, who would place a larger order for multiple clients. I slowly lowered myself back into my chair. His story t. But I didnt like it. The sliding door moved. Ah, fuck no. Bella stepped out, her bare legs sticking out of the short robe she had wrapped around her. It was entirely possible that this guy whoever he was would recognize her for what she was. Or rather, what she was supposed to be. If he had done business with Aro in the past, he most certainly knew. If he realized she was not a slave, he was going to be suspicious. If he got suspicious, Bella was in danger. And I really, really didnt want to dig a giant-ass hole for his body.

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Aside from that, there was no telling who knew he had come out here to nd me, a group of buddies nearby or not. Having him just disappear without understanding exactly who he was could be more deadly than killing him now. If I could convince him we could have a business relationship which he really seemed interested in having I could avoid the whole mess, and keep Bella safe. But only if she understood that she had to play along. I looked up to her and our eyes met. I found myself hoping she really could read my mind like she implied earlier, because I needed her to act like the slave she was supposed to be. There was only one way I could think of, aside from actual telepathy, to cue her in on what I needed her to do. I dont recall giving you permission to leave bed, I snapped at her. My eyes narrowed and I glared in her direction as her eyes went wide. I placed my gun in my lap, pulled out a cigarette, and lit it. I thought you were supposed to come trained already. She was going to play along, right?

Chapter 61:

I watched Bellas eyes as they slowly dropped to the ground. I could see by how red they were, and I knew she had been crying, but I had to push that out of my head for now. Her posture changed immediately as she spoke. Im sorrysir, she said. I did a little mental happy dance that she was on the same page as me. She glanced up at Lee and then back at the ground again. I didnt know there was aa guest. Hes not here to see you, I said. Get back to bed. Yes, sir, she responded. She turned and quickly went back inside, shutting the door behind her.

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I looked back to Lee as I took another long drag, trying to gauge his reaction. His eyes were still on the closed door, but when he looked back to me he smiled. Nice, he said with a nod. Shes all right, I shrugged. I didnt want his attention focused on her at all, so I made a quick subject change. Now lets get on with this. We spent about a half hour talking about exactly what he wanted, what quantities, and what he might want in the future. He certainly knew the talk, which made me think he was more likely to be a legitimate customer, but didnt leave me completely trusting him or anything. When everything was worked out, I walked him back to his car. Thanks for talking to me, Lee said. And Im really sorry if Iinterrupted anything. I didnt really think youd talk to me tonight. Well, not at all, honestly. I hoped you would, but I really didnt mean to interrupt your vacation. More nervous laughter. Was this guy some kind of gangster fanboy? Dont do it again, I told him. Youre lucky I was in a good mood. Yeahumwell, thanks again. He held his hand out, and I just looked from the outstretched ngers back to his face, raising an eyebrow a bit. He dropped it, nodded, and got into the car. I watched him maneuver back down the gravel driveway before heading back inside. I took my jacket off, but brought the gun into the bedroom. Bella was sitting on the bed with her knees tucked up to her chest, and her arms wrapped around them. I stopped in my tracks, not knowing what I should do. I wanted to go to her try to do something to make her feel better, but I also knew I was the one who upset her. She may not have wanted anything to do with me. There was also little time for such things, because we needed to get the hell out of here. Legit or not, Lee Stephens was a risk, and I wasnt going to take any risks when it came to Bella. We needed to leave Germany as soon as possible. Tonight. Now.

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Who was he? I looked away and shook my head. Doesnt matter, I told her. Just some idiot looking to get his head blown off if he isnt more careful. Hes worked with Aro before, though. I didnt want him to getsuspicious. I gured. Her tone was sharp and blunt. Im sorry, I said as I reexively tried to run my hand through my hair, hitting myself in the forehead with the H&K in the process. I grimaced, and Bella started laughing. I looked up and her and smiled a little, because it was good to hear her laugh. It only lasted a few second though, when her laughter turned back into tears. She wiped them away quickly, and I just stood there, not having any idea what I should do. Im not playing that game again, Edward, Bella suddenly said. I grimaced again, and then nodded. I didnt know what else to do, I tried to explain, but knew it was pointless. Bella put her forehead down on her knees, and I continued to stand there like the idiot I was. I had no idea if I should just leave her in peace, which might very well be what she would prefer, especially since she had already slammed the door once, or if I could try to offer her some kind of comfort. I wanted to do the latter, but I didnt know if I should even go near her. She looked back up at me, and she looked as lost and scared as she had the rst night right after her rst nightmare. The night she looked at me in horror after she realized it wasnt just a dream. The acid reux came back with a vengeance, and I started to wonder if thats really what is was. The next thing I knew I was in the bed with her in my arms. Im so fucking sorry, I said softly as I held her against my chest. I didnt want him to be suspiciousI didnt know you were going to come outI couldnt think fast enough

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I closed my eyes tight and breathed in the scent of her hair. Im a fucking idiot, and Im sorry. Bellas arms went around my neck, and she held on to me tightly. She didnt say anything, and for the longest time I just held her, rocking back and forth a little bit. She eventually stopped crying, and I felt her body relax against me as she snifed. Im so tired, she whispered, and I took that as my cue to lay her down against the pillows. I started off lying beside her, still holding her against me, but then I remembered how pissed she was. I played a little mental tennis between stay or go, but when that stupid 80s song started bopping around in my head in time to the tennis balls, I had to stop thinking and just ask her. Do you want me to leave? I asked. No! she yelled, and her grip on me tightened. Dont leave. I wont, I promised. I shifted to my side and wrapped one arm around her shoulders and the other around her waist, holding her as close to me as I could. Ill be right here. Im not going anywhere. I would be, too. As long as shed let me, I would be right here beside her. No matter what else happened, I wouldnt leave her unless she told me to. At least I had a purpose, right?

Chapter 62:

The muscles in my arms tightened, bringing her closer to my chest. I listened to her sigh, and felt her warm breath against my skin. I kept my eyes closed, just holding her until she decided she didnt need me anymore. She wouldnt need

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me not much longer, anyway. Another ten days and we would likely be able to return to the States. I would be able to take her home. No, I wouldnt. I would have to have someone else take her home. How would Daddy Cop react if he saw me bringing his long-lost daughter home to him? I had a pretty good idea, and only really wondered if hed shoot off my balls rst or go straight for the kill. Bellas head moved, and I opened my eyes to nd her looking at me. My chest tightened up again, and I had to force myself to swallow, though it still felt like there was something lodged in my throat. Her eyes were still red, but her tears had dried on her cheeks, making strands of her hair stick to her skin. I reached up and pushed the stray hairs from her face, tucking them behind her ear and out of the way. Bella glanced down, and her tongue popped out and licked her lower lip. This served to remind me exactly how her lower lip had tasted, and how it felt when her tongue was in my mouth. I swallowed hard again. Her hand came from around my neck and rested against my jaw. Her ngers rubbed against the rough stubble on my cheek, reminding me how badly I needed to shave. Her touch was also reminding me about earlier in the evening, what she had wanted, and what she had said when I refused her. Her eyes were on mine, and I felt the gentle pressure of her hand on my face, pulling me closer to her. As much as I knew it was the wrong thing to do, I moved with her touch until my lips were against hers, slowly kissing her wile I held her close to me. I tilted my head slightly trying to get closerto taste more of her. I wanted more of herall of heranything she would be willing to give me. My breathing was coming far too fast, and I was overwhelmed. I didnt understand anything I was feeling, and thoughts just werent all that

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forthcoming. Whatever thoughts I did have just conicted with what I was feeling. The vast majority of me just wanted to lay back and do whatever she wanted, because my whole body was just drawn closer to her the more we touched the more we kissed. I had never really spent time kissing a woman before it was only a prelude to getting off. But thisthis I could do all night. I still didnt understand her reasoning, and as much as that part of me wanted to just say fuck it and go with whatever the hell was happening here, there was the other, albeit smaller part that wanted answers. Needed answers. As much as it was physically painful to do so, I pulled back from her, kissing her lips softly just a couple more times before I looked into her eyes. Why? I asked softly, just trying to make some kind of sense out of any of this, and guring it was a hopeless task. I knew why I wanted her it was far too obvious but I didnt understand why she wanted me. Not at all. Why what? Whyhow can youwant this? The backs of her ngers brushed my cheekbone. She brought her mouth back to touch me briey, gently running her lips over mine. I let my hand glide down her side until it rested on her hip. Because I can see the man inside of you, she whispered back. Hes not what he tries to show everyone else. Hes not even what he thinks he is. He wasnt trying to do anythingevil. Even as I kissed her again, I didnt believe her. That doesnt make any sense, I said with my lips still against hers. I cant make up for what Ive done to you. But you have tried, she responded. Her ngers twisted into my hair and she pulled me hard against her mouth. I felt her tongue on my lips, and I welcomed itcraved itlonged for it. I would never be able to refuse her again. It just wouldnt be possible.

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I know what you really wanted, she told me. I felt that lump in my throat again. I wanted sex. No, you didnt, Edward, she corrected me. Thats not what you wanted at all. It isnt? She slowly shook her head from one side to the other. You wanted someone to stay with you, she said. You wanted someone you could trust who you knew wouldnt leave. Thats not a bad thing to want, Edward. You just didnt know how to nd that without doing something stupid. I couldnt argue with the last part, but I narrowed my eyes a little. This was not something I wanted to think about, not even inside of my own head. Yeah, I was tired of girlfriends getting sick of me and bailing, but that wasnt why I did this. I justI just didnt want totoI wanted sex, and I didnt want to have toto Fuck it. I had no fucking idea anymore. Besides, we werent supposed to be talking about me here. I didnt want to think about my reasons for shit I knew why I wanted her. She was beautiful and soft, and she made me stop smoking for a while to get more Asian noodles. When she smiled or laughed, it made me want to smile and laugh, too. When she cried, I wanted to make her feel better. But I was responsible for her tears, and I couldnt reconcile that in my head with her gentle touches over my face and shoulders. I dont understand, I admitted. I just couldnt leave it alone I needed something. Answers? I didnt really know. Justication, maybe. My hand stroked against her cheek, and I loved how soft she felt against my skin. How

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can youwant this? With mewith anyone? After everything thats happened. How? She was silent for a moment, looking down and away from me as she nally spoke, her voice trembling. I dont want whatwhat we did before. What they did to me. Her eyes ashed quickly back to me. I will never, ever do that again! Her voice was still quiet, but full of all the hate and venom I would have expected. She took a deep, stuttering breath. I wont do that again. I had no doubt what she meant. Part of me wanted to ask her just how often how many times she had been forced to perform orally until she got it right, but I really didnt think I could handle the answer. Actually, I was completely sure I couldnt handle it. Just thinking about it made me nauseous. How did she even cope? I took her face in both of my hands. I would never ask you to, I told her. Never. She looked up at me and studied my face. Maybe she was trying to decide if I meant it or not, and I could only hope she would believe me. Finally, she nodded. Good. Her forehead dropped back to my chest, and I held her close again. I held her again while my head spun in a complete circle a couple of dozen times. I was so fucking confused, I would have been hard pressed to try to put my feet on the oor and not end up on the ceiling. I wont do that again, Bella repeated with her head still tucked against me. But its not the same thing. I dont want thatI want something else. I know, I answered. But it stilldoesnt seem right. She should hate me, not want me.

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Were married, arent we? Bella suddenly asked. Yeah, I guess we are. I gave her one of my championship shrugs. Technically. But we didnt have a normal wedding night. Notreally. How was I supposed to argue with that? Straight from the chapel to the killing elds, then jump on a plane to go into hiding on another continent? Happy wedding day to you! Yeah, there were easily a dozen other marriages that happened just like that in the same week. Not. Maybe its a girl thing, Bella said with a slight smile. You get this idea in your head about what it will be like. I guess life is never quite like your dreams. I knew what she meant. Id turned her dreams into nightmares. Again, I wanted to take it all back, and again I was powerless to do so. I could not change the past, and I couldnt clear her mind of what she had suffered. What did you think it would be like? I asked. What? Your wedding night. Oh. Bella danced the tips of her ngers over my chest. Not being dragged across the Atlantic for a murder spree, and then spending hours in a train car, thats for sure! I recoiled a bit, and then glanced back at her. There were tears in her eyes for the hundredth time. Like a total moron, I went and opened my mouth again. Ill give you whatever kind you want. She looked to me as she wiped the back of her hand over her cheek. Whatever kind of what? she asked. Wedding night, I said. I know its a little belated, but Ill give it to you.

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Her eyes widened and then narrowed in thought. My heart was beating faster than I ever recalled it doing before, and I opened my mouth to take it all back try to pass it off as some kind of bad joke but thats not what came out of my mouth at all. Ill stay with you, if thats what you want, I told her. Or I can go sleep on the couch if you want to be alone. Or IllIll give you a real wedding night. What does that mean? Even as the words were trying to leave my mouth, I knew they were going to be about as dumb as trying to spread peanut butter on Wonder bread with the at end of one of those big-ass screwdrivers everyone always has in their garage, even though no one ever has any screws that are big enough to be screwed with that sized driver. It would make a damn big mess, though wouldnt it? Kind of like what usually comes out of my mouth. Ill make love to you, if thats what you want, I said. My throat tightened up, but self-strangulation was to come way too late. Bella turned her head to look up at me again. For the longest time she just stared, until I was starting to feel like that guy in the human zoo from Slaughter House Five. I wondered if there was any way I could do a little time-jumping around and maybe take some of the shit I spewed back into my mouth. It didnt work in that book, though, so I guess I was screwed. Do you even know how to make love? she asked. I closed my eyes and paused while I tried to nd a way to remain silent. I had no idea how to answer her. My skin started to feel too tight for my insides, and there was this weird pressure behind my eyes, and I didnt know what to make of it. Finally I opened them again, and just went with what was as close to truth as I could muster. I dont know, I told her. Ive never tried. The backs of her ngers stroked my face again.

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So it would be a rst for you, too? Her voice was so quiet I could hardly hear her. Yeah. My voice was nothing more than breath through my lips. If she really wanted it, it was okay, right?

Chapter 63:

For the longest time, we just looked at each other. I contemplated the phrase making love, and wondered if I was even capable of doing such a thing. I knew fucking, but I hadnt watched enough chick icks to understand how they were different. Bella would know, though, but I didnt want to ask her. I wanted toprove I could do it. For her. So what made it different?

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It should be slow, I gured. And it should be someplace nice, and someplace where she was safe, and I didnt have to worry about someone showing up in the middle of the night. Lee. Shit. Bella, we have to get out of here, I said. Why? That guy who was here he was probably just a customer, but having anyone know where you are isnt safe. We need to get out of here. Now? Now. I leaned in and brushed my lips over hers once again. I will give you the wedding night you want, I promised her. Ill make it good I swear I will. Just not now and not here. Bellas eyes studied mine for a minute before she nodded. I dragged us both out of the bed and started throwing shit into the suitcases we had brought. I watched Bella carefully tuck the little castle snow globe in a nest she made out of one of her shirts. She also packed what looked like a white shirt box into her bag. I remembered it from the hotel in Paris, but hadnt thought to ask about it. Whats in there? Bella smiled and bit down on her lip. Youll see, she responded cryptically. I narrowed my eyes at her, but didnt really have the time to get into it. Maybe Id ask again once we were in the car. I threw the rest of my stuff in my bag, holstered my gun under my jacket and started putting things in the car. Bella followed me out with her bag, and we headed down the driveway in the dark. Once I got to the main road, I looked around and didnt see any more cars,

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which made sense at four in the morning. I pulled out and headed towards the train station. Within about two minutes, I saw a car behind me. Id been going at a pretty decent clip, and they would have had to be going faster to have caught up with me, but once they were in my sights, they stayed about the same distance behind me. Not good. I grabbed the phone and called Rosalie. I just got out of the shower and Im going to bed, she quipped over the phone. Im getting Bella out of here, I told her. We had a visitor, and now Ive got a trailer. I told her about Lee Stephens, and she agreed she had never heard the name before. She yelled to Emmett to contact Harry Clearwater and see if he really knew him or not. I need the train schedules for Dilsberg, I told Rose. Whatever one will get us out of Germany the fastest. I looked back behind me. The headlights were still in plain view no closer, no farther away. Make that two trains heading to two different countries. Rose gave me the info, which I repeated to Bella and she wrote down. Ill get the tickets ordered for you, Rose told me. Once we hear back from Harry or Seth Ill call you back. She hung up, and I increased my speed. The headlights went out of view, but only for a minute before they were back again. What do we do? Bella asked, sounding a little panicked. I reached over and grabbed her hand. Her ngers wrapped around mine. We get on one train, hope whoever is behind us gets on it, too, then we get off and get on the second one instead. Well have to move fast.

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I saw her nod in my peripheral vision. I sped up again, and we were rally ying now, but the car remained the same distance away from us. I slowed down, and they didnt get any closer. We rode in silence the short distance to the Dilsberg train station, and I parked the car right up by the front door, where we abandoned it. The other car passed us up, turning slowly into the parking lot. Come on, I said as I took Bellas hand and dragged her through the station. I bought both sets of tickets, using some of my more colorful German words when the guy in the booth asked why I was getting tickets to two countries on trains that were leaving ve minutes apart. He backed down, gave me the tickets, and we headed towards the platforms next to the lines of trains. I scouted out the train that left second and would head to Switzerland, nding it already waiting four platforms away from the rst train, which would take passengers to Lichtenstein. We had about twenty minutes until the rst one was scheduled to take off, so I walked Bella slowly up and down random platforms watching for anyone who might have been following us. He wasnt hard to nd. There werent a huge number of passengers looking for transportation at this time of night, and he stood out just because he wasnt looking around at train schedules or even carrying a bag. Amateur. It wasnt Stephens, because he was way too short and lanky. I considered nding a place to just off him before we left, but there really wasnt time. I doubted he was going to actually follow me into a mens room anyway. I led Bella to the train heading for Lichtenstein, and we boarded at the very front of the train, which was the farthest from the station, and then began walking slowly down the cars until we reached the back. The guy was still behind us, leaning over the edge and smoking a cigarette, but watching us closely. Damn, I wanted a cigarette. We stopped at the second to last car, standing just outside the little siding door to the area when you could sit and relax. Yeah, we were doing a lot of relaxing right now. Bella hadnt said anything, but she knew I was watching the guy, and she kept twisting her ngers around themselves and biting her lip. I leaned

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over and kissed her lightly, whispering that it would be all right, even though I knew it wasnt the very best of circumstances. The conductor announced that the train was leaving. I grabbed Bellas hand and raced to the edge and the stairs that led off the train and back onto the platform. I glanced behind me and saw the guy toss his cigarette down and start running towards us. With Bellas hand in mine, we jumped from the train just as it started to move, landing on the platform below just as the conductor started yelling at us. Bella stumbled, and I had to drop the bag I was carrying to keep her from falling. I looked over my shoulder and saw our trailer arguing with the conductor, who was holding him back as the train began to leave. He shoved the conductor hard, and I started to run, leaving the bag behind me with all mishit in it, mentally taking note of what was inside and guring none of it really mattered. We raced up the platform to the middle of the station, over to the platform of the train for Switzerland, and got to the rst car just as the conductor was starting to shut the gate. It was all going to be good now, right?

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Chapter 64

I made my third pass around the train, and I still didnt see any sign of the guy who had been following us before, but I wasnt stupid enough to think he couldnt have any friends. We changed trains when we stopped in Stuttgart and headed to Luxembourg. We bought multiple tickets again there, and switched again at the last possible minute to head back to Paris. I had to practically carry Bella to the train car, she was so tired. It was afternoon, and we hadnt slept all night. As soon as we entered the private car, I shut the door, pulled the shade down to block out the sun, and let her lay down on the seat with her head in my lap. She was out about thirty seconds later, leaving me to think. I was doing a lot of thinking lately, and I didnt like it. Not at all. I kept thinking about some of the things Bella has said about me and trying to wrap my head around them. I didnt want to just tell her she was wrong, but I was pretty sure all I had really wanted was sex, because jerking off sucks and I was tired of having to deal girlfriends who were expecting more from me. I never wanted more. I didnt want to take women out to movies and dinner and shit like that. There was no interest on my part to go tour a fucking museum or go watch some concert with a woman. I didnt have any desire to walk in the park or go dancing. I ran my hand over Bellas shoulder, and she sighed in her sleep. I remembered dancing with herwell, if you could call what we were doing dancing. I recalled how she felt in my arms, and wondered if I would take her somewhere where there was actual music to go with it. Of course, I didnt really know how to dance, but I might be willing to just hold her and sway around a bit again, even though I would look like an idiot in the process. Maybe if I just got some decent music in a hotel room, it would be good enough. I sucked at this.

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Emmett called, and I answered quickly and quietly so it wouldnt wake up Bella. Harry said hes never heard of the guy, Emmett told me. Seth either. Were looking for the name, but so far we got nothing. Probably not his real name at all. Got a picture? It was dark, I told him, but you might be able to get an image off the security cameras. Ill get Rose on it. Thanks. She wants to talk to you. How is Bella? Rosalie asked. Sleeping. Not what is she doing, how is she doing, you idiot. I dont know, I answered. How was I supposed to answer that? Tell her to hang in there she wont have to put up with you much longer. Let her know were close on the chip. Maybe another week. Okay. I hung up. Another week. Still four days past her birthday, but at least it was close. Bella rolled slightly, and I had to keep hold of her so she didnt fall off the bench all together. She didnt wake up, and I was glad. She needed the rest. I put my head back and closed my eyes for a minute. One more week, and Bella could go back to her family and I could go back to my business. As much as I wanted her to be with her family again, I hated the idea. I didnt want her to be nearly a whole freaking continent away from me. I wondered what it would take to relocate to Seattle or something. I started mentally listing all the crime businesses in the area, thought about some of the

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names and wondered who I would have to fuck up to make it happen. The list in my head wasnt bad, at least. Id have to do a little more research. Research. I pulled my phone back out, went to Google, typed in being romantic and hit the search key. There was a freaking wiki on it. When I was done reading it, I felt like I knew even less than I did before I looked. I tried another one. It didnt help. Frustrated, I tossed the phone on to the bench and closed my eyes again. Everything seemed to be assuming you were in a real relationship, not that you had recently married your ex-master and were now hiding from unknown villains as you traipsed across Europe. I picked the phone back up and Googled that, but nothing that came up made any sense at all. One was about vampires in books, and another about Nazis. Yeah, not working. I sighed, wanted to just say fuck it and forget the whole thing, but then I looked down at the girl in my lap. For once, I wanted to do something the right way. I wanted to give her the wedding night she dreamed about, sex or not. I wanted to make her feel wantedcared forloNofuck, no. I couldnt think like that. It was far too fucking wrong. Still, I wanted to do something for her. At least get a decent hotel room and maybe some owers and Champaign. That seemed so trite though, and I didnt want her to be disappointed because it was kind of boring romantic, either. On the other hand, wed had a little too much excitement lately.

Maybe boring was the way to go, right?

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Chapter 65:

Bella was still pretty groggy when we got to Paris. I half walked/half carried her into the lobby and sat her down in an overstuffed chair while I checked in. The hotel I had chosen was just down the street from the Eiffel Tower. I remembered how she had looked at it when we were here before, and I asked for a room with a good view of it. At rst, the lady at the desk tried to discourage me those rooms were expensive. Once I set her straight on that deal by handing her my shiny black credit card, we got the pick of the entire hotel. When we walked into the room, Bella was instantly awake. The hotel had an odd, triangular shape to it very modern for the rest of the area we were in. Our room was on one on the angles, and as you walked in, the suite doors opened into the bedroom, which was two whole walls of glass, meeting at an angle on the far side. The bed was in the center, and the lights of Paris were shining through the windows and making the whole room glow with light. The view of the tower was nothing short of spectacular. Bella went to the window and looked out at the giant landmark with the light from the setting sun making it glow in the distance. I ran my hand through my hair and just watched her as she marveled over it. She turned back to me and her eyes were glowing. My heart started to beat faster, which was really starting to make me wonder if I didnt need a complete physical once all this was over. Its beautiful, Bella said. She walked back over to me and tossed her arms casually around my neck. It feltweird. Good weird. Like they were supposed to be there, but since nothing else was ever supposed to be there beforewell, I didnt understand it, but I liked it.

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I put my arms around her waist and gave me a half smile. I tried not to focus on her lips too much, though I really did want to kiss her again. I was also kind of wondering if she hadnt wised up on the trip over here, and would maybe tell me she didnt want anything to do with me anymore. Actually, I kind of waited for her to tell me that about every thirty seconds or so. Maybe she wouldnt say anything. Maybe Id just come back from getting ice or something and she just wouldnt be here anymore. For some reason, I remembered my mother ddling around with the rabbit ears on top of the television in the trailer the day I went to school in the morning, and when I came back that afternoon she gone. She didnt say anything to me as I got my book bag and walked to the bus stop, but I remembered her yelling at the TV. It was the last time I saw her. Why do you look so sad? Bella suddenly asked. Im not, I replied. What were you thinking about? Ummy mom, I guess, I said with a shrug. What about her? Nothing, really. That answer apparently wasnt good enough, because she kept on me until I told her more. I was just thinking about the day they left, I nally admitted. Why? Bella asked. What did she say? Nothing, I told her. She was trying to get the TV to work. She didnt say anything to me.

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Did you ever see her again? Bellas eyes had narrowed and her brow was all furrowed up. She looked like she was upset, and I didnt want her feeling that way. Not about me. It just wasnt worth it. I didnt have to share the TV all afternoon, I said with a smile. Bella did not return the smile, but instead, her hand reached up and brushed over my cheek. There was something wrong with her, Edward, Bella said softly. Not you. You were just a kid. Moms arent supposed to be like that. I didnt know what to say to that, so I didnt say anything. I never really noticed anything wrong with her. It was just a shit situation we didnt have any money or anything, so she did what she could, I guess. Thats why I started running guns in the rst place the money was fucking incredible. It still was. I kind of wondered if I had gotten a job before they left and brought in some moneywell...maybe they wouldnt have gone. Bellas eyes dropped down to my lips, and a moment later she had risen up on her toes to reach me. I let her tongue run over mine as my hand ran up her back, holding her close to me. We stood there for a moment, just kissing gently and holding each other. It was strange, like Bella throwing her arms around me was strange. I had just never done something like this just kissed. I never would have even considered it before. Before her. Her arms slid down to my shoulders and she pulled at me until her she sat back on the bed. She looked up at me and smiled the most incredible smile I had ever seen. It was beautiful, and sexy, and lovely, and justjustjoyous. I crawled into the bed after her, crawling up her body as she lay backwards on the bed. My mouth found hers again, and she tangled her ngers in my hair and pulled me close to her. I knew it wasnt right.

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I knew it wasnt good. But I really, really wanted it, right?

Chapter 66

The sweet taste of her mouth and the feeling of her ngers tangled in my hair were my sole points of focus. Everything about the guy following us, the all day trip through multiple countries, and the subsequent paranoia over who Lee Stephens might really be was forgotten. Bella was the only thing in my world. Again, I had to wonder why I had never really considered just kissing to be all that interesting. I did it, since the women I had been with seemed to want it, but it was only the means to an end not something to be enjoyed in its own right. But with Bella, everything was different.

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I sucked her bottom lip into my mouth, licking along its edge before releasing it and moving to her chin, down her throat, and to the little indentation at the bottom of her neck. I kissed her there, licked her, and then moved over to her shoulder. Bellas grip in my hair guided me back to her mouth, where I went happily. As I kissed her, I could feel her hands running up my arms, over my shoulders, down my back, and back around to my chest. I loved the feeling of her hands on me. Her touch was so soft and gentle, and I almost couldnt feel it through my shirt. I wanted to take the damn thing off, and immediately started second guessing myself on how good of an idea that was. She wanted me. I could feel it. Other women had wanted to have sex with me because I was attractive or rich or whatever, but this didnt feel the same. I wanted her. Wellno shit. I pulled away from her a bit and looked down at her. Her hands roamed up my sides and over my face. She pulled my face back down to hers, and I felt the edge of her teeth catch hold of my lip, which made me moan. She giggled, tilted my head with her hands, and kissed up the side of my jaw. Once she got to my ear, she made her way back down my neck, and kissed my Adams apple. I opened my eyes and looked down to her, trying to gure out why she was so blurry. Edward? Bellas eyes narrowed at me. Are you all right? I tried to answer, but my words became all garbled. I rolled to my side and wrapped my arms around her to pull her to my chest. She smelled good. Edward. Bellas voice change a little. She sounded like she wasscolding me? Did you sleep on the trains at all?

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No, I managed to mumble back. Now that she had said the word sleep, I had a pretty good idea what was wrong with me. Its like it was a magic word, and just her utterance was enough to put me out. Had towatch. You look like you are going to pass out, Bella said. I was going to argue with her, but my head had gone all fuzzy, along with my logic. It was also getting harder to open my eyes, even though looking at her was denitely something I wanted to do. Some little, still working part of my brain told me I hadnt been to sleep in over forty eight hours, and then insisted I go nd a Starbucks. I wasnt so sure that was a good idea. I felt Bellas hand on my face, slowly stroking the ends of her ngers from the top of my head, along my hairline, down over my jaw, and then back again. She repeated te movement, and I could feel myself smile a little. That feels good, I told her. My speech was all garbled, and I wondered if she could even understand what I was saying. Go to sleep, Edward, Bella whispered back to me. I felt her lips against my forehead, and then her hand was gone. Dont stop, I frowned. I managed to open my eyes just a crack, but then they closed again. Dont stop what? Bella asked. It was harder to speak coherently than it was to move, so my hand grabbed for her hand and placed it against my face again. I rolled against her, tucking my head into the space between her neck and shoulder. I heard Bella laugh quietly, but her ngers began to stroke my face again, so I was happy. It was okay to be happy for a minute, right?

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Chapter 67:

It felt like my brain was vibrating. I didnt think I had ever gone so long without sleep, and I would have expected it to happen faster, but I didnt just drop into unconsciousness like you would think. I just lay next to Bella concentrating on the scent of her neck and the feeling of her hand on my face. When her voice oated into my ears, I gured I must have fallen asleep. Her soft words felt like they were caressing my neck and jaw on their way up to my ears. I dont know what to think of you sometimes, I heard her say. You must be the most bizarre man to ever live. Youve done simply horrible things, but inside it all its like you are just a little child looking for his mommy. Why arent you angry with them? They left you with nothing, but it doesnt even occur to you that what they did was wrong. Even when they were there, it doesnt sound like you were ever given what you needed when you were little. The backs of her ngers ran over my neck. The tingling in my skin seemed to match the tingling in my brain. Everything felt warm. You dont even know what you are missing. I dont think you have any idea what it is like to care for someone, or to have someone care for you. You wouldnt even know it if it was happening. You dont know it when its happening. No wonder you thought you had to buy yourself someone to be with you. I want to hate you. Her voice was so soft in my dream, I could barely hear her. Even though the sound was muted, the words still slammed into me like a wrecking ball. And I did, at rst, but then I just thought you were the lesser of the evils in front of me. Once I understoodreally understood that you all but hand-picked me Under my cheek I could feel her take a deep breath and let it out slowly.

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I hated you again. Her hand stopped moving on my cheek, and then it was gone from my skin entirely. If my mom hadif she had died...I would have killed you in your sleep the rst chance I had. My dream had certainly turned nightmare, but there didnt seem to be any way out of it. Just like Bella had no way out of her nightmareit would always be there, lurking in the back. It didnt matter if I could return her to the normalcy of her parents and her school friends; it would always haunt her existence. You look so peaceful when you are sleeping, she said, and the strange dream took on yet another tone. Her ngers started running over my face again, and I hoped this meant the nightmare was over. So much younger andI dont knowdifferent. Like maybe this is how you were supposed to be the way you would have been if you had been raised right. You are beautiful like this. I heard her sigh. I always thought you were the most attractive man I had ever seen. It didnt matter not at rst. You were still ugly to me then. But nowafter everything you are trying to do for meeven though you know theres nothing you can really do to make it rightits different now. Somewhere inside of you is someone who could be caring and loving, if he only knew what it meant. When I look at you now, I think maybe you really could be beautiful. Bella I tried to get some words out, but like most dreams, I couldnt make myself do what I wanted to do. Her name came out as a breathy, sleep-led whisper, and nothing more. I tightened my grip around her waist, holding her close to me. Shh I felt her hand cupping my cheek and her lips against my forehead again. Dont wake upshhsleep now. As she said the word sleep this time, I felt my mind letting go, and I slowly drifted completely out of consciousness, with no more dreams to interrupt my rest. It was all just a dream, right?

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Chapter 68

I sat against the wall by the bed, my knees drawn up close to my chest, cigarette dangling from my ngers, and generally feeling wretched. Nothing like a little realism to completely destroy what I thought had been a pretty nice evening. Wed had dinner in the hotel restaurant because I didnt want to venture out in the open. Bella had protested a little, but eventually gave in for the same of her safety and my sanity. She wanted to see the sights of Paris, but I needed a little more intelligence gathered on my late night visitor and at least one, mostly incompetent stalker. Dinner went well, all things considered. I drank a little too much, which probably didnt help the rest of the evening. Bella didnt drink anything, which probably didnt help the rest of the evening, either. I might have admitted to myself later that I was brooding a bit. I had promised Bella a wedding night, and I had no idea what that should entail. I thought Id get someone at the hotel to help me come up with ideas and whatever of shit to do, but I overslept. Maybe if I had gotten my shit together that night it would have gone better. Probably not. Im glad we came back to Paris, Bella said as she swirled a spoon around in her dessert. I just hope youll at least let us get out a little bit. I will, I said, hoping I could keep my promise. I took a swig of my fourth?...fth?...scotch. We should have the rest of the information we need sometime tomorrow. Perfect! Bella smiled. Then you can take me out for my birthday.

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Shit. I had forgotten about her birthday. Its tomorrow? I asked. I felt my hand tugging at the ends of my hair. The day after, she corrected. She raised an eyebrow as she peered over her glass at me. Oh goodsome time to prepareumsomething. A cake? Did they even make birthday cakes in Europe? Fuck if I knew. There was only one thing she really wanted, and I couldnt give it to her. Sorry I couldnt get you back to your family by then, I told her, then immediately regretted mentioning it. Bellas eyes dropped to the table. Its all right, she said in a voice that made it damn clear it wasnt right at all. I do wish you would let me call them, though. No way, I said. Not until its time for you to go home. What difference does it make, Edward? Bellas eyes glanced up at mine. If I could just tell them Im okay, then they wouldnt spend my whole birthday wondering if Im dead. I could just tell them not to worryand that Ill be home soon. Edward, please. Do not look up at puppy dog eyesdo not look up at puppy dog eyes No, I repeated. I couldnt look at her, because the look that was bound to be in her eyes would tear me up. I wanted to give her what she desired, but I couldnt give her that. It wouldnt be safe for either of us. I took a deep breath and tried to change the subject. I clinked my scotch glass against her water. Heres to the few short days we have left, I said stoically. Well still be able to see each other afterwards, Edward, Bella said with a little smile that did not touch her eyes. She was obviously a little pissed about the phone call thing, but we had that conversation at least once a day.

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Yeah, sure we will, I mumbled. I slipped enough to cover the bill and tip and started to stand. My legs were a little shaky, and walking was not my forte at that precise moment. We should go back to the room. Bella stood as well, dropping her napkin down on her plate. Why cant I call? Bella continued to push as we entered the elevator and listened to the hum as it rose into the air. I wont tell them where we are, just let them know Im okay, and No! I nally yelled. I was sick of the whole conversation. Why not? she yelled right back at me. Because I really dont relish the idea of Cop Daddy showing up here! Bellas face went pale. I stomped out of the elevator and down the hall to the last room. When I opened it, the Eiffel Tower lights were sparkling in the darkness. I heard Bella walk in behind me and the click of the door as it shut. You didnt tell me you knew, she said softly. You didnt tell me your dad was a cop, I turned and quipped at her. My head was denitely fuzzy. What difference does it make if you already know? she snapped back. So you were intentionally keeping it from me, I challenged. Again, this was very likely the single malt talking here. Fuzzy-schmuzzy. I was drunk. Are you saying that you thought I was keeping it from you, and you turned around and kept it from me, too? Something about the overly serious look on her face or again, the single malt made me laugh. I stumbled a little, too, but mostly I laughed. Pot, meet kettle! I said with a smile, pointed rst at her, then at myself. I was feeling warm and snarky, and pretty sure I was making a damn funny joke,

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regardless of the look on Bellas face. Kettle, meet pot! Pot, kettlekettle pot! More laughing. I was kind of waiting for her to join me, but she didnt. Do you think, I was denitely slurring at this point, when he meets me, your dad will want to shoot me straight in the face, or will he prefer to blow my balls off rst? I laughed again. Then I tried to gure out why the side of my face was stinging so bad. And next, I tried to gure out why Bella had tears in her eyes, and then why she was locked in the bathroom. It all happened so quick, and even when I kind of came to my senses either from the slap across the face or from the slam of the bathroom door, I wasnt sure I still didnt really understand what had just transpired. Visions of a half dozen women walking out on me after a apparent ght that I didnt understand was happening danced through my head. Kate walking out of my ofce, Jessica walking out in the middle of a restaurant, Tanya leaving me on the dance oor at the fucking prom. Id fucked it up. I didnt know what I had done, but I had denitely fucked it up. She was going to go. She was going to leave me. I was going to be alone again. And unlike the other times, the thought wasnt just bringing me back to a state of normalcy. This time the very idea crushed down on my chest and I felt like I was drowning. I couldnt get enough air, and I started panting just to get oxygen. Not long after that, I dropped to the oor, unable to keep my feet underneath me.

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Once my little hyperventilation attack was over, I crawled over to this place next to the bed and started chain smoking. This was a smoking room, right?

Chapter 70

Shower to get the smoke smell off of me check. Extra tooth brushing to get the smoke smell off me check. Hefty doses of mouthwash for the same check. Room aired out forumtheres a theme here, isnt there? check. Leaving my shirt off right before I came to bed at Bellas request doublefucking check.

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Okay so we werent actually having make up sex, because we werent..well having sexbut the term meant something to me for the rst time ever. Emmett had talked about it before, and I had certainly heard the expression on more than one occasion, but I didnt really understand it. I guess Id never made up with someone before. Bellas hands were in my hair, then running down my arms and back up over my chest. Her mouth never left mine, and I was actually starting to wonder if she was on the swimming team or something, because she could really hold her breath a long time. I ran my hand over her stomach and held onto her waist while I kissed her trying to not be too forceful, though I was feeling a little moreurgent as time went by. Well, all right, I was hard as a rock. I kept pulling back a little with my hips, because I didnt want to be grinding up against her. I mean, I did want to, but I wasnt ready to give her a proper wedding night now I needed to prepare rst. My ngers snuck underneath the hem of her shirt just a little just so I could feel her skin. Bella pushed me back a bit, and I cringed, sure I had overstepped whatever boundaries there were. She raised herself up a little then grabbed the end of her shirt and pulled it up over her head. Jesus, I whispered. I was completely unable to take my eyes away from her breasts. Id seen them before touched them, tasted them but they seemed different than I remembered. More beautiful, more symmetrical, more generally fucking perfect. Bellas hands reached for my biceps and pulled me back down over her, bringing my lips back to hers. My hand went back to her waist, then tentatively up a little just farther along her side. Frankly, I was scared shitless to touch them. Once I did Id probably lose all sense, and then Id fucked up my plan for tomorrow whatever the hell that was going to be. Apparently, Bella was going to have none of that, though, because she let go of my arm, grabbed my hand, and moved it right over the top of her right breast. I cursed into her mouth, because I couldnt properly speak with my tongue running around in there. It was so soft and round, and when I gripped it just a

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little she moaned. I ran my thumb over the nipple, feeling it harden with my touch. Bellas hands were all over me up over my shoulders, my back, down to my stomach. Her ngers tickled over my abs, and between that and the fall night breeze coming in through the windows, my skin rose up in gooseesh. Then her hand abruptly dropped lower. And it wrapped around my cock. Oh God She stroked it from base to tip, then back again. And I just about lost my mind. Not much of a loss, though, right?

Chapter 71

Bellas hand continued running up and down my lounge-pants covered shaft while my brain turned into a melted pudding pop. My hand was still against her breast, and my mouth was still completely engulfed in hers, so I couldnt really protest. Not that I wanted to. What I wanted to do was roll right over her, shred the sweats she was wearing and fuck her into tomorrow. Tomorrow. Bellas birthday. Bella, I mumbled around her lips. It was really hard to remove myself from those lips, but I felt like I really, really needed to try. Bella pleaseplease stop.

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She broke away from me and looked up into my eyes, the hurt and confusion from the other night coming back and tearing into me. I was going to fuck it all up again. I couldnt let that happen. No! I cried out, and my hand went immediately from her breast to the side of her face. I want you, BellaBella I doI want you so much! Why stop? she asked. I take her face in both of my hands and kiss her softly on her lips. I will give you your wedding night, I vowed to her. It wasnt lost on me that we hadnt really had any wedding vows at all just said a couple of words while the overworked guy at his desk signed the papers. I swear I will. But I want to make it perfect for you. I dont want to rush into it when youre probably still mad at me, at least a little. Im not, she insisted with a shake of her head. Im ready now, Edward. Im not ready, I told her. You are too important to just do this. I want toto make it right. Make itspecial? Why did I sound like I was asking a fucking question? Please, Bella. Please let me make it right for you. I just need a little time. Bella pushed me back away from her and sat up. She looked over to the twinkling lights outside the window and bit at her lip for a minute before turning back. Tomorrow? she said softly Tomorrow, I agreed. Bella smiled, but her disappointment still obvious in her expression. I dont know why I didnt occur to me before, but there was still plenty to be done, even if we werent going all the way. Damnit, I sounded like a fucking teenager. Of course, Bella was a fucking teenager.

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Well, not a fucking one. Not yet anyway. Shit. I tugged at my hair for a second to try and refocus myself. If I thought about this too muchI mean, she really was young. Eighteen to my twenty eight. No wait nineteen tomorrow. That made all the difference, didnt it? At least I wasnt a full decade older than her was. Bella reached down and grabbed her shirt where it lay on top of the blanket. I put my hand on top of hers, stopping her movement. That didnt mean I was done with you yet, I told her, and her eyes ashed up to mine. I slid my ngers up the side of her arm slowly, then across her shoulder and back down to her breast. So soft I glanced back up at her as my thumb grazed her nipple. I just want to save the rest for tomorrow, you know? Birthday present? Bella said as she raised her eyebrows at me. Exactly. I smiled. Looking into her eyes, I took the chance and ran my thumb back over her nipple again, then pinched it softly. She gasped, and I covered her mouth with mine as I slowly lowered her back to the bed. I held myself over her and kissed slowly up her jaw to her ear. I still get to give you an early birthday present, dont I? Hmm Bella hummed. What are you going to give me? My hand traveled down her neck and rested on her hip. I knew exactly what I wanted to give her, but I wasnt really too sure how to go about saying it. I knew one thing I had about a ninety percent chance of saying it wrong. My best strategy had been to shut the fuck up, but I had to say something here. I want to shove my ngers in your pussy and make you come while screaming my name didnt seem to be the most romantic option. I looked from my hand back to her face, hoping I was doing the right thing and not reading her wrong. If she was ready to actually have sex with me, surely

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this would be okay. I licked my lips and took a slow breath, blowing warm air gently over her neck. Bella shivered, and her ngers dug into my biceps. I moved back down her jaw, over her chin, and then down her neck. I kissed across her collarbones and nuzzled my nose against the top of her breasts before I brought my eyes back to hers. Can I touch you? My hand slipped from her hip to her stomach, and my ngers lifted the edge of her sweats up just a little so they could sneak underneath. She would let me do this, right?

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Chapter 72

I felt my heart start beating again as Bella slowly nodded her head at me. As my left hand pushed past the hem of her sweats, my right hand reached back behind her head, bringing her up towards me so I could keep kissing her. I was really, really afraid of freaking her out she hadnt had a nightmare for several days, and I didnt want to do anything that might trigger another one. I had no idea what all had been done to her while she was with Aro and James, and I was still too scared to ask her. I kissed her slowly while my hand delved through the soft hair under her pants, pushing just two of my ngers farther down, underneath the elastic of her panties, stroking over her clit. She moaned a little, and I moved down more, honestly surprised by how much moisture there was to be found there already. The tips of my ngers ran around the outside of her entrance, just gathering the wetness there before bringing them back up and slowly circling around her clit. Bella gasped and her head tilted back, breaking her lips away from mine. You like that? I ask with a bit of a smile. For the rst time since she kissed me in Germany, I felt like I knew what I was doing. This was something I was good at at least according to the other women I had known. Yes, she said softly, not looking at me. Her cheeks turned pink, and I cupped her chin in my hand. If I do anything you dont like, you have to tell me, I said with more vehemence than I intended. I took a deep breath. Tell me if you like what Im doing as well, okay? Okay, she said quietly. Her eyes blinked a few times, and I kept watching them as I ran my ngers over her again. Her eyes widened, and her mouth opened just a little as her breath became more shallow and quickened. I kissed up her jaw again, moving slowly up to her ear. I sucked on the lobe while my ngers glided over her soft esh. I felt her hips tip up a little, and

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increased the pressure as I touched her clit. She looked absolutely stunning when I looked up at her face, with her eyes mostly closed. I kissed down to her shoulder, running my tongue over her warm skin, and then blowing softly until she shivered. My hand rocked back and forth, and I took cues from her expression and the pace of her hips moving against me. One of Bellas hands gripped my shoulder while the other laced into my hair. I brought my lips back to her mouth, lightly tracing her lips with my tongue while my ngers slid up and down. My middle nger circled her opening, softly running around the moist edge. Carefully, I slipped it inside just a little ways, and my eyes squeezed tight as I felt her esh surrounding it. Bella gasped again, and I had to look up to make sure she was okay. Id never been with a virgin never and coupling that with not knowing what they had done to her beforewell, apprehension didnt even begin to describe what I felt. Thankfully, Bella was there to set me straight. Her eyes darted over to mine. That feels good, she whispered. You sure? Oh yes. I nodded and pulled my nger back out, and then pushed it inside of her again, a little farther this time. I had no idea what I was expecting an actual, physical barrier blocking even my nger from going in? I knew she was tight no fucking doubt about that even my nger felt constricted inside of her. I shifted positions a little, pushing it up farther, and then bringing it back out to circle around her clit again. Bellas hips bucked up against me, effectively pushing my whole hand against her sensitive esh. You want more of that, baby? I whispered into her ear. Bella moaned in response. You like my nger in you?

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Oh GodEdward Her eyes had gone all wide and wild, and when she looked at me I couldnt help but smirk. Denitely a smirk, not a smile. Bella liked dirty talk. Yeah I could denitely work with that. How does that feel, baby? I asked her as I slid my nger inside of her, feeling less resistance this time. You want more of that, dont you? Mmmmhmmm I icked my tongue over her nipple, and her whole body jumped. She landed back on the mattress with her head back and her neck arched. Her hips pushed against my hand, driving my middle nger completely inside of her. Her cheeks and neck ushed pink, and her chest began to rise and fall as she angled her hips and started moving faster with me. So fucking beautiful. My thumb went to her clit, stroking it and wetting it with her own moisture as she continued writhe against the bed. You feel so good in side. I licked and sucked at her nipple, then moved to the other one. I cant wait until my cocks inside of you, stroking you just like my nger is now. OhfuckEdward Dont you say my name until you scream it, I murmured into her ear before I went back to her nipples again, biting lightly and humming against them. I moved my nger all the way in side of her, then back out again before I held it right next to my index nger, and slowly pushed both in together as my thumb pushed down against her clit hard. Bellas entire body seemed to react at once. Her hips pushed against my hand, her back arched, which made her hardened nipples practically stab holes in the ceiling, and a shudder ran from her body from top to bottom. Her eyes were closed, her mouth open, and when my name came out of her mouth this time, it came out as a wail, and my ngers were squeezed together inside of her.

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She was the most incredible sight I had ever seen. Even when her ngernails dug into the esh on my shoulder, it just felt good. Pulling my ngers from her, I slowly caressed over her for a minute before running my hand back up through her short, soft hair, across her stomach and around to her waist. I pulled her close to me, kissing her shoulder and her neck as I went. I nally looked up into her glowing eyes. I nally got something right, right?

Chapter 73:

Bellas hand nally unclenched my shoulder and ran down my arm. She wrapped me up in a hug, which I returned wholeheartedly. We kissed softly a few times no tongues or anything, just gentle and slow. That was really incredible, Bella said. I looked away from her for a minute, trying to keep my smirk to a bare minimum, but I couldnt pretend hearing her say that didnt make me want to go stand on the top of that monstrous tower and scream Bella Swan came all over my hand!!! She probably wouldnt appreciate the gesture. Anytime you like, I responded instead. I kissed her forehead and squirmed a little when her ngertips brushed lightly over my sides. Her hand moved to rub across my stomach before she started heading down again. I grabbed her wrist and brought her hand back to my hip, placing it there rmly. I shook my head at her. Dont do that, I said. Shouldnt Ireturn the favor? Bella said quietly. No, I said. I shook my head again. Its your early birthday present, not mine.

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How was I supposed to explain that I already owed her one? Shed had my cock in her mouth and let me come down her throat the very rst night I met her. It seemed like so fucking long ago, and I really didnt consider that experience to be anything like what I felt with her now orgasm or not. Now that I knew what she had gone through, I wished to God the rst night had never happened. The last thing I wanted to do was remind her of it, though. Thats not reallyfairis it? Bella inquired. I swallowed hard. I didnt think this was something I could explain to her. You cant exactly come out with your best Andrew Dice Clay impersonation and say Yo, bitch its payback for the blowjob. At the very least, I didnt want to bring the shit up at all, because what was happening right at this moment was pretty good, and I didnt want to fuck it up. There were probably a dozen completely unknown to me ways of fucking it up, and since I didnt know what they were, I might still do them. This one though I knew this would fuck it up. This would fuck it up royally. Besides, women didnt seem to nd Andrew Dice Clay impersonations very funny. I was never sure exactly why. I had to think of something to say to her though, or she was going to push the issue. I could see the look in her eyes the one that usually led to her laying it on the line for me and me giving into whatever she wanted, no matter how stupid an idea it was. I didnt think I could go with something quite as lame as its bedtime, though. Then I actually had what might have been a brilliant thought. Well, at least it didnt seem to be totally stupid. Im saving myself for our wedding night, I said with a smile. Bella laughed and shook her head. Okay, she agreed with a shrug and a furrowed brow. Are you sure theres nothing you want?

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I kept my eyes on hers as I slowly reached out and took her chin in my ngers. I kissed her one more time, and then my hand traveled slowly over her shoulder, down her arm, and to her hand, where I could wrap her ngers in mine. I pulled her hand up in front of my body, held it against my chest for a moment, and then brought it up to kiss the backs of her knuckles. With one more look into her eyes, I placed the palm of her hand against my cheek and released it. I then snuggled my head into that cozy little spot between her neck and shoulder. I didnt seem to need to say anything else Bella just immediately pushed all my hair back off my forehead and away from my ear with her ngertips before her hand starting caressing me from my temple to my chin and back again. It felt like heaven. If I was good sometimes I could have what I wanted, right?

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Chapter 74:

Sunday is my favorite day. On Sundays, I get a bath. Mommy picks me up and carries me into the bathroom and runs the water, and then she uses the little blue washcloth to wash me. I have two cups I can use in the tub to pour water back and forth, and I like watching the water stream from one to the other. When I dump a cup over my head, she uses her hand to push the water off of my face and away from my eyes. I pull open the cabinet underneath the bathroom sink and get the cups and washcloth before I go into the living room where Mommy is on the couch. I go to her and hold out the items in my hand. Bath? I ask. She hums, but doesnt look away from the television. I ask again, and she stabs her cigarette into the little glass tray on the coffee table. Its already full, and some of the stinky leftovers have fallen out. She turns to me. What? Bath! I say again with a smile. She told me once I had a pretty smile. I hold the cups and the washcloth out again. Not now, she says as she turns back to the television. I sit down on the oor next to the coffee table and tilt the cups back and forth, pretending there is water in them to pour. When the show is over, Mommy gets up and goes to the kitchen. I follow. Bath? I ask again. She glances at me, but says nothing. She pulls a loaf of bread off the counter and gets the jar of peanut butter from the cabinet. She makes two sandwiches and hands one of them to me, and then she goes back to sitting on the couch. I climb onto the chair in the kitchen and eat my sandwich. Its dry and sticky, but I am hungry so I dont mind. When Im done, I go back to Mommy again.

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Bath? Geez, Edward! she snaps. Cant I get a minute to myself? I look down at the ground for a minute and then back to her, but shes watching another show. I sit back down next to the table and push the washcloth into one of the cups. I try to pour it, but it doesnt work, not even when I shake it. Thats where you were fucking sitting when I left. Daddys voice startles me as much as the door to the trailer slamming against the wall. He goes to the refrigerator and pulls out a bottle. As he takes a swig, his eyes narrow at Mommy. I swear to God, Esme, you are so fucking useless. Oh yeah, Mommy says without looking up. And Carlisle Cullen is a great catch, thats what you are. He laughs, but it doesnt sound friendly. I dont like it when they talk like this, and I think if Mommy gave me my bath now, maybe they wouldnt talk so loud anymore. I stand up and hold out the cups again. Bath? For Gods sakes, Edward! Mommy yells, and I take a step backwards. Will you shut up for two minutes? She stands and grabs me by my arms, hauling me up. At rst, Im happy, thinking she will give me my bath now, but she walks over to the open door and drops me down outside on the patio. The door shuts as she goes back in, and I can hear them yelling again. *** I woke up groggy, disoriented, and feeling a littleoff. My muscles were all tense, and I didnt know why. I shifted in the bed a little, and felt Bellas hand against my neck. I took a deep breath and relaxed back into the mattress a little. It felt good just lying next to her, and even though I had to pee really

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badly, I didnt want to get up. I closed my eyes, hoping sleep would take me again, but it didnt. I nally gave up and wiggled my way out from around her and went to the bathroom. When I came back out, I just looked at her for a minute. Her long hair was all over the pillows, and her arms and legs were splayed out all over the bed. I smiled a little, realizing if I tried to get back in bed now, there wasnt going to be much room for me. I glanced at the clock and saw it was just a little past two in the morning. It wasnt really a great time to start the day. Today. Bellas birthday. I had to make this day a good one, and I had no fucking idea how. A new panic seized me when I realized I still had no fucking plan what-so-ever. I didnt know what to do, and though I might be able to ask the hotel staff to help me with preparations, I didnt know what to ask them for, and I didnt want to leave Bella alone very long while I got anything accomplished. I needed help. Advice. I didnt have anyone to turn to. I thought about Alice or Rosalie, and quickly crossed them off the list. It had to be a woman, but not either one of them. If they knew what we were planning well, I wouldnt make it to this evening to execute any of it. Execute being the optimum word. I didnt know any other women except those I dated. Fuck. I took a deep breath, grabbed my phone, and quietly walked out into the hallway. I didnt go too far down, so I could still see the door to the room. I pulled up my contact list and took about ve hundred more deep breaths. This wasnt going to be easy.

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I was out of choices. I listened to the phone ring a few times, and I was just about convinced she wouldnt answer when there was a soft click. This ought to be interesting, the dry voice on the other side of the Atlantic said. Ummmyeah, I stammered. Im sorry, but I dont have anyone else to turn to, and I really, really need your help, Kate. She would at least give me some ideas,

Chapter 75: You have some nerve, Kate snapped. Im hanging up now. No! KateKate please, I begged her. If she hung up I would be totally lost. Please dont hang up on me. I need your helpplease. I heard her sigh into the phone, and her voice came back strained. Just spit it out, she said. I need someadvice, I nally said quietly. It suddenly hit me how freaking stupid it was to be calling an ex-girlfriend for advice on wooing the current one, if she could be called that. What as Bella to me? Ex-slave? Current girlfriend? Wife? Lover? Life. I had no idea what to call her.

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You need advice? From me? Really, Edward? You were never interested in my opinion about anything at any time what could you possibly want from me now? How did I even go about telling her what was happening? Spit it out, just like she said. Well, a slightly modied version, anyway. Imet someone, I started. Congrats. Hope you treat her better than you did me. Thats just it, I said. I want to make this rightI want to make it special, but I dont know how. What? Kate yelled into the phone. You are asking me how to help you with your new fucktoy? Oh my God Shes not! I yelled back, and then quickly lowered my voice before I drew anyone out into the hallway. Its not like thatnot at all. I want it to be right this time. I know I screwed everything up in the past I dont want to fuck this up. Its her birthday, and I want to give her a special night I just dont know what to do. Im sorry I didnt do anything right with you, okay? Just tell me what I can do to make it special for her! I waited to hear the click of the disconnected call, but it didnt come. Edward, Kates voice had suddenly turned soft. You are completely serious, arent you? Yeah, I said. Youre in love. I closed my eyes and thought about her words. I didnt know how to respond. I want it to be right, I nally said. You are, she replied. Edward Cullen, capable of love. Who would have thought it could be true? He tone was dry and a little sardonic, but I chose to ignore it.

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Itit doesnt matter, I nally whispered into the phone. I just want to make it all goodfor her. I dont know what to do Kate. You know I dont have any friends, pleaseplease help me? What do you want to know? Kate said with a sigh. How do I make a nice, romantic birthday night for her? What can I do to show her I mean it? Honestly, Edward, Kate said, her voice soundingsad? I wasnt sure. I dont know if I should feel jealous that you couldnt feel this way about me or happy that you are able to feel at all. I had my doubts. Im sorry, I said quietly. I didnt mean to hurt youreally, I didnt. I think I know that now. I dont think Im quite right in the head, you know? I offered a slight laugh. Yes, Edward I got that idea. I could hear Kate sighing on the other end f the line. She must be pretty special, she nally said She is, whispered back. Shes my worldmy life. There was a pause on the phone that lasted so long, I was afraid the connection had failed. Then I heard Kates voice again. I would have been that for you, she said softly. I didnt know how to respond to her. I honestly didnt realize she ever would have felt that way, and I certainly didnt understand why. Im sorry, I nally responded. Youve apologized three times in the last three minutes, she said. Do you realize you never once apologized for anything ever before? Not the numerous times I sat waiting in a restaurant for you to arrive, only to nd out you forgot about our date, not the time you stopped having sex with me to answer the

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phone and then abruptly left without an explanation, not all the times I asked where you had been all week when you hadnt picked up the phone. Not once. I would have apologized again, but I wasnt sure if I should. I barely remembered anything she was talking about. Shes really done something to you, Kate surmised. She has, I agreed. The more I said it, the more I knew it was true. Ill help you, Edward, Kate said with a loud exhale. At least, Ill tell you what I would have liked. Thank you, I replied. Humph. You never thanked me for anything, either. Imsorry. Kate laughed. Thank you for apologizing, Edward, she said. Not lets get you a plan together, all right? I think simple is the only way to go. Ten minutes later I had three simple things I was supposed to accomplish for Bellas birthday. It seemed so little when I thought about it, but I had to go with what Kate had told me, because I didnt have anything else to go on. Thank you, I said softly. I never would have come up with any of this by myself. And I know its way too late, but for what it is worth, I am sorry I hurt you. Good luck, Edward, Kate said, and the phone went silent. I got up off the oor and went back to the hotel room door. Bella was still sleeping with her hair and arms and legs all over the place. She was so beautiful, and I didnt deserve to have her with me, but I was going to do everything I could to make her birthday a good one. I could make it special, right?

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Chapter 76:

I need to make an appointment for my wife, I told the obviously aming gay guy at the front desk of the hotels salon. Of course, sir, he responded. I can work her in tomorrow afternoon Not tomorrow, I said. Today. Now, actually. He laughed a cute little effeminate laugh, which I wanted to punch right down his throat. With a two-by-four. Im terribly sorry, sir, he said. But we are completely booked up for the day. Perhaps- Look, I said as I waved my hand in front of my face. I honestly dont give a shit what else you have going on here today. I want my wife totally and completely pampered by whoever your best is, and I want it arranged by the time I get to my room and back. Its just not possible His voice trailed off as I pulled out my wallet and started laying bills in front of him. I stopped at ve thousand Euros, guring there was no way he was going to turn down that kind of load, and I didnt want to leave any room for argument. Thats the rst half, I told him as his eyes tried to bug right out of his head and do a little ballroom dancing on the counter. Once shes done, youll get the other half. Thisthis will bene sir, he stammered. Well be ready for her in ve minutes. Good man, I said with a smile. One more part of this little plan was set in motion.

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When I woke Bella up this morning, I had croissants and coffee ready for her on a little tray, along with a single red rose in a vase. I was about as fucking nervous as I could be, just knowing that something so small couldnt possibly be special enough, but Bellas eyes went wide, and she reached out for me. I was just about hugged to death before she actually let me go and tried out her breakfast. Part two was the pampering at the salon, followed by dinner. Kate had just said spa day and take her out of the town, so I gured that meant dinner and sightseeing. I told Bella I was taking her out for dinner, and she got a big smile on her face. She went to the dresser drawer and pulled out the white box that had been delivered to our rst hotel in Paris the one she had been carrying with her all this time, but wouldnt tell me what was in it. She opened it, and pulled out tow dresses one black, one red. The both looked really, really tiny. Which color do you like? she asked. Red. Like there was really any guesswork there. I love the fact that money can get me most any kind of service I want. Maybe thats part of the reason Ive fucked up my relationships, but I didnt want to deal with that right now. I got Bella set up in the salon, got someone else at the front desk to get me a suit with a tie the same color a Bellas dress, and had the hotels orist shred the petals off a couple of hundred red roses and deliver them to the room. Everything was done within view of the salon door, so I could keep track of her as well until we got to the rose petals. It was the only time I was actually far enough away from the door to get a little nervous. I had a freaking huge basket of petals in my arms, and now that I was staring at the freshly cleaned room, I wasnt sure exactly what to do with them. I took a deep breath and carried the basket over to the bed. At rst, I just kind of threw the around the bed, guring Id go with the BINGO cover-all approach. I made a trail from the door to the bed, and then looked over everything. It just looked like a big fucking truckload of owers had exploded in the room, if you asked me. I shook my head, trying to gure out what I could do to make it look like less of awell, less of a mess.

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Or was that just me? I nally went back to the bed and gathered all the petals I could into the center, cursing my general lack of artistic skills. I spread them out again, making a huge, red, rose-petal heart in the middle of the bed. Girls liked that kind of shit, right?

Chapter 77:

Bella was so fucking gorgeous, I could barely breathe deep enough to keep my brain working. She had stepped out of the salon freshly facialed, massaged, manicured, and God knows what else looking like sex on a stick, but without the stick. I had a stick I was willing to share, and even managed to keep myself from saying so. Actually, I didnt say anything back to the whole lack of oxygen thing.

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They had dressed her in the salon, and the short little thing she was wearing had a collar around her neck, but no sleeves, and the skirt length was nearly illegal. And it was bright fucking red. All I could do was stare at her. Now that she sat across from me, running the edge of her nger around her water glass, I couldnt even hear what she was saying. I think she might have been talking about friends she knew in her school and what happened at the last homecoming football game or something like that, but I wasnt sure, because I was having a mental conversation with my cock. He was also staring at her. Well, pointing, really. I had to get a grip. By the time dinner was over, Bella started asking me what was wrong, and why I wasnt talking. I nally just dropped my head in my hands and shook it, which didnt illicit the correct response at all. She really thought there was something wrong at that point. Finally, I gave up, and just told her. Wellsort of. I didnt tell her about my cock. Im not that stupid. Shut up. Youre justso fucking beautiful tonight, I nally said. It actually makes it hard to concentrate on anything else. Her cheeks tried to turn a shade shy of her dress. I leaned over the table and reached up to stroked her cheek with my thumb. You are, I told her. Thank you, she said softly. For all of this. The spa was about the most relaxed I think I have felt in months, dinner has been wonderful, and you well, you look kind of beautiful, too. I huffed through my nose.

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Guys arent supposed to be beautiful. You are, she insisted. I decided it wasnt worth discussing. Ready for a trip up the tower? I asked. Denitely! Bella wanted to walkfucking walk up the steps to the observation platform. I thought she was nuts. Once we had gone up about forty-ve thousand steps, I was sure she was nuts. Seriously, Bella, I panted as we reached another one of the platforms between sets of stairs. I cant go anymore. I dropped down on my ass at the top of the stairs and held me hand over my chest. Im too old for this shit, I groaned. Bella laughed, and whatever pain I was feeling in my calves dissipated with the sound. But Im the one who is older today, she said as she laughed again. Yeah a whopping nineteen, I grumbled. Ten years ago I probably could have walked up to the top, too. Bella looked down over the railing, biting down on her lip a bit. She was damn cute when she did that. Her eyes glanced over at me, but then looked back out over the city. I hauled myself up and went to stand beside her. The wind had picked up, and her hair was blowing out of the carefully constructed twists and braids and whatever. Little strands were blowing around, and Bella reached up and pulled out some pins so her hair fell free around her neck and down her back. I couldnt let that slide without action, so I stood next to her and wrapped my arm around her shoulders. We both looked out at the lights of the city for a minute, and I wondered what she could be thinking. My free hand dived into my pocket, ngering the little box inside and wondering if now was as good a time as any.

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Bella? Hmm? She didnt turn towards me, but leaned against the rail and let the wind blow against her face. Ium My nger ddled over the tiny little bow on top of the box. I took a deep breath and pulled it out. I got you a birthday present. Edward, you didnt have to do that. Bella pushed off the rail and turned to look at me. I think the whole spa thing and dinner and everything is plenty. Shit, had I screwed this up after all? I thought there was supposed to be something to open on your birthday, and none of the other things could be wrapped. I told her as much, and was glad when she conceded the point. I held the little rectangular box out to her. Bellas eyes darted up to mine before she looked back down to her hands and slowly lifted the lid. Oh my God, she whispered as she pulled the diamond and ruby bracelet from its box. It matched your dress, I said. I couldnt gure out if she liked it or not, and he more she didnt say, the more I was starting to think I fucked it up again. I should have gotten the sapphires, just because they cost more, but one that t with what she was wearing made sense, or at least I thought it did. Bella nally looked up to me. Edwardits beautiful. I stood there with the Paris wind blowing across my skin, the air cooling quickly as the setting sun nally disappeared over the horizon, and just looked at the most incredible person I had ever known as she looked back at me. I couldnt breathe right, swallow, or even think, really I was just too caught up in the look in her eyes and the fact that she was here, with me.

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I wanted to tell her how incredible she made me feel, and how I wanted to give her everything she could ever want in the world. I wanted to tell her I would do anything anything to stay in her life when all this was over. I wanted to tell her she had changed me that I wasnt the same person who had been so selsh and depraved he thought buying another person could solve all his problems. I didnt say anything. Instead, I took the bracelet from her hand and fastened it around her wrist.

Happy birthday, I said with a little shrug and a grin. Bellas arms reached up around my neck and pulled me to her. Her mouth warmed my lips as we stood there on one of the Eiffel Towers lower platforms, and became completely lost within each other. There were no other tourists around, no other sights, no other sounds. Only the two of us. This had to be heaven, right?

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Chapter 78:

I was pretty sure my heart was trying to leap right out of my chest, it was pounding so hard. We were heading back to the hotel after our lovely birthday dinner date and Eiffel Tower tour husband and wife, ex master and slave, human buyer and kidnap victim for me to take her virginity. If there was ever a more fucked up situation in history, I would have liked to know about it, just for the sake of comparison. I wanted a cigarette really, really badly, but I hadnt had one all day. The sliding doors to the hotel lobby opened, and one of the hotel staff greeted us with a big smile and a big bonsoir. Bella gave him a smile and a blushing hello, and then reached out for my hand and slipped her ngers into the spaces between mine. She swung our hands together lightly as we headed for the elevator. I tried to remember how to breathe. Id never held hands like this before. Whenever I had held hands with women in the past, it was to take them and lead them somewhere pull them along so they would go faster or just go the right way. Id never had my ngers interlaced with someone elses before, and I really wasnt sure what to make of it. I didnt understand why there was this tingling sensation running up my arm. Once it got to my shoulder, it buried itself inside my gut and seemed to be trying to shove itself out of my body like something out of an alien horror ick. I looked down to where our hands were joined, and looked and how perfectly they seemed to t together, even though my hands were so much bigger than hers. The tip of the diamond in her wedding ring grazed against the edge of my nger, and Bellas ngers clenched a little, holding my hand tighter. When our swinging hands reached the lowest point of the arc, the sleeves of my jacket

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which Bella was wearing covered most of her hand and mine. She kept us connected that way all the way to the room. As soon as the door closed, she tossed my jacket over the back of a chair, grabbed a hold of my tie, and pulled me close to her. Her tongue traced over her bottom lip once as she looked at my mouth, then kissed me. I took a step closer and ran my hands up her arms and into her hair, holding her face to me as I pressed against her mouth, my tongue meeting up with hers gently. Gently. I had to be gentle, because my wife of two months was a virgin, and I had no idea how to fuck a virgin. NoIm not going to fuck her. Im going to make love to her. Strangely enough, the idea didnt seem all that odd to me. If fact, when I opened my eyes and watched her pull her dress up and over her hips, then over her head and off, it didnt seem odd to me at all. Even with her standing there in nothing but a little white bra and panty set, all I could manage to think about was making sure I didnt go too fast, and that I stopped if she changed her mind, and that I made sure she came rst. In more ways than one. The idea of making love wasnt alarming me at all, like I might have thought, but I was so fucking nervous, anyone watching would have thought I was the virgin. I didnt want to hurt her, and I wanted her to like it, and I wanted her to

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like me. I was seriously afraid of fucking it all up. The obnoxious, high-pitched voice of Ruby Rhod from The Fifth Element popped into my head. So tell me my man, are you nervous in the service? I wished I was Bruce Willis. Gentle. Slow. She would tell me if I did something wrong, wouldnt she? Bella? Hmmm? If Iumif I do something and you dont like it, youll tell me, right? Bellas hand went to the side of my face, and her eyes locked with mine. Her lips touched mine briey before she pulled back and smiled. I promise, she said. I nodded and let out a sigh before leaning down and kissing slowly across her left shoulder. Bella shivered a little, and I moved over to her right shoulder. I kept my eyes closed, because the sigh of her skin was driving me insane, even in the dim lights in the room. My hands rested lightly on her hips. Bella pulled the knot of my tie apart, unraveled it from my neck and dropped it on the oor next to her dress. Her ngers made quick work of my shirt buttons, and it joined the pile on the oor as well. Her hands reached up and tangled in my hair as she pulled me back down to kiss her again. Tentatively, I ran one hand up her back, my ngers trailing along the edge of the back-strap of her bra. I found the clasp, and icked it open. Bella let go of my head long enough to let the straps slide off of her shoulders. I touched her hair, splaying it out over her bare shoulders, as I tried to hold in the pressure that seemed to be building inside of me. Placing my hands on the wall behind her, I leaned in to kiss her again.

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I felt Bellas ngers open up the front of my dress slacks and push them over my hips. I stepped out of them, kicking off my shoes in the process. I looked at her eyes once more, then leaned in to take her mouth with mine as her hands slipped around my waist and dipped into the hem of my boxers. It was now or never, right?

Chapter 79

Bellas ngers ran around the edge of my boxers from the back to the sides before she started pushing them down, freeing my aching cock in the process. I kicked out of them, toeing off my socks as well, but not breaking the kiss. That is, until I felt Bellas hand wrap around me. ShitBella I tried to get a grip on my breathing while she had a grip on my cock, but it just wasnt working. I pulled her hand away, and she narrowed her eyes at me. Not yet, okay? Why? Because it feels so fucking good Im going to come all over your hand if you do that now. She bit down on her lip to try and hide her smile, then trailed the tips of her ngers over my length before letting go and placing her hands on my shoulders instead. I hissed at the feeling and leaned my forehead against her shoulder. I want to make this right, I whispered. You will, she said encouragingly. Ill try. It was all I could do. I looked back to her eyes, kissed her once more, and tried to come up with some kind of brilliant strategy. Brilliant strategy step one come up with brilliant strategy prior to being naked.

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Ok, failed that one. Next step she had to be ready. Better luck this timeI hoped. My hands went to her breasts, my thumbs brushing over her nipples. They hardened under my touch, and Bella leaned her head back against the wall, closing her eyes in the process. I moved my hands down, over her stomach and to her sides as I slowly knelt down before her. I hooked my thumbs into the edges of her panties and then looked up to her eyes. She was smiling, and reached down to run her hand through my hair as she nodded. Taking a single, deep breath, I pulled them down her legs, watching my progress as they dropped lower. I didnt look up to the area I had exposedI wasnt ready for that yet. When I reached the oor, Bella stepped out of her heels and let me pull the panties over her feet and off of her all together. I ran the edge of my ngers across her feet and to her ankles as I tried to mentally prepare myself to look up again. I wanted to see her no fucking doubt of that at all but I was kind of afraid of it, too, though I couldnt tell you why. If I had known I slowly looked up, guring I couldnt spend all night down where I was, and my eyes tried to bug out of my head. Holy fucking shit, I whispered. Bella had apparently done more at the spa than I had realized. She was totally fucking bare, and I wasnt prepared for that at all. Is it okay? Bella asked quietly. I didnt really know what you preferred I couldnt speak outside of expletives, so I went with a muted nod instead. I ran my hands up the sides of her legs, resisting the urge to just haul her over to the bed and start pounding into her beautiful, naked pussy.

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As if my cock was throbbing before, the visual oating around in my head was going straight to my other head. I tried to get both my breathing and heart rate to calm down a bit, and then ran my hands up the back of her calves. I leaned forward, placing light kisses up one thigh, then the other. I didnt reach out for her pussy not yet but I did bring my hands up to her backside to pull her towards me as my lips brushed over her hips and stomach. Bella? I looked up to her face. Yes? Apparently her breathing as a little off, too. Can I take you to bed now? She nodded, and I stood up. My hands found hers lacing our ngers together before I turned and led her over to the bed and the rose petals, which were suddenly looking really stupid and childish to me. I wished I hadnt done it at all, but then Bella gasped. Oh my God, she whispered. She let go of one of my hands and placed hers over her mouth. Did you do that? Umyeah? She looked from the bed, covered in a rose-petal heart, to me. Its beautiful. I guess I got something right, right?

Chapter 80

She lay down in the middle of the heart. All I could do was stare at her.

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It wasnt just how fucking hot she looked lying on the bed, waiting for me to climb in and take her virginity. It wasnt the little voice inside my man bits that wanted to become a lot better acquainted with her lady bits. It wasnt even the nervousness I felt from the sheer responsibility of making her come rst time or not. It was the waves of tension washing over my skin, through the muscles of my arms and legs, up and down my spine, and even behind my eyes. It was the brutal need to just be in her presence, not matter what we were doing. It was wanting nothing more than to just look at her until I dropped dead from starvation or scurvy or rickets or something. What the hell are rickets, anyway? Bella smiled slyly, and then raised her arms up over her head, laying them against the pillow as she stretched out her body. The image was stunning, and I was stunned. Soon after the shock wore off, I started to panic. Even though I had done this before even though I had seen her before I had known I wasnt going to be taking it any farther then. Knowing apparently made all the difference, because I was now just about as freaked out as I could be. Edward. Bellas soft voice broke through my thoughts, and I met her gaze. Come here. She used her nger to beckon me, and I tried to keep my eyes focused on hers as I climbed into the bed and lay my head on the pillow next to hers. She reached over with her hand to touch the side of my face, and I felt myself relax a little into her touch. Not a lot, but at least enough to pull my thoughts back together. Why are you worried? Bella asked. I want it to be right. Her ngers grazed my jaw.

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It will be. When I met her eyes again, I could just tell she meant it. She had complete faith in me, though I was pretty sure that was as misguided as it could possibly be. She leaned closer and took my mouth with hers, licking across my lip before sucking it into her mouth. We kissed slowly but deeply until Bella nally broke for air. I didnt think I needed any I was quite sure I could just live off of Bella oxygen could become secondary. Her ngers scraped my jaw again as she smiled at me. I took a deep breath, deciding that if she could have that kind of condence in me, Id better be prepared to prove her right. Ill go slow, I told her. Bella only nodded in response. I propped myself up on one elbow so I could use my other hand to just touch her. My ngers slid down over her shoulder, across each of her collarbones and over her breasts. I only touched her lightly and I felt her shiver under my ngertips. Are you cold? I asked, glancing over at the slightly opened window, which was letting in cool fall breezes. No, she said quietly. Im ne. Nodding, I cupped one of her breasts in my hand, lifting it up a little and marveling at how well it t in my hand. I drew circles around her nipples, watching them pucker and harden under the sensation. Just seeing them do that was making me harder by the second, but I tried to forget about that and concentrate on her. I wanted it to be good for her. With one nger, I made a trail from the spot right between her breasts down to her navel, circled it, and then ran the backs of my ngers from one hip to the other. My ngers grazed over the top of where her pubic hair used to be.

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Bellas legs shifted a little, and she pushed her thighs together. I smiled, realizing exactly what she was doing. Do you want me to touch you again? I asked. Yes. Her breathy whisper was all the encouragement I needed. Her skin was so soft and smooth without any hair down there anymore, and for a minute I just palmed her right above her clit, feeling her smooth skin against mine. When her hips lifted up, I let my ngers drift lower and between her legs, which she moved apart a little. There was already a little moisture when I felt down between her pussy lips, spreading her open with two of my ngers while the third ran up and down her slit. Oh God, Edwardthat feels so good. I put the tip of my nger inside of her a bit, pushing it in and out slowly until more went in easily. Once all of it was in, I pulled it out and ran the wetness over her clit, causing her to gasp. I moved down lower wanting to get better access and ran both of my hands up her thighs and over her hips before my hand went back between her legs, slowing pushing into her, coming back to rub her clit, and then delving inside again. With my nger still inside her, and my thumb pressing lightly down on her clit, my mouth went searching for the skin on her side. I pulled my nger out, and then slowly pushed two back inside of her again. I kissed her hipbone, then over to her navel, where I tongued her, eliciting a giggle. Her hand went to my head, and her ngers latched onto my hair. I looked up at her and found her staring back at me with her lip stuck between her teeth. My ngers were so wet with her juices, and I wanted to pull them out and suck on them. I wanted to replace my ngers with my tongue and feel her come all over my face. I want to taste you, I told her, and her eyes went wide. Shit.

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She said she never wanted to do oral againdid she mean this, too? She looked upset, worried, maybe even panicked, and I thought she was going to end up actually puncturing her lower lip with her teeth. Shit, shit, shit. I must have fucked this up already, right?

Chapter 81

Youyou want to do that? Bella said quietly. I dont have to, I said quickly. Only if you want me to. You dont have to, she said. I mean, I cant imagine you would want to Bella, I want to, I assured her. I want to go down on you, but I wont if you dont want it. Her brows tried to merge together. Youlike that? Just thinking about going down on you has me so hard I could probably drill through the wall. Really? she both looked and sounded surprised. Denitely. Bella chewed on her lip some more. I was starting to get a little jealous, and considered forgetting the whole cunnilingus thing and just start nibbling her lips instead. Okay, she nally said. You sure? I asked. She nodded, and seemed to be serious, so I kissed her belly once more before I starting trailing my lips over her smooth, pink skin. My hands slid down her calves, grabbing her ankles and pushing them up closer to her body, which made her hips raise up a bit and put her on display for me.

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So fucking beautiful. I slid my arms under her legs, angling her up a little to give me better access. I licked my lips once, kissed the inside of her left thigh, then moved in. As soon as I tasted her, I knew I would never, ever be able to get enough. I moaned against her, and I could feel the vibrations as they passed to her skin. Bellas hips pushed up as she gasped. Oh my God You like that? I murmured against her skin, causing more vibrations. Ugh! Yes! Yes! Her hands reached down and gripped into my hair. My tongue touched her, tasted her, explored her, and generally had a really fucking good time. I could feel and hear her reactions to what I was doing without looking up to see her expression. I did glance at her a couple of times, but her head was back against the pillow and her neck was arched, so I couldnt see her eyes anyway. I might have liked to see them as I did this to her, but mostly I just wanted to know that she was liking it, and she obviously was, so I kept it up dipping my tongue inside of her and swirling it around before dragging it back up to her clit. I circled, pushed, hummed, and even drew my name with my tongue over her clit. Edward was here I knew she was close when her thighs tried to squeeze my head, and I had to grip them a little tighter to keep her open for me. She started chanting my name, which caused me to increase my speed, trying to match the tempo she set

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with the slight rocking of her hips. I gripped her backside with my hands to hold her a little closer and continued the tongue dance over her beautiful pussy. I pushed the tip of my tongue hard against the throbbing little nub, and Bella nearly came right off the bed as she cried out, gripping my hair tightly as her hips pushed against my face. I kept circling my tongue as best I could, feeling her moisture all around me, tasting how fucking sweet she was as she dropped back down to the mattress, moaning. The pace of my licks slowed, and I switched from using the tip to using the top, laving over her clit, just to give it one slow, last pass before trailing down to her entrance. I circled her there once, just making sure she was wet enough to make it easy to get inside of her, before I pulled my arms out from under her backside and pushing myself up. I wiped the back of my hand across my lips and looked up to Bella with a smile. Her eyes were wide, and she was still panting a little. So good, I said. I hoped she believed me, and that she didnt think I was just saying it because she wanted to hear it. I wasnt just saying it. I would do that again and again for as long as she would let me. Because nothing could taste sweeter, right?

Chapter 82

I crawled up her body, kissing here and there as I went. She was still breathing heavily, and her chest was rising and falling with her deep breaths as she tried to calm her body. Her eyes stayed on mine, wide and seemingly in shock. Are you okay? I asked like an idiot. I meanwas it okay? She nodded her head, but she still looked like she was in shock or something. I placed one hand on her shoulder, and then ran it up her neck. The other hand

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held my weight as I leaned over her and brushed my lips over hers. As I looked at her, her tongue darted out probably tasting herself on my lips. Do you reallylike that? she asked. You werent just saying that? I really do like it, I told her, and I wasnt just saying that. She looked away from me, and I wondered if she was thinking she should reciprocate or some such shit. No fucking way. No! I said, my tone a little more rm than I really meant for it to be. She looked back to me, visibly started. I dont want you to never. I want to do it to you whenever you want it, though. Okay? You wontmiss it? No. I meant that shit, too. I didnt know if I really thought about it, but I couldnt give a ying fuck about ever being in her mouth again. If I could just gure out how to be in her life, that would be plenty. I just want to be with you. For a moment we just looked at each other, and I tried to gure out if I was supposed to say something now or if it was her turn. I never talked while having sex before. Dirty talk, yes, but not an actual conversation. Was there protocol? Were we supposed to take turns with the talking? Wasnt it her turn? I thought it was. Now what? Bellas voice was so quiet I could barely hear her. Do you still want me to? I asked, both hoping she would say yes and that she would say no. I had no fucking idea what my preference really was. I mean, I knew what I wanted for me, but I wasnt so convinced that it was a great idea for Bella. I wasnt going to turn her down again, though. Whatever will power I had on that front was completely obliterated. Yes, she said. Do you want to be on top? I asked her.

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Should I be? Her eyes were wide again, and she was biting down on her lip, which just made me want to suck on it. It might be easier? I shrugged. I really had no idea, but it seemed like if she was in control of thewell, the penetrationthen it might be easier. I wouldnt know what to do, she said, and for the rst time she started looking like she was scared. I ran my hand over her face. You dont have to do this at all, I told her. She stared up at me from a sea of red petals. They were all over the place all over her, all over the pillows and in her hair and stuck to her shoulders. You know well only do this if you want to. You can back out anytime right now if you want to. I dont, Bella insisted. I dont want to back out I just want you toum She stopped speaking and her face scrunched up a little, turning pink. You want me to do it? I guessed. She nodded, and I kissed her mouth again. I could feel her relaxing a little under the touch of my hands and my lips. I kissed up her jaw and to her ear, sucking on it gently and closing my eyes before I spoke. I would do anything you asked me to do, I told her. I would do anything for you. Anything. I know, she said. I opened my eyes as I felt her head turn towards mine. But you dont have to. I do, I said. I covered her mouth again so she couldnt argue with me. As we kissed, I moved my hand down her side, brushing my ngertips over her breast before reaching between her legs again. I ran my ngers over her once before I used my knees to push her legs farther apart, spreading more rose petals around on the bed. I shifted my hips, bringing them close to her. I had to close my eyes as I held my dick in my hand and placed the head right at her entrance. I ran it up and down a few times, feeling the wetness coat the tip,

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and then repositioned. I opened my eyes again to nd hers locked with mine nervousness apparent, but also excitement and maybe eventrust? Ill go slow, I told her. You tell me if itsif its too much, okay? She nodded quickly and bit down on her lip. I leaned over her and kissed her cheek, then down her jaw. When I met her lips, she opened her mouth to me, and I slowly moved my hips forward. Ohhhh...God I just barely had the head of my cock in her, and I was ready to blow. I tried to think about sports and guns and Three Stooges episodes, but it didnt help much. Tight didnt even begin to describe her. I pushed a little more, and heard her gasp. My eyes ew to hers as I pulled back, though I had really only barely been inside. She shook her head. Dont stop, she whispered. Did it hurt? Not exactlyit just feltstrange. I moved my hand from around my cock and slid my ngers back and forth over her again before slipping one inside. It went fairly easily, so I tried two again. Within a couple of minutes she was panting and moaning slightly, as I pulled both ngers out of her and ran them over her clit. Try again? Bellas ngers wrapped around the bicep of my arm that held me over her. You sure? Im sure. I nodded and ran my moistened ngers up and down my shaft before placing the head of my cock back at her entrance. Going very slowly, I pushed again, feeling a little less resistance this time. Her ngers dug into my arm, and I

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watched her face closely as I moved a little farther inside and felt myself nally move past her entrance. As soon as I did, I slipped in farther all of the sudden, even though I didnt think I had pushed harder. It was more like something just gave way. I realized something probably had. Holy shit Bella dug her teeth into her lip, and I let go of my shaft to reach up and place my palm against her cheek. Still okay? Bella turned her face towards my hand and kissed my palm. With her eyes closed she nodded. Please. When I moved forward this time, I slid in farther and easier than before. It was only another moment before I was completely inside of her. Inside of Bella. Inside my wife. Inside heaven. My head felt like it was spinning around in little circles like someone had placed it on a playground swing, twisted the rope up as tight as they could, and then let it go. She was so, so soft inside. It was like pushing into wet silk. I had never felt anything like it, and I wondered if it was simply the lack of a condom or not. I didn't think it was. I was pretty it was just the way she was. She felt so good wrapped around my cock, I could hardly stand it. I wanted to stay right where I was for the rest of my life. I didn't need to get off; I just needed to be in her. Never leave this spot. Stay in this bed, in this hotel, with this woman, forever. Bella placed her hand against my cheek, and I leaned into the sensation. Are you okay? she asked, echoing my words from earlier.

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More than okay, I breathed back to her. I panted through my mouth, trying to keep myself enough in check to last more than a minute or two. It was going to be a hard battle. You feel so, so goodBellaGod I didnt move, just held myself in her and waited. I didnt know what I was waiting for either for her to get used to me, for my impending orgasm to subside, or maybe just waiting for a meteor to drop on my head or something. It would just gure if one did. Tentatively, I pulled out about half way. I wasnt pulling out of her all together no fucking way. I might never pull out of her all the way. I pushed back in slowly with a groan. The feeling was just indescribable. At the very least I would be all over thesuarus.com looking for the right synonym for ecstasy, and then Id get pissed off at none of the words being adequate. It was fucking awesome, thats what it was. But better. You know? Oh, fuck it. Bellas hands were on my shoulders, gripping me tightly as I moved in and out of her slowly and gently like I promised her I would. I wrapped my arms around her and held her close to my chest. I could feel the little rose petals as the clung to my biceps and legs, and I might have found the little fuckers annoying except for the sight I saw when I opened my eyes. Lying in the middle of the bed, on her back with her arms reaching up to me was Bella. The twinkling lights from the Eiffel Tower were shining into the room through the giant oor-to-ceiling windows and causing her skin to glow in color. All around her were the deep red petals, making her look like she was lying in the middle of a uffy, blood-stained cloud. Okay so romantic similes were never going to be my thing. Fucking sue me.

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I moved just a little faster, rocking into her without pulling out very far. So slickso wetso warmso fucking incredible. I lay my forehead against her shoulder and felt her hand coil back into my hair. It was all I needed to send me over the edge. It was okay to come inside her, right? ________________________________ Chapter 83 I sure as hell hoped it was okay to come in her because I was far, far beyond the point of no return. Maybe if she had screamed at me to stop or something I could have ended it, but I probably would have made a mess all over the rose petals anyway. BellaIm gonnagonna Please! she cried out as her hips bucked up against mine, and there was denitely no turning back then. It just gets to a certain point and your body takes over, the sensations are too strong and you cant completely stop. Having my cock in the most incredible little sanctuary in existence certainly didnt help my resilience. Once the word please came out of her mouth, I was a goner. My forehead was pushed against her shoulder, locked into the warm spot against her neck, and my hands gripped her hips. I kept her anchored against me, as tightly as I could while still moving within her body when the feeling overcame me. It had never, ever been like this. Id fucked lots of women, had great orgasms, and walked away without even remembering their names. Right at that moment, I couldnt remember my name, but I knew hers. She was life, and body, and soul, andGod-damnitshe was love. I knew exactly who had me inside of her. I knew exactly who it was that ironically enough completely owned me. Bella.

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Chapter 84

Edward? I hummed back at her, tilting my head against her hand as she ran ngers over my cheek. Can I ask you a question? Sure, I mumbled back. I was about eighty percent asleep, and could have found the other twenty percent pretty easily. How long do we have toumwait? For what? Until we cando that again? Okay. I was awake again. You know, she continued before I could gather an actual thought. Before you canum Her voice trailed off. I guess the phrase how long does it take for your cock to get hard after you come was a bit much for her to say ten minutes after losing her virginity. Maybe twenty minutes or so, I said. My heart was pounding again, and I was pretty sure it was considering cutting that time in half, just in case Bella was asking for a specic reason. Really? So we could do it again? Tonight? Fuck yes! Damn my mouth. Bella giggled and then went back to stroking my cheek. I felt myself relaxing again, and dropped my head to the pillow beside hers. My eyes tried to close again, and I thought over the night we had just had how fucking awesome it was, and how much I wanted to go back and do it all over again. That started

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me thinking, which is usually a bad idea. I wondered if this was a one-time thing for Bella if she only wanted her one wedding night, and nothing else. Would she even go out with me again? I opened my eyes and found her looking at me, a slight smile on her lips. My mouth opened before I could think, which was nothing new. Will you go out with me tomorrow? I asked. Sure, Bella said simply. Where should we go? Okay, at least I hadnt said anything completely stupid this time. The Louvre? I suggested. Thats in Paris, isnt it? Fuck, what if it wasnt? Or just to a caf or something? Go to the water? Watch the boats? Anything you want, really. Yeah, I was babbling now. The Louvre, she said denitively. And dinner again? By some miracle, my babbling didnt seem to hurt. I thought about how she looked sitting across from me at dinner earlier tonight wearing that red dress, and I remembered she had another one, too. You just want a reason to wear that little black dress, I teased. Like I didnt want to see her in it. Maybe Ill dress you up, too, she said. You look pretty good in a suit and tie, you know. I fucking hate ties, I told her. I think a black suit, with that same red tie, Bella started planning and talking over me like I wasnt even there. She placed one ngertip on the end of her chin and tapped softly. Then she started speaking in a horrible French accent. Red suspenders would make you look absolutely delectable. Actually, she sounded quite a bit like the gay guy at the salon. Are you serious? I asked.

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Most certainly. I was pretty sure she was mimicking him at this point. I looked at her eyes for a while, trying to decide if she was just messing with me or not. She really didnt look like she was joking. If I have to wear suspenders and a tie, you have to wear thigh-high stockings and garters. Deal! DamnI kind of thought she would refuse that one. I already have the stockings and garters, she admitted. They were part of what Alice and I ordered before we left. She said there was no way I was going to be in Paris with nothing to wear. You guys are crazy, I mumbled, and she laughed. I leaned over and kissed her nose, and she wrapped her hands around the back of my head and pressed her lips to mine. A minute later, a buzzing sound came from the other side of the room. My fucking phone. It was probably Alice, pissed that we were talking about her. I didnt know who it was, and really didnt give a fuck, either. Is that your phone? Bella asked. Yeah ignore it. We went back to kissing, and eventually the damn thing shut up. It went off a few minutes later though, but I didnt think Bella noticed. I continued kissing down her neck and then over to her breasts, sucking each nipple into my mouth. Twenty minutes was denitely up, and I didnt want to waste any more time. I pulled her leg up over my hip and slowly pushed inside of her again. I felt like I belonged right there like I had nally gured out where my home was. I rested my palm against her face. Are you okay? Not sore or anything?

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Mmmmmore than okay, she responded. Her heel dug into my backside a little, pulling me closer each time I moved my hips forward. I moved without haste, wanting it to last longer than the rst one. I wanted to feel her come while I was inside of her this time. My hand moved from her hip to between us just above where we joined. I spread my rst two ngers apart, surrounding my cock as it moved in and out of her. Bella gasped as my thumb found her clit and started slowly circling matching the quiet thrusts inside of her. You feel so good, I mumbled. So, so good inside Bella moaned unintelligibly and tucked her head against my chest. I grabbed her ass with my hand, pulling her to me each time I thrust into her, and she started gasping with each thrust, her sharp breaths matching how I moved, and encouraging me to move faster. Bellas hands wrapped around my head and the back of my shoulders, and I quickened my pace. With her eyes tightly closed, Bellas panting breaths turned into short cries, mufed by my chest as her body shook around me, tightening on my cock. I couldnt hold back at that point, and felt the waves of sensation cascade around my body as I whisper-cried her name against the top of her head. For a long time, we just stayed in the same position, wrapped up in each other and holding on tightly. I tried to match her breaths as they slowed and calmed, and tried to keep myself pressed close enough to her that I didnt slip out. That didnt really work for very long, though. Eventually we had to move a little. I kissed her forehead, and Bella looked up at me a smiled, then blushed, then mumbled about needed to pee. While Bella snuck off to the bathroom, my phone started buzzing again. I reached down to my discarded pants, pulled the thing out of my pocket and switched it off. I noticed Rosalies name on the screen right before it shut down, and I gured what she was calling about. Theyd nally got it right, and deactivated the chips. I didnt want to hear that right now, because it would just

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be the beginning of the end. I knew it was coming, but it didnt have to show up right now not this night. Nothing was going to ruin this night for us. Nothing. Whatever it was could wait until tomorrow, right?

I loved her. And what I was doing to herno with herwas not fucking. I was making love to her, and it was most certainly my rst time, just as it was hers. The muscles in my shoulders ached with the exertion of holding myself in the same position for too long, and the ache was beautiful. They also trembled in a way I didnt recall ever feeling before. It was not from overuse or lactic acid buildup they just ached to touch her more, like there was no way I could ever get quite close enough to her to make it good enough. My glutes, hip, and leg muscles all tensed and rippled as I slammed into her one more time, holding myself as tightly inside of her as possible. If I could have opened my eyes, Im pretty sure I wouldnt have been able to see. The sensations owed from my thighs into my balls, tightening them and clutching them against my body. I felt the waves of intense feeling shoot out down my shaft and into her, coupled with the most intense emotional response I have ever felt. It was desire and protectiveness, lust and neediness it was want and admiration, passion and frenzy hunger, rapture It was everything. I screamed. One long, slow moan against her skin.

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As my breath gave out, it sounded like a tearless sob. Bellas hand was in my hair still, holding me tight against her skin. I felt her lips on top of my head as her other hand ran up and down my back. After many, many minutes like that, I nally managed to push my weight off of her and look at her smiling face. Her hand went immediately to my cheek, rubbing and caressing it with her ngertips. There were rose petals fucking everywhere not just stuck to various parts of the two of us, but all over the bed, the pillows, the oor, the nightstand even one on the windowsill like it was trying to escape or commit suicide or something. They looked even more like a fucking explosion than they had when I rst put them out. I reached out and knocked one of the silly things off of her hair and kissed her softly before rolling to the side and off of her. I didnt want to lose that contact, but I knew I was crushing her, and she was more important. I lay beside her and reached out for her hand. Like I had the night before, I brought it to my chest, held it there a moment, then kissed the back of her knuckles before lying her palm against my cheek. Bella obliged with a smile and a little shake of her head. I looked at her and tried to thank her for what she gave me with my eyes, because I knew anything and everything that might have come out of my mouth would have been wrong. There werent any words for this. Not really. Okay, I could have told her how I felt. I could have told her exactly what she meant to me what I had realized when we were so intimately connected. I wanted to tell her. I wanted her to know. I knew I couldnt say it. So I didnt.

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I settled back against her and closed my eyes, reveling in the sensations of her hand against my temple, jaw and neck. I inhaled the scent of her neck and wondered if smells were something you needed as badly as water or food, because I was pretty sure I could live off of her smell. I wrapped my arm around her waist and pulled her close to me, holding her within my arms and pretending at least for the moment that I was good enough for her. Good enough to love her. The night had been completely and totally perfect, and there was nothing that could have made it any better. Even looking back and knowing what was to come I wouldn't have changed the placement of a single rose petal stuck to her shoulder blades. Even if I had understood at that very moment that it would be our only night together, I still wouldnt have changed anything. I still wouldnt have told her I loved her. It would have only made things worse, right?

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Chapter 85

The thigh-highs were going to be the death of me. I pulled Bella into the elevator and jabbed at the button about four hundred times in the vain attempt to get the damn contraption moving faster. If it hadnt been for some old dude with a cane I might have just jumped her in the elevator car. Why is there always an audience around when you dont want one? The Louvre was fantastic, because Bella smiled and pointed at things and held my hand. Dinner at an outdoor caf was chilly, so I put my jacket around her shoulders, and Bella smiled and let me run my ngers up and down her arm while we waited for our food to be delivered. The walk along the Seine was beautiful, because Bella smiled at me and let me put my arm around her shoulders as we walked.

As much as I liked it, I didnt care about any of that shit at the moment I just needed her back in the hotel room so I could get back inside of her and listen to her scream my name again. Impatient much? Bella giggled. I think she actually drank a whole glass and a half of wine at dinner, and seemed a little less sure on her feet than she usually was. And you arent? I scoffed. She practically molested me in front of a statue of a naked guy right there in the middle of the museum. The statue guy had a fucking tiny dick, and I pretended to the offended that it would remind her of me. She giggled and rubbed her ass against the front of my pants. The elevator opened and I pulled her by our laced-together ngers down the hallway to our room.

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Just like the previous night, the Eiffel Tower was all lit up and shining into the hotel window. The whole city seemed to be lit up below us. I pulled Bella close to me and cradled her face in my hands before I kissed her. I had planned to be slowgentlelike I had been the night before, but Bella seemed to have other, possibly slightly drunken ideas. She grabbed the belt loops on my pants and pulled me up against her, rst grinding against my hardening cock and then reaching between us to palm it. If you do that, Im just going to come in my pants, I warned her. She only giggled in response. I think that might be kind of funny, she said as she gripped me a little harder. Oh really? I grabbed her hand and stepped forward, backing her up against the wall near the window. I lifted her arm up until it was high above her head, where I pinned it with my hand. I froze a second, hoping I wasnt doing anything she wouldnt like, but when I looked into her eyes they were sparkling with humor and excitement. She smiled slyly, then reached down and grabbed me with her other hand. I grabbed that hand, too then held it up next to the rst one. I raised my eyebrows at her as I gripped both of her wrists with one hand, and then used the other one to run the full length of her body. OhEdward Yeah, well see whos going to come in their pants now, huh? Im not wearing any pants. Panties then. I ran my free hand over each of her breasts, still looking into her eyes as I moved over her body. Once my hand got to her stomach, I cupped her sex for a

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moment through the fabric of her dress, and then dropped lower to pull the dress up higher. It didnt have to go a lot higher the fucker had to be the shortest dress I had ever seen. I loved it. My ngers ran down her leg to the edge of her stockings, then around the hem to the inside of her hand and up until I could feel the heat of her core against my ngers. Her little tiny g-string panties were damp, and I pushed the triangle of fabric out of my way to I could reach her clit. Bella whimpered, and I covered my mouth with hers. Our tongues reached for each others, the slow caresses of the previous night replaced by a singular urgency. My ngers circled, retreated, and danced against her clit as she pushed her hips against my hands. I moaned into her mouth as I felt her getting wetter and wetter, and then slid my ngers deep inside of her with one thrust. Bellas head tipped back, banging lightly into the wall. I kissed her neck, her jaw, and then her ear. Bella moaned and writhed as I worked my ngers in and out of her. You like that, huh? I growled against her neck. My ngers began moving faster and faster in and out of her wet, slick pussy as my thumb circled around her clit, dropping down sometimes to collect her juices again.

Godyesyesplease! I shoved my chest against hers still keeping my hips back so I could nger her better and my mouth latched on to the edge of her jaw. I wanted some friction against my stiff cock, but it would just have to wait. I wanted her to come rst. Maybe second as well. Then I was going to lay her on her back and take myself home again. At least, that was the plan. Plans can change pretty quickly.

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Just when things are going pretty well, and you start thinking maybe life isnt completely out to get you, thats when the rug gets pulled out from under you. Thats when you realize that gigantic glacier youve been picking your way across has started to melt, and youre about to fall into a giant ice cave. Thats when the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan. You can have every step of the next few minutes completely planned out in your head, and they can slowly fade to black as fate rolls the dice and comes up with snake eyes. It all happened so fucking fast, but at the same time, it was weird how everything slowed down all of the sudden and become crystal clear. I saw Bellas glazed eyes as they started to roll back into her head, and her body clenched down on my ngers. I heard the tiny pinging sound of glass shattering. I heard the almost-not-there whistle of a tiny missile ying through the air. I felt the burn of the bullet as it sliced into my skin. I remembered I never did turn my phone back on again. Oh shit. Id just been shot, right?

Chapter 86

The back of my neck was burning, but all that went through my head was Bella. Shes not safenot safenot safe I was such a fucking idiot. I had let everything I had been feeling for her with her take over all my logical thought, and had all but forgotten our actual predicament. I had forgotten the most important thing, which was keeping her safe. My arms went around her, and I ung her down to the ground, covering her with my body as much as I could.

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Edward! Shut up! I hissed. Stay down! Dont fucking move! She whimpered, but did as I said. Whoever was shooting wasnt a great shot, or Id be dead. I reached up to the back of my neck, which really fucking hurt, but seemed to only be a graze. My hand came back with blood on my ngers, but I wasnt gushing anywhere - denitely just grazed. I looked over to the little table next to the bed, where my gun was sitting. Fuck. I had to get to it, but I couldnt leave her. My mind spun around as I tried to think as I tried to react but all I could do was think about what an idiot I was for not remembering the person who had tried to follow us from Germany, as well as whoever else might be after either me or her. Now Bella could be hurt again, and there was no fucking way I could let that happen. I took a deep breath, and started to raise myself up. Maybe I could haul her across the oor with me; still keeping her covered while I went for the gun. I didnt get the chance. The door broke open, and splinters of wood ew in every direction. Again, I pulled Bella close. I had fucked this up so bad, but there was no way I was going to let anyone take her away and make her do anything she didnt want to do. Theyd have to fucking kill me rst. Unfortunately, that probably wasnt going to be very difcult. The next words I heard both thrilled and condemned me. Release your hostage and get your hands where we can see them! Cops. Fucking cops. They wouldnt hurt her.

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Bellas hands gripped my arms tightly, and I turned my head to look down into her panicked eyes. I raised my hand off the oor long enough to brush the edge of her cheek with my thumb. Release her, now! They wont hurt you, I whispered to her. Youll be okaybut you have to nd Rosalie. You have to get that chip deactivated. You hear me? Nono, Edward! Ill explainthey wontthey wont I shook my head as I heard the footsteps of several people walking farther into the room and closer to where my body covered hers on the oor. I still didnt make a move to look at them. I did notice a decent sized pile of rose petals under the corner of the bed, where the hotel staff had obviously missed them. Bella made a strange, mufed sound in her throat. Shhits okay, I told her, stroking her cheek one more time. I wanted to tell her more, and part of me begged to say the words I wanted to say to her, but I didnt. I wont let them take you! Bella said with fervor. You cant stop them, I replied. Like hell I cant! she snapped, and then she looked up over my shoulder with heat in her eyes. A heat the dimmed quickly, her eyes widening rst in shock, and then elation. The next word after that blasted through my torso and had the potential to have left me bleeding out as much as any bullet could have. Daddy! I moved to one side as she scrambled out from under me. I heard shouting, but didnt completely make out the words, though my subconscious must have taken over to some degree, because I placed my hands on top of my head when they told me to. My ngers were still wet from being inside of her, they were

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covered in her scent. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply right before I felt my arms being wrenched behind me, one after the other, and I heard the distinctive click of handcuffs. Someone up there hates me, right?

_________________________________

Chapter 87

You are under arrest for the kidnapping and rape of Isabella Swan. There was a long list of other charges accessory to human trafcking, possession of an illegal rearm, possession of fraudulent identication, blah blah blah. I stopped listening. I didnt rape her, I kept saying. It was consensual. Statutory rape, then, the ofcer sneered after I repeated myself for the tenth time. Shes nineteen, I snapped back at him. He snorted. She turned eighteen two days ago. My eyes snapped shut as all the little jigsaw pieces fell together. Another year of high school, her guarded looks when I mentioned her turning nineteen Her birthday was the rst time, I said. Shell conrm that. He snorted again, and since I refused to make any further comment, he eventually locked me up in a cell and left me alone.

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Extradition from France happened a lot faster than I would have thought, and before I could truly even wrap my head around what was happening I was back in the states and awaiting a bond hearing. I hadnt seen Bella since she was taken out of the room in the arms of her father. Everything inside of me just feltdead. It didnt take me long to realize it was the way I had always felt before I had ever heard if Isabella Swan. The feeling was almost comfortable, and certainly very familiar. My attorney, Garrett Milton, sat across the table from me and read over the list of charges while I smoked the rst cigarette I had been allowed since I was taken from France.

The girl is being extremely uncooperative, which is good, he said. Bella, I growled. What? She has a name, fucker. I turned my eyes up to him and watched him inch back a little. Its Bella. Not the girl. Got it? Sure, he said with a nod. Garrett lled in a lot of the holes for me. Lee Stephens private investigator hired by her father had obviously managed to track us to Germany. He and his assistant lost us, though, and how they found out exactly where we were in Paris was still a bit of a mystery. I had a sneaking suspicion I knew how, though. I asked Garrett if he could get my phone. It cost about ten grand in bribes, but he brought it during our next meeting. The rst thing I did was to listen to the four voice mails from R.H. on the phone. Time to bug, E. We got a mole. You better fucking call me back. J. Jenks knows Bs father.

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Call me. Now! Theyre on their way. Long-range shooter in tow. The only thing that surprised me was the name J. Jenks, the document man. Jasper had used him for years. I tapped the phone until I brought up the recent history. There it was. September 13th at 17:47 there was a single three minute call to a Washington area phone number. I would have been in the shower, getting ready for our date. More than time enough to trace. I closed my eyes for a moment and took a deep breath through my mouth, then slowly let it out through my nose. I should have felt angry at her, but I didnt. I couldnt. How old is she really? I asked. She turned eighteen earlier this month. I reached behind my neck and scratched at the bandage there. The supposed sharp shooter claimed he had intended to only graze me, but I was willing to be Bellas father had requested a kill shot.

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Shes denitely giving them problems, Garrett continued. They wanted to be able to treat her as a hostile witness, but then they found out you somehow got legally married before you left the country they had to throw that out the window. Until the marriage is declared void, she cant be forced to testify against you. Not sure how you pulled that one off. Of course, it would never stand up long-term, but its election time and the Prosecutor is up for reelection next month When it came right down to it, after all of Garretts babbling, the only charges they thought they could make stick was the unauthorized transportation of a minor out of the country and statutory rape. I didnt have sex with her until her birthday, I told him. Garrett just looked at me. Edward, you know were alone here. Im telling you, I didnt. You didnt sleep with the girl you bought for sex? NoI justlook, I didnt, all right? Not even a blowjob? Garrett snickered. Fuck. I ran my hands through my hair. Does that count? Wellyeah, Garrett said. In the legal sense, anyway. But you havent mentioned it to anyone, have you? He might have continued taking for quite some time after that, but I didnt hear him. I was fairly sure someone out of a Wiley Coyote cartoon had just run by and dropped an anvil on my chest and shoved dynamite up my ass. I tried to swallow, but my throat wasnt working. Blow jobs count, fucker. And she didnt want it. She didnt have any choice.

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She thought Aro would kill her mother if she didnt deep-throat me. She thought I was going to kill her if she didnt do everything I wanted. And I wanted my cock sucked. I couldnt breathe. Oh God. Oh God. Oh God. I raped her. My head began to throb in my temples with a pain unlike anything I had ever felt before. My vision blurred, and the room started spinning on me. I turned and leaned over towards the oor just in time to avoid spewing lunch all over the legal papers Garrett had so neatly spread out before us. I raped her. I raped Bella. More lunch. I started getting light-headed as my short, panting breaths began to overoxygenating my brain. Blow jobs count. I raped her. Oh God. I raped Bella. I did. Me. Oh God.

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Everything went dark, and I felt myself hit the oor. I deserved whatever I got, right?

___________________________________ Chapter 88

Garrett Milton sat next to me and ipped through a bunch of documents, grumbling under his breath the entire time. The prosecuting attorney, Phil Dwyer, shufed in the door and plopped down across from me, followed by his assistant a little dark haired guy with dorky glasses and an armful of paperwork.

I knew him. Wed been in court a few times before, but I had always been exonerated. He hated me with a passion, and the feeling was denitely mutual. The look in his eyes was nothing more than sheer glee now that he had his sights on me again. Garrett immediately started going through the list of charges and going on about how there wasnt enough evidence for this and that, and how he basically

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suggested dropping everything and calling it a day. Dwyer looked at me as he spoke to my attorney, and spouted a bunch of bullshit about how much evidence they had, testimony from the victims parents, the PIs reportblah blah blah. I took a cigarette out of my pocket. Theres no smoking in here, Dwyer informed me. I looked into his eyes while I lit up. Fucking sue me. He just glared at me and leaned forward with his elbows on the table. He was about to speak, but I beat him to it. What do you really want, Phil? The man hated having defendants call him by his rst name. It was his own little power trip, and I could read the shock in his assistants eyes that I could possibly be so bold. He glared at me some more, but didnt respond. Come on, I prompted, just spit it out. You want me behind bars, right? I would very much like to see that, he admitted with a nod. Well, I said as I blew smoke right into his face, nows your chance. Edward- Garrett started to say. Shut the fuck up, Garrett. I didnt look at my attorney, but kept my eyes on Dwyer. Im going to offer you a deal you cant refuse, because you know there isnt really enough evidence against me, and your only real witness is refusing to testify. High prole case, election year you cant afford the loss of votes if Im set free. Ive got pictures of you with holding a teenage girl against the wall with your ngers shoved in her, he snapped. Id say thats evidence. She was over eighteen, and I bet shes already told you that was consensual. He didnt respond.

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So heres the deal, I said. I plead guilty to rape in the second degree, you drop everything else. I need a moment with my client, Garrett suddenly called out. No. Dwyer and I said at the same time. Plea bargaining, Cullen? he snickered. Whats the catch? No catch, I told him. I go to prison, which is what you want, you get your votes, all other charges dropped. Everyones happy. Theres no way youre just giving this to me, he said. Its not for you, fucker. I didnt respond out loud, but I did blow smoke in his face again. He leaned back to get away from it, but still ended up coughing while I smirked at him. Its the only way you are going to get me, I said softly. You know the chances of me getting off completely are there you dont have enough to tie me to anything other than a rearms possession and maybe the lame-ass transportation of a minor bullshit. Thats what? A year? Maybe? A little extra community service? You wont even be able to get those to stick if I decide not to let you. Theres plenty against you, he insisted. Whatever, I replied. Take it or leave it. Cullen, Dwyer said as he leaned forward on the table to look at me over his half-moon glasses. Ive been trying to put you away for years. I cant say this is exactly how I thought this would go down, but Im going to take what I can get. I need a moment with my client Fuck you, I growled back, nally looking over to Garrett. He was obviously livid. Edward, were not-

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Youre red. I said. About four minutes of tense silence ensued before Garrett Milton stood up, tossed his papers in his briefcase and walked out of the cramped little ofce. Dwyers assistant was lling out a bunch of paper, which he then handed over to his boss. Dwyer gave them the once over, and then signed his name at the bottom before pushing them across the table to me. I barely looked at them before I signed. We can set up the sentencing hearing for two weeks from today, Dwyer said. Youre still under surveillance based on the terms of your bail, so dont be stupid and try to skip out on me now. I know that. He stood up and his assistant followed suit. I stayed right when I was, nishing my cigarette and not really having anywhere else to go, anyway. I assume you will nd another attorney to represent you? Yeah, sure, I mumbled. He nodded. I have to ask, Dwyer said to me as he was leaving, why now? After all this time, why are you now pleading guilty? I just looked at him, not willing to give him a response even if I had a reasonable one to give. I probably could ght this, and he knew it. I could probably walk out of here with a hung jury, but I wasnt going to. I couldnt stand up in a courtroom with her there and plead innocent to what I had done to her. I just couldnt. I knew Garrett Milton would be pissed when I offered the plea bargain, which is why I didnt tell him before hand. He was already so sure he could get me off. I gured I had already gotten off more than my fair share of times. Pun not really intended, but it did turn my stomach. I didnt puke again you have to be able to eat to have something to throw up.

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The rest of the day I stayed in that little ofce and tried to get another attorney, only to nd that my bank accounts had pretty much disappeared. All of them. There were only about four people who could have gotten access to that info, and considering all my other businesses were now apparently being run by McCarty, I had a pretty good idea what had happened to them. The tech company was still in my name, but the assets had been seized pending investigation. Every phone number I tried was no longer in service. So two weeks later I found myself in the courtroom with a public defender, which was pretty much a joke. I didnt care though. I didnt care how much time I did. It would never be enough. Nothing would ever be enough. My eyes never left the table in front of me with its little bottle of water and manila envelope lled with copies of the papers I had signed. The public defender stood up at the appropriate time and entered in my guilty plea. I barely listened as Lee Stephens took the stand, followed by Bellas father and mother. They all told their stories to the judge in hopes of getting me the maximum sentence in this state. Right as the judge made me stand as she pronounced sentence, I heard the soft creek of the door in the back of the courtroom. I didnt have to look I knew it was her. I could feel her eyes on me, and my breath was gone again. I wanted to turn around and look at her just to see her and know she was okay but thats when the judge said my name. Edward Anthony Cullen, she stated. You have been found guilty of second degree rape. Considering all the other information provided by the testimony here today, I am not inclined to offer you any leniency. Therefore, you are hereby sentenced to ten to fteen years in the federal penitentiary, the maximum sentence allowable by this state. Your sentence will begin immediately. The bailiff walked over alone with two other armed guards. They turned me around to place me in the handcuffs, and that is when I saw her.

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She was so, so beautiful, and so, so young. She wasnt in the dressy clothing she had worn all the time she was with me, but in a simple pair of jeans and a hooded sweatshirt with her hair pulled up in a ponytail on the top of her head. She looked very much like the high school student she was. Her eyes were wide, and her head was slowly shaking from side to side. All I could do was stare at her as they pulled me away. The pain in my chest, which had remained pretty constant since the day I understood what I had really done to her doubled, and the pressure was enough to make me stumble against one of the guards. She deserved so much out of life, and I had fucked that up beyond belief. She was everything, and she deserved to see the man who raped her punished for what he did. She had to know that I did it for her, right?

______________________________________ Chapter 89:

All prison hallways should be referred to as gauntlets. Various yells, comments, and even fucking singing were thrown out at me as I was led between two long rows of cells to number 242D. There was an electronic buzz, the door slid to one side, the guard released my wrists from the handcuffs, and I was pushed inside. At least it was a single cell. I sat down on the edge of the cot, rubbed my wrists, and stared at the cement oor. The ride from the city to the state penn had taken most of the day, and it was only ten minutes after I was placed in my new home when lights out was called, and I was thrown into darkness. I didn't sleep.

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I probably should have spent the night contemplating my missed steps in life to gure out just what I could have done to steer myself in the right direction, or some similar bullshit. I didn't. I didn't think of anything. I didn't feel anything. I was numb, and the feeling was quite welcome. When the lights came back on, I was still on the same spot. I blinked my eyes a few times, but otherwise didn't move. One of the guards came walking down the aisle, taking and giving insults back and forth with the other prisoners. The electronic buzz sounded again, and the door to my cell opened. I didn't move. A few minutes later, the guard paused at my door. "New guy!" he called out. "Cullen, right?" I just nodded. "Time for breakfast, Cullen." I turned my head and looked him over. He was about my age, a little shorter but very muscular. I guess you would need to be. "Do I have to go?" I asked. The guard shook his head. "You should," he told me. "It only gets served once." I didn't really have any other grand plans for the day, so I followed the line of inmates to breakfast, avoided speaking to anyone, and tried to force myself to eat something. It didn't work. I spent most of the day in the courtyard not watching other guys play at basketball and hacky-sack. What I really wanted was a smoke, but I didnt know where to get one. Finally, I saw the guard who had taken me to breakfast, and I asked him where some smokes could be obtained. He glanced around the courtyard, then pulled one out of his pocked and handed me a match. I found a bench that was off around the side of the yard, partially

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hidden from everyone else and sat back to smoke. The sun was warm on my face, and I just closed my eyes while I sat there. I had maybe smoked half of it when the warmth disappeared, and I opened my eyes to nd a really, really big guy standing in front of me. Hey new guy, he said. His voice was menacing at the very least. There were others coming up behind them six others. You know that little down in the pit of your stomach feeling of dread? Yeah, I had that. What cha in for? he asked as he tilted his bald head to one side. UmI stammered. A few things, I guess. I tried to shrug it off, but I knewI knew it wasnt going to work. Three of the guys moved to my right, further blocking the view of the rest of the yard. Like what? You know, I tried to laugh it off. A little of this, a little of that. I heard he likes fucking little girls, one of the guys in the back piped up. Oh shit. I looked up to the face on the guy in front of me, though I couldnt see him well with the sun right behind him. I considered trying to explain, but there wouldnt be any point. Is that so? he said as he took a half step towards me. I tried to remain as calm as I could, slowly inhaling my cigarette and not making it obvious that I was looking for some direction to run or the eye of a guard to catch. I didnt see either. My cigarette dropped, burning the edge of my arm as he suddenly reached forward and grabbed my hair, using it to pull my head backwards and to the side. His foul breath crawled over me as he leaned forward. I got a daughter, you sick son of a bitch, he snarled. Get him on the ground.

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Even if I could have fought off this many of them, I knew this was going to happen. My shoulders were wrenched down towards the cement, and I felt my cheek tear as it hit the edge of the bench and then the blacktop below. As the pain ripped through me, all I could think about was Bella and what she had been through because of me. Nothing I did not killing Aro, or James, or any of the others could take that away from her memories. I had raped herguilty as charged. Now I was being punished. An eye for an eye, right?

________________________________ Chapter 90:

I could hear a lot of yelling and screaming, and I felt my arms being released as I slumped down to the ground right before I blacked out. I woke up in the prison inrmary feeling about as shitty physically as I already did mentally. It helped, actually. I opened my eyes and looked into a strangely familiar tanned face. Hey Edward, he said, and the sound alone made my head feel like it had just spilt open and a yoke fell out of it. Remember me? He really did look familiar. Fucking huge guy, too. He was really tan, and had black hair and eyes. UmSeth? Yeah! He literally beamed from ear to ear. That hurt my head, too. Dont try to move or anything, okay? You got prettyumbeat up. Yeah. I didnt really care to have any further elaboration on the topic.

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Dont worry, man, Seth said. You gave me a job when I needed it, so I already made it clear to the rest of them they dont come near you, or they have to deal with me, ya know? It was coming back to me a bit Seth ran guns for me four or ve years ago, then became part of Alices pack after that. He got himself caught because he couldnt stop joyriding in expensive cars. Alice got sick of bailing him out, and let him take the time for grand theft instead. That had been eight months ago. After two days in the inrmary, Seth pretty much stayed at my side wherever I went. At nearly six and a half feet tall, and built like he did nothing but life weights all day, no one seemed too interested in messing with him. I got the same treatment defacto. Life in prison is weird when it comes to the relative nature of time. Days absolutely crawl by like, it takes about six hours for every minute to pass. But at the same time, days and weeks just kind of magically disappear. Theres so little to actually mark any change from one day to another that very small things tend to stand out. When someone got a letter from someone who loved them on the outside, or maybe a visit from someone, everyone listened to it. It ranked a lot higher than television. In my rst year of incarceration, I had exactly two visitors and one letter. The rst to visit was my public defendant. He had a lot of paperwork for me to sign, including an annulment for my marriage to Isabella Cullen. He told me the options were to either sign it, or theyd have to go through months or maybe years and possibly fraud charges against one or both of us to have it completely voided. I didnt want Bella to have to deal with that, so I just signed them and tried to pretend it didnt make me grow even colder inside. The second visit was from a Ms. Mary Brandybuck. Ms. Brandybuck looked a lot more like Alice Brandon than a hobbit, but I guess that didnt raise as much suspicion at the visitors desk. I was brought to the visiting room and placed in

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a little cubicle with an orange phone hanging on the pegboard wall. I picked up the receiver, and Alice did the same. Im honored, I said dryly. Alice smirked and glared all at once. Just wanted to let you know everythings good on the outside, she told me. Got all the chips in barbecue avor, I assume? I asked, hoping I wasnt being too cryptic. No problem at all, she replied. Our mutual techie friend lives for that kind of shit you know. I nodded, and then I looked into Alices eyes, rimmed with heavy black eyeliner. The ecks of gold in her hazel irises glimmered in the harsh uorescents. They were not the least bit friendly as they narrowed at me. Ill have you know, she said as she leaned in a little closer, that from the very beginning of all of this, I fully intended to complete this job by ending you. I felt the blood drain from my face. But seeing you here now, I kind of think this is more tting. I nodded a little. Yeah, honestly, Id take the bullet right now. Alice leaned in even closer to the Plexiglas. You been fucked over yet? I looked up. The glimmer was still in her eyes. I nodded once. Yeah. Good. She slammed the phone back in its holder, then stood up, turned on her heel and walked out of the room. The letter thoughthe letter was different.

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It was from Bella. It came shortly before the calendar marked my rst year in prison. It had obviously been opened and examined and then sealed up again, but I didnt care. Edward, I wish I knew what to say to you, but I dont. I want to explain everything, but I dont think it really makes any difference now. I want you to know that I didnt expect you to do this, but I think I understand why you did. When I wouldnt testify against you, everyone was so angry with me, especially my dad. The prosecutor and another police ofcer kept yelling at me until my dad nally told them they couldnt talk to me anymore. I gured out they couldnt make me testify since we were married, and it would take too long to get the whole marriage license revoked. I thought it would mean they would have to drop the charged, but then they said you were going to plead guilty and I didnt know what to do. I know everything that happened was my fault, and Im so sorry. I know they found us because I called home. I know how stupid that was now, but I just couldnt think of them going through that whole day thinking I was probably dead. I couldnt do that to them. I didnt really think they could trace the call like that, and I thought it would take more time to do it, and wed already be on our way back. I wanted to see you, but no one would let me. I had to actually sneak out of the hotel and walk twenty blocks to get to your hearing at all, and then when I got there it was too late. I wanted to at least be able to talk to you before they took you away, but as soon as you were walked out my parents put me on a plane back to Washington. I dont have enough money for a plane ticket, and Im pretty sure my truck isnt going to make it all the way there. I want to see you. I want to talk to you I really do. I just havent gured out how yet. Someone you know came to visit me while we were still waiting for your trial. She used some funny little thing that looked like a remote control near my head,

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and said it worked. I wanted you to know that. I wanted you to know that everything you did for me worked out. You saved me. I know you did, and I hope you know it, too. I asked one of the guys at my dads station about prison sentences and how long before you could really be out. He told me you could be out in eight years. Thats not really so long, is it? I promise I will come and see you as soon as I can gure out how. Please be careful, and take care of yourself. Love, Bella I lay down on my cot and held the letter next to my chest. I could almost smell her on the paper, and hoped it would help me sleep. It really didnt, and even after lights out, I kept holding it up to try and re-read it in the green glow of the emergency lighting outside the cell, which didnt work well. Finally I lay back on the pillow with the paper underneath my head. I took my hand and lay it against my cheek, slowly brushing stray hairs from my forehead and rubbing my own temple. I could at least remember and pretend, right? __________________________________

Authors notes: I hate long authors notes, but I wanted to respond to a few questions at least. This chapter should help with some of them anyway, but to clear the air the blowjob was rape in every sense of the word, and it can t the denition of second degree rape. Edwards sentence is appropriate for that crime. First degree rape can carry a 40 year to life sentence in some states. he also PLEAD GUILTY, which means they don't need any witnesses or really even proof. He's admitted to the crime, so he does the time. It was his choice.

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Bella is young and nave, and acts like a young, nave girl. Her parents are probably acting the same way most parents would - doing anything and everything to keep her safe in their own minds. Edward has no friends - Alice, Jasper, Emmett and Rose were nothing more than business associates who only knew Edward as a cold-hearted criminal who bought a girl for his own use. They know nothing of Edwards past or how he has changed. Why are you here, Edward?

Chapter 91 I was sitting outside in the courtyard just smoking and generally trying to not think. Sometimes that worked, other times it didnt. I still had the letter Bella sent me in my pocket I hadnt let it away from my person in the whole week since I had received it. I didnt know how many times I had read it, and I knew a lot of it still didnt really register in my head. Part of me had decided I would never hear from her again it had been so long but at that point I just didnt know how to react to it. I was just getting back to my cell when one of the guards handed me four more envelopes. Looks like your lucky day, Cullen. All of them had been opened and, presumably, read. When I looked over the envelopes, I could see they were all cancelled in Port Angeles, Washington, but there was no return address. The cancel dates were November, December, January and February. Nearly a year ago for the rst one. There were things inside of it a folded piece of paper and a card from a library card catalog with The Merchant of Venice on the back of it.

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I hadnt even looked at the envelope from the rst letter I received. I found out they were taking the letters I was sending you out of the mail. I didnt know. Im mailing this from the library where I work in another city, but I only come her one day a month. I hope you get it. I unfolded the paper, and read it, too, with my heart pounding in my chest.

Edward, Everything I do is being monitored by my parents, and its driving me crazy. Im seeing a counselor, which wouldnt be so bad if they would stop telling me not to try and contact you. Im not even sure if Im sending these to the right address, or if you are getting them. Please try to write me back. I miss you so much, and when I think about what it must be like for you right nowwell, I just cant think about it. I can only hope it isnt as bad as the movies and television make it out to be. I keep thinking maybe I should have testied, but when they said I could be a hostile witness it sounded like I would only make it worse for you. Then you plead guilty, and they didnt even tell me you were doing that. I couldnt get to you. I wanted to I swear I did. I think about you all the time. I havent left you, Edward. Please remember that. Love, Bella The next three letters assured me that she was okay, and was surviving her senior year in high school. Each one asked me to write to her, just so she knew I was getting her letters. Six more arrived the next day, all with similar themes. I read them over and over until my eyes blurred with overuse, and I nally fell asleep.

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If someone managed to remind me it is either Monday or Thursday, I went to group therapy for sexual offenders. It was part of my sentence to attend the meetings, but not to actually participate, which was good, because I never said anything. I didnt listen to the other participants, and just let the droning sound of their voices barely penetrate as I sat there and ignored everyone. When the hour was up, I stood and started to head outside for a smoke. Edward, will you stay a minute, please? Ms. Whatever-her-name-was asked. I shrugged and sat back down in the blue plastic chair. I cant help but notice that you do not talk in group. I shrugged. Still looking for the contest I was pretty sure I could win now. You do realize my recommendation can help with parole, right? I shrugged again. Parole was a long fucking ways away. Why dont you speak in group? she asked, a little more forcefully. I looked up at her and considered shrugging again, just so she could get an idea of how good I was at it. I dont have anything to say, I told her. Im not like these guys. You arent here for a sexual offence? I went back to shrugging. Dont you know all that? I snarked back at her.

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No, I dont look into the inmates les, she told me. I would rather form my own opinions. I only know what you tell me, but you havent told me anything in the past eleven months since you joined. Thats a lot of silence, and Im starting to take it personally. I wasnt going to be baited with her lame idea of a joke. Would you be willing to meet with me privately? she asked. Why? I was rather hoping you would speak to me if there was no one else listening. I dont know why I agreed, but I did. I picked at my lunch. It wasnt just a matter of how awful the food is and it was awful it was more because every other thing on the menu was some form of a burger. Every time I saw one I was brought back to Tanya the vegetarian in high school, and my thoughts at the time. Maybe some fucker was going to sit down and eat that burger, but it wasnt going to be me. Not anymore. Today was only different because I was about to have my rst meeting with Irina, the counselor from the group. I still didnt know why I agreed to do it, and I was still thinking about backing out. The group sessions were required personal ones werent. I didnt know why I would put myself through such a thing, except that there really wasnt anything else to do. There was a little ofce next to the inrmary where Irina met with inmates oneon-one. It was tiny, and I kind of thought it used to be a good sized closet before it was converted into a meeting place. I sat across from her and wished there was a window or something I could stare out of instead of just looking at my hands. You said you werent like the others in the group, she started. Would you tell me why you dont think you are? Not really.

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A little silence. Why are you here, Edward? I raped a seventeen year old girl, I said bluntly. Dont you think that makes you right for my group, then? I didnt know how to answer. It justwasnt like that, I nally said. What was it like then? I looked up to her, and was kind of surprised that her eyes didnt hold the disgust and condemnation I would have expected. She leaned forward a little. Edward, you are already in prison, she said. Unless you tell me you are going to hurt someone else or yourself, anything you tell me is protected. You are my patient, and you are not going to get in further trouble if you tell me what happened. I sat in the chair and tried to focus on keeping the little lunch I had eaten down. You arent taking care of yourself, she stated. Youve lost weight since you got here. Yeah, I probably had. Whatever. I want to help you, Edward, she said. But you have to let me. Help me do what? Help you get ready to leave this place and go out to lead a normal life. I didnt know why, but those words hit me hard. I had stopped thinking about the future completely. I never thought as far as the next hour, let alone what I might do when I got out of here. There was no life to return to once I left, and I told her as much. Everyone has potential, Edward. Even you.

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I wanted to argue with her I was probably the last person in this entire place who had any potential what-so-ever. I was a career criminal, and I didnt know anything else. I also knew I was not a career criminal anymore, and that I would never return to that life. If you could have one thing when you left here, what would it be? It was the rst easy question she asked. Bella. That sounds like a womans name, she said. I nodded in response. If you walked out of here today, and she was standing at the gates by the road, how would you want her to see you? I went cold colder than I had when I realized the extent of what I had done. Colder than when they hauled me out of the courtroom. Colder than the rst day here. Not like this, I whispered. My hands started shaking, and I balled them into sts to make it stop as Bellas written words echoed through my mind. I havent left you, Edward. I looked up at Irinas blue eyes and felt my heart start to beat again. Maybe if I told her everything everything she could help me gure it all out. Maybe she could help me gure out what I should do. Maybe I could look a little farther ahead. Maybe somewhere in the future I could be in Bellas life again. Irina could help me, right?

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Chapter 92:

I told her everything. I told her about buying a girl for sex, raping her, killing a dozen people in some fucked up idealistic view that it might absolve me of my involvement, and falling in love with my victim. I told her absolutely everything. I thought maybe I would feel better afterwards. I didnt. Thats a lot to absorb all at once, Edward, Irina said after I signied I was done by adding a little Porky Pig impersonation at the end of my story. I have to admit it. How do I x it? I asked, and my words echoed in my own head, because I remembered asking Alice the same thing back in the beginning of all this mess. What does xed look like to you? Fucking answering fucking questions with fucking questions. Lovely. Make it never happen, I nally said. That would be nice, she agreed. Not possible, but a nice thought. What about something in the realm of possibility? I guess I cant x it. Not in that way, no. Irina leaned back in her chair and tossed the pen she had been playing with the whole time onto her notepad. I didnt think she wrote a single word down. Will you meet with me again? I guess so. I shrugged. I need a little time to process all of this in my own head, she told me as she tapped her nger against her temple. And I have some homework for you. Homework? I raised an eyebrow at her.

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Yes, homework, she smiled over the desk at me. I want you to write down where you want to be one year from your parole. Where are you? Who are you with? What do you do for a living? Any or all of the above. If you dont want to write it out, you can always draw me a picture. Ill set up another appointment for next week. I went back to my cell with absolutely no idea what to write down. Once I had sufciently given myself a headache over it, I read all of Bellas letters again twice. I lay back on the pillow as the lights went out, and wondered if I could even come up with something that looked like a normal life. The trailer I grew up in and the penthouse I ended up in neither of them were real. I didnt know what real looked like. The lights went out, and the guards yelled at a few people to shut up. I closed my eyes, drifting off to images of suburban living that looked like they came right out of Edward Scissorhands . My ngers feel warm as I slip them through hers. I bring her hand up to my lips, kissing the backs of her knuckles one at a time. I love the way our hands look all intertwined together. She smiles at me, and swings our arms between us as we step on to the private jet to take uswherever we are going. The she is pushing me back against the sea,t and my clothes are gone, and as the plane takes off, she straddles me, and her warm skin is up against my hands as they explore her body. It is both comfortable and familiar, yet there is no way I would ever grow tired of it.

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My hands slide down to her backside, lifting her up and slowly positioning her over the tip of my cock. I bury myself in her silky warmth as her hand lays against the side of my head. She sets the rhythm, moving her hips slowly so Im just sliding back and forth inside of her. I wrap one arm around her back and hold her closer to me as I feel myself get closer to ecstasy

Come on, Cullen! You gotta eat sometime! I squeezed my eyes against the searing light, rolled over to one side, and started another day. Irina was waiting pretty patiently, but I had yet to hand her my homework, even though I had been there for a good ve minutes now and had the damn thing in my hand. Does it embarrass you? she asked. I dont know, I said. Maybe. Why? Its juststupid. Is it what you want for your future? I could only nod as Irina leaned across her desk and tilted her head to look at me. Please? I tried to glare at her, but it really wasnt working. I nally sighed, tossed the single sheet of notebook paper at her, and then leaned back in the seat. I glared at a spot on the wall just for good measure. I tried not to watch her expression as she looked at the drawing. Edward, this is very expressive, she nally said after about three and a half hours of staring at it. All right, it might have been a minute and a half, but it

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sure as hell felt like three hours. My chest was tightening up again, and I wanted to get the fuck out of there. She lay the paper face up on the desk and gestured to it. You have some talent here, Edward, she said. Drawing hands is really hard. Drawing two hands with their ngers all laced together like this is especially difcult. But theres more to it than just the quality of the drawing, do you know that? I didnt respond. I didnt actually even move. Edward, Im going to ask you an extremely clich question, Irina said. I hope youll talk to me about it anyway. What is it? I asked. Will you tell me about your mother? Oh this was going to be interesting, right?

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Chapter 93

We talked for weeks. I dont think I had ever talked so much in my life. Sometimes I had to stop and drink half a bottle of water before I could talk anymore. I told Irina everything I could remember about growing up in the trailer. I told her about dropping out of school and driving the trucks full of gun shipments. I told her about taking over the business through blood and threats of blood. She always asked the same questions whether I was talking about my mom making lunch, my dad yelling, or putting a bullet in someones scull what were you thinking at the time? How did you feel about it afterwards? The answer with always the same. Nothing. Until you bought Bella. Until I bought Bella. What was different? At rst? Nothing, really, I told her. I mean, I was frustrated and ticked off about the whole thing, because I was so unprepared. I was used to being prepared for whatever was going to happen, and I wasnt. Id fucked it up. I didnt even have any clothes or anything for her. At what point did you begin to feel guilty for what you had done? Right after I raped her. Irina leaned back a little and started tapping her pen rapidly against the edge of the desk. I had come to notice that she did this when she was trying to gure out how to phrase her question.

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You didnt recognize the act as rape at the time, she pointed out. Why do you think you felt guilty then? Its when she started having nightmares. I leaned forward and put my elbows on my knees. I rubbed my ngers into my eyes. I didnt understand how talking could give me headaches, but it sure as hell did. I think were about done for today, Irina said. You look tired. I shrugged. Are you eating any better? I shrugged again. Still the fucking master. What did you eat for lunch? There really wasnt anything. She opened up a drawer and pulled out the menu schedule. It says here there was meatloaf, mashed potatoes with gravy and green beans, she read from the form. Sounds like something. I dontumeat meat. Youre a vegetarian? Yeah, I guess. So what did you eat? I ate some of the beans. This morning? she pressed. Cereal. Last night? Damn, woman, I said, but I smiled at her a bit. I had a roll andI dont remember. Peaches or pears or something.

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Have you asked for vegetarian meals? I gave my shoulders a bit more of a workout, and Irina sighed and ended our session so she could go work with the group. I had been excused from the group sessions, since Irina was working with me personally instead. I went to the courtyard, smoked until we had to go back in, talked to Seth a little at dinner, where I tried to eat peas, but honestly I never liked the fuckers. I went to bed at lights out, looking over the latest letter from Bella for the fourteenth time. I had received it two days ago, though it was obvious from the content it had been written six months ago. I had received two others that werent as old as this one. Hello Edward, I graduated last week, and college is just around the corner. I tried to nd one that wasnt too far from you, but there just isnt any way I can afford to move right now. Im still hoping Ill be able to move for my second year, but the rst one will be at the community college near my hometown. I got a better job thats close to school so I can get more hours. Im living with my parents and saving everything. I want to see you, and Im trying I really am. I havent gotten any letters from you, and Im pretty sure my dad has been taking them before I can nd them. He denied it, but I told him I knew they were throwing out my letters to you. Funny he admitted to that, but still denied throwing yours out. I still work at the Port Angeles city library one weekend a month could you trying writing me there? I dont think they would throw out a letter if I got one there. I miss you. I hope you are okay. Love, Bella I pushed the paper back underneath my pillow along with the others. I always carried most of them with me, but the no longer t in my pockets very well, and I didnt want them noticed again. Not after the last time.

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During my next session with Irina, she found out about the letter from Bella. She was not exactly thrilled at the whole idea. Not at all, actually. What happened to your eye? Fight, I said with an award winning shrug. What were you ghting about? I didnt answer. When you rst arrived here, you were attacked, she said about three minutes after hello. You spent a couple of days in the inrmary. Im not talking about that, I said. I tried to talk a slow breath, but it wasnt working very well. Youve been in two other ghts since then, she said. One of those was six months ago, the other last week. You arent a prison brawler, Edward why now? Hetried to take something of mine. What was it? I sighed and looked up to her blue eyes, and gave up. She had her determined face on, and I had honestly not been very successful in getting away with silence when she had that look on her face. A letter. Who wrote to you? Bella. For the rst time, Irina was silent without the assistance of pen tapping. She writes to you? Yeah. How often?

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Once a month, usually, I answered. Its hard to tell, I usually get a couple of them at a time, and the last one I got was from six months ago. I have fourteen of them all together. May I read them? We locked gazes as a little mini debate club started yelling back and forth at each other in my head. Was it betraying Bella to let someone else read them? Would it help Irina understand, and then she could help me, and I could get out of here with a chance of at least being in her life in some way? Would Bella be angry if someone else read them? Would Irina be angry at me for keeping them from her? I shook my head, trying to ward off the impending headache. Fuck it. I took out the six letters currently in my pocket and lay them down on the desk. It couldnt hurt, right?

Chapter 94:

I tried not to look at Irinas face as she read the letters Bella sent to me. I didnt know what she would think, or what she would say, and the whole damn thing made me nervous as hell. Edward, our session is almost up, she nally said. I still didnt look up. May I hold on to these? No! I looked up at her then, nearly jumped out of my chair and grabbed for the ones sitting on her desk. She held one hand up in surrender mode, and the other held out Bellas letter. I grabbed it away from her, and sat back down, holding them tightly in my hands.

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The door slammed open behind me, and the guard who monitors the cameras put his hand on my shoulder, held me against the back of the chair, and asked if there was a problem. Irina just shook her head no, and told him everything was ne. He looked down at me. You gonna behave yourself, Cullen? he asked. Yeah, sure, I responded. He left after getting more reassurance from Irina, and she took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. They must be pretty important to you, she commented. I didnt see any reason to respond, so I didnt. Our session ended, and I went back to my normal routine. Smoke, eat a little, try to sleep, wake, smoke, do it all again. Do you want to talk about the letters? It was the rst thing she said after hello. Whats to say? I asked. You said you didnt receive the rst one until you had been here for some time, she said. What were you thinking about Bella before you saw it? I wasnt. You werent what? Thinking. How about after you received it? she pressed. I scratched the back of my neck and ddled with my hair. I guess I was glad she was okay, I said. Irina didnt respond, which usually meant she was going to just sit there until I said something else. I sighed and

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took a breath. I was relieved, at rst. Then I was justI dont knowI guess I thought she had forgotten about me. Do you think Bella could forget about you? You both went through a lot together. Yeah. More silence from the other side of the desk. I wish she could. Could what? Forget about me. Why do you want that? Because if she did, shed forget all the other shit, too. She said she was in therapy or whatever, and I didnt want her to have tolive through all of that again and again. If she forgot me, shed bebetter off. The letters you have received from her are obviously very important to you, considering your reaction to parting with them last week. It is your connection not only to Bella, but to the outside world as a whole. Youre holding on to them like some kind of lifeline. She is my life, I said quietly. She is thousands of miles away without the nancial means to see you, Irina pointed out. I dont know what the detail of her therapy contains, but Im not surprised she has been advised not to contact you. Why not? Because at some point, you both need to heal, she said. What have you said in letters back to her? I shrugged, and I felt a chill go up my spine. Edward, you dont have to tell me, but I think it might help. I havent sent her any, I admitted. You havent responded to her at all? In a year and a half?

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I shook my head. Why not? I dont know what to say to her. The silence led to pen tapping this time. Have you received any other letters or visitors since you arrived? No, I said. I wasnt going to count the visit from Alice. Would you like to? What do you mean? I mean there are a lot of programs available here where people from the outside usually church groups write to inmates. Its kind of a pen-pal program, if you will. You could be signed up to receive letters from these kids of groups. It can help to have that kind of contact with others. No, I said without really thinking about it. Edward, a large part of your problem has to do with connecting to people, she said. Yeah, yeah, Id heard this since I rst talked about my childhood. You dont have any relationships with other inmates except for Seth, who will be out in six months. You dont have any one contacting you outside of your victim. You need to learn how to deal with people if you are ever going to get to the point where you want to be. I didnt respond this time I didnt know what to say. After a minute, Irina opened up one of her desk drawers and placed a green, cellophane wrapped something on the desk in front of me. Whats that? Its a veggie wrap, she responded. I brought it for lunch, but I wasnt hungry enough to eat it. Would you like it? Damn if my stomach didnt growl right about then. Lunch had been nonexistent. I looked over to see Irina smiling a little, like she was trying to hold it

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in. I closed my eyes and shook my head, then reached over and opened the damn thing up. It was actually really good. Fine, I told her when I was done with it. Ill be a fucking pen-pal. Have you thought anymore about getting your GED? Irina asked. We had talked about it a few times, and I wasnt sure if I wanted to or not. She kept asking me about it, though, and I nally asked what the point of it would be. Part of being able to lead a normal life includes getting a job, she said. Without a GED, and with your background, how are you going to do that? I sighed and sat back. I did run a legitimate company, I nally said. Which has since dissolved, she reminded me. I still ran it thats kind of a resume, isnt it? She tilted her head and raised her eyebrows. Fine, I relented. Ill do it. I passed on the rst try. Sessions with Irina were the only thing I actually looked forward to in the entire week. It both made the other six days go slower and faster at the same time. I swear to God, that woman had talked me into doing a hundred things I never would have considered, including petitioning for vegetarian options on the prison menu. I had yet to be successful, but she hadnt let me give up yet. There was only one thing she hadnt talked me into, and that was writing any letters. Did you get a letter this week? she asked.

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Yeah, I responded. From? Pastor Lee, I told her. Thats the third one from him, correct? Yeah. Have you written back yet? I started to, I told her. Its not a pen-pal program if you dont write back, she reminded meagain. I dont know what to say. This all goes back to connecting with people, Edward, she said. You dont have to have some kind of phenomenal insight to share in order to just respond to someone. Just try writing what you did all day, or what you might like to do when you get out. Yeah, that would be all kind of interesting, I snorted. Set sarcasm to kill. It doesnt have to be interesting, she saidagain. Talk about the weather. Talk about the food. Talk about Seth, current events anything. Every time I say something its wrong, I told her. Ifif I piss him offI mean, Im not religious or anything. If I piss him off with something I sayhe might I trailed off. He might what? she prompted. Stop writing to me. I glanced up at her, feeling the tightness in my chest now that I had admitted the reason. My hands were starting the shake, and I placed one of them over my pocket trying to get some contact with Bellas letters that lived there. The same six had been in there for two months now.

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You havent received any more letters from Bella, have you? Not since that last one. I swallowed hard, trying to keep my voice in check. Since the rst one I had received, I had gotten at least one from her every month. The last one I received had been over two months ago, and the tone of it had changed drastically. I still kept it in my pocket, but I never read it again. You still havent written to her. No. I put my hands back on my thighs and stared at them. I still dont know what to say. Pen tapping. There was a lot of that going on recently. Do you want me to help you write it? I swallowed again hard. My hands clenched and unclenched, and I cleared my throat before speaking again. Would you? I would be happy to. It couldnt be that hard, right? __________________________ Chapter 95:

I pulled Bellas last letter out of my pocket and opened it up, trying to keep my heart from pounding in my chest at the same time. Edward, I talked to my therapist last week. She always knew I was writing you, but I wouldnt really talk about it. This time, when she asked me what I had told you, I decided to tell her what was in my letters. I gured it didnt really matter. But after I told her, she asked me a question and it made me think. You see, I only told you about the things that I thought you would want to hear, and not

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everything that has been going on. She asked me what you would really want to hear, and what things I maybe should have been telling you, but wasnt. She told me if I was going to keep writing to you, I needed to be more honest about it, because not telling you everything we doing a disservice to us both. I thought about it a lot, and I think she was right. I havent been honest with you, because I know where you are has to be horrible, and I didnt want to make you feel any worse. But I owe it to you to be honest, so here it goes. Ive been hospitalized three times for depression and suicide attempts. I dont think I ever intended to kill myself, really, but I just didnt know how to cope with everything. Ive been on medication and in intensive therapy since I got out the last time. I only barely nished high school because my parents hired tutors to help me get through my exams, and the school let me take them late. Between the tutors, the hospitalizations, and health insurance that doesnt think mental problems are worth covering, I pretty much ruined my family nancially. Im still struggling with a ton of guilt because of that, and because of what I did to you. I keep being told neither are my fault, and some days I agree, other days I dont. I still have nightmares. The only job I have been able to keep is the library job. I cant always make myself get up I in the morning, so I lost the one at the sporting goods store. The library was always really exible about when I came in, and as long as I got my hours in during the weekend, they didnt really care what time I showed up. My dad died of a heart attack two months ago. I blame myself for that, too. I know how much stress I have put on him over the past year and a half, and I know that hasnt helped. Mom keeps telling me he always had high blood pressure, but I know everything that happened to her and to me took their toll on him as well. I did get into the community college. I went there partially due to money, but also because I graduated late and didnt get any applications in on time. I trying to study to be a teacher, but the classes are still pretty rough on me.

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Im still trying to get enough money together to come and visit you, but I need at least $500, and Im pretty sure my mom would kill me if I used it for plane fair instead of schoolbooks right now. Once the insurance money comes through from my Dads policy, I hope I will have enough, but they say that can take up to a year. Im starting to think that you may not write me back. I dont know why. I dont even know for sure if you are getting any of my letters. I still hope you are okay. I still think about you every day. People still tell me I shouldnt, but I cant help how I feel. Some days Im angry at you. Im angry because of everything you did that started all of this. Im angry because I havent heard from you at all. Im angry that you plead guilty, when you probably could have found a way to get off, or at least end up with a lesser charge. I also know you did it for me. As for right now, mostly Im confused. My therapist said you should have received at least some of my letters, and you could have written me back at the library, even if my dad had been throwing them out. I dont know what I should do. She keeps telling me I have to move on with my life nish school, go out on dates, be myself. I try I really do. I have some good friends who have supported me a lot. Not about everything, but theyre just worried about me. I just wish I knew what you were thinking. Maybe you are getting my letters, and you just arent responding. Maybe you arent even reading them. Maybe I am stupid and nave, like so many people have said I am. If you can, please write me back. Love, Bella

Edward?

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Yeah, I mumbled back. My hands were shaking and making the paper shake, too. Are you ready? I still dont know what to say. What if she walked into this room right now? Irina asked. What would you do? I had to think about that one. Tell her that her friends and her family are right, and she should move on. I rubbed my ngers into my temples. And that I love her and I dont want her to ever give up on me. Those two things dont really t together very well, Irina said. I know. Lets see what we can come up with, okay? I dont know how long it took us to write it, but Irina cancelled her group session to help me nish it. I started over at least ten times, changing my mind on the wording, and wanting to not have too many pencil scratching all over it. When it was done, I read it again and again. Bella, I dont know what to say to you. Thats why I havent written. I wanted to please believe that but Ive not been in a good place at all, and I just didnt know how to respond. Sometimes I dont get your letters for at a month or more, and I think whatever I might have said then doesnt make any difference now. Everything I just said was just an excuse. I didnt write you because I was afraid to write you. I dont want to tell you what its like here. I dont want to fuck up your life any more than I already have. I cant gure out how anything

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I do or say now could possibly make anything better for you, except to say that Im sorry. Im sorry for everything I did, and for all the things it caused. Im sorry I hurt you, and that I hurt your family. I plead guilty because I deserve to be here for what I did to you. I dont expect you or anyone else to forgive me for what Ive done. Ive been in therapy, too. I want to get better. I want to be better, so when I get out of here, maybe I can be somethingmore. I dont really know what that means right now, but Im trying to gure it out. Please spend your money on your education. As much as I want to see you, its more important right now. Edward I debated over how to sign it for at least twenty minutes. I didnt want to tell her I loved her in a fucking letter. I didnt want to tell her at all, and at the same time I wanted to fucking scream it loud enough that she could hear me all the way across the continent. I wanted to tell her I hoped she would still be in my life once this was over, but I didnt want her to feel like she had to be. Are you sure this is everything you want to say? Is there something else I should say? Thats not for me to decide, Edward, she said with a shake of her head. I can help you come up with the questions, but the answers have to come from you. I think this is it. I looked up at her and tried to get some sort of read on her, but I never really could. Am I fucking it up? I dont think so. Okay, I let out a breath. This is it, then. Irina offered to take it and mail it for me. She would understand, right?

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Chapter 96:

I didnt even know it was Christmas Eve until people started going on about how dinner was going to be catered in from some charity or another. Turkey and all the trimmings. The idea made my stomach turn. I went to dinner anyway, had some sweet potatoes and Seth handed me his roll in exchange for my turkey and stufng. Some new guy Embry sat with us. He was just about as big as Seth, and Seth said he was grooming him to watch out for me when he was gone. He seemed to think that phrase was pretty fucking funny, and laughed every time he said it. We had free time for the rest of the day, so I went back to my cell to grab my smokes and head outside. There was a letter sitting on my bed that hadnt been there before. I reached out, turned it over and saw the Washington postage cancelation. I opened it slowly. Edward, I guess I have given up. I should have listened to everyone else all along. You have been getting my letters I got the registered letter card back from the last one, and it was signed by the warden at the penitentiary. You obviously arent

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writing me back, and I can only assume that means you dont want to hear from me. Im sorry about everything, but I have to start moving on. Bella

My stomach clenched so hard, I doubled over ghting to keep what I had just eaten in my stomach. She didnt sign it love. She wasnt writing again. How long ago did she send this? I ipped it over, and saw it was dated four weeks ago about one week after I had sent her mine. How could I have been so, so fucking stupid? Two years, and I never wrote her. Not even a fucking card on her birthday. Nothing. I did nothing. I waited too long. I dropped to my knees on the oor. My breathing was coming way too fast, and my heart felt like it was trying to jump right out of my chest. I could barely stand, and I was denitely in danger of just passing out. Two years. Two fucking years. I needed to see Irina. I pushed myself off the oor and went as quickly as I could to her ofce, not even sure if she would still be there. When I walked past the inrmary, I couldnt believe how many people were in there inmates and guards alike. Even the guard that usually stood at the door to Irinas ofce was inside, trying to herd prisoners and bedpans. People were puking everywhere.

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I mean everywhere. I heard the words food poisoning and salmonella being thrown around. I walked a step into the room, looking around at the chaos of people throwing up, rolling around on the overlled cots and chairs, screaming that they were dying, or that they needed to go to the hospital, and the guards trying to keep some kind of order while they themselves were turning green and clutching their stomachs. I looked around to see if Irina was there, but she wasnt. I could see the door to her ofce from where I was, and it was open, but no one was inside. Thats when I saw it, and everything became crystal fucking clear. The guard had his back to me. His Beretta was unclipped from its holster and just a couple of feet away from me. A guy puked on his shoes right about then, and he didnt even notice when I lifted it. The cool metal felt good in my hands, like it was supposed to be there, like it had purpose. I backed up slowly, making sure I didnt draw attention to myself. I slipped into Irinas ofce and shut the door, and then I pushed the desk up against it, wedging it tight. I dropped down to the oor in the back corner of the room, the gun held tight in my hands, even though they were still shaking. I had nothing. My businesses were gone taken over by Emmett and Alice or just folded up because of where I was. I had learned just enough between the time all of this started and now to know that buying shit was never, ever going to mean anything to me again anyway. I also know there was only one thing one personwho meant anything at all to me. And she was gone now, too. I leaned forward, tipping the barrel of the gun up towards the ceiling and resting my chin on top of it. I was so fucking tired. I was tired of trying to

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pretend I could get better. I was tired of trying to think I could pick of the pieces of my shattered, so-called life. I was tired of trying to think and believe that there was any reason for me to continue. There was banging on the door, but I barely heard it. People were yelling my name, yelling for the warden, yelling for Irina. I glanced up at the camera in the corner of the ofce and sighed. My whole body felt cold, and there was pressure in my head and behind my eyes. It hurt, and I was so fucking tired of hurting.

But I didnt hurt like she had. Hospitals, money, her dad I heard a strange, unfamiliar sound from my throat. The racket outside the door continued. I heard different voices, then they went away, and there were new ones again. The phone rang, but I didnt answer it. People started talking to me through the doorway, but I didnt listen to what they were saying. The noise of the door shattering right off its hinges made me jump a little, but I didnt look up. I closed my eyes and felt the sharp point of the barrel dig deeper into my jaw. I tilted my head forward slightly, and when I licked my lips I could taste the black metal on my tongue. I closed my eyes even tighter. My nger brushed the edge of the trigger. Give me the gun, Edward, she said. The sweetest, most incredible sound in the entire world. My eyes opened, and I saw dusty black and white converse shoes near my feet.

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Please, Edward, Bella whispered. Please give it to me. My throat seized up, and I could feel tears pouring down my face at her hushed words. All this time, and I had never cried, not once. Not for her, not for me not for anyone. Theres nonoreason I choked out, but I couldnt nish my thought or my sentence. Give it to me, she repeated, and I opened my eyes enough to see her crouch down in front of me. Please? My hands were shaking again, and all I could do was choke out barely intelligible syllables at her. Im sorry! Im sorry! I wanted to write you I swear I did. I wanted to so much, and I didnt know what I should dopleaseIm sorry, BellaIm sorry! Im sorry! Shh I watched her hand wrap around the barrel, and my ngers loosened. She pulled the weapon out of my hand and away from me. It felt like my body was trying to collapse in on itself. My eyes ached in a way I had never felt before, and I couldnt stop the tears from falling out of them. Not yetgive her a minute rst. It will be better. I heard Irinas soft voice near the door. Bella reached up her hand and put the gun on top of the desk. Another hand grabbed it away, but I had no idea whose it was. I didnt know anything at that moment, because that was when she touched me. And my world shifted on its axis, tilted, spun, whirled around until its direction was true, straight, and certain. Everything else felt like it just melted away in that moment the prison, what I had done to her, what I had done to us it all evaporated as her hand reached up and ran over the side of my face.

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Her scent enveloped me, her breath caressed me, and her skin called me home. I felt her arm around my shoulders as she pulled my head to her chest. I wrapped my arms around her back, and she pulled me even tighter against her. Im so, so sorry, I cried into her T-shirt. Knowing that timing meant nothing, and that whatever needed to be said had to be said now, I nally uttered the words that had scared me more than anything else in the world ever had. I love you! I always didI should have told you! I love you! I love you! Its all right, Edwardits all rightIm here now, I felt her lips against the top of my head. I love you too, Edward. I should have told you, too. I never stopped loving younever. I wanted to ask her the how and the why of her being here, but I was afraid I would break whatever spell I was under. Maybe it was too late maybe I had pulled the trigger, and by the grace of whatever God there is, I had been brought to heaven I had atoned for my sins, right?

Chapter 97

Three days on suicide watch at a local hospital wasnt really all that bad, except that I was under constant surveillance by both the hospital staff and a prison guard. I was cuffed to the bed, which also sucked, big-time. Bella wasnt allowed to visit. Irina came to talk to me every day though, and she told me sometimes it took a giant step backwards in order to be able to move forward again. She didnt hide the fact that she was still pretty ticked off at me for considering what I had tried to dowell, not really triedthought aboutwhatever.

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I didnt know if I really would have pulled the trigger or not. Everything was kind of a blur in my memories at least until Bella was there. Irina also gave me a little detail of what happened that day. She had been walking out of the building and heading home when she heard someone arguing with the front desk about visiting Edward Cullen. She recognized Bella from the media accounts of my trial, though I hadnt known Irina had ever looked any of that up. Irina went up to Bella to talk to her, and to nd out why she was coming to visit me. Once Bella received my letter, she realized our messages had gotten crossed in the mail. She pawned the wedding ring I had given her all that time ago to get a plane ticket to come and talk to me in person. While they were talking, Irina was called about me being in her ofce with a gun. She took the chance, and brought Bella in with her. After my little ordeal in Irinas ofce, Bella had to be taken out of the inmates area while I was placed back in cuffs. It just about tore me in half. I was about ve seconds from being sedated when Irina reminded me that people did get visitors here, and if I wanted to be able to see her again Id better shut the fuck up and start cooperating. Soon, Bella whispered against my cheek. I love you. I love you, I replied, surprised at how easily the words came now like the tiny hole in the dam that suddenly gives way to the ooding waters. After the hospital stay, I was put on anti-depressants and my therapy sessions were increased to twice a week. I also had to spend a week in solitary. No visitors there, either. It was kind of strange how anxious it made me feel not to be able to see anyone except Irina, when the day before all of this happened I hadnt cared about visitors at all. I didnt even are about seeing other inmates, but I found I was missing the presence of both Seth and Embry, and not just because I could trade food with them.

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Irina was still allowed to conduct our session from solitary, at least, but the guard had to be in there with us, so there really wasnt much point. I didnt really want to talk about shit in front of that guy, and Irina picked up on that pretty quickly. She kept our talks about what I was eating, if I was taking my medication when I was supposed to, and whether or not I still felt like I wanted to die. My goals for getting out of prison were going to become the focus of the rest of my therapy where I wanted to be, where Bella wanted to be, and how we were going to work together to make that happen. Obviously, when the two of us were trying to deal with it alone we were not very successful. After I was brought back into the normal prison population, I was allowed visitors on Wednesdays and Sundays. Bella was there the rst day I could see her. It was only through Plexiglas, but I would take it. I picked up the little handset on the pegboard wall, and Bella did the same. I love you, we both said at the same time. Bellas cheeks turned red, and I couldnt help but smile. It made my face feel weird I dont think I had done that in a while. For the longest time, we just looked at each other, but it wasnt awkward at all it just felt good. Ive got a long way to go, I nally said. But Im going to do it, okay? I swear to you, Im going to be better when Im out of here. I will be, too, she responded. She took a deep breath and wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. Its not going to be easy, is it? Nothing worthwhile ever is, I said. At least, that what Irina keeps tell me. Shes your counselor, Bella said with a nod. I like her. I do, too, I responded. I reached up and ran my hand through my hair. I didnt want to hold anything back. Irina said that was important I needed to tell her everything. Umshe had the doctor put me on some pills. For the depression.

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Good. Bellas hand reached forward and her ngers pressed against the Plexiglas. I raised my free hand up and placed my ngers on the other side, lining up with hers. How are you? I asked, and then had to kind of laugh at how lame the question was. I mean, really? I know I must havescared you. Being like that. With everything you said in your lettershit, Bella I had no idea- I know you didnt, she said with a nod. How could you if I never told you? I never told you anything. No, you didnt. Im sorry. Youve already apologized, Edward. You dont have to apologize for it again every time its brought up. At some point, you have to let go. Now you sound like Irina. I smiled and pushed my ngertips against the glass a little harder. Its what Sue keeps tell me, Bella said. Shes my counselor. Figures. We just looked at each other for another minute, which was when the guard came up and give me my ve minute warning. Bella My voice trailed off as I took a deep breath. Ive still got a long time in here. Im not going to ask you to put your life on hold to wait for me. Its not fair to ask you to do that. I have pretty much nothing to offer you as long as Im here, and by the time I get outshit, Bella you could be thirty by then. I know you arent asking me to, Bella said. That doesnt mean I wont do it anyway. I took a breath, and it felt like my lungs were actually working correctly for the rst time in a very long time. I was still torn the selsh part of me that wanted her to wait, and the other parts that wanted to say I wasnt good enough for her.

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But I was going to be. I was going to make sure I was the kind of man she needed me to be before I got out of here. You still have to do what you need to do for yourself, too, I told her. You have to nish college and have a life outside of me. I know. Bella sighed. Ive been trying. Ill try to help you, I promised. Anyway I can just tell me what you need from me. Dont close me out, she said immediately. Dont do what I did, and sugarcoat everything. I want to know how you really are. You too, right? Right. Her eyes locked with mine, and I was captivated by her gaze. I could have just looked at her for the rest of my sentence. No problem. Times up, Cullen. The guard tapped the edge of the wall. What do we do from here? I asked her. What do you want to do? She really did sound like a fucking therapist. I want to gure out what I need to do to still have you in my life when I leave here, I told her. If you want me to be, anyway. I do, she responded immediately. How do we make it work? I dont know, I admitted. But Im going to gure it out. Where theres a will theres a way, right?

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______________________________________ Chapter 98: Im gonna miss you, but not this place! Seth said with a chuckle as he and I stood next to my cell door, prepared to leave and head back out into the real world.. Yeah, well, you just make sure you dont end up back in here, okay? I told him. Yeah, I know Im turning over a new leaf and all that shit. Embry walked up then, his normally hap-hazard hair slicked back at against his head. What the fuck is up with that? Seth laughed. Im properly groomed to be our boys protector now! Embry said with a laugh. He clasped his hand on my shoulder. I rolled my eyes, but couldnt help but laugh along with them. We nished saying goodbye to Seth, and he walked down the aisle to freedom. Embry and I went out to the yard, where he offered me a smoke. I should quit, I said as I lit one up.

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Fucking sue me. What for? Bella hates it, I said with a smirk. Cant let the woman run your life, Embry commented. If shell let me be in hers, Im perfectly happy with having her run mine. Where is she now? Back in Washington, I said. Shes trying to work shit out with her mom and get her school credits transferred and shit. Shes supposed to start at the state college here in the fall. Did she nd a place to live? She got the nancial aid to live on campus, I told him. It might not be as cheap as an apartment with a bunch of people, but it includes all her meals and whatever as well, so it should be cheaper in the long run. Good deal. She thought so, I said. I took a drag off the smoke and watched some of the guys bouncing basketballs around. The day Bella got her acceptance letter to the college just about twenty miles from where I was incarcerated, she couldnt stand not being able to tell me in person and wasnt patient enough to wait for a letter to arrive. She actually called Irina and dictated the message to her instead. She was so excited about it, but it still worried me. It would cost a lot more, and there wasnt a lot I could do to help. Shit, its almost ten, Embry jumped off the bench and smashed his cigarette butt under his heel. I gotta go. Where? To work! he beamed. Work?

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Yeah, theres a new program where we can work in different areas of the prison and actually earn a bit of money. Its not much, but its better than nothing. I talked to Irina about it the next day, and before I knew it, I was cooking vegetarian meals in the prison kitchen. Killed two birds with one stone, and had something to start sending to Bella every month to help her out. With Bella living close, I wouldnt say the weeks started ying by or anything, but I had a lot more to look forward to. I worked in the kitchen every day except for Sundays, which gave me something to actually get up and do. I continued to see Irina once a week, and once I started eating a little better, I started working out in the gym as well at least, when Embry could go with me. Sometimes you just dont tempt fate. Bella came during visiting hours every Wednesday and Sunday. Those days were the best. Most of the time we talked through the letters we sent. Once she started putting my ID number and cell block on the envelope, they started getting to me a lot faster, though I swear they must sit on the wardens desk for a week before they get distributed. Hes probably the asshole reading them, too. I wrote her every day. Usually it was just about whatever bullshit was going on around me, but other times it was about my talks with Irina, how well my medication was helping, and what plans I wanted to make with her when I got out. I wouldnt have been so willing to say that life was good, but it was better than it ever had been before even when I was a kick-ass fucking insanely rich gunrunner. I didnt have anything to speak of, and I couldnt leave, but I didnt feel like I was alone all the time. As time went by, the stack of letters from Bella eventually had to be moved from under my pillow to a satchel Irina acquired for me. I still kept the most recent six in my pocket. I easily had over a thousand letters, and I had all my favorites

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marked so I could go back and read them over and over again. Bella said mine were in a shoebox in her room. Then she said they were in two shoeboxes. Then she had to buy more shoes. She was doing really well in school, working towards a degree in teaching. She was a little behind because of all the bullshit I put her through, but she still thought shed get out in good time. Be nished, not get out. So as I marked my six year anniversary in the state penitentiary, Bella started preparing to leave college and get a job in the real world. I had managed to send her enough money from my kitchen work to get a small apartment, though she ended up needing a roommate anyway. I didnt really mind that so much it was good for her to have someone else around her. I worried about her being alone. I wished I could really be right there next to her through it all, but I took a deep breath, reminded myself that if none of this had happened I never would have become the person I was now a person worthy of being in her life. How are you doing today? Annoyed with myself. I plopped down in the chair across from Irina. What has you annoyed? Bellas all done with student teaching and graduates in two weeks, I said. I wanted to be able to give her a ring. Even if I could actually order one over the internet or something, I dont have the money to do it. Cooking is only getting me seventy-ve bucks a month, and I always send that to her anyway. Even if I kept it all, it would take me the rest of my sentence to get her a nice one. Its pissing me off. I want to give her something.

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The ring is just a symbol, Edward, Irina told me. Bella already accepted your proposal. There are a lot of ways you can symbolize how you feel about her. What else can you do? I dont have a fucking clue, thats why Im pissed. Think about it, she said, like I hadnt already been doing that. I think Bella would appreciate any symbol from you, not just one that costs money. I guess. While were on the subject, did you talk to her about the wedding date? Yeah, but were not exactly seeing eye-to-eye on that one. Have you listened to her reasons? Yeah, and I get it I do, I sat back and rubbed my hand against my jaw. I know the kinds of things wed be able to doyou know Conjugal visits. Wellyeah. I couldnt look her in the eye. But I justI cant even imagine taking her back to a trailer toto do that. She deserves better than that. She keeps saying she doesnt care, and she needs the physical contact. Believe me, I want to give in, but I know it would mean so much more to her if our real wedding was after I got out. When is your earliest parole hearing? As if she wasnt keeping track herself. Ha! With my behavior record, I have a little less than four hundred days off, I told her. So I can be eligible for parole in fourteen months. Hmm. Its a long time, I know, but weve already gotten this far, and if I get out thenI just think it would be so much better. But you havent convinced her.

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I laughed. Shes seriously stubborn, I said. Besides, her mom is not exactly in favor of the whole thing, you know? Not that I blame her. Im sure if I was her Id want to rip my balls off, too. Have you ever written her? Write to Bellas mother? Fuck no. I gave a short little laugh and shook my head in disbelief. Why not? Because she hates me, for starters. I am sitting here now for raping her daughter, as you may remember. And how does her daughter feel about you? I just sat there and stared at her for a minute. I guess I kind of knew what she was getting at, but I wasnt sure what I was supposed to do with the information. You are going to run into people once you get out of here, Irina said. People who are going to look at you, know you are a convicted felon, and make judgments based on that. People who are going to nd out you are on the sexual predators listing because your crime was against a minor. You are going to have to learn to deal with that. What better place to start than with Bellas mother? You are seriously trying to throw me into the deep end here, I pointed out. You already know how to swim, she shot back at me. Youre communicating with people, you have friends, youve set goals, and attained some of them. Youre ready for the diving board, Edward. My eyebrows smashed together as I tried to think about what she was saying. Wed talked about some of this before about being on the list and how people were going to view me when I got out. I had at least thought about that, but Bellas mother? She didnt speak to Bella for nearly a year after she moved out

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here, and their relationship was still on rocky ground now. She didnt even want to acknowledge my existence. I tried to put it out of my mind once the session was over there was just no way could I say anything to Bellas mother but it wouldnt leave my head. Even went I sat outside after dinner, just smoking and trying to clear my head, the idea of writing to Bellas mother kept creeping back. I stomped out my cigarette and decided it was time to jump into the pool. I was feeling strangely nervous when I handed over the two papers I planned to give to Bella for graduation. Well, one was for her. The other one had another purpose. I wish I had a frame for it, I said when Irina held up the picture I had drawn years ago of two hands clasped together. You dont need it, she said. But maybe I can come up with something for you. Seriously? I asked. I mean if you could nd something, I could pay you back, as long as it wasnt too expensive. I mean, Ive been saving back a little, because I want to get her a ring eventually, and I want to be able to pay for it myself. I have about sixty bucks though Lets worry about that when the time comes, okay? Irina smiled at me and then reached for the other paper. I sat back and felt my chest go tight. I tried slow breathing for a minute, and it helped a bit. As Irina opened up the second paper, the words I had written appeared in my mind. Dear Ms. Renee Swan, I realize you probably never expected to hear from me, but if I want to turn my life around, one of the things I have to do at least attempt to make some amends. Ive put all my energy in doing this for Bella, but Ive neglected the person I have hurt almost as much.

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There is nothing I can possibly say or do to make up for the pain I have caused you and your family. All I can do is assure you that if it was within my power, I would take it all back. I cannot bring myself to ask for your forgiveness, because I do not deserve it, but please believe Im truly sorry for what I have done. I love Bella with all my heart and soul. As ashamed as I am now for the decisions that brought her to me, I cannot regret having her in my life. She woke me up, and the events that followed have turned me into a different person. It is with that in mind that I ask something of you, even though I have no real right to do so. I know tradition holds that I ask for your permission to marry your daughter, but since Bella has already accepted, I will ask instead for you to please, for Bellas sake, bless our marriage. You are very important to her, and I know she is very important to you. Having you in her life is paramount to her healing. Even if you dont want to have anything to do with me, please be there when we get married. It would mean so much to her to have you there. You wouldnt ever have to see me again I would make sure you and Bella could see each other anytime you wanted without me being in the way. With all my heart and soul, I swear to you that I am a different person now. Im a better person, and I want to spend whatever life I have making Bella happy. I know things will always be a little difcult for us because of what Ive done and where I am now, but I promise to make the best of it. Im not perfect by anyones standards, but I will try to be the best husband I can possibly be. Bella deserves nothing less. Sincerely, Edward Cullen Edward Irinas voice trailed off as she looked up from the letter and met my eyes. I had to look away, afraid of how she might react to it. Is it stupid? I asked quietly.

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It most certainly is not, Irina said, her voice just a little bit scolding. Do you think shell say yes? I mean, do you think shell come to the wedding and shit? I dont know, Edward. Irina placed both papers on the desk in front of me again. You can never be too sure how someone is going to react, regardless of how sincere you may be. But I do think this is a very important part of mending yourself. I guess I did okay, right? ______________________________________ Chapter 99 Relax. I scratched at the back of my head and tried not to yank at my hair too much. I was practically sweating bullets, and wished I had skipped breakfast. What if they dont Weve been over this, Irinas calming voice attempted to reassure me. This is your rst parole hearing. The chances of being granted parole is not great, so you have to be prepared for anything. Youve got good people on your side here, so just say what you need to say, and well see what happens. I nodded. I knew she was right, but that didnt stop me from wanting to tear my hair out while I waited. I didn't know what made me more nervous - the fact that the direction of my life could drastically change over the next couple of hours or because I would be in the same room with Bella. Bella. In person. She was going to be here any minute, and seeing her in the esh not through the glass in the visitors cubicles was just about as exciting as the idea of getting out. Since that day ve years ago, I hadnt been in the same room with

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her - not really, anyway. Not somewhere where I could actually maybe touch her. My heart pounded at the thought. I tried to remember what Irina told me yesterday. I knew the chances of early parole weren't great, and I didn't want to get my hopes up. As much as that was true, I was far more concerned about Bella. I didn't want her to be disappointed when they said no. She was going to see it as a huge set back, and I didnt want to see the hurt and frustration in her eyes. She had such high hopes, and I was far more terried of her being crushed if parole was denied than the idea of another six months. As if she could hear me thinking about her, Bella walked in the far side of the room along with the public attorney assigned to my case, my social worker Nahuel Martinez, and Frank Banner the head of the work program in the prison. She was dressed in a modest kind of jumper dress and looking all kinds of beautiful. Our eyes met for the briefest moment before the door on the opposite side of the room opened, and ve people walked in, including the warden - two men, three women. I swallowed hard, and tried to keep my focus towards those who were to decide my fate. The woman in the center chair, who said her name was Emily Young, opened up the le folder in front of her and started to read. "Parole hearing for inmate 2427289, Edward Cullen. Served six years, seven months of a ten to fteen year sentence for second degree rape. Five hundred twelve days earned for behavior, been involved in extensive counseling for the past ve years..." She went on a bit, and I tried to at least look like I was paying attention, when I was really shaking in my fucking boots. I was beyond terried. Id faced death dozens of times, but never felt like this before. I didnt feel this scared when I walked into this place. I guess that kind of went to show how much I had learned. Okay, so my hopes were up. Fucking sue me.

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"The state will hear from Mister Cullen." As many times as Irina and I had talked about it, and as many times as I had practiced it in my head, I still wasnt ready. I stood up slowly and tried to wipe the sweat off my palms as I rose. IumIm Edward Cullen Okay, fucking brilliant start. Sorryyou know that Shit this was not starting well! I tried a long slow breath to calm myself down so I could focus, and then I tried again. When I got here I was in a pretty bad place, and I had done something really umhorrible. I understood that when I plead guilty. At the time, I didnt really want to hurt anyoneI just didnt understand. Once I realized it, I knew I had to pay for what I had done. Ive spent my time here trying to gure myself out, I continued. My counselor has been really awesome for that. Shes helped me gure out how I got screwed up in the rst place, and Im really trying to make sure that I dont get back in that place again. I want to go out there and be a real personum with a wife and a house and maybe even a whole family some day. I want to get a real, legitimate job and just do things they way youre supposed to do them. I took one last, long, deep breath and looked at the parole board straight on. I dont plan on ever being back here again. I have a simply incredible woman whos agreed to marry me despite what Ive put her through, and I just want the chance to be the best husband I can be for her, the best person I can be for society, and the best man I can befor myself. I mumbled something like thank you, and then quickly sat back down before I fell over. I felt Irinas hand on my arm trying to steady me and glanced up to her smile. I guess I hadnt done too badly. She spoke next, talking about my progress in therapy and how far I had come since she rst met me.

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The state will now hear from the victim, Isabella Swan. I turned to her and watched her stand slowly. She glanced to me for a second, but then straightened her shoulders and stared into the faces before her. I had no idea what she was going to say, and out of all the words spilled forth from her mouth talking about everything I had accomplished while I was here in prison, from helping to support her, getting my GED, to going to therapy it was the last few sentences that would live with me forever. Edward Cullen today is not the same man who raped me all those years ago. The person who raped me was nothing more than a scared little boy who had no idea how to relate to people or how to care about them. He is a different person today, and one who I believe will continue to learn to grow and love in the years to come. He had paid for his crime against me, and I have forgiven him. He now deserves the chance to prove that he can be the loving, generous man who has always been locked away in his heart. She sat back down and held her hands clasped together in her lap, looking straight down at the table. It was killing me to not be able to go to her to hold her and tell her I was there for her. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine myself doing it, hoping that if I thought about it hard enough it would eventually come true. Banner talked next about how much I had done in the kitchens improving the nutritional value of inmates meals without increasing their prices, and helping them to earn some sort of high grade for such shit from the state. I barely heard any of it, because all I could hear was Bellas voice echoing in my mind, and all I could see was her picture-perfect prole out of the corner of my eye. The parole board looked back and forth at each other, leaned in and made some hushed comments, wrote things on papers to pass around, and eventually seemed to come to some sort of consensus. Way too soon. Emily Young looked up and me as she unfolded the paper in her hands.

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Edward Cullen, in light of your heinous crime as well as the handful of infractions during your time here one of which was serious I am inclined to not consider you as a candidate for early parole. I felt every muscle in my body tighten up, and I couldnt breathe. I heard Bellas slight intake of breath and saw her hand move to cover her mouth out of the corner of my eye. However, Ms. Young continued, considering the recommendation from your counselor, and the eloquent words of your victim, this parole board has decided to grant your request. Yes! I shouted, and I had to place my hands against the table to keep myself from falling over. Bella was thanking God over and over again, and even Irina was beaming from ear to ear. I would have just gotten up and gone over to Bella, who now had tears running down her face, but Ms Young banged her gavel heavily on the table, silencing us all. Mister Cullen, she continued. There are several conditions of your parole, which will be provided to you in detail, but there are a few I want to go over with you now. You will be required to visit with your assigned parole ofcer weekly for a two year period from your release. I nodded emphatically. Two years, once a week visits shit, once a day visits I didnt fucking care. You are not to leave this state. You will be required to actively seek employment, and maintain that employment during this time as well. You will continue your treatment with Ms. Denali, and you will also be placed on the national sexual offenders listing for this period of time. I took a deep breath. I knew that was to come, and it was something I had talked about both with Bella and Irina. It was going to make it very hard for Bella to get a full-time job as a school teacher when she had a husband on the list, andand Waitwhat did she say?

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Period of time? I heard myself repeat. Correct, she said. For a period of two years. As long as you meet all the conditions of your parole and keep to the restrictions of your parole, you will no longer be required to attend counseling, you may relocate out of state, and you will be removed from the listing at that time. Its notnot permanent? Ive reviewed your case extensively, Mister Cullen, Ms. Young told me. The reason for the sex offenders listing is to provide the public with information to keep their families safe from repeat offenders. Between the details of your exact crime and the notes from Irina Denali, I do not believe you are likely to be a repeat offender. You arent going to prove me wrong, are you? No! I tried to catch my breath. No, maam! Good. She held the papers out in front of her and tapped them down on the desk until they were all even. Congratulations, Mister Cullen. Release date set for one week from today. She picked up an ink stamp and slammed it down against the paper before pushing it off to the guy on her left, standing up, and leaving the room. I just sat there in shock until I felt Bellas ngers against my cheek. I turned into her, wrapping my arms around her waist and placing my face into her stomach. Her hands wrapped around my head, and her ngers stroked my hair. I love you, I mumbled against the fabric of her dress. I love you too, Edward, she replied. One week, and Im going to be yours forever. Sweeter words had never been spoken, right?

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Chapter 100: Its not much, Bella said softly as her eyes dropped down to the oor. I reached over and took his chin with my ngers, tilting her eyes to mine and placing a soft kiss on her lips. How could I explain to her how much this place meant to me? My words were as usual - inadequate. Its home, I eventually whispered to her. She broke into a smile, and a tear started to escape from the corner of her eye again. I swear she had been crying for two days straight, ever since I walked out of prison. At least for the most part they had been happy tears. I crouched down a little and grabbed her up into my arms so I could carry her over the threshold. The apartment Bella had been living in since she graduated probably would have been considered small by most people, but when you spend over seven years in a ten foot by ten foot cell, a modest studio apartment seems pretty damn spacious. It had a dividing wall that separated out a bedroom area from the living area, a small kitchen and a bathroom. Just the idea of peeing in private was pretty damn fantastic if you asked me. I decided taking a really good look around the place was going to have to wait, because my new wife was probably going to do something to me that would cause her incarceration if I didnt make love to her immediately. I carried her straight over to the bed, dropped her into the center of it, and then crawled on top of her. Bella giggled as my ngers stroked over her sides and down to her legs. I reached for the bottom of her simple white dress and pulled it up, smiling broadly as I found the garter wrapped around her thigh. I kneeled beside her and pulled it off with my teeth. I was pretty sure that was what the groom was

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supposed to do at a reception, and I was trying my best to make the most of our simple wedding. We had it in small chapel, with Pastor Lee refusing to let me pay him anything for his services or the chapel rental. Seth stood beside me and when it was time, he handed me the gold ring with the little row of three small diamonds on top of it. Bellas mother, Renee stood beside her, though she refused to even look at me. I didnt care she was there for Bella, which was all that mattered. I did hold my breath when Pastor Lee asked if there was any reason we shouldnt get married. Renee didnt say anything. I icked the garter up towards the headboard with my nger, and then grabbed Bellas ankle so I could start kissing her from bottom to top. WellI actually only got about half way before I was distracted, and hung out there for a while as Bella screamed and moaned about how fantastic my tongue was. Her hips bucked against my face and I tasted her sweet, sweet nectar. Id have to taste the rest of her body later, because I needed to join with her as soon as fucking possible. Bella reached down to the edge of her dress, which was nearly up to her breasts, and pulled it up and over her head. I reached behind her back to help her with the clasp on her bra, freeing her beautiful breasts for my hands to rediscover. Bella went to work on my shirt buttons, getting through them pretty quick so she could push the shirt off my shoulders. Holy shit, Edward! Bella murmured as her hands traveled from my shoulders down my arms. You werent thisumbuff before! I laughed. Well, I had a lot of extra time in the gym these past few years, I reminded her. She blushed, and started apologizing.

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No, I whispered to her. Dont be sorry. I can only hope I changed more on the inside than I did on the outside. You have, she said quietly back to me. Her eyes glistened rst with tears, and then with humor as she ran her ngertips over my chest. And I like both sets of changes. Well, my insides and outsides completely belong to you now, Mrs. Swan, I told her. So do with them what you will. Yeah, Mrs. Swan. In prison it cost me fteen dollars to change my last name from Cullen to Swan. It would have cost Bella over two hundred if she was to change her name to Cullen on the outside. Besides, I needed the fresh start, and a new name made sense. Taking Bellas name made even more sense to me, because she was the one that changed me. She smirked and reached down to the button of my Dockers. She popped it open and slid the zipper down before she pushed them off my hips, taking the boxes with them. After I kicked them off my feet, ridding myself of shoes and socks as well, Bellas hand ran up my thigh until she wrapped her ngers around me. Holy shitBellathat feels so fucking good. Her ngers moved lightly from the tip of my cock down to the base, then over my balls. It felt way too good, and I couldnt breathe right. I started moaning. You gotta stop, baby, I told her. I dont want to come on your handnot this time. She smiled and bit down on her lip, but released my cock so I could take an actual breath again. She wrapped her arms around my waist and squeezed, holding me tight as I started nuzzling at her breasts. The feeling of Bellas ngers against the skin of my back was incredible. It was almost as good as having them on my dick. She ran them up to my shoulders, then all the way down to my hips, and back again. I focused on her nipples, playing with one of them between my thumb and forenger while sucking and

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licking the other. I switched, and Bellas hands suddenly dropped father down, grabbing my ass and squeezing it. I want you, she said urgently. Her ngers dug in, and she seemed to be trying to pull my backside up so I could get lined up for a little something more. Her hips lifted off the bed and pushed against mine, grinding herself against my cock. Now! As if I was going to argue. I lifted myself up a little and moved forward, positioning my knees between her legs and lining my cock up with her entrance. I placed my lips against hers, my tongue tracing over her mouth as I slowly pushed the head of my cock into her. I paused, breathed deep, and slid the rest of the way home. The feeling of being inside of her again was absolutely indescribable. To be buried once again in her warm, wet, silky esh was like I imagined walking through the gates of Heaven must feel like. Her body gripped me, holding me inside as I shifted my hips back and forth against her. It had been so, so long and even though I had been here before, it was different. Knowing she was here as my wife for real this time because she truly wished to be, made the sensations so much sweeter. I felt the tension building inside of me all too soon, and I slowed my pace to make it last. Bellas hands found my hair, and she pulled my lips to hers. Dont hold back, she mumbled against my mouth. Pleasedont stop. We have a lifetime for this. Oh, GodBella, I whispered as I moved my mouth over the edge of her jaw. I love you so muchso much I love you, Edward, she moaned back to me. My pace increased again, and as I rocked back and forth inside of her I let the pressure over take me, and spilled inside of her as I cried out her name over and over again. My arms wrapped around her shoulders and I held her to me, kissing her tear-covered cheeks, her eyes, and her nose.

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Eventually I rolled to my side, taking her with me and wrapping my arms around her to hold her close. I didnt ever want to let her go. Bella snuggled into my chest and her hand reached up to my face as she ran her ngers over me, lulling me into the most restful sleep I had experienced in quite literally years. If I could just keep her close to me for the rest of forever, that would denitely be a mighty ne thing. I wasnt stupidwell I wasnt stupid anymore. I knew the times ahead of us were going to be tough. Hopefully they would be made easier because we would have each other in a much more real sense now. I loved her, and by some miracle, she loved me, too. Could be worse, right? The End _______________________________

Epilogue OhEdward! Mmmmm EdwardEdward! Ugh! I blink my eyes a couple of times and feel Bellas hands against my arm, shoving at me. Get off of me, she groans. For goodness sakes, I can hardly breathe, I have to pee, and I need to get ready for work! Ive managed to roll over on top of her in my sleepagain. I cant help it shes soft and warm and comfortable. Fucking sue me. I roll over onto my back, releasing my beautiful wife from my heavy sleep-grip. She climbs out of bed and runs for the bathroom, nearly tripping over the stack

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of boxes next to the door. I had shoved them up closer to the dresser the night before, but they still stick out into the doorway a bit. I will have to make the bedroom unpacking a priority for today. Unpacking in our rst, real house. Not an apartment. I have a fucking mortgage. The house is not anything grand just a two bedroom ranch with a kitchen big enough to eat in and a good sized living room. It has two full bathrooms, too, which is all kinds of awesome. Ive managed to furnish a lot of it from yard sales and Goodwill, so the look is a little eclectic to say the least, but still homey. Its kind of amazing the kinds of things you can nd for very little money when you spend the time looking. Ive got the time. Its been hard to hold down a job, so I tend to have a decent amount of time on my hands, at least during the school months. In the summer Ive been pretty lucky picking up construction or landscaping work. Even that can be difcult, because I refuse to work under the table. Im not taking any chances what-soever. I dont even go over the speed limit. When I nd the work, I make enough during those months to at least keep us going without too much stress. Bella is sitting on the toilet in plain view of the bed. She never closes the door, and it drives me insane. She always says she just doesnt think about it and shes always waiting until the last possible second before peeing, anyway. Apparently, closing the door just takes too much time. I reach my arms up over my head and stretch as I listen to the sound of Bella turning on the shower, and I start coming up with my mental list of things to do today. The toilet in the hall still needs some repair, and there is an outlet in the living room I should replace or at least tighten. Yeah, the house is a bit of a xer-upper, but at least the timing was good for buying this place, and it was a foreclosure auction, so we got it for half of what it was worth. Also, since Im

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not working, I have plenty of time for the house stuff. When you dont have the money for a plumber or electrician to be at your beck and call, its amazing how much shit you can learn to do on your own. I scratch my stomach and wriggle around in bed a bit stretching my legs and my neck. Im still groggy, but I hear the sound of a re engine approaching, so I know I wont be able to stay in bed much longer. I push myself up and sit on the edge of the bed and run my hands through my hair as I yawn. Bella walks out of the bathroom with her hair in a towel and nothing else. Im immediately awake now, or at least part of me is. I push my lazy ass off the bed and go to her, wrapping my arms around her from behind. Hey baby, I growl against her neck. She giggles and writhes against me, which just gets my dick harder as it comes into contact with her bare ass through my boxers. You make it very hard to get dressed, she comments. You make it very hard by being undressed, I retort as I grind against her backside. I keep kissing along her shoulder. I got nine inches just waiting for you, baby Oh please, Bella snorts. What? I ask, honestly confused by what is so funny. If it is a quickie, there is enough time so she wont be late for school. Nine inches, she repeats as she shakes her head. What the fuck? I say, my eyes narrowing. I grasp her hips and push against her and repeat. Nine inches. I measured it. Bella turns her head and looks up at me. Her lips as smashed together, but still turning up at the corners as she holds in a laugh. What? I demand.

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Were you looking at the correct side of the ruler? she asks, and this time she has to bite her lip to keep it in. Oh very funny. I most certainly was! I snap back. Im not really pissed, but Im not happy, either. Edward, darling, she says in her most patronizing teacher voice. Her nger traces a line up the front of my boxers. I love your big, beautiful cock, but its not nine inches long. It is, too. Did you start measuring at your balls? she asks with her brows raised. Oh I am not putting up with this shit, I say as I grab her and pull her back down on the bed. Ill just have to show you again. I lie on my back and pull her on top of me, pushing up against her heat and holding tightly to her hips. She leans over me and plants little kisses up the center of my chest. Maybe Ill just make you count the inches as they go in, I murmured into her ear. You know that isnt going to work, she says with a nod towards the open bedroom door. The re engine sounds are getting closer. I release her hips and sigh, allowing her to get back up, throw on her normal teacher attire, and start drying her hair. A minute later, the sound increases as a red re engine bursts through the bedroom door. I cant believe you bought him that thing, Bella scolds me. What? It cost a quarter at the yard sale down the street! He loves it!

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Im not talking about the cost, that thing is so loud! Woo woo woo! Our son, Anthony, crawls behind the plastic truck as he rolls it into the room, repeatedly hitting the little button on the top, which makes the siren sound go off again. Hes wearing nothing but his big boy underwear, and happily announces that he is not only dry, but already went potty by himself. Thats my big boy! Bella says with a smile. She lifts him into her arms and rubs noses with him. My heart begins to pound as I watch them together. Bella is so loving and attentive to his every need, and it just makes me smile every time I see them. They gaze at each other with identical, deep brown eyes. Their looks also match showing their adoration of each other and a love that can be felt across the room. Its indescribable. I take Anthony from Bellas arms and place him back down on the carpet near the truck. I think theres a re in the kitchen! I announce. Anthony takes the bait, and I follow him and the truck out the door and down the hall on all fours, leaving Bella the chance to nish getting ready for work while I get Anthony his breakfast. I nd cereal and bowls for everyone, while Anthony pretends to put out a raging re on the leg of the kitchen table. There isnt time to cook Bella a proper breakfast, so I start thinking about what I can make her for dinner as I pack her lunch. She comes out of the bedroom, looking too fucking hot in her teacher clothes. It was a good thing she went with elementary education instead of high school or college. It would drive me nuts if I thought hormonal guys were looking at her all day. Anthony digs into his Fruity-Os and Bella eats her raison bran. Yuck. That shit reminds me of prison food, and I do not need that reminder. I pour rice milk over my corn akes and chow down.

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Moms planning on coming over Sunday about noon, Bella tells me as she nishes breakfast and places her bowl in the sink. I know this, and I nod slowly. It sucks because its a weekend day, when Bella doesnt have to work, but Ill muddle through. Ill make sure Im out of the house before then, I tell her between bites. Our ve year wedding anniversary will be in a few weeks, but Bellas mother hasnt said much of anything to me other than may I speak to Bella when I happen to pick up the phone. Shell be in the same room with me if she absolutely has to be like Anthonys birthday but she doesnt like it. I try to just get out of the way so she can visit with Bella and Anthony without the tension. Edward? Yeah, babe? She said she would like you to stayif you want. I stop shoveling cereal into my face and stare at my wife. Im pretty sure there is milk dripping off my chin. She doesnt appear to be joking not that she would joke about this particular topic. She really said that? She really did. Why? Honestly? I think it was the Christmas picture of you and Anthony. She said something about how much he obviously worships you, and that maybe it was about time she at least thought about giving you a chance. For his sake. No shit? Dont swear! Bella snapped as she looked over to Anthony. You know hes going to pick up on that. Sorry, babe. I try to look properly chastised, but I dont think she buys it. I go back to thinking about Renees impending visit, and try to wrap my head

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around what it would be like if she didnt outwardly loathe me. It was bad enough that when people who were only acquaintances got wind of my ex-con status, they would stop talking to us or having anything to do with us. Wow. I know, right? Bella shakes her head, takes Anthonys empty bowl and rinses it out while he goes back to ghting res down the hallway. Just when you think some people will never change. I refrain from commenting, but still mull it over in my head a bit. Anyone can change, if they decide they want to. This I know. "I thought she was generally still pissed at my lack of job," I point out. Bella puts the dishes down and comes over to me, placing her hand on my shoulder. "You have a job," she says as she stares into my eyes. "You're a daddy." I smile, because I know she is right and we've had this conversation before. It is a big job, and it's the best one in the world. I have to get going, Bella reaches over and runs her hand across my face as she leans against my shoulder. Her touch can still pretty much halt me in my tracks there is nothing better. I close my eyes a little and just revel in the feeling as I wrap my arms around her for a quick hug before she has to go. I hand her lunch in a sack, and she gives me a quick kiss before she heads out the door. Images of the Cleavers run through my head, but with Ward vacuuming and asking June what shed like for dinner instead of the other way around. Maybe I should feel emasculated by the whole situation, but I dont. I really dont think I could be any happier. We moved to Arizona as soon as Bella got word she was going to get the job. She was teaching third grade at a private school, and we were really trying to get ourselves together away from the looks we received in her hometown and the occasional media barrage living in the same general area where I went to prison. Even after my parole was over, community service complete and my

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name of the registered sex offenders listing, there was no escaping some level of it. You cant just lie about that shit, not all the time. People found out. Some judged, some didnt. You had to take what you got. Starting over again was never easy, but we made the best of it. I never saw any of my business associates again, which also suited me ne. Sometimes Bella would get pissed off about all the money they had taken from me, but I really didnt want it. Blood money. Im not him anymore. Besides, Bella only brought that up when the bills got a little tight. I tried to make sure that didnt happen. Renee retired and moved here to Phoenix the year after Anthony was born, so it made sense to be in the same area. Bella still needed her moms support, and Anthony needed his grandmother in his life. She was his only extended family after all. What cha got there, buddy? I ask as Anthony bounds into the room with his hands grasping colorful plastic items. He holds a small red boat up with one hand and two little plastic sailor guys in the other. The people have round bottoms and t in the molded holes on the boat, so they can be sailed around in the tub. Bath! he calls out. I laugh, pick Anthony up, and toss him over my shoulder. He giggles, squeals, and conks me on the head with the plastic boat. I cant explain why, but bathing Anthony is my favorite thing to do in the whole freaking world. He loves taking his little boats in the water, and there is something about just caring for him in such a way that makes my heart soar. It started in the rst few hours after he was born, while the doctor was checking on Bella, and the nurse asked me if Id like to wash my son. My son. I smile to myself.

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Potty rst, I remind him. He tries to spend time convincing me that he doesnt have to go, but I eventually win by tossing a handful of generic Cheerios into the toilet and teaching him to sink them. Hey, were guys! Fuwellumjust sue us, okay? I lower Anthony into the warm water and get just the right amount of namebrand baby bath and baby shampoo to get him cleaned up and ready for the day. It is the one thing I refuse to skimp on. I watch him oat the little boat around, knocking the plastic people into the water, rescuing them, and knocking them overboard again, as I wash his hair and make sure the spots behind his ears are clean. I never stop smiling. I have a house, a fantastic son, and Bella as my wife. Yeah, people who nd out about our past tend to get pretty judgmental, and nding work for me is always going to be a hardship. Theres a beat up Chevy truck in the driveway, and not a fancy, expensive car. We dont have a lot of things or a lot of money, but we have each other, we have Anthony, and we have love. As far as I am concerned, it couldnt be better. And in this, I know I am right. No reason to ask. ~n~

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