|A Pound of Flesh
Author: jaxon22 PM
To pay a debt she owes her father, Isabella Swan starts a new job as a prison tutor. Edward Cullen, with his own debts, is the Punk Ass inmate in her class. Can they fight the odds and their dangerous attaction to learn from each other? A/H, Lemons, OOCRated: Fiction M - English - Edward & Bella - Chapters: 47 - Words: 517,119 - Reviews: 20,740 - Favs: 9,617 - Follows: 7,859 - Updated: 10-01-12 - Published: 04-26-10 - Status: Complete - id: 5926016
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. This *is* an update.
I apologise for the delay, but life happens sometimes. I won't bore you with the details. What's important is that I'm back on track! YAY!
Thank you to everyone who has waited so patiently for this update and all the wonderful people who have sent me messages of support and love. It means so much to me.
To the girls on Twitter - my PAW Princesses (4 days babies!) - the FaceBook girls, and the Twilighted beauties. Thank you.
We left the end of the last chapter with the revelation that Nana Boo was a share holder in WCS.
See you on the other side…
Chapter 41: Brothers in Arms
"To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved." ~ GeorgeMacDonald
"You're on speakerphone, Jamie," Isabella said softly as she placed her iPhone gently in the centre of the large, pine kitchen table. Leaving the blasted contraption alone once she had pressed what she needed to, she fisted her hands in her lap and glanced carefully at her grandmother, her mother, Phil, and Edward.
Seated around her, all of them were looking as perplexed as she was feeling, and all of them stared right back at her, waiting silently with questions that she most definitely did not have the answers to. She dropped her eyes to her knees and sighed despondently.
It was very late (or very early depending on how you looked at it) and Isabella was feeling an awful lot like Lewis Carroll's Alice: tumbling, ass first down the rabbit hole, with no way of knowing what she was about to discover.
The feeling was unnerving to say the very least.
Isabella looked up to her right when she felt Edward's strong arm wrap tenderly around her shoulders, and allowed herself to lean against him losing herself to his warmth and smell. He kissed her temple and rubbed his palm down the top of her arm.
God knew what the hell was going through his mind at that moment.
Hearing that Nana Boo had shares in twenty percent of the company, that Edward owned raised a million questions that ranged from the incomprehensible to the downright ridiculous.
What were the chances? How the hell had she not known this? Had Nana Boo known all along? Was there a connection between the Cullens and the Murphys? And if so, what the fuck was it?
Yeah, Isabella's brain was firing anxiously on all cylinders, waiting for the explanations that she had immediately demanded from Jamie when he had told her the news.
"So who am I speaking to now?" Jamie asked. His disembodied voice was weary and agitated.
"Me, mom, Nana, Phil...And Edward," Isabella answered, pushing her fingers in between Edward's.
Jamie exhaled loudly and hummed a sound that Isabella always heard when he was vexed. She did not allow herself to ponder on the reasons why. Besides, it was pretty clear that the problem was about six-two and sitting at her side with a small, satisfied smirk on his beautiful face.
Isabella rolled her eyes. Men. Didn't they have more important things to worry about? At two-thirty in the morning, Isabella was definitely not in the mood for any type of macho pissing contest between the man she loved and her best friend. It was juvenile and unnecessary and, in fairness, about priority ninety on a list of one hundred. That shit would just have to hold the fuck up for another day and a more reasonable hour.
"Can someone please explain to me why we are all up at this time?" Renee asked as she suppressed a large yawn and rubbed her palm across her face.
Isabella took a deep breath and sat forward. She cleared her throat quickly and licked her lips. Edward moved with her, strong and secure at her side.
"You're all up because Jamie has called with some information," she began cautiously. "You see, a few days back, I asked him to do some...investigating."
There was a beat of silence.
"Investigating," Phil repeated with a dip of his chin.
"What kind of investigating, darling?" Nana Boo asked. "Are you alright?"
"Yes, I'm fine," Isabella assured. She exhaled, feeling heavy, and laid her forearms on the table. "I needed information, dirt if you will, on...someone, and I knew that Jamie would be the person to get it for me."
"Sweetheart," Nana Boo said softly as she placed a hand over Isabella's. "Who did you need information about? Are you in some type of danger?"
"No, Nana," Isabella replied quickly. "But I needed whatever Jamie could get to protect myself and Edward."
Edward shifted slightly at her side and cracked the middle finger of his right hand. Isabella immediately looked at him and smiled as reassuringly as she could. The anxiety he was feeling was visible in the shamrock flecks of his eyes and the lines that appeared at the side of his mouth.
"Who do you both need protection from?" Renee asked warily. Her eyes, whether she meant them to or not, flickered accusingly at Edward. Isabella managed to hold back her protective retort by biting on the inside of her lip. Hard.
"Peter Whitlock," Isabella answered clearly, clicking her tongue distastefully at the end of his name. "Edward's cousin."
Isabella's eyes found her mother's, to see them narrowing thoughtfully as the pieces slowly started to fall together. "He was the one who sent you those photographs, Mom." Isabella's tone was a little more biting and accusatory than she had wanted, but Isabella was still bitter that her own mother had been so ready to point the finger of blame at Edward when the photographs had come through her door.
"You're...you're certain?" Renee asked quietly, embarrassedly.
"Pretty much," Isabella answered.
"Wait a moment," Nana Boo interrupted. "Who is Peter Whitlock?"
With her palms being warmed by the cup of hot chocolate that had been placed in front of her, Isabella took a deep breath of here-goes-nothin', and started to tell the full story of her almost relationship with Peter Whitlock. She detailed his deliberate omission about his connection to Edward, Alice's hurtful involvement, Jasper's, all the way through to his inexcusable demanding and bullying of Edward in respects to his signing over his rightful ownership of the company.
The recount was painful in parts, and embarrassing in others, but having Edward at her side, calm and steady, allowed Isabella to brush her uneasy and anger aside. She tried to be as clear as she could, keeping her personal embellishments to a minimum, as she explained the whole fucked up situation.
The room was pin-drop silent by the time she had finished, with a large helping of wide eyes, and gaping mouths.
"You did good, baby," Edward whispered into her ear as they both waited with baited breath for someone to say fucking something.
"So," Renee said hoarsely, breaking everyone from his or her holy shit trance. "You own this company?"
Edward stared back, nonplussed, even though he could feel tension radiating from Bella's body, "Yes, Ma'am. Not that I have much to do with its running, as you can imagine." His words dripped with disdain. "Having an ex-convict on the board wouldn't exactly look good on the bi-monthly newsletter."
"What crust," Nana Boo spat unapologetically. She adjusted her cardigan in a fluster of annoyance. "What on earth difference does it make? Everyone makes mistakes."
Edward smiled gratefully at the old woman, wondering fleetingly whether adoption of septuagenarians was legal in the Continental US.
"Well, it matters to Peter," Isabella said bitterly. "The money matters to Peter."
"When it's that amount of money, it's no wonder," Jamie added sharply. "I mean, Christ, Bells, your boyfriend here is worth nine figures."
Edward felt his face flush with mortification and fury flood his body. Why couldn't the little prick keep his goddamn mouth shut? Edward didn't want everyone knowing what he was worth, regardless of whether he'd ever orwould ever see a dime of it. He wasn't defined by the amount of numbers he was entitled to have in his bank account, nor did he want anyone to look at him differently because of it.
Which, apart from Bella, they were all doing right at that moment. Fucking perfect.
"Look," Isabella said quickly. "That stuff doesn't matter." She gripped Edward's hand in her own, squeezing it gently, knowing without doubt that when she next saw Jamie she would tear him limb from limb.
"Absolutely," Phil agreed with a meaningful look in Renee's direction.
God bless her, Edward thought, the woman looked about ready to pass out. Not that he didn't get why. To learn that you are sitting across from a millionaire five hundred times over was a shock to anyone. Edward's skin momentarily stung with the realisation that Bella's mother was much more likely to accept him, now that she knew what he was worth. He knew that he should have been grateful, relieved, but instead, Edward simply felt hollow. That was the thing about money. It was anything but fulfilling, and tended to bring nothing but heartache.
"So this information about Peter was retrieved because you want your money?" Renee asked carefully.
"No," Isabella and Edward answered in unison.
"I don't care about the fucking money," he continued in exasperation as he rubbed his hand across his rough chin. "I never did. But that company belongs to me and Peter is doing all he can to try and take it away from me, including blackmail." His fists clenched and his stare turned chillingly dark. "His threatening Bella is not acceptable."
Isabella ran her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck in an effort to calm him down. "I'm fine, sweetheart," she murmured before turning back to their enraptured audience. "We needed a smoking gun, something that would make him back off," Isabella added.
"Fighting fire with fire, huh?" Phil asked with a proud smile in Isabella's direction.
"Something like that," she replied.
"And what was the smoking gun?" Nana Boo asked.
She blinked in surprise when Isabella and Edward stared intensely at her. "You are," Isabella answered quietly.
"What?" She asked with an uneasy smile.
"Jamie," Isabella said towards the phone. "Can you explain?"
"Sure," he sighed. "The long and short of it is, while I was digging around, I came across the names of the major shareholders and investors for WCS Communications, of which there are many. Obviously one E. A. Cullen is the majority holder with over sixty per cent of the shares which, I might add, they have worked damned hard to keep on the down low."
"Surprising," Edward muttered dryly.
"On the list I came across a name that was familiar to me," Jamie continued. "So I called Isabella."
"What was the name?" Renee asked quickly, seemingly enjoying the cloak and dagger of the whole situation.
All heads turned in Nana Boo's direction to see her looking at the phone as though it had sprouted arms and legs.
"How...how is that possible?"
"We hoped youcould explain that," Isabella said softly.
"I can't," she replied honestly.
"The shares were purchased in your name over thirty years ago and equate to almost twenty per cent of the company," Jamie explained. "They're worth in excess of one hundred million dollars."
"Good gracious," Nana Boo spluttered with a bony hand over her mouth. "Do you have any idea who bought the shares?"
"No. The buyer remained anonymous. The only thing I do know is that the buyer was a he."
"Who on earth would buy you shares?" Renee asked with a questioning shrug.
Nana Boo shook her head in response. "Do you have a date, Jamie?" She enquired. "A date when the shares were bought."
"Yeah, one sec," Jamie replied. There was a cacophony of fingertips on keyboard type sounds before his voice returned to the line. "August eighteenth 1979. The only identity on the account opening is a password: Frank."
The snort that erupted from Nana Boo was as unladylike as it was unexpected. She proceeded to giggle into her hand like a schoolgirl as the rest of the table looked on in utter disbelief. Edward found himself smiling at her as she snickered and wiped at the laughter tears that had gathered at the corners of her wrinkled eyes.
"Can we all be let in on the joke, mother?" Renee said with a sigh.
"I'm sorry," Nana Boo stammered with a deep breath. "I'm sorry. It's really not that funny. But your father always did have that effect on me."
"My father?" Renee asked swiftly.
"Yes, your father. He was the one who bought the shares."
Isabella frowned. "How do you know that?"
"The date, darling, it's our wedding anniversary. Why else would he use my maiden name? And his favourite singer was Frank Sinatra." She lifted her hands, palm-up towards the ceiling. "Who else could it be?"
"Why would he buy you shares in WCS?" Edward asked.
"Pfft, who knows," Nana Boo smiled. "He had his fingers in so many pies, what with his political connections. Maybe that was why: He saw an opportunity to increase the area his party covered – get the message out to a wider population?" She smiled tenderly at Edward. "Chances are he probably knew your family."
Edward blinked back at her thoughtfully, having been mulling over that very same idea.
"I have paper work upstairs from after he passed, detailing things that he owned, shares that he bought, sold, bought," Nana Boo continued. "My lawyer went over some of them a couple of times, but I just get lost in all the numbers and legal jargon. He was a shrewd businessman, my husband. Shrewd but not very romantic," she laughed. "Buying me shares for our anniversary, indeed."
"Shares worth one hundred million," Jamie interjected. "That's one hell of a gift."
"Maybe so," Nana Boo uttered seriously. "But I'm more interested in how I can help you two get back at this...Whitlockfellow. Is it possible?"
"With your shares and Cullen's," Jamie explained. "Between you, you have eighty per cent of the company. I'd say that was a damned good leg to stand on."
"Nana," Isabella murmured softly. "Are you sure about this?"
"Of course I'm sure, darling," Nana Boo assured her. "Now tell me what I need to do."
Jacob Black was pacing.
He was pacing and he was sweating. Sweating like a motherfucker, in fact.
His nerves were shot to hell and the putrid stench of law enforcement permeated his nostrils like an infectious disease. FBI suits or not, they still stank of arrogance and back ally deals. Not that Agent Biers hadn't grown on him over the past couple of weeks, however. The guy seemed fairly cool and genuinely interested in helping Nessie, which, for Jacob, was vitally important. Biers wasn't crooked like the other FBI fuckers Jacob had met over the years. He was, Jacob concluded, one of the good guys.
Not that, that helped calm his ass down any. Feeling his spine prickle with unease as he made another circuit of the room, he couldn't help but notice that his surroundings were definitely not of the feng shui persuasion. The room that he was prowling was sparsely furnished, with a small wooden chair that screamed chiropractor, and a table that had seen better days and many a coffee stain. It was, as Biers had explained, a safe house, and the only place he felt comfortable taking Jacob to answer his long, detailed list of questions.
FBI headquarters was not the best place for Jacob to be seen. He'd learned long ago that, in Aro Bartollini's case, you never knew who the hell was watching.
Suddenly, the door opened and Biers entered followed by another agent with a crew cut and a bad attitude. He narrowed his eyes at Jacob, who had halted his pacing and was eyeballing the asshole right the hell back. What was it with these bastards thinking that they were better than everyone else was? A shiny badge and a handgun did not a decent guy make. Fact.
"Sorry to have kept you, Jacob," Biers apologised as he gestured towards the table and chairs. "I had to wait for Agent Burke here to finish up on another case."
"Whatever," he muttered, keeping his eyes front and centre on the Burke dude.
"I'm Agent Dane Burke," crew cut said dismissively with his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his trousers.
"Great," Jacob answered dryly. "And what are you here for?"
"Agent Burke is here to assist me, Jake," Agent Biers interrupted, sensing the tension between the two men, "Nothing more, nothing less. I'm sorry I didn't get chance to explain what would be happening, but everything is moving so fast."
Jacob let his eyes drift over to Biers, and loosened the tightness in his neck, "Fine. Can we just get started? This room is giving me the fucking creeps."
"No problem," Biers smirked. The two agents sat on one side of the table while Jacob parked it on the other, hoping to fuck that the chair didn't collapse under his sizable weight.
Once the hand held digital recorder was in place, Biers began. The questions that he asked were fairly routine. What jobs had Jacob done for Bartollini? Did he know what deals Bartollini was involved in? What shenanigans did he see while on the Bartollini property? Could he identify Marcus and his hardheaded cronies from a set of surveillance pictures, which Burke pulled from a brown folder? Did he ever keep receipts of any jobs he was asked to go on?
Etc, etc, ad nauseum.
Jacob managed to keep his shit together for the most part. The only time that he felt his temper flare and his patience hightail it out of the room was when his relationship with Vanessa was discussed.
Who knew? How did it start? How long was it before they were intimate? How did they hide it? Why did it end?
That shit stung like hell and Jacob found himself pinching his nose and breathing as deeply as he could as he answered. Recounting the days when they had run away to start a life together was seriously painful, even after all the time that had passed. Between clipped sentences, Jacob found himself remembering Vanessa's laugh, the feel of her lips, the curves of her body, the deep, rich smell of her hair...the small life inside of her.
Christ, it still split his heart wide fucking open.
"Can we...take a break?" He asked as he rubbed his neck with his palm. They'd been at the shit for nearly three hours, and his head was about ready to explode.
"No," Burke snapped back. "We still have questions."
Ordinarily, Jacob would have cursed under his breath and forced himself to continue, but Burke was a complete prick, and his attitude was grating on his last damned nerve.
"Listen, asshole," Jacob snarled across the table. "I don't know where you think you get off talking to me like that, but you need to watch your fucking mouth."
Burke's eyes flashed with something that made the hairs on Jacob's neck rise. Shit. Maybe he had underestimated the fucker after all.
"Where do I get off?" Agent Burke asked in a quietly dangerous voice that struck Jacob like a cold palm across his face. The man sat forward, calm and collected, while Agent Biers kept his eyes on the folder in front of him.
"I get off by knowing that if your dipshit ass doesn't cooperate in every way that the bureau needs, then I have every right to throw it in jail for a long, long time." His long finger pointed towards the paper work that had collected between them over the last few hours.
"You are here because we want you to be, not because Riley asked you nicely or because you wanna be outta the goodness of your criminal heart. You are here because, if you weren't, you'd be in lock-up." The smile on Burke's face grew dark.
"I have evidence of perjury, narcotic use and dealing, theft, fraud, and a shit load of other felonies that would make the district director of the bureau hard for a fucking month. You thought you were being so fucking slick, but we've been watching you for years, my friend, so don't throw your attitude at me, Black, because I'll simply throw it right back at you with a fuck load of charges. Capiche? "
Jacob crossed his arms slowly over his chest, never dropping his eyes from Burke's. The fact that he felt sick to his stomach was irrelevant. He couldn't allow the fuck to know that his words scared the shit out of him.
Watching him for years? SweetJesus.
"Fine," Jacob muttered. "Let's keep going."
"Sensible boy," Burke commented victoriously as he slid back into his seat. "Now, you're friend...Edward Cullen, how long was he involved for? Did he start with the family when you did?"
Jacob froze, blinking between the two men. "What's Cullen got to do with this?"
Burke sighed and rolled his eyes in annoyance. Without breaking eye contact, Burke slammed three photographs on the table. Jacob didn't need to look at them to know that they were of himself and Cullen. "Cullen was, aside from you, Bartollini's main go-to guy. He was in as deep as you, maybe deeper. Now either you can answer the question or we can pull him in and ask him ourselves."
"You can't!" Jacob protested immediately, panic teasing every inch of his body.
"Why?" Burke smirked.
Jacob stared at Biers pleadingly, but the fuck simply looked back at him with no emotion whatsoever. "He's on parole, for Christ's sake."
"Oh, we know that," Burke answered smugly, "Which is why you need to be as cooperative as possible. We'll most likely need to bring him in anyway."
"Shit," Jacob cursed as his head dropped back on his neck and he glared at the ceiling. "I thought it'd be just me...I didn't know that he'd be brought in. If I had, I wouldn't-"
"Wouldn't what? Help us?" Biers asked venomously bringing Jacob's head back down. "Think of Nessie! I thought she meant something to you?"
"She does, but-"
"But what, Jake? What?"
For the first time in his life, Jacob Black was without words.
"Your friend can look after himself," Biers added. "Keep focused on what's important."
Jacob blinked, tasting acid at the back of his throat. Looking around slowly at the small, claustrophobic room he was seated in, he suddenly realised, without doubt, that he was well and truly fucked.
"What...," he croaked, defeated and tired. "What is it you want to know?"
Mike Newton stormed down the long corridor of Arthur Kill towards Isabella Swan's classroom with a piece of paper scrunched tightly in his fist. He was sure that the fucking thing was burning his palm. Goddamn it. How the hell could she do this to him? No warning. No word about it. He wanted answers and he wanted them-
"Miss Swan," he bellowed as he threw back the classroom door.
The room was silent as the seven inmates of her class wrote furiously with open texts in front of them. Each one of them looked up at the ruffled warden. Miss Swan was seated at the front of the class, behind her desk, glaring at Newton like he had pissed on her favourite pair on Monalo's.
"Miss Swan," he repeated after he had cleared his throat. "May I have a word?"
"No, you may not," she retorted quickly. "As you can see, my students are in the middle of an examination. One which you have just interrupted and I need to be here for the duration." She glanced at her watch. "I'll be free in forty minutes."
Newton ground his teeth, feeling seven sets of eyes on him, waiting for him to either reply, concede, or throw a complete bitch fit. Fuck. Swan always knew how to bust his balls in front of the inmates.
"Fine," he muttered angrily, shifting from one foot to the other, "My office. Forty minutes."
"Fine," she replied curtly with a pink flush across her cheeks.
It was almost fifty-five minutes by the time she finally knocked on his office door.
Newton had been watching the clock, knowing that she would push her luck even further with him. She was relentless. It wouldn't have bugged him if the inmates and staff didn't like her as much as they did. Jesus, she was like the Messiah of teaching or some shit. They listened to every word she spoke and worked hard for her. Some of the most hardened criminals - Cullen and McCarty being but two of them - who had walked through the door of Isabella Swan's class, had left seemingly educated in some way, and spouting Wordsworth or Blake.
Shit, he was lucky if they even looked at him when he spoke.
"Come in," he barked, arranging papers on his desk in an effort to look busy.
"You asked to see me," Isabella answered as she opened the door and stood with her arms folded across her chest.
"Yes, I did. I-"
"Before you continue," she snapped. "Can I just say that I do not appreciate you barging into my class the way you did today, Mr Newton."
Herewego. "Miss Swan, it-"
"Wasn't appropriate, when I have promised my students silence to complete their work. It undermines me and it breaks their concentration. You know how hard I have worked with that class to get them to the level of work and cooperation that they are at, and I need support from everyone to maintain that level, including you."
Newton blinked up at her, watching her eyes as they burned with annoyance and passion for her job and the measly, good for nothings that she taught. She still struck him dumb with her sass and sexiness.
"Fine, I apologise," he grumbled through gritted teeth.
"Good." She adjusted her skirt and sighed down her nose. "Now, what did you want?"
"I wanted to ask you what the hell this is." He slammed the same piece of crumpled paper down onto the desk between them. He watched her carefully as she looked at it. Her face gave nothing away.
"It is a reference request," she answered simply.
"Yes, it is," he countered dryly. "My question is, Miss Swan, why am I being asked for a reference?"
"It's the usual protocol when an employee applies for a new job."
"Oh, I know it is. But why am I hearing that you are applying for other employment now? Do you not understand the ramifications of your leaving here? The parole board appointed you Cullen's tutor for one. Plus, I'll need to find another teacher for those miscreants."
Isabella's eyes narrowed infinitesimally. "I am allowed to move jobs if I chose to, Mr Newton."
"And they are not miscreants."
"Regardless," he sniped. "When were you going to inform me of this?"
"I informed your secretary via email last week when I got my interview details through. I've set cover work for the day that I need to take off in order to attend it." She shrugged unworriedly. "I can't see the issue."
Her complacency did nothing but ignite Newton's annoyance even further.
"What about the parole board, Miss Swan? What about Cullen's tutoring? It's a condition of his parole. You can't simply walk away from that."
"Actually, I can," she countered quickly, reaching into her bag. She pulled out a very official looking black folder and placed it on top of her reference request.
"What the hell is this?"
"It's a set of documents," Isabella replied cheerfully, "Signed by Garrett, Charlotte and Mr. Cullen, detailing work completed, assessments, and behavioural reports which you will see have been signed by Mr. Stewart, Parole Board Executive."
Newton could feel his face turning a deep shade of holy fuck. "Mr. Stewart?"
"Yes," Isabella replied with a small smile. "Charlotte was good enough to ask him for a meeting when Garrett suggested it. With all the vast, detailed documentation that I have kept during Cullen's tutoring, Mr. Stewart was quite happy to accept that another tutor can continue with him. Cullen is quite amenable to that also. It's all above board, Mr Newton. Everything is ready to be handed over, if I get the new appointment, of course."
Her laugh of satisfaction made Newton want to throw something. He looked through the damned folder at a snail's pace, looking over the signatures and the personal recommendations from Miss Swan, Garrett, and Charlotte, to the signature from Stewart.
"Well," he breathed. "I guess there's little I can do."
"I guess so," Isabella answered. She closed the folder while he was still looking at it and placed it back into her bag. "I'm sorry if this has come as a shock to you, Mr Newton, but I have to think of my future, and the job on offer is just too good to pass up."
Her tone told Newton that she wasn't sorry at all. Maybe she was sad to say goodbye to her students, but she hadn't even considered the epic shit storm it was going to leave hisass in. He didn't have time for more appointments, for God's sake, or the interviews, training, and he was damned sure never going to find someone as good as Miss Swan to pick up the mantle.
His head suddenly felt like it was full of glass shards and rusty nails.
"I'll let you know how the interview goes," Isabella said brightly, as she flicked her hair over her shoulder and walked towards the office door. "Wish me luck."
Newton watched as she all but skipped out of his office, shaking her tight ass as she did.
"You should have seen the look on his ugly face," Bella laughed as she threw a handful of chopped onions into the oil of a sizzling pan. "He looked like he was ready to pass out. Asshole."
"Good," Edward replied dryly as he opened a can of chopped tomatoes. "I'd have given my left nut to have seen that shit. Fuck, I hate that guy."
"I know you do, baby," Bella whispered into the nape of his neck as she reached around him to grab a wooden spoon. The feel of her body pressed against his, even for that brief moment, made his eyeballs roll back into his skull.
Being in Bella's kitchen cooking together and talking about their day, made Edward feel strange. It was a good kind of strange, however. The kind of strange that made your heart beat fast and your face hurt from smiling too fucking much. The kind of strange that made you happy to be alive for the first time in years, and seriously consider setting the rest of your life on the straight and narrow. The kind of strange that made waking up in the morning easier, especially if she was in your arms when you did.
It had been a couple of days since they had returned from their trip to Chicago and the truth had come out about Edward, his past, his family, the company. He felt looser, less weighted, and more determined than ever to prove that he was good enough to stay at Bella's side. Her mother was definitely less prickly about their relationship, which was an absolute plus, but Edward knew that nothing was ever that fucking easy, and that he still had a long way to go.
The next few hours being only the start. Fuck.
He sighed as he pulled the cheese from Bella's fridge and started grating it into a bowl.
"What's wrong?" Bella asked as she stirred her pan.
"Nothin'," he answered quickly, keeping his eyes down on his hands.
"Liar," Bella retorted with a small smile. "Tell me."
He shrugged and picked up his glass of red wine. "Nothing important," he said as assuredly as he could, taking a long sip.
"Edward, please," Bella insisted, turning slowly and approaching him. "Something's on your mind." She wrapped her arms around his waist and slipped her hands into the back pockets on his jeans. "Are you worried about tonight?"
He smirked down at her. She could read him like a fucking book.
He'd tried to convince her that he was all sorts of cool with her asshole friend, Jamie, coming for dinner so that they could hash out their plans for Peter, but, the truth was, he was edgy as shit about the whole thing. He wasn't trying to be the difficult-possessive boyfriend, but he was less than thrilled about the prospect of meeting the man who had taken his Peaches' virginity, slept with her a couple more times, and been in love with her ever since.
He felt his stomach clench. Yeah, all was not fucking copacetic.
"Sweetheart, you know that Jamie is cool, right?" Bella asked quietly.
Edward couldn't help but snort. The way the fucker had been on the phone, with his attitude and whatnot proved that shit wrong instantly. The shit could be smelled across continents: Jamie was not happy that Bella was with Edward. Not happy. At. All.
Not that it made much difference to Edward whether or not the prick was in his fan club, but the thought of having Bella in the middle of people arguing over whether he was good enough for her again, was not something that Edward wanted. There had been too much of that shit going on and enough was enough.
Bella looked up at him, her large brown eyes cautious and beautiful. "You will behave, won't you?"
Edward licked his lips and bent down, kissing her softly, slowly, reassuringly. "I will do my utmost," he muttered, hating the words as he said them. He grimaced. "Just don't expect me to be swopping fucking childhood memories with him over dinner."
"I could only dream," she replied with a sarcastic laugh. "I just need the pair of you to be civil adults while we have dinner and organise everything. Please. For me."
"I said I would," he snapped back, feeling anxious and in desperate need of a cigarette. He watched as Bella bit her lip to hold back the response that his ass deserved. "Shit, I...Sorry," he muttered.
"You will be," she warned with a flash of annoyance in her eyes, as she unravelled herself from him and wandered back to the stove. "Because that Oreo cake I made is only for ex-criminals who do as they're damn well told."
Edward laughed despite himself. "Swan, you can't use the Oreo cake as blackmail! That's plain cruel."
"I never said I played fair," she replied over her shoulder, looking delectably gorgeous.
Dipping his chin as he stared at her, Edward approached her slowly, cupped her face and kissed her in a way that made her sigh and he hard as rock. She tasted of perfection and Christmas mornings.
"I love you," he whispered with his eyes closed, meaning every letter, syllable and word that left his mouth.
"I love you too," she replied as her hands gripped his forearms, "So much."
"I will try, baby," he breathed against her forehead. "I promise. For you."
He felt her smile against his cheek. "I know you will."
As time crept closer to Jamie's arrival, however, Edward found himself pacing around Bella's apartment like a freaking madman. His strides were long and heavy, while his hands had taken permanent refuge in the chaos atop his head. He'd already smoked four cigarettes in an effort to calm himself, but he was convinced that he'd have to smoke the whole damned pack to feel any kind of levity or calm.
Bella watched him from the kitchen, ignoring his behaviour in the way that mother's do with tantrum throwing children. She remained quiet, knowing that he was dealing in his own way, no matter how unnecessary she considered it to be.
The four-rhyme knock that came at the door as the clock struck seven, halted Edward in his tracks. He glared at the damned thing as though he could burn through the wood and cremate the fucker on the other side of it. Bella put a hand against his chest and looked up at him with eyes that warned and pleaded.
"Please," she whispered as she kissed his collarbone.
Edward huffed down his nose and watched Bella walk across the apartment so that she could open the door. She smiled when she did. A wide smile edged in apprehension.
The voice that came from the other side of the door was firm and deep. "Hey Bells."
"Hey," Bella answered with a hand gesturing towards the apartment. "Please, come in."
Edward watched as, finally, the infamous Jamie entered. He was a tall guy, well built with caution in his blue eyes that snapped immediately to where Edward was standing behind the sofa. He stared straight back, feeling slightly impressed that Jamie would be so eager to piss him off. Straightening up to his full height, Edward slipped his hands into his pockets, and rocked back and forth on his heels.
"Um, Jamie this is Edward," Bella said gently as she stood awkwardly between them. "Edward..., this is Jamie."
Edward could feel his back molars start to grind as he stared at the bastard who had defiled his precious Peaches. It was ridiculous to think that Bella would have been a virgin when they met, of course. She was beautiful. Nevertheless, meeting the man in question was a completely different ball game. Jamie's only saving grace, in Edward's eyes was that Bella had told him that he had been tender and had treated her right the night that they had first been together.
Otherwise...well, they sure as shit would have been having a completely different conversation. Shit.
He'd been with her more than once. Mine.
Mine. Mine. Mine.
Edward's hackles, jealousy and – not that he would ever fucking admit it – performance anxiety began to rise at an epic rate. If it weren't for the fact that it would upset his Bella, Edward would have been more than happy to rip the asshole's dick off his body and staple the damned thing to the fucking wall.
He was pulled from his potentially murderous thoughts by an annoyed cough that came from, not surprisingly, Bella. His gaze flickered to her face to see that it was expectant and more than a little pissed. He bit the inside of his lip and groaned under his breath in defeat.
He'd promised. Why the fuck had he promised that he would try with the piece of shit?
Oh yeah, because I love Bella.
Shuffling in annoyance from one foot to the other, and keeping his eyes engaged with Jamie's, Edward nodded his head in acknowledgement. "Jamie," he uttered.
"Edward," came the terse reply.
Bella sighed heavily in exasperation and swiped Jamie's suit jacket from off his arm, taking him by surprise.
"Drink?" she sniped as she stormed across the apartment towards the kitchen.
"Yeah, a beer if you have one," Jamie answered in a tone that was a little apologetic.
Edward could still feel Jamie's eyes on the side of his face as he watched Bella slam shit about in frustration. Not a great fucking start.
"Edward?" she barked.
"Sure, yeah," he answered quietly. "Beer thanks."
As Bella went about almost ripping the tops from the two bottles of Budweiser that she had snatched from the fridge, Edward glanced quickly at Jamie and exhaled.
"Fuck," he muttered.
He had to try. He had to try for her.
"So, Jamie," he began through tight lips and an arid throat, which he tried to clear. Several times. "Business good?"
He tried to ignore the small voice in his head that was simultaneously eye-rolling and berating his stupid ass. It was the first thing that came to his head, and shit, at least he'd fucking said something.
Jamie looked at him slightly perplexed, narrowing his judgemental eyes. "Um...yeah," he answered eventually. "It's...It's work. It pays the bills."
Edward nodded and rubbed the back of his neck with his palm in discomfort. Jesus, it was like pulling teeth.
"Good," he muttered, giving Bella a sideways glance as she handed him his beer. Her face, thank God, had lost a little of the tension that had been so prevalent and was looking more relaxed.
Jamie took his beer, smiling down at her. "Something smells great," he commented before taking a sip.
"Thanks," she replied. "It's chilli."
Edward bristled at the smug look on Jamie's face.
"Yeah," Bella answered. "Edward helped me." She smiled. "He's a pretty good cook."
Yeah, fucker, I am...
"Really," Jamie murmured unimpressed, as he looked anywhere but Edward. His gaze eventually came to rest on Bella's face. "You look really well, Bells. Great in fact. But then, you always do."
Edward clenched his hand in his jeans pocket and pulled a humongous swig from his beer.
Bella smiled meekly. "Thanks."
"I'm sorry that we've not been in touch as much." That was when Jamie's eyes flickered accusingly at Edward. "But, you know how things are."
"Yeah," Bella replied with a snarky tone that Edward recognised. "Well, you started spending so much time with Victoria; it was clearly hard for you to make time for your friends."
Edward watched with a sly grin as Jamie's mouth popped open with an excuse, a retaliation, but Bella was already walking away from him towards the kitchen.
"Dinner will be ready in five," she called over her shoulder. "Grab a seat, J."
Jamie's hands sank to his sides while the expression on his face changed from shock and annoyance, to frustration. Edward smirked at him, nodding knowingly.
Shit, the bastard was as owned by her as his ass was.
Bella rattled the pan on the stove bringing him from the revelation that had hit him like a ton of ha-fucking-ha. "Edward, can you give me a hand, please?"
"Sure baby," he called back, winking discreetly at Jamie and snorting into his beer when Jamie's eyes narrowed back at him.
To say that it was tense as Bella dished up dinner would be a huge fucking understatement. Edward was fairly relieved, however, that it emanated from the space between Bella and Jamie. Bella was clearly pissed about something Jamie had said but as long as her temper was aimed at her 'friend' and not him, all was good in the world.
As they sat down to eat around the circular table, Edward kissed the back of Bella's hand. "This looks great," he complimented. "Thank you."
Edward felt his chest lift when he saw a small blush creep up her cheeks, but shot a fierce stare at Jamie when he heard the distinct sound of a tongue clicking. Jamie's eyes, however, were focused firmly on the food in front of him. Luckyprick...
The sound of silverware chinking filled the room, diluting the passive aggressive atmosphere that had built up between Edward and Jamie, and the not so passive aggressive atmosphere that was between Jamie and Bella. Edward watched as Bella ate silently, keeping her eyes away from either of the men seated at her sides.
The silence was enough to drive him insane.
"So," he uttered in Jamie's direction, elongating the vowel. "Victoria's your...girlfriend?" He asked the question slowly and smiled into the neck of his beer when he saw the expression of fury that graced Jamie's face.
Jamie looked quickly at Bella. "Um...it's complicated," he answered.
"Oh, really?" Edward baited, glancing towards Bella with wide eyes. "So what...you just...sleep together?"
"Edward," Bella admonished with a slight smirk at the right side of her mouth.
"What?" he asked innocently. "You wanted me to make conversation." He pointed to Jamie with the neck of his beer bottle. "That's what I'm doing."
"I'm not sure that my love life is appropriate dinner conversation," Jamie growled with his fork mid-way to his mouth. "Nor is it any of your damned business."
Edward looked between the two of them, holding back his smile when he saw Bella holding back hers. "Well, Jamie, I'm...I'm terribly sorry."
"Sure you are," Jamie retorted sarcastically. He picked up his beer and drank the last dregs, his fierce stare burning into Edward. "So, Edward, tell me something," he continued in a tone that set Edward's hackles rising once more.
"Go for it."
Jamie leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table between them. "Are you just fucking Bella to stay on the parole board's good side or have you deluded yourself into thinking that you're somehow 'in love' with her'?"
The clang of Edward's knife hitting the plate echoed like a death knell around the apartment, covering the sound of Bella's mouth popping open in complete disbelief and hurt.
"The fuck you say?" Edward growled through his teeth, feeling his temper flare and lick up his spine, shooting down his arms towards his fists.
"You heard me," Jamie answered.
"Jamie," Bella interjected in a small, furious voice. "I think you should shut up now."
Jamie looked at her with narrowed, perplexed eyes. "What?" He asked in frustration. Bella glared back at him through angry tears. "Oh, come on, Bells."
"Come on, Bells, what?" She asked loudly.
Jamie snapped his mouth shut and breathed so hard that his nostrils flared. He slammed back in his seat and drummed his fingertips on the edge of the table.
"Come on, Jamie. Sit it out," Bella encouraged with utter sarcasm.
Jamie cocked his chin to the side and huffed. "This guy isn't good enough for you, Isabella."
"You know nothing about it," Bella retorted without hesitation.
"I know enough."
"Oh, really. Like what?"
Jamie remained silent, looking towards his plate and nowhere else.
"Jamie," Bella snapped. "You fucking coward, just say it!"
"Fine!" he bellowed back. "He's no good for you. He's dirt. He's a criminal for fuck's sake!"
Bella swallowed and took a deep breath. "Jamie-"
"I've watched you fall under the spell of this guy," he continued with venom. "Allowing him to get his hooks into you, and it makes me sick! Your father will be turning in his grave."
"You want my help to get his business back, but have you even considered the slight possibility that that's all he wants you for?"
Edward stood up so abruptly that his chair skidded noisily across the laminate floor. Jamie flinched but didn't raise his eyes from Bella as he continued.
"You're smarter than this, Bells. Think about it. He'll get his money and fuck off back under the rock that he crawled from."
"I swear to God," Edward barked. "If you don't shut your mouth, I'll do it for you."
Jamie scoffed. "Look good on your parole sheet if you did."
"I don't give a flying fuck," Edward retorted.
He really didn't. The fucker was way out of line, and utterly wrong in his assumptions. The sting of Jamie's accusations skittered over Edward's skin and sank deep into his stomach, fuelling his need to bust him in his fat mouth.
"Jamie, leave," Bella muttered with her chin towards her chest.
"What? Are you serious?"
Jamie paused for a beat. "Bells, I'm saying this because I care about you."
"You don't care about anybody but yourself," Bella replied lifting her gaze to his. Jamie sat back slightly in his seat, shocked by the hate that he saw in his best friend. "You come into my house and start throwing accusations around like you have the right to-"
"You're my best friend," Jamie argued in defence.
"No I'm not, Jamie," Bella spat, slamming her silver wear onto the table. "You don't give a shit. All this is about is your ego and how pissed you are that I'm with someone now. Someone that I love and want to spend the rest of my life with. Someone who loves me. Truly loves me. And that's something that you will never have if you keep using Victoria. And as for being my best friend...It's a croc. If you were my best friend, you'd be there for me, no matter what, and support my decisions. But you never have. You...You're nothingto me."
The room fell deathly silent as the blood drained slowly from Jamie's face.
Edward watched his Peaches as her shoulders lifted and dropped in rage, wanting nothing more than to wrap his arms around her to shield her from Jamie's cutting words. But this was her fight, and she had owned it. His heart hurt for her. Regardless of the fact that he wanted to rip Jamie's head from his shoulders, he knew the history of the two of them. They had known one another for a long time, grown up together. She was devastated and it showed.
Jamie stood slowly, his brow furrowed in panic. "Bells, please," he pleaded.
"Don't be that way, I just..."
"No," Bella snapped firmly as she stood and moved closer to Edward. "You've made your point. You've told me how you feel and now it's time for you to leave. If you can't accept that I'm with Edward then we can't be friends. Ever. I don't want to look at you or speak to you."
Edward looked down at his right hand as Bella slipped her fingers between his and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
Jamie looked entirely crestfallen. "Bell-"
"You heard what she said," Edward bit back. "See yourself out."
He leaned down and kissed Bella's temple, sighing when he felt her snuggle into his side, hiding her face that was surely now tear stained.
Jamie stood, watching the two of them, before he slid out from in front of his chair and sloped towards where his jacket was hanging. He pulled it on slowly, sheepishly, stealing occasional looks back at Bella who was still buried under Edward's arm. He lifted his briefcase, laid it on the arm of the sofa, and removed a thick folder and a stack of papers before placing them onto the coffee table.
He looked up at Edward and exhaled heavily. "These...These are for you. All the stuff you need on Whitlock." He pointed with an exhausted hand. "I'll...I'll just leave them there. Any questions...y'know...call me."
He snapped his briefcase shut and walked towards the door. He stopped as he placed his hand on the handle. "For what it's worth, Bells," he whispered. "I do love you, and I only have your best interests at heart. I know you probably don't believe me, but it's true, I swear. I'm sorry."
The click of the door closing behind him was all that was needed for Bella to collapse in on herself against Edward's chest, sobbing angrily into the fabric of his t-shirt. He held her up, shushing softly into her hair, keeping her close against him. He looked at the clock on the wall. Jamie had been in the apartment for thirty-seven minutes.
Bella's arms wrapped tightly around his neck while his wound around her waist, picking her up so that her feet were hanging loosely from the floor. He walked to the sofa and sat down with her curled in his lap.
"I'm so...so sorry, Edward," she breathed into his neck.
"Shhhh, it's alright," he replied, rubbing his hand across her back. "You have nothing to be sorry for."
"He's wrong," she whimpered. "He's wrong. I hate him."
Edward didn't answer that. The tears and the heartbreak in her voice told him that she didn't hate Jamie. He had hurt her beyond words, true enough, but he knew that his Peaches was incapable of hating anyone or anything.
"You know that none of what he said is true," Bella asked. She looked up at him, her brown eyes red from crying. "Tell me you know that."
"I know, baby."
"Tell me that you want me."
"I want you."
"Do you love me?"
Edward cupped her face and stared straight into her eyes. "I love you more than anything. You're my Peaches."
Her lips pressed fervently against his, as her hands wound their way into his hair, pulling hard, desperate. "I'll always be your Peaches," she murmured between kisses.
Edward gripped her waist as she kissed him and sucked on the tip of her tongue when she pushed it into his mouth. She was breathless, as she pulled at his shoulders, needing him closer. Edward's body reacted instantly as it always did when she touched him. He was hard and moaning, but something about the way Bella grappled and clung to him felt wrong. Slowly, he pulled back from her, kissing the corner of her mouth in an attempt to soften his actions.
"Hey," he said softly as she gripped the back of his neck and pulled him back towards her soft, wet lips. He resisted and trailed his index finger down the tear marks on her cheeks. "Sweetheart, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. Please. Edward, please, I..." She trailed off and closed her eyes tightly while clinging to his t-shirt. More tears fell.
"Peaches," Edward implored. "Talk to me."
Gradually, her grip on him loosened and she sat back. She buried her face in her hands and groaned in frustration.
"I'm sorry," she mumbled into her palms. "I'm sorry." She lifted her head, apology covering her face. "I shouldn't have...done that."
Edward smirked gently. "Trust me; I don't mind you doing 'that.' I just want to know that you're alright."
She shook her head minutely making her hair curtain her face. Edward pushed it back over her shoulder. "No," she answered finally. "I'm not alright."
Edward sighed down his nose and took her hands in his. "It's been a tough few days, right,"
She nodded and sniffed. "With Chicago, my mom, Nana Boo, work, my interview tomorrow, and now Jamie, I just feel..." She blew her breath out hard. "I feel like I'm constantly running to catch up."
"I know it, baby," Edward said quietly.
"I sometimes feel like we'll always be fighting someone or defending what we have, you know? The thought alone is exhausting."
Edward's heart stuttered in his chest, a hairline fracture threatening it's diameter. He swallowed and squeezed her hand, keeping his eyes on their entwined fingers.
"Too exhausting to quit?" His voice was tiny and he hated it.
"What?" Bella cupped his cheek so quickly that he didn't even notice that she'd moved. "No," she said firmly. Her eyes sparked and flashed. "I would never quit. I won't. I love you far too much, Edward. You're everything. You know that, right?"
He smiled weakly, "Yeah."
"Yes, really. But, Bella, you have to understand, the thought alone scares the shit out of me. When all of this becomes too much, it'd kill me if you walked away, if I couldn't have you. I-"
"Hey, enough," Bella ordered. "I would never and will never walk away from you." She dipped her head, catching his eye. "I'm in this for life. You and me."
She clasped their hands to her heart. "I'm yours. All of me," she continued. "This part, right here, beats only for you."
Edward nodded and stared at where her heart beat beneath his palm.
"I love you so very much," she whispered. "Don't ever doubt that."
He looked at her. He looked at her beautiful, honest face and knew, without doubt that she would always fight for them. She would always fight for him. No matter what.
"I don't," Edward croaked.
Bella stood slowly then, clasping his hands tightly in hers, and led him silently to the bedroom. She undressed in front of him, keeping her eyes on his, before removing his clothes with so much tenderness and love, that Edward could barely breathe. They kissed, slow and passionate, amidst the puddle of clothing that surrounded them, while their hands explored skin that tingled and puckered in anticipation.
They fell gently to the bed; legs twisted together, bodies pressed together closely, rocking, grinding, and caressing until it was too much for either of them to bear. Finally, with a whispered plea, Bella opened her legs for him, aching, and wet, and sighed as his firm waist slid between her thighs. His weight on her was delicious.
With his elbows bent at either side of her head, Edward pushed into his Bella, groaning low, and long as she enveloped him so fucking perfectly. Her exquisite warmth spread through his body, thawing the cold that had rested inside of him since Chicago.
"Peaches," he whispered as their mouths opened together, allowing hot breaths to pass from his lungs to hers and back again.
"Edward," she murmured. "I love you."
"Are you mine?" He asked as he lifted from her, leaving the very tip of his body inside of her.
He slid back in, taking his sweet time and grunting as her back arched, pressing her chest against his. Her fingertips dug into the skin under his shoulder blades and her heels pressed into his ass so that he slipped further into her. Perfect, sublime.
His eyes rolled backwards, "Forever?"
"Forever and ever. Oh God."
"Look at me," he ordered as he started to thrust slow but determined.
As small gasps began to leave her lips, Bella opened her eyes that gleamed with lust and need.
"Bella," he panted as he wound his fingers into her hair, grounding himself to her before he began to lift. "I will never…never stop loving you this way," he promised. "I will always need you this much. I swear to you. Everyday of forever."
And he showed her then, with every inch of his body, that he meant every word. And when she finally exploded around him, crying out his name to the heavens, Edward knew that she felt the exact same way. It was with that thought that he careened over the edge of his orgasm, bellowing into her neck as he violently and relentlessly pulsed his love into her.
Edward entered the tall building that smelled of money and conceit with sweaty palms and a don't-fuck-with me attitude. He hated all things Wall St. If it wasn't for Bella, he would rather have had his thumb nails stapled together than grace the place with his presence.
He glared at the security dude when he had the audacity to ask what he was doing there.
"I have an appointment at one," he bit back matter-of-factly, "Wallasy and Berger."
Mr. Security looked hesitant; once he had searched him and found no illicit materials. He could clearly smell a prison brother a mile off. Gradually and with much apprehension, he allowed Edward through towards the elevators with a cautious wave of his hand.
Edward hid his snort. Sucker.
Once off the elevator, Edward made his way around a maze of corridors, following sign after fucking sign until he entered a large, ostentatious reception area. Potted plants, vomit-inducing view of Manhattan, and glass tables were all in attendance. Edward couldn't hold back his eye roll.
The small blonde-haired woman behind the desk smiled politely. "Can I help?"
"Um," Edward replied as he strolled towards her. He smiled softly and watched with satisfaction as her eyes widened, "Maybe. I'm a little lost."
"I'll say." The deep voice that came from behind him sounded pissed, and a little surprised.
Edward turned leisurely and leaned against the reception desk. "MOorning," he offered with a dip of his chin.
Jamie stood and stared at him in bewilderment. "Morning?" he asked incredulously. "What the hell are you doing here?" It was then that his asshole demeanour shifted and panic etched his face. "Is Isabella alright?"
"She's fine. She's at a job interview."
"Interview," Jamie repeated quietly. "I didn't know that she was looking for another job."
"Well, why does that shit not surprise me?" Edward raised his eyebrows in silent challenge when Jamie opened his mouth to spout some bullshit excuse. Surprisingly, he remained quiet.
"So what are you doing here?" He asked as he slipped his hands into his pants pockets.
"I'm here to talk to you," Edward said calmly.
"How the hell did you find out where I worked?"
Edward spun his iPhone between his thumb and forefinger, "Google. It has a great section on how to cure yourself of 'complete-fucking-assholeitis'. Maybe you should give it a try sometime."
The receptionist coughed a small laugh behind him.
"I'll do that," Jamie retorted angrily, glaring at the small woman. "So, Cullen, you're here to talk, huh?"
"I thought you'd be here on a caveman crusade. Come to beat my shit up or something."
Edward smirked. "That's an intriguing idea," he offered thoughtfully with a quick glance at the ceiling. "But no. Bella doesn't even know that I'm here."
Jamie frowned in confusion. "She doesn't?"
Edward shook his head. "But I'm here on her behalf."
"I don't understand."
Edward pushed from the desk and took three steps towards Jamie. "You have no idea how much you hurt her with what you said last night you son of a bitch. No idea at all. And believe me, if I'd had my way they'd have been scrapping your prejudiced, self-righteous ass off the fucking sidewalk this morning."
Jamie gulped audibly. "Is that right?"
"Yeah, that's right." Another step. "I have a thick skin, Damon. A few years in lock up can do that to a fucker. Say anything you want about me, anything at all and I guarantee that I'll have heard worse. But Bella, she hasn't."
Jamie's chin dropped. "I didn't mean to hurt her."
"But you did. Big time. For whatever reason, and God only knows why, she loves me. I know that makes you want to shove bamboo shoots up my fingernails, and truthfully I couldn't give a shit, but it's the truth, and because of that, she will stand by my side against anyone. Including you."
"I realise that."
"I care about her, Cullen. She's my best friend. You need to realise that. I was the guy in her life for years."
"I understand that, but I'm here now, and, contrary to popular belief, I'm not going anywhere."
The two men stared at each other, like fighting stags; their antlers were well and truly locked. There was nowhere to go but backwards. Edward knew that the man before him cared for his Peaches. Hell, he may have even been in love with her. And, in truth, his vitriolic words had been directed at Edward, not Bella. When Jamie said that he didn't mean to hurt her, Edward believed him.
Jamie, shuffling from one foot to the other, coughed a sound of concession. He took the final step towards Edward and stared straight into him. "You hurt her, and I'll fucking kill you," he growled.
"If I hurt her, I'll let you," Edward replied with a satisfied smirk.
There was no handshake. That would have been asking too fucking much.
"Is that all you came down here to say?" Jamie asked eventually as the tension settled around them both, fading into an uneasy alliance.
"No," Edward answered, as he pulled the folder and papers that Jamie had left on Bella's sofa, from the book bag that had been hanging from his back.
"You told Bella that you'd help her." He slammed the papers into Jamie's chest, resulting in a gratifying 'oomph.' "And by God you're gonna do just that."
Two hours later, Edward emerged from the office building and made his way back towards the subway. He was half way across the street when his cell phone vibrated in his pocket.
"Hey beautiful," he smiled into the receiver.
"How's it going?"
Bella groaned in frustration. "Okay, I think. The facility is great and we've met some of the other staff who seem really approachable and nice."
"That's great," Edward encouraged.
"Yeah," she sighed. "We're on a coffee break now. I needed to hear your voice."
"You'll do amazing, baby. I know it."
"I hope so. My interview is next."
"Be strong. Show those bastards what my Peaches is fucking made of!" He ignored the funny looks that his loud comments had garnered.
Bella giggled down the phone. "I will. I promise. I'll call you later. I love you."
"I love you, sweetheart. Bye."
Edward grinned as he ended the call and pushed the phone back into his jeans So caught up in what he was doing, Edward failed to see the figure standing in front of him. He stumbled against the broad chest and shook off the large hand that gripped his forearm.
"Sweetheart, huh?" the figure said with a smile.
Edward looked up and focused on the tall motherfucker standing in his way. "That must be the delectable Isabella Swan you were talking to."
Edward's protective instincts reared up with a vengeance. He stood to his full height and puffed up his chest, squaring up to the dark haired asshole and, oh, wait…his short, fat friend that suddenly appeared at his side.
"And who the fuck are you?" Edward thundered through clenched teeth.
The fucker gave him an evil, victorious grin that sent a wave of ice down Edward's back. He was instantly wary. This shit was not good. Not good. At. All.
"I'm FBI Agent Winters," came the reply as Edward's stomach smashed to the floor. "And you, Edward Cullen, are under arrest."
Holy fricken shizz I did another cliffie, Batman!
I'm evil, I know. But it needed to stop here.
Thank you once again to everyone who has waited so very patiently for this update. I truly appreciate it.
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Update will be…when it is done.