|The Fiercest Sun
Author: BiteMeNowPlease PM
An erotic mystery. When Bella is seduced by a mysterious stranger with a dominant lifestyle, she unknowingly becomes embroiled in a dangerous situation. Ice hotels, Nazi art theft, dead submissives and one man worth a woman's surrender. M/AHRated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Mystery - Edward & Bella - Chapters: 28 - Words: 82,227 - Reviews: 2,059 - Favs: 1,185 - Follows: 1,653 - Updated: 02-21-13 - Published: 10-30-11 - id: 7507406
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Thanks to all you reviewers and the surprising influx of newcomers to the story. Tip of the hat and a paddling for the marvelous faireyfan.
Detective Whitlock knocked on the open door. "Good morning."
Bella was curled up in the hospital bed, staring out the window at the buildings across the street. She glanced at him over her shoulder before returning to her window. "Hi."
He slowly approached the bed, a folder in hand. "The doctors are giving you the green light to go home today."
"I know," she said without moving. She'd cried for so long, she felt as lifeless and dry as a fallen leaf. She'd never felt so alone, so lost. She'd kept hoping that Edward would visit, but the doctors and the nurses would not release any information about him and her disappointment that he had not come had dragged her deep into despair. Thinking about trying to put her life back together without Edward made her chest and head ache.
It was only the prospect of seeing Adam that made her anxious to return to Boston. She was aware that she'd hurt Emmett deeply and she hated the way she'd treated him so callously. Despite their differences, he was a good man, a good father to Adam, and he deserved better from her. The only ray of light that remained in her world was her son and she could barely wait to gather him in her arms. He was the only one she had no confusion about, no secondary lingering doubts and the love she felt for him burned hot in her breast.
The detective nodded, watching her still back. He idly sniffed a vase of flowers on the nightstand. "They caught Felix last night, trying to cross into Mexico. He had a Matisse in the trunk of his car."
Bella made a small noise in the back of her throat. There was a pause before she added, "I'm glad they caught him."
"There is someone here from Boston to see you," he said.
She turned to him, her brows drawn in puzzlement. "Who?"
Around the corner of the door, Aro poked his head in, carrying a bouquet of flowers wrapped in florist paper. "Ms. Swan."
Bella pushed herself to sitting. "Hello, Mr…." She couldn't remember his last name.
"Mirino," he supplied for her. "Dante's nephew. Aro."
"Yes, of course."
He set his bouquet on her bedside table. "I was hoping you and I were done with seeing each other in hospitals."
Bella smiled weakly. "Well, uh. I…"
He dismissed her awkwardness. "Detective Whitlock has been telling me how important you've been in recovering the most impressive cache of artwork found this century."
She shook her head. "I had nothing to do with it."
"Yet you were the catalyst that's brought it to light. The art world owes you its gratitude."
Bella couldn't feel less like a hero. "I don't want it." There was a bitter taste in her mouth.
Aro pursed his lips, and he and the detective exchanged a look. "Did you know that there was a small Backhuysen among the paintings? It had once been in Dante's family before the Nazis claimed it."
Bella looked up. "Really?"
Aro nodded. "Since the paintings were taken from the Monuments Men, they'll all be returned to the US Government, but I have assurances they will eventually be returned to the Jewish families they were taken from. Well, those who can validate their claims, anyway."
Bella sighed, looking at her still hands in her lap. "That's good, I guess."
"It is," Aro said. "A very good thing." He stroked the flowers he'd set on the table. "The scars the Nazis left behind will never be erased, but this is something worth doing."
There was a long awkward pause. The detective shuffled his feet and Aro nodded. "I must be getting back to the station to help inventory. Perhaps we can talk more when you are feeling better."
"Sure," Bella agreed without enthusiasm.
Aro stepped forward and gently lifted her hand to his lips, just brushing it lightly with his dry lips. "Farewell, Ms. Swan. I wish you peace. Arrivederci e che Dio vi benedica."
Bella was silent as Aro left the room. The detective cleared his throat and she turned to him. "I'd like to see Edward. Can you please tell me when I can see him?"
"I'm sorry," Whitlock said. "He's in custody. I believe he's being taken to the courthouse this morning for arraignment."
"Arraignment?" Bella asked, shocked.
"The art? It's all stolen property. He's been fencing it."
"But− but the Nazis stole it. He wasn't even alive when the crime occurred."
"It was US Government property through the Monuments Men. Cullen's father stole it, the son and his widow kept on fencing it. That's a crime."
"Jesus…" Bella whispered.
"And then, of course, there's the murder of Victoria Geselt."
"He had nothing to do with that!"
"Felix says different."
"He's a liar. You have my statement. I've told you what happened."
"Yeah, well, the investigation is not over yet. We have to check it out."
"You'll find nothing."
Detective Whitlock shrugged. "It'll be up to the DA's office." He approached her and laid his hand over hers in a gesture so completely sincere, it made the breath catch in her throat. "But it's you I'm worried about."
His genuine concern brought the tears that all the incessant questioning and barely disguised contempt from the other detectives had not evoked. She blinked them back. "I don't know what you mean."
He put his hands in the pockets of his jacket. "I asked around a bit about you. Talked to my brother and the Boston police."
She raised her chin. "Yeah? So what did you find out?"
"You've got a family back in Boston that's pretty eager to hear from you."
"Yes. Yes. My son. My son, Adam."
"More than just your son. Your husband has been asking about you. He's on his way here to fly you home."
She nearly gasped. "Emmett is on his way here?"
"Sure. He's been real worried about you. He's been calling my office every day."
Bella drew her knees up to her chest. Her stomach was roiling, her mind racing. She couldn't even say how she felt. Some part of her would be so glad to see him, to feel the warmth of his protective arms, and the security of his embrace. Some other part rejected the idea of going back to where they had been, to the dull monotony of their life together. She couldn't even guess at his motive. Was he coming to try to rejuvenate their marriage? Come to gloat and say "I told you so"? Come to drag her back to Boston like a runaway teenager?
Detective Whitlock cleared his throat and she belatedly realized he'd been talking to her. " – depending on whether the DA wants your testimony in person or whether we can do it by deposition. I imagine Mr. Cullen's attorney is going to want to interview you as well."
Bella shook her head. "Uh, of course. Whatever he needs."
The detective pulled several pages from the folder he was carrying. "We've typed up your statement. I'll need you to read and sign it."
"All right," she said, not taking the pages from his hand.
He nodded as if to himself before laying them on the tray table. "I'll let you look them over and come back for them. I think I'll go see if I can find a cup of coffee…"
He meandered out the door. Bella glanced at the half dozen pages of her typewritten statement. They looked to be pretty much what she had told them. How she had met Edward, their developing relationship, James' attacks. Their travel north and then to Texas. What Felix had said and Irina's assault.
She had said nothing of the Picasso sketch Edward had sent to her, trying to still be truthful while implicating him as little as she could. She'd justified it in her mind by reminding herself that she'd given it back.
Doctor Alvarez's husky voice broke her train of thought. "Good morning, Ms. Swan." She was Bella's attending psychiatrist, and had spent several hours talking with Bella over the last few days. She was short and matronly, and Bella had come to appreciate her very down-to-earth sensibilities. She reminded Bella very much of her father's mother, a pragmatic woman with a sly sense of humor.
Bella nodded. "Good morning."
The doctor flipped once through her clipboard. "So, you're going home today."
Bella took a ragged breath. "Yes. Yes, I am." Home. Boston. It would feel strange to land at Logan and talk a cab back to the apartment. The patient liaison had helped her book a ticket home. She felt so irrevocably changed and it would be the same, exactly the same as she'd left it. Yet it would be so completely different because she was so different.
"How are you feeling about that?"
"Eager. Scared. I don't even know."
The doctor scribbled on the chart. "I think it would be worthwhile for you to see someone when you get back home. You've been through a fairly severe trauma. It's going to take some time to process."
"I think that's probably a good idea." She had a feeling it was going to take a while to integrate all that had happened. Sleeping had been nearly impossible until the doctor had given her some pills that had knocked her out. A blonde nurse reminiscent of Irina had walked into her room this morning and she'd had to fight back screams.
"I'll have the patient advocate draw up a list. I'm going to give you a prescription, too. Something to help you sleep at night. "
Bella nodded. "That'd be good."
"Do you have anyone to take you to the airport?"
Bella crossed her arms. "My husband is coming."
The doctor's eyebrows lifted. "From Boston?"
The doctor came and sat on the side of her bed. "Are you okay with that?"
Bella covered her face with her hands. "I don't know. I don't know what I want," she whispered, but then she lowered her hands. "No, that's not true. I know what I want. I'm just not going to get it."
"What is it you want?"
What did she want? She knew it wasn't the complacent, binding life she'd had with Emmett. It was Edward who'd literally bound her, and in doing so, given her her freedom. "I want someone to want me so badly it hurts them to leave me. I want someone who will do anything to be with me. I want passion and excitement and… and fire."
"That's a pretty tall order," Dr. Alvarez said.
Bella hugged herself. "My father always said I wanted the stars," she whispered.
"If it's the stars you want, then you must reach for them."
Bella's head fell forward and she let her hair curtain her face. "I just don't know whether I can ante up the price."
The doctor sighed and placed her hand on Bella's. "That's an answer you must decide for yourself." In an almost maternal gesture, she smoothed Bella's hair with her hand. "But I'll tell you this. I've never had a patient complain that they regret trying to reach their dream. The regrets I hear are from those that didn't try."
Just a few more chapters left. Where do you think she should end up?