We are so very sorry for the delay on this. One part of our trio had to leave the fandom unexpectedly not long after we posted the original one-shot, and it really took the wind out of our sails. And then real life got insanely busy, and time got away from us. Thank you so much for your interest in seeing this continued!
Huge thanks again to our lovely pre-readers/betas! They all worked so hard for us.
No copyright infringement intended.
Weeks pass, and I focus on work to keep from breaking all the shit in my place. I'm frustrated and short-tempered, and no one's out of reach of my irritation. I snap at Emmett and bark orders at Jasper, and I send Jacob out on so many shit jobs he actually starts to whine when I call him in to my office. That goes over like a fucking lead balloon.
There's no trace of my angel. None. No one knows where she ran off to, and because I was too fucking focused on getting my dick wet, I didn't even look for clues. I've got abso-fucking-lutely no idea where to start. And it enrages me.
On top of that, shit with work is crazy. We're expanding, and making connections in major metropolitan areas where we want our product to ship isn't easy. It takes large-scale networking. Building something from the ground up like I am, it's not a one-day thing. And then there's reputation, old money, established families, bosses, and connections I have to make. I steel up everything inside myself except that space I gave to my girl in preparation for a lot of shit to go down in a short amount of time.
I've paid my dues and earned my respect here—in my town, they fucking know my name. But going further than the low-level shit, it's not fast, and it's not a matter of muscle. It takes finesse and planning and strategy. That's what Jasper's for, and that's why he's standing in my office right now.
"So, you're saying the Volturi family is interested?"
"Yes. I think so. I don't fucking know, E. They're hard to get a read on, and I can't even get a meeting with Aro. Just Felix. And he won't do a damn thing without talking to his boss first."
I raise an eyebrow, and he laughs.
"I don't either, but damn. It's like talking to a goddamn brick wall with that guy."
"So what's our move? Do I need to make an appearance?"
He shakes his head. "No, no. I think that would send the wrong message."
I sigh, patience wearing thin again, and I remember why as deep brown eyes and perfect soft tits flash through my mind. My mood shifts. Jasper senses it and redirects immediately. I've really been an asshole lately. I almost feel bad.
"They've guaranteed a presence at the show next week. Won't confirm who, but I'm betting it'll be one of the three top guys."
Nodding, I stand and show him the door. My mind's gone, focused on her. I can't help my anger, can't control it, and don't want to. So getting my right-hand guy out of the line of fire is fucking crucial right now.
He goes with a nod, and as soon as he's out the door, I grab the closest ash tray and sling it into the wall to my right. It shatters, and the clinking of white porcelain pieces just reminds me of her creamy soft skin.
"Goddamn it." The words are soft, like I don't even have it in me to yell anymore. I can't believe what a number this girl has done on me, and I try, not for the first time, to push thoughts of her from my mind.
Her words still echo, though. "I'm not naive enough to think you'll be pining away for me after I leave."
If only she knew.
It's been a few weeks since Masen, and I've tried. I've really fucking tried to get past the feel of him, the way he messed with my mind and the things he did to my body. But every morning, like clockwork, I pick up that little silver knife and turn it over and over in my hand before I slide it into my pocket or purse, depending on the day. I haven't spent a moment without it since I walked out his door.
It scares me.
I thought I was doing better.
Tonight I have a date with a guy from the office. He's an accountant, and he's cute in the homegrown way: blond hair, light eyes, and one dimple that's bigger than the other when he smiles. But his hands are soft where I want rough, and his voice is cool and lilting where I want deep and desire-wrapped. I shake my head to clear my thoughts and give myself the pep talk I've used for months.
You will not be duped, used, or abused. You won't mistake intentions, and you won't be caught off guard. Keep your eyes open and your head in the game, Bella, and everything will be all right.
Eric is who I want. Someone normal. Someone nice.
It's with that thought that I pull on my black cardigan and slip into heels. I have no idea where we're going after we eat. Eric played coy and I suppose I should find it romantic. I just wish I knew what to wear.
I opted for a step above work clothes—my blouse a little lower than I'd wear to the office, my skirt a little shorter, heels a little higher. I run my hand through untamable curls and flip the bulk of my hair onto one side with a sigh before heading to my car.
Eric and I meet for dinner at an Italian place downtown. It's cozy and overpriced, and he is a perfect gentleman. I even think he's listening as I talk about my sad, boring life. He nods and responds and smiles at my terrible jokes. I listen to him talk about his job, his cat, his car. I make a point to remember the name of his fantasy football team so I can ask him about it later. As first dates go, it's a success.
That gnawing in my chest, it should go away. Any minute now.
I keep telling myself that, until I see where we wind up. This guy brought me to a car show.
I bite down hard on the inside of my cheeks and close my eyes to keep from rolling them. He's obviously a car buff. He chats me up about makes and models and horsepower, and he doesn't give one single shit that I'm bored, uncomfortable, and unimpressed.
I play along, my steps slow and my feet aching as we pass car after sleek expensive foreign car. I sip champagne and eye the bar to see if there's anything stronger available. And just when I'm about to ask to sit down for a while, I see him.
His suit is tailored to perfection, slim-fit and buttoned at the waist. His tie and shoes are black, but his suit is blue, and I know if I could see his eyes they'd be that vivid, electric green that makes my panties wet, but they're hidden behind black lenses. I think it's probably a good thing when I realize he's staring this way. I don't need to see his eyes to know he's furious.
I freeze, half-terrified of his anger and half-turned on. The crystal flute slips from my hand and shatters, drawing every eye to me and heat to flood my cheeks.
"Are you okay, Bella?" Eric asks, snapping my attention from the polished perfection of the man across the room and back to him. The juxtaposition is jarring, and I wonder just how the hell I thought I could ever fall for a guy like this.
"Yes, sorry. I, um… I have to go."
I bolt. I don't look back, my heels entirely too loud as I weave around and through other bodies. I'm looking for the ladies room, a quick escape, because I can feel him bearing down on me. The weight of his presence is as familiar as is it frightening.
Just before I turn a corner, inches from escape, I hear a voice that shouldn't make warmth spread over all my skin but does. It's like I'm doused in accelerant, and the sound of him pushing four tiny little letters, one miniscule word from between his lips, is the spark that ignites.
That's it. Just that, and I'm ruined.
I'd been seeing her in the faces and bodies of women everywhere I went. The girl who made my coffee last week. The waitress who took our order at dinner. I even went so far as to approach a woman at the club, thinking my angel had finally come back.
But none of them was her.
My boys have been looking for her for weeks. Weeks. How fucking hard can it be to find someone?
I know it's not for lack of trying. They're used to me being a prick, but I've never been this bad. I just can't fucking think straight ever since she walked in to my club that night. Since I had her in my bed. Since I was on top of her, surrounding her, inside her.
I keep telling myself it's time to move on, though. It's been interfering with my business, and that's just not an option.
The morning of the car show, I work out in my gym, hitting and kicking the punching bag that hangs from the ceiling. Feeling suffocated, I rip my shirt off and let the sweat pour down my chest unhindered.
I have to let go. Get my head in the game.
The Volturi brothers are an important ally for me to make in this town, and I can't fuck it up. This is the first car heist we've pulled for them, a chance to show that we're the best. It's also the most dangerous. The people we're stealing from are big money, big security, and not exactly fucking merciful to those who cross them. The car show is all a game, a lure to get them away from the house long enough for my boys to sneak in. By the time they know what hit them, their Ferraris and Maseratis will be long gone. I'm not just a low-time dealer anymore. I'm tangled up in things that most people have nightmares about, and I can't let it go south.
But when I see her there, the real her, sipping champagne like she doesn't fucking own me, I snap.
My head cocks to the side, and my nostrils flare as some frat boy asshole touches her arm. I whip the sunglasses off my face like that'll help me see his intentions.
It's obvious she saw me. The glass shattering at her feet was a pretty clear sign. But why would she fucking run?
I reach her just before she can push open the door to the ladies' room. "Wait."
Frat boy runs up at the same time. "Bella?"
The air leaves my lungs in a whoosh, and my chest caves in upon hearing her name come from this motherfucker's lips.
Her eyes squeeze shut as she brings her fingers to her temples, massaging.
Anger pushes against the relief I felt when I first saw her. It burns and consumes the affection I feel for her. "What the fuck's so special about this guy? Now you need a college boy? Is that it?"
She doesn't answer, and bile rises in my throat at the thought of him touching her the way I've touched her. I don't even think. As soon as the image of him between her thighs, rutting against her like a fucking pig comes into my brain, my fist connects with his nose.
Bella gasps and covers her mouth with both hands.
"What the fuck, man?" the prick screams while his hands try to contain the blood pouring from his face.
Emmett rushes over with a raised brow. I shake my head but flick my wrist at the same time, indicating that I want him taken away but not hurt.
Well, not hurt any more.
Before I can say anything, Bella shoves her way into the ladies' room with a frustrated growl-scream.
Propriety can suck my dick right now.
"You can't just come in here," she says, her hands shaking as she paces. "And you can't just punch people whenever you feel like it."
"Has he touched you?"
"What?" My angel looks at me like I've lost my mind.
Maybe I have.
Another image assaults me, and I clench my fists tight, the anger and jealousy clearly evident on my face for her to see. Anger's an emotion I'm used to. It's been with me a long time, but jealousy? Possessiveness over a chick? Not in years.
She backs away from me slowly.
"Fuck, baby. Don't… I'm sorry. Don't fucking be scared of me. Please. It's just… Since that night… Fuck." My hands dive into my hair, and I pull hard at it, which only serves to remind me of her little fingers twisting and tugging at it when I did what she asked of me. When I fucked her hard and consumed her. "Baby." My voice pleads with her. I don't know how to articulate what I'm feeling, but I fucking need her like I need the air making its way harshly in and out of my lungs.
The minute shake of her head almost brings me to my knees, and the words that follow make my shoulders hunch. "I can't. Masen, please. You should go. Eric is a nice man, and you and me…. We…" She looks off to the side. "It just won't work. No matter how much I might want it to."
That's all I need from her. That tiny, soft-spoken affirmation that she feels the same way I do. Closing the space between us, I cradle her face in my hands. "We can make it work, Bella. Whatever you need from me, I'll give you in a fucking heartbeat."
Those deep brown eyes connect with mine, a thousand emotions swirling around in them. But then she takes a step back from me, making my hands fall to my sides. With a groan, she says, "It's not that simple, Masen."
"Tell me why it isn't, Bella. Tell me why it isn't exactly that fucking simple." My voice drops, and my hand twitches toward her.
Her eyes are glued to the floor, and I'd give fucking anything. I'd tear myself apart if I could just know what was going on in her head. If I could just fix it. Make it right. Because the one thing I'm certain of is that I want her. More than just a good fuck, more than just one night.
"I can't do this, Masen."
"Fuck!" I turn and slap the porcelain countertop, closing my eyes to control the rage. "Stop calling me that, Bella. They call me that. Not you, not now."
When I look over to her again, I see tear-tracks and smudged mascara, and guilt claws at me.
"Being with you isn't safe, Edward." Her head shakes, and she clutches on to her little fucking bag with both hands like she's drowning and it'll keep her afloat.
"You want safe? What has safe gotten you so far, Bella? A shitty little apartment and a dead-end job, dating guys that see you as a trophy?"
"Oh, and you don't see me as a trophy?"
There's that fire. It's something tangible, proof-positive that she's here in this room with me. I stoke it. "I see you as a prize, angel. There's a difference."
Her eyes flutter closed. "I've been burned before. It's not something I can recover from again." Her words are heavy, weighed with implications I can't grasp.
"I won't burn you, baby." I approach her again, desperate to touch her, feel her, make her stay. "I know I'm not… conventional. And I know you deserve everything. Don't you think I know that? Fuck. I'd give anything to you, for you. I wish I could make you see."
She frowns, and I can feel her slip further away. I stretch my hand forward, my fingertips drawn toward hers, and I trace the outline of her pinky.
"God," I whisper, running my eyes all over, "I've missed you, B."
"Stop it." She jerks back, her eyes searching my face. "You don't get to do that." The sight of her recoiling from my touch as if it were poison, as if it scalded her to feel my skin, reopens wounds I'd been working to close. "You don't get to swoop in and pretend we can make this work. I won't be second place. I won't watch you burn everything to the ground."
I keep my voice low, filling every syllable with truth. "You were never second place, Bella."
Images of younger versions of us fill my mind, and for the first time in too long, I let them. Laughter-filled weekends with books and papers strewn across our couch. Nights in a bed we shared, just a mattress on a floor, where we fucked and dreamed and loved. Where we made plans together. Where we were a couple.
Memories I'd fought so fucking hard to bury play in a vivid, life-like loop, and if I wasn't certain that they were years and years old, I'd think they were yesterday. She's ingrained in me, this girl, part of my being, woven into every fiber. She makes me whole. When she left the first time, it severed me. The second, it sliced. I need her to never leave again.
"Fuck you, Edward. I was always runner-up to the business." She spits the word, bitter and caustic.
I shake my head. Words I should have said years ago bubble and surge and spill. "Baby, baby," I wrap her up in my arms, ignoring the way she stiffens, just needing to feel her next to me. "I couldn't love anything more than you. Nothing. Not the business. Nothing. You're it for me, Bella. When you left the first time… Jesus, so long ago… I didn't know what to do. I thought I'd lose everything. Em and Jas, they pulled me through, because without you I was lost, twisted up. You thought I put my business ahead of you? My business was fucking for you. I wanted to give you everything, angel. Can't you see that?"
She pushes away from me again. "How could I have known that when you never talked to me about it? 'Just stay out of it, Bella'," she mocks. "'The less you know, the better.' That's what you always told me."
My fingers grasp at hers again, and she lets me hook a couple around her pinky this time. "I was just trying to keep you safe, baby. When the cops asked you questions, it was better that you didn't know details."
"Oh, they asked me plenty of questions, all right." She huffs, and it's so cute, I can't help but smile. "This isn't funny," she snaps with narrowed eyes. "I can't get caught up in that world again."
"You still don't understand, do you?" I cup the back of her head in my palm. "You were never caught up in my world, B. You were the fucking center of it. Nothing made sense growing up. Nothing was good. I didn't know anything as beautiful as you could even exist. But you came in, all warmth and sunshine and so fucking pure. And shit, I wanted so badly to know how something beautiful felt, to have someone like you give a fuck about someone like me. I'll never be good enough for you, but if you give me one chance, I swear to God, I'll bleed before I make you unhappy."
"Edward…" She pulls back to look at me.
I grasp her shoulders desperately. "B, please. I never knew love could give instead of take before you. I need you." I kiss her forehead. "Please," I whisper. "I'm sorry I was a stupid kid and didn't know how to tell you how much you meant to me. I'm sorry I drove you away. I'm so fucking sorry. I never wanted to lose you." Grasping her hand, I bring it up and place it over my heart. "Never."
Her hypnotic eyes bounce between mine, watching, searching for answers. Her fingers flex against my chest. "I still love you," she confesses in a whisper so low, I almost don't hear it.
"Oh, God, baby." I gather her in my arms again. "I love you too. More than anything." She sniffles against my shirt. "And I swear, Bella. If you let me have you again, I won't fuck it up."
"And the cops?" she asks, her voice small and laced with tears.
"Bought off. A long fucking time ago. And even if that falls through, I've been working hard to keep my hands out of certain things. I may run the show, but there's not a goddamn thing they can pin on me, and they know it."
"Mm." She drops her bag, and her other hand comes up to rest against my chest. She smooths both out over my pecs, looking up at me with those eyes that have slayed me since we were in high school.
"God, B. I didn't think I'd ever see you again." I trace her jawline with my thumb. "When did you move back?"
Her gaze drops to my chin as she whispers, "About a year ago."
I flinch. "Did you know the club was mine?"
Bella nods. "I did. I'd been hearing things about you for a while, and my curiosity finally got the better of me."
Crushing her to me, I kiss the top of her head. "Thank fuck for that."
"I'm not the same girl from back then, Edward," she tells me, but there's no need. I can see it. She's fire and passion, all grown up. "If we do this, you have to be all in this time. I know you said you were before, but it sure as hell didn't feel like it."
I slide my palm around the back of her neck and press so she'll tilt her chin up. My other palm comes to rest against her cheek, and I stroke her cheekbone with my thumb. The contrast between the black ink across my knuckles and her creamy skin reminds me of all that's changed. We're both older, a little life-weathered and rougher around the edges, but she's still the only girl I'll ever love. "I know you're not the same girl, B. I'm not the same either. And I fucking swear to you that I will never let anything come between us again. I'll walk away from all of it, burn it to the motherfucking ground for you if I have to."
"I'd never ask you to do that."
I smile. "And that's exactly why I would."
She inhales slowly, breathing in all my hope. I watch her eyes get soft, my dreams planting somewhere deep inside her, growing roots and taking charge. "Don't let me down this time," she whispers, and my heart almost beats out of my chest.
Wrapping my arms around her, I lift her up and bury my face in her neck, inhaling her familiar scent deep into my lungs. "Never, angel." Touching my lips to her warm skin, I murmur, "Fucking never."
Who guessed right (that they had a history)? :) Most of this was overflow from our one-shot being too long for the contest, and we don't plan to add any more at this point. Thank you SO much for reading! xoxo