A/N: Um, hi ya'll. I'm still in med school. I'm about a month out from my first round of board exams and short on time, but I've been working on this story for a long, long time. I'll get back to The Surrogate eventually, but I figure since that one had already been completed once before I can post this one while it's speaking to me. It'll be angsty. And I'm going to attempt to write a lemon or two. So, ya know, 18 and over or whatnot. Hope you enjoy it.
"It would be great if she was cheating on me."
The sentence uttered by the man in front of my desk startles me out of my daze. He wants his wife to cheat on him?
I've been working as a private investigator for nearly eight years, and I don't experience a lot of firsts anymore, but this man is something I've never seen before.
"That would be a good thing?"
He clears his throat, clearly uncomfortable by the antagonizing tone I've managed to deliver in one short question.
"Well, uh, it's the only way to void the pre-nup. She has to be caught being unfaithful."
Oh. He's after her money.
"Okay," I say simply. I'm too tired to even cover my gaffe. I smile weakly, trying to assure him that I won't mention it again. If this prick wants to know how his wife spends her days, I'll make sure to find out. After his first check clears.
I hate this part of my job. In my early days as a PI, I aided foster kids in finding their biological parents. I solved a few cold cases that the police department had given up on or deemed unworthy of their time. I had helped people.
But the money wasn't coming in fast enough. I was barely covering rent, much less food and bills.
I took my first domestic case. I followed some trophy wife for a grand total of thirteen hours before I knew the name, profession, and address of the man she was having an affair with. I gave her bigwig husband a few photos and documents, collected my paycheck, and walked away. I never wanted to do it again.
However, bigwig had been happy with my quick work. It turned out I was pretty great at digging up what people tried to keep buried. He recommended me to a friend, who passed my name on to a coworker, who referred a few golf buddies to me. It was amazing how suddenly my services became popular.
I've been a PI for eight years, and for five years of it, I have been destroying lives instead of helping them. Because of my work, over two hundred marriages had ended in bitter divorces, lies, and hate.
I brush a crumb from lunch off my desk and tried not to think about it. The client in front of me cleared his throat and forced my attention back to the present.
I was officially taking cases where husbands were actually hoping their wives were being unfaithful.
"I'm leaving town next week," he says. "I'll be gone for two months to work on site. That should be plenty of time to get some dirt on her. And let me be clear, Mr. Cullen, I want dirt on her. Anything you can find. If she's not cheating on me, make it look like it. By any means necessary."
"Don't worry, Mr. Black. I'm the best in the business. I don't forge information, but I will do my very best to find anything she doesn't want exposed."
"Yes, Seth told me you did excellent work for him. I expect you'll do the same for me."
"Of course, sir. I'll be at your house tomorrow morning, parked a few houses away. I'll see you then."
He pushes himself out of the chair and nods at me. He doesn't shake my outstretched hand as he turns to leave.
My door slams closed and I sigh. My foot taps the ground and I wait. A soft knock on the door comes just a moment later.
"I don't know why you still knock," I shout. "But come in."
"His first check cleared," Jenks says, only sticking his head through my doorway. "You, Edward Cullen, are on your way to another ten grand."
I get off work later than usual. Visiting hours are almost over by the time I get to the LTAC. I hurry past Alice and she gives me a warning look. She hates having to ask me to leave.
Her eyes are laced with guilt and pity.
I look away from her. There is only one pair of eyes I want to see.
Everything is the same in the room I've entered. Same bed, same tubes, same wires.
Same computer monitor.
Same wave patterns.
Those waves are the only reason I keep coming back to the same thing.
"Sorry I'm late," I say, and the waves peak.
4602 Walnut Street, I read again, heading down the block of suburban houses to find the place where Mrs. Black will be waking up in about twenty minutes. According to her husband, she wakes up about ten minutes before he leaves every day to say goodbye.
Doesn't sound so bad.
I find the house with ease. It's a larger house on the corner, surrounded by gardens and several older trees. A small porch swing hangs near the front door from the overhang of a second floor balcony. I take a deep breath and run a hand over my face.
I turn off my car at the park across the street. I climb out of my seat with my iPod and headphones in hand. I can jog a few laps to around the park before I meet with Jacob Black one more time.
I am sufficiently out of breath by the time Jacob casually makes his way over to my car. To any other person, he looks like a friendly neighbor saying hello to a jogger at the park. To me, he looks like some asshole willing to pay to catch his wife doing anything wrong.
"I doubt she's actually cheating on me," he mutters as we stand next to my car. His disappointment is clear. "She took those stupid vows seriously." He sighs with aggravation and shoves a hand in his pocket. "I need the divorce to be her fault. I need that pre-nup dissolved before I file. Understood?"
Since our initial meeting, Mr. Jacob Black has proven to be nothing but a colossal prick. I've considered turning down his business several times, but then I think of the waves and the LTAC and know I need the money.
I sigh and rub my chin. I shaved this morning and am not used to feeling the smooth skin there. "Understood, Mr. Black. Give me a few weeks. I'll get you something."
He nods curtly and leaves without a goodbye.
I turn back to the track and push myself as fast as I can to the other side of the park. It distracts me from what I'm about to do.
Mrs. Black doesn't leave the house much. I learn this after watching her for three days. She's only left twice. Once, she went to the grocery store. The second time she left, she went to her mother's house, stayed for a few hours, and promptly returned home.
I wonder what it is that keeps her so busy inside. Does she work? Is she taking care of pets? Jacob told me they didn't have children together. I haven't gotten close enough to know much else about her yet.
In fact, I don't think I've even really seen her face. It's been rainy the past few days and she's worn zip up coats with the hoods pulled up any time she's left the house. All I've really seen of her is her dark brown hair.
I groan as I sit back on the park bench, clutching a book in my lap that I lost interest in long ago. I opt to pull out my phone and play a few games while I wait for anything to happen at Mrs. Black's house.
Finally, she emerges, and my breath speeds up more than it does after I've run a few miles.
It's sunny today, and she's wearing a soft, flowing blood-red blouse. Her jeans are dark and skin-tight. On her feet are tall black heels.
What I can see of her arms surprises me. I was expecting Mrs. Black to have the same tan that all the other women in the neighborhood have, but she's so pale she looks almost angelic.
It's her face, the same face I've been trying to see for three days now, that catches me the most off guard. Mrs. Black is beautiful. She has these large, brown eyes and this button nose. It's adorable.
Her cheeks are flushed as she carries a large binder to her car. The wind whips her long, chestnut hair around her as she opens the door.
She's in her car then, breaking my trance, and is pulling out of the driveway before I can even move.
"Game time," I whisper to myself, hopping up from my bench and jumping into my car as smoothly as I can. I follow her from a few cars behind as she catches the highway and exits on a road I know only leads to a fancy hotel.
"Bingo," I mutter, pulling out my camera and parking a few lanes away from her in front of the resort. I wait till she enters the hotel before I follow, my heart racing as I walk briskly into the lobby. She's not standing at the front desk, and I scan the area for her figure. I see her walking, binder in hand, towards the bar at the back of the hotel. I follow behind and take a table a few down from where she sits.
She's clearly waiting for someone, but I couldn't have a single idea as to who it is. I hope it's a male, so I can snap my pictures and be done with this as soon as possible.
A waitress comes up to me and asks for my order. I glance over the menu and order the first appetizer I see. She nods and moves on to her next table. By the time I've looked up, I see Mrs. Black stand from the table to greet someone. Another woman.
I try not to be too obvious in my ease dropping but hope that this blonde woman is a close friend of hers. Maybe she'll talk about something scandalous.
"Rose, it's great to see you," she says, hugging her tightly before sitting down in her previous seat.
"You too, Bella. You got any news for me?"
Mrs. Black, Bella, smiles brightly. "It's done," she says, passing the binder over to her. "I wanted you to be the first to have it."
The other woman laughs and practically lunges for the binder.
What on earth could she be giving her?
"Oh, Bella, I can't wait to get in to all of this. You have no idea how many people have been waiting to see more of your work."
She blushes and looks down. I don't know what they're talking about, but seeing Mrs. Black blush makes me want to know how else I can elicit that reaction from her. I wonder how far down her body it travels before the pink finally fades and gives way to her alabaster skin.
I shake my head, unsure why this woman has caught me by such surprise.
Bella and her friend order food from the same waitress that served me earlier and I sigh. Nothing interesting will come of this lunch.
My food is served and I eat only half of it before asking for the check. I'm ready to get out of the restaurant and back to my car.
I've packed my camera up in the back seat when I realize I left my debit card on the table. Of course.
I slam the door of my car in frustration and head back towards the restaurant, hoping to avoid detection by either Bella or her friend. They're finishing up their lunch when I walk to the table where my plate and receipt still sit. I grab my card and turn around to see that they're gone.
"Fucking great," I mutter. I have no idea if she's going back home or if she's planning on meeting up with someone else, and I just lost my tail on her.
Before I can make my way into the lobby, I collide with another body. We both grab at each other to avoid falling down, and end up in an awkward embrace with both of their arms pinned behind their back. I let go of them after I've held on just long enough to feel a woman's breasts press against me.
"Oh, shit, I'm sorry," she mutters, reaching down to pick up my debit card for me. She stands up and I realize I've run smack dab into the beautiful woman I'm supposed to be spying on. She's still looking at the card before she finally meets my stunned gaze. We lock eyes and I feel frozen to my spot. A blush crawls up her cheeks and I smirk at the irony that is my life.
Well, you did want to make her blush.
She smiles at me and my breath catches. I briefly wonder if she notices my halted breathing before I realize she's trying to hand me my debit card.
"I'm such a klutz, I could trip over a blade of grass" she says when I finally grab my card from her. Our fingers brush and I swear I can feel her energy move up my arm.
"It was my fault, Mrs. -" I catch myself before revealing that I already know her name.
"Black," she finishes, assuming my pause of silence was a question. "But please call me Bella.
She thrusts her hand towards me and I shake it softly, again feeling the odd current between us before she slowly pulls herself away from me.
"Nice to meet you, Bella. I'm-"
"Edward," she again finishes for me. She blushes deeper as soon as she says my name. "I saw the name on your debit card."
"Oh, of course," I say with a smile and nod my head, unsure of what to say back. Panic rushes through me when I comprehend that she knows my real name. I'm supposed to be invisible to her. I was supposed to get in, get the dirt, and get out. But now she knows me. I'm a blip on her radar.
I need to find an escape route, to get away from her as soon as possible.
But instead I stand in front of her, thinking about how nice my name sounds on her lips.
Her eyes scan my face as she takes me in.
She sees me. Besides Jenks and Alice, no one else ever actually sees me. It's part of the job.
While she looks me over, I find myself doing the same. I've followed Mrs. Black for three days now, but I've never seen her this close. There is a small scar just above her top lip. Her eyelashes are dark and long enough to have left several small marks of mascara just below her eyebrow. Her eyes twinkle with mischief and happiness for just a moment before someone calls out her name.
"Bella?" The blonde woman from earlier approaches us with an odd look on her face. She's clutching the binder that Bella gave her at the beginning of lunch with a tight grip. "Who's your friend?"
Bella smirks at me and turns to her lunch date. "Oh, Rosalie, this is Edward. We just met. I tried to run him over."
"It was my fault," I interrupt again, forcing my hand forward to shake Rosalie's. "I wasn't paying attention to where I was walking." I smile at Bella and she looks away from me.
"Well, it was nice to meet you Edward, but Bella and I have a movie to catch." Rose smiles at me and I know she's not lying. I nod and look to Bella one more time.
"Thank you for catching me, Edward," she says softly, suddenly refusing to look me in the eyes. "I hope I see you again."
And with that, they're off, walking towards the main exit at a rapid pace. I shake my arms, as if that will somehow shake off the feelings Bella left behind, and head in the same direction.
I follow them to a movie theatre but don't go inside. I've run in to them once today. If Mrs. Black sees me again it's game over.
I wait in my car and flip through a book I'm trying to find interest in. My favorite author doesn't have a book coming out for another several months and I'm trying to find any other novel that captures my interest in the time being.
Two hours pass before the two women emerge from the theatre. Mrs. Black is talking animatedly about something and her friend, Rosalie, nods in agreement as they walk the parking lot. Neither of them looks particularly happy.
I wonder if they were displeased with the movie.
They both get in to their respective cars and drive a short distance before pulling up to an attorney's office.
Esme Platt, Attorney at Law is written on a sign just above the door. I write her name down and plan to look in to Attorney Platt and the kind of cases she works on.
What are they up to?
Bella walks in to the office holding only her purse, but Rosalie carries the binder in with her. They sit in the office for just over an hour before emerging again. Mrs. Black seems worn, but happy. Rosalie has a small smile on her face. They exchange a few words and hugs before Mrs. Black climbs in to her car and drives home.
She does nothing the rest of the night.
"I don't know, Jenks. I think I'm fine." I say while I sit in his office much later that night. I'm honestly not sure what time it is, but the clock was well past midnight the last time I looked at it.
"She didn't notice me the rest of the day, and I followed them for quite a while."
Jenks looks unconvinced. I plead with him more, even though I'm honestly not sure why I want to stay on this case so badly.
For the money, I tell myself. Something in my gut churns, like even my organs know it's a lie.
"I'll get a rental car and stay a little farther back. I don't think you need to take over yet," I promise. "You know I can do this."
Jenks has been my partner for the entire eight years I've been working, and we make one hell of a team. He's pissed at me right now for allowing Mrs. Black to not only see me, but also to learn my real name. The fact that we had an entire conversation sets him even more on edge.
"You really think that's a good idea?" His hands are clutching a stress ball. It's the one habit of his I've never understood. I don't think the ball actually relieves any of his stress, but I'd rather he squeeze it instead of punch me.
I know the smart thing would be to give the case to Jenks. My cover has been blown. It's not safe to try and follow Mrs. Black anymore. But the idea of not seeing her again makes my stomach twist uncomfortably. I can't just walk away.
I nod to answer his question.
"It shouldn't take long to get dirt on her anyway," I swear. "I'll be in and out in no time. What ever she had in that binder was top secret. I just have to figure it out and that should be it. No one hides something that's truly innocent."
Jenks nods tersely. He doesn't like this, but he trusts me. Plus, he's got a shit ton on his plate right now anyway.
"Just don't screw this up," he begs. "We need this account."
"Trust me, I know," I say, thinking of bills piling up on my desk.