All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the intellectual property to the respective author. The original characters and plot are the property of Stephenie Meyer (and the motion picture Savages). No copyright infringement is intended.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

What's Charlie doing here?

I haven't seen him since the night I went back to get my surfboard with my boys. That was over three months ago. Dad hasn't called or tried to contact me once. What gives? A part of me wants to know, but the more significant, chicken-shit part of me is praying that he'll go away.

Knowing him, it's highly doubtful. My stubbornness is inherited, and Charlie's the source. He's older, more set in his ways, and won't give in so easily. The truth of the matter is, I'm terrified of my father. Even from the quick glimpse through the spiral peephole, I know he's sober and back to work. He's chopped off his shaggy-dude hair and wearing a navy-blue suit.

I move to open the door but hesitate as my hands shake. "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!"

Ignoring him won't do me any favors, and I don't know what he'll do in this frame of mind. Before, when he was dependent on weed, I had that habit to hold over his head to not tell mom or alert the cops to my older boyfriends, but now?

"I'm just going to see what he wants." I give myself a little pep-talk and try to get a grip on my emotions. "That's all. Then he'll leave."

"Bella?" Charlie's tone is gentle and less aggressive. "Let's talk."

I can't do this alone and need my boys. "Okay, just a second." Scanning the room, I spot my phone on the couch. Rushing over to it, I quickly text Edward and send out an SOS: Charlie's here. Come home.

Going back to the door, I nervously fix my pajamas and my hair in the hallway mirror; hoping to not look like a complete disaster. It's hopeless. My frizz of a haystack won't chill out, my clothes are severely wrinkled and have drops of syrup all over the front, but what kills the most, is the stress lines across my forehead.

"Fuck," I say one more time before opening to the unknown future.

Charlie gives a small smile. "Hey, kiddo."

I gulp back spit. "Hey."

It gets quiet between us as we both fidget and rock back on our heels. There's much to say, but no one's saying a word.

"Can I come in?" he asks.

"Um…" I glance down at my phone as it vibrates with a new message.

Edward's on his way home with Jasper.

How long will it take them to get here?

I hope not more than five minutes.

"Bella?" Charlie chuckles nervously.

"Yeah?" I look into his brown eyes and recognize them as my own.

"I'm your father, not some ax-wielding stranger."

My face heats up with embarrassment, but I'm nodding and stepping away from the threshold. "Okay."

He walks past me and goes to the living room. I don't close the door and keep it wide open for my boys.

"Would you like some coffee?" I ask and slowly approach him.

"No, I'm fine. Thank you."

It's odd to see Dad here and watch him go through our stuff. He's touching everything: our bongs, Jasper's philosophy books, and the pictures of me with my boys I'd put in seashell frames. The feeling of him sticking his nose in our life and playing detective isn't pleasant, and I'm left vulnerable, susceptible to his criticism.

"So…" I say to distract him from his invasive prying. "I take it that you weren't just in the neighborhood."

God knows he's far away from The Village.

Dad sets down my favorite photo of Jasper and Edward in the Bahamas and glances around. "Are they here?"

"No, but they're on their way. I texted them."

"That's good." He looks nervous, and unsure of himself, as he rubs the side of his freshly shaven cheek. "I need to talk with them too."

"What'cha doing here, Charlie?"

"Charlie, huh?" He bobs his head and grimaces. "I guess I deserve that."

"You made it clear where we stood the night I left."

My heart still aches from that memory.

"I was upset and disappointed in you, but you're still my little girl, Bella Bean." He walks towards me, but I panic and stumble back to put more space between us. "You're mad at me."

"Yes! But mostly, I'm just confused by why you're even here?" I'm trying to keep my cool, but I wasn't prepared to see him, and my voice sounds screechy. "I mean, you haven't given a shit these past few months. Why now?"

"On second thought," he says and turns his back to me, "I think I will have that coffee."

It's not an insult, but a break we need, and I quickly go into the kitchen. The way he avoids talking to me isn't a new revelation. We've never had a healthy father-daughter relationship, and it often felt more like the warden-inmate type of bond. It's disheartening, and at times, I wish he was the kind of dad like the ones you see on cheesy TV shows, but you get what you get in life.

"Are you in school?" Charlie asks and takes a seat at the counter.

"No." I drop a pod into the Keurig and press brew. "But I'm getting my G.E.D."

He tries to hold it in, but a frustrated groan escapes him. "And what about college?"

"I'm already taking some classes online, but I'm thinking of attending full-time at Laguna College of Art and Design this fall." It's a half-truth because my plans this September involve Cambodia, but he would never understand, and I don't need further judgment.

"Isabella, come on, now." My dad, however, judges all my life decisions. "What kind of career do you hope to gain from that?"

"Lots of things," I say with a tired sigh and set his coffee in front of him.

"Lots of things?" he repeats with a deriding chuckle. "You're just like your mother. That woman has always been flighty, impulsive, idealistic, naïve."

"I'm nothing like her! She's materialistic and…" I pause as he raises an eyebrow and reminds me of all the shit I looted. It's a low-blow, but I crack my knuckles and give him a forced smile. "That's not the point."

"The point is what? You want to throw away all your potential for a degree you can't use?"

"I don't care about any of that! I just want to paint, okay?!"

Following the direction of my careless gesture, he now notices the easel by the double-doors leading outside and the canvas propped-up on it. It's a half-finished painting of the ocean and two blurry figures surfing the waves; it's bursting with vibrant colors of purples, blues, and mixed in with a faint smudge of pink.

"Wait a minute," he says, getting up from his seat and walking to it, but his sudden closeness to my art puts me on edge. "You made this?"

"Yeah, um." I rush over to him and pull the white cloth over the face of the canvas. "It's not done yet."

Charlie gets that he's crossed a line, and quickly throws up his hands in surrender. "Sorry to intrude."

I scoff and roll my eyes. "In what way? Popping in uninvited or going through our stuff like you're looking for evidence?"

One word catches him off guard.

"Our?" Everything clicks, and he can no longer deny why I'm here and what the boys are to me. "Damn it, Bella! What are you thinking? Who are you with this week? Edward or Jasper?"

My sly smile says it all.

"You know what?" He waves his hand dismissively. "Forget I asked. The point is, you're lucky I'm not arresting them for child rape."

Fiery red of anger is all I see as my blood boils. How dare Charlie downgrade what I have with my boys to something as tawdry and despicable as child rape? It's infuriating, and I open my mouth to tell him off, but a familiar and agitated voice beats me to the punch.

"Fucking try it, old man," Edward says as he strolls in the front door. "And I'll flatten your ass out."

Charlie nods to him but steps back to give me space. "Good to see you."

"Likewise." Jasper comes in shortly after with his hand extended to my dad — which he snubs. My boy is unfazed. "We heard you were heading back to work but didn't think you'd be over this soon. We still have so much left to do before we can start doing business with you."

I'm glad to see them here, and the tension felt two seconds ago has vanished. It helps to have Edward by my side, and he could give two shits if Charlie glares at him for pulling me into a hug and kissing my forehead.

"Sorry we're late, baby," he says to me and smirks.

Edward does this to piss my father off even more.

"That's fine," Charlie says, turning his scowl away from me and settling it back on Jasper. "I'm here because something popped up and could expedite your progress." He motions his head towards the back porch. "Maybe we should let Bella get back to her school work and take this discussion outside."

"Anything you got to say to us, you can say in front of her," Edward says.

Jasper puts a friendly hand on Dad's shoulder. "Why don't we all sit down."

He struggles under these new terms but realizes if he wants to do business with my boys, he must put his misgivings about me knowing every aspect of his life aside. "Okay."

We all take a seat in the living room. Jasper and Edward have me wedged between them on the futon while Dad sits across from us on a lounge chair. We all stare at each other, and no one says a word. It's awkward, and I'm fidgeting, popping my knuckles again, and crossing and uncrossing my legs. Jasper sets a hand on my knee as Edward rests his hand on my lower back. It eases my tension but increases Dad's anxiety tenfold.

"You said you have something for us?" Jasper says to break the silence.

Charlie straightens up and nods. He reaches into his blazer and pulls out a folded piece of paper. "I've got a connection to the Mexican cartel for you."

Jasper seems wary, but Edward's curiosity gets the best of him, and he takes the offering from my father's fingers.

"Who's the contact?" he asks.

"Some guy," Charlie answers — fucking vaguely, I might add.

I try to catch a peek, but it disappears as Jasper takes it from Edward.

"You trust them?" he asks.

"The feds had been watching him, and his crew for a while before the DEA got involved," Charlie says. "It's a cold case now. They haven't been active in the states for over a year, but they still sneak back and forth between the border to smuggle in drugs. Your weed has managed its way into his hands, and there's interest."

"How do you know there's interest?" I ask. He doesn't want to answer me and wants to pretend I'm not here, but I'm his daughter, stubborn and persistent. "Do they call you?"

Edward finds my dad's discomfort amusing and kicks at the table in front of us to get him to fess up. "She asked you a question."

"Yes," he says with a defeated sigh, but doesn't go into the details and redirects the conversation. "That's all I got for now. When I get more, I'll give you a call."

"Thanks." Jasper stands, and everyone follows. "You want some Kush?"

"Yeah, I'll take a quarter of what you got on hand, but that's not our currency," Dad says.

Edward scoffs, like he smells a rat, and folds his arms over his chest as his stance widens. "How much of the cut do you want?"

I lock eyes with my dad, and he's guilt-stricken. "Can we?" He gestures again towards the back porch.

"I don't think that's necessary." Jasper's trying to break it to him delicately.

Edward busts out laughing. "Bella already knows how corrupt her father is, so drop the fucking act and come out with it."

The slight doesn't go over well, and whatever number my dad had in his head gets washed, and he goes full-on prick. "My fee is 40%."

"The fuck it is!" Edward explodes out of his skin, and his anger is almost palpable. I feel the magnitude of it as he paces back and forth in front of me. "You're out of your mind, Swan."

Jasper stays level-headed, and his quiet, introspective tenor brings my rapid heart to a simple beat. "We agreed on 15%."

Charlie is the unshakeable stone, and without the chronic, he can be a scary man. "Yeah, well, things changed since that agreement. I'm adding in the extra for your indiscretion and my fucking patience."

"Unbelievable," Edward grumbles.

"I understand the circumstances aren't ideal, but we can't pay you that," Jasper says.

"Well, if we can't renegotiate under these new circumstances, then we can return to our previous deal," he says, and his eyes flick to me.

My boys realize as quickly as I do what my dad wants and what those original terms were. The complication Edward knew I'd cause is coming full circle. Our make-believe life was everything Dad accuses me of being: flighty, impulsive, idealistic, and naïve.

So, where does this leave us now?

"Okay," I whisper, but as my resolve becomes firm and set, my voice gets loud and clear. "I'll do it."

Jasper's eyes go wide. "What?"

Edward stops mid-pace and snaps his head to me. "What?!"

But Charlie, the devil himself, is smirking. "You come home today. Right now."

The vise around my chest tightens in agony, but there's no throwing a fit or argument from me. I will sacrifice the next six months under house arrest to ensure that my boys could get their business off the ground and have an alliance with the DEA.

Their love and life mean more to me than my time with them.

"I need ten minutes to pack my stuff," I say, but Charlie doesn't move an inch. He's distrustful and wants to hover. "Dad, will you, please, just go outside and wait for me in the car? You've won, okay? Give me a moment to say goodbye."

He huffs and nods. "Ten minutes, Bella. You hear me?"

"Yeah, I hear you," I say, and watch my world crumble as he storms out the door.

The shock of it all keeps my boys frozen and speechless. That's a first. It's like their brains can't move fast enough, or the information doesn't compute. I want them to stay still and not say anything.

It'll be better for everybody if they just let me go.

Liar!

"I guess… that's it," I say quietly and turn to go pack.

"Bean. No." Jasper's the first to wake and grabs my wrist to stop me. "Please, wait for a second and let me think."

"Baby… I can't…" If I look at him now, it'll break me and diminish my courage, so I'm shrugging him off and keeping my gaze forward. "It's the right thing to do."

"No, it's not…" he sighs and loses his grasp when I edge too far from his orbit. "Damn it! Will you talk to her?"

Edward doesn't waste a second by trying to convince me. He puts his body in front of mine and cradles my face in his large hands. The intensity of his eyes makes me know I'm worth the 40%. "Fuck what your dad wants. You're not going anywhere. You understand?"

"But you need him," I say.

"Guys like him are a dime a dozen at the DEA," Edward says. "We only went with Charlie because of our history, but if he's going to pull this bullshit, I rather we find out now and not later."

"I don't want to complicate things any further," I argue, but it's weak, and I'm gasping for the air that only he can breathe back into me. "Your business will suffer if I stay."

Edward groans and shakes his head. "That's not the most important thing anymore."

I glance back at Jasper, and he has the same look of determination.

"We'll figure something out," he says, and gestures between us three. "This is what matters."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes!" They both say together and loudly.

"Okay." I bite the shit out of my bottom lip, but Edward leans in and pulls it away with a nudge of his lips.

We kiss, only briefly, because Jasper pulls me into his arms and retells my mouth why I need both harmony and war in my life. The conflicting sides of good versus evil, hot against the cold, hard meets the soft, has a way of keeping me balanced and sane.

"What do I tell him?" I whisper as my ten minutes come to an end.

Jasper leans away and smiles sweetly. "No."

"Heads up," Edward says as the intruder comes strolling back into the house.

"What are you doing still standing around?" Charlie's asks as his face goes between confusion and annoyance. "Go pack, young lady."

Summoning all my boy's strength, I find the courage to stand tall. "No."

He glares. "What do you mean 'no'?"

"We've talked, and she's not leaving," Jasper says with confidence.

Charlie ignores him and goes right towards me. "Isabella Marie, you will go pack your things and come home with me right now." His face gets redder with every exaggerated and gritted word until he erupts. "And that's final!"

I shudder and step back into Edward's chest. "No."

Edward grabs my arms and pulls me behind him. There's a wall of my boys that separate me from my father. If he wants me, he'll have to go through them, and that's not something anyone in their right mind would do. I'm only getting a peek of Charlie's face through the gap in Jasper and Edward's shoulders, but it's clear, even without words, the wall's sturdy and resistant to a breach.

"She's my daughter," he says, but doesn't advance.

"And she's made her choice," Edward shoots back.

"We can negotiate new terms if you want, but Bella's not a bargaining chip," Jasper adds.

Charlie laughs dryly. "You want to make an enemy out of me? Do you think that's wise?"

I'm shaking my head.

That's not what I want.

Edward and Jasper blow off his support like it's easily replaced, but I fear this battle win today will lose us the war tomorrow.

"No, we want to come to peaceful terms, but she's not a part of the deal," Jasper says, and he reaches back for my hand, and I take it without hesitation. "She never was."

"That's a damn lie, J-man! I told you from day one she was off limits!" Charlie raises his voice and takes an aggressive step forward. "And what did you say to me? Huh? What were your exact words?"

Edward tenses, but doesn't move. "Be careful now."

"I said that you had nothing to worry about, and you don't," Jasper says. "She's safe with us."

"Right," Charlie snorts and combs his hands through his hair. The once coifed, slicked-back look is now in disarray. "How can she be safe with a couple of drug dealers?"

"And she's safe with a corrupt DEA agent who fucking picnics with the cartel?" Edward laughs. "Jesus, Charlie."

Dad gains a backbone, but also, I think he's gone crazy. He takes a gamble and gets in Edward's face. "You'll never be good enough for my daughter, Sailor." He shoots his hateful eyes towards Jasper. "Neither of you guys will ever be good enough for her."

"You know nothing about them, Dad!" I yell, but the squeeze of Jasper's hand reels me back in.

"I suggest you ease off," Edward says through his clenched teeth.

Charlie's eyes get cold and cut me like a knife. "Pay me."

"All right." Jasper reaches over to a ceramic vase, pulling out a zip-lock bag of his chronic and a large wad of hundreds. "This is a quarter of Green Azealia for you and thousand bucks for the contact."

Edward hisses. "A thousand? For a fucking phone number?"

I can't keep a grip on him as he breaks the wall and rages behind me. Edward's swearing and kicking the futon; it screeches along the wood floors and goes a few feet back. I want to hold him, but know he's too pissed by the loss of money to see anything beyond that and I don't dare step in front of a hostile path.

It's best to let him burn himself out.

"Here," Jasper says and ignores the crashing of an ashtray against the wall. "We're square."

Charlie swipes the offering. "Oh, J-Man, this doesn't even begin to cover what you owe me for my daughter and the cartel tip, but it's a start." He gives both my boys a goading salute. "We'll be in touch."

Edward flips him off, but Jasper nods.

I watch as my father saunters out of our house and leaves everything behind him in shambles. Whatever he hoped to accomplish by coming over here, I'd say he's succeeded by a wide margin. That hard-headed Swan blood in me won't let him have the last word, and before either boy could grab me, I'm running out of the house and catching up with Charlie at his car.

"Dad, wait for a second," I say and stop a foot from him.

He looks at me with surprise. "Bella?" His eyes are blood-shot and glossy, but before I can assess them thoroughly, he glances away. "Go back inside."

"No!" I slam my body against the car door as he's opening it. There's nothing but silence and reluctance on his end. I refuse to let him shut me out. "Why do you hate me so much?"

He sighs and rubs the creases out of his forehead. "I don't hate you."

"Then why are you doing this to them?"

"Doing what?" He snaps his head up and glares. "They made their choice to break my trust by going after you. The one thing I asked of them and what did they do? Tell me, Bella, when did Jasper…" he clears his throat and forces out his next words. "How long did he wait before starting something with you?"

I gulp and lie. "Thanksgiving."

"You see, how do you expect me to take your decisions seriously when you're not mature enough to be honest with me?" He puts his hands on my shoulders to push me aside so he can get into his car, but I shove him back and stand firm. "Isabella Marie, don't test my patience."

"I am being honest," I say. "Nothing happened between us until Thanksgiving."

"That's not what I asked you." Dad narrows his eyes knowingly. "You want to know when I noticed Jasper breaking his promise to me?"

I nod, but already know what he's going to say.

"The day I brought you to his house. I told him I wasn't going to bring you, but that was a lie, and I was testing him." He smiles when my face exposes how terrified and sick I'm feeling inside. "The guy wasn't that subtle, and despite what the two of you assumed, I wasn't that stoned. I saw all the glances and the flirting, and when he followed you out to the patio, I knew he had no integrity. No thought about his business or his dealings with me, just what was between his legs."

"You got us all wrong." I'm shaking my head to will the frustrated tears away, but the crack in my voice exposes me. "What we have is more than that. I love them, and they love me, Daddy."

For the first time, the anger Charlie harbors dissipate, and sympathy overcomes his features. I hate it more than his disdain. It makes me feel childish, or like a wounded bird, and I know his condescension will follow.

"You're only seventeen, Bella."

"I'm well aware."

"You might be in love right now, and I believe that you are, but these guys?!" He points a harsh finger towards the house. "They're passing you back and forth like a joint, for God's sake! Does that sound like love to you? You're going to get hurt, baby girl. I'm only trying to protect you."

I've heard this bullshit from Rose, and it's unlikely that the judgment will ever stop, but their intolerance only shows their narrow-mindedness.

"It's easy to assess from the outside, but you have no idea what's going on inside. I don't expect you to understand or even accept what I have with Jasper and Edward, but let's not pretend you're protecting me. I'm young, okay? I get it. I'm too young to know any better. Yeah. Okay. I get that too. But it's my life! I'm the one who has to live with my mistakes, not you!" My whole body is trembling as I fight to keep myself together. "All I wanted was for you to be my dad, but you were too busy playing the villain. Now, all I want from you is… just be their business partner. Take me out of the equation."

"Take you out?" He snorts. "How? You're my daughter."

"You don't have a daughter, Charlie, remember?" I move away from his car door and turn my back on him. "I'm just your stowaway."

*()()()*

I'm heartbroken.

The decision to cut Dad out of my life for good wasn't something I'd ever wanted to do, and now? I feel gutted. Jasper rubs my back as I bury my face into his chest and try not to cry. He smells perfect, and like all the things I love here in Laguna. I can't even begin to fathom how these feelings inside me could be wrong and misguided. The heaviness in my heart makes it hard to breathe sometimes, but each time my boys kiss me, or touch me, and tell me how much they love me, the pressure gets worse and more suffocating; only proving to me what I know to be true.

We're not a fling.

But even still, my guilt for being greedy and allowing my selfishness to ruin their partnership with Charlie won't be going away anytime soon.

"I'm sorry," I say for the millionth time.

"You have nothing to be sorry for," Jasper says and kisses the top of my head. "This is my fault. I knew what loving you meant and the fallout it would cause. I didn't care. I still don't care."

Normally, I would perceive his words as flattery and attempt to make me feel better, but after talking with Charlie, I know it's the truth.

"I just wish you didn't have to give up so much for me," I say as Jasper's arms tighten around my body. "Maybe you guys can work something out."

I don't tell my boys about the last thing I said to my father. That deal was between us only.

"That's unlikely."

"What?" I pull back and gaze up at his blue eyes. "Why do you say that?"

Jasper looks over me. "Some of us are less forgiving."

Edward comes out of our room with a phone glued to his ear. He's been talking with the Mexico connection for the past thirty minutes. I don't know who these people are or what they do, but it seems promising.

"All right, that's about eight hours from here." Edward takes a seat beside us and writes down an address on my pink notepad. "Let me talk with my associate, and I'll call you back. Yeah, you too. Bye." He hangs up the phone and looks over at Jasper and me. "What do you think about heading down to Rocky Point tomorrow?"

I grin. "Road trip?"

Edward grins back and knocks his knee against mine. "You up for it, Bean?"

"Do you even have to ask?" I jump to my feet with excitement. "How many days should I pack for?"

"Two to three," Edward says with a shrug. "Could be four. We'll see."

"Okay," I say, but Jasper's shaking his head and instantly deflates my enthusiasm. "You don't want to go, do you?"

He puts his hands through his hair and leans forward. "It's not that."

"Wow." Edward scoffs. "This is fucking rich."

They've lost me; glancing back and forth between my boys and their contradicting faces. "What's going on?"

"He doesn't want you to go," Edward says.

My heart sinks with disappointment. "Why?"

Edward leans back on the futon and puts his hands behind his head. "Go on, tell her why."

"Jasper?" I sit next to him and place my touch on his thigh. "Why don't you want me to go?"

He sighs and meets my gaze. "It would be safer for you to stay here."

"Alone? For four days — without you guys here?" The mere thought of staying in this house by myself scares me. "What if someone breaks in?"

Jasper rushes to reassure me and grasps my hands. "We'll have Emmett come over and check up on you."

"Not possible, man," Edward says.

"Fuck!" Jasper's eyes squeeze shut, and his forehead crunches up like he's fighting off a migraine. "He's flying out tomorrow night to see Rose."

"That's right." Edward sounds smug.

I don't pay attention to the fact that she hasn't texted me since she's left Laguna.

"We'll figure something out," Jasper says. "You'll have someone here with you. I promise."

"But I don't understand." I'm close to stomping up and down and swinging my arms around in a fit. "Why can't I just go with you guys?"

"You can," Edward says.

"No, she can't!" Jasper fires back. "It's too dangerous."

"It's Rocky Point, man. Families go there all the time."

"For vacation, sure. We're meeting up with the cartel. Not exactly kid friendly, if you know what I mean."

"We're not meeting up with some fucking drug lord. It's just a guy and his girl." Edward laughs. "Jesus, you want to take our Bean across the world to a war-torn country like Cambodia, but an eight-hour drive across the border is no bueno?"

I'm smiling from ear to ear because I know how the rest of this conversation is going to go.

"All right. Fine, you win," Jasper concedes, and I squeal, throwing myself into his arms. He chuckles and pats my back. "Go get your stuff together before I change my mind."