Contest Entry for May to December Contest

This fic is dedicated to Nicffwhisperer for nudging us, which in turn pushed us from our comfort zone (and we definitely both came out of our comfort zones lol) and allowed us to bring you this! Thanks Nic!

Thanks so much to our wonderful beta kitchmill, who always takes her time to make our stuff prettier … and looked for holes in this one ;)

Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable characters herein. No copyright infringement is intended.


"Edward, you're still here? You were supposed to meet us two hours ago," my younger sister Alice says as she barges into my office.

"I know, Ali. I'm sorry. I feel like I'm almost at a breakthrough in this case."

"Oh, Edward. You still have to eat. Is this about that young girl?" she asks.

I sigh. "It is. I just can't get it off my mind." I've been working on the murder of a young prostitute, and I fucking know James Hunter's responsible. Now I just have to get the proof. He's a well-known drug dealer, and my gut says he's the one putting these girls on the street.

Alice puts her arms around me. "Honey, I know you're worried about those other girls, but you've let this job take over your life. You eat, sleep and breathe it. We hardly ever see you anymore unless we come by here, and when's the last time you were even on a date?"

"That's really not your concern," I say, maybe a little too harshly, but I don't have the patience for it. I'm a thirty-five-year-old man who doesn't need his family meddling in his personal life. Sure, I want to settle down one day, but it'll be when I meet somebody worth it. I definitely haven't met anyone in this town I want to pursue. "I know you're all worried for me, but don't be. I have a job I love and a great family. What more could a man ask for?"

"Oh, I don't know, a girlfriend?" she replies with that smartass smirk on her face.

I bark out a laugh at her audacity. "Sure, Ali, a girlfriend would be nice, but that'll come on my terms, not yours or Mom's."

"Okay, I get it. Just don't keep shutting us out. Make time for this wonderful family you say you have. That's all I'm asking."

"You got it, kid. Now go, I got work to do." I playfully give her a shove toward the door and send her on her way.

This fucking case has me on edge more than any other since I took this job. Originally from Seattle, I moved to a smaller town because I was tired of witnessing the vicious cycle of death and destruction. Everything was good the first couple years, but lately the crime rate has been picking up, and now we have a murdered girl.

All this seems to coincide with the arrival of one James Hunter, drug king extraordinaire and suspected pimp. Sure, there were working girls before, but only a few regulars. With the arrival of James, we've had a serious outbreak of young girls jump in the game. I've made it my personal mission to put a stop to it.

I hadn't been here long when my family decided to join me on the quieter side of life, and slowly they all relocated to Forks. My father opened his own OBGYN clinic, and my mother is a psychologist at the hospital. Alice is fresh out of college and is planning to open a boutique.

I pick up the phone and dial the chief's extension. "Yeah," he barks into the receiver.

"Chief, it's Cullen. Look, I think we need to interrogate some of these prostitutes and hope we can get a lead out of one of them. Just want to clear my plan before moving forward."

"What did you have in mind, son?" he asks.

"I want to round them up. Charge them with whatever we can. Anything to get them in here so I can have a go and see if any of them know anything. Maybe even drag in some of the older ones that've been around for a while." I need a link and these girls must have some kind of information.

"Sounds like you got a plan then, Cullen. Keep me informed on your progress," he grumbles out before hanging up the phone.

The next morning, after only four hours of sleep, finds me at the head of the briefing room with a few other officers. Newton, Crowley, Whitlock and McCarty all stand at the ready.

"All right, men. We have only one objective for the next few days. I want any and every known and suspected prostitute, especially the young ones, brought in on any infraction we can find. And I mean anything—from soliciting to jaywalking. Got it?" I say in my most commanding voice.

"Yes, sir," they reply in unison.

"Well, don't just stand there, get to it," I snap.


I've spent the last two weeks interrogating every prostitute brought in to no avail. Not one single thing to link James has come from these talks.

We were lucky enough to be able to save a few of them. When offered a chance to walk away from that life, almost half of the girls took it. They were set up in a women's shelter run by Officer McCarty's wife Rosalie. She has her own personal experience with abuse, and these girls couldn't have been put in a better place.

I have two more girls set up in interrogation rooms. First up is Lauren Mallory, supposed best friend of the victim, Jessica Stanley. A glance through the observation window shows another young girl scared out of her mind to be here. I need to work that fear to my advantage.

My face is schooled into a stern expression as I enter the room with a folder in my hand. Miss Mallory's head snaps then immediately lowers once she's made eye contact. I pace around, hoping to build her insecurity before taking a seat directly across from her.

"Miss Mallory, do you know why you're here?" I ask with a bite in my voice.

"Y-yes, sir," she stammers out.

"What's your connection to James Hunter?" I lean forward and go in for the kill right off. The folder making a loud smack as it drops to the table. Intimidation is key with these girls. They have to be more afraid of me than the suspect.


I stand and prop my fists on the table and get in her face. "Your best friend, Jessica, was murdered, Miss Mallory. I'd think you'd want to help bring in her killer. Now tell me, what is your connection with James Hunter?" I demand.

"Um, he's my boss."

"Your boss, as in your pimp?" Before she can answer, I continue. "The same man who was Jessica Stanley's pimp? The one who's most likely responsible for her murder?"

She gasps. "No, James would never hurt any of us." She starts to tear up.

I laugh, loud and cold. "Is that what you think, Miss Mallory? That he would never hurt you?" I throw a set of Jessica's autopsy photos on the table between us. It's a harsh reality, but I'm tired of this game.

Miss Mallory's face turns ashen, and she begins puking all over the place. Fuck! "Guard," I yell as I open the door and go out into the hall. Damn it, this is not what I was hoping for. I scrub my fingers through my hair and give it a tug.

As the guard approaches, I bark out orders to clean Miss Mallory up and get her back into a holding cell. Fuck my life; this isn't going as I hoped. Miss Mallory was no help at all. Maybe this next one will be the key.

Through the next observation window, I take in the girl sitting at the table. She's different than the others. She sits confidently, almost provocatively, yet looks so young that I have to wonder if she's even eighteen.

Her name is listed as Isabella Dwyer, age twenty-one, but no way is that true. She isn't in the system, so it's difficult to verify.

Her eyes snap to me when I enter. She raises an eyebrow and slowly drags her gaze from my toes to my head, lingering on my midsection. She then looks me right in the eye and smirks.

I ignore that and put my game face on.

"Miss Dwyer, do you know why you're here?"

She smiles and leans toward me. "Call me Bella, and I hope it has something to do with getting to know you better."

I laugh humorlessly. "I assure you, Miss Dwyer—"

"I asked you to call me Bella."

"Fine, Bella. You don't want to get to know me any better. That could mean very bad things for you."

She licks her lips. "Mmmm, I might like for you to do bad things to me Officer"—she looks at my badge—"Cullen."

"It's Detective Cullen. And I'm not playing games with you. I want you to tell me what you know about the murder of Jessica Stanley."

Fear and something else flash across her face, but it's quickly masked by a cocky grin. "Well that's easy enough. I don't know anything. So can I go now?" She starts to get up.

"Sit down!" She glares at me, but does as I say. "You can leave when I say. Until then, you will sit there and answer my questions."

She stays quiet.

"Now, tell me what you know about her murder and James Hunter."

This time I see the terror on her face, but she hides it quickly. "Look if you want to spend more time with me we can arrange something. You don't have to keep me here. Trust me, I'd be happy to keep you company for a while."

I pull my chair around and sit next to her. "Look, Miss Dwyer"—she starts to interrupt again but I press on before she can—"I know you know something. If you're scared or fear you'd be in danger, then we can protect you. But I need you to tell me what you know."

She huffs out a laugh. "I'm not afraid of anyone. I don't know anything. Now can I please go? I have things to do, and I'm not going to get paid sitting here." She moves closer to me and lowers her voice. "Unless you want to keep me here for another reason." Her hand lowers to rest on my knee. "I'd be happy to spend some time with you away from here … for free." She starts moving it up my leg.

I grab it, stopping its progression, and place it on the table. I give her a hard stare, taking in her face. Mahogany hair frames her porcelain skin and deep, dark eyes. She looks so young and even though I know she's anything but, she has an innocence about her. What could have led such a beauty to this life?

Then I remember I shouldn't care. It isn't my job to change this girl's life. It makes no difference to this case why she does what she does. But as I sit here looking at this fierce woman who probably isn't even old enough to drink, I can't help but feel something stir within me.

I soften my voice. "Bella, you have your whole life ahead of you. James is dangerous. I know he is. Tell me what happened to Jessica, please."

Her face changes, and for the first time since she's been here she's not wearing any type of mask. "Look, I wish I could help you; Jessica was a nice girl. But I can't." She looks at me as if imploring me to believe her. But she isn't telling the truth.

I sigh. "I know you know something. I know you do, and I need you to tell me."

Her mask slips back on. She bites her lip and looks at me through her lashes. "Detective, you seem like a nice guy, and I don't see a ring on your finger. Something tells me you're married to your job. I bet you get lonely. When's the last time you had some pussy?"

I shake my head at her latest attempt to change the subject. "We can stay here as long as it takes until you tell me what you know, but it'd be a lot quicker if you stop playing games."

Anger flashes through her eyes. "I can play all sorts of games, Detective. I bet I could teach you a few." She bites the tip of her finger, letting her tongue peak out.

I just sit back, cross my arms over my chest and stare at her.

She leans toward me. "How many women have you been with, Detective? Two, maybe five? Were any of them adventurous? Did you explore new things with them? Or did they just lay there and let you pump into them?"

My mind flashes to my previous lovers. They've all been nice women, but she hits too close to home with my past experience. I maintain my façade, not letting her see she's right or getting to me at all.

She continues, "How many of those women sucked your cock? I bet those that did made it seem more like a chore. I enjoy it, and I'd love to feel yours down my throat. I've learned to control my gag reflexes."

I can feel my dick twitch, and know I need to shut her down.

"Is this really the life you want? Do you know what kind of life most women in your profession have? Not that you'll have to worry about it long with James Hunter out there. I'm sure at some point you'll be his target if you don't help us."

She sits back and looks at me as if she might be considering what I'm saying.

"And if you don't care about your own life, how about the other young girls out there? Don't they deserve to be safe? James is bad, and as long as he's free none of you are. Help me, Bella."

Tears well in her eyes as they dart around the room. "I can't," she whispers.

"Why not? I can tell you know something."

She closes her eyes, and those tears start to fall. "I don't want anyone else to be hurt. These girls deserve better. None of them should even be out there. But I can't. If I say anything, he'll kill me."

I scoot a little closer and try to ignore how good she smells. "I told you, we'll keep you safe. No one will get to you."

She whispers so quietly I can barely hear, so I lean closer. "From what I've heard, James has people inside the police department. It's one of the reasons he came here. So no, you can't keep me safe."

"Bella, you can trust me. All I want is to put James behind bars and keep all of you safe. We've already gotten three girls to a safe house."

She looks into my eyes and studies my face, carefully considering my words.

The wheels are spinning as I think of a plan. "If you really can help us put James away, then you have my word I'll personally keep you safe. I trust the chief and can promise you that he'll go along with me."

"What's your plan?" she asks.

I'm going to regret this and it's going to test me in ways I've never been tested, but I have no choice. I need to put James away, and I feel this need to get Bella off the street and to have her safe. "I'm going to personally oversee your safety. You'll be living with me."

She looks taken aback, but then a slow, easy smile spreads across her lips. "I knew you couldn't resist."

"Miss"—she gives me a harsh eyebrow raise—"Bella, I don't want you to confuse my actions with anything other than what they are. You know something, and I want James Hunter in jail. I will protect you from him, and in return you will tell me everything you know. Are we clear?"

She salutes me. "Yes, sir, Mr. Detective, sir."

I let out a small chuckle and finally feel like I might be onto something.

I leave her waiting in the interrogation room and head straight to the chief's office. Step one is getting him onboard with the promise I made, if she can provide the information we need.

After two raps on his door, I enter the room. He's an imposing figure behind his desk with his constant harsh, serious expression—a no-nonsense type of guy.

"Chief, can I have a few minutes of your time?"

"Sure, Cullen. What can I do for you? Made any progress with the Stanley case?"

"I think I've made a huge break." He lifts a brow for me to continue. "The latest prostitute I interrogated knows something. She needs a guarantee of safety before she'll talk"

"Well, sounds like we might get our man then." He looks pleased with what I just said.

My next words need to be chosen carefully. "It does … but—" I break off.

"But what, son. Spit it out," he demands.

I rub the back of my neck. "Well, it seems she's afraid she'll be next. So I promised her we'd protect her. Um, I promised her I'd personally protect her."

"And what exactly do you mean by that, Cullen?"

"I mean that I'll move her into my guest room and protect her with my life, sir," I say in the most serious voice I can.

He scratches his in chin in thought and leans back in his chair. At least he's considering the idea and didn't give me a flat out no. "Is her evidence good enough?"

"Well, sir, I haven't made it that far yet, but it's my next move. I wanted to make sure I'm not making promises I can't keep."

He leans forward and props his arms on his desk. "If her evidence is enough for an arrest, then I'll allow a witness seclusion type situation."

"Sounds good, sir. There is one other thing I need to mention. She did allude to a dirty cop." He's taken aback at that suggestion, but waits for me to go on. "She doesn't know who, just that James has someone in the department. So this needs to be a top secret deal. No other officers privy to the information of where she's being kept."

"Okay, I'll allow that, if we get the evidence we need. Now go see what you can get out of her and keep me informed." With his final order, he dismisses me from the room.

As I head back to the interrogation room, I think of the implications of what I'm about to do. Can I really go through with this? Spend all my time around her, completely ignoring her constant innuendo? I take a deep breath and decide I have no choice. James Hunter has to be stopped, and I'm the man to stop him.

Breezing into the room, I come to a screeching halt. I catch Bella before she snaps her façade in place. She's vulnerable and scared. As she should be. We already have one dead girl, and I won't allow another to be added to that tally. She has to trust me and be completely honest for this to work.


She jumps a little at the intrusion, as if she hadn't even heard me enter. Her mask slips in place. "Detective," she drawls in that sexy voice she puts on.

"I've just had a meeting with the chief. He's agreed to my plan to keep you safe. All you have to do is tell me what you know and turn over any evidence you have," I say, hoping this won't be another argument.

"And when I do?"

"Easy. We arrest James Hunter, and then I take you to my house and show you the guest room. No one will know you're there, and he'll never be able to find you," I say confidently.

"You're just dying to get me alone, aren't you, Detective?" She crosses her legs and licks her plump lips.

"What I'm dying to do is arrest James Hunter. Now are you ready to fill me in?' I give her my best no nonsense voice, hoping she'll finally start talking.

"Well, you're no fun." She crosses her arms over her chest and huffs. "Fine."

Now we're getting somewhere. I walk over to the video equipment in the corner of the room and inform her that everything she says will be recorded. I turn the camcorder on, stating the date, time and my name and position for the record.

After walking back over to the table and sitting across from her, I begin the real interrogation. "State your name for the record."

"Isabella Dwyer, Detective, but please call me Bella," she answers through gritted teeth.

"Very well then, Bella. Could you tell me what you know about the murder of Jessica Stanley?"

"Right to the point, huh." She huffs. "Jessica and I both work for James Hunter. He's our pimp. She was mad about the raise in fees he demanded, and he killed her," she states with no emotion at all.

I'm slightly taken aback and have to gather my wits for a second. I clear my throat and push her further. "He killed her? That simple? How do you know that Mr. Hunter is responsible?"

She shrugs. "I was there," she says simply.

I almost choke on that information. "There, as in witnessed the murder?" I expected a secondhand account of information, but never a firsthand witness. This girl needs protection more than I ever imagined.

She rolls her eyes. "That's what I just said, Detective," she says in her smart-ass tone.

I sit back in my chair and revel in this information. "Okay, Bella. I'm going to need every single detail you can remember. I know it might be hard to relive, but I need the whole scene from start to finish."

She begins her tale, and I'm in shock at the picture she paints. Everything she tells is right on with the forensic information we have. The scene she describes matches perfectly with the murder scene, cause of death and even the time.

I'm disconcerted with her toneless retelling of the events and that she's willing to describe in detail everything she saw. I'm also in awe. She's trusting me with her life, and somehow I find that empowering. James Hunter will go down, and Bella will leave this life behind.

I have to do my job though, and sometimes that requires pushing harder. I believe every word she's said, but I have to be one hundred percent on this. "That's some tale you just told," I say in a disbelieving voice.

She reverts back to the Bella I've come to know and respect with that remark—arms crossed, sexy smirk in place and smartass mouth. "Detective, you asked for my story, and I gave it to you. Now if you're not going to believe me, then I have no more business here." She stands and starts for the door.

"Bella, wait. Of course I believe you," I say in a soft tone. "I just need you to be sure. There can't be any backing down. Are you sure this is the story you can hold firm with?"

She stopped when I started speaking. "Yes, I'm sure." She turns back to face me. "I can even go one farther if you'd like," she says, taking her seat.

I assume she's back to innuendo, so I immediately go to stop her, but when I raise my hands and start to speak, she interrupts me before I can even start. "Evidence, Detective, just more evidence."

"More evidence?" I perk up at the prospect. "What more could you possibly provide?"

She leans forward; starting at her thighs, she slowly runs her hands down her long, lean legs. My eyes follow involuntarily. I give my head a shake and snap back in the moment. Just when I'm about to put a stop to her display, she reaches down her boot and pulls out a small baggie. It has a shoestring or some sort of cord inside.

She holds it out for me to take. I'm confused as to why she'd be handing me a string, but I slowly raise my hand anyway with a confused look on my face.

"Detective, this is your evidence," she says as I take it in my hand. I look down at this baggie and then to her questioningly. "The murder weapon."

I almost drop it to the floor in horror. I jump up and grab my cell, making a call to the chief immediately. I notify him of what she just handed me and request he send his most trusted officer to retrieve it.

"I have more," she says quietly.

I look to her, stunned. "What do you have, Bella? Tell me, please."

She sighs. "A recording. I have a video recording of the murder."

"A video?" I can't believe this is happening. When I started this round-up, I never imagined we'd get much; it was just a place to start. Now, here I am with the murder weapon in my hand and a possible recording of the actual murder.

A knock on the door interrupts our conversation. McCarty comes in with gloves on and an evidence baggie in his hands. I carefully place the evidence in it and make sure he understands that this is classified information and no one is to know. He gives me a nod and retreats from the room.

"Can you get my things from booking?" she asks.

"I can. Are you carrying this video around with you?" I ask incredulously.

"It's on my phone, Detective. No one even knows I have it," she states like it's no big deal.

I leave the room without another word. If I speak, I might blow a gasket. Doesn't this girl have any self-preservation? I walk down to booking, using the time to cool off, and gather her things. She had thirty-seven dollars, a cell phone and a pack of gum on her when she was brought in.

Returning to the room, I sit the items in front of her on the table. She immediately goes for the phone and begins scrolling through it. After a few moments, a video starts playing and she faces the screen toward me. I sit and watch in shock and amazement. On the screen is a clear account of James Hunter strangling the life out of Jessica Stanley.

Even after the video has ended I gape at the screen. This girl watched this horrible scene in person and was brave enough to stealthily record the whole thing. Again, I'm in awe of her strength and audacity. When I saw her through the glass, I thought she wasn't like the others, and now I know for sure.

I immediately phone the chief once more and request he meet me in my office pronto. After showing the recording and him taking it for evidence, I return to Bella.

"Everything's set. Time to make an arrest," I announce as I enter the room.

"Where am I supposed to hang while you make this arrest, Detective?" She crosses her arms in a standoffish manner.

"I'm going to have you returned to the holding cell. You'll be safe there."

"Uh, no way. There're crooked cops here, and you're not leaving me a sitting duck," she protests.

She might be scared, but that's the safest place until Hunter's put away and I can take her home. "I'll have McCarty personally guard your cell the whole time." I will her to trust what I say. "You will be safe. I promise."

Her shoulders sag. "Fine." She huffs. "I have a bag, packed and ready, under my bed. Can you grab it, please?"

"I will," I vow. "Whether Hunter's there or not I'll grab your things. Just hang tight and I'll be back to get you."

"Don't keep me waiting, Detective." She smirks and winks.

I have McCarty escort her to holding and stand guard at the door.

Several hours later, with James Hunter and one of his thugs in tow, I return to the station with a skip in my step. When we busted in the place, one of his lackeys decided to take a shot at us. He'll be charged with attempted murder of a police officer. I smirk to myself, just thinking about it.

McCarty brings Bella to my office so I can transport her to the women's shelter, as far as the other officers are concerned. In reality, she'll be going to my house. When she enters the room, I can instantly see her persona take effect. "I knew you couldn't stay away long, Detective," she purrs.

I take the bait. I'm so high off this arrest I can't help but to tease back. "I couldn't." I give her my own smirk and a wink for good measure.

She's stunned silent for once. I take her arm and lead her through the precinct, putting on a show of escorting her, same as all the other girls. When we get to my car, I open the passenger door and help her inside. Once seated, she crosses her legs and gives me her own wink.

This is going to be a long drive.

After an endless drive of Bella crossing and uncrossing her legs, running her hands tantalizingly up and down her thighs and just the scent of her, we finally pull up at my house.

I walk around to open her door and feel my dick twitch when she stretches her legs out to stand. What are you doing? She's your case, a witness, can't be much older than a child, and a prostitute to boot. Reactions like that are going to bring nothing but trouble. I shake my head to clear it then grab her bag and lead her inside.

"You have a beautiful home."

"Thank you. Come on and I'll show you your room."

"No need. I can just share with you."

She catches me off guard, and I almost choke on my own saliva. "I don't think so. Behave."

She giggles and follows behind me.

I take her to her room and make sure she's all settled in. "I'll leave you to it. I'm going to head into my office to get some work done and go over some things. If you need me, I'll be right in there." I point to the door across the hall.

"Detective. Listen, thanks for doing this. I know it probably isn't standard protocol, so I really appreciate it." For the first time, her face is soft and relaxed. It's nice to see her this way.

I smile at her. "No problem. Thank you for being brave enough to help us, and if we're going to be living together, you should call me Edward. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Detective." She smirks and closes the door.

I head into my office knowing that this girl is going to be the death of me one way or another.


Bella's been here for a week. The woman is a huge flirt and full of innuendo. Hell, she doesn't even need innuendo. She's downright dirty when she wants to be.

And don't even get me started on her clothing, or lack thereof.

Shorts so short I can see ass cheeks, shirts without bras or so thin they're nearly see-through. She showers and walks out afterward dripping wet and in only a small towel. I've learned to lock myself in my room or office when I hear the shower cut off. I've come too close to grabbing her and fucking her on the nearest available surface when I see her in the hall fresh from a shower.

Dad came by a few days ago and did an STD check and gave her the shot. He's checked all the girls for us, and coming here wasn't a problem. If anything, it's made her even more aggressive with her sexuality, knowing she's clean and protected. Those things haven't helped my resistance either.

This is not like me, not who I am at all. I'm a man who loves his job and goes at it with a single mindedness that can't be thrown off track. Somehow though, she has me all twisted in knots. A simple young girl is making me question my life.

Usually Bella cooks, but I'm making us dinner tonight. She's a great cook and keeps the house spotless. I didn't expect her to be so domestic, but it's a pleasant surprise. When I ask her about it she clams up. She doesn't like talking about her past. If I mention it or ask anything personal, she shuts down completely.

Bella comes down the stairs, this time in a very thin, light pink tank top, short shorts and white knee socks. My dick immediately perks up.

I sigh as I continue to cook. "I've repeatedly asked you to dress more appropriately."

She rolls her eyes. "It's not like I have many other clothes, Detective. I'm far from a nun, so I don't exactly wear turtlenecks."

"I've told you I can get you clothes. I know this isn't an ideal situation for either of us, but this is still my home, and I'd appreciate you respecting my rules by dressing less provocatively."

"Who said this isn't an ideal situation? I'm in a nice house with a hot guy. No one's trying to shove their cock in some part of me twenty-four seven … though I wouldn't mind that part too terribly much if it were you." She winks at me.

"I've also asked you to stop talking like that. Is it that difficult to talk like a lady?"

She snickers. "Detective, you don't want a lady. You might think you do, but ladies are boring. I can be as ladylike as anyone in public, but at home when it's just us, I'd much rather be your whore."

I slam down the spoon I was holding. "That's the thing, Bella; you shouldn't want the life you lead. You're smart and beautiful and so young. You can do anything. Why did you choose this life? Why do you act like this?"

Now she's glaring at me. "Get off your fucking high horse. I know you'd give your left nut to fuck me. You're just too much of a coward. You love my foul mouth and my slutty clothes. You can pretend you don't, but don't think I can't see the hard on you sport and the way your eyes linger on my body. So, yeah, I do what I do and am who I am, but at least I'm fucking honest about it."

She turns and rushes upstairs, but not before I see the tears in her eyes.

Now I feel like a bastard. She's right. I do like everything about her. Well I don't like her job, but she hasn't worked since I've met her so it's almost easy to pretend she never did it. I like how strong and independent she is. I find everything about her sexy.

That's the problem. I know nothing can ever happen, and it's driving me fucking crazy.

As far as anyone at the precinct other than the chief knows, I'm overseeing the shelter. In actuality, we have a close trusted friend of his from Seattle, Jake, guarding it.

I know we have a few more months before James' trial with the way things are going. I need to make sure I stay in control around Bella so we can both walk away unscathed. We don't fit; we can't be anything other than what we are—the cop and his witness. But that doesn't mean I can treat her this way, so I apologize the next day and she graciously accepts, pretending it's no big deal.

We then settle into a routine.

The underlying sexual tension is still there, but we both ignore it. I never mention her clothes anymore. I'm almost used to them … almost. Whacking off has become a daily occurrence, but it helps ease some of the tension her displays bring about.

I've never been much of a sleeper, so I'm awake when the knock on my door comes at three a.m. I grab my gun and tell Bella to stay put when I see her peek out of her door. Even though I know something must've happened for someone to be here at this time, it still crosses my mind how beautiful she looks with her hair a mess and eyes all bleary with sleep.

When I make it to the door, I peek through the eyehole and find McCarty. I trust him, but I'm still cautious as I open the door. I notice he has his gun at the ready too. "What the fuck's going on, McCarty?"

He's looking around. "Everything okay here, Cullen? Noticed anything?"

"No, man. Now tell me what the hell's going on!"

He visibly relaxes and walks inside. As I close the door behind him, he puts away his gun. "We didn't want to call you just in case we were compromised, so the chief sent me. The shelter was attacked tonight."

"What the fuck? What happened? Was anyone hurt?"

"Whoa, man. Everybody's okay. Jake was there and took a bullet to the leg, but he'll be okay. He did say that they were looking for Bella though."

I pinch the bridge of my nose. "Damn it! Jake didn't catch him?"

"No. And nobody got a good description either. Whoever it was knew what they were doing. They were covered from head to toe, and their voice was masked."

"How does Jake know they were looking for Bella?"

Right then McCarty's eyes go wide as saucers and he focuses on something over my shoulder. I turn to see Bella. She's in her very short silky robe, and it's clear that's all she's wearing. I can't focus on that though because she looks terrified.


"Someone was looking for me? Was anyone hurt? Please tell me no one was hurt because of me."

McCarty regains his composure. "The guard, Jake, was shot, but he'll be okay. We know they were looking for you because before Jake was alerted, they grabbed two of the girls and asked about you."

"But those girls are okay?" Bella looks scared to hear the answer.

"Yes, ma'am. They're just fine," McCarty reassures her.

She relaxes, but still looks devastated.

McCarty focuses on me. "Chief wants you to get your stuff together ASAP and move. He said you'll know where."

I turn to Bella. "Go and grab your stuff as quickly as you can."

She knew this was a possibility, but I'm still surprised she doesn't argue or ask a ton of questions. Instead she just turns and does as I say.

"Here," McCarty says, pulling a couple flip phones from his backpack. "These are for emergency contact with the chief."

I take the phones. "Thanks, hopefully they won't be needed."

"Yeah, man. All right, I'm going to stay until you get on the road, just to be safe," he says, his eyes glancing toward the guestroom. I know he's dying to ask about Bella, especially considering how she was dressed, but he's in full on cop mode and takes his job very seriously. I know he'll be hitting me up for info at some point though.

We quickly load up, and after a few more words with McCarty, we say our goodbyes and hit the road. The chief and I had hoped it wouldn't come to this, but we made sure to have a backup plan in case anything went wrong. We have a safe house only the chief and I know about at the ready.


The new place is much smaller than mine. We have to share a bathroom, and there's only one bedroom. This is going make trying to resist Bella hell, way worse than before.

When I show her where she'll be sleeping, she jumps on the bed and gives me a smirk. "Looks like only one bed, Detective. I guess we'll have to share."

I want to throw myself right on top of her, but instead I turn and walk to the door. "I'll take the couch. You can have the bed." I glance back long enough to see her face in an adorable pout.

Once again we settle into a routine, only this time it's much harder to hide from Bella. Being in such small quarters is forcing me to spend more time with her. Since the cabin doesn't have air conditioning, Bella's wearing even less clothing claiming she's hot … even though at times, I swear I can see goose bumps.

Now that I'm around her more, we're starting to talk and I'm finding her even more fascinating than before. I knew she was intelligent and passionate, and I may be biased, but I swear she's brilliant. She loves literature and can argue politics clearly and concisely. She often points out things about whatever we're discussing that I've never thought of. Her way of seeing things is so intriguing. I'm spellbound. It's easy to forget why we're here and how very young she is.

I glance out the window to where she's sitting on the swing with a book she's already read a dozen times. It's a rare clear day, and she has her face turned up to the sun. The light filters through her hair, highlighting the red that's only visible in the rays. Her skin is flawless, and her body is amazing.

This is so much worse than I feared.

Not only do I want to fuck her nearly every minute of every day, but I've started to care about her. I desperately want to run and get as far away from her as I can, but I can't. I'm literally stuck with her. I just know at the end of this I'm going to end up with a broken heart because she's young and still has her whole life ahead of her.

It's time to make some changes.

Over the next few days, I start distancing myself. She obviously notices and questions me several times over it. I deny every time that anything's wrong.

After a week or so of my withdrawal, she seems to have accepted it and keeps mostly to herself. She seems down though. I reason with myself that it's because of her confinement, not because she misses the closeness we were developing.

After a couple of weeks in the now near silent cabin, we get a terrible storm, one that's impossible to sleep through. After a particularly loud crack of thunder and some intense lightning, we lose power. I get up from the couch to check on Bella, only to see her standing in the kitchen with a bottle of water. I stare at her before she notices me. She's wearing only panties and a T-shirt.

Even though the storm is fierce, it's extremely muggy and hot in here. With Bella being the way she is I can't get too comfortable, so I still wear my cargo shorts and tee to sleep in.

I clear my throat.

Bella doesn't miss a chance to torture me. "Want some? It feels so good … really wet."

I pretend she just asked a simple question. "No, thanks. I'm good. I just noticed we lost power and want to check things out."

"I have a few things you can check out," she says cheekily.

I continue to ignore her innuendo. "We're out of batteries. I have no idea what happened to them all. Have you used them for something?"

She smirks. "Sorry. I did use them … for my vibrator. If you'd just give me what I want, I wouldn't need to use so many."

I've finally reached my limit. "Damn it, Bella! It's not going to happen."

She puts her hands on her hips. "Why the fuck not? Give me a real reason, because I know you want me even if you are avoiding me."

"Fine. For one, I'm a detective and you're a prostitute. For another, I'm assigned with protecting you, which strictly forbids us fraternizing, and don't forget I'm old enough to be your father!"

She takes a defiant stance and stares me in the eye. "Okay, first, I'm quitting … hell, I've already quit since I haven't worked since before I met you. Two, I'm not going to tell anyone, and really, what harm will it do to the case? And third, you can be my daddy if you want. I'll even let you spank me when I'm bad." She grins, turns around and slowly bends over, wiggling her ass at me.

It takes all my restraint to walk away.

"Come on, Edward. I was just teasing." She runs to grab my arm, stopping me. "I'm really sorry, okay? You're just fun to rile up. I don't want you mad and staying away from me anymore. I can make it up to you." She moves her hand to my chest and rubs down my stomach.

I grab her hand, stopping its descent. I want her so much, and I'm angry that I can't have her. All she does is makes things harder, so I lash out. I'm going to hurt her, but I don't care in this moment. "Look, a lot of guys would probably take you up on this, but I'm not interested in whores, Bella."

I watch her transform before my eyes. Her face goes white, and her eyes go wide. Tears well up. She yanks her hand away from me. "Fuck you, Edward. You think you're so much better than me. I may be a whore, but at least I'm not a fucking coward. I've met a lot of assholes in my life, but you've hurt me worse than any of them, and trust me, that's saying a lot."

She turns from me and runs. I think she's running toward the bedroom, but instead she heads outside. Of course I go after her. She's standing in the rain facing away from me right off the side of the house.

"Bella, get back inside!"

"Leave me alone, Detective," she sneers at me.

"You're going to get sick, and it's lightning out here."

"Damn it, I'm fine. It's not that cold, and the lightning has died down. Please"—she turns briefly to look at me with the most heartbreaking expression—"just go inside and leave me alone for a bit."

I do the opposite and walk closer to her. "I'm sorry. What I said was terrible, and I didn't mean it. I was an ass."

"No, you were right; I am a whore. No wonder you don't want me. It's okay. I've been on my own a long time and I'm good at it. Once this case is over, I'll head out of town and you won't have to deal with me again."

I start to speak but she keeps going. "I always loved the rain. I never saw much of it as a child. We tended to live places where rain was rare. So anytime it rained I begged to play in it. I always felt like it made everything clean and new again. I know it really doesn't, but some part of me still holds the hope that it does."

"You're an amazing woman. I really don't have a problem with your past. I can't say I love thinking about it, but I'm sure you have your reasons. You have to know that I care about you … more than just a case."

She turns to look at me. Her hair is plastered to her face, and her shirt is molded to her body—practically see-through. Her nipples are hard and her chest is heaving.

I look into those big brown eyes, and I can't stop myself anymore.

I lunge.

We're lips and tongue and teeth. It's wet and painful and perfect.

She clutches my shirt and pulls me as close as she can. I move one hand into her hair and pull her lips away from me, forcing her head back as I lick and kiss every inch of her neck.

She latches her hands into my hair and pries my lips from her neck, looking into my eyes, seeking assurance. As a response, my hands slide around to her ass, and with a simple lift, she jumps and locks her legs around my waist then leans her head back and forces my lips to her neck again.

Standing in the pouring rain, I make a decision. I've fought this for too long and I won't be fighting anymore. I pull away, only to march toward the house and up the front steps. I slam the front door open and hear it bang against the wall as I continue straight to the bedroom.

Once there, she releases her legs and slides down my body then rips my shirt over my head. She takes a step back and removes her own. I'm lost in the curves she's uncovered and watch as she trails her fingers over her body until she reaches her panties. She rolls them down her wet skin, baring herself to me completely.

Slowly and seductively, she sways toward me. She is a lioness and I'm her gazelle. She intends to devour me; it's in her every move. A feline ready to pounce.

She puts her hands on my bare chest and pushes me onto the bed before slowly gliding them down to the waist of my shorts. It doesn't take her nimble fingers but a second before she's encouraging me upward to slide them down my legs. She raises an eyebrow when she notices I'm going commando. I'm now as naked as she is.

"Scoot back," she orders as she climbs up the bed following me as I move to the head.

She hovers over me, just barely letting the heat from her body encase mine. I can feel my cock twitching and leaking. My hands raise and cup her tits. They're full and firm and I need to taste them.

I suck a nipple into my mouth, still wet from the rain, and roll my tongue around it. My hand is still firmly grasped onto the other, squeezing and plucking.

Bella starts to grind down on me. The feel of her slick pussy sliding over me is almost enough to make me blow my load right there. I need to feel her.

I move down to touch her bare flesh. She's slick and wet. My fingers easily find her clit and start to make tight circles. I continue my perusal and move farther down to slip one inside. I want to taste her, so I slide my hand out and bring it up coated in her juices.

Like she's reading my mind, she grabs my wet fingers and slides them along her lips, slickening them with her moisture before fusing them to my own. I use my tongue to lap up every bit of her essence. When our lips break apart, I look into her eyes to see them darker than ever. The lioness is about to consume her prey.

She raises and straddles my legs with my cock standing tall before her. She leans down and runs her tongue from the base all the way to the top before swirling around and sucking just the head in. Her mouth is warm and wet and has me ready to combust. Before too long, she lets me go with a pop.

Scooting back up, she rubs that hot, wet pussy against me one more time before rising up and engulfing me inside her tight heat.

I have to grab her hips and hold her still for a minute. Other than my hand, it's been a long time for me, and something's different with Bella. Sex is always good, but this is more than sex. I feel this connection deep in my soul … not just my body.

After I'm sure I have control, I grab Bella's hips and hold on. She's passion incarnate as she rides me. Her hips rotate, swirl and shift back and forth. Her lithe body arches on display, and I can't help but lean forward to once again take a nipple between my lips.

"Ahh, Edward. That's it, baby, suck it. Harder …"

I swap nipples and suck with a viciousness I can't help, her moans spurring me on. I don't know if I can last; she's draining me dry, pulling every last drop of sense from my mind.

"Fuck, so good. So good. Touch yourself baby. Rub that clit for me. I need to feel your pussy squeeze around me." I need her to come. I can feel the burning in my balls. "Please, Bella …"

Her hand slides down her smooth stomach to find her clit, and she tenses immediately. I get more aggressive, sucking harder and bucking my cock in and out of her as fast as I can.

This time I bite down on her nipple, hard enough to sting. She must like that because she starts to convulse around me. "That's it, Edward. Fuck, I'm coming."

I let go of her nipple and use my hands to guide her as she rides out her orgasm. Finally, I allow myself to release in long-overdue spurts inside her pussy.

After giving us both a little time to come down, I gently pull myself from her and get a towel for us to clean up. I start to grab my clothes when Bella sits up and grabs me. "Come on, Edward. Stay." She lifts the sheet.

This is when I know I should go, but I can't. She dug a hole, and I fell in head first. I've somehow let this girl crawl right under my skin. Not only is she under my protection, but she's probably almost half my age. I've learned one lesson though; age is nothing but a number, and she gets me more than any other person I've ever met.

After a slight hesitation, I toss my clothes back down and climb in. She tentatively puts her head on my chest, and I put my arm around her. "This is nice. I've never cuddled before," she says then settles in, only to fall asleep almost immediately.

I find myself slipping away quickly listening to the sounds of her breathing.

I'm not sure how long I've been asleep when I feel something engulf my cock. "Motherfuck!"

In the moonlight I see Bella raise her head. "Hi. I was beginning to wonder if you were going to wake up." She leans back down and runs her tongue around the head. I fist the sheets.

She leans up again. "You can put your hands on me. Show me how you like it." She sucks in my cock, slowly taking me all the way back in her throat. Her nose touches my pubic hair before pulling back.

She goes back down, and this time, when she comes up she drags her teeth. I fist the sheets even harder.

I almost cry out when she stops. "Edward." She waits until I'm looking at her. "I want you to put your hands in my hair and fuck. My. Mouth." She enunciates every word to be sure I understand her.

At first I gently rest my hands on her head, and she gets back to work sucking my cock. When I don't guide her head, she scrapes a little harder with her teeth. My hands automatically tighten, and I can feel her grin.

I give in and start moving her head down while raising my hips. It doesn't take long before I feel the familiar tingle. Bella cups my balls and it's over. I try to pull her head away, but she doesn't budge.

She crawls back up to me with a cheeky grin. I lean over and kiss her then arch a brow in what I hope is a seductive look. I go back in for another kiss, but am stopped when Bella places a finger across my lips.

"Sleep, Edward. We have plenty of time to play." She curls up against me, and it takes no time for me to fall back asleep.

Over the next few weeks Bella and I are insatiable. She's taught me positions I never knew were possible. I worried at first I wouldn't be able to keep up with her, since she's so much younger, but she keeps me so excited it's like I'm sixteen again. I've taught her the art of multiple orgasms and the stamina of a mature man whose sole focus is her pleasure. She's even had to take naps from being so worn out.

I've always enjoyed sex well enough, but being with Bella is a whole new experience.

We've been spending time doing other things, too. Sex is fan-fucking-tastic, but we can't do it all day every day. We spend time outside when the weather allows. Sometimes we just sit and read together. Sometimes we walk around the property. We've even spent time playing video games. Neither of us are pros, but I've found Bella is very competitive so it's fun to try to beat her.

We also work out together. Her youth makes me feel the need to keep in shape more than ever. Though watching Bella do her yoga usually leads to a completely different kind of workout.

We've spent so much time together and grown so close it's hard to imagine my life without her. In our bubble here it's easy to forget a lot of things; I still don't know her past, what Bella used to do to make money or how young she is. Hell, I don't even know her real age. She hasn't told me anything personal about her.

But reality has a way of creeping back in. I get a call from the chief one day. They've set up a date for Bella to testify. After going over a few things with him, I hang up and head to tell Bella. I find her in the kitchen making brownies.

She turns to look at me with a smile and holds out the spoon. "Wanna lick?"

I grin and shake my head. This girl is always such a flirt. "I'll pass … for now." I wink at her.

She laughs and goes back to what she's doing.

I keep things light, but this woman knows me pretty well. After she slides the brownies into the oven, she turns to look at me. "Okay spill, Detective. What's up?"

I figure it's best to be straight with her. "That was the chief on the phone. They've set up the date for you to testify."

She notably pales, and then regains her composure. She turns and starts cleaning the counters. "Well that's good, right? We've been in limbo, and at least now we have a date. Things are moving ahead." She nods her head. "This is good."

She's cleaning the same spot, scrubbing it so hard I'm surprised she hasn't taken the color off. I walk to her and mold my chest to her back then reach around and gently still her hand. I take the rag from her and wrap her in my arms.

"Baby, it's going to be okay. I promise."

She takes a shuddering breath before turning in my arms to kiss me. This kiss is slow but filled with need. It's like she is trying to become part of me through our lips. Breath is exchanged as our lips move and tongues taste.

She pulls away and takes my hand. In silence, she leads me to the bedroom. We take our time undressing each other. Once the last piece of clothing is removed, we stand before each other bare. I reach and pull her to me.

I lay her back on the bed and follow. This is different from anything we've done before. We can't get close enough to each other. Our lips can't taste or kiss enough. Our hands meet and fingers twine as I slide inside. Silence surrounds us except for the noises of our breaths and skin meeting skin. We come together in sighs and clenches, holding each other as if we never want to let go.

After our hearts have returned to normal, we lie together with her head on its favorite place, my chest. I skim my fingers along her back, and even though I hate to break this peace, we need to talk.

"When I was talking to the chief, he said they'll be sending a list of questions the prosecutor is going to ask you. They'll also want to know how you met James and possibly even how you came to work for him."

She stiffens but I continue. "I know you don't like talking about your past, but it's probably going to come up. I just wanted to warn you."

She raises her head and looks at me. "I want you to know. I've wanted to tell you for a while. I definitely want you to hear it from me and not on the stand."

She lays her head back down and starts talking. "I was born to a rather flaky mother. She moved us around a lot. It was just the two of us. She said she didn't have any other family and would never talk about my father. It was that way for years. Then when I was thirteen, she met Phil Dwyer."

Dwyer? Did the guy adopt her? Before I can think about it too much, she continues.

"Phil was quite a bit younger than her, and they had a whirlwind relationship. They married after only knowing each other for two months. But my mom was madly in love, so I was happy for her. At first things were okay." I stroke her hair hoping to soothe her.

"We moved in with Phil, but he was gone a lot since he was a minor league ball player. Then he was injured and couldn't play anymore. Things got bad from there. He became cruel. He would yell at me and punish me for the smallest things. My mother started drinking pretty heavily and got lost in her own world."

We must be getting to the worst part; her body tenses even further. I tighten my hold on her.

"By the time I was fifteen, he was physically abusive. No one seemed to notice that I had constant bruises. Then he started touching me. At first it was small things, but he got more aggressive. I started hanging out with the wrong crowd just to stay away from home."

The first tear hits my chest.

"I lost my virginity at fifteen because I wanted it to be my choice. Phil got worse, my mother continued to drink and I found sex was something that made me liked and kept me away from home."

Her words take on a robotic quality. "Finally, when I was sixteen, I was stuck at home one day and Phil attacked me. I don't really want to go into the details, but afterward I went to my mother begging her to leave. She refused. She blamed me for her husband not wanting her anymore and called me a whore."

The rage I feel for these two people I've never met is almost overpowering, but I keep myself together for Bella. Right now she just needs me to listen.

"I begged her to tell me about my dad, and all she would tell me was that he was some mistake she made in the town she was from. Then she talked about Forks and how she had to get out of there and being pregnant almost ruined things. I couldn't listen anymore so I went to my room, packed some clothes, stole what money I could find and left."

"So you ran away at sixteen?"

"Yes. I was going to try to make my way to Forks to see if I could find out anything about my father."

"And how old are you now, Bella?" I ask her quietly, needing to confirm she's over eighteen.

"I'm, um, nineteen." She looks to me under her lashes as I let out a deep sigh of relief. Of course I never expected to fall in love with a nineteen-year-old, but it's too late to go back now.

Thank God she's legal.

I give her a small smile to let her know I'm okay with it and get back to my questions. "So is Phil your adoptive father?"

"No. Um, my real name is Isabella Marie Higginbotham. I didn't want my mother or Phil to be able to find me, and I wanted a reminder of why this life is better than what I had, so I chose to go by Isabella Dwyer."

"Ah. So that's why you want to only be called Bella?"


"So what happened then? How did you come to work for James?"

"I ran out of money quick enough and had no way to get a job with no ID or social security card. I met a woman named Victoria. She found me half-starved and took me in. She let me do odd jobs and stuff and live with her. I knew she didn't have an honest business, but wasn't sure what she did."

"She was a pimp?" I ask, already knowing the answer.

"She preferred madam." She gives me a small grin. "She always had girls in and out of her house. But she didn't ask me to do anything for over a year. Then one night she was desperate. She had a regular client, and his normal girl wasn't able to be there for him. At this time I knew what was going on, so I volunteered to help. At first Vicky said no, but she's a business woman and agreed pretty quickly. After that, I became a regular worker, but Vicky made sure I had only the best clients.

"After a while, I was anxious to try to find out something about my dad. I talked to Vicky about it, and she said she knew someone who was headed for Forks and would take me if I wanted. She told him I was her best girl, and he promised he'd take good care of me."

"I'm guessing that was James." I wish I could kill the fucker; jail's too good for him.

"Yes. Unfortunately, James is nothing like Vicky. He's terrible, and I haven't even had a chance to look for anything regarding my mother or father since he rarely lets me out of his sight for long. That was how I was able to witness what happened to Jessica."

I take a deep breath just thinking about James having her in his clutches and decide there's one thing I need to know. "Did he ever hurt you, baby?" I ask, turning her face up so I can see her eyes.

She remains calm and sure when she replies, "Never. He had some sort of strange fixation with me. He was always telling me I reminded him of his younger sister Bree." I take a sigh of relief.

I run my fingers through her hair and consider all she's told me. I knew her name and age weren't right, or at least I suspected, but I never imagined she has a family out there that might be looking for her, one that she might also need protection from.

I hate to say it, but Jessica Stanley's murder might've been the best thing that ever happened to my Bella. Of course, that's a fucked up thought, especially coming from me, but there's no way she's ever going to be alone again if I have a say. We'll just have to keep things quiet until this case is over, then it'll be no one's business what we do.

Yeah, that's it. Just until the case is over, then she's mine.

We wake the next morning to the sun shining bright. After the revelations of last night, there's no awkwardness. The air between us is clear and I know her story. She trusts me with her whole self now, not just her body. And I intend to cherish it and her for as long as she'll let me.

Going in the kitchen, I can still smell the brownies we let burn last night. Charred chocolate lingers in the air. I get the coffee pot brewing and start on some eggs and toast—our morning usual. Bella's in the shower so I open the windows, hoping to chase some of the stench away.

When she comes in, her face is bright and happy. Marching straight over to me, she reaches up and presses her lips to mine. It's a kiss of new beginnings, I can tell in the way her lips move against mine. It's there; we both feel it. Little do we know that both our lives are about to change forever.

She pulls away. "Morning, Detective." I get a flirty smirk due to the bulge she can feel poking her. She likes that she can wind me up with just a look or a touch. Hell, I like it, too.

"Morning, sunshine." I smack her ass as she turns to go to the coffee pot.

Everything the woman does is sexual. Even getting a cup of coffee. I decide we'd better tone down the flirting and plate us both some breakfast, sitting on opposite sides of the bar. If she's close I might not be able to resist.

She sidles up to her spot with an adorable pout on her face and starts with her toast. Pulling a small piece off, she slips it into her mouth and moans lightly then licks her lips. I know she's fucking with me and my cock does too, but he can't help but rise to the bait.

I let my fork drop to the plate. "Goddamn it, woman, you're killing me here," I say in an almost begging tone. She just smirks and forks some eggs into her mouth, sliding those tines between her plump lips so seductively that I can't take it anymore.

I get up and march toward her, fully intending on making sure she knows I'm not one to be messed with. Before I can make it to her, though, I hear tires crunch on gravel and freeze immediately. "Get in the bedroom, Bella," I demand.

She jumps up, and I follow making sure to close the door behind her. I grab my spare gun from the end table and head to the front door. When I see the car parked in our drive, I become confused. Behind the driver's seat sits Whitlock, and he seems to be hesitating.

I walk out onto the porch and down the steps slowly, gun still at the ready.

He sees me coming and gets out, hands up in the air. "Hold up, Cullen. It's just me."

"What the fuck are you doing here?" I'm still cautious. This is supposed to be a place only McCarty, the chief and I know about, and McCarty's never been here.

"The chief sent me," he states, still looking afraid I might shoot him.

I relax a bit. I know if the chief sent him then he's trustworthy and it must be important. "Something happen?" I ask.

"Not yet," he answers. "Chief wants me to guard Bella so you can go meet him. He thinks the phones are tapped and wants to talk in person."

I have to wonder why he didn't send McCarty, but it must be something big to want to talk in person. Maybe we even need to move again.

"Where am I meeting him?"

"About five miles up the highway at the diner. Know the spot I'm talking about?" He motions back toward the road. I do know the spot and hope I can make it fast. Just thinking about leaving her in someone else's care has my teeth on edge.

"Come on in then. Let me introduce you." I wave him in and am ready to get this meeting over and back to Bella as fast as possible. "Bella," I call out, entering the house. She cracks the door open and peeps out. "Come out here, please."

I give her a look to let her know to behave as she saunters into the room. The girl is walking sex; she couldn't tone it down if she tried. "Yes, Detective," she says, but not saucily this time. At least she's paying attention.

"Bella, this is Officer Whitlock. He's going to sit here with you while I go to meet with the chief." She starts to look unsure so I grab both her arms and look her in the eye. "He's a friend, like McCarty. The chief wouldn't have sent him if he wasn't trustworthy." I try to be as reassuring as I can.

She glances at Whitlock and relaxes, knowing I wouldn't ever lie to her. "How long will you be gone?"

"No longer than I have to. Straight there and straight back, I promise," I assure her.

Her façade snaps in place. I haven't seen it in a while. She's tough as nails Bella now. "Well, don't keep me waiting, Detective." With a wink, she struts back to her room, closing the door behind her.

I turn to Whitlock. "There's toast, eggs and coffee in the kitchen if you're interested. I'll be back as soon as I can." I walk to the door, grab my keys off the entrance table and, with one final look to the bedroom door, walk out to the car.

As I get behind the wheel, my mind starts wondering what could possibly be up for the chief to call and impromptu meeting like this. Whitlock said the phones might be tapped, but I have a throw away kept for just these occasions. I'm pulling out the drive when that thought strikes.

I make a u-turn and head back to the cottage. No reason to leave Bella if I can just make a call. If we need to leave then we can leave right away. I pull to a stop beside Whitlock's car and climb out, headed toward the cabin when I hear Bella scream. My legs can't move fast enough. Has somebody already found us?

Rushing into the house, I hear Whitlock's voice. "Come on, bitch." Then a slap. "You know you want it. Might as well have one last fuck before you die."

My blood runs cold at his words. I run to the bedroom to see him straddling her while she fights with everything in her to fend him off. I charge at the bed, and with one jump, I've tumbled us both to the floor on the other side. I'm going to kill this motherfucker.

Fists land blows, and in the confined space between the bed and wall we're pretty evenly matched. I wrap my hands around his neck, hoping to choke the life out of him, when I hear the click of a bullet being loaded in the chamber. Everything stills, and I see myself looking down the barrel of my own spare pistol that was tucked in my pants.

"Ha, what now, Cullen? You think you can save that bitch? Now I'll just have to kill you both, but first I'm going to fuck her in front of you." He rises with the gun still aimed and motions for me to get up.

"Whitlock, what the fuck are you doing?" I ask in an incredulous tone, still not quite believing what I walked in on.

As I stand, I glance over at Bella. She looks frightened and oh so young. My eyes trail over to the nightstand, hoping she'll understand my intentions.

"Just doing what I'm told," he snaps at me. "When you get in debt with the wrong guy, you have to pay a price, and this is mine."

I keep his attention on me while trying to talk some sense into him. "Man, it doesn't have to be like this. James is locked-up; he can't get to you."

"He already has," is his solemn reply.

As he leads me to a chair in the corner, I figure it's my last chance. I grab the barrel of the gun, and a struggle ensues. Both of us desperately try to aim the pistol at the other.

"I was going to let you watch me fuck her, but looks like you'll just have to die now," Whitlock says with a grunt, trying to take control of the gun.

The gun points up in the air, and I have to lean my head over to get out of range. With a hard push, I twist the gun around in our hands so it's pointing toward the ground. Both of us are desperately trying to get the upper hand.

I release the gun with one hand and strike my fist into his gut over and over. It knocks the breath from him and his grip loosens. With one hard pull, I yank the gun and it comes free, but not before a loud bang erupts through the room.

I feel something slice through my upper arm, slamming me back against the wall. As soon as the pain hits, another blast breaks through the air. Everything stills. Whitlock's eyes go wide and he slumps to the floor a few feet away with a gaping hole in his chest.

Looking at him in shock, my eyes trail up to Bella. She's on the bed upon her knees, my gun raised in the air. Shock registers on her face. When the reality of what just happened settles over me, I secure the pistol and make my way to her.

The pain in my arm is constant, but I can only focus on Bella. Sliding in front of her, I slowly grab her hand and work her fingers to release the death grip she has on the gun. After discarding both weapons on the nightstand, I cup her face in my hands.

"Bella, can you hear me, baby?" I say in a soothing tone. The last thing I want is to freak her out anymore. Her T-shirt is torn at the neck, and she has a bruise forming on her cheek.

Her eyes regain focus and she zeros in on the blood dripping down my arm. "Edward, are you all right? I couldn't let him kill you," she sobs, grabbing my wound to get a closer look.

I reach up and loosen her hand and hold it in my good one. "Shh, it's okay, baby. I got you. You did good. I'm okay."

She throws her arms around me and sobs into my shoulder. We sit like that for minutes, allowing the drama of the past little while to ease from our muscles.

When she's calmed down, she leans back and takes stock of the room. Whitlock's prone body lies on the floor with a small entry wound in his upper back. There's no point in worrying over him; I already know he's dead.

Bella clasps both hands on my cheeks and looks me in the eyes. "Edward, I was so scared. I couldn't let anything happen to you. Why did you come back? You should've let him kill me. I'm not worth risking your life over." Tears are streaming down her face, and she looks so broken.

I take her face in my hands and kiss her softly on the lips. She sighs at the action. "Baby, never. I'd never let anything happen to you. I love you," I tell her earnestly. She's become my whole world. Case or no case, Bella is my everything. I can't live in a world where she doesn't exist.

Her tears only intensify. "How could you, Edward? How could you love me? I'm a whore who almost got you killed," she sobs. Then a thought strikes her. "Your wound. Let me take care of you."

I stop her from moving. "I'm fine. Just let me hold you."

She sniffs a few times and wraps her arms around me, burying her face in my neck. "I love you, Edward. More than you could ever imagine."

With her words, I breathe a sigh of relief. As long as I have her, nothing else matters—until I hear a gruff voice from the doorway. "That's nice. Now tell me what the fuck happened here!"

Both of us jump to attention at the sound of his commanding voice. I turn to face the man who approved this whole scenario and holds my job in his hands. There's no way he missed our declarations. Bella's more important that anything though. My job, this case—neither means anything if I can't have her in the end.


"Cullen." He gives me a small nod. "Now answer my damn question," he snaps then starts walking over to Whitlock's body, gun at the ready. He rolls him face up. Surprise registers on his face, then he feels for a pulse.

I grab Bella's hand, and we move over to the edge of the bed. I give a reassuring squeeze when we proceed to stand, ready to face whatever comes our way.

The chief sighs. "He's dead. Where in the hell is McCarty?" He stands and starts pacing. "Whitlock wasn't even supposed to know about this place."

I have no idea what went down before, so I can't really give him any answers other than what went on here. "All I know is Whitlock showed up and told me you sent him and I was supposed to meet you. After I got to the driveway, I decided to call instead and came back for one of those throw away phones we have."

"Just stop. That was the plan, but it was supposed to be McCarty that came to watch over the girl." He runs his hands over his weary face. "I thought we were getting close to the dirty cop, but apparently we were nowhere in the ball park. Whitlock wasn't even on our radar."

A loud thumping sounds. The chief snaps his arms back up, gun in hand, and follows the noise. I grab mine from the nightstand and follow with Bella right on my heels. As we move toward the front door, the thumping gets louder. When we step onto the porch, I can tell it's coming from the trunk of Whitlock's car.

With the chief covering me, I stick my gun in my waistband and take the key from the ignition. Going to the trunk, I slowly slide it in the lock and turn. What greets me makes me sag in relief. McCarty lies there, eyes wide, bound and gagged. I rush to get the gag from his mouth.

"Cullen, thank God. Where's Bella? Is she okay?" She steps into view. "Wow, you two are a sight for sore eyes."

I untie his bindings and help him from the car, the chief covering us the whole time. He takes a good look around, then his shoulders sag a bit as he walks our way.

"What the hell happened, McCarty?" the chief asks, holstering his gun.

McCarty sighs. "Whitlock overheard our talk and accosted me on my way to the car. He knocked me out cold. I just woke up in the trunk."

"Was he the only one involved?" the chief asks.

"As far as I could tell. Wait, where is he?" He looks around, taking us all in.

"Dead," I answer, anger lacing my tone.

His eyes go wide then settle on the chief. "I guess that answers the dirty cop problem."

The chief nods his head once and pulls his radio from his belt. After making a call for backup and the coroner, he suggests we walk in so I can explain exactly what happened.

After following him inside, he levels me an expectant look, so I start talking. I tell him the whole story, leaving out the declarations he heard. No reason to remind him how I might've messed this case up by sleeping with the witness.

"Wait a minute. So you're telling me the girl killed Whitlock?"


Bella interrupts. "It's Bella. Not girl," she gripes.

He cuts his eyes over to her. "Excuse me, Miss Dwyer but—"

She interrupts again, only this time she crosses her arms over her chest and stares him down. "No, not Miss Dwyer," she sneers. "It's Miss Higginbotham."

The chief's eyebrows raise high into his hairline, and he studies her. His eyes take in her face very carefully, looking at each and every feature. "As in Renee Higginbotham?"

She sucks in a breath. "You know my mother?"

He doesn't answer, just asks another question. "How old are you?"

"Nineteen," she answers, studying him curiously. If he knows her mother, maybe he can give her some insight on where to look for her father. He has been in Forks his whole life.

His face visibly pales with her answer then he jumps up, snapping to attention. "McCarty, you get Bella's things and take her to the new safe house."

"I'm not going anywhere until you tell me if you knew my mother, and I am not leaving without Edward." She balls her fists at her side.

The chief takes on an air of authority. "Yes, I knew your mother. And you will be leaving with McCarty. Cullen and I will catch up as soon as backup arrives." His tone says it all. Bella will be leaving with McCarty.

Bella huffs and crosses her arms over her chest before turning to me. "Edward, tell him. I don't want to leave without you. Look what happened last time we were separated." She waves her hand toward our bedroom where Whitlock's body lies.

"Bella," I say praying she'll listen. "Please, just do what the chief says. I promise McCarty's safe and will guard you with his life. I'll be right behind you." She deflates. "Please, Bella, I promise. Just do what he says."

"All right, I'll go." She walks up to me and lowers her voice. "But please hurry, Edward. I love you and need you."

I gently cup her cheek and give her a small peck on the lips. "I love you. Now go before the others get here."

McCarty follows her into the bedroom to grab a few things. I glance to the chief, his face is almost turning purple with his fists balled at his sides.

Bella and McCarty return with a small bag clutched in his hands. She gives me one last pleading look before following him out the front door.

I try to explain myself. "Chief—"

"Just shut the fuck up, Cullen!" he all but screams.

When backup arrives, the chief sets them to bandaging my wound. After the forensic crew and coroner get here, he barks orders, leaving his assistant in charge, and then demands I follow him to the car. At least we're headed to Bella now; I can finally breathe again.

When we pull onto the highway he breaks the silence. "So, Cullen. Care to tell me how you came to be fucking the witness?" His hands fist the wheel as if he might break it in two, knuckles white with the effort.

"Charlie, I—"

His fist slams the dash. "Don't you fucking Charlie me you son of a bitch."

"Sir …" I'm at a loss. I knew it might cost me my job, but I never expected him to be this irate.

Finally, after taking a few calming breaths, he speaks again, slowly this time. "Cullen, not only are you fucking our star witness in this case, but you're most likely fucking my nineteen-year-old daughter!" His eyes are cold and deadly.

My brain starts replaying his words, and finally comprehension sets in. Motherfucker! Not only might I lose my job, but now I might lose my life, too.

Before I can consider it too much, his harsh, authoritative voice breaks in once more. "This is what's going to happen. When we get to this house, you're going to tell Bella you have to leave her in McCarty's care, that you're recusing yourself from this case. Trial starts Monday; that's what I was meeting you for. He'll be with her every step of the way."

"Chief, don't make me leave her, please," I beg. Doesn't he understand how much she means to me?

"You can and you will," he demands. "I might not be able to order you as her"—he chokes up a bit—"father, but I sure as fuck can as your commanding officer." He cuts his eyes to me, and the meaning is clear. He doesn't want me anywhere near his possible daughter.

"Are. We. Clear. Detective?"

"Yes, sir." As I reply, I'm already planning my defiance. I've always respected the chief, but even he won't keep me from Bella, father or not.

I promised I'd protect her with my life, and that's what I intend to do.

Thank you so much to everyone involved in the contest; hosts, judges, validators, banner makers, blinkie makers, secret keeper, all of the other authors and most of all to you the readers who made it so successful!

Chapter 2 is written and hoping to be beta'd soon :) See you then!