My entry for the May/December contest! Special thanks going out to NicficWhisperer and CarrieZM for hosting such a great contest! Midnight Cougar for the beta job and Annie Butts and CullensTwiMistress for pre-reading! Love to you all! Thanks for everyone who reviewed it for the contest, I promise I will thank you all personally at some point!

"Thanks for coming in, Edward," Heidi says as she stands, reaching out her hand to shake mine.

"Well, it's not like I had much choice, is there?" I ignore her hand and sit on the chair.

"I suppose that's fair," she concedes, sitting back behind her desk. "Well, why don't we just get right to it then? I'd like you to tell me about the events leading up to that night."

I sigh and run my hands through my hair. I don't want to be thinking about it, let alone talking about it. I tap my fingers against my leg in agitation; my right foot shaking back and forth where it's perched on my left knee.

"Edward," Heidi chastises, "you know you're innocent in all this, but in order to prove it, you're going to have to talk about it. I know you don't want to—" I glare up at her. "I know you don't. But there's no choice... Why don't you just start where it all began?"

The beginning is a difficult place to start; I don't even truly know where it began, or how, or why.

"It was really cold that night, that much I remember." I look up, Heidi is sitting still, pen poised over her note pad. "The heater in the car was broken and we were freezing our asses off."

"Fuck, man, I'm freezing my nuts off." Riley's teeth chatter, and you can see the puffs of air as his warm breath hits the frigid air around him. "You'd think the department could spring for cars with fucking heat if we're going to be sitting in them for hours at night in the dead of winter."

I take a sip of my now lukewarm coffee; it had been piping hot when I brought it back five minutes ago.

I laugh. "You'd think, wouldn't you? Welcome to the force."

My old partner had put in for a transfer to Homicide, and they'd saddled me with the new recruit. Though it isn't usually done, recruits who score one hundred percent on all tests and show exceptional promise in weaponry and physicality, can apply for special divisionssuch as the Narcotics Divisionas soon as they graduate. I'd been given the same option when I graduated, and now that I've reached the status of Detective, I can train others. He'll get used to the shitty cars, the shitty hours and the shitty leg work required in this job soon enough.

"You been doing this long, Edward?"

"Oh, about fifteen years now."

"Really?" He sounds impressed. "I thought most Narcotics Agents tapped out after five years."

I snort a laugh. "Yeah, that's usually about how long it is. But I've got a sister; she's half my age and in her senior year. Maybe after she graduates I'll think about changing departments, but while she's still in high school I want to be able to protect her from the shit they're selling on the streets and around her school. It's become a huge problem hereone that seems to grow every year."


"Let's talk about your sister for a minute," Heidi cuts in.

I level her with a look. "Do you want me to talk about what happened or not?"

"I do, but I don't see anything wrong with me asking you a few harmless questions, for curiosity sake."

I huff a breath that's half laugh, half exasperation. "Fine, what do you want to know?"

"When your parents had…" She trails off, either not really knowing her name or wanting me to say it just to be a bitch. I suspect it's the latter as I'm sure it's in my file.

"Alice," I supply.

"Yes, right, sorry." Her lips say the words but her tone indicates she isn't in the least. "How did that make you feel?"

"How did what make me feel?"

"How did your parents having Alice make you feel? You'd been on your own with them for what"—she now checks her file—"seventeen years, and suddenly you had to compete with a new baby."

My laugh this time is loud and obnoxious; about as obnoxious as this line of questioning. "Look, Heidi? I get that you think you have me pegged. But you aren't going to find the answers you're seeking in questioning me about my sister. I love my sister—period. I wasn't jealous; I didn't have to compete for my parents' affection. My parents had her, I went off to the Police Academy, and now here I am."

"You just said you'd informed your partner that you stayed in the Narcotics Division because of Alice, though…"

"Yes, because I wanted to protect her, as I said, I love my sister. And I do like my job... most days." I give her a pointed look. "Can I get on with the story now?"

"Please"—she motioned with her hand—"continue."


"You been on many surveillance operations like this?" Riley's voice cuts through the darkness.

I shrug, though I don't know if he can see me in the dark. "Quite a few."

"What's the worst part about them, do you think?"

"Aside from the cold?" I ask.

"Yes." He laughs.

"Probably the boredom. When shit is going down it can be fun, interesting even. But when it's like this"I motion out the window at the empty streets"it's pretty fucking boring, as you can tell."

He laughs again.

He's quiet for a few minutes. "Hey, Edward?"


"Do you ever"he shrugs slightly and huffs a little"you know, get… um… scared?"

I look at him then, truly look for the first time. He's young, fresh out of the Academy at nineteen, and he looks as though he's ready to piss his pants. I think back fifteen years, to when I was fresh out and on my first assignment, and decide to be honest with him.

"Now? Not at all, back when I was fresh out of the Academy? Hell yes. I still remember my first surveillance operation. I was paired up with McCarty; he was the biggest motherfucker I've ever seen in my life." I laugh. "Just looking at him made me want to piss myself; not to mention the fact we were watching one of Seattle's biggest dealers at the time. But you know what?"


"McCarty told me something, and I'll tell you the same thing he told me..." I glance over and see I have his full attention. "'Cullen, there are only three things you need to do this job well: brains, guts, and the ability to hold your bladder.'"

We both laugh at that, and I can see Riley relax a little. A few minutes go by before he speaks again.

"Hey, Edward?"




"Let's talk about McCarty for a minute," Heidi interrupts. I groan, and my leg shaking increases.

"Let's not." I practically growl at her.

She smiles at me then, but not a friendly smile. "Edward, in order for us to figure out what was going through your mind that night, we have to determine where your head was at the time. In order to do that, we have to talk about some things you may not be comfortable discussing. As I've said, you aren't in any trouble…"

"But it sure fucking feels like it." I slam my hand down on my leg to stop it from shaking.

"You aren't. I promise. The Brass simply wants to know what you were thinking; what you were feeling at the time of the incident, and it's important to know where your thoughts were that night. Now let's talk about McCarty. You were partners with Emmett for a while, correct?"

"Fifteen years," I snap back in response.

"Fifteen years is a long time to be partnered with someone in this departmentis it not?"

"Yes, most guys leave Narcotics after a few years."

"Yet you and McCarty both stayed. You because you wanted to protect your sister from the dangerous drugs she could potentially be exposed to as a teenager. What was McCarty's reason?"

"Emmett's daughter's sixteen, so the reason is similar."

"The two of you got along? Despite your difference in age?"


"It says here, in your file, that the two of you got into a heated altercation at the Station, and you had to be separated by other officers. Then five minutes later, McCarty was in Homicide and you were partnered with Officer Biers."

"Is there a question in there?"

"What was the altercation about?"

I exhale through my nose. "Nothing."

"Edward, two seasoned officers don't come to blows in the Station House after being partnered for fifteen years over nothing."

"McCarty disagreed with my life choices."

"That life choice McCarty disagreed with… That was what?"

"You already fucking know this shit."

"Yes, I do, but I need you to tell me in your own words, Edward."

"McCarty didn't like the fact I was dating."

"Detective McCarty didn't want you to date? Was he jealous of your girlfriend?" Her eyes gleam with mirth, and I want to slap the smile off her face.

I shoot her a look. "McCarty didn't like the fact she was a year older than his daughter. I think I'm done for the day." I stand up and walk out, slamming the door behind me.


I'm not expecting the smell of food when I walk into the house. "Bella?" I call out. I really hope it's her and not my mother. I love my mother to bits, but since the incident she hasn't really left me alone, and fuck, I'm a thirty-four-year-old man; I don't need her shoulder to "cry" on.

"I'm in here!" She calls out from the kitchen, and I exhale. Thank fuck it's her.

I walk to the kitchen, removing my tie as I go. When I enter the doorway she's standing at the stove, back facing the door. She's wearing my Cullen jersey and nothing else. I can't even help the smile that forms on my face.

"What are you doing, Princess?" I come up behind her, wrapping my arms around her waist. I bury my nose in her neck and inhale her sweet scent.

She giggles, swatting at me playfully, but not really doing anything to stop me from nuzzling her. I start planting kisses up the column of her neck, and up behind her ear, where I give a little suck, making her moan.

"I'm trying to cook you dinner."

"Shouldn't you be studying for January finals?"

She glances at me over her shoulder and bites her bottom lip. "I should be, but Alice told me about today, so I figured I'd come and make you dinner first."

I gently remove her bottom lip from the snare of her teeth and kiss her. "Thanks, baby, but you didn't have to do that. I'm fine."

She sighs. "Edward…"

"I said, I'm fine," I snap, instantly regretting it when tears fill her eyes. "Shit, Princess, I'm sorry. Please don't cry, please, it's been a little rough, but I promise you I'm okay."

She turns back to the stove, still sniffling. "You should go shower before dinner."

She squirms out of my arms, and fuck, I didn't mean to snap at her, but I don't want to talk about what happened today, especially with her. She feels bad enough about the shit with McCarty, without hearing about it.

"Baby," I say gently, reaching my hand out toward her shoulder.

She turns, wiping under her eyes, and gives me a small smile. "Go, shower; when you're finished, dinner will be too."

I hang my head and go upstairs to shower.


The shower does nothing to clear my head. I hated having to talk about McCarty and what went down between us. His actions made me question the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I hate that.

He'd been my best friend, even with the age difference, and I don't understand how our friendship could've been okay with him, but he can't accept my personal relationship. I tried pointing out to him that he's older than I am, and it doesn't matter in the terms of our friendship, so why should this? His response was to call me a "pedophile," question how I am still a cop with my penchant for "babyfucking," and basically accused me of doing shit with his daughter on those times he'd asked me to babysit so he could take his wife out for dinner.

That was when we'd come to blows. I couldn't believe the shit he spewed out of his foul mouth. I love his daughter, but not the same way I love Bella. Bella's my equal, in everything except age.

I place my hands against the wall of the shower, ducking my head under the spray and letting it massage my neck. I need to release some of this tension before I go back downstairs. I don't want to be taking my frustration out on Bella. She doesn't deserve that.

I close my eyes and exhale, the water feels so good I moan. I can feel the tension leaving my body. The door to the bathroom opens, the cold air coming in from the bedroom, causing me to shiver.

"You almost done, babe?" Bella asks. "Dinner's ready."

"Yeah, I'll be right down, thanks."

I shut off the water and go to grab my towel, but it isn't hanging on the rack. Confused, I pull back the curtain a bit to look, and see Bella, sitting on the countertop, towel in hand.

"Looking for something?" She raises her eyebrow.

I huff a laugh and shake my head in amusement. "You trying to see me naked, Princess?"

She giggles, but waves her hand to hurry me out of the shower. I pull back the curtain fully and smile smugly at the noise she makes upon seeing me naked.

She doesn't even bother to hide her perusal of my body, and fuck if the look in her eyes doesn't cause a stirring in my crotch, which just makes the lust in her eyes deepen.

"See something you like, Princess?" I ask, stepping between her legs.

"Always," she replies, tilting her head up to kiss me.

My hand comes up to rest on her cheek, my thumb gently tugging her bottom lip to open her mouth to me. I slide my tongue inside, feeling the warmth of her mouth, tasting her, causing my arousal to skyrocket. I didn't think it would be possible after today, but fuck I want to be inside her.

She pulls back, and I let out a noise; a combination of a whimper and a moan, and she laughs at me. "Your hair's all wet."

I get down on my knees on the floor in front of her, peering up at her perched above me. "Will you dry it for me?"

She starts to rub the towel through my hair, and I take the opportunity to kiss her thigh, which is right in front of my face. Her breath hitches in her throat. I glance back up at her again, catching her eye as I open my mouth, stick out the tip of my tongue and lap at her skin.

She moans and stops rubbing my hair with the towel, "Ah, ah, ah, Princess… keep rubbing."

She lets out a pathetic little whimpering sound before resuming rubbing my head with the towel. I go back to kissing and nipping at the skin on her thigh. She's so aroused I can feel the heat coming off her. I kiss and lick a trail up her thigh until I get to her underwear. Fuck, she's wearing all-white cotton panties, with a little bow at the top—she knows the innocent look of that scrap of fabric drives me insane.

I nudge her with my nose through her panties and her head falls forward, a deep groan erupting from her throat. She opens her eyes and they lock with mine as I kiss her in the same spot, opening my mouth to blow air across the damp patch.

She throws the towel on the ground and puts her hands on either side of my face, smiling gently at me. I lick her clit through her panties again, and her legs start to tighten around my head. Using my hands, I pry them back open. Keeping her gaze, I move my right hand up her thigh to the edge of her underwear and slip my thumb under the elastic. When it bumps her clit she cries out, her head falling backward.

I rub her clit again, all the while moving my mouth and tongue over the top of her panties. She's panting and rocking her lower half against my thumb and my mouth. I stop and she whines, "No, don't stop."

"I didn't plan on stopping," I tell her, as I move her panties to the side and lap at her clit. I alternate between soft and hard, slow and fast flicks with my tongue, keeping my eyes locked on her face, watching the way I affect her.

I insert two fingers inside, pumping in and out in time with my tongue until she's shaking and her legs are a vise-grip on my head. Once her orgasm subsides, I remove my fingers and stand up. I attack her mouth with mine, nipping at her bottom lip, sucking on it, letting her taste herself on my tongue.

I pull her panties to the side again, sliding my cock into her heat, moaning at the contact. Fuck, she feels like heaven. I can't get enough. She rocks her hips in time with my thrusts, and it isn't long before her pussy grips me; I can feel her shuddering, and I come.

Once we've caught our breath, she laughs. "Now you need another shower, you're all sweaty."

I pick her up off the counter and place her in front of me on the floor. I remove my jersey and her underwear, and turn the shower back on.

"Join me?"


We spend dinner avoiding any discussion of my day, for which I am grateful. I don't want to snap at her again, and I feel the most rested I've been since the incident a week ago. We talk about her upcoming finals, and how prepared she feels for each. I offer to help her study for her math one. I ask her how my sister is doing, and if she's still dating that Jasper guy she was talking about last time we had dinner at my parents' place. She tells me they're still together and about to celebrate their six month anniversary, and how excited Alice is.

"So, um"—she hesitates—"I, uh, ran into Bree today."

My head snaps up. "Oh yeah? What did she have to say?"

Bella laughs, but it's without humor. "She said that her dad is a dick, and she's sorry for what he said. That she's pissed he's talking shit about you, like you guys weren't friends for the last fifteen years, and that she misses you."

She says the last part quieter than the rest, and I carefully look at her to gauge her expression. I sigh, touching my finger to her chin. "Bella, look at me."

I wait until she looks up. "I'm not with you because I like younger women. I never would have considered being with someone your age before I met you." I look her right in the eyes as I say, "I'm with you because of you. You, Bella, nothing else. You could be seventeen or forty-seven, all that matters is you."

She smiles and blushes. We spend the rest of the evening cleaning up from dinner and studying for her math final. She leaves at ten to go home.

I'd met Bella several times when she was at my parents' house for dinner; she's my sister's best friend and pretty much a permanent fixture. Our relationship blossomed when her father, a prominent Judge for the Seattle area, was receiving death threats from a drug lord. She didn't want to go into hiding with him as she had a lot going on at school, so she stayed at my place and I guarded her day and night. Who better to watch her than a Narc cop her father had known and trusted for years?

We found, despite our difference in age, we had a lot in common. Bella wasn't your typical teenager. She'd always looked out for her mother, making sure bills were paid and they stayed fed. This caring, mature nature, continued with her father and her brother, Seth, when she moved to Washington. Both of us tried really hard to hide what we were feeling for the other, but it was too difficult; we wanted to be together. When the threat against her father was eliminated, I convinced her we should be honest with him; that it would be juvenile of us to hide our relationship, while trying to prove to the world she was an adult capable of making her own decisions.

While her dad was shocked when he found out about us, he didn't fly off the handle like she expected. He said he'd seen a lot of things in his life, and nothing surprised him anymore. He told her that at seventeen she was not considered underage in Washington, and he believed us when we said there had been nothing between us until recently. He also said he appreciated us being upfront and honest with him, and acknowledged that on her next birthday, in September, she'd be eighteen and an adult anyway. But, he did warn me that if I hurt her, he'd kill me. And no sleepovers on school nights.


"Edward, after the way you stormed out of here yesterday, I didn't think you'd be back." Heidi's taunting me; I know she is. I can't return to work until she clears me to, and she won't clear me if I don't show up.

I say nothing and take a seat in front of her desk.

"So, it seems as if I hit a nerve yesterday," she observes. "Would you like to discuss it?"


"That's fine, for now. Why don't we go back to the night of the incident...? Officer Biers was assigned to you the day before as a special recruit, you'd lost a fifteen year partner, and you were about to embark on an overnight surveillance detail, yes?"



"So, what do you know about this Aro character?" Riley asks me after coming back with more coffee for the two of us.

I pull the file out of the back seat, open it, and pass it over to him.

"James Aro," I say, pointing at the picture of the man. "He's twenty-five, has no known job, but we suspect he's the kids' number one source of drugs these days. He's frequently seen hanging around the high school, but has no siblings who attend the school and no known relatives there either."

Riley laughs. "You'd think he would avoid the heat."

"Exactly, but he was the one laughing all the way to the bank when the patrol officers tore apart his car looking for drugs and found nothing. The department was slapped with a huge bill to fix the car."


"It was shit, so the case was handed over to Narcotics. McCarty and I were put on surveillance detail; we've been watching him for weeks now and we almost had enough evidence to finally take him down, but"

"But you guys got into a fistfight at Headquarters, McCarty asked for a transfer to Homicide, and shit's been on hold for three days."

My head snaps up at what he'd whispered. "What the fuck do you know about that?"

He shrugs. "I've heard some shit since I started."

"Well, don't believe everything you hear." I snort.

We're quiet for a few minutes before I hear him take a breath. "For what it's worth, you love who you love man. Age is just a number."

I look at him in shock; the shit I've taken at work since McCarty decided to be a dick is unbelievable.

"What?" he asks; looking uncomfortable. "I met my wife when I was sixteen."

I raise my brow, knowing there's more to this story.

"She was thirty at the time."

We both laugh.

"Hey, Riley?"




"The two of you bonded then?" Heidi asks in a gentle voice.

"As much as two guys can bond in a freezing cold car, in the dark, while watching an empty warehouse."

"But the warehouse wasn't empty, was it?"



Movement to the right of the warehouse causes us both to perk up.

"Fuck, man, I thought you said this place was going to be empty until at least two," Riley hisses, glancing at the time.

"It was supposed to be," I reply in a low voice. "Every other night there was no movement until at least two. So either our guy's been tipped off, or something else has changed."

Riley grabs the camera and starts taking pictures of the two walking toward the warehouse doors. They walk along, identities concealed by the darkness until they get to the door and are standing in the lone light.


"Who was it?" Heidi wants to know.

"I don't know."

She scrutinizes my face for a long time before sighing. "Edward, the report indicates there were four people there that night. Two of them are dead—one vanished into thin air, and you. You and McCarty had been investigating James Aro for three weeks; you know all his known associates, and you've never seen this person before?"

I look her straight in the eye and hold her gaze for a while before saying, "Never."

She taps her pen on her chin a few times, then looks at her notepad before meeting my eyes again. "Okay, so what happened to the camera Riley was using?"

"It was around his neck when he came into the warehouse; it smashed when he fell."

"And the memory card from inside?"

"It must have been lost in the shuffle. It was never found, that I know of."

She keeps my stare for a minute more, then nods, before relenting. "Okay Detective Cullen, you're free to go. I'll have my report to the Chief in the morning and you'll be back to active duty on Monday."

I nod in thanks, and relief.

She stands up and holds out her hand, and I shake it, turning and walking out the door.


My house is free of people tonight when I get home. I can't say I'm not disappointed, because I am. I was hoping Bella would've been here again, but I'd known she wouldn't be. She had to babysit tonight.

She does call and we talk for a bit before I go to bed. This whole week has been exhausting; with the funeral at the beginning, the meetings and debriefings with the Brass, and then my sessions with Heidi. I am looking forward to putting it all behind me.

I lie in bed for a while, tossing and turning before sleep finally takes me.


Friday dawns bright; a rarity for this place that's always gray. I dress in sweats and workout in my home gym for a while, take a shower, then laze around watching TV. Truth be told, I'm bored out of my mind. I can't wait until Bella's finished school for the day.

My mom drops by with food for me at lunch, claiming she'd made extra, but I know she's just checking up on me. I don't know why she's worried. Yes it sucks McCarty's a dick and is trashing me around town. Yes it sucks I just lost my new partner, and one so young at that. But I'm not going to dwell on it. I have to close that chapter.

Bella comes as soon as she's finished school for the day. We hang out, have dinner, take a nice relaxing bath and go to bed for the night. Tomorrow morning, Saturday, we're leaving early for a bed and breakfast that I've located right outside of the city. She doesn't know it yet, but I'm sure she's going to love it.

She must've been exhausted from the week as well; she's pretty much asleep by the time her head hits the pillow. As I lie awake beside her she starts mumbling in her sleep. I smile; I love when she does this. She doesn't talk in her sleep unless she's really tired, and she always says the most amusing things.

What she's mumbling tonight isn't amusing, though. It has me very, very worried.

"Don't, Edward. Stop. Make him stop."

"Shh, Bella, it's okay. I'm here."

"No! Don't move. I said don't fucking move."

"Baby, shhh, Princess, it's okay. I've got you."

"Oh… Oh God, the blood, the blood, Edward, the blood."

"You weren't there, baby. Bella, listen Princess, you didn't see any blood, you weren't there. Baby, shhhh, only me. It was only me."

"Only you, Edward." She sighs. "I love you."

"I love you, too, Princess." I kiss her forehead. "Everything I did, I did for you."



"What is it?"

"Stop taking pictures for a minute and listen to me. I'm getting out of this car. You are NOT going to follow me, just stay here."

"Edward, man, I can't let you go without backup."

"Fuck, Riley, this is important, just stay in the car. Trust me, please. You don't have the experience to go in there. You're supposed to be my surveillance backup. I go in myself."

I wait until the pair enters the warehouse before opening my door and running across the street. As silently as I can I make my way over to the warehouse door and crack it open. I need to know what the fuck is going on here.

"I knew it! I knew you would come." James cackles gleefully.

"Ha, ha, you're so funny. Where's my brother?"

"Ah, ah, ah, not so fast Princess," James says with a sneer. "You'll get your brother, as soon as I get what I want."

I can see the hatred on her face as she glares at him. "What do you want then?"

"You"—he looks her up and down "you in my bed, in exchange for your brother's life. Oh, and your boyfriend's too, considering he's been staking out my place for weeks. I could have picked him off so easily."

I can hear her gasp. There's no way she'll go through with it. She'll come to me first for help… won't she? But then why is she here? She shouldn't fucking be here. I slip through the door, hoping to sneak up on him on time, before he can touch her. I don't want him anywhere near her.

I can see her swallow. "Fine, show me my brother first, though."

I can feel my eyes bulging... Bella, what the fuck are you doing? Don't do this; please don't do this to me.

James moves then, to a room off to the right; when he re-enters the room, Bella's brother, Seth, is being dragged, bound and gagged. As soon as he sees his sister he starts thrashing, and James kicks him.


I pull my gun from its holster, setting up my shot. James throws Seth at Bella's feet.

"There, your precious brother and not a scratch on him." He laughs. "Well, maybe just a few."

She whimpers then, and goes to reach for Seth when James grabs her arm. "I don't think so, little girl; we had a deal and I plan to collect."

What happens next happens so fast I can hardly make sense of it. Bella pushes James backward, he trips over Seth behind him, and Bella draws a gun, pointing it at him. It's right at this point that Riley bursts through the door.

The sound of the door crashing open startles Bella, who jumps and swings toward the noise; gun pointed straight at the figure running through it. The gun's shot rings through the huge empty room like a cannon blast, the bullet hitting Riley square in the chest. James starts to get to his feet and reaches for Bella, my shot hits him clean in the head, splattering blood all over her face and neck.

She turns wide eyes to me. "Edward? Oh, God, Edward… what did I do?" The gun she's holding falls to the ground with a clatter, and I wince and pray it won't fire again and hit her or Seth.

I walk toward her slowly, putting my gun back in the holster and holding out my hands for her. "Baby? Come here, Princess, you're okay now, it's going to be okay."

"I… Edward… I… I killed him. Oh, God, the blood, the blood, Edward, the blood."

I catch her before she can hit the floor. I gently lower her to the ground and rush over to Seth. I undo his bonds and remove the gag.

"Seth, I need you to listen to me carefully. You and Bella were never here. Take her to my place, and stay there until I get there."

He nods at me furiously. "Edward I"

"Don't Seth, don't say a word." I glare at him. "Just take her to my place, wash off what blood you can and stay the fuck there. You were never here; you and Bella were at my place all night."

He scoops Bella up and takes off for the front door.

Once they're gone, I put on a pair of gloves and wipe the gun of prints and place it in James's hand, pulling the trigger to get gunpowder residue on his hand. Then I make sure to position his body and Riley's in the proper trajectory, and move the shell casings. I smash the camera on the ground and remove the memory card, placing it in my pocket. I check to make sure the scene's set, then pick up my radio.

"Detective Cullen calling for back up. I have a man down and a suspect DOA. I repeat, I have a man down and a suspect DOA."

Within minutes, the scene is swarming with cops. I'm interviewed and released from the scene. By the time I make it home, I'm exhausted. Seth tells me Bella hasn't woken up at all. I let him shower and give him some of my clothes before I send him home, telling him not to talk to anyone. Then I pick Bella up off the couch and take her to my bedroom. I draw us a bath, undress her, and burn her clothes and Seth's in the fireplace. When the flames are hot enough, I toss the camera's memory card in the fire too.

She starts coming to when we're in the bath.


"Shh, Princess, I've got you."

"Edward," she breathes and lays her head back against my shoulder.

We're silent for a few minutes before she turns in the tub slightly. "How was your night?"


"I'll always protect you, Bella. Always," I whisper in her ear, and tighten my arms around her, knowing I'll never let her go.