Meet the Mate Contest
Pen Name: IReen Weiss and QueSeraSeraM
Title: Not Shy of a Spark
Summary: She's fire. He's the wind. Wild girl. Relentless boy. Bella can't hold her temper and Edward can't hold his tongue. Childhood enemies meet again in the unlikeliest of places.
Rating: M For Language
Word count: 4981
Not Shy of a Spark
"Sweatbox Four. Now."
Bella checks her watch. It's almost two, and her stomach is an angry black hole. "Call and I just got out of Three. We need to get lunch, Chief. Can we let him stew in there for fifteen?"
Marcus shakes his head. "The perp's already demanding his lawyer. You need to get him talking. We don't have much time."
"Is it Cullen?" Embry takes the Black file from Marcus and hands it to Bella.
"McCarty and Hale just picked him up. Says he's been on a boat since yesterday." Marcus pulls his wallet out of his suit coat and hands a twenty to Embry. "Go get your partner a hoagie. And for fuck's sake, get me a Reuben with extra beef."
Embry takes the cash and shoots a questioning glance at Bella. They don't normally play good cop/bad cop without the good cop.
"I'd like to send Dwyer in there alone to start. I think she might be able to rattle him into slipping up. If not, well… we'll be dealing with Aro. Fucking vultures."
Embry gives a low whistle. "Guy must be more connected than we thought. Volturi defense attorneys."
Marcus frowns as he pockets his wallet. "He's your classic entitled rich prick. Even escorted by two officers, he swaggered in here like he was at the fucking Catalina Wine Mixer."
Bella's heart stammers. If it is him—and based on Marcus' description, it sounds like the Edward she'd known—she can't question him. She'd mentioned the possibility to Marcus in passing but isn't sure he remembered. "Chief?"
He waves a hand at her. "Yeah, yeah. I know. Just—at the very least… stall. Judge Tanner is going to sign those warrants any minute now. I'd like to get into his condo before he can."
"Today's team captains will be Tyler. And Lauren." Coach Cameron made checks next to their names as Tyler pumped his fist and detached from the group to stand at the coach's side.
"P.E. is so pointless." Lauren grumbled, passing Bella in her bright white sneakers and perfect braids.
Bella had never been able to keep her hair in order. Charlie—finally fed up with the rat's nest—had her sheared in third grade, saying, "If you're not going to take care of it, Rocket, then it's coming off."
She'd been liberated. No more errant strands blocking her view. It had been short ever since.
Coach Cameron perused his notes, his spectacles sliding down his nose. He pushed them back up with the eraser end of his pencil. "Tyler, pick first."
"Bella Swan." She grinned and leaped forward. Tyler tossed her the soccer ball, and she tucked it under her arm.
"Lauren?" Coach prompted.
"Uh. Edward," she said, as if it were obvious. And it was. Picked first and second always, Edward and Bella were never on the same team.
Bella pointedly ignored him as he slid out of his pack and sauntered up to Lauren's side. Not the tallest fourth grader—even with his wild, wayward hair—still the most athletic. Also, the most beloved, despite his moodiness—and, as far as Bella was concerned—his high opinion of himself.
She'd heard her mom say that once about his mom, Esme. She thought it summed up Edward just right. She used to call him a brat, but now that she was older, she told herself he just had a high opinion of himself.
The teams quickly formed, and Coach Cameron pointed to Lauren to call the flip of his trusty buffalo nickel. Lauren deferred to Edward as if she couldn't care less. He called heads and got it.
"All right, guys. Remember—play fair. I'm talking to you two."
Edward ignored him. Bella nodded, ready to break into a sprint. Cameron released her with a thrust of his chin, but before she could hightail it over to Tyler, she felt the ball spring from her grasp.
Edward stuck his tongue out at her as he chased the ball rolling over the field.
Bella opens the Black file on her way down to the interrogation corridor, despite knowing its limited contents won't give her anything new. Her eyes fall on the name scrawled in Call's swift script.
Edward Cullen – vic. boyfriend?
The one person in Emily Black's circle of friends that hadn't yet been found for questioning, he was the last person known to be with the victim the night she was assaulted and left for dead in her small off-campus apartment. Found by her sister Rachel the next morning, Emily had been rushed to Northwest. There she remained, her family gathered at her bedside, waiting for the moment her coma broke.
While evidence techs combed Emily's apartment and bagged samples, Call and Dwyer had interviewed a tearful and trembling Rachel. She hadn't accused anyone, but her description of Edward Cullen's attention to her sister had perked both detectives' brows.
Bella rereads Embry's notes from the interview:
Described as intense. Sister felt Emily had a hard time saying no to him. Bought her expensive gifts. Flattered her with invites to upscale parties, told her what to wear. Controlling.
Behind the yellow legal paper is a school photo of Emily—a strikingly beautiful girl with inky eyes and a shy smile. The next photo shows Emily as she'd been photographed in her hospital bed, a tube in her slack mouth and bandages over the dent in her skull.
She takes in Emily's swollen cheeks and matted hair; her closed eyes and bruised mouth.
Could it be the same Edward? Background checks haven't yet come back, but Bella has a cold, certain knot in her stomach. She doesn't want to face Edward Cullen again.
"Break it up!"
A hand tried to grip her by the back of her shirt. She ignored it, focusing on Edward's scrawny tummy under her thighs, her clenched fist, her elbow cocked back.
I can get in one more punch.
Blood bubbled under one of his nostrils, then vanished as he sucked in a breath. For a brief instant she considered letting her last punch be enough, but then his stuck-up voice echoed again in her head.
"Yeah, well. Your mother's a slut. That's why your dad left her."
It wasn't enough. For kids like the Cullens, it would never be enough. She looked him in his hateful green eyes and brought her angry hand down. Bella felt the crunch of his nose all the way up her forearm.
"My dad is dead, fuck-face." It was the harshest word she knew, and the circle of appalled kids gasped and chided her with a chorus of "Oooohs."
"All right missy—that's enough." She was hauled to her feet. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of the principal rushing in to help Edward.
Bella scraped her sleeve over her face as the crowd clustered around Edward. He wobbled on weak knees, head high despite the slick of red running over his lips. It seemed he had the entire seventh grade class at his back. The entire world, it felt to Bella.
His posture was defiant. As if to acknowledge that, while Bella may be able to take him to pavement, she was the one who was defeated. She might be able to out-hit, out-run, and out-fox him—as she had in all their elementary school games—but at the end of the day he still went home a Cullen—a prestigious name in a town that cared too much about class.
Bella was just the daughter of a dead cop and a grieving mother.
She snaps the file shut and pushes open the heavy interrogation room door.
His nose is still just slightly crooked from where she'd broken it all those years ago. His freckles, faint the last time she'd seen him, have faded into near invisibility. His skinny frame has broadened, but the aristocratic slouch hasn't changed. Neither has his hair.
She wonders whether she would have known him had she passed him in the street. Probably not. It's been thirteen long years since she left Forks.
She draws out the chair and sits, not breaking the stare as she sets the Black file on the table between them. He has beautiful eyes. She wonders why she'd never noticed.
"I won't be speaking to you without my lawyer present." His voice is more familiar than his face, and recall of his cruel taunting causes heat to blister in her chest. She no longer has to wonder.
She nods. "He's on his way. We'll wait."
He regards her in silence. The fine hairs at Bella's neck prickle, from the cold or his scrutiny she isn't sure. "It makes you look guilty, you know. Demanding your lawyer and not just cooperating. If you have nothing to hide, why not help?"
His brow furrows, but Bella doesn't think it's a reaction to her words. Not the way his eyes had reached for her face, the way they'd held her mouth as she spoke. He's finding her familiar.
"Detective...?" He leans in, looking at her expectantly—as if her name might pry loose recognition.
"Detective Dwyer." He repeats slowly, tasting the words. "I'll take my chances looking guilty with my lawyer. As opposed to looking guilty without him."
Bella tilts her head, long dark hair sliding off her shoulder. "Are you guilty, Edward?"
He mirrors her, tipping his head gently to one side as if he's trying to piece her face together with one from his memory. Bemusement twinkles in his eyes. "I'm not going to answer that."
Bella lets a sliver of annoyance show. "I'm surprised. I've never known words to fail you."
He sits back, a small smirk quirks one side of his mouth. "I knew you looked familiar."
"Do I?" Playing coy, she can tell by his narrowing eyes he knows she's trying to bait him. It's not diminishing his intrigue. She senses it in his posture and the intensity of his inspection of her. She's sport.
"You do. Though I'm not" –he shakes his head and squints at her– "sure exactly where I know you from. But I do know you."
Sure he'll remember at any moment, she lowers her lashes demurely. It's a feminine expression and somehow he must know it's foreign to his memory of her. His face turns to stone, his voice regretful. "Some people, regardless of their beauty, just don't make a lasting impression."
She dips her head, acknowledging both the compliment and the insult. His eyes flash and again drag over her face.
"Though, I admit, I must have been really drunk to forget you."
She exhales a short sharp laugh, then pulls the hospital photo of Emily out of the folder. "Do you remember your girlfriend, Edward?"
His mouth falls open in silent "oh." He deflates right in front of her—as if he lives his life puffed full of ego and someone just popped him. His hand cups his mouth, and he whispers something unintelligible into his palm. He runs his hand through his hair. When he looks up, his eyes are no longer taunting; they're tormented.
"You think… what? You guys think I did that to her?"
Preliminary evidence was suggestive, but Bella knew from experience that jumping to conclusions early was the best way to poison a clean investigation.
"Where were you on Friday?"
"Yeah. I was with her. But I didn't do that."
"Her sister Rachel said Emily was planning on ending your relationship that night. Is that what happened, Edward?"
"What? No. That didn't happen. We ended our relationship a few weeks ago. We were getting together for her to return some of my stuff. That's all it was."
His eyes fall back to Emily's gruesome picture. "That's all it was," he reiterates.
"Were you drinking? Doing any recreational drugs?"
He purses his lips and looks at the ceiling.
"Rachel seems to think you might be a little controlling," she pushes.
"Rachel… is a nut."
"What do you mean by that?"
He gives an exasperated sigh then dips his chin back down to look at her. "Look, Detective, I've requested my lawyer. Many times now. You know you can't question me."
"I'm not questioning you, Edward. We're just having a discussion."
"Call it whatever. This whole conversation is inadmissible."
"You're jumping ahead, aren't you? You're just a person of interest to the investigation."
He rolls his eyes but stays silent. She curses herself for pushing too hard.
The room shrinks around their fixed stares. Bella wonders if that slight, bright scent is him. It must be. She arches a brow and tries a new angle.
The jade turns to obsidian as his eyes narrow, sharpen, strike at her. She's reeled him back in.
"Strike three, out."
"That was nowhere near a strike," Bella argued, shoving her batting helmet off her head. It hit the ground with a hollow thunk.
"Sit down Swan, you're out," Edward called from the mound.
She pointed a finger at him, hoping it had the power to keep him there. "You stay out of this, Cullen."
He was already walking down the slope, long legs eating up the distance to the plate. Bella turned her back on him and addressed the umpire.
"That pitch almost hit me. Inside and high. He was aiming for my face." She was so mad she was almost spitting, her dominant hand clenching the bat.
"I was trying to improve your looks. Swollen lips would do a lot for your social life."
She rounded on him. "You're gonna wind up with a swollen lip in a minute if you don't shut up."
He was finally taller than her, but only really by his hair. If she combed her pixie cut straight up, it would have been close. He stopped in front of her and punched his fist into his glove. "Yeah, right. You're all talk anymore. Can't hit the side of a barn."
Through Bella's mounting rage, she heard her mother cajoling, "You can't keep doing this, Bella. You have to learn to stop."
That had been after last year's fight had nearly left her hand broken. She'd promised—no more fighting. Mostly because of the worried look on Renee's face. The worried, washed-out, dragged out, defeated look. She tried to remember it, tried to remember all the reasons why she shouldn't drop her bat and shove her fist into Edward's smug face.
"That's enough, you two. Go get your glove, kid, game's over."
"I should've aimed for your chest. That could use some swelling." Kids were flooding off the field and they screeched in delight at this sally. Seth held a fist to his lips, "Burn!"
Bella felt burned, her face aflame. At some point, she'd dropped the bat and was only clutching her own palm in a ready fist.
Edward kept going, his snide grin tempting her to violence. "Or your ass, nothing to look at there, either. You're like a boy with a girl's name. What did your dad used to call you—?"
She shoved him, hard. He staggered back, looked as if he'd fall, but somehow kept his footing. Bella didn't even feel herself move, all she knew was the distance between them was vanishing and profanity poured from her mouth.
But she did recognize the feeling of being hauled back by adult hands. She fought but couldn't get free. The next thing she knew she'd been parked behind the dug-out and Carlisle of all people was down on one knee trying to calm her down by saying, "Think of your mother, Bella."
Why'd it have to be him? Everyone already thought it was her mom who'd broken up his marriage.
"Leave me alone, Carlisle," she huffed and threw her glove into the dirt.
As she stormed off, she saw Edward, leaning against the backstop, glaring at her.
"I'm not interested in playing cat and mouse games. Tell me how I know you." His gaze flicks to her chest, as if trying to remember her by the shape of her breasts. "Are you one of Alice's girlfriends?"
She twists her neck in a negative response, giving him a view of the scar running along her jaw, right under her chin. It's faint now. But if Edward remembered her at all, he must remember the time she'd robbed him of a potential walk-off homerun in the final game of the Junior League season. The day after he'd struck her out to end the game.
The field hadn't had a fence, just runny chalk baselines. Bella had chased down his barely fair ball only to catch it just before colliding with the pile of bikes dropped haphazardly just beyond the smeared foul line. She'd gone down hard into the metal and the chains, twisting her wrist and tearing a gash in her face on the kickstand of a sparkling red Huffy that had required twelve stitches to close.
She'd never forget Carlisle's face as he leaned in with the needle. "For such a keen girl, you sure do miss the obvious."
"I was watching the ball," she'd said, and Carlisle just smiled. Edward had poked fun at her until her stitches came out. Telling her the black threads made her look like she was growing a beard.
But Edward either doesn't notice or doesn't remember.
"How do you know me?" The question is quietly spoken, as if he's run through every possibility—every holiday hook up, every casual encounter, every friend of a friend of a friend—and come up short.
His sooty lashes tangle at the corners as he studies her. Bella leans forward and places her elbows on the table, ready to barter information.
The door bursts open. "Edward, my boy!"
Aro Volturi cuts their talk with his contrived conviviality, moving swiftly with hands extended. He sees Bella and veers her direction like they're old friends. "And Detective Dwyer!"
"Aro." Bella matches his saccharin tone as she stands, gratified to look the small man directly in the eye.
He takes her hand, but instead of shaking he pats it condescendingly. "Always a pleasure to see you, Bella!"
"The feeling's mutual," she lies sweetly. "Mr. Cullen and I just got to the interesting part of our little chat. You're more than welcome to join in."
Aro tsks his tongue regretfully. "It's unfortunate I wasn't here, Detective. I do so love a nice friendly chat." He places his hand on Edward's shoulder, challenging Bella with a glare just visible under his adopted pleasantries. Edward sits like a statue under his touch.
Bella crosses her arms over her chest. "Good. I'd like you to have one with your client. Knock on the window when you're done."
Aro flicks his manicured fingers. "Of course, of course."
She grabs the file, leaving the photo of Emily on the table. At the door, she throws a glance back over her shoulder. Aro is still smiling cordially. Edward's expression is no longer intrigued. He looks stunned.
It's a look she remembers well.
Bella took one last look around her bedroom. Her old bedroom, she silently amended. It looked smaller without any furniture in it, without her posters of Ken Griffey Jr. plastered on the walls. Still well used though, worn by all her sleepless nights, all her frustrated tears shed here.
This space never held bedtime stories with her dad or birthday spoils from the officers he'd worked with. It never held Renee and Charlie, arms slung around each other, looking down as she did homework on her bed or woke up sick with the flu. Those memories, those complete family memories belonged to their house on Willow Avenue. This apartment was a place of sadness and endurance. And Bella was okay to leave it in her past.
"Bella? Let's goo-ooo!"
She turned her back on the room and jogged down the steep staircase, out the front door into the snapping spring morning. She tossed her backpack into the front of the Uhaul and hoisted herself up into the passenger seat. As she closed the door, she caught a glimpse of their little red hatchback hitched up to the back of the moving truck.
"Ready?" Renee wore an old Heart t-shirt, jeans, and a reassuring smile. Bella smiled back.
"Yeah. Let's hit it."
"Seattle, here we come!"
The truck stuttered to life after a few chugging tries, and Renee whispered something at the wheel that Bella made out to be, "Hopefully."
Bella watched from her window, as the UHaul staggered around the corner onto Calawah Way; wondering if she'd ever see Forks again, wondering if she cared.
With their bats through the netting of their gloves, half a dozen players from the Senior League were strolling towards Tilicum park. Bella recognized all of them, but it was the square shoulders and familiar bronze cockscomb sticking up in the center that made her realize that, no—she'd never come back to this crappy little town where Edward Cullen reigned.
The guys looked up from their sneakers to watch the truck chug up the street. Bella was tempted to hide her eyes, move her gaze to something nonexistent in her lap, anything so she wouldn't have to make contact with those intense glassy green eyes ever again. But it was too late. She and Edward locked gazes.
His brows came sharply down, his lips parted then pinched closed. He raised his hand and Bella was surprised by the idea that he was going to wave goodbye to her. Suddenly, the whole pack was chortling, no doubt triumphant to see what remained of the Swan family leaving Forks.
Edward wasn't laughing. Nor was he waving—his lifted hand went into his hair. He pushed it down, held it. Then he planted a white and blue cap firmly on his head, shading his eyes.
"You're quiet," Embry says, looking at her across their desks. Bella nods and drops the barely eaten sandwich in the trashcan. Embry stops mid-chew. "What the fuck, Dwyer? I'm right here!"
He sends a wistful glance at the discarded semi-wrapped sandwich. "I don't think I've ever seen you throw away food."
She huffs and shakes her head. "What's the ETA on the warrant?"
"It'll come. I heard Rose saying Tanner's been in chambers since lunch."
"It'll be okay. We'll nail him."
At Embry's words, Bella confronts the uncomfortable realization that this isn't what she wants. She wants Edward to be innocent, and the perplexing thing is she doesn't totally get why. They weren't friends. Not ever. In fact, she'd hated him. She'd hated his stuck-up sister and rich bitch mother.
But somehow, none of that hate exists any more. That was the animosity of yesteryears, and she's left with nostalgia that's almost fond. Like she'd needed a mortal enemy in her childhood and didn't any more.
Her desk phone rings. "What's up, Chief?"
"Aro says they're ready. We've got the warrant for the swab. I'm sending a lab tech. You and Call get down there and invite Cullen not to eat or drink anything for the next thirty minutes."
Bella places the receiver back in its cradle. Embry's brow quirks.
"He's ready. Let's go."
Embry abandons his half-eaten sandwich on its wrapper and pushes his chair back. "Let's get this fucker."
Bella leads the way. Jessie hands them the warrant as they pass, and Embry slips it into the file before they trip down the stairs and back into the tight grey corridor that leads to the room where Edward and Aro await.
He isn't sitting this time. He's leaning against the far wall watching the door, his fingers tucked into the pockets of his jeans. Bella feels the impact of his gaze the moment she's inside. Expecting hostility or condescension, she's surprised to find something like relief in his eyes. And curiosity.
He studies her in a different way, now. No less open, no less thorough, but this time it's obvious he's filling in the gaps. The way she had when she first saw him an hour ago.
Embry clears his throat. Aro rocks on his heels. Bella and Edward stare at each other.
"So. Detective Dwyer," Aro chimes. "My client is ready to assist the police with their investigation."
"Awesome," Embry says. "He can start by washing his mouth then opening it wide."
Aro looks regretful. "I'm afraid we won't quite be that accommodating, at this stage."
Bella, recalled to herself, says, "I'm afraid his consent won't actually be necessary. We've got a warrant. No food or drink for half an hour. The lab tech's on her way."
Edward darts a glance at Aro whose clownish smile doesn't waver. "We have a minor issue, detective. My client had an intimate relationship with Miss Black. He was with her on the date in question. His DNA will be… present."
Embry and Bella lock gazes. Bella opens her mouth, but is interrupted by Edward, his voice earnest.
"Bella." She focuses on him, taken aback by his gentle tone. "You know I couldn't do that."
"I don't know any such thing."
"Did I ever. Ever. Hit you back? Ever?"
The muscle works in her jaw. "You fought with other weapons, you know that."
Edward's eyes are luminous under the fluorescents.
"Those things, what I said… I never could have put you in the hospital with words, Bella. You're the violent one."
Her neck is hot. Her cheeks feel pink. "You make it sound so one-sided. Words are violent, too."
Edward snorts softly. "Oh, it was one-sided all right."
She scowls. Aro steps in, gleeful. "Detective? Am I correct in my deduction that you and my client have… history?"
Bella sighs. "We grew up together. Until I was fifteen and moved to Seattle."
"Not best buddies, I take it?" Aro holds his palms out, delaying what Bella knows is coming—his request for her removal.
Edward shakes his head. Bella laughs. "Not quite. He hated me."
"I didn't hate you. I… very much… didn't hate you."
Bella can hear the air moving in the room, the blood rushing in her veins. Confusion presses her brows into her eyes. "What?"
"You hated me. Not that I blame you. But..." He shakes his head again. "I was fucking crazy about you."
His eyes chase the ceiling, stretching his neck so she can see his Adam's apple bob as he swallows. "The day you left Forks… my world went a little bit dark that day."
The rug of reality has been ripped right out from under her feet. She opens her mouth, closes it. Opens it again and gets caught before she speaks.
"I can't believe I didn't recognize you. Your hair?" His expression suggests her hair is some sort of mythological creature come to life before his eyes.
"I let it grow."
"I see that. What's the deal with your name? You're not wearing a ring."
For some reason she can't understand, she looks at her plain, unadorned hand as if to confirm he's telling the truth. She talks to it, her voice small. "My mom remarried. I thought my step-dad's name was. Tough. Tougher than Swan, anyway."
"Yeah, that sounds like you."
"Sounds like me? You don't know me."
"I know you. And you know me. And you know I wouldn't beat a girl nearly to death. Look at me, Bella. You know that."
Looking into his sincere face, she doesn't know what she knows.
"And it's moot in any case," Aro sings, his voice bright and amused. "Edward has a nice, tidy, rock-solid, alibi. His mother should be arriving at the station any minute."
As if on cue, a sharp knock raps the interrogation room door. "Oooh, that must be she," Aro exclaims.
Marcus pokes his grizzled face in. "Dwyer. Get out here."
Bella hands the folder to Embry and follows Marcus out into the anteroom.
"So here's the good news, Dwyer. Emily's awake. She's i.d.'d her assailant. Sadly, it's not this asshole."
Relief floods her veins. "I need to get over there."
"No, you don't. I'm sending Hale and McCarty. You're off this case." Marcus looks through the two-way glass. "Release that douchebag, but make sure he understands he's not to leave the state. Just in case."
Marcus stomps away and Bella returns to the interrogation room in a semi-daze. Everyone looks at her expectantly. She finds Embry and lets her breath out, then turns her gaze on Edward.
"Emily's awake. You're free to go. Please remain available for questioning."
Aro sighs; high and delighted. Edward exhales, his chest rising as he takes another breath and blows it out. "Can she have visitors?"
Bella gives a small shrug. "That will be up to her family."
He nods, distracted; his lip coming between his teeth. An old habit she remembers well, watching him worry his lip as he took signs from the catcher at her back. She wonders if he got the baseball scholarship he always used to claim he would. If he followed his father into medicine, or his mother into flagrant abuse of long-held wealth.
"It's Ephraim, there now, I believe. Not Rachel." She's trying to soothe him, she realizes, surprised when it seems to work. He straightens and moves past her with the smooth athleticism that always added to his aura of cockiness, stopping suddenly and turning back.
"Isn't this where you give me your card, and tell me that if I think of anything pertinent, I should call you?" This close he seems to blot out the room, his soft tone and lifted brows giving his face a sweetness she'd never seen before.
"It's not my case anymore."
Edward smiles. His eyes shine with that familiar intensity, startling heat into Bella's cheeks. "I've got a feeling I'll still need it."
To be continued...