Hi everyone! Welcome to my sophomore writing attempt! As much as I love working on Unfinished, this plot bunny just wouldn't leave me alone and I've been itching to write it down. This story will be much, much darker with some morally ambiguous characters. Inspired by a little House of Cards, a little Jessica Jones, and a little Arrow. I'm fascinated by antiheroines/heroes, and love women who can be just as ruthless as men. That being said, I understand this won't be everyone's cup of tea, but for those who are willing, it's going to be a fun ride : )

The Independent Examiner

After disappearing for nearly five years, the prodigal son of multimillionaire Carlisle Cullen has finally returned. Edward Cullen was photographed exiting the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport amid several reporters with his bodyguard. According to reporters on the scene, Cullen appeared fatigued and did not say a word, despite repeated requests for comment. It is presumed he will be returning to his family's mansion in Bethesda, but this remains unverified.

Edward Cullen, 28, is the only son of Carlisle Cullen, CEO of Alpha Tech Consolidated, and Esme Platt, niece of Senator Warren Platt. He attended Georgetown University for a semester before dropping out and moving to Manhattan, where he had several high profile relationships and a highly publicized DUI. After a public apology, Cullen left the country to reportedly finish his degree but went off the grid in late 2010. A statement released by the Cullen family affirmed he was in communication with them but had no desire to reveal his whereabouts publicly at that time.

He resurfaced at Esme Platt's funeral in 2011 but disappeared shortly afterwards. Since then, there have been no official sightings or news, with rumors swirling from his death to his involvement in several criminal organizations. In 2013, a photograph depicting a man who bore an eerie resemblance to Cullen and Zhang Chen, a high ranking member of the Chinese government, circulated around the Internet. However, this picture was taken down immediately and the source of the link was traced to a neighborhood in Buenos Aires. The residents were not found to be affiliated with the Cullens and had no knowledge of his whereabouts or activities.

Authorities have long suspected Carlisle Cullen of being involved with both the DiCenzo crime family and StatusQuo, an anonymous network of hacktivists responsible for the leaking of several Department of Defense documents in 2012. Most of the accusations have been hearsay, with no concrete evidence linked to his name.

The head of the Cullen family also shocked the urban elite when his personal assistant and protege, Isabella Swan, moved into his mansion just months after his wife's death. Little is known about their relationship, and Swan has not revealed any details to this day. Due to the suspicious circumstances of Cullen's death last year, Swan, who was the last person to see him alive, became the prime suspect until she was cleared of any involvement just two weeks ago. No charges were ever brought forth by any other party.

According to close sources, Swan stood to inherit the majority of Cullen's fortune based on his will, including ATC, but with the younger Cullen's return, this may no longer be the case.

Edward POV

For five years, I've waited to stand in front of this mansion, wondering if I would open the door. It was no longer a home, certainly not a home of mine. I scan it with the brevity of a disinterested buyer, carefully examining the exposed brick, the perfectly manicured bushes, and the pristine fountain. My lip curls at the obvious perfection of it all, manufactured to fool the cowards and sycophants.

They could never guess what's occurred behind the pearly gates.

"Sir?" My bodyguard, Jacob, gestures to the luggage in the car. "Should I bring everything up to your old room?"

I nod. "Go ahead. I'll be inside."

Turning around, I survey the quiet surroundings once more, idly noting the possible exits and obscured positions. Memories of sneaking out to meet friends and fuck around come to mind, but don't register. The door doesn't even creak or groan as I open it, despite the property's construction in the 1920s.

Everything looks the same. Preserved under careful attention and almost obsessive detail. The walls have been freshly painted and the floor waxed, but each item sits resolutely in its place, almost stubbornly so. The last of the afternoon sunlight drifts in and weakly illuminates the winding staircase, a personal favorite of my late mother's. I clench my jaw and force myself to move into the kitchen, taking in the perfectly composed dinner table with the cutlery sparkling under the candlelight.

"You shouldn't have," I murmur, keeping my back turned.

Rustling and quiet footsteps announce her arrival, and I hear the metallic sound of the chair scrape against the floor.

"Welcome back."

Her husky voice with barely a tremor resonates through the empty house, and I force myself to relax before I lose control.

I turn around and exhale, capturing the minute details of her once delicate beauty, now fiercely present in the dark, curled hair, the blood red lips, and her painted eyes. She's always been pretty, but now she looks goddamn stunning. Time had only served Isabella Swan, catering to her every request, waiting submissively for her next move.

It's a Sunday evening, and yet she's wearing a tight fitting, crimson dress with straps so thin I can only think of snapping them with my teeth. She crosses her legs, deliberately hiking up the fabric to draw attention to her slim, toned legs. "Isabella," I respond, taking the opportunity to caress each syllable. She only quirks an eyebrow, lips slithering into a smile, before replying, "Edward."

For a few minutes, we stand there just looking at the other, exploring the changes in our bodies. She's certainly become more confident, more provocative, and I want to marvel at these newfound developments, so to speak. The Bella I met was a meek, 21 year old secretary. The Isabella I see now is a calculating heiress suspected of murder.

I take a seat across from her, never breaking her gaze. "You've certainly been busy," I start. "Congratulations on your being cleared."

This time she bares her teeth in a wicked smile. "Yes, it was difficult at first, but now it's over." She and I don't have to vocalize the obvious truth that anyone with money or power in this town was never responsible for a crime.

My father had proved that many times over.

She delicately picks up her knife and cuts into the duck in front of her. "Will you be staying here?" She asks casually.

"Absolutely," I confirm, a hint of amusement in my voice.

Her eyes narrow. "For how long?"

I smirk openly. "Indefinitely. After all, this is now mine, isn't it?"

She chews her food slowly before taking a sip of her champagne. Dabbing her mouth softly, she replies, "Actually, it's not. You see, Carlisle and I made arrangements while you were gone and legally, this is all mine."

I study the still portraits behind me, injecting a quiet fury behind my next words. "Do you mean to tell me that you married my father before you killed him?"

Isabella leans back in the chair, her hands folded primly in her lap, the very picture of elegance.

Her dark eyes study me with a blankness I was used to seeing in the mirror, and a morbid curiosity stabs me.

Three painful heartbeats pass, until-

"Yes."

My legs raise almost half of the table as they collide with the solid cherry wood, and I clench my left fist. "Do not lie to me, Isabella," I bellow. "Not about this."

She stands as well, but instead of being shaken, she simply leans forward, her hair swinging to the swell of her chest. "He begged me to become his wife, to be the woman your mother never was," she taunted. "Is that honest enough, Edward?"

"You bitch," I seethed, marching up to her, maneuvering my body to corner hers against the kitchen door. "You don't have the right to talk about my mother. You don't have the right to be anything in this family."

Cheeks flushed and fingers clutching the wallpaper, Isabella nonetheless bites out, "The only role I want to play in this family is to watch it all burn." The venom in her tone and hatred in her eyes verify the only honest sentence she's spoken tonight, and I feel nothing but satisfaction as I curl my fist and swing forward-

Only to purposefully hit the wall next to her, the impact echoing through the foundation of the house.

To her credit, she never even blinks.

I lean in even closer and lightly skim my lips with hers, tasting the slightest combination of cherry and want, as I feel her lips seek mine, albeit briefly. Gently, my fingers stroke and brush an errant curl behind her ear.

"Don't fuck with me sweetheart," I breathe, observing her pupils dilating. "There's no record of your marriage to him anywhere."

Slowly, I untangle myself from her before crossing my arms, the violent facade from a minute ago retracting back to my arsenal. "But there is a stipulation that states should any harm come to you, everything will be yours."

Disappointment flickers in those bottomless depths for a second before her body relaxes and the charming smile at the beginning of the night reappears.

"Can't blame a girl for trying," she simply answers, smoothing down the front of her dress.

I refill her glass and tip it in her direction. "To the family's destruction," I cheer sarcastically. "May we burn this whole fucking place to the ground."

I close my eyes but before the glass can reach my lips, I feel a tug and find myself holding onto nothing. Isabella rolls the slim glass between her crimson-painted fingers, and I can't help but scoff. "Still playing games, Bella?"

And that's when I see it. Her eyes unfocus and her body relaxes, indicating for the first time uncertainty, and revealing the old Bella that lay trapped underneath.

It only lasts for a second, but I'm well trained enough to detect it. Any lingering doubts around the plans for my return vanish and I file away the first of many vulnerabilities of this enigmatic woman.

She cocks her head, exaggeratingly pondering my question. "Only when I know I'll win," she replies lightly with a hint of steeliness underneath.

Well done. I almost want to clap at her audacity.

Instead, like a jackass, I tug her to me, making sure that the hard planes of my chest meet the cleavage I've been subtly glancing at all night. "Ready or not, here I come," I tease roughly, dangerous arousal coating my words.

She steps away from my grasp and places the champagne glass on the table, unruffled. Taking this as my opportunity to exit, I lay one last smirk in her direction before walking out of the kitchen.

One, two, three, four…

I'm able to count to thirty five before I hear the unmistakable sound of a champagne glass being flung against the wall.

I grinned sadistically. I had no idea that taking her down was going to be this fun.

Bella POV

I wrenched the door open to my bedroom before agitatedly stripping down to my underwear and running my hands through my hair.

What the fuck was Edward Cullen doing back in D.C.?

He's going to fuck things up, I think frantically, the familiar combination of nausea and wildness flaring up again. I search for some water or alcohol, but can't find any in my room. Trembling with rage, I locate my 9 mm Glock underneath my pillow and focus on taking it apart and putting it back together again. Once my breaths have slowed down, I toss the gun aside and try to think things through.

Why is he back, and what does he want? I had strong suspicions he had been involved in Carlisle's shit, but I couldn't interrogate him without risking my own exposure. I need to find out his objective and how much he knows of everything that's happened in the last five years during his absence. I doubt he was on some exotic island, oblivious to his world crashing down around him.

After a quick shower, I lie in my bed, repeating the mantra I'd adopted seven years ago.

Before I became who I needed to be.

Before I became Carlisle Cullen's rumored mistress.

Before I approached Alpha Tech Consolidated.

As my eyes start to droop, one hand automatically sliding under my pillow, resting comfortably next to my weaponized version of a night light, the words slowly fade into a faint hum:

Find. Infiltrate. Destroy.