AN: For those that have read the one shot version, most of the first part of this chapter will be familiar. The second half is all new. As mentioned on Facebook and Twitter, this is the full version of Crosshairs from the very beginning. There were considerable cuts in the original and scenes I skipped all together to meet requirements for the We Love Mobward Contest. I felt this needed to be written and read in its entirety before we move forward.
Thank you for your support and patience. Thanks to all the contest coordinators, judges and readers. Thanks to Midnight Cougar and all her encouragement and help to get this fic written.
Chapter One – A Cullen Family Dinner
Glancing around the formal dining table, Carlisle Cullen sensed the tension between his sons. While they appeared to be listening to their mother wax on about a problem that arose with the latest renovations she oversaw, the strain between his boys was almost palpable.
The Cullen home was immaculate as it was, but Carlisle indulged his wife's every whim —within reason, of course. She was the center of his universe, and she knew it, often using it to her advantage. If she noticed the trouble arising, she ignored it. She learned long ago never to discuss family business at the table. Something she insisted on herself.
Jasper, Carlisle's oldest and in position to succeed once he was ready to step down, did his best not to snarl, but it seemed a futile effort. His blue eyes and dark brown hair were inherited from his father, though his temperament was unequivocally from his mother. The deadliest of his three boys, Jasper had always had a deceptively calming presence. He would ease his prey into a sense of security, believing there was nothing amiss in their world. It was then, Jasper would strike, when he or she least expected.
Esme would strike on a crumb of information her sons let slip, pulling out details easily with just a twist of her lips and cock of her brow. If she learned one of her boys were interested in a woman, for more than a few rolls in the sheets, she would smoothly transition their dinner conversation about a new car, to one of their love life. Their answers would promptly determine how serious the relationship was and whether it was time for an introduction. Other than Jasper, Edward and Emmett had yet to bring home a woman to meet the family. There was a reason for that: it meant it was serious and marriage was on the horizon. Esme was desperate for grandchildren. By the end of the first meal with Maria, a wedding date had practically been set, even though Jasper had yet to propose. Like mother, like son.
Jasper glared at Edward from across the table, his jaw ticking with barely reined in control. Edward, the second of Carlisle's sons, with reddish brown hair and green eyes, like his wife, merely cocked an eyebrow in response to Jasper's silent ire. Edward's jaw was sharper than any of his boys, and after a long day, was covered in dark stubble, giving him a more rugged, dangerous look. While Jasper was the deadliest, Edward was the most cunning and arrogant. For good reason, his looks and intelligence were in high demand.
Emmett, the youngest but largest of Carlisle's sons, was built like an ox, much like his great-grandfather. At only twenty-two, he knew better than to get between his older brothers, since he usually regretted it after they took out their anger on him growing up. It made him want to be bigger, faster, and superior in every way. He was quickly moving up the ranks with their security team, and he was already head of security for their current family home.
"Whatever has you two poised for attack, I'd put it aside for you mother." Carlisle's words caused everyone to still, none looking at him. "Jasper, your wife is late, again." It was stated as a fact, but also an accusation.
Edward's eyebrows rose higher, the smirk disappearing. "Again?"
"Shut up, Edward." Jasper's fork clanked hard on his plate.
Sunday dinner was mandatory, not solely because Esme Cullen demanded it, but because family was important to them. Family was everything.
"She was only late about twenty minutes last time." Esme delicately shrugged, pretending it mattered little that her lone daughter-in-law had disrespected her.
Seeing how much it did upset his wife meant it couldn't be ignored. Carlisle turned his darkening eyes toward Jasper, who looked uncomfortable, his usual ease gone. "What is the meaning of her tardiness?" Before Jasper had a chance to reply, he continued. "Your mother works hard to prepare a glorious meal for us, and simply asks to be together as a family once a week. I hardly think that difficult to do, considering we're her only family. Explain to me why your wife of six months is late."
Jasper sent one last glare toward Edward.
Edward didn't give a chance for Jasper to answer. "For him to explain that…" He looked at his mother, shaking his head. "It may concern business."
Esme gasped, Emmett's head snapped up, and Jasper cursed.
Carlisle's blood turned to ice, his lips twisting into a cruel smile. "Can it wait, Edward?"
"Yes, Sir. But not for long."
Jasper kept his head down, but his hand dove into his jacket.
"Don't." Carlisle's whispered warning was menacing, and the message clear, when he followed up with a solid pound of his fist on the table. "Felix, disarm my sons now."
The sentient guard Carlisle kept nearby nodded, efficiently going around the table, removing guns and knives from Carlisle's sons.
Esme spoke up, once the paralyzing fear melted into anger. "Carlisle, I must insist the boys always be disarmed at my table."
"Yes, dear." He nodded once Felix completed his task, asking his wife to continue her story, as if nothing had happened.
Esme carried on describing the renovation of the garden and pool house, barely keeping her tears from falling. She wasn't aware of every aspect of the family business, something he preferred, but she knew what disloyalty meant. Death.
Esme Cullen watched her husband nearly march their sons toward the office where they'd hold an impromptu meeting shortly before dessert was served. Marcus and Garrett arrived to join them for their weekly "card game"—the code they used in case someone was listening. Emmett tagged along, having been inducted into the family business since he was nineteen.
She sipped on the coffee her husband imported, after she'd fallen in love with it during their last trip to England. Maria, Jasper's wife, had yet to make an appearance, a first since she'd been introduced almost two years earlier. For months, Esme couldn't figure out why the young woman rubbed her the wrong way. She had no family, and the few friends she had invited to the wedding seemed more like work acquaintances than long-time friendships. Maria had a way of guiding conversations away from her past, focusing instead on the latest fashions or fads. She went from working sixty hours a week to less than twenty, shortly before their engagement was announced.
"I want to focus on the wedding, and after, I'd like to return to school." Maria sipped her after-dinner Amaretto as she shared her plans with her soon-to-be mother-in-law.
Esme's son had been ecstatic about his betrothed working less hours, since her job often allowed them little time together. He had wanted her to quit all together, but Maria insisted she would not be a kept woman.
All that soon changed after their honeymoon. The application for school lay forgotten in some desk upstairs, replaced by various credit applications. Esme couldn't fault the woman—after working hard for so long, it made sense Maria would shop a lot in the beginning— and since her son was happy, that was all that mattered to her.
Then the insults started, cleverly disguised as compliments Maria threw like darts at various relatives or friends. She was smart enough to avoid aiming them at Esme's sons or husband, but everyone else was fair game. Maria thrived on gossip, by either spreading it or creating it. Yet, she remained faithful to Jasper, who couldn't have been happier.
Something changed between Jasper and his wife in the last month. It was subtle enough Esme only sensed the trouble brewing once or twice. However, it was enough to rouse Edward's suspicions, the cleverest of her boys. Since the day Maria was introduced, Edward made it clear she did not belong in the family. While Maria's extensive background came back clear, Edward persisted she was not to be trusted. It became an unspoken agreement between everyone that no one was to talk business around her.
How had Esme missed all the signs? Maria's questions regarding whereabouts of various family members and such started not long after she and Jasper were married. Esme had been so focused on the marriage and future grandchildren, and not on initial instincts, she had passed off the precursors about Maria.
Edward didn't allow his suspicions to be deterred.
Esme closed her eyes, her temple pounding as anger coursed through her. If Maria's disloyalty proved true, it would crush Jasper. Often seen as the Cullen to fear the most, Jasper was also the one who would break the easiest. He was not meant to bend if he were broken. Instead, he'd shatter.
Esme heard the click of heels on her hardwood floors, along with a husky tune as Maria sang and soon joined her in the dining room. "You're late, sweetheart." Esme sipped her coffee, her eyes meeting the dark brown gaze of Jasper's wife.
Maria was a stunner, golden tan skin, rich, dark hair that fell to the middle of her back; at five-five, she had curves that made most of the security team take notice.
"I'm so sorry, Esme." Maria fluffed her curls, a nervous habit. "I caught up with a friend and we got to talking. I lost track of the time." She dismissively waved away her words. "You know how it is?" She sat in her usual chair, looking around the room. "Are the boys in the card game already?" She made the attempt to get up, holding her cell phone tightly. "Maybe I should say hello and apologize for being late."
Esme glanced at Maria, giving her a warm smile that didn't meet her eyes. "Would this be the same friend you caught up with last week?"
Maria's full lips twitched into a small smile. "Who? Clarissa? No, this was Giana. She wasn't at the wedding, though. She's someone new from the book club I joined last month." She delivered the lie so perfectly it could've been read from cue cards.
Esme noticed Maria seemed unsure of herself, which was not usual for the unflappable Maria. Many women had given Maria hell after learning she'd landed one of the Cullen boys, especially Jasper. She handled the she-wolves with ease and poise. Yet, a simple question had her compulsively looking away from Esme's eyes and fluffing her hair.
"Edward received a call during dinner, and apparently, he had something urgent to discuss with his father, so they skipped dessert and started a little early."
Maria's dark eyes widened; she even stopped breathing for a couple seconds. "I'm nine weeks pregnant," she blurted out.
Esme's nostrils flared, her lips thinning as she glared at the young woman. "Is that so?" Though she wasn't aware of the level of disloyalty Maria was accused of, Esme knew when a woman cheated. It was in the twitch of Maria's eye, the slight smudge of lipstick around her lips, and the wrong way she had buttoned her blouse. "Is it my grandchild?"
Maria tried for outright anger, rising to her feet in apparent disgust. "How dare you?"
Esme waved a hand at Maria's wrongly buttoned blouse, instantly deflating the woman's typical fight response. "Come with me."
Disloyalty by anyone in the organization would be with a swift and brutal punishment, but they weren't monsters. A pregnancy would change things, even if the baby did not belong to her son. Esme wouldn't take any chances.
"Where are we going?" Taking Maria's hand, despite her protests, Esme led her down the main hall, past the office where the card game was in progress.
"Jasper!" Maria cried, snatching her hand away from Esme's tight grip. Her self-preservation had kicked in, and Maria was determined to get away. She pounded on the door, whimpering when Edward opened it and towered over her, the look in his eyes murderous.
"What is the meaning of this interruption?" Carlisle asked, standing just behind Edward, equally menacing. His brothers Marcus and Garrett flanking him. "You know better than to disturb us."
Maria stepped back, realizing her options were limited. "I'm pregnant."
"What?" Jasper pushed past his father and brother, grasping Maria's arms hard. "How far along? Is it even mine?"
Esme watched, almost numb, as Maria played an award-winning role of an estranged daughter-in-law. Maria's widened, her dark eyes positively swimming with tears, she looked like a little girl, despite the gray and black tear tracks falling down her pale cheeks.
Maria cradled her husband's face, her bottom lip quivering. "What have they been telling you? How could you think I would cheat on you, mi corazón? You are my life, mi vida. And now we have a baby on the way, a little baby."
The quick succession of three thundering claps startled everyone in hall, each turning to watch Edward cross his arms over his chest as he leaned his shoulder causally against the wall. He had removed his tie; no doubt, the night and everything he had learned had taken a toll. "Amazing performance, Maria. Not exactly Oscar-worthy, maybe a People's Choice Award." He smirked as Maria's hand flew up to slap him, but he caught her wrist in time to stop her. "In your condition, you shouldn't resort to violence, you could hurt the baby." The words and tone mocking.
"I'm taking her to take a pregnancy test." Esme decided to step in, because from the defeated look on Jasper's face, Maria's disloyalty had been proven.
Maria's face paled further, her breath caught as her jaw dropped open in shock. "Que?"
Esme shrugged, somewhat embarrassed by her actions. "What? We all know how much I want a grandchild. I wanted to be prepared just in case."
"Go take a test now." Carlisle's voice and tone made Maria shudder, her eyes remaining on her too quiet husband.
"Jasper?" Maria whispered, grasping Jasper's hands in hers.
"Go take the test." Though Jasper's voice was softer, the underlying anger was clear.
Maria stepped away from her husband, defiantly tipping up her chin. "No."
The heavy click of an armed gun echoed in the hallway, making Maria scream, tumbling away from Edward's Sig and lethal glare.
Jasper grabbed Maria's arm, alternating from pulling and pushing her down the hall to the elaborate bathroom. "Take the fucking test. Not that it changes anything."
"It was only one time!" Maria cried, openly sobbing, aware her time was coming to an end. "I swear I only fucked him once."
"He was a former cop, who was trying to get his badge back by using you." Edward tossed the photos Jenks had sent to him before dessert on the floor.
Most were of Maria in compromising positions, in various locations, some public, others more private. At the sight of the photos, Maria continued to plead she was pregnant and didn't know the man used to be a cop, that she didn't tell him anything.
"There are tapes," Jasper whispered, nearly throwing his wife into the bathroom. He opened several cabinets, finding a few pregnancy tests and slapping two on the counter. "Now quit fucking stalling and take the fucking tests."
Carlisle whispered for someone to stand outside the window in case Maria tried to make a run for it.
"Don't bother." Esme held out her hand for Edward's gun. "I need to see her do it. I wouldn't put it past her to find a way to fake results." She shooed them away, reassuring her boys that she could handle Maria.
The door locked them alone together. "Sit down." Esme held up the gun, relishing the weight of it in her hand. It was rare when she had the need or opportunity to use one, which she preferred. She would never normally insert herself in the family business, but this woman messed with her son.
Maria pleaded silently with large, luminous eyes. "Please."
Maria closed her eyes, her lips moving in prayer as she did what they demanded of her.
Esme opened the door once Maria finished her business, everyone awaiting the results. Whatever the results would be, Maria knew her life was over. She slid down one wall, prayers spilling from her lips. Her detached gaze on the two sticks and timer on the counter.
"Was she checked for bugs?" Edward asked Felix farther down the hall, unable to handle the tension that filled the air.
Felix nodded. "After you voiced your suspicions, I checked her twice and insisted she leave her purse and coat with me at the door. Found four, but none are transmitting now."
Edward's fury was barely contained. "The former cop was accused of brutality, and suspended during the investigation. Landing a Cullen in prison or all of us would not be ignored by the Chief."
"No, but he also doesn't appear to be talking to anyone either."
Edward shook his head. "He wouldn't. He'd want all the credit. But he'd be smart enough to hide anything he learned."
Felix nodded, pulling out his phone and calling Jenks to sweep for safes or safety deposit boxes, also any computer equipment the former Detective Marks might have recently purchased.
"No!" Maria screamed, pushing Esme against the counter and running past Jasper and his father.
Edward held up his gun, shouting for her to stop.
"Don't shoot her, Edward!" Jasper grabbed Maria from behind, holding her arms against her sides as she kicked and screamed.
"Is she pregnant?" Edward wanted to know the truth.
Jasper shook his head. "No, but I can't let you shoot her."
"Son." Carlisle's voice was softer, something they rarely heard when addressing them. "You know what this means."
"I know." Jasper's eyes met Edward's gaze, but instead of the anger he expected, all he saw was despair and anguish. "You can't do it, because even though it has to be done, I will never forgive you, Edward. Ever."
Edward nodded, ignoring Maria's screams and gesturing toward Felix.
"Not family." Jasper closed his eyes, his voice deadly calm. "I have to do it."
Esme gasped, her eyes filling with tears as her eldest son shattered, as she predicted, before her eyes.
Who would pick up the pieces?