A/N: This was my firstever attempt at fanfic, written waaaaaay back in 2000-2001. I had intended it to be a stand alone story but it took on a life of it's own and was the beginning of what has become my own little AU Hardy Boys series. :-) This was written long before a helpful soul told me it was generally accepted to pick one character and stick with their POV. However, if I waited until I had time to go back and rewrite it correctly it would never get posted here, so I hope you don't get whiplash from the multiple POV changes. I apologize in advance if you do!

In this story Frank is 24 and has been married to Callie for six months; Joe is 23 and he and Vanessa are living together and engaged to be married. Both boys have graduated from college and joined Fenton in his practice. Also, I write strictly Hardy Boys so if you're looking for Nancy, she's not here.

The story is already completed so there's no need to worry it'll be abandoned halfway through. Chapters will be posted every two days – at least that's what I'm shooting for. Hope you enjoy it. :-)

PLEASE NOTE This story contains mature themes and subject matter!

Disclaimer: I don't own them. If I did I wouldn't be working for a living! I just like to take them out and play with them for a while. I promise to put them back in relatively good condition when I'm done. ;-)

Guilty

Chapter 1

Vanessa Bender squealed with a mixture of fear and excitement. The 23-year-old blonde was face down on a sled flying down a snow-covered hill. Squinting to avoid the bits of snow flying up from the runners of the sled, she could see her tall, blonde fiancé at the bottom of the hill, waving his arms wildly at her. It took only seconds for her to reach the bottom and come gliding to a stop a few feet past him.

Joe Hardy ran to the sled grabbing Vanessa around the waist and scooping her up. "Yahoo! You were great, Babe!" he exclaimed swinging her around in a circle.

She threw her head back laughing and extended her arms and legs catching the momentum as Joe started swinging her faster. Seconds later he collapsed in the snow with Vanessa landing on top of him.

"That was great!" Vanessa shouted excitedly. "Come on, I want to do it again!" She started to push herself up.

"Whoa, slow down!" Joe said pulling her back down. "What's the hurry?" He put his hand behind Vanessa's neck and pulled her in close for a kiss.

"Oh, please, get a room!" a female voice called out teasingly.

Vanessa lifted her head and looked over at her best friend, Callie Hardy.

"Jealous?" Vanessa asked, eyes twinkling. "After all, you are an old married woman now." Six months earlier, Callie had married Joe's older brother Frank Hardy.

Callie crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head. "Tsk, tsk. Children!" she said with mock seriousness. She felt arms sneaking around her waist and her husband leaned forward whispering in her ear. "Maybe the children have the right idea."

Leaning back against Frank's chest, Callie eyed him slyly. "Why, Frank Hardy. I think your little brother is rubbing off on you!" While Joe eagerly showered affection on Vanessa every chance he got, Frank was not big on public displays of affection.

Frank shrugged and smiled. "Must be the snow. It brings out the romantic in me," he said leaning in for a kiss. Just as their lips touched Frank felt something cold and wet slam against the top of his head. Callie jumped back to escape the flying snow. Frank was momentarily shocked but looked up as he heard Joe howling with laughter.

"I haven't lost my touch!" he said high-fiving Vanessa who was laughing at the expression on Frank's face.

"Oh, so that's the way it's gonna be, huh?" Frank gave his brother a murderous look.

Joe quickly pushed himself to his feet. "Uh, oh. I know that look. Come on!" He grabbed Vanessa's hand and took off at a run with Frank and Callie in hot pursuit.

Stopping just long enough to scoop up a handful of snow, Frank chased his brother through the snow. Shaping the snow into a perfect ball he stopped, took aim and let the snowball fly. Vanessa let out another shriek of laughter as the snowball sailed right between her and Joe, close enough for her to feel it swoosh past her cheek. Feeling Joe pull on her hand they veered off to the right towards a stand of trees. Joe weaved in and out among the trees dragging Vanessa behind him until he found what he was looking for.

When they had arrived at the park earlier in the evening a group of young boys were engaged in a fierce snowball fight. Joe had eagerly joined them for a few minutes and in the heat of battle, the young boys had taken him to the snow fort they had built for themselves. Joe once again located the snow fort and pulled Vanessa down behind it with him. Immediately he began stockpiling snowballs, waiting for his brother to show himself. Looking at the pile of snowballs continue to grow, Vanessa giggled softly. 'Frank and Callie don't stand a chance!' she thought.

"Ssssh." Joe's sapphire blue eyes twinkled with mischief as he leaned over and kissed her. Before Joe knew what was happening he was pulled to his feet and shoved face first against a tree. He felt something very cold and very wet start to trickle down his neck. His jacket was pulled back by the collar, almost choking him. He inhaled sharply as he felt the freezing snow against the skin on his back.

"Hey!" he cried out, flailing his arms behind him trying to stop the assault of snow to no avail. As his shirt filled with melting snow, he heard his brother chuckling. Satisfied that Joe had been paid back for his sneak attack, Frank released his brother and stepped back.

"As usual, Joe, when you think with your heart and not with your head you get into trouble." He looked down at his younger brother with mock superiority. "And once again, I win."

Joe unzipped his parka and pulled his shirttail out to let the rapidly melting snow escape.

"Yeah," Joe replied, laughing. "But my woman can still take yours!" he said pointing to where Vanessa had Callie pinned to the ground and was pushing snowballs down the back of her jacket. He leaned closer to his brother. "Five bucks says Callie cries 'uncle'!" he said teasingly.

"Don't let Callie hear you say that," Frank replied walking towards the two girls. "She'll have your head!"

"Enough! Enough!" Callie could barely get the words out she was laughing so hard. "I give up!"

Vanessa stood up and offered her friend a hand. Still lying in the snow balancing on one elbow, Callie looked up at Vanessa's considerable height. At five feet, eleven inches tall she was only an inch shorter than Joe. Shaking her head, Callie thought 'I never had a chance.' She took Vanessa's hand allowing herself to be pulled to her feet.

"Sorry, Cal," Vanessa apologized with a smile, helping Callie shake the snow out from under her jacket. "Guess I got caught up in the moment!"

Joe sidled up next to Frank with a smirk on his face. Silently he held out his hand, palm up.

"What's that all about?" Callie eyed Joe suspiciously.

"Nothing," Frank replied giving his brother a dirty look. He brushed the last remnants of snow from Callie's hair and then took her hand. "Why don't we stop by Java City on the way home and get something hot to drink? Joe's buying."

"Hey!" Joe cried in protest. Vanessa laughed out loud, linking her arm through Joe's.

"Come on Big Spender, I'm getting cold."

oooOOOooo

Entering the Java City Café the two couples looked around for an empty table. It seemed as if everyone in Bayport had the same idea – the place was packed with customers.

Joe's blue eyes narrowed as he scanned the room. "Hey, there's Biff and Karen!" Holding tight to Vanessa's hand, he easily weaved his way through the crowd, stopping at his friend's table.

"Hey, guys, mind if we join you?" Not waiting for an answer, he grabbed an empty chair and sat down. As Frank and Callie claimed the last two chairs, Vanessa looked down at Joe questioningly and raised her eyebrows. He smiled devilishly at her patting his legs.

"Right here, Babe. Have a seat."

Vanessa rolled her eyes and blushed slightly, sitting on Joe's lap. He immediately enveloped her in a big hug and whispered something in her ear causing her to giggle.

Callie watched the couple with more than a little envy and sighed inwardly. There was no doubt in her mind that Frank loved her with all his heart. In their own home, he was more than generous with his affection but in public, he rarely showed how he felt with physical gestures. At times she was a little put off by the amount of affection Joe and Vanessa shared in public but she also found herself wishing Frank wouldn't be so cautious about expressing himself in public. She knew he was much more reserved than his demonstrative and wildly outgoing younger brother, 'But just once in a while…' she thought glancing at Joe who was now alternately hugging Vanessa closely and rubbing her arms to help her warm up.

As if reading her mind, she felt Franks hand close over hers on the table. He leaned over and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. Looking into his warm brown eyes, she was once again reminded of how much she loved him and how happy she was to be his wife.

Hearing Joe's best friend Biff Hooper and his girlfriend Karen Allen laughing brought her back to the present. Joe was gesturing wildly and she realized he was relating the story of the chase and snowball fight to the couple. In their teen years, Joe and Callie had not always gotten along. Frank insisted it was because they were so much alike – something both Joe and Callie vehemently denied. Over the years, though, as she had gotten to know Joe better and saw how close he and Frank were, her attitude toward Joe softened. She knew Joe worshipped his older brother and would do anything for him. On several occasions, Joe had put his own life on the line to protect his brother. He had even put himself in danger to rescue Callie more than once.

Involuntarily, she flashed back to the day Iola Morton, Joe's first girlfriend, was killed. It was the one time Joe was not able to save someone he loved; and it was the day she lost her best friend. Initially, she blamed Joe for Iola's death although she never said so out loud. However, watching him deal with the guilt in the years that followed made her realize he was hurting much more than he let anyone know, even Frank.

Gradually as her grief lessened, she admitted to herself Joe was not responsible for Iola's death. From that point on, she had tried to be there for Joe on the days she knew would haunt him – Iola's birthday; the anniversary of the day she died. She would call him to reminisce about Iola or send him a card to let him know she remembered and shared his grief. She never mentioned this to Frank and as far as she knew, neither had Joe. It was something they shared and even though he never said so, she knew Joe appreciated the effort. Thinking back on that horrible day she shuddered.

Frank, still holding her hand, felt it. "Are you okay?" he asked looking at her with concern.

"Yeah," she quickly blinked back the tears. "Just cold I guess."

Vanessa looked over at her. "I'm so sorry for putting all that snow down your jacket, Cal." She jerked her head towards Joe. "I guess I've been hanging out with him too long!"

Joe looked hurt and started to pout. "A guy tries to have a little fun and look what happens." He looked to Vanessa for sympathy but she smacked him lightly on the arm.

"Oh, please!" She rolled her eyes at him. "Don't give me those puppy dog eyes."

He shrugged his shoulders and smiled. "It was worth a shot!" He then shifted his gaze to Frank and pointed a finger at him. "By the way, you still owe me five bucks!"

"Don't go there, Joe," Frank warned him with a sidelong glance at Callie. That was the second time that evening Joe had made a gesture or remark about Frank owing him money. Judging by the smirk on Joe's face, Callie had a feeling it had something to do with her and she was not going to like it. Callie was just about to say something to Joe when a harried looking waitress finally appeared and took their drink orders. As she walked away, Karen cleared her throat.

"Do you guys knew anything about that serial rapist down in Kirkland?" she asked gesturing at Frank and Joe.

The lighthearted mood at the table suddenly turned serious. Frank sighed heavily and Joe looked down at the table. He was often teased for his chauvinistic attitude but he could not stand any type of violence against women; as far as he was concerned, the crime of rape was unconscionable. His blue eyes clouded over and the look of anger on his face was evident to everyone at the table. Vanessa shifted in his lap so she could put an arm around his neck and laid her head on his shoulder, whispering something to him no one else could hear.

"Actually," Frank began, watching his younger brother warily, "We met with the detectives in charge of the case yesterday. One of them is an old friend of Dad's. Normally, the police don't call in outside help but this guy has struck in Angel Beach, Southport and Kirkland. The media is having a field day and the public is outraged. So Detective Kroner, Dad's friend, called and asked if we would give them a hand." Frank and Joe had always planned to open their own detective agency when they graduated college. But when the day came that Joe finally got his investigators license, their father asked them to join his practice. Hardy Investigations officially became Hardy and Sons, Investigations and Fenton Hardy could not have been more proud.

"The Kirkland detectives have been working with the Angel Beach and Southport police departments and have even asked Chief Collig to loan them some officers."

Callie gasped. Frank had not told her that last night when he came home and she did not like the sound of it. "Are they afraid he's going to strike here next?"

"Over my dead body!" Joe said angrily.

Vanessa lifted her head and pushed a lock of blonde hair off his forehead. "Don't worry, hon. You'll catch him. He won't hurt anyone else. After all, the Hardys have never let us down before," she said trying to cheer him up.

"Thanks, Babe," Joe replied giving her a grateful smile. 'What did I ever do to deserve you?' he thought to himself.

The three couples chatted for quite a while, catching up on each others lives. The café had almost emptied by the time they left. As they walked towards their cars, Frank touched Joe on the arm to get his attention. Joe's mood had obviously changed when the serial rapist was brought up. Joe had tried to cover it up, but Frank knew he was still bothered by it.

"Don't worry," he said quietly. "We will catch him."

Joe nodded and smiled, appreciating Frank's attempt to cheer him up.

"See you tomorrow," Frank said as he watched Joe walk towards his car, his arm protectively wrapped around Vanessa's shoulders.