Chapter Thirty—The Adrenaline Rush
Edward kept his eyes on the spot where Bella disappeared underwater. He knew she wouldn't stay below for long, and that it was for his benefit. Even as he tried to look aloof, he counted the seconds that ticked by like hours. The sights and sounds too vivid for some reason made him sharply inhale. His next breath didn't come until she bobbed out of the water.
Rivulets ran paths he wanted to follow with his fingers and tongue. Sex and her body were a couple of things that kept him from panicking. It didn't take a genius to figure that shit out. Nor was it fair to her.
"How the fuck can it be hundred plus degrees and the water still be damn freezing," she hissed, shivering as she shook out her hair. She smiled at him, but her brow furrowed.
Did she detect his momentary panic? She didn't call him on it if she did, only moved a little closer, making it easier for him to breathe.
That shit was not healthy and he knew it. Why couldn't he fight the fear that came with the possibility that he'd be responsible if something would happen to her? To the kids that splashed nearby? They did not help matters.
He felt her fingers slip along his arm and his body finally relaxed enough for him to return her tentative smile.
"Is it the kids?" Apparently, she did realize it.
Edward nodded. When he first dove into the water, it had been all about following her. As the seconds passed that she was under the surface, he heard the screams and laughter from the children nearby. She swam even closer, rubbing his arms with her hands, their kicking legs brushing against the each other.
"Just breathe," she whispered. "Match my rhythm." Edward nodded, dropping his chin to his chest and watching the rise and fall of her chest. He did his best to copy her, but it fucking hurt. "Do you want to get out?"
He shook his head. "I did fine last time."
"The kids weren't this young last time," she replied softly, still soothing him with her words and hands.
After a few minutes, he said, "I'm okay. I'm okay now."
She tested him by swimming backward, away from him. Though his eyes remained on her, he did the same, putting another few feet between them.
"You're doing great," she said after a couple of minutes, dipping back to float on her back.
"Thanks." Feeling unreasonably warm in the cool water, Edward sunk beneath the surface. Rubbing his hands over his face, he dared to open his eyes and nearly groaned. Her ass was just right there, perfectly round in her bathing suit. He wanted to swim over and grab a handful. The ass he was admiring moved, her legs submerging. That wasn't much better.
Nothing would temper his reaction now. Not even the cold.
He rose to the surface, taking a deep breath, not surprised to find her close once again. "I needed this," she said, smiling up at the sky. "I fucking hate that the AC is out in the truck…again."
"Can anyone fix it?" he asked. He could make small talk, anything to keep from reaching out and touching her.
"Probably Emmett or James," she said as some of the kids swam over. They ranged from six to at least eighteen. After a few minutes of bantering, Edward and Bella agreed to a game of chicken in the shallower area. There was enough water not to get hurt if she fell off his shoulders and for him to feel the bottom. The few parents that stood watching said it was fine, recognizing those that built a house for one of the families there.
"We don't have to," she said, rolling her eyes as the boys started to tease them again.
"Hop on," Edward stated and turned enough for her to climb onto his shoulders. She grunted and cursed as she did, and he couldn't help himself. His mind went to the gutter he seemed to live in. "I knew I'd get you to make those sounds with my head between your thighs one day."
She yanked on his hair, making him yelp. Getting a good grip on her thighs, he lifted to his full height, surprising her.
The other brother-sister team taunted them, matching their weight and size for an even match. The other kids surrounded them, some choosing to watch from the shore. Bella and the girl named Maria started to play, laughing as they struggled. The rules established beforehand kept it simple, just a lot of pushing and pulling.
Edward did his best to make sure his stance was solid, bending his knees enough to give a little flexibility. Their laughter continued, along with some trash talking. His Spanish was still on the side of tolerable, but at least they understood him.
Laughing, Bella started to topple off, as Maria yelled that Bella hadn't banned tickling. She screamed as she fell back, bringing Edward underwater with her. With his hands on her waist, they breached the water together, coughing and shaking away the excess.
The other kids catcalled from their perches, laughing at the two grownups that lost. Edward and Bella escaped the water, sitting back on towels to watch the others play another game.
"That was amazing," she said after she caught her breath.
"Two months ago, there was no way I would've been able to play," he said, shaking his head. "I didn't want to disappoint them." She said nothing, allowing the success of the day sink in.
Little by little, the kids started to leave. The sun was readying to set, which meant that Edward and Bella would have to leave, too.
"One more dip?" she said, not bothering to listen for his response.
Bella didn't have to wait long for him to follow. Watching him under the sun, water still glistening on his tanned skin made her too fucking warm. She needed another cool down. Already the plan to tell him about severing their professional relationship as therapist and patient seemed too far away. She had to tell him soon, before he wouldn't be able to forgive her. Before she gave in to the temptation, she tried so hard to resist. Not that she'd act on it after, either.
Edward had always been toward the lean side, especially when he first arrived. However, months of working under the sun, lifting and carrying heavy loads and hammering away had honed his body to perfection.
She itched to touch him. Not good, she thought. Before he could come closer, she slipped further away from him. He said nothing and she hoped he didn't notice her turmoil.
"Bella, there's something on your shoulder," Edward said quietly from behind her, as if it would stop the thing from moving.
She turned to look at him, grateful for the reprieve from the direction her thoughts had taken.
"Don't fuck around, Edward!" She glared at him, the water lapping at her chest as she kicked to stay afloat. His eyes didn't appear to be on her shoulders, but glued to her nipples; same ol' Edward.
"Fuck, I'm not," he said, swimming toward her. "Are leeches indigenous to the area?" She felt the comical way her eyes widened, but didn't give a fuck!
Edward had never seen her move so fast, screaming.
A couple of minutes later, Bella was fuming. "Asshole!" she hissed, stepping into some shorts she kept in a bag. "I can't believe you fucking did that to me."
Edward grinned, laying back on the hood of the truck. His hands cradled the back of his head, still remembering how she begged him to get the leech off. That task required touching her. She saw right through him the second he laid a hand on her.
"It was worth a try."
"Asshole," she said again, rolling her eyes as she tied her damp hair up into a bun.
"You have no shame."
"None," he replied, a grin still in place. "If I could, I'd walk around naked to see if I could entice you."
"I'm sure the guys would love to see that," Bella said in a sickeningly sweet voice. "Oh wait, they already have."
"Never going live that shit down," he grumbled and scratched his forehead with his middle finger.
"Edward," she said after a moment.
"Yeah," he said, already feeling the lazy sleepiness that he usually felt after swimming.
"You have something on you."
"Fuck you, 3B."
"I'm not joking!" He heard her come closer and whimper.
He cracked an eye open and saw the horror on her face. From the incident before, he knew she hated bugs of any kind.
"Don't fuck around," he sneered, looking at her. "You're not a good liar." He ignored the cock of her eyebrow and propped up on his elbows. Following her line of sight, he'd say she was ogling his junk.
"I think it's a tick," she whispered gravely.
Bella wasn't that good of liar. Edward saw it and nearly screamed as Bella had. He didn't have a fear of bugs or shit like that, but when one was that close to his dick, composure was the last thing on his mind.
"Get. It. Off."
Bella stepped closer, ignoring her fear. She cringed as she neared. Her cheeks flushed, feeling embarrassed that Edward was now aware of one of her fears. One she had tried for years to rid herself of, but with little success. "What should I use?"
"Your fingernail," he hissed. She took a good look at him, to make sure he wasn't fucking playing her again. He looked genuinely freaked. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Men and their cocks; they're fine until that part of them is threatened.
She ignored the heat in her stomach, her eyes trailing down the light trail of hair that bisected his abdomen.
"You need to hurry, baby," he whispered. "It's probably a fever tick. I'll get sick if it manages to bite me."
Bella nodded and carefully approached the tiny creature. Her fingernails made Edward hiss again, his body reacting to her touch. She ignored that, too. She scraped the tick off and flung it away.
"Did it bite you?" she asked. She ran to grab the first aid kit from inside the truck as Edward fell back on the hood, saying his thanks. She threw the kit at him to clean out the area to make sure there was nothing left. He hoped that it would prevent him from getting sick.
"Aren't you going to do it?"
She looked at him, his bottom lip protruding just a bit. This was a first; Edward Cullen was pouting. Harden your heart, Bella. "You're pushing your luck here, Edward."
"Admit it," he said, hopping off the truck and standing close. "You wouldn't be able to resist feeling me up if you did."
Ignoring him was harder than usual, but she expected it once she realized her feelings for him.
Yet, she would resist. Edward didn't even seem to be trying.
She wasn't sure where all this was coming from. Though he often reverted to this kind of talk when something was bothering him, she couldn't think of what it could be after the day he had. He may have had a minor panic attack, but considering his success in playing with the other kids, it shouldn't make him feel bad. Was she missing something?
As he checked the area on his stomach, she caught an eyeful of his crotch. She suddenly felt stupid. The man was blue balling; of course, he'd act like an ass. While she tried to control herself, Edward still needed some kind of outlet. Since a gym wasn't handy, their bantering was the next best thing.
She gestured with a finger for him to spin around. With his attention on the area where the tick had been, cleaning it with an antiseptic wipe, he did what she asked. Her eyes roamed over his back and thighs, long and strong, to check for more critters.
"To be thorough, you'd have to check under my shorts, 3B," he suggested with a cocky smile on his face.
"Shut up and check yourself." She turned around so he could finish, but he was a little too quiet for much too long. "I swear, if you are jacking off, I will hurt you." She heard his chuckle, felt the breath of it against her neck. Why hadn't she realized he was closer? Quick to move away, she turned back.
"Your turn," he said, his voice lower that before. The shiver was easy to stop from moving through her, but the hitch in her breath was not.
"I checked everything," she said, stepping away. She felt his hand on her hip calloused and warm stopped her from moving too far. It remained there as she stilled.
"Did you check here?" he asked, his fingers tapping a beat on the curve of her hip. It slipped from place, spreading over her lower back. "Or here?"
Damn him and damn me, she thought.
"Yes," she said firmly, turning to face him. Their eyes met only briefly. Long enough for him to know he was going to hurt, if he continued. The look didn't affect him, because he stepped closer. "Edward."
"Just being nice, checking for ticks," he said. His mouth was close enough to her temple to feel its warmth. Her heart raced, due to his proximity and the reminder of stupid little bugs. Asshole was not playing fair.
His hand that was on her back, had followed her movement, and it gently gripped her hip. It lifted off her, and she closed her eyes, gathering herself enough to step away from the warmth of his body again. Only, now she felt the touch of his fingers along the strap of her bathing suit.
"It fell," he explained in a whisper. His voice was as rough and arousing as his touch.
Get it together, Bella!
However, his thumb came to rest on her racing pulse along her neck. It made her gasp and shiver. "Edward."
Her eyes opened and rose to meet his, watching them narrow and drop to her mouth. Every part of her froze, except for her brain that tried to remain strong. It listed all the reasons that a kiss shouldn't happen. Reminding her of what Edward was there for, to get better.
Her hands moved. A part of her finally able to function and they slipped between them. Only, they settled on his torso, just above the waistline of his shorts. Her mind was so focused on that action, she became aware of how close his lips were to hers. Enough to share breaths, to catch a hint of the sweet soda he drank for lunch and feel the touch of his bottom lip on her top one.
"Don't," she whispered again. His eyes closed, his forehead coming to rest on her temple as she turned her head. She felt his harsh breathing there and the vibration of his racing heart in his chest as her fingers on his skin twitched slightly.
"You win this round," he said, pressing a kiss to her cheek. It was soft, sweet, and devastatingly perfect to her. She breathed a sigh of relief as he walked away. It left her bereft and cold. She'd find a way to expel the energy that thrummed through her.
If an almost kiss nearly brought her to her knees, a real one would steal her breath.
"Don't give me a damn silent treatment," Edward spat angrily from the passenger seat.
"Let's just forget what almost happened."
"Not sure if I can," she replied honestly. A part of him hated that she wouldn't lie to him. It seemed to make things harder for them.
"I promise after I rub one out, I won't try that shit again," he said, hoping to piss her off some more.
Did she hear that he was already punishing himself for the stunt? The second they reached the facility, he'd hit the gym until he sweated out his demons. The same ones that would throw themselves at woman who he claimed to love, knowing she'd hate him for it.
He was an asshole.
"Stop it," she said softly, keeping her eyes on the road.
"It wasn't all you," she admitted, shrugging.
"I know." Edward rubbed at an ache that bloomed in his chest again. "Knowing that makes it harder." She cocked an eyebrow again, but didn't say a word. He rolled his eyes. "That time, I swear I did not mean the pun. It's the truth, though."
She nodded as if she understood. Unrequited love and lust was hard enough to keep secret from others, but mutual passion and attraction was almost impossible to hide.
Bella glanced at him, a small frown on her lips. "Sucks that we met at the wrong time," she said, and again, her honesty nearly killed him.
"No shit," he said harshly. "Then again, I don't think there would ever be a perfect time for us. There's been too much shit in my life to allow anyone in and let me be honest. Eventually, my family would've buried me if I hadn't come to Mexico."
"Maybe," she replied. She seemed ready to add more before something in the rearview mirror caught her attention. "Shit," she mumbled as the sun started to set over the horizon. Edward looked in the side mirror, a large dark SUV was closing in fast. Then suddenly, it seemed to fucking multiply as two others flanked the first. "Grab my phone."
Edward nodded and did as she asked, finding the phone in one of the cup holders. She pressed two buttons and said, "Call Emmett."
Within a few moments, Emmett's voice filled the cab. "What up, boss?"
Her eyes darted from mirror to mirror. "When's the last time Alec said he paid Carlos?"
"Fuck, Bella. Don't tell me you're being followed?"
"I think so."
Edward heard Emmett cover the phone, but his voice filtered through as he yelled for someone. He returned to the line. "James said Alec paid that asshole ten G's two weeks ago. He isn't supposed to get anymore for another next week."
"I have twenty with me," Bella said. "I'll have to give it to him."
"Can you lose him?" Emmett asked, as four vehicles boxed them in on all sides. Bella broke hard to avoid a collision, the brakes screeching. They came to a complete stop on the dirt and gravel shoulder.
"No," she gasped.
"Fucking hell," Emmett nearly roared. "How far are you?"
"Twenty minutes. Mute your end so you can listen."
"Fuck, James! Bella's in troub—" The rest of Emmett's sentence was cutoff. Edward felt Bella take his hand in hers; it was trembling and clammy.
That wasn't good.
"Don't say shit, Edward," she whispered softly but firmly. "No matter what he says or does, don't say or do anything."
Her grip on his hand over the truck's console was nearing the breaking point—then he understood. She was scared, completely terrified. Knowing her, though, he had a feeling her concern was more for his safety than her own.
"Keep my mouth shut," he said, reassuring her.
Using the mirror, he watched as a man walked out of the SUV. He swept his jacket to one side, and tucked inside his pants, was a gun.
Fuck. Would they walk away from this? So many regrets, he thought.
"To him, my name is Marie and yours is Anthony. Understand?"
Edward squeezed her hand to let her know he understood, and maybe even give her some of his strength. Not that he had much. She released his hand and told him to put his on his lap and keep them there.
"Always in view," she stated.
In the rear-view mirror, Edward saw three other men inch toward the truck. Bella rolled down her window as a man stood outside beside it.
He was tall, enough that he had to bend down to see inside the truck, his arms resting on the lowered window.
"Marie," he cooed. "Buenas noches."
"Carlos," Bella replied simply. "How are you today?"
"Well, Marie, I find myself wondering what you're doing out here at this time?" His accent, though thick, was easy enough to understand.
Someone or something tapped Edward's window, catching his attention again. Bella looked over and swallowed, but avoided his eyes.
"Baja las ventanas," Carlos said. He was about Edward's height, curly dark hair, a bit too long and matted with sweat. He set his black eyes on him; the whites barely visible under the red spider web of veins covered it.
Drunk or high, likely both, he realized.
Edward hated the way he looked at Bella, as if he was ready to eat her or something. It was disturbing. He felt the stifling heat of the evening as his window started to lower slowly.
Three men stood on his side of the truck, all armed and huge. When the window was completely down, one of the fuckers set the tip of the barrel of his gun on the window's edge.
"Carlos, you won't be getting your money if your men don't lower their weapons," she stated, repeating her words in Spanish for their benefit.
Carlos laughed and shook his head. With a motion of his head, his men lowered their guns and stepped away from Edward's window.
"You're early," Bella said, not looking at Carlos directly, her hands on the wheel.
"Only a week," he said, sliding a finger along Bella's arm.
Edward growled, "No la toques!" Don't touch her!
Bella gasped and closed her eyes. Carlos grinned, his white teeth stood out from the contrasting color of his skin.
"She your lady?" he asked him. Edward nodded and glared at him.
"He's with me, Carlos," Bella said firmly.
"How much you got on you?" Carlos asked, his eyes drifting from Edward to Bella again.
"Twenty." Edward wasn't sure how much she had, but there was no use in lying. They'd see if she was by searching the truck. Every instinct in his body told him if they forced them out of the truck, they wouldn't see another day. Worse yet, they'd likely torture them.
"Not enough," Carlos said, earning a chuckle from his men.
"I'm worth more to you alive since I pay you well."
"I get money from anybody. Maybe I want something else." The tip of the gun ran down Bella's neck, but somehow she kept herself from flinching. "There is only one Bel-la."
Edward nearly vibrated, his hands clenching tighter. That earned him a twitch of the gun pointed at his head.
"Maybe next time," Carlos stated as if it was tragic news. "Give me the money, but I see you again real soon." Carlos laughed, his men mimicking him.
Bella nodded and held up her hands slowly to show she was unarmed. "It's in the glove box," she said. With another cock of his head, an armed man held the tip of his gun to Edward's temple. He felt the pinch of it as it dug into his skin.
Inside, he cursed wildly at the bastard.
Edward swallowed and kept his fists on his thighs. His eyes locked with Bella's, who looked as if she wasn't breathing. With a trembling hand, she took his.
Carlos cursed under his breath and held his pistol to her chest. "Don't move," he said.
Edward hissed at the sight of the barrel digging into her chest, forcing the t-shirt she wore to gape and show too much skin. That smooth, tanned slope drew the asshole's attention there. She shook her head, as if she sensed his need to do something.
The pressure of Bella's hand was the only thing that kept him from saying a word. Fucking hell, he realized that Carlos could shoot her. He wanted to wrap his hands around his fucking neck and choke the life from him. With his eyes still on Bella, he heard the glove department close and felt the ease of the barrel move from his temple.
Suddenly, Bella wrenched her hand from his as Carlos grabbed the back of her head. "Un beso para el camino." A kiss for the road.
He crushed his lips to hers, and she tried to push him away. Ready to grab her, do something, some fucker outside returned the gun to Edward's head. They laughed like a pack of fucking hyenas. He raged, somehow keeping the worst of it inside. Well, most of it at least.
"Fuck you, asshole," he spat, watching as Bella pushed at Carlos's shoulders harder. Carlos yelped when she tried to scratch his eyes out.
Carlos laughed as he pulled away and licked his lips. Bella remained for the most part frozen. Only the rise and fall of her chest gave away her fear. She didn't say anything as Carlos ordered his men away.
"Tell that gringo I want more money next week or I go find you."
Bella nodded, her hands curling around the steering wheel. She exhaled sharply as the gun moved away from Edward's head again. They watched as the men all climbed into their vehicles. The second they were inside, Bella's left hand moved to her lap, a gun in her tight grip. She turned enough to grab a bottle of water from the small ice chest she always kept in the back seat. Taking a mouthful, she rinsed and spat out the window. Her hand rose to wipe at her mouth roughly, as the assholes kicked up a bunch of dust as they drove away.
"Emmett," Bella whispered. "Did you get all that?"
"Yeah, I got it, B."
"When we get back, give us some privacy please. We're okay."
"I'll let them know."
"I'll call him to turn around," Emmett said. Bella cursed, thanked him, and hung up.
"It's gotten worse, hasn't it? The violence," Edward asked.
"Yeah," she whispered hoarsely.
"Why are you paying him?"
"He says it's protection money. It's fucking bullshit." She rested her forehead on the wheel and exhaled loudly. "We're going to have to leave sooner than the two weeks I planned recently. It's too dangerous."
"That might be for the best."
"We better get going." She looked at him, her eyes soft and there was that edge of fear there, too. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Bella," Edward whispered and cautiously rose his hand to her face. She didn't try to stop him, and he'd given her plenty of time to do it. He held her face in his hands, running his thumb across her cheek. "Are you?"
She shook her head, her eyes closing. Her nose nuzzled his palm for a second before she turned away. "No, but I will be."
She hopped out of the truck and tucked the gun at the small of her back. She circled to the passenger side, pulling open his door to grab something. "Need to check for trackers."
"Do you think he'd put one on?"
"He hasn't before." She turned on the unit, no larger than small notebook. Together, they carefully looked, using their hands as another way to check. After almost ten minutes, they drove toward the compound in silence. It was almost pitch black outside when they reached it nearly thirty minutes later.
They pulled into the underground garage where Emmett waved them through a security gate, a recent addition. Once inside the main building, Bella walked straight to the dimmed kitchen. Grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge, she drank most of it in one go.
"Bella," Edward said softly. "We're all right."
Her hand trembled as she tossed the bottle in the trash, her eyes on anything but him. "It could've turned so much worse." She leaned back against the counter and finally met his gaze. "I wouldn't have been able to live—" She only shook her head unable to continue.
He could see the come down in her, already feeling the same effect of the adrenaline that had run its course through their blood during the ordeal himself. Her body shook as she stood on unstable legs near the counter.
Edward, needing the reassurance that she was alive and well, edged closer to her. Her knees buckled the second he was within reach and she fell against him. Wrapping his arms around her, he held her close and as the memories bombarded him, his hold tightened.
The bastard knew her real name. Fuck. He knew that kind of information was crucial, so he told her instead of keeping it to himself. She only held him tighter at the news.
Shaking from head to toe, Edward quietly lowered them to the floor and cradled her close. They only needed a few minutes. They created a bubble around them, comforting each other with touch and the reassurance that the other was alive and there with them. He only wanted a moment to erase the images from his head. "We need to leave in a few days," she whispered.
"We will." Edward was determined to it together.
AN: Yay, we're back. Sorry for the delay. I needed a angst free break. My Spanish is horrible, but I'm hoping it didn't do too bad. Thanks for reading!