AN: O hai there. Ahelm here. Thanks for the sweet words regarding the passing of my grandmother. You are all wonderful.
This one's short but I don't think you'll mind. *wink wink, nudge nudge* P.S. Not ours, but you knew that.
Things had been better as of late.
I was still worried about Emmett, and Mama was still quietly stressing over everything, but we were confident in Edward, Alice and Jasper's abilities to bring my brother home to us. I just hoped that he'd make it back to us by Christmas, which was only a few days away.
Enough time had passed that thinking of Emmett's letter no longer brought tears to my eyes. I realized, after the quick conversation I'd had about it with Edward, that I should take it for what it was: a note that proved that he was alright. Emmett had managed to make a friend even in the midst of being held against his will. If that wasn't typical of my little brother, I don't know what was.
I smiled as my desk phone rang—it was secretary at the front desk. Mr. Marks had called me in, despite our office being closed for the holidays, to take care of a few things. I didn't mind; it kept my mind from dwelling on unpleasantries.
"Good afternoon, Bella," she said. "I have an Edward Masen waiting here for you?"
"Oh, thank you Sally," I responded. "I'll be right there."
While I stood up, I glanced at the clock on my desk. It was nearly time for lunch. Confident that he wouldn't say no, I picked up my purse and coat, and decided to see if Edward wanted to grab a bite.
As soon as I walked through the door that separated the office from the entrance foyer, I had to fight back a girlish giggle.
"You know, it's rather unfair that you are so darn attractive," I said quietly as I stepped up just behind him. I was looking up at the back of his fedora as he turned around with a smile on his face.
"I could say the same for you, Miss Swan," he responded in kind. I felt my smile grow. "I have news for you."
I leaned on the counter and shot a smile to Sally. "About that. Care to take lunch with me, Mr. Masen?" I asked, more brazen than normal. But I suppose that was par for the course these days, at least with Edward.
He stared at me for a beat and then furrowed his brow. He raises a hand to his chin and rubbed it as he angled his eyes up toward the ceiling, thinking. Then his lips raised into that familiar crooked grin, and I knew I had him. "I think that can be arranged, Bella," he answered.
I cleared my throat. Playful Edward was almost too much.
"There's a great place just across the way. Have you ever been to Moonstruck's?" I asked, as I put on my coat.
He adjusted his jacket and without thinking, I reached forward and ran the fingers of my right hand down his left suspender. Edward caught my hand in his and wrapped his fingers around mine as he quietly said, "Can't say that I have. Let's go."
I nodded to Sally and as we walked out, it occurred to me that Sally was a worse office gossip than Jessica, and I wondered how quickly stories of Bella and the dashing bronze-haired man would circulate.
Then I decided I didn't care, because as we walked, Edward kept my hand in his and when we intertwined our fingers, I was suddenly warm all over.
We made haste to cross the street. It was bitterly cold and scowled at myself for forgetting my hat in my rush to get to Edward. Once inside, we both peeled our jackets off and took a table. Before I could look at Edward and ask what his news was, the waiter appeared and took our drink order.
"Hot chocolate," I said. Edward ordered the waiter was gone, I asked, "So what have you got for me, Edward?" He quirked an eyebrow and I laughed. "Now, now. Let's not be inappropriate," I admonished.
"Of course not, Bella," he said, smirking. "Let me start from the beginning. The other day, before I came by, I'd located the warehouse where they are keeping your brother. I told you that much." I nodded. "Well, this morning, I went to Jasper's precinct, since they are technically responsible for the area in which Emmett's being held captive and I can't technically arrest anyone. We had a meeting."
The waiter returned with our drinks and asked for our food orders.
"A BLT, hold the tomato, please," I said.
Edward ordered pastrami on rye and the waiter left us again.
"So, the meeting at the precinct," I said, urging him to continue.
He sipped his coffee and nodded. "Yes. So, we went there this morning, Alice and I. Jasper's chief was surprised to see us but after a good long conversation, we now have them behind us. Jasper will play a lead role in sting that we're running."
"Sting? Edward is that safe?" I asked, instantly worried. "I can't … you'll be …"
Covering my hand with his in the center of the table, he gently cut me off. "I'll be fine, dollface. The bulls are going to poke around a bit today and tomorrow to find some concrete evidence to back up our case. When it comes time, Jasper and I will run inside the joint and there will be five or six officers just behind us, in case we need the back up. Half the force will have surrounded the building before we set foot inside. We all have a sense that this warehouse is the center of the whole shebang, and hopefully there will be several arrests made."
I stared at him. "But you won't be alone. You'll be with Jasper, right?" I queried. It struck me then that this search for my brother had given me so much. I had Edward, who was some kind of wonderful. I had Alice and Carlisle, both of whom were lively and sweet and caring and it helped that Ali and I wore the same size, considering she was quite the clotheshorse. Mama didn't want to say anything, but I knew she was carrying a flame for Mr. Cullen, and I approved wholeheartedly. And Jasper … Jasper and I had had limited conversations, but he loved Alice and it was plain as day, and Alice loved him. I'd even indirectly met Rose, and I just knew, somehow, that she and I would get along.
Emmett's missing person's case had revolutionized my life. I squeezed Edward's hand as the waiter arrived and deposited our food before us.
"Yes. I'll be with Jasper."
I looked him in the eye. "Have you told him you used to be a beat cop, Edward?" I asked. He didn't answer. In a quieter tone, I said, "Does the idea of working with Jasper remind you of Garrett?"
Edward took a bite of his sandwich and chewed in silence as I sipped my hot cocoa, hoping I hadn't overstepped some boundary. Then I wondered if we even had boundaries anymore. I thought not, so I shoved away the slightly guilty thoughts I was having for asking about his personal history in public. But I didn't press him.
After a moment, Edward swallowed and looked at me. "I haven't told Jasper, but I should. He noticed I had a rather regimented style of taking notes this morning when I handed over my case information, so I think he might have an inkling about my past." He paused and blinked. "And it does remind me of Garrett, but I can't think about that, not right now."
I hoped that my eyes conveyed my understanding as they looked into his deep emerald irises.
A few minutes of comfortable silence passed.
"Anyway, Bella. We'll be fine. Jasper, Alice and I will have your brother home to you and your mother just in time for Christmas, and hopefully, Rose will be out from under the thumbs of the Russians and can go back to running a regular, run of the mill café instead of the gin joint they've turned Lilly's into."
"I trust you," I said simply.
An emotion I couldn't label flashed in Edward's eyes, but instead of asking what was going on, I let it go. I'd prodded enough for one meal. We ate the rest of our food, making small talk and jokes until we were finished. When the bill came, Edward snatched it up and I smiled at my chivalrous man.
We donned our jackets again and rushed across the street. He walked me inside, and we stopped at the front desk, since Kinsey & Campbell wouldn't take too kindly to my bringing him into the actual office. "Thank you for keeping me updated, Edward," I said. "Knowing you and Jasper and Alice are all on the case really does help Mama and me feel better about Emmett. And I know you'll bring him back to us soon, and safe," I said quietly.
Edward wrapped his arms around me and we faced the street, watching the snow as it began to fall. I snuggled into his chest, breathing in his scent—all clean and honey and manly—and closed my eyes. He brushed his lips over my forehead and whispered, "Thank you for believing in me, Bella. I think it's made all the difference."
I angled my face toward his and realized I wanted to kiss him. Desperately. I swallowed thickly as he lifted a hand and ran it along my jaw, his fingers delicate and soft. I blinked, wanting to memorize the feeling.
"I … um. I should go back to work …" my voice trailed off as I got lost in him all over again.
"Yes, you should," he said quietly. He kissed my forehead again and we pulled apart.
He moved away suddenly, over to the front desk, where he asked Sally, "Have you got any extra paper and a pen I can borrow?"
Slightly flustered, probably due to the ridiculously attractive man who was addressing her, Sally nodded and handed Edward a pen and a piece of notepaper. He scrawled something on the paper, folded it up and handed it to me. "Open this later, when you have a few minutes," he said. Then he shot me a smile and said goodbye, returning the pen to Sally as he walked toward the doors.
I watched him walk into the snow and turned on my heel, tucking the note into my purse on my way back to my desk. I'd save it to read once work was done.
Three hours later, my shift ended. I said my goodbyes to Mr. Marks and locked my desk, prepared to be off for the next few weeks. I was looking forward to bringing in the New Year with my newly enlarged family, and that brought a smile to my face. I slipped out of the office and hailed a cab. The drive home was quick. I went inside and, as I settled into my couch, I remembered Edward's letter.
I walked to my kitchen, where my bag was hung over a chair, and fumbled around it in. When I found his note, I grinned as I focused on Emmett's imminent return and walked quickly back my comfortable position on the sofa.
Tucking my feet under my body, I unfolded Edward's note and read, in his perfect script:
I love you, Bella Swan.
My breath caught in my throat and I felt tears gather in my eyes as I ran to the phone.
Blindly, I dialed his number, hoping he was at home.
It rang for what seemed like an eternity before an older man picked up. "Hello?"
"Hello. Is Edward home?" I asked, probably sounding like a lunatic.
The old man—Alistair, I presumed—coughed. "Yes, ma'am. May I say who is calling?"
"This is Bella. Bella Swan," I answered.
I could almost hear the smile in his voice. "Ah yes. My grandson's told me about you. Just a minute, Miss …"
I tapped my foot and paced back and forth in my kitchen, counting the seconds that passed before Edward returned to the phone.
"Bella? Is everything alright?"
"I opened your note," I said, ignoring his question.
"You did?" he asked, and I could hear the nerves in his voice.
"I did." Purposefully, I waited a second to say anything further.
Edward cleared his throat. "Oh—"
I cut him off. "I love you, Edward. I do. I love you," I said, the words tumbling over each other as they danced across my tongue. I was breathless when I finished speaking.
I could hear his sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line.
"Bella," he whispered. "Oh, Bella."
"I love you," I said again, wanting to scream it from the rooftops after holding it in for so long. "And I just wanted you to know."
He laughed lightly. "I suppose this colors things then, hmm?" he asked, teasingly. "Damn it, I wish I could come see you, but the snow storm is too thick," he complained.
"Don't worry, Edward. If I knew where you lived and could have run out of here and to your place, I would have. I just had to tell you. I couldn't wait."
He sighed. "I plan to take you on a proper date after we bring your brother home, Bella. Mark my words. I expect him to grill me regarding my intentions and everything."
I laughed. "Emmett can do that." I leaned against the wall, my free hand clutching at my collar. "Good night, Edward. Sweet dreams."
"Yes, good night Bella. I love you."
When I hung up, I nearly floated to my room, where I promptly fell asleep. In my dreams, I was in an unfamiliar apartment with my new-found family—Jasper, Alice, Rose, Emmett, Carlisle and my mother—and Edward's arms never left my waist.
Morning came quickly, and as the soft light shone through the blinds, I smiled, remembering the night's dreams. Soon, I thought. Soon.
AN: Pardon me as I squee.
Prepare yourselves, my lovelies. Next chapter is quite action packed. Oh, and HMonster. He's on his way. I promise.
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