A/N Stephenie Meyer owns all.
So sorry for the delay - just moved halfway across the country and have been distracted by reading too many other fics in the meantime. Read on and review, my pretties!
This hasn't been beta'd - so PLEASE point out any spelling/grammatical errors to me, much appreciated :D
"Fine, Edward, just fucking believe whatever you like and see if I care that -"
The sky exploded in a rainbow of white-hot heat and searing orange flame, booming and eerily soundless. I was dimly aware of being flung forward as if by an invisible giant hand, swatted onto the pavement with a sick thud and my head spinning in flashing grey-black circles with the dizzying impact.
What the hell...?
Roughness against my cheek, my chest.
Was that smoke?
Heat on my face, blazing against my cheek.
I coughed, my chest strangely aching and sore as hollow silver stars slid across my vision like barely glimpsed mosquitoes swarming over me.
~ * ~
The heat was unforgiving and unrelenting, pressing me down into the road. The tarmac was overheated by the Nevada sun and the air above me was hot with smoke and burning fuel, leaving me disoriented and unsure which way was up or down.
I coughed, chokingly, tears blurring my eyesight as I struggled to plant my palms flat and push myself up. My progress was slow and tortuous, my brain feeling like it was rolling around sickeningly in my skull like a demonic bowling ball, but I eventually managed to push myself onto all-fours to check my surroundings as my mind tried to catch up with my body and figure out what the fuck just happened.
I looked back behind me and saw the car Emmett had given us now engulfed in flames and smoke, spiralling up into the sky like a beacon. Even through the panic my chest went tight as I thought about who might be see that, who might be watching for. Edward was going to -
I clenched in horror and looked around frantically, heart pounding like a jackrabbit. I saw a prone figure sprawled on the ground to my left, about ten feet away from me. Ignoring the coughs wracking my chest and the burning in my palms I crawled over to him, my heart tight as I registered the untidy mop of bronze hair and his too-still limbs as he lay there, face down and unmoving.
Fuck! God, Edward, please be okay. Please don't leave me here alone!
I put a shaking hand on his shoulder, trying unsuccessfully to turn his body over; he was too goddamn heavy! Tears streamed down my cheeks and I realised I was chanting his name like a mantra, brushing his hair back and desperately trying to coax some sign of life from him. I put a trembling finger to the juncture of his neck and nearly collapsed in relief when I felt his pulse, strong and regular.
I was just about to try and turn him again when I heard heavy footsteps and deep, male voices coming nearer, muffled by the ringing in my ears from the explosion. I froze. A quick glance about told me there was no shelter to run to, nowhere to hide. We were surrounded by miles and miles of flat desert. Regardless, there was no way I would leave Edward here, alone and vulnerable.
The voices were getting closer.
Almost shaking with the need to hurry I pushed Edward's shoulder up until I could tug his jacket aside and yank out the gun I knew he kept in the holster there. I held it gingerly in my hands, cursing myself for rolling my eyes at Charlie all those times he'd offered to take me to the range and teach me how to use a firearm. I examined it with trepidation.
Was that the safety? Do all guns even have a safety? Why does all my knowledge on guns come from freaking Die Hard movies??
Out of time.
I lay back down on my front on the hot asphalt, tucking the gun beneath my body to hide it from whoever was coming to find us. I fervently hoped that it was Emmett, but we'd driven too far for him to have arrived here this quickly...unless I'd been out longer than I'd thought. For the first time in my life I actually wished my concussion had led to unconsciousness.
As the men got nearer through the thick smoke I closed my eyes and played dead, heart pounding in my ears. Fuck, the second either of them checked for a pulse I was sure I would be discovered - there was no way they'd believe I was out. That's even if they checked for a pulse...
A car bomb like that wasn't meant to leave any survivors. The possibility that they'd simply walk up and plant a bullet in both our heads made my blood turn to tar but it was too late to do anything now and -
"What the fuck?!" The voice was male and deep, harsh in its anger and with the edge of an Italian accent. I had to strain to hear through the ringing in my ears and I didn't recognise the speaker, but the tone told me this was no friend. "It was supposed to be a smoke bomb, enough to make them pull over. What the hell did you do, put it on the gas line? Scopata!"
The other man answered, also unfamiliar to me. He sounded calmer than the other speaker, a little exasperated but almost bored. "I was following orders."
"Orders? From who? Demetri was pretty fucking clear that his puttana was to be taken alive. If she'd been in the car she'd be mincemeat on the highway."
The other guy didn't answer but by their footsteps they were close to me now. I felt a boot nudge my side and held my breath as I played dead, rolling back limply when the shoe was removed. "Is this even her? In the picture Demetri gave me she had brown hair."
I felt a hand tug on the wig I was wearing, then pull it sharply. Pain exploded in my scalp as the pins came loose and he yanked the fake blonde weave away from my hair, then rip out the hairnet and shake my brown curls free. I bit my lip to avoid crying out, thankful they couldn't see my face.
"It's her. Just a wig."
"Huh. Is she even alive?"
"Check her," the second voice commanded. "The guard too."
A hand fisted my hair and tugged my head back, pain rocketing through me. I didn't move. I felt greasy, sweaty fingers on my neck and fought to slow my breathing and heartbeat, desperate not to alert them that I was awake.
The hand released me and my head thudded back onto the road. Ow! The first man grunted and stepped over me to Edward; from the dull thud moments later I guessed he'd performed the same exam.
"They're both alive. Lucky for you, fucker. Who the hell told you to blow up the bitch's car?"
"Who do you think." The tone was irritated and it was clear it wasn't a question.
"Was it Cauis?" The other man grunted in affirmation, and the first man swore profusely in Italian. "I'm not getting involved in a pissing contest between the brothers. Aro and Demetri told me to bring this bitch in alive, so we're bringing her in alive, capisce?"
"Whatever," the second man said, coolly. "Just get her in the van and let the brothers fight over whether or not to skin her alive."
Goosebumps erupted over my skin and my breathing hitched. I stayed as still as possible, fighting the urge to hyperventilate as I prayed they didn't notice the difference.
"What about the guard? Looks like Cullen's son. Should we take him too?"
There was a long pause, then the first man spoke. "Nah. You know the Cullens - he'll be too much fucking trouble to transport. Just shoot him."
No no no no no no no no!!
My fingers beneath me fumbled on the gun, thumbing what I hoped was the safety as I slipped my finger into the trigger. I hoped they were close enough that I wouldn't have to aim, but if I shot one would I need to reload or something before I shot the other?
And wasn't there something about a recoil?
Shit shit shit!
I breathed in deeply and tensed to flip over and shoot whoever was nearest to me, but my fingers went limp and my breath escaped me as I heard a distinctive click then the loud explosive sound of a bullet being fired right by me.
My heart stopped and my eyes flew open.
~ * ~
My jaw dropped slightly as I watched the disappearing bumper of the Corvette as Edward burned rubber and tore away in an over-dramatic roar of gas.
What the fuck...?
I shook my head, half-laughing as I swung myself into the driver's seat of the Porsche Edward had stolen back in Phoenix. Flashy bastard. He had been acting like an ass from the moment I'd arrived and if I wasn't convinced he'd had his dick removed years ago I would have really immediately he was jealous over Bella Luna.
The quick getaway was the icing on the sexually-frustrated green-eyed cake. That fucker was seriously jealous - Bells was clearly tying him into knots and she was totally oblivious. Hilarious!
The soft buzz of my phone in my pocket broke my thoughts and I glanced at the display, then swung it up to my ear with a grin. "Rosie baby," I purred.
"What's your location?"
Ah, that's my girl. All business, all the time. Seriously a goddamn turn-on. "Where do you want me to be, baby?" I teased, leaning back and crossing my arms.
"Quit pissing around, asshole," she snapped, but I could hear the undertone of amusement in her voice over the sound of her engine.
I chuckled to myself. "Usual rendezvous, Edward and the client just left in the Corvette. You close by?"
"Be there in five." She hung up without a goodbye, making me grin.
I fired the Porsche up and drove it back onto the highway, wiping it down for prints before abandoning it with the keys in the ignition. It wouldn't be there long. I jogged back and less than two minutes later I heard another car approaching. Rosalie.
She pulled up in her BMW, stopping the tires in a spin less than four inches away from my toes. I climbed in the car and pulled her in for a hungry kiss. One day she was going to pull that shit and park on my feet, but it was still seriously fucking hot.
"How was the flight?"
She shrugged, putting the car into drive and heading back to the highway. "Fine. Some pig in a suit offered me fifty bucks to join the mile high club with him."
"Is he still breathing?"
She smirked at me, pure lightning and steel and sex. "Sure, if you count breathing through a tube."
I laughed and gripped her knee as we drove. "You missed one hell of an entertaining afternoon."
She rolled her beautiful baby blues at me. "What, did the Swan girl fall over her own feet again?"
"No, well, yeah, but that's not what I meant." She arched a brow, making an impatient 'come on' signal with her fingers. "It was Edward, he went all caveman on me. Seriously thought he'd punch me out when I gave Bella a hug." I smirked. "He was acting worse than that time I borrowed his favourite assault rifle without asking and 'accidentally' left it in El Salvador."
Rose downshifted expertly and cast me a curious look. "He was jealous?" she asked, incredulous. "Over Swan - a client?"
I laughed, nodding. "Hell yeah. He tore out of here so fast he's gonna need a new set of wheels before he even hits the state line."
Rosalie laughed then too, wicked and malicious. "Christ, Mr. Professionalism has a hard-on for a client. Can't wait for Carlisle to get a hold of this one. Is she even legal?"
"Yeah, she's eighteen - no wait, nineteen. But I'm not sure that's even going to be an issue; Bella looked about ready to put his eyes out with hot pokers when they left. I get the distinct impression he's dealing with his little crush by being a complete prick to her."
"Sounds like the Edward we've all come to know and tolerate."
"Yeah, you should have seen his face when I took her in the back seat, honestly thought he was going to pop a -"
"What the fuck!" Rose screamed, slamming the brakes so hard that her blonde hair flew out before her like a wave of gold and we both hit our seat belts hard enough to knock the air from our lungs.
Shocked, we both just sat there and stared at the billowing cloud of smoke miles ahead of us, red and orange flickering at its base. Our eyes met in an instance and we both said, "Edward."
Less than twenty seconds after stopping Rosalie had already put the M3 back into drive and was tearing down the highway, heading towards the nightmare waiting for us.
"What car were they driving?" Rosalie's voice was so quiet she was almost whispering. We were nearly there.
My mouth was dry. "The Corvette. I drove it down from HQ, didn't let it out of my goddamn sight the whole time."
She glanced at me again, lips tight and brow furrowed. "Shit."
Yeah, that pretty much summed it up. "Could have been an RPG*."
She shrugged, clearly unconvinced. "Maybe. Out here though, no cover? Unlikely."
At least if it was an RPG then it wasn't an inside job; it wasn't a bomb planted on the car right in the centre of where the Cullen Group was supposedly safe.
"Jasper was right," she said softly. "We've got a mole. And if they have that kind of access - we're all in serious fucking trouble."
We rounded the bend and saw the frame of the Corvette, enveloped in smoke and still burping rolls of orange flame. The smoke was too thick to see anything clearly close-by but we both noticed the hulking shape of a dark van parked fifty yards down the road on the hard shoulder.
I was out of the car before the wheels had stopped moving, running towards the wreck and pulling my Glock out. Soft footfalls behind me and a matching click told me Rosalie was similarly ready.
Breathing shallowly through my nose to combat the heavy smoke I narrowed my eyes and ignored the burn. I saw them then, Edward and Bella lying prone and unconscious on the ground as two dark-haired motherfuckers stood over then, seemingly arguing.
I lifted my Glock and took aim as one of the men pointed the gun at Edward's head. Red descended over my vision.
Without even blinking I shot off a round into his skull, watching with dark satisfaction as he twitched and folded into a heap on the highway.
His companion jerked his head to him in shock but didn't even have a chance to raise him gun before the sharp rounds of Rosalie's Beretta took him down. We exchanged a loaded look, then I jogged towards the two figures lying on the ground as Rose took point to make sure we wouldn't have any unexpected company soon. I could hear her on the phone, presumably relaying the events to Carlisle or Jasper.
The goon Rosalie had shot was half-lying across Bella, blood from his severed carotid artery oozing over her prone form. Looping my fist through the back of his t-shirt I tossed him aside with a grunt, grabbing her shoulders and flipping her over, fucking praying she was alive.
I turned her onto her back and pushed tangled brown curls aside to find wide staring chocolate brown eyes, rolling and showing way too much white. She was gasping for breath, choking as she panicked and dropped a heavy handgun with a loud clatter before grabbing my forearms and whispering my name in a frantic whisper. Her nails dug into my skin but I didn't even feel it as I pulled her up into a bear hug.
"Shh, Bells, it's okay, you're okay now," I muttered, patting her hair awkwardly and muttering all those meaningless platitudes you give to shaking survivors in these situations. I swallowed harshly as I glanced at the smoking wreck of the Corvette and shuddered as I thought what could have happened if they'd both still been in the car.
I tried to ease her off me to check on Edward, but she clung to me like she was drowning. I glanced around and was relieved to see Rose heading back for us, re-holstering her Beretta and kneeling down beside Edward, flipping him over onto his back effortlessly although perhaps a little roughly.
"Easy, Rose," I chided, reproachfully.
She rolled her eyes, checking his pulse with brutal efficiency. "Man up, Em. He's a big boy, he can handle it."
Our conversation stirred the shivering brunette and she blinked blearily over at us. "Edward, he's....he's...."
"He's alive," Rose said tersely.
Bella blinked as us like we were speaking Russian. "What? He's alive? But...they shot him." She gulped loudly, tugging her hair. "I heard them..."
"No, Bells," I said, patting her head a little, hoping it was somehow comforting. I could see Rose arch a brow sardonically at my efforts. "He's okay, the gunshot you heard was me shooting that prick. Eddie's fine, just a little banged up that's all."
She just blinked at me, uncomprehending. Rose sighed in exasperation and yanked her out of my arms with a low mutter. "Grab Edward," she commanded me, tossing Bella's slight form over her shoulder.
I nodded in acknowledgement and seized Edward's arm, grunting as I heaved his bulky too-tall body over my shoulder. Fucking heavy bastard... I slung him over my shoulders in a fireman's lift and strode after Rose towards the BMW, thankful for not the first time that she'd brought a car with a backseat.
I dropped him into the backseat, laying him on his side and placing his head onto Bella's lap. "Keep him like this," I told her. She nodded, still a little too wide-eyed. "If he's sick tilt him forward so he doesn't choke. And keep patting his cheeks, try and wake his ass up, 'kay?'
She nodded, agreeing so softly I barely heard her. I gave her a lopsided smile and tugged her curls, saying, "You did good, kid. We're gonna get you to Seattle now, just hang onto Edward."
I jumped into the passenger seat, meeting Rose's steel-blue gaze. "Seattle?" she asked, her tone resigned. She knew it was a shitty option, but we had no choice left.
I sighed, nodding. "Seattle."
She pulled the shift into drive, pressed the gas pedal down and roared down the highway. She swerved in a wide arc past the smoking wreck of the Corvette as we headed towards the north and - hopefully - safety.
~ * ~
A/N My dear LURKERS, please review - reading without returning the love is like taking free samples and laughing as vendors lose their business to overheads of rental prices...
*By the way an RPG is a rocket propelled grenade - basically it would mean that someone shot the car into an explosion with a giant gun, meaning it wasn't an inside job.