A/N I'm fail, I know. Thank you all so much for your patience and understanding RL has been super crazy to say the least, but things are back on track and I'm ready to roll again.
Thank you to my wonderful beta's Frumpy, MsSimone & Adranwen. I could not do this without you. You keep my head on straight.
DISCLAIMER: My deep seated need for capacious amounts of coffee owns me but SM owns Twilight. I just write about it.
"What do you mean James is missing?" Bella asked in a panic. Overhearing her distress, I rushed into the kitchen just ahead of Edward. I looked at Bella questioningly as she spoke. Seeing my look, she covered the phone with her hand and quietly whispered to Edward and I what Felix was saying.
The look in Bella's eyes shook me to the core. This was my daughter, a woman that had been through so much. There wasn't much that could shake her, not after all she had had to put up with over the years. I had seen her adapt, conform to any situation and make the best of everything. The woman standing in front of me now was scared to death. "James never went home last night, Dad. Felix called my contact at the station, and they informed him that he never showed up for work today either."
My mind revolted at the thought. Never in a million years was I one hundred percent sure it was him. At one time, James had been a decent guy, or so I had thought when he married my daughter. Watching things deteriorate first hand over the years had been hard, but I always knew he loved her and she loved him.
Bella held up a finger to Edward, just as he was about to speak, and focused her attention back on Felix. Turning my attention briefly to Edward, I spoke quietly, arms crossed, hashing out my thoughts and ideas on the fly. "How well do you know this Jake guy, Edward?"
Running his fingers through his hair and shaking his head, Edward looked at me. There was a tired, worried look in his eyes. Not the kind of look when your friend is sick and you're worried about how they're feeling, or you're running late for work and don't want to get in trouble. This was a deep-seeded worry, the kind that left circles under your eyes from lack of sleep and worry lines in your forehead.
"So," Bella said shakily, hanging up the phone. "It seems that James has been missing since last night and never showed for his shift today. According to Felix, Victoria has been running her mouth about us, pointing fingers in our direction." She shook her head in disbelief and started pacing the kitchen.
"Bella, we both know that's not true and it can be proven. The question is, where is he, and I'm not sure I like what the answer may be." Edward tried giving Bella a reassuring smile. "Look, Victoria is simply trying to get the focus off her and what has been going on at the station. She knows they're in hot water and this is her way of trying to divert things, or at least she thinks it is. But we have the upper hand Bella, We have each other, your parents and our friends and we will get through this. Don't let this scare you, okay?" I watched as Edward placed his hands on Bella's cheeks, kissing her. Rolling my eyes, I cleared my throat.
"I don't mean to interrupt your love fest, but, Bella, I think we really need to sit down and talk about this. Once we've gone over everything I can move forward and I think we'll all feel better." Doing my best to keep my voice firm but gentle, I glanced from Bella to Edward, business written all over my face. It was hard separating the father from the police officer. What I wanted to do was gather her in my arms and carry her off to some place safe, but Bella was an adult and I couldn't handle this like I could have when she was younger. Instead, I put on my gruff face, tightened my belt and dove in to what I did best.
"You're right, dad, let's go into the living room and talk for a bit." Bella replied, sighing. Nodding, I waited for Edward and Bella to move ahead of me and then followed them into the living room, my lips twitching slightly at their obvious familiarity and comfort with one another. It was endearing and frightening at the same time. Everyone took a seat in the small but comfortable living room, Bella folding herself around Edward on the couch while I sat on the edge of the old recliner that Renee tried so hard to get me to throw out. Perched on the arm of my chair was Renee. Giving her a quick smile, I turned my attention back to Bella. "Bells, tell me everything." Starting from the beginning, the very beginning, leaving nothing out, she explained everything that had transpired since she left James. Her meeting Edward, her friendship with Jacob and all the trouble James had been causing, red flags started popping up everywhere.
By the time she was finished, I had several pages of notes and more questions than I knew what to do with. "Bells, I know you probably don't want to hear this, but what do you really know about this Jacob Black? You mention him quite a bit, and I know he isn't always around, but things just aren't meshing." I tried giving her an apologetic look, showing her I understood she had considered him a friend.
"Dad, just ask me your questions. I'm a big girl, I can take it." Bella raised her eyebrows, a serious look on her face and I couldn't help but chuckle.
"I know you are, honey." I nodded to Edward, "Son, I have questions for you too, so you two may as well make yourselves comfortable."
"Charlie, stop treating the kids like you're interrogating them and just ask the questions." Renee said, an exasperated look on her face.
Grumbling softly at Renee, I continued. "How long, have you known Jacob?"
Looking up thoughtfully, Bella licked her lips and replied. "Rose hired him about six months after we opened the bar. It's like he's always been there, he's part of the family."
Frowning, I turned my head toward Edward as he snorted. "Is there something you wanted to add, son?" Lifting my hand, I ran my fingers over my stubbly jaw, popping it.
"Yes, as a matter a fact, I do. Bella seems to see an entirely different side to Jake than I do."
Bella gave Edward and exasperated look, tilting her head to the side, her eyes widening at his statement "Edward, I do not!"
Stepping in, I placed my hand over Bella's and spoke quietly. "Bella, let Edward talk. I need to hear all sides. He may very well see something you don't."
"I don't doubt that dad, I'm sure he does. It's just that...I feel like a fool to have let Jake string me along like he has. I'm such an idiot... But I don't understand, what does Jake have to do with James being missing."
I looked up, my eyes drifting to Edward, his mouth a thin line, his head nodding, and instantly knew he had come to the same conclusion I had. What Edward didn't know, and I was sure this would likely piss Bella off, when she found out, is that when Bella finally confessed everything that had been happening, I ran a background check on everyone. Even Edward.
"Bells, I ran a background on Jacob Black." Edward's eyes widened for an instant before returning to normal. His hand drifted to her back, rubbing up and down, slowly, soothingly. "Yes, son, I ran one on you too." I shrugged, what could I say? Bella was my baby and I'd do it again, no question.
"Dad! Edward is not the enemy here." Bella leaned forward, sputtering the words. I watched as Edward slid an arm around her shoulders, pulling her back, speaking softly and calmly.
"Bella, it's okay. Look at me." Inclining her head, Bella looked at Edward. "It's okay and I expected no less, I have nothing to hide and if it makes your father feel better, then it makes me feel better. We need to protect you, so whatever he needs to do." Edward looked up at me and nodded. "I'm perfectly fine with."
Edward turned his gaze to Bella, almost in what seemed to be a silent conversation. Shifting uncomfortable, I waited for, trying not to watch my baby, albeit my grown up baby, look at a man that way.
Finally, taking a deep breath, Bella sat back up and smiled softly. "Okay then, what did you find on the background check?"
"Nothing." I waited to see what sort of reaction I would get, wondering if anything would click. I needed to see if I was the only one thinking that it was too coincidental.
"Wait, nothing? As in nothing, nothing?" Bella asked in surprise.
"Yes, as in no traffic violations, no jail time. We ran a credit check, there's no unpaid debt, loans in his name, nothing, a clean slate. It's like he just appeared out of this thin air about eight years ago." Standing up, I began to pace in front of the couch, hands in my pockets, thinking, going over everything in my head. I was missing something, I knew I was. Head down, still pacing, I began to speak. "Edward, tell me what you think, what you see. Any feelings you got from him? Any hunches? Regardless of what anyone says in law enforcement, instinct is crucial and often leads to fact. Tell me what yours says."
I continued to pace, listening to Edward's words as he described Jake, the way he looked at Bella, the constant attention, mannerisms, everything. It was as if I were getting to know an entirely different person than who Bella described. Sitting beside Edward, I glanced over to see Bella sitting there, tears in her eyes as she took in what Edward was saying. My heart broke for her, but the daddy in me would do her no good right now. She needed Charlie, Chief of Police. She needed Seattle's finest and she needed Felix and we all needed to be on the same page.
Standing in the kitchen, I handed a soapy plate to Renee to rinse, absentmindedly, staring out the window in front of me. This was a chore we did together often, usually chattering away about the days events, what was going on in Forks, or just life and thoughts in general. It was a way we stayed close, grounded. But not today, today Renee chattered on, like usual and I was in my own world, thinking about Bella, Jake, James, hell, even Edward. Especially Edward. I didn't get a bad vibe from him, quite the opposite in fact. I could tell he made Bella happy, but I wondered if he actually knew all the tragedy she had been through at the hands of James.
"Charlie- Charlie? CHARLIE!"
I flinched as water droplets landed on my face. Shaking my head, I looked at Renee, who was trying to get my attention. "What, woman?"
"Don't what woman me, mister. Where were you? I've been going on and on about redecorating the house in fuchsia and teal, just to see what you would say and I got nothing. You make it hard for a woman to tease you."
Grinning sheepishly, I grabbed a hand towel and dried off my hands, pulling Renee into my arms, holding her. "I'm sorry, love. I'm just worried that's all. It's hard to separate the father from the chief." I felt Renee's wet hands slide around my waist, hugging me tight, her head resting against my chest.
"Baby, go talk to Edward. It's hard to know who and what you're dealing with in a room full of people. Especially when you have your doe-eyed daughter sitting next to a man that has obviously stolen her heart. He's not going to be harsh and forward, as you need him to be. You two go out and grab a beer, talk. It will give you a chance to get to know him a little better too." Lifting her head, Renee gave me a dazzling smile and I couldn't help but smile back. It was that same smile that caught me so many years ago, hook, line and sinker.
Stroking her hair, I lifted her face to mine, placing a small, soft kiss on her lips, feeling her mouth turn up in a smile. "I do love you, Charlie Swan. Now, go feel better, go talk to Edward."
I felt her hand squeeze my ass just before she pulled away. " You will pay for that later," I laughed.
Grinning and winking, Renee sashayed towards the living room, slinging the towel over her shoulder." I look forward to it...officer."
Pushing open the door to the local Port Angles pub. I see Hank in the back, tending bar. Giving him a grin, I nodded, walking over, clasping his hand in a firm grip. "How's it going tonight, Hank? Staying pretty busy?"
With a wide smile, Hank clapped me on the back, almost hard enough to wince. On a slow night, he would double as a bouncer. He was certainly large enough for it. "Hey! Charlie! Haven't seen you in a while. We're keeping steady tonight. Who's the pup?"
Chuckling, I motioned Edward forward. "Hank, this is Edward Cullen, Bella's, ah...new man. Edward, meet Hank. He helps run this place."
Reaching forward, Edward shook hands with Hank and nodded, smiling. "Pleased to meet you Hank."
"Likewise Edward, we'll be seeing more of you around here then, I suppose?"
Giving Hank a half smile and nodding, Edward looked at me before answering. "As a matter a fact, you will, at least when Bella and I can get back to the area. I know she misses home so I'm sure we'll be visiting as often as we can."
"Good to hear." Reaching behind the bar, Hank pulled out two beers, popping open the tops, handing one to Edward and one to myself. "Here you go, first round is on the house." After saying our thanks I lead Edward over to a table in the back. The lighting was dim here, just as I liked it. Pulling out a chair, I nodded, indicating for Edward to take the one across from me.
Taking a long pull from my beer, I set it on the table, rolling the bottom in circles, leaving a wet ring. With James, I never had a choice. Bella was in high school and was instantly enamored. The car, the excitement; bad boy come to town, hell on wheels and she was off like a flash. I never stood a chance talking any sense into her. For a while it seemed things would be okay, even after they married. Once they moved to Seattle though, things began going downhill. Phone calls stopped, visits became less frequent. Renee and I eventually got used to the short sporadic visits; even trying to talk to Bella about it when she was here brought nothing but uneasy conversation and unpleasant silence. Bella would just clam up. At least with Edward she seemed genuinely happy and I had a feeling he'd be straight with me. No bull shit.
"So, Edward," Looking up I saw Edward peering at me intently like he was waiting for the onslaught to begin. Yep, no bull shit here. "I don't need to tell you what Bella has been through, had to deal with, over the last several years, do I?"
Sitting the beer down on the table, Edward crossed his arms, leaning them on the table, like he was guarding, or defending himself, I'm not sure which. "No, you also don't have to worry about my treatment of her either. I know you worry, and rightly so, Bella has been through a lot, with the divorce, with Jake... especially in the last several months. I assure you though, I'm not the enemy. I love Bella and I'll help in any way you need me to. Just say the word."
Holding Edward's stare, I nodded my head, knowing in my gut that this man was telling the truth, it was in his eyes, it was swimming there; concern and frustration, worry and love. Pointing the neck of my beer at Edward, we toasted, nodding at each other, taking a deep drink. "Well then, I' have several, I hope you have time."
Thoughts? I love Charlie. Want more of him and the fam? Tell me what you want! TELL ME!