It feels like this story has been knocking around in my head for ages and I've been dying to get it out, so here goes nothing. Fragile Human - you are the best!! I can't wait to embark on this epic journey with you ;)
Um... yeah, M for a reason. That means language, lemony goodness and some dark themes, including violence. It's AU/AH.
"Dude, listen to this." Emmett threw himself down on the workout bench closest to my station, flipping through the pages of a magazine as he did so. He bobbed his head unconsciously along with the music blasting from the speakers, humming the lyrics under his breath as he tried to find what he was looking for.
I upped the speed on the treadmill in front of me, reveling in the burn of my muscles. I'd been in the private gym since six this morning, working off the excess energy that had been building for days. I hated the downtime I had between jobs — I preferred to be active 24/7, on full alert.
"Okay, got it." Emmett cleared his throat, ignoring the few looks he received. The other guys in the gym were listening in curiously, obviously expecting something "seriously cool" from Aro's favorite boys.
Favorite was pushing it a little. We were certainly the youngest boys that had ever made Aro's Elite but that was just because Emmett and I worked brilliantly as a team. In a world where you struggled to trust anyone on a job, our friendship had really paid off. I would trust Emmett McCarty with my life.
"It's not another documentation of one of your exploits again, is it?" I asked dryly, cocking a brow at him. "You know Aro hates that shit."
At the mention of Aro's name, several faces began to stare unabashedly in our direction. Okay, so maybe "favorite" wasn't that much of an exaggeration. Emmett and I worked for an agency known as The Volturi. They were a secret organization who specialized in protecting people — essentially, we were bodyguards — but we were usually only employed when there was a specific threat. We tracked down potential killers and stalkers and we eliminated the threat, as well as keeping our subjects safe.
There were different levels in the agency and the only people that knew The Boss, Aro, personally were the Elite. The others got their orders from Aro's Seconds, Caius and Marcus. To know Aro was a privilege that very few had.
"Actually, bro — it's your exploits that they've documented this time," Emmett grinned. He slapped the magazine article over the electronic console on the treadmill and I was forced to slow the machine down to read the heading:
"RUSSIAN POP-TART TANYA DENALI'S VERY PERSONAL BODYGUARD…"
I shoved the magazine away in disgust. The picture accompanying the article showed the beautiful singer, Tanya Denali, her face bright with laughter and yet still maintaining a seductive "come hither" look, as she was pulled toward a waiting limo by yours truly. Of course, you couldn't actually tell it was me. My face was hidden by the hood of my black jacket, but since Emmett and I had been photographed with Ms. Denali before, the magazine had automatically jumped to conclusions. Although I was pretty sure that Emmett had been behind us, the picture had cut him out.
"I think "pop-tart" was a nice touch," Emmett mused, his lips quirking in amusement.
"You'd swear I was dragging her off for a midnight rendezvous at a motel room, not saving her life," I muttered. "Of course, she probably paid them to think that."
"Edward, even she's not that desperate," Emmett laughed.
"Maybe," I shrugged. "But it's not like she'd want it broadcast that I refused her, would she?"
"I'm still not convinced that you didn't jump on that shit, Edward," Emmett said seriously. "You fuck everyone else."
I shot Emmett a dark look, knocking off the treadmill. I grabbed a towel from the bench, rubbing my face roughly. I felt sticky and damp and badly in need of a shower. "I don't ever fuck a subject, Em," I reminded him.
Emmett rolled his eyes. I could tell that he didn't believe me, but I didn't press the issue. Thinking about Tanya Denali made me nauseous. Not because she wasn't beautiful or fuckable, but mostly because she took every opportunity to flaunt it in my face. Ms. Denali refused to believe that I was one man she wasn't going to have and had taken every available chance to try and make me jealous or seduce me. Escaping her clutches had been a more difficult job than tracking down the sadistic stalker that had been tormenting her for months. By the time we caught up with him, I had actually been considering setting the guy on her.
But then I wouldn't have gotten paid.
"Do you want to hang out at the range for awhile?" Emmett suggested as he flung the magazine in the direction of the trashcan. "We could go out later. There's a new bar opening in the city."
"You do realize," I started, "that we've been in London for what — a year now? And the only places I've been are here and whatever bars you've discovered on your nights off."
Emmett eyed me doubtfully. "Would you rather go sight-seeing?" he asked tentatively, like he questioned my sanity. "I don't know, dude. I'm telling you, there's nothing like good English pussy. It's like being inside a James Bond movie or some shit like that. They see your gun and they don't even expect you to call them back."
"I can't believe you need a line like 'this could be my last night on earth' to get girls," I mocked.
Emmett scowled at me. "Not all of us can look like you, pretty boy."
"You think I'm pretty?" I grinned teasingly.
"Naw, it's just the accent, dude." We both turned toward James, another one of the Elite. Unlike the others, he'd never been impressed that Emmett and I had risen so fast through the ranks, but he was definitely jealous. He was Caius's pet — he had sweet-talked his way into being Caius's favorite and Caius had put in a good word for him when Aro had been choosing members to promote.
My position in the agency wasn't the only thing that James was jealous of — if I was a pretty boy, then James was a very ugly boy. He had long, dirty blond hair and a squashed face that reminded me of a pug. His body, like the rest of ours, was toned and muscular, built to the extreme thanks to our intense training, but that was about the only attractive asset he possessed.
"He's kind of right," Felix, one of Emmett's drinking buddies, cut in. He stared at me with a half-apologetic, half-amused grin. "I mean, I've lost count of the times I've lost a hot piece of ass because you opened your mouth."
I grinned at him, wrapping my towel around my neck. "That's not the only reason you lost 'em, mate."
The others laughed. The Volturi was made up of hundreds of ethnicities and the fact that I had been born and raised in England until I was fifteen was actually relatively normal. I had dual citizenship in the U.S. as well as here which made it a hell of a lot easier to do my job and something that Aro capitalized on frequently.
The door to the gym swung open suddenly and everyone fell silent as Caius stepped inside, his face like stone. He was wearing a long, black and red cloak with the Volturi crest on the front and it made him look like royalty. I half expected a legion of bodyguards to follow him into the room, but everyone knew that Caius had been one of the first put through Aro's training program and he was as skilled, if not more than the rest of us.
James set down the weights he'd been lifting, jumping to his feet like an overeager puppy, but Caius walked right by him, his cold, dark eyes focused on me.
"… Cullen's in for it now," I heard someone mutter. "Bet Aro's not happy with Ms. Fuck—Me Denali's magazine article…"
I would have agreed with their assessment if it hadn't been Caius that was coming toward me. Aro would definitely have chosen to seek me out himself if he had had issues with the story. I watched, deadly curious, as Caius lifted his hand, palm upwards, and curled two fingers inward twice, beckoning for me to follow him.
I followed obediently, silently wishing that I'd gotten as far as the showers before Caius had come looking for me. I was practically drenched in sweat — not the best look for someone in the presence of Aro's second in command.
"You too, McCarty," Caius called over his shoulder.
My brow furrowed — this sounded like a job. Usually, the Volturi insisted on eight weeks of downtime between jobs, during which we were supposed to attend training at least once a week at a Volturi base and separate ourselves from the last job. They had never strayed from this pattern before.
Emmett shot me a confused, curious look but I just shrugged, following Caius out into a plain white hallway. The London base was identical to every other base that the Volturi had. It was five stories high with extensive grounds, surrounded by tall, high-security walls. Aro, Caius and Marcus each had their own suite on the top floor in every base and the entire ground floor was dedicated to the training center, as well as the grounds. The rest of the building was littered with briefing rooms, an emergency hospital, interrogation rooms, holding cells, a cafeteria and the offices of the base Leaders.
Both Caius and Aro were currently in London, though it was rare for two of the three highest ranking Volturi to be in the same place at once. They were as high profile as some of their clients.
Caius led Emmett and I to the main briefing room on the third floor, solidifying my suspicions of this being about a job. He opened the thick, soundproof door, gesturing for us to walk in ahead of him and I stepped inside obediently, my frown deepening.
There was only one man in the room and he was not somebody I recognized. I immediately dismissed the idea that he was a new employee of Aro's since he didn't wear the required uniform that everyone but the "bodyguards" themselves were forced to wear. He looked haggard and worn, his aged face wasted, but there was a hard, vicious look about him that suggested he didn't spend his days behind a desk. His graying, curly brown hair was plastered to his face and his dark brown eyes flicked over myself and Emmett appraisingly as we stepped into the room, closing the door behind us. Caius did not join us.
"They tell me you boys are the best," the man stated. He grabbed one of the only pieces of furniture in the white room, a stool, and sat down at the large table in the middle of the room. Emmett and I remained standing, even when he gestured subtly toward the stools opposite him.
"That's right," Emmett answered. He stared at the man curiously, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. When we were briefed on a job, we would be handed a manila folder by an employee of the base and we would be told to memorize the details before the folder was destroyed. Any information we would need was immediately programmed into our cell phones through an encrypted e-mail and we were never allowed to disclose any details to anybody but those we were working with on the job.
This was… different.
"I'll be straight with you, then." The man leaned back in his chair, folding his arms. "I called in a favor and I specifically requested you —" He looked at me. "— But they told me that you prefer to work with Mr. McCarty."
"A favor?" Emmett asked doubtfully, glancing at me.
The man chuckled, his flashing in amusement. "It might have been… blackmail."
"I'm surprised you're still alive, then," I said dryly. "The Boss doesn't take blackmail well."
"I'm too well connected to just disappear, Mr. Cullen," the man responded. "Unfortunately, that's why I'm here. It is imperative that I remain in Europe and invisible at the moment but I have a job that needs doing in the US."
"So… this is a job, then?" Emmett asked.
"Not necessarily," the man replied. "Unlike the jobs that your boss hands out, you can refuse to do this. You were my first choice, but Aro has assured me that he can find someone else. This would be a lot… easier… if it were you two who took on the job." He was looking at me again, though more pointedly this time.
"Why easier?" I demanded.
The man shook his head. "You know protocol, Mr. Cullen. If you do not accept this job, you are not privy to the details."
"But this isn't a real job," Emmett pointed out.
The man's face hardened, his eyes flashing dangerously. "Oh, I assure you, Mr. McCarty. It's very fucking real."
I stared at him, measuring the pros and cons of accepting. The fact that he had resorted to blackmail to even get this job on Aro's priority list was a bad sign but on the other hand, it had only been three weeks since my last job and if I wanted another, I would have to wait five weeks. Already, downtime was driving me mad. I hated being inactive — I preferred acting under pressure, constantly being on alert. The adrenaline rush was addictive.
"Fine," I said decisively. "I'm in."
Emmett hesitated a few seconds, before shrugging. "What the hell. I'm in."
The man nodded, pulling out a thin manila folder from inside his coat. He slapped it down on the table in front of us and Emmett and I moved to sit down on the stools opposite.
When I reached for the folder, the man grabbed my hand. Instinctively, I attempted the maneuver that would dislodge his grip, but the warning look he shot me dispelled the automatic reaction. For the moment, this guy was not the enemy.
"First, you must understand something," the man said. "The name I go by is an alias. I have endured heavy reconstructive surgery on my face, contact lenses, hair dye, dental modifications — but the face you see now is the closest to who I was before all this fucking shit hit the fan. In your world, my name is Liam O'Shea. You can even research the identity if you like — you will find that I grew up in Kerry, I'm an aging banker and my parents died a few years back."
"Your accent is a little bit off," Emmett pointed out. "You sound American, not Irish."
Liam O'Shea rolled his eyes impatiently, his voice slipping into an authentic Irish accent without fault. "Irish enough for you, McCarty?"
Emmett inclined his head.
"Good," Liam said, slipping back into the American accent he had been using before. "Now, I don't need word of my true identify getting back to your boss, so discretion will be helpful, if you please."
Emmett snorted. "You expect us to lie to The Boss? What the fuck makes you think we'll do that?"
"You might not," Liam agreed. He pointed at me. "But he will."
"And why's that?" I asked dryly.
"Because I believe you know the subject," Liam said. "My daughter."
Emmett glanced at me, a grin tilting his mouth. I could see his brain racing, creating a scenario that probably didn't exist. I could imagine it now: one of my many conquests was probably pregnant or some shit and her dad wanted his precious daughter well looked after. I was even prepared to protest, because there was no way in fucking hell that kid was mine. I was overly careful about that kind of shit.
"I bet he does," Emmett said crudely, confirming my suspicions of whatever shit was going on in his head.
Liam's eyes were hard when he turned to Emmett. "I suggest," he started, his voice warningly low, "that you refrain from speaking in that tone when it comes to my daughter."
Emmett had the decency to look chagrined.
Liam opened the manila folder, pulling out a white A4 sheet. "I received this six weeks ago, via an acquaintance. I can't be traced back to Liam O'Shea but the cop that received this message was an old friend who got in touch with another friend, et cetera. Suffice to say, this message is a lot older than six weeks." He flipped the A4 sheet over, revealing the black writing.
"I KNOW WHO YOU ARE.
I KNOW WHAT YOU DID.
IF IT'S NOT YOUR BLOOD I SPILL, IT WILL BE IN KIND."
"This could be someone fumbling around in the dark," Emmett pointed out. "They might know nothing."
"I have considered that possibility," Liam agreed, "but shortly after this arrived, I got the second part of the threat." He pulled out more sheets from the folder. The glossy paper caught my attention and I realized that they were like surveillance photographs, each one with the same subject.
A sudden cold, icy shiver ran down my spine, recognition hitting me hard, like a slap to the face.
"This is your daughter?" Emmett asked, pulling the photographs toward him. An old, instinctive reaction flared to life in me and the strongest urge to snatch the photographs from his grip, to keep his eyes from seeing her, hit me like a wrecking ball.
"Charlie Swan," I growled, my jaw tightening as I watched the man sitting across from me with renewed interest.
Liam — Charlie — inclined his head, his mouth twisting into a hard smile. "The one and only."
"Ed, you know this chick?" Emmett asked lightly, his eyes flicking over the photos. I gave in to the urge to snatch them from him, my own eyes scanning the pictures with possessive interest.
"Yes, I do," I said, my tone similar to Charlie's. "So, they're targeting her now?"
"Yes," Charlie said. "They're trying to pull me out of hiding but I can't enter the US again. Not yet. I located you instead — I heard about the career path you'd chosen for yourself and realized that this would be the easiest and most effective way to protect her."
"You've done some recon work on this yourself, have you?" I demanded.
"Yes. These pictures are at least a year old. All the details of her current situation are waiting to be e-mailed to you as soon as you board the plane to Seattle. Aro has arranged the flight for tonight."
"Fine." I stood, shoving the photographs back into the manila folder. "I have some packing to do."
Emmett stood also, his expression wary. "This is serious shit, isn't it? More dangerous than crazy, violent stalkers after Russian pop-princesses?"
"Yeah," I said seriously. "You chickening out?"
Emmett grinned. "Hell, no."
"Good," I said abruptly. "Because if you fuck up on this job, I'll fucking kill you with my bare hands."
Emmett looked perturbed — I never turned on him. It was a silent rule that we both abided by; it was what had made us trust each other in the first place.
I turned to leave, but Charlie grabbed my wrist once more, his grip uncompromising. I could have escaped his hold but I understood the warning behind it, even before he words came out of his mouth.
"If they kill her, you won't live much longer yourself," Charlie said, his voice dangerously low. The threat was scarier than any I had ever issued myself and Emmett visibly paled.
"Mr. Swan, you know that what happens on the job —" he started, but Charlie interrupted him.
"I don't fucking care about your rules, your protocols or your fucking lives. If Isabella dies under your watch, then I will kill you both. Aro said you were the best." He took a deep breath. "That is the only reason that I'm trusting you with her right now."
Emmett didn't hear the double meaning behind his words, but I did. Loud and fucking clear. I don't know how he knew, but he knew.
Every fucking thing that had happened since the day I'd arrived in Port Angeles at fifteen, eleven years ago.
"Can you handle that boys?" Charlie demanded.
I ripped my wrist from his grip, my jaw tightening. "We can handle it."
What do you reckon, should I keep going or what?? Review and let me know!!