Disclaimer: I do not own the characters, but the plot is mine.
Chapter One - Bad Company
On the outskirts of Seattle, in an average sized town, I lived in a wealthy development filled with CEOs, business executives, doctors, professional sports players and politicians. My father fell into the latter category, as the governor of Washington.
My life hadn't always been so privileged, before my father had gotten into politics, he was a federal agent who'd worked long hours and rarely saw his family. And before that, he was the chief of police in a small town named Forks.
Perhaps I wasn't self-entitled and didn't believe myself to be above anyone because my earlier life had been so normal. Although this could be debated, being the daughter of a popular and well-respected governor was anything but average. I was expected to be on my best behavior at all times, as well as attend every important function with my family, smiling and being pleasant.
My life was often peered into due to my father's career. The media loved a scandal, so I had to constantly glance over my shoulder to make sure I wasn't doing anything that could upset the family. It wasn't that I'd want to engage in illegal activities or get involved in anything risqué, but it'd be nice to relax and have fun. To experience life and make innocent mistakes. I had a wild streak deep inside of me and it was hard to keep it bottled up.
I tried to say the correct words at the right moment and be whoever people wanted me to be, but because of that, I didn't know who I truly was. Was I a natural born pleaser? Did I simply want everyone to like me? Or was I someone else entirely? Maybe I'd never know until this part of my life was over, if it'd ever end. Still, I had this urge to do something wild. I didn't know what, but a part of me wanted to break out of this shell and do something.
This was not a day to complain, however, today was a day of celebration. The house was full of relatives, immediate and distant, and my closest friends and my father's colleagues. Yesterday I graduated college with a degree in theater. I wanted to be an actress. I was great at molding myself into what others wanted in real life, so why not apply it to a career as well? I was fortunate to have parents who supported my decision and didn't request that I'd earn a "real" degree.
A huge banner with the words 'Congratulations Bella!' hung from one side of an archway to the other. I rotated around the room, mingling with every guest. My parents had hired a catering service and a bartender, so everyone stood around snacking on food and sipping drinks.
I posed for a photo with my parents before it was announced that it was time for me to begin opening presents. This was my least favorite part, not because I was too proud to receive gifts, but because the center focus would be on me. My reactions would be observed carefully, and this was when the acting would kick in. I'd have to smile and look excited after opening each present. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings.
I was led to a table covered in white cloth with presents stacked on top, the larger ones situated on the floor.
"Oh, wow." I smiled in the direction of the presents. "I didn't expect so much."
A circle of people had gathered around the table as I felt my self-consciousness increase. I had been shy my entire life. Painfully so when I was a child, but as I grew older, I overcome the urge to grasp onto my parents and hide behind their legs.
I discovered I wasn't nearly as bashful when I was acting. In the third grade, each class was required to put on a play, once in front of the entire student body and once after school, for the parents. While we were rehearsing, I realized I wasn't as nervous I'd thought be to get on stage and act animated. I had thought my shyness was gone, but then when I had to talk publicly as myself, it was back. It was then that I knew I could put on an act and not have a problem with attention, but revealing what I really thought, that was difficult.
I was capable of expressing my opinions with my friends and parents, but I couldn't do it with anyone else. Was it because I had been acting for so long? Or because I was a private person? I'd really like to discover who I truly was. If I could just get away and stop pretending, maybe I'd find out.
"Open mine first!" Alice, my best friend, beamed at me, holding out a box I knew would be concealing clothes. Not because she was obsessed with clothes, but because of the shape of the box. I'd seen plenty of those boxes over the course of my life.
I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and reached for it, smiling at her before slipping my mask on and opening her gift. I lifted the top off and removed the midnight blue fabric from the box. It was beautiful dress that'd be nice to wear at a club or a social event.
"I love it, Alice!" I hugged her with one arm and stared at the dress. "I think I'm going to try it on immediately after the party."
"In a couple weeks," she said, standing at my side, "you'll be able to put it to good use."
I glanced sideways at her. "Why?" I asked suspiciously.
Alice turned to the woman standing behind her. "Jess?"
Jessica Stanley, my father's secretary, stepped forward with a wide smile on her face. She was practically apart of our family, she'd been with us since before I hit puberty. She was like a big sister.
"You've been talking about doing this since you were a kid," she started, "and you deserve it." She removed an arm from behind her back and presented me with an airline ticket.
I held my breath as I accepted it and pulled the ticket out to see my destination. Good thing the room wasn't made of glass, because it would've shattered. I squealed and did a little jump as I saw that I'd be going to Italy. Italy!
There wasn't a place I'd rather visit than Italy. Everyone who'd ever had conversation with me knew of that fact. I was obsessed with all things Italian. Whether it was the food, the art or the culture, I loved it all.
I threw my arms around Jessica and hugged her tightly. The reaction was genuine, no acting necessary. "Oh, my gosh! Thank you, Jessie!" I pulled back to look at the ticket again. "You are the most amazing person in the entire world right now." I glanced at my dad. "Dad, give her a raise!"
My dad, clearly ecstatic with my reaction, laughed and shared a meaningful look with my mother. They loved it when I got excited and acted like an average girl.
"Well," Jessica said, "everyone pitched in. You earned this Bella, and we all want you to have a good time and unwind before the real world closes in around you and it's time for work."
I hugged her again. "This really is the best present anyone has ever given me." If I was never granted another wish again, that would be okay. This trip was enough to satisfy me for the remainder of my life.
After the majority of the crowd had cleared out, I sat on a white plush couch in the family room with Alice, Jessica, Angela, Lucy and Bree. With the exception of Jessica, they were all spending the night since we planned to go shopping tomorrow morning and make good use out of all the gift cards I had gotten, and then we were going to a concert.
"Besides the food," Alice said, "I want to get a taste of the Italian men."
Alice was accompanying me on the vacation, along with Emmett - my bodyguard and his wife, a professional model named Rosalie. My dad insisted on having a bodyguard when I was traveling. I was okay to venture around the city without protection, but if I wanted leave to the state or country, I had to bring Emmett along. It didn't bother me too much, since I loved Emmett like a brother, but it'd be cool to experience Italy without a chaperone. Rosalie went everywhere with Emmett when she wasn't working, I suspected it was due to the fact it was so easy for people to cheat when they were on a different continent from their spouse.
"What about you, Bella?" Bree asked. "Are you going to let loose and get laid?"
Alice snorted. "Right."
"Hey," I said, holding my strawberry daiquiri and pointing a finger at her, "I am not a prude, and I would consider having a one-night stand, as long as there was a strong attraction."
"By that, you mean he has to stimulate you intellectually, correct?" She curled her legs up on the matching chair and leaned in closer towards me.
"Not necessarily." I shook my head. "I'm not a pretentious snob, and I honestly don't care if he can't explain quantum physics. It's not that I love intellectuals, I like being challenged. Debating is like foreplay for me. I have my opinions, and I want him to have his. Maybe I'm a hypocrite for saying this, but I wouldn't want to be with someone who'd dote on me and change his entire outlook to please me. I don't want him to agree with me if he doesn't. If I'm talking about something and he thinks it's ridiculous, I want him to say so. Not in a cruel way, but in a way where we can both get our points across and understand where the other is coming from."
"Oh, not me," Lucy said. "I cherish men who'd shut up and admit I'm right. I hate fighting."
"It's not fighting," I protested. "Debating is passionate and challenging. I'd personally love to find my polar opposite, as long as he had a spark and was spontaneous. I don't want a life with a predictable man. I want to be surprised by him because he thinks differently than me. I wouldn't like it if he had a temper problem and cussed at me and called me abusive names, but I do like dominate men who have strong opinions and are open minded at the same time. It's hard to find someone like that, so that's why I don't date all that often."
Bree pursed her lips. "Mike was kind of like that, why'd you two break up?"
I shrugged a shoulder. "He wasn't a bad guy, not at all. In fact, I've never had any terrible experience with men, but…I don't know. I grew bored, I guess. I mean, yes, in theory he'd be the perfect guy for me, but the relationship just wasn't…adventurous. I don't know what I'm expecting, but I don't want the mundane. I think it'd be awesome to take an impromptu trip across the country for a weekend without any planning whatsoever. Mike prefers more stability. He's organized and constantly has to know what he's going to do and when he's going to do it."
Alice added her advice. "You should date a baseball player. They travel all the time and they're rich. Oh, you know what? I have this friend who knows this guy. His name is Phil and he lives in Jacksonville, but he's moving up this way. He's a very well known professional baseball player."
I groaned. "I appreciate the sentiment, but I don't think I'd want to date anyone famous. Think about how much easier it'd be for them to cheat. They'd have girls throwing themselves at them all the time. I might not have low self-esteem, but thinking about what your guy is doing when he's surrounded by those girls would be nerve wrecking."
Alice tisked. "Don't be so judgmental. Not all celebrities cheat. Besides, all relationships should have trust. Why be with someone if you can't trust them?"
"That's my point," I said. "I have a hard time trusting people and opening up, and everyone in this room already knows that."
"You're just being cynical," Alice replied dismissively.
"Maybe," I agreed. "I want to be independent. I don't want to have to rely on a man for support and security, but at the same time, I'd want someone I can lean for anything. I just find it difficult to trust anyone enough to put my complete faith in them." I sighed. "Maybe I really just don't know what I want."
"Well," Jessica said, slapping her palm on her thigh, "I think I'm going to take off. I have to get up early tomorrow." She stood up and leaned over to hug me. "Take care of yourself, hon. I'll probably see you before you leave for Italy, but in case I don't, make sure you have a good time and don't overanalyze everything. Just relax."
"Thank you again, Jess."
I walked her to the front door and gathered up the girls to retreat upstairs so we could get some sleep. We had some shopping to do tomorrow and I wanted some new outfits for Italy.
Like countless of other people, I had a sob story that could thaw the coldest hearts lodged inside the bitterest people, but unlike the majority of them, I didn't pause to wallow in self-pity and replay the situation in my head. I did what I had to do and moved on. There wasn't time to dwell on what couldn't be undone.
Hundreds of people died each minute. One minute life could suck and the next you could be on the top of the world, only to be dropped off a cliff. It happened. That was the way the world worked. In past few years, I learned more than I had at any school or lecture. Real life taught me things that couldn't be absorbed in a room filled with twenty other classmates.
Galway had been my home since I was a small child. My mother was a full blooded Irish woman with red hair and green eyes, while my father had a variety of heritages ranging from German to Czech to Irish. I couldn't remember them very well, but who needed a memory when you'd spent your entire life in one area? It wasn't uncommon to enter a pub and come into contact with someone who'd known my family. Someone who'd invite themselves to share stories about the past and remind me my parents were fine people who were severely missed.
I sat in the dimly lit pub with an array of cigar smoke filtering around me. A man with white beard stubble on his face and thinning hair went on about my mother's natural beauty and supreme kindness as I stared straight ahead, occasionally chugging down a shot of whiskey.
"Aye, she was one of a kind." He slammed his glass on the bar and motioned for a refill.
Disinterested, I glanced at the man sitting on my right, wearing an expensive business suit, wrapped in the arms of an attractive woman coated in makeup. Men of his wealth didn't subject themselves to this pub unless they were afraid to be seen by their class.
Looking annoyed, I checked my watch for the fifth time in the past ten minutes. I had an assignment to complete within the next twenty minutes if I expected to be paid in full.
"Tomorrow," the man promised his mistress. "Maggie's waiting up and she expected me half an hour ago."
I pulled out my wallet and slapped the money on the bar before standing up and exiting the pub. A chilly breeze ruffled my hair as I stepped underneath the darkened sky and moved to my position in the alley, between two buildings. With my back pressed against one building, I slipped on a pair of black leather gloves and reached into my black trench coat, gripping a .45 automatic colt pistol.
The footsteps rang in my ears before his frame came into view. While I waited for him to emerge in my line of sight, I screwed on the silencer and leaned back. The man had a cocky grin on his face as he walked past the alley, towards his parked car.
Stealthily, I stepped out of the shadows and followed him as I held the pistol down by my side. Not another soul could be spotted in the midnight hour when the man pulled open his front passenger car door. I stood six feet away, my presence unknown, and pointed the gun at the back of his head.
Sensing me, he quickly peered over his shoulder and gasped. He spun around and held his arms up. "Please, don-"
His body jerked back and collapsed onto the pavement as blood splattered on the car door window.
I clenched my jaw and placed the pistol in my waistband before kneeling down to search the man's pockets for personal effects. Wanting the murder to appear as a robbery, I removed the money and stood up, making a swift escape.
As I slid into my car, I checked the time. Assignment completed six minutes before deadline. It was rare to do a job in my hometown, but since I had, instead of calling it in, I drove to our organization's headquarters.
The building didn't stand out or draw attention to itself. We worked from a genuine business building where average citizens exited and entered each day. I stepped inside, took the elevator to the fifth floor, entered a room and approached the dark haired receptionist. She greeted with me a smile and handed me a thick envelope stuffed with cash before she picked up the phone to announce my arrival.
After she hung up, I placed the envelope inside my coat and entered a private elevator which required a key to function. I pressed the button to the top floor and once the doors opened, I walked through the empty hall and stopped at a steel door, directly below a camera on the ceiling. I punched in an eleven digit code to unlock the door, grasped the handle and pulled the heavy door open.
We took pride in our high security and had another reception area with at least three armed guards standing on alert at all times. They nodded at me as I walked past and came to another door, pressing in a four digit code.
The light was blinding as I officially entered the headquarters. A long hallway led to a large main room complete with a table in the center, beyond the room existed another hallway which branched off toward separate offices. The furniture was white and all the rooms appeared sterile. In the main room, glass cases lined the walls, filled with automatic weapons. The linoleum floors were shiny and spotless. Cameras covered every inch of the room to monitor each individual. The men and women behind the cameras, the managers, studied behavior and determined who'd be sent to cover which job. They were in charge of handling which cases we'd accept or disregard and who'd be best to perform the task. Though the final decision was given to Carlisle. His seal of approval was needed for each assignment.
The assignment I had just handled wasn't our typical case. The man wasn't in position of high power or of political importance, but the job was a personal favor for a colleague. We didn't handle our own affairs for obvious reasons, just as a doctor normally wasn't allowed to treat a family member. It was nearly impossible to keep a clear head with personal feelings clouding judgment.
I had known Maggie since I was seventeen, and when she approached me to terminate her husband's life, I accepted. I hadn't personally been introduced to him, but if Maggie wanted a man dead, there was a good reason.
Various men and women were scattered about in the main room, some in the small kitchen and others sitting down to socialize or fill out paperwork.
"Carlisle is expecting you." Riley, a man who'd been with the company since my biological father's days said without glancing up. He frantically typed on the laptop keyboard. "He'll be out shortly."
I sat down on a large white circular couch and snapped my eyes shut, leaning back.
"Was it a masterpiece?" A large body sat near mine.
I opened my eyes to peek at Sam. His round body and goofy face gave one the false sense of security. He looked as though he couldn't hurt a fly, yet he was the most sadistic assassin in the company.
He once told me, "An ordinary person can conceive life, no special skills required, but to end a life, to silence a beating heart, that takes dedication. Killing can be a form of art. A piercing shot through the heart, a knife slicing across the throat…the blood is my paint, the weapon is my brush and the location is my canvas. I have no control over their entrance into the world, but their departure, that is mine."
To him, the assignment ended as either a finger painting or masterpiece. Finger paintings were nothing speculator, no creativity or thought put into the killing. Masterpieces were complicated and took time to achieve. The body had to be positioned at the right angle and appear as a work of art.
"Finger painting," I murmured.
The environment changed whenever Carlisle entered a room. A high sense of respect was felt from the observers. Voices toned down and polite greetings were made in his direction. I knew without looking that he had stepped into the room.
"Edward," his thick Cork accent called from a few feet away. "My office."
I followed him towards his office, which could only be entered upon personal invitation. Eyes trailed after us until we disappeared down the corridor. He punched in the code to his office and opened the door, motioning for me to step inside.
As we sat down, he behind his desk and me on the chair facing him, he asked, "How's your Italian?"
"Good." I nodded. "I was taught well."
He grinned the way a proud parent would. "Glad you haven't forgotten." He grasped his computer monitor and turned it towards me. There was a picture of a young woman and a column of personal information to the right side of the picture.
"New target?" I leaned forward to read the information.
"The bait," Carlisle corrected. "Her father is the big fish, an American governor."
I raised my eyebrows, my forehead scrunching up. "Why am I being sent to Italy to capture an American girl? It's in the Volturi's territory."
"A merger," he answered.
"Really." I questioned with dry skepticism, sounding more as a statement.
"It is their belief, yes. Your team is being assembled we speak. You'll meet with a man named Marcus, he's expecting a promotion from the Volturi after this assignment, so be prepared for a superiority complex."
"Fantastic. Love dealing with those." I leaned back, having read all I needed to on the 'bait'. "Will Marcus be needed for the duration?"
Carlisle shook his head. "Dispose of him once his task has been completed."
"I expect a good reason to anger the Volturi and possibly spark a war?"
"Indeed." He offered no further explanation.
"Need me to head over to the managers' for assignment detail?"
"No," he answered. "This particular mission is confidential. A contract will be signed by you and your team."
I knew it was a big deal to perform a confidential assignment. Those were required to end with a masterpiece. They took strategic planning and often lasted for weeks, sometimes months. "What do I do with the girl?"
"Nothing you can't handle." He turned the screen towards himself and pulled up a different file, this one on her father, and switched it back in my direction. "Kidnap her, hold her captive for a few days, until Marcus has been taken care of, and transport her back here. Once we lure him in," he tapped the end of a pen on the screen, on the man's face, "Kill the girl. She'll be of no further use."
"That's new," I said. "Kidnapping."
"You've transported targets before."
"I haven't held onto them for several days. I always thought of it as a snatch and grab. Quick, easy and done before I could dwell on it."
"Will it be a problem?"
Without bothering to conceal my hesitation, I said, "You know my stance on innocents. Especially women."
"Edward." He leaned forward, clasping his hands together. "How many true innocents exist in this world? She's a woman in her early twenties, wealthy and beautiful. Chances are, she has caused great grievances in the past. Affair with a married man, maybe? Drugs?"
"I wouldn't consider those capital offenses."
"Edward," he repeated, a bit firmer this time. "Do what you're gifted at." He looked me hard in the eye. "Killing."
Without opening my mouth for verbal agreement, I nodded once.