Thanks to my busybee, internetless, allround coolchick beta Maylin.
Credit to SMeyer and Stieg Larsson, who is all over the place at the moment.
Chapter 15 WHEREIN SOMETHING UNEXPECTED HAPPENS
A sharp prick, like the tip of a needle, Edward's not sure. Whatever it is, it jolts him and he comes from sleep to complete wakefulness in an instant, unlike the previous mornings when he'd come to himself, slowly, sleepily, an old lamp refusing to light. His eyes take a few moments to adjust. The room is dark, and the only illumination comes from a streetlamp, streaming through the farthest window.
Edward knows this room. Long ago, it was his. The bookshelves near the window used to hold his most prized possessions – story books about cars and trains, toy planes and a blue and white police cruiser. On the farthest wall is a table, where he once doodled magical, terrifying creatures, and tucked beside it is a chair, where his mother once sat, trying not to cry as she explained to him that his father had left them so suddenly, so out of the blue. The chair is still there but another sits on it.
All is eerily, completely calm and although everything seems to be in its right place, he can feel that something is wrong, as if the room has been tilted and he, along with it.
"Hey," he tries to pull himself up, but his body feels heavy, tied to the bed with ropes he can't see. It's still dark outside so he knows that he's only been asleep two, three hours at the most. Maybe he'd been having a nightmare again."Did I wake you?"
She doesn't answer and Edward falls back to the bed, his limbs heavy and languid. He turns to her again and is momentarily baffled, as she does the oddest thing ever.
She stands, and saunters towards him, catlike in her grace. She pulls her shirt over her head, throws it away and his eyes follow the piece of clothing as it flutters to the floor. Slowly, quietly, to be forgotten immediately. She pulls on the cord of her pyjamas next and the cloth floats down, the silk rustling. She's wearing nothing underneath, nothing that can shield her from his eyes, yet she steps forward, to a tune that he can't hear. She stops at the side of the bed and he can see her marks glow slightly, radioactively, chasing the darkness on her neck, the swirls of her breasts, her taut stomache, the fine curls between her legs.
She tugs the sheet covering him and he almost scrambles back. Almost.
"What are you doing?" His own clothes have somehow disappeared and he's only clad in his boxers. Much to his chagrin, he's already hard, engorged from her brief, unworldly tease.
"Don't you want me?"
"It's not that." He sucks in his surprise as she straddles him in one smooth movement, leaning in close, close enough for him to see the rings on her ears and brows, on her lips.
"Don't you want to fuck me?" she whispers, her curious eyes boring into his.
"No...yes.. I..," he stutters, dazed, when she crawls over him and her nipples, hard and one ringed, rake the thin blanket of hair on his chest. She leans closer still and touches her lips to his and he catches his breath as he tastes the metal on her lips, cool and burning at the same time. He looks at her marks, glowing almost antagonistically, and a choked laugh escapes him. "You're not real."
"Maybe," she smiles back, breathing into him, and despite the room's warmth, he shivers.
"This is a dream," he declares, because it's only in dreams that skin glows, emitting a low kind of radiation, flaring now and then into red and orange flames that don't burn. Just a dream, Edward tells himself, but his hands go to grip her waist when she starts to rock back and forth on him and his body begins to feel the flow of electricity, charging him, flooding him with fire. "My dream."
"Is it good?" she croons.
"Yes," he hisses, because he can feel her entry against the engorged head of his penis through his boxers. Wet and slick and ready. Jesus, yes.
"Then believe..." she says as she reaches down between her legs to tug on his boxers and sinks down on him, slowly, and she feels good, so good that for a few minutes, Edward forgets his own name as she rocks against him, tight and painful. "Do you believe?"
"I don't know," he breathes out and swears loudly as he feels himself lose control, like a hormonal teenager on his first fuck. He forces himself to slow down. Think, ruin the moment.
"I might," he winces as she presses herself down harder, heightening his pleasure, "if you tell me you're real."
"I can't," she replies as she decides on a rythm and starts to ride him in earnest. The pressure inside burns him and he gasps as flames, orange and red, crackle and burn from her marks as she undulates above him, sliding him in and out.
"I can't tell you," she whispers, "but I can show you."
"Show me what?" he asks.
"A world," she replies, "of dreams and fire, where we can walk in dark places unharmed; where creatures abound, tied by blood and affinity, where one doesn't exist without the other, borne in the shadows of the night... " She breaks off, panting as she rides him harder, faster, deeper.
"Go on," he groans out, meeting her as far as his body can go. "Don't stop. "
"We belong," she goes on, her words becoming more in sync to the roll and thrust of their bodies. "between the darkness and light, where you, and I, can worship with everything within us, everything inside our minds, our souls, our dreams..."
He thrusts deeper and deeper inside her and she takes him in, longer but also faster and everything seems to move fast, then slows down without warning.
"How are you doing this?" he asks. It's not possible, he tries to reason, not possible at all, how their bodies can blend seamlessly, where he doesn't know where he ends and she begins.
"I am worshipping you," she says, panting now, "with my body."
"That feels amazing," he groans again, past all coherence, "so good..." The pressure inside him reaches his chest, squeezing the air out of his lungs and threatens to stop his heart. He looks down at his hips, where they are joined, watchs her sway above him, sinuous and graceful, but she tips his head up, makes him look at the ceiling but not before he sees the flames on her body rise and crackle, consuming her. He looks down on himself and finds that he himself is burning. Orange and red flames lick on his skin, crawling from the center of his chest to the tips of his fingers.
Higher and higher the flames go until he feels himself lurch, and it's as if he's standing on the edge of a high ledge and the wind is beating against him in loud, strong gusts. It hurts, where the wind hits him, but the pain only heightens the pleasure. There's a crackle, a crack of a whip, and he falls, weightless. Pleasure explodes into orgasm like nothing he's ever experienced before and he tries to grasp for reason but everything – every thought, every breath, every movement – is blasted into oblivion.
And then, there's nothing.
Then he comes into a place, like a white room except there are no walls. Just endless, soft white. The whiteness moves and suddenly, there's Bella in front of him, getting off her bike. Another wave, another movement and he can see that she's parked in front of a house he hasn't seen before, in a neighborhood that he doesn't recognize but is fairly sure is in La Push. The Blacks' house, Edward decides, is like all the other houses in the area. Small, decrepit, comfortable. Bella goes in and he follows, phasing through the door that she'd just slammed in his face. The living room is small, even smaller that his, and he can see Jake in the small kitchen through the holes of the cupboard that acts as a divider between the small living room and the kitchen.
"Hey, kiddo. Didn't expect you 'til tomorrow." Edward hears Jake call out and realizes, for the first time, that Bella's wearing the same clothes and carrying the same bag she'd been carrying on the day she'd first arrived on his doorstep. This is where she went, that first day, after their breakfast at Cravings.
"Change of plans." He hears her answer. "What's with all your things in here?"
Bella is moving around the living room, trying to avoid monitors, CPUs and various electronic gadgets scattered in and around the sofa.
"Leah's getting my room," he answers from the kitchen. "She's moving in for a while."
"Something's happening," Jake says. "There's a cold one in town."
She laughs, heartily, and he's glad that she finds it hilarious because it's absolutely the most ridiculous thing he'd heard ever.
"I know for a fact that he isn't. I ran a check on him."
"He's not exactly a cold-cold one," Jake clarifies, emphasizing the 'cold.' "He's like you. He's like their you."
"Claimed," answers Jake, his voice muffled with something like a biscuit in his mouth.
So Edward hears all about it. How Leah, whom Bella considers a sister, is moving in because Sam, her fiancée had just dumped her for another woman. A woman the saintly Sam had only seen once, but had imprinted upon, which means, he had to love and marry her at all costs. He'd not only imprinted on Emily, he's also managed to mangle her face because she'd been standing too close to him when he'd transformed.
Edward listens, stunned, as Jake goes on about what happened, what is happening and what's happening still. All because of his presence, all because once upon a time, a cold one befriended him and decided to take it upon himself to include him in his little coldblooded family.
"So what happens to him?' Bella had listened to Jake's spiel in silence as well, but with calm acceptance, not saying anything or muttering her disbelief as he would have done if he hadn't known, hadn't been prepared to hear the story.
"Nothing," Jake answers. "He hasn't done anything. He doesn't even know."
"Not yet, you mean," she says. "You want me to keep an eye on him? He just hired me..."
Edward finds her in the living room in the morning, sorting out documents and folders into boxes and piling them up, one after the other, on one side of the wall.
When he'd woken up earlier, sluggish and disoriented, his skin had felt cold, and clammy, but amazingly, he'd also felt fine. He'd lain on her narrow bed for long moments, thinking. There hadn't been a single singed hair on his body. The sheet that had covered him was dry and pristine and so were the uncreased pillows to his side. He'd been fully clothed, wearing exactly what he wore when he'd climbed into Bella's bed the night before.
He watches her from the landing on the second floor, unobserved, as she marks a box, seals it with tape and moves to another.
She's clearing away the debris, Edward realizes, as this part of the investigation clearly was. It had served its purpose. Seeing the gathered evidence had been for his benefit as much as it had been for Carlisle's but now they're done with it, finished with leads that go nowhere and half baked theories. All except one. The faces on her machine march on as she continues her quest for that elusive face that spooked Alice. It doesn't escape his attention that she's added several hundreds of profiles to her database, all deceased prior to the Alice's disappearance. That she's searching for a ghost would be an understatement. No, Edward decides, she's searching for a myth. And even myths have faces.
A clear, linear line is taking shape in Edward's mind, different from the first timeline he'd drawn. Wider, more all-encompassing. More improbable. All of the events are connected, he's sure of it, even if they don't actually make sense.
He takes the first step down and Bella looks up, finally, and finds him.
She stares back at him, giving him nothing. No blink, no flicker of acknowledgement in her eyes. She holds his gaze steadily for long moments until he moves again and comes down the stairs.
"Cullen called," she says when he's near enough. "Says he's dropping by today. I thought I'd sort out the files we've already gone through so his people can pick them up. Do you need a print out of the conclusive findings?"
Edward shakes his head, his mind far from the investigation. "He wouldn't want a report of things he already knows."
"You can give him Phoenix," she continues. "I've prepared a report for you."
She points to a binder on the kitchen table which Edward is sure contains the most concise and intelligent reading on what had transpired in Phoenix. She is by far the most meticulous and thorough partner he's ever had.
"Phoenix will just lead to more questions."
"All answers start with a question," she says, "that's why you need to ask the right ones."
Edward has the distinct feeling that they're not talking about Phoenix anymore.
"Bella, about last night..."
"What about it?"
She's already turned her back on him, intent on finishing the work she's started. She's not even paying attention, Edward observes, and he considers for a moment what he is just about to ask.
"Nothing," he says, deciding everything had all been a dream. Nothing more. He can't just tell her about his vivid, although extremely satisfying, wet dream, especially when she figured in it prominently. They haven't talked about anything yet. Not even about the other day.
"The other day," he starts again, "I shouldn't have shouted at you."
She turns to him for a short moment and shrugs. "It was a test."
"It was," Edward agrees. And he's gotten exactly what he wants. He'd pushed her, cornered her into baring her most basic responses. Confronted with a man who wants her, desperately, almost angrily, she'd responded the way he'd hoped. Beat for pulsing heartbeat, breath for ragged breath. She'd wanted him back.
"It upset you," he says, "because you didn't expect yourself to react the way you did."
"True," she shrugs again, unimpressed. There's no use denying it, she figures. They're both fairly honest individuals, at least to themselves. That she could be attracted to him, sexually, isn't exactly groundbreaking. "No harm, no foul."
"All the same, it won't happen again," he says. There were other fair ways of getting a rise out of her. "I'm not going to ask you anything that you're not prepared to say. I trust you will tell me if there is something I need to know."
"If we need to talk about something, we will," she tells him, like they're discussing what shirt he's wearing or what to have for lunch the next day and not about falling into bed the moment they're able and fucking each other senseless.
If, not when. Edward wonders who gets to decide on the conditions.
Bella had already left when Carlisle arrives. She'd adamantly declared herself unprepared to meet a Cullen but Edward already knows that she routinely and regularly refuses to meet with clients. She'd asked for the rest of the day off and he'd granted it, surprised that she'd even ask. They both know she can come and go as she pleases, in and out of his house, his life, and now, even his dreams.
Carlisle had taken one look at the pile of repacked and remarked boxes and guessed that their combined efforts had gone to waste.
"How many days until you finish with the rest?"
"Three, four days at the most," Edward answers. "We can comb the rest closely but I doubt we'd find anything else."
"You tried," Carlisle sighs, defeated and dejected, making Edward think of giving him Phoenix. He doesn't want Carlisle to have it, as it feels like cheating. Giving him more questions hadn't been exactly what he'd asked them to do but Bella's right. It is the only foolproof data they have, and for whatever it's worth, Carlisle is entitled to it.
"There was something else...," he says and before he can regret it, Edward passes him Bella's binder.
For long minutes, there is silence as Carlisle absorbs the shock of knowing what he potentially doesn't want to know. The truth that Alice was embroiled in something violent, even sinister, long before her disappearance offers no solace. Instead, it's something that can only be regretted. Over and over.
"Do you think she suffered at the end?"
"I can't answer that." Edward hopes not. For Carlisle's sake.
The older man remains silent and Edward knows exactly what he's thinking. He's planning to assemble a team to trace back Alice's steps to Phoenix, have the hotel reinvestigated and turn hospital records upside down. He's also planning to send another team to locate Peter or Jasper Whitlock, tracing them this time from Phoenix. Edward can see a flare of hope grow inside Carlisle but he knows that they're going to run into a brick wall of nothing after a while. Just like all their previous efforts.
You're not looking at things the way they should be looked at, Edward wants to tell Carlisle, but he doesn't. The less people know what he's about to do, the better.
"I'm sorry about not telling you about the deal I made with Ms. Hale," Carlisle says suddenly, as if in an afterthought.
"That's all right," Edward answers, as graciously as he can. Knowing what the other person is going to say always helps him compose himself. "I trust that you're not going to do it again."
A few more words exchanged, idle talk, a dinner invitation extended and Carlisle is on his way back to his mansion. He's a busy man, after all, and he's got things to do. One of which is to transfer five million dollars to Edward Masen's account. He's given him something and even if that something turns out to be a dud, Carlisle doesn't renege on a deal.
After Carlisle leaves, Edward sits alone in the kitchen, considering all his options. In a few hours, he knows that he'll be a few millions richer and he can tell Rosalie to use the money for whatever she has in mind. Carlisle will be distracted enough with Phoenix not to pressure him for the rest of the job and the rest of the world will go on without paying him much attention, as it has already done for the past three months he's been in Forks, save for that particular incident with the New York Post.
He has three weeks more; a month at the most, before the authorities of upstate New York call for him and throw him in jail to serve his sentence. If that happens, he's looking at 2-3 months of inactivity and whatever trail he's managed to build will possibly fade and die.
He needs to move fast. The debris had been cleared, the path decided, and now, the real hunt begins.
Edward reaches for the piece of paper he'd left beside his computer the night before. He's certain that Bella had seen it, given her complete disregard for whatever he owns.
He puts the paper in his pocket and goes around the house, closing the windows and locking doors. He picks up a small case in his bedroom, puts in a change of clothes, his laptop and phone.
In less than ten minutes, he's out of the door and is backing out of the driveway in the borrowed Volvo, on his way to Seattle. An hour later, the trees beside the road that make Forks distinct begin to give way to stores and houses, signs and light posts, as the land becomes less mythical and more populated.
In another hour, Edward starts to hum. He gets the paper from his pocket, stares at it while he steers the wheel with one hand. Satisfied, he puts it on the seat beside him.
It really doesn't need a stretch of imagination, he thinks. Everything begins with belonging. Bella had done it, all by herself. He'd deduced how she'd done it, mulled on it for hours and came to a course of action.
Before reason takes over, before he decides how idiotic, and delusional it is, he decides to carry out what feels completely and absolutely the right thing to do. He's going to Seattle for an appointment with a certain Mr. Damon Conklin. He'd called the day before and sent his design. Mr. Conklin had assured him that he can be accommodated the very next day, even though what he wants done is a little extensive.
He glances at the paper again, reads the directions to a place scrawled below the Whitlock family crest.
Super Genius Tattoo
1017 E Pike St. Seattle, WA 98122
Before the day is over, he is going to mark himself so all would know where and to what he belongs.
Hope you're all not finding this too slow. :) Hurrying up as fast as I can. I hate leaving these chapters this way. Thanks for sticking with me, and leaving me reviews.
CHAPTER 16 next WHEREIN EDWARD MAKES FIRST CONTACT