A/N: Hello again. Still here? Thank you. I appreciate your PMs and tweets checking on me.
My thanks to my usual support crew: saluki168, philadelphic, Rodeomom95 and MichelleMMarie. You rock.
In previous installments:
Saturday night - Edward meets with pink girl (Kate) only to find out she knew about his attempts to break into their banking system from the beginning. Yet, she lets him go... Jasper denies any involvement with Kate. On the same night, Alice invites Bella to their house for a "sleepover". It doesn't go well; Bella is forced to leave.
Monday evening - Edward comes to apologize to Bella after her work shift, he meets Mike Newton.
This chapter picks up after Bella leaves Cullens' house on Saturday night. Edward has something to say.
Disclaimer: SM owns everything Twilight, I only borrow. It's my characters who steal.
It wasn't surprising when I came back home that everyone was still up. Except for Alice, who was probably too mad at me to face me. Good for us, I guess. I really didn't have it in me to fight with her again tonight.
As usual, we gathered in the kitchen. Rose sat at the table, with her head on her hands and her eyes on me. She knew already, no doubt, what happened with me and Kate. Since they all were still here, waiting, I was probably expected to fill in the gaps. Fucking lovely.
I sniffed the air. "It smells funky in here. Wine?" I looked at Emmett.
"Alice dropped a bottle earlier. It was almost empty, but the pieces were everywhere," Rose muttered into her elbow.
"What was Alice doing with a bottle of wine?" I didn't like how Rose's eyes shifted. "Rose? Have you, guys, been drinking?"
"A little," she admitted.
"When? Not with Bella here?"
Rose didn't answer.
"Rose? Look at me." I raised my voice. "Did you let Bella drink?"
"It was just a few sips."
"Are you fucking serious? She is seventeen!"
Rose sat up straight in her chair. Emmett moved closer and stood behind her.
"Now you're worried?" she said. "You should've thought about it when you befriended her. If she is old enough to hang out with us, she's old enough to have a little bit of wine. I didn't get her drunk, Edward."
I opened my mouth to object, but she continued, "Out of all nights, Bella had to show up here tonight while I'm worried sick about you and have no idea whether I should pack our fucking bags or brush up on my bar exam questions. I needed a drink, and I wasn't going to sneak around, so I poured some for the girls, too. It wasn't a lot."
I couldn't believe it. "That's your excuse? What about Alice? She can't mess with her medication."
"Alice hasn't taken her medication in a while."
"What do you mean?"
"Exactly what I said, have you checked the medicine cabinet lately? The bottle has been half-full since June."
"Why didn't you say anything?" I asked. The perplexed and worried expression on Emmett's face mirrored my feelings.
"Say anything to whom? And why do you think I left it alone? I asked her about it."
"And she told me she was feeling better and didn't need it anymore."
"And you believed her? Rose, what the fuck?"
"Edward, calm down." Emmett placed a hand on Rose's shoulder.
"Why wouldn't I believe her?" Rose got up, stepped to the sink and pulled a bottle with bleach and an empty plastic bucket from underneath. She poured the chemical in, mixing it with water, grabbed a rag, and began scrubbing the floor.
"Rose, you're beat, let me help," Emmett murmured, squatting next to her.
She jerked her arm away from him. "No. I have to do something. I need to be busy."
Emmett stepped away.
"Alice... is... an adult," her words were coming out in short pants as she got back to scrubbing, "not... another baby... I have to spoon-feed." She paused and turned to me, her face pink. "She told me she was better, and I had no reason to think she was lying."
What was she talking about? Alice was far from being better; Rose was delusional. I wanted tell her so, but then again, weren't we all?
Besides, one thing was true–Alice wasn't a baby, if she didn't want to take her meds, I couldn't force her to, unless she presented a danger to herself or others. And it wasn't my place to chastise Rose. Not when I had fucked up so royally, and not when I hadn't been treating the people I loved properly, including Bella. Especially, Bella.
"Alice is the least of my concerns right now." Done with the floor, Rose collected her cleaning supplies. "Talk, Edward."
I jerked out of my thoughts. "Hmmm?"
As if he had a sixth sense, Jasper walked into the room. "What's up with the smell? It stinks in here."
"You'll live. Someone, start the coffee, I'll be back in a minute." She looked at me pointedly, pushed Jasper aside, and left the kitchen, carrying the bucket filled with dirty water out.
"I need to know what happened there tonight, Edward. " As usual, she got straight to the point as soon as she returned.
Rehashing the events of the evening wasn't easy. My fingers were shaking around my coffee mug when I got to the point of telling them how Kate confronted me. There was no question in my mind that Kate knew about my plans. Knew from the beginning. I just couldn't believe how she had put up such a good act for weeks, feigning innocence. I got played. Skillfully so. And I still couldn't figure out what her angle was.
"She let me go." I felt my face heating up as I recounted, with a lot of editing, our last minutes together. "Until the last moment I thought she'd do something drastic and try to turn me in."
"Are you sure you weren't followed?"
"I'm sure, Rose," Emmett responded. "We're clean."
"And if she decides to turn you in... What do you think she has on you, Edward?"
"Not much," I said thoughtfully. "I mean, all evidence of the keystroke logger on her laptop is gone. I checked the logs on the flash drive I got back. I programmed it to run a scan of her hard drive and the system registry after uninstalling the logger. It was clean. Of course, they can still try to go after me–"
"No one is going after you, E," Jasper interrupted. He had been unusually quiet during our entire conversation. He had refused coffee and still looked way too alert for three o'clock in the morning. "She's taken care of."
Rose ignored Jasper's comment. "And if they go after you?"
"Well, since any remote evidence is destroyed, they don't have a leg to stand on," I answered.
"But you said she knew about your attempts from the beginning. Wouldn't she have collected certain proof against you?"
"The keystroke logger could be a result of malware for all anyone knows. The only time I was inside her computer, it was under her login name, and she was the one letting me in. I'd like to see the bank policy on that and how she'd admit that fact to her employer. Although..." Yes, there was one particular thought, which had been nagging me all evening.
"What?" Emmett asked, leaning forward.
"Jesus, Edward, speak!" Rose's cheeks had gone pale. "Although, what?"
"If she knew about me and my attempts to break in, wouldn't she also check the connections around her computer? Wouldn't she find my flash drive? However small..."
"I told you guys," Jasper spoke, interrupting me again, "forget about her."
"What are you, the Godfather?" Rose asked. "How can we let it go? Why are you so sure about her?"
Jasper rolled his eyes. "I'm telling you, I took care of her. It's not in her best interest to bother us or go forward with the information."
"And what if you misjudged her?" I asked, not placated by his assurances.
"Well, that's the risk you'll have to take. It's out of your control, unless you want to get rid of her completely." He wiggled his brows.
"No," Rose gasped. "Jasper, your jokes are as fucked up as you are. Not funny at all."
"Who said it was a joke?" Jasper's eyes gleamed darkly.
"I say it is," Emmett interjected; the white knuckles on his clasped hands told me how seriously he actually took Jasper's words. "Since you said you took care of her keeping her mouth shut, we are moving on."
Still, I made a mental note to search around about Kate further. No matter how much I wanted to be done with her, I couldn't let that girl be in danger because of me. And if she had anything to do with Jasper... Well, I had to find out the truth all the more.
"So, what now?" Rose asked the inevitable. "What are we going to do now?"
I thought desperately of an answer.
"It can't be over." She turned to her husband. "Emmett, the money... if we don't…"
"We will figure it out, Rosie. I promise." Emmett took her hand; his tone was far from convincing.
"How much do you need?" I asked, realizing I might have had a solution... Could it be that easy?
"The deposit is fifty grand due by the end of September."
I calculated in my head. If I wiped out all my savings from my free-lancing jobs...
"I think I've got enough savings for the deposit," I said, relieved at the simplicity of my idea. "I need to check the latest statement, but I think I have close to fifty there. Maybe fifty-five."
"Oh, we need a lot more than that," Jasper informed us smiling jovially. "Don't forget about the guy who told us about this job. The agreement was that his cut goes to him regardless of the outcome of the job. That was the only way to keep him quiet."
"What the hell, Jasper?" I choked on the idea of parting with the money we didn't make. "What kind of an agreement is that?" I turned to Rose. "Did you know about that?"
"I did." She nodded slowly, her expression as still as a stone.
Do people in this family talk to each other at all?
"Emmett?" I asked. Did he know?
He shook his head slowly no.
"Emmett," Rose murmured, reaching to take his hand. "I'm sorry."
His gaze was aimless for a moment, he heaved a deep sigh. "This ends here, Rose," he told her firmly. "Never again."
Relief spread over her features. "I promise. Never again, Emmett. I swear to you."
"How much?" Emmett asked, looking at Jasper.
"A hundred fifty for the guy."
"Jesus fucking Christ, we need two hundred grand?" Emmett asked in disbelief.
"It's okay, Em, I swear, it's not a big deal." I had the money. "Rose, take everything of mine. You know I never touch my stake. Take it, it's all yours."
"He is practically a saint." Jasper chuckled. "Rose, Mother Theresa here is feeling particularly generous. Take it, Rose, take all his!" he mockingly punched air a few times.
Fucker could keep yapping for all I cared. I had to fix the problem, and the solution was right in front of me. Rose could use my cut from all our other jobs. I never cared to ask about exact amount, but there should be plenty to cover our expenses. The only issue was the majority of it was offshore in different accounts and it could take time to pull the funds together without drawing any suspicion. I'd have to talk to Emmet about the details.
"Edward, I can't," Rose protested. "It's not fair to you. I can't leave you with nothing."
"Rose, I'm not asking you. I'm telling you to take it. Emmett, tell her!"
Emmett wasn't listening.
"Em?" I pushed his arm.
"Sure, sure," he responded absentmindedly.
"It's settled then." I slapped my thighs, sealing the deal. "I'll take care of the deposit, and then we'll work on getting the rest of the money."
"No, Edward." Rose dug the heels of her palms into her eyes. "You don't understand. The treatment itself is half of the battle."
Sighing, she lowered her hands to face me. "We'll need transportation, hotel, food, there will be post-treatment therapy. Once this hits us, I can't worry about finances. And we have no idea how Bree is going to respond to treatments."
"I get it now," I mumbled feeling like idiot. "I'll help, Rose."
Her eyes flashed. "How?"
"How, how. We'll rob a bank, Rosie!" Jasper laughed. "Right, E?"
"Shut the fuck up, Jasper!"
I took it out on him, while there was a part of me that no longer believed it to be a far-fetched idea. Not at the rate we were falling.
"You're laughing, Jasper?" Rose stood up, pushing the chair out with a screech. "You better come up with another idea quick or I'll make you suffer so bad, you'll wish you were never–"
"Rose, don't." Emmett grabbed her hand, shaking his head.
"Not now. Everyone's exhausted; you've had a few drinks. Later, please."
A silent conversation quickly passed between them.
"Later it is," she muttered, dropping her eyes down. "All right," she told all of us, "let's see if any of us can get some sleep tonight."
"I can!" Jasper promised, not fazed by the altercation, what so ever.
"Excellent," Rose responded. "You're gonna need it."
I stayed behind in the kitchen. Half a bottle of vodka and I was still awake and still miserable. To stop the room from spinning I lowered my head on the table. It made me feel worse.
"Go to bed, Edward."
I lifted my head slightly at Rose's raspy voice and dropped it down again. "Don't worry about me," I heard myself saying. It came out as gargling sound. "I'm fine."
"Wanna know something?" Her voice was closer, at my ear. I felt her lifting my arm and placing it on her shoulder. She pulled me to get up. "I have never, ever seen you fine."
My room was dark. Was it my room? My head pounded, my mouth felt like the Sahara desert at noon—dry, sandy, and fiery hot.
"Are you up?" Emmett's loud voice came out of nowhere. "Rose left Tylenol and water for you."
I groaned into the pillow. "Go away."
"Suit yourself then."
Tylenol wasn't a bad idea. I felt for it on the stand and popped the pills into my mouth. After crunching them with my teeth, I washed the bitterness down with the full bottle of water. On all fours, I brought my head down, burying it into the pillow. There was not a single thought in my head except for one, begging for the headache to go away. I passed out again shortly after.
With my brain shut off and vision still blurry, I made my way down to the kitchen. Rose was there, the smells of her cooking wafted around, and although I hadn't eaten in almost two days, the smell made me nauseous.
"Oh, God," I moaned, holding my head and trying to swallow down the urge to throw up. Why did I come down here?
"You look green," Rose informed me.
"Here, you need this." She held out a glass with something of unidentified color. It looked like goop.
"Been watching too much Shrek with your kid?" I asked. "Whatcha cooking there, eyeball jelly on toast?"
"Ha-ha," she said, scowling. "Drink, you bastard!" She pronounced the word like "bastaid,", and somehow it didn't sound too demeaning.
"Seriously, it looks like donkey crap," I whined, accepting the glass. I smelled it, aghast. "Is there spinach in it?"
"Spinach, blueberries, kiwi, orange juice. With your propensity to drown your problems in alcohol, I'm surprised you haven't learned the best cure for a hangover yet. Your body needs anti-oxidants after being pumped with toxins," Rose chided. "Drink up!"
"Bully," I muttered and took a few sips of the drink. It didn't go down easy. "Ughhh, yuck!"
"The consistency isn't great, I know, but it will help, you'll see."
Wow, Rose was actually sympathetic.
"We need to talk," I said after finishing and rinsing my mouth out.
Some of last night's events started coming back to me. Long drive to Olympia, pink girl, I drank something at her apartment, which was disgusting, as well. Fuck, she kicked me out, didn't she?
"Oh shit, Rose."
"You remember now? Yes, yesterday sucked."
I remembered a lot more than that. I sat down at the table and grabbed my head again. "I fucked up. I fucked up horribly."
"That you did." Rose was serious.
"You saw her home."
"You let her drink and drive."
Rose's shoulders hunched forward. "It wasn't bad, Edward, I promise. She barely had any and it was early in the evening. I would never…"
"I was mean to her." I remembered everything now. "Why did you let me?"
Yes, let's shift the blame.
Rose gave me a sharp look. "You've got a lot of nerve, Cullen."
"I have to go see her." I pushed myself up and swayed toward the door.
"Not in your current condition. Have you seen yourself today?"
"I've been hungover before."
"Had she seen you hungover before?"
Had she seen the real me before?
"I'd hold off on the gory truth, then." Rose smiled.
That wasn't funny but all true. There were certainly other, better ways to make an impression on a girl that meant the world to you, so I got to work.
This little project had been occupying my free time for a while and I still had a ways to go. But desperate times called for desperate measures and what originally was supposed to take another week to complete on time for Bella's birthday, I had managed to cram into one night.
Thankfully, I'd already gone through the preliminary steps, including generating the certificate and obtaining electronic signatures. I also made sure to cover all legal aspects of this endeavor. As the last step in the process I submitted my work for review. The approval normally took time. Depending on the case, it could take days, and I just couldn't imagine waiting for that long without seeing Bella. To my advantage, I'd done this before and had excellent knowledge of the guidelines.
Once submitted, it was out of my control, and so the wait began. I spent most of it lying flat in my bed, tossing the stress ball to the ceiling and watching the shades of the day moving by. An email I received at seven o'clock in the evening was short and sweet–I got it. It was time to woo my girl.
Bella's truck wasn't by her house, so on a hunch I drove to Newton's Outfitters store where I knew she still worked part-time. I saw her small frame stepping from behind the larger frame of the guy walking in front of her. He was too close to her for my liking. I recalled his face–I had seen him once before. He was the guy who planned to pursue my Bella over the summer. The guy who kept texting her; whose mama owned the place of Bella's employment.
Feeling my jaw clench, I appraised him once more, calculating my options. Friendly conversation to avoid confrontation? Intimidation? Claiming my stake? Avoidance all together? Something in Bella's expression and overall posture helped me to make my choice.
Confrontation, intimidation and claiming it was. Mama's boy Mike Newton didn't stand a chance.
Bella's truck hadn't been driven this fast since 1953.
"You want to get us killed?" she asked, glancing at me before returning her eyes back to the road.
I was rushing us to our spot at Lake Pleasant.
"I'm a good driver." I playfully steered the wheel side to side, making the truck swerve a little. "Although I admit, I've never driven a tank before."
Her snort was adorable.
"Har, har. I'm still mad at you, you know." She turned to me, crossing her arms on her chest.
"Good," I said.
"Yeah." Happy we'd arrived at our destination and I could finally have my hands free, I parked the truck off the road. "Your fury is stunning and I want to kiss it off." I leaned in to her, face to face, intent to make it reality.
"Nice try," she said, not pulling away but not getting closer either.
"Is it working?" I asked back.
"Kinda." Her guarded expression softened, but her eyes remained cautious.
"Good." I took her hand, stroking her knuckles. " I missed you." God, I did.
"So you've said."
"It's true. And I have something for you."
"Are you buttering me up?" The smile finally reached her eyes.
Oh, I was going to. It'd been too long since I had touched her. I wanted my fingers in her hair, over her taut nipples, between her legs. Her candy smell, overpowering every other inside the truck, was intoxicating.
The name of this place suddenly seemed fitting. I was going to make Bella come more than once this evening. Draw every pleasure out, watch her give; I was going to have my mouth on her today. I needed her, and I hoped I could contain myself enough to not freak her out. Control. Control. Control.
Contradiction was my best friend, I thought while pulling down the zipper of Bella's hoodie. I pushed my hand up under her thin shirt, cupping her breast over the thin layer of her bra. Her nipple instantly puckered and she gasped. I tried to move closer.
"You said you had something for me."
"Right." I had, indeed. Idiot, I almost forgot. "May I have your phone?" I requested.
When she handed it to me I pressed a few buttons, searching and loading on it what I needed.
"Here." I handed the phone back to her. "Check this out."
"Infinitas, The Star Finder in 3D," she read out loud off the screen and looked at me smiling. "Sounds neat."
"Check on the bottom, in small print," I prompted.
My palms were suddenly sweaty. What if she thought it was a dumb idea? What if she didn't like my hastily-finished present? But the curiosity and excitement lighting up her face were worth the risk.
"Developed by E-A-C for B... " She frowned at the screen for a beat. "E-A-C? B?" She gasped when the realization hit her, wonder replaced by stunned expression. "You created it? For me?"
"I did. Yes." I grinned, not able to hide my satisfaction with her reaction, yet feeling anxious like a teenage boy about his first date. "What do you think?"
"This is incredible! How does it work?"
"It locates and displays celestial objects and provides some interesting facts about them. There's a quick tutorial."
"Oh, let's see." She smiled brightly at me and pressed the screen. "Step one," she read, "the best view is assumed in a horizontal position." She quirked her eyebrow at me. "You want me to lie down? Really?"
"What? It is the best view." I had the nerve to argue.
"Uh huh, from whose perspective?"
"From the viewer's perspective, of course."
"Let me give you more room."
I left the truck but wasn't going to go too far. Jogging around it, I came to Bella's side and opened her door. With the phone in hand, Bella lowered her back on the bench seat of the truck, her feet dangling on the side.
"Nice view already," I commented, taking in the sight of her – breathy, bright-eyed, with a river of silky curls cascading down, almost reaching the floor.
"I'm not convinced yet," she giggled. Best sound ever. She touched the screen again, reading the next prompt, "Point the device at the desired location. What is my desired location, Edward?" She raised her head to look at me.
I knew mine but wasn't going to spoil it. "It's up to you."
"Ah, okay. Another step: touch discovered objects to learn more."
How could I not? I stepped between her legs and let my hands hover over the curves of her hips before slowly pushing her t-shirt up. The view of her pale, almost translucent skin made my breath hitch. How can someone be so beautiful?
Her overwhelmed reaction mirrored mine. She sucked in a breath, her darkened eyes glued to my face while she arched toward me, her body responding to my touch.
"Did you discover anything yet?" I asked, pressing my palms into her sides, seeking more contact with her warm, smooth skin.
"What? Oh." She shifted her unfocused gaze back to the phone she still held up. "You keep distracting me."
"I'm sorry." I really wasn't.
She pointed the screen up and gasped. "What's this? I can see through the roof. All those stars on the sky! How is it even possible?" She turned to me.
"It's an optical illusion," I explained, bending down to kiss her lips parted in amazement. I had dreamt of her taste constantly over the past eight days, awake and asleep. Being here with her, feeling her, real and breathless because of me, turned me upside down. I wanted to be careful, and I didn't know how. Trying to go slow, I trailed my mouth down her neck, over her collarbones, the swell of her breasts, down to her belly button, nipping and licking as I went, tasting her softness.
"It's surreal. Oh, please... " She moaned lightly and shivered in response to my touch. "So beautiful."
"Yes, you are," I whispered reverently into her skin. She had no idea how absolutely perfect she was to me. I rubbed my nose gently along the edge of her jeans, which were sitting low on her hips.
"Oh," she breathed. "The constellations... Oh my god, Edward, look!"
"I am, baby." My eyes were fixed on the twin birth marks on her lower left hip. I needed to see more. Touch and taste more.
"B... please... I need..." I had to put enormous effort into restraining myself from doing something untoward, like going all caveman and ripping her clothes off. Telling myself I could not scare her, I moved my hands to the waistband of her jeans and gently tugged on the front, hoping she wouldn't say no.
Still holding the phone in one hand, Bella brought her other hand to me and slipped her fingers through my hair, which did nothing to help my internal frantic state of mind or my hard-on. Encouraged, I popped the buttons of her jeans and started slowly pulling them down. With a small moan she lifted her hips to make it easier for me. The sight of her in see-through blue lace against her alabaster skin was magnificent. Her chest rose and fell rapidly; her fingers never stopped their movement at the nape of my neck. Control? What fucking control?
"Let me make you feel good," I whisper-begged, kissing the soft skin above the delicate material of her panties. "Please. I need it."
She groaned something in a low voice I didn't understand. More than anything I wanted to strip off all her clothes, but not here and not when her trust in me was still in question. So, I steadied myself and touched her over the panties, feeling her wetness.
Seeing she didn't protest, I began rubbing my fingers against her sensitive spot in a slow, deliberate motion. "I missed you, B. I'm sorry. Is this okay?" I whispered, kissing her inner thigh.
"Yes," she sighed, her eyes hooded. "Yes, please... " She began moving her hips to meet the rhythm of my fingers.
I knew what she liked already, and it didn't take long for me to have her where I needed–writhing and panting, and close, very close.
"Can you come like this, baby?" I was relentless, pleading, pleasing, worshiping. I sucked on the skin of her inner thigh.
"I... I..." She was gasping for air. "Yes... Oh my god... Edward!"
"I know, baby, I know." I knew exactly what she needed.
Bringing my free hand up, I pressed it to her mouth. She grasped it and then latched on to it, biting sharply into my flesh with a strangled cry. We both groaned from pleasure. Her hips came off the seat, legs stiffened, clasping me tightly between them.
"Oh!" My girl was coming.
My girl was coming, thrashing under me gloriously, but I wasn't done yet. I only gave her a few moments to catch her breath and as she was calming down from her first, I pressed into her heat again–this time with my mouth–and I didn't stop until she was coming again.
Hot. Sweet. Mine. I was never going to let this treasure go.
"I hurt you..." she whispered, softly kissing my hand. "I always do that." She sighed.
"I wanted it. I want you," I told her. "Always."
"Oh." She tried to pull me up to her, "Do you–"
"No, B, not today. You're here, with me. That's all I need right now."
She sat up, pulling her jeans up and t-shirt down. Her hair was a tangled mess, her lips were crimson and swollen, and she was glowing like a girl who just had an orgasm or two.
She smiled, her cheeks flushed. "So are you."
I shook my head. Not even close. I climbed into the truck next to her and she leaned in to me.
"Thank you for the app," she whispered, linking her fingers with mine, and kissed my shoulder. "I still can't believe it."
"You're welcome. I'm glad you liked it."
"Of course I do. So, is it available to anyone?" she asked.
"It's free, so yeah."
That look on her face–adoring and sweet–that was what I lived for. She was worth every sleepless night and the risks I was taking going against my family.
"Don't shut me out again, please," she said after awhile. "There's no reason for us to torture each other like this. I know things are not easy in your life. You're worried and I know why. I'm worried about Bree, too. She is like the little sister I never had."
"It's a lot more complicated than that." I wished I could explain; I wished I could tell her everything. I wished she would understand if I ever did.
"Whenever you're ready to talk about it, I'm here. Just don't hurt me again, Edward, please."
"You know," she said slowly, staring at our hands clasped together, "I have something for you, too."
She thought of me even when she was angry with me. How could I ever deserve her?
"Before I tell you," her tone was cautious, "remember I was gracious about your gift."
"Which one?" I smirked.
"Edward Anthony Cullen!"
Oh, how I loved hearing my name from her mouth–my real name.
"Okay, okay," I conceded. "I'll try to be gracious, too. Tell me."
"I can't give you the details yet; it's a surprise. But would you come to Seattle with me in two weeks? For the weekend."
For the weekend? Staying with Bella overnight? Fuck, that sounded... My dick immediately liked the sound of that. What was she planning? What about her father?
"Edward, you promised!" she exclaimed, seeing that I wasn't rushing to say yes. "And whatever you're thinking, it's a lot better than that."
"You have no idea what I'm thinking, B." I grinned. "And it's very, very good."
"Is that a yes?" she asked anxiously.
"It's a yes. I can't wait to spend the weekend with you, baby."
Next morning my first order of business was to speak with Em.
I found him downstairs in the study. He was facing away from the door talking on the phone.
"And if I dump that entire portfolio now?" He spoke in a hushed voice. "No, that's too low–"
I quickly stepped back into the hall before he could see me.
"Don't give me that bull about the Bear market, I'm not an idiot," Emmett spat. "Yes, but something came up, I need some free resources."
I strained, trying to catch every word. It was shitty to eavesdrop, but I couldn't help it.
"And if we trade even more aggressively..? What is the penalty..?" He groaned. "No, you're right, it doesn't make any sense. Yes, I'll look into my other assets... Alright. Thank you..."
We both startled when he came out of the room and caught me standing in the hallway. I was a stealthy motherfucker, what could I say?
"Who was that on the phone?" I asked, channeling Rose. She knew how to grab the bull by the horns; I learned from the best.
"A friend, huh?"
"That's what I just said."
"It sounded a lot like a business call, if you ask me," I challenged.
"I wasn't asking."
Snippy Emmet. Hello, my brother!
"Cut the crap, Emmett. You were talking about trading, penalties, other assets... What penalties? What other assets? What's going on? "
Emmett gave me the most anguished look I had seen in years. With his jaw set, he walked past me and opened the door. "Let's go for a smoke, E."
"You don't smoke."
"Well, it might be time to start. Come on. Rose and Bree are still asleep." He stepped outside, leaving me no choice but to follow him.
"It's been years, E," Emmett said after a lengthy silence as we walked away from the house.
I wasn't sure if it was a good time to reminiscent on the lack of our brotherly affection.
"I know. A lot of shit has happened..."
"That's not what I'm saying. It was an accident, E. I mean, what you did was... Shit... It's my little girl we are talking about. But even Rose has forgiven you."
I snorted. Never.
"No, it's true. It was terrible, yes. But I've done nothing to make it better. My wife made some serious mistakes too, and I let her. I watched her break you. I am very sorry."
"I deserved it."
"I thought so at first," Emmett said with that sort of a simple honesty I accepted as absolute truth.
"We were devastated, and I thought you were too self-involved. Like Rose, I wanted you to pay. Someone had to pay for our pain, do you understand?"
"Then shit got real with Jasper."
I didn't comment; he was right. Shit got real very fast once Jasper entered the picture, indeed.
"Sometimes I feel like he stole my wife, bro."
"In a way he did, Em, and you let her go." I couldn't lie, especially when I expected him to be truthful with me.
He stumbled, casting an angry look at me, but it died down a moment later.
"I really messed up," he muttered, staring down at his feet as we kept walking. "I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop for a long time."
We were a good half a mile away from our house; I recognized the familiar, subdued sound of a waterfall ahead. The air became warmer, moister. Hot springs was one of the reasons why Rose insisted on investing in this property. She believed in the healing power of geothermally heated groundwater, as she liked to describe it. To the rest of us, it was just water, but who'd argue with Rose?
We reached the water. Weak at this time of the year, it streamed down gathering into a small steamy pool. I patted around to find the driest rock to sit on, and felt its soothing, warm surface as I lowered myself on it. Emmett did the same a few feet away. We stared at the water without speaking for a while.
"Did you know that right around our graduation her father offered me money to break up with her?" Emmet broke the silence.
"Rose?" I asked, shocked. "I had no idea."
"He did. Like in a bad movie. She had a career in law waiting, a family business to help grow; they had certain expectations of her. There was even a guy—the son of a family friend—she was supposed to marry. And here I was, destroying their plans—a kid, who barely escaped the system, an impostor. Her father hated my guts. I stupidly told Rose about his offer, and she went nuts. I blame myself for that, too. If I had kept my mouth shut, she'd be in contact with them, at least. They'd be in her life. So many times I thought I should've backed off then. Maybe she would've been happier without me."
"No way, Em. It was her decision. She chose you."
"You know she was the only reason I didn't transfer back to Washington like I promised you at the beginning. I never would've stayed in Boston after college, and she knew it. I was so fucking ecstatic when she agreed to come with me. But you remember how it was at first. She missed her old life, her family, friends. Then Bree came along. She was all alone here, we argued.
"Yeah, I remember that."
"At some point I convinced myself that it would be better if I sent her and Bree back. I had this whole plan in my head, and knowing my wife, I expected her to hate me for it forever. When the accident happened I was ashamed to admit I was almost glad, because there was no way I could send Rose back with Bree while she was sick. They were my responsibility.
"When those assholes laid me off because I missed too much work..." Emmett ran his hand through his hair, breathing hard at the memory. "When I lost my job, and Bree wasn't getting better, Rose stepped over her pride and called her parents for help. Her father refused to even speak to her. Motherfucker. Her mother cried but was afraid to go against her husband.
"I know it sounds fucked up, E," Emmett continued, his voice strained, "but I was glad it turned out that way. It was like I had no more excuses to lose them. I didn't care in what condition–they were both mine. Shortly after Rose's call to her parents we received two one-way tickets to Boston in Rose and Bree's name."
"She didn't go."
I didn't know any of this. How did I not know?
"I had no job, no medical insurance and no means to support my family, and she still didn't leave me," he muttered with a faraway look on his face.
"She loves you."
He turned to me. "I have no idea why."
"Why didn't you ever tell me any of this?" I asked.
"E, do you remember yourself the first months after Bree's accident? We dealt with the investigation. You drank. You were reckless. Every day we thought you'd get killed on your Harley. Why do you think Alice bought that Volvo the second she had money?"
I cringed. My brother was right; I was a wreck for a while.
"When Jasper came along, Rose was in this quiet state of rage. I'm not gonna lie, I was afraid that she'd snap in some terrible way, so I just let her do whatever she wanted. You remember how desperately I searched for a job, but with the real estate bubble bursting, banks collapsing, things were so fucked up. Still are. I was lost and I let her make decisions. Honestly, I didn't take Jasper seriously at first, and it didn't seem too bad when Rose was describing it. And look at us now. How could I be so fucking stupid and let my family down so badly? I was supposed to protect you all!"
Emmett picked up a rock from the ground and threw it into the water. It plopped down heavily, the surface rippled in waves, splashing on our feet.
There wasn't much I could say to that. We had all fucked up, but we were still a family. We also weren't supposed to have any secrets from each other.
"Em, what was that call about?" I asked.
"I..." Emmett started pacing around. "Shit," he muttered.
"Em, you said it yourself–no more secrets; we're sticking together," I reminded him. "What's going on?"
He nodded, rocking from heels to toes. "I've wanted to take control of the situation and cut all ties with Jasper. A few months ago I took the money we've been putting aside and made some investments."
"Okay." It didn't sound too bad. "How much?" Emmet was a smart guy, he wouldn't do anything stupid with our safety money.
He hesitated before speaking. "I invested almost all of it."
"All of it?" Maybe I overestimated my brother's cool factor after all. "How much did we lose, Em?" Why else would he be so nervous? I braced myself.
Emmett started pacing again. "Technically, I didn't lose anything. I mean, some losses are expected, it's part of the business, but we are not doing too badly."
"Great! Then what's the problem? We have the money then, right?"
"That's exactly the problem. We don't."
A/N: Just when Edward thought he could relax a little. What has Emmett done? Do you hate him?
I am trying to pre-write. if there is a pause, it means I'm working on finishing this story. Not there yet, but I'm trying. I'm on Twitter – Detochkina.
As always, thank you for reading. Please review.