Disclaimer: I don't own anything Twilight. It all belongs to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended, but characterizations, plot lines, backgrounds and details of this story are mine. No copying or reproduction without my permission.
I wish I had more to say to you, that I could offer more of an explanation for what I'm about to…
Cursing loudly, I tore the page out the pad and tore it up, dropping the scraps onto the growing 'burn' pile beside me before picking up my pen and starting again.
Remember that fishing trip Charlie took us on when we were five…
I ripped out the page and tried again.
I'm sorry I…
I shook my head, then tore that page out as well, not even bothering to rip it up before throwing it onto the burn pile this time. My time was running out.
This is it.
I love you more than words can say. You're the best friend a girl could ever ask for, and I want to thank you for everything you've done for me. Tell Jake I love him for me, okay?
I'll miss you. Both of you.
I folded the page up and shoved it safely into the small envelope I'd brought, hastily scribbling her name on the front before sealing it up and leaving it on the dashboard for whoever eventually came to collect the truck to give to her. Glancing worriedly at the clock, I scooped everything in the burn pile into the other, much larger envelope I had with me, then sealed that up too before checking my appearance in the mirror one last time and exiting the truck.
It was bitterly cold outside now, and I knew from experience that it wouldn't be long before it started to rain. I'd have to hurry. I reached into my back pocket for the lighter I'd been given for exactly this purpose, flicking it open before holding the flame to the corner of the envelope and watching it catch fire. Before long, the entire thing was aflame, turning to ash before my very eyes, and I smiled before dropping it to the ground and scattering the smoldering remains with my foot.
It was time to go.
I grabbed my bag and slung it over my shoulder, locked the truck, then dropped the keys back through the partially unwound window on the driver's side before starting to walk.
It was almost pitch black now, but I didn't want to risk pulling out my flashlight unless it was an absolute emergency, so stuck to the side of the road as much as I could, using it as my guide. As predicted, it started to rain a couple of miles in and the boots I was wearing started to rub, but I kept on going anyway, trying to think of anything but the growing pain.
I wasn't sure how much time had gone by since I'd started walking, but knew I couldn't be too far off my stop point now. Part of me was relieved about the break, but the other, more dominant part of me was dreading what I'd have to do there. Once I reached that point, there was no going back.
Sure enough, a short while later I saw the foot-worn track leading to the small gap in the nearby trees that I'd been waiting for and quickly made my way up it, switching direction a few times just in case before finally reaching my resting place. Careful not to slip on any of the rocks surrounding it, I stepped closer to the stream and crouched down behind one of the largest rocks, ensuring I was hidden from any prying eyes that may have been watching.
Once I was sure it was safe, I slipped my bag off my shoulder and rummaged around for one of the granola bars I'd shoved in there before I left. I needed to keep my energy up as much as possible without making it obvious I had done so, which meant that a few more of these, a banana and two bottles of water would be pretty much it for me until I got to my final destination. I took as much time as I could spare whilst I ate and drank, giving my body a small break before I'd have to get going again.
When I was done, I shoved all the trash back into my bag and pulled out the Louboutin ankle boots my best friend, Alice had bought me several months previously, groaning under my breath as I realized just how high the heels were. This was not going to be easy. I undid my laces and pulled my old, mud-stained boots off, then put them in my bag before slipping the new pair on. For death traps, they were actually kind of pretty. It was a shame they were soon going to be ruined; they probably cost Alice a fortune.
Sighing heavily, I pushed myself up from the ground, struggling to maintain my balance on the slippery rocks as I bent to pick my bag up. Damn it, Alice. I somehow managed to navigate myself away from the rocks with only a minor slip, and was lucky enough to find a more secluded spot further downstream to throw my bag into the water from, destroying any condemning evidence I may have accidentally left behind.
Finding my way back to the main road from there was trickier than I'd hoped, so I decided to try doubling back on myself, hoping to find the track I'd originally walked up, but that just confused me even more. Come on, Swan. Think. What would Charlie do?
I looked up to the sky, feeling a pang of loneliness when I realized the stars were hidden by the treetops above me. Evidently, not even my father could help me now. I stood there blankly for a few seconds, thinking over my options, then shook my head before trudging blindly forwards, hoping with all my being that I was doing the right thing.
Apparently, someone up there finally decided they liked me, as I soon ended up back on the road I needed to be on and seemed to have somehow managed to cut out a fair chunk of my journey in the process. For the first time in days, I smiled to myself as I continued to walk, thinking that maybe things wouldn't be so bad after all.
I was wrong.
Several miles later, my feet were bleeding, my clothes were soaked through from rain, making my entire body tremble from the cold, and, to make matters worse, I was lost. In all my extensive planning and research, I'd never come across this place before, and I felt my heart sink as I realized I must have been walking in the wrong direction. Fuck. This was not good.
Suddenly, I heard the rush of footsteps approaching from the darkness, then screamed on reflex as I was grabbed from behind and a hood was shoved over my head. A hot hand was clamped over my mouth to silence me, and I did my best to fight my attackers off, all too aware of who they probably were.
"Felix, grab her legs," the guy behind me growled, and I kicked wildly as somebody tried to clamp and hold my legs together. All too soon, my heel hit flesh, and I smiled despite myself when the person I assumed was Felix hissed in pain, instantly dropping my legs.
"You little bitch!" he snarled, and I cried out when two more sets of hands grabbed hold of me and lifted me from the ground.
"No! No, please!" I begged, struggling as much as I could.
I heard them all laugh, then recoiled when the man from before leaned down and whispered, "I love it when you beg."
I threw my head back, trying to head butt him, but all that did was make him angrier, and then, without warning, they threw me into what felt like the back of a van and slammed the doors shut behind me.
"Where are you taking me?" I shouted, reaching up to try and pull my hood off as the van started to move.
"Oh, no you don't," a woman spat, and I felt sharp nails scratch my wrists as I was pinned to the floor, both arms behind my back.
"What are you doing?" I tried to roll over onto my back, but she just pressed her knee into my back, making me cry out in pain. "Stop it!"
"Always the same ridiculous begging," she sighed as she roughly bound my wrists together. "Stop it! Please! Let me go! Well, I've got news for you, bitch. That's not going to happen. So sit there and shut the fuck up."
With that, she pulled me up onto my knees, then shoved me in the direction I came from, and I cried out again as I toppled face first into what felt like a metal wall. "OW!"
"Oops," the woman called tauntingly. "Sorry!"
Doing my best to hold in the tears that had welled up in my eyes, I slumped against the wall and curled up as best I could, knowing there was no way I could escape from this now. From what I could tell, there were at least four men up front, and since I didn't know if anyone else was in here with me and the woman, I had no idea just how outnumbered I really was. It's okay, Bella. Just breathe.
Several sharp turns, squealing brakes and bumps on the head later, the van slowed to a stop and I heard the doors behind me get pulled open, allowing light to flood into the back and straight through the hood covering my head.
"Out," a voice growled, and I unsteadily tried to scramble to my feet, not wanting to anger them even further. A pair of hands grabbed my hands and forcefully yanked me out the van, and I stumbled in my heels as I tried to remain upright.
"Well, well, well… Look what we have here. Alec, take off her hood."
I felt someone grip the top of the hood then quickly yank it upwards, pulling my hair and almost blinding me with light at the same time. I blinked rapidly to try and adjust to the sudden overload of light, then gasped as everything came into focus.
There were guns. Lots and lots of guns. And they were pointing straight at me.
"Wonderful! Another stray." I shuddered as a man I didn't recognize stepped forwards, moving through the gap between two of the gunmen as he made his way towards me. "What brings you here to our… humble abode?"
My eyes darted to my surroundings, and I fought to remain calm as I realized I was in the middle of some kind of warehouse. This was it.
"Oh, dear. Why so shy all of a sudden?" the man teased, tilting his head as he looked me over. "No, that's not it, is it? Dressed like that, you can't be shy… Is it nerves then? Has the cat got your tongue? "
I glared at him defiantly, trying not to recoil as he reached out and ran his finger down my arm.
"James," a voice chided from nearby. The man before me rolled his eyes, then moved to stand slightly to the side of me, bringing me straight back into the firing line.
"So, young lady… You appear to have gotten yourself in a bit of a mess here, haven't you?" A man in his late forties stepped forwards, and I swallowed hard before diverting my eyes to the ground. "Yes, you know you're in trouble, don't you?"
I stared at that one spot on the ground, trying to block everything else out. Please…
"You see, the problem we have here is that each time we get a surprise visitor like yourself, they turn out to be a fed or cop. And do you know what happens to those… visitors?" I looked up at him, wide eyed. "They disappear."
I swallowed hard again, feeling my eyes well up with tears.
"So, my dear, do you see my dilemma?"
I nodded weakly.
"Good," he sighed, smiling. "So, what I want to know is who sent you and why, and if you don't tell me…" He trailed off, his smile turning sinister. "Well, let's just say that James here will make you talk… amongst other things."
I closed my eyes, strengthening my resolve, then slowly opened them again and stared at the man before me. He shook his head and sighed. "Stupid girl. Felix?"
The barrel of a gun pressed against the back of my head.
"You have until three." I swallowed hard. "One…"
"She's with me!"
My body sagged with relief. Thank you.
"Edward!" The barrel was moved from my head, and I watched with wide eyes as a man emerged from the shadows, his unruly bronze hair and pale skin making him stand out amongst those around him. "How nice of you to join us!"
"Aro." Edward acknowledged with a single nod of his head.
"The girl is yours, you say?" The man – Aro, I assumed - sounded surprised. I didn't blame him.
"Yes, she is. I… sent for her a few days ago," Edward replied absently, stepping closer to me as he looked me up and down. I tried to keep my expression passive, but couldn't help but smile as his gaze met mine. He grinned back, then reached out and gripped my hips, pulling me into a passionate kiss that I couldn't help but moan into.
All too soon, he pulled his lips from mine, breathing a little heavier than before as he slipped his arms around my waist.
"Are you alright?" he murmured. I nodded, giving him a small smile. "Good. Let's get you out of these, shall we?" He ran his fingers over the binds that were digging into my wrists.
"Please," I mumbled, grimacing when he accidentally touched the already chafed skin on one of my wrists. Edward smiled apologetically, then turned to Aro, holding his hand out for something expectantly.
Aro muttered something under his breath, then reached into his pocket for a knife, watching me warily as he handed it over to Edward, who twisted me round so that my back was to him.
"Keep very still," he said softly, waiting for me to nod before gently running his hands down my arms. I thought I heard him sigh as his fingers reached my wrists, then barely managed to stifle a groan when he tried turning my arm a little.
"Sorry," he murmured, but still held my arm in its uncomfortable position. "These are on pretty tight."
"It's okay," I ground out, then winced when I felt him slide the cool blade of the knife beneath the plastic binding both of my wrists. With a sharp, controlled tug, he pulled the knife up through the plastic, breaking it instantly. My wrists fell to my sides, and I had to resist the urge to roll my shoulders to work the kinks out.
"Turn back," Edward instructed, resting his hands on my hips and guiding me back round to face him. I kept my gaze lowered to the ground, wanting to keep this moment as private as possible, then sighed as he gently took my hands in his, pulling them up between us so he could take a better look at my wrists, which still had another layer of plastic binding wrapped around them.
"They double bound you," I heard Edward mumble as he shook his head. I squeezed his fingers gently. Of course they double bound me – they wouldn't have wanted to risk me somehow freeing myself if I worked out how to simply slide one hand out the bindings, after all. Only amateurs didn't double bind people's wrists.
"I'm going to have to use a pair of pliers or scissors for these," he explained, looking me straight in the eyes. "The plastic is too tight to risk trying to slip a knife under."
"Okay." I nodded, giving him a small smile, then took a step closer towards him, slipping my arms up around his neck.
"Hello," I murmured as his hands gripped my hips again, the flat side of the knife pressing against my skin.
"Hello," he breathed, then leaned in to kiss me once more, his mouth instantly coaxing open my own. I moaned softly, pushing my hips into his, then let my fingers slide up into his hair and tugged gently. He inhaled sharply, his hand clenching into a fist against me as the kiss turned more urgent, his tongue slipping through the part in my lips, seeking my own.
Edward froze for a second, then slowly pulled his lips from mine, gazing into my eyes momentarily before turning his head in Aro's direction.
"Perhaps it's time to show your friend where she'll be staying, Edward." Aro glanced at me, watching my reaction to his next statement. "I do wish you'd have told us she was coming in advance – we would have set up a room for her."
"She'll be sleeping with me," Edward replied, staring Aro straight in the eyes.
"No kidding," James muttered from somewhere behind us. I blushed.
"And I did tell you about her. Several times," Edward continued, ignoring James' comment. Aro's brow furrowed, but he was quick to hide it.
"Of course," he replied, feigning enthusiasm. "How could I forget? Welcome…"
"Isabella," Edward supplied confidently, then moved out of the way so that Aro could see me better.
"Isabella… What a beautiful name," Aro remarked as he stepped forwards, holding his hand out for me to take. I extended my hand, ready to shake his, then felt my eyes widen as he lifted it to his lips, kissing my knuckles before lowering my hand again.
"Will you be staying with us long?" he asked, glancing between me and Edward.
"As long as Edward will have me," I replied, turning slightly towards Edward and smiling at him.
"Good," Aro murmured. "I'm glad Edward finally has somebody to… keep him company."
I blushed again, looking down at the ground.
"Very well, then. I'll leave you and Edward to get reacquainted in his suite. James? A word."
With that, Aro and his men seemed to slip away into the background, giving me and Edward a moment of privacy.
"Are you alright?" he asked softly as he wrapped his arms around me, pulling me into a hug.
"I'm tired and a little shaken up, but I'm okay," I replied truthfully, then sighed as he took a step back from me, taking my hand in his.
"My suite's probably a better place for this," he explained, squeezing my fingers before turning and nodding to one of the men standing by a door on the other side of the warehouse.
"Your suite?" I whispered as we started to walk towards the door. He smiled, then wrapped his arm around my shoulder, careful not to press down to hard.
"You'll see," he murmured, pulling me in to his side. I rested my head on his shoulder, trying to relax, but every step we took made the pain in my feet intensify to the point where I was no longer able to block anything out, and I couldn't stop myself from groaning quietly when we neared the door.
"Isabella?" Edward stopped walking, then turned to face me.
"I'm okay," I lied. "My feet just hurt a little, is all."
He glanced down at my feet, then shook his head.
"It's quite a way yet," he said softly. I groaned internally this time. I wasn't sure how much further I could walk, and apparently, Edward wasn't either, for he stepped forwards and guided my arms around his neck before picking me up with ease.
I almost cried with relief as he took the weight off my feet, but quickly collected myself and wrapped my legs tightly around his waist, making it easier for him to carry me.
"Better?" he murmured. I nodded, then closed my eyes, resting my head on his shoulder in an attempt to get more comfortable.
"You're so warm," I mumbled as he started walking again. I hadn't intended for him to hear me, but apparently spoke louder than I'd thought, for he laughed softly and held me a little tighter.
"And you're freezing," he pointed out. "And wet. Was it raining much outside?"
I snorted unattractively.
"That bad, huh?" he teased.
"You have no idea," I breathed, shaking my head. Edward laughed again, the sound soothing to my ears, and I sighed before snuggling closer to him. Snuggling? Jesus, was I five? I lifted my head slightly, only to have Edward gently guide it back down to his shoulder again.
"It's okay, you know?" he said softly. "I just want you to be comfortable. You've been through a lot today."
I nodded noncommittally, trying to let my body relax into his as much as possible. It was hard, trying to let my guard down enough to truly relax, but somehow I managed to do it, and soon I found myself starting to doze off, barely gripping to the edges of consciousness.
"Isabella?" Edward murmured softly after a while, slowing to a stop. "We're here."
I groaned, curling up a little tighter around him. He laughed softly, then fumbled around in his back pocket for something, his fingers brushing against my leg as he did so. I shivered.
"Almost there," he promised, misinterpreting my shiver as one of coldness. "Just got to unlock the door…"
"Do you want me to get down?" I asked, reluctantly lifting my head from his shoulder. He smiled, shaking his head, then pulled out a key card from his pocket and swiped it through a card reader on the wall. The light at the side turned from red to amber.
"One…" Edward murmured, tapping his foot impatiently. "Two…"
The light changed to green and there was a small click, presumably indicating that the door was unlocked. Edward pushed down on the door handle and the door swung open.
"Three," he said simply, grinning. I smiled back at him, then carefully unwrapped my legs from his waist, silently telling him to put me down again.
"Thanks," I mumbled, blushing as I straightened out my skirt, which had ridden unbelievably high up my thighs.
"You're very welcome," he replied, then gestured for me to step inside the room.
I hesitated for a moment, unsure of myself. It was dark in there – pitch black almost; what if someone was in there? I turned to Edward, worried, but he just smiled reassuringly and placed his hand on my lower back, guiding me forwards.
"Don't worry," he said softly, "the lights come on automatically."
I swallowed nervously, suddenly doubting myself, but stepped forwards anyway and sighed with relief as the lights flickered to life, just like he said they would.
"Edward, wh-" I turned to face him, then felt my heart start to pound when I saw him slide a key into the lock and turn it.
"Alone at last."