Disclaimer: The characters of Twilight are owned by Stephenie Meyer. The content, ideas and intellectual property of this story are owned by Just4ALE.
A/N1: Hello. Long time, no chapter. Sorry, but this final chapter was another bear to complete: writing, smashing it all, rewriting, and mucho research.
I have a long A/N at the end (including the entire playlist for this story). If you're one of those who skips A/Ns, you're probably not even reading this, ha! However, if you are, I want to thank you for reading and ask now - please leave a review when you're done. Otherwise, I'll see you at the end.
Now, on to the conclusion... Heads-up that none of these fit the definition of 70s rock (okay, one technically does). And no trivia in this one because… it's a medley!
To quote Steve Winwood, "Just roll with it, baby…"
Kenny & Stevie, Tony & Dawn, Frankie, and Elton: On Friendship, Clarity, and Love
You learn a lot about your significant other when you live together.
I already knew this from my time with Mike. The niceties and best behavior that one displays when you're dating disappear, and you see all the warts and wrinkles as the true self and annoying habits become glaringly evident.
Given that Edward and I had been practically joined at the hip during what I hoped would be the lowest point we'd ever spend together, I thought we'd seen the worst already.
I was wrong.
Here's what I learned very quickly during our first week in isolation together: Edward Cullen, my dream man, was far from dreamy when he was in pain. And boy, was he in pain.
It wasn't purely physical, although with the surgery and the broken ribs, that was certainly a major part of it. No, it was his parents' sudden involvement in our lives that compounded the stress of the already-stressful situation, and seemed to slow whatever progress we'd make each day.
They say that time heals all wounds.
His physical injuries would mend relatively quickly. But his emotional ones…
I think it's gonna be a long, long time.
Alec Nicholas was a lucky SOB. While his ancestry was Greek, I began to wonder whether he wasn't also part Irish. The esteemed businessman had his brief lunch with Caius at the Pacific Union Club that Wednesday afternoon, and then hopped a plane to Paris for a twelve-day trip to attend a Biotech conference and also to meet with various companies to determine whether there were investment or technology-leveraging opportunities. Everyone was so focused on getting to us at Esme's house that no one had been watching him, and he slipped through their fingers.
However, Carlisle and Aro thought this was actually a good thing. Nicholas could go about his business while the investigative team went about theirs, researching and putting together all the connections so that by the time he returned, they'd be well on their way to making the arrests.
"But what if he hears the news about his cousin and the other two thugs, and decides not to come back?" I asked, while Carlisle and I sat outside Edward's hospital room together on Thursday night.
"Well, it's highly doubtful that would happen. Alec and Caius never publicized their familial link, since they're distant cousins. And the public story right now is that Caius is a hero, trying to protect my wife at her home when he got wind of a plot to hurt her," he said tersely.
I shook my head angrily. "I hate that he gets to be the good guy in this..."
"As do I, however it's only until the full story comes out. Luckily, Chuck and Randy were knocked out during the shootout, so they can't claim that it didn't happen as we've put forth without implicating themselves. So far, they're not talking. But this was the only way we could ensure there'd be no public outcry that you and Edward weren't arrested for the murders."
"I sure hope you're right that Alec won't decide to run."
Carlisle's eyes flashed. "Well if he does, we'll make use of Aro's connections. Whether voluntarily or by force, we'll get Nicholas back in the country."
"Thank God she's gone at last," Edward said a week later as he sat at the table eating his soup.
I was having a bowl too as I sat on the counter watching him. "You weren't very nice to her, you know. Luckily she's used to cranky patients, but there was no need for your hostility."
"I didn't want her around."
"No, you didn't want a nurse Esme was paying for around. But we needed the help."
"No, we did-"
I cut him off. "I needed the help, Edward. I've never dealt with gunshot wounds before, and I wouldn't have known what to do. Having her around these past three days has been a blessing, and she was great. So remember that as we move ahead because I'm NOT used to cranky patients." I put my bowl on the counter and then placed my hands on either side of my knees as I lightly kicked the cabinet. "You'd better be nice to me. Time wounds all heels."
He chuckled as he took another sip. "Yes, Boss."
I looked at him and marveled how just over a week before I'd been kneeling over him trying to stem the bleeding. He looked so much better. The cuts on his face were healing, the bruises fading, and he was a bit more mobile. He'd lost a lot of weight and was still a little weak, but I was optimistic that the change in diet to incorporate soft foods, and that he was now walking on the treadmill, would help him regain his strength. And since we were in a waiting mode as the investigative team continued its work, our focus was on his recovery.
"So are they really going to get you some work files so you can continue your project for Ben?"
I smiled. "Yeah, since all I'm doing is analyzing data at this point, it's something I can do remotely, and it'll give me something else to keep me busy."
"My job doesn't let me do anything here," he muttered.
"Maybe you could research eighties bands next," I offered, half-joking, half-serious. "It would broaden your work skills, and you'd have something else to test me on. I'd love to learn some new things from you."
He smiled, and for a moment I saw the Edward I'd come to know over our ordeal. "Oh, darlin', I haven't even begun to school you on the things I know," he said suggestively, then slowly helped himself up from his chair and came to stand in front of me.
I did a double-take over his sudden change in attitude. He'd been so out-of-it and annoyed during the past week, it was thrilling to see this teeny bit of playfulness again. My soup must have had magic healing properties.
"Is that so, my friend?" I said with a smirk.
He parted my knees to stand in between my legs, and then placed his hands on the counter by my hips. "Yes, that's so," he whispered, his gaze flitting between my eyes and my lips. "I'm gonna kiss you, friend."
"I'm not stopping you."
My heart was pounding when he finally kissed me, and I struggled to stay still, not knowing where I could touch him without hurting him. He quickly got carried away, and I think he forgot himself as he reached for my hips to pull me toward him, then suddenly released me and stepped back with a groan.
"Shiiit," he hissed. "That fucking hurts…" he said, grimacing and clenching his hands at his sides.
"Is it how you were leaning?"
"I don't know."
"Do you need another pain pill?"
"No, I hate those fucking things. They make me groggy. I only want to use them at night."
I nodded in understanding. "Okay, look, the nurse said it might hurt if you get too… excited right now," I said gently, waving toward his groin area, "given the surgery and the broken ribs, which is why the daily exercise -"
"I know what she said," he snapped.
Before I could finish, one of the guards entered the room with his phone to his ear. "Okay, I'll tell them." He looked at us. "It's Carlisle. He wants to speak with you via video conference."
Edward's face contorted in anger, and he backed farther away from me. "Fucking great…" he hissed, and exited the room.
The guard watched him go and then looked back at me.
I sighed. "Thanks, Mark. Tell Carlisle I'll be on in five."
"How is he?" Alice asked when we spoke over video conference two days later.
"He's getting there," I said quietly.
She gave me a small smile. "He never was a very good patient, you know. Kind of ironic that he went into medicine."
"Don't they say doctors make the worst patients?"
"Yeah, but I hope he's not second-guessing his doctor's instructions, is he? He just used to be very cranky when he was sick."
"Oh, well, good then. Nice to know nothing has changed since he was a kid."
We laughed and then she bit her lip. "Jasper thinks he might benefit from speaking with someone."
I ran my hands through my hair and sighed. "Everyone thinks that… well, everyone but him. There's no use forcing the issue. He'll ask for help if or when he's ready."
"Do you really think he'll ask?"
I shook my head. "Probably not. He barely asks me. He hates being helpless."
"Yes, he does." She paused. "How are you holding up? You look tired."
"I know. I haven't been sleeping much. Bad dreams."
"Oh gosh, really? Have you been writing in that journal as Jasper suggested?"
"Yes, but please tell me you don't spend your dates discussing my confidential sessions with him."
"Now you know there's almost nothing that's confidential when it comes to me," she said with a wink. "But no, he wouldn't violate that confidence. And neither would I."
"Is he writing?"
"No, he said he's not 'keeping a crappy diary.' "
"Have you shared yours with him?"
"Not yet, but I will whenever he's finally ready to talk."
She smiled. "Thank you for doing this. We're all so happy he has you."
"Alice, there's no need to thank me… you know I'd do anything for him."
"Yeah…" Suddenly, I heard a knock from off-camera, and Alice looked to her left and said, "Okay, Leah's here." She moved her chair over a bit as Leah sat down next to her.
"Hi, Leah. So, is there any chance Randy and Chuck have had a change of heart yet?" I asked halfheartedly.
"No, those two are damn good. They each gave us the same story; they were security specialists and were told by Caius that some criminals were hiding out at the house. They had done previous work for him and were called to guard the house before he could get a team there."
I didn't know how they could think anyone would buy that a police detective was going outside the department for help. It seemed ridiculous. However, Caius said there was a mole in the department who'd been leaking information, so he was going around a few of his colleagues to bring in the bad guys. The good news-to the extent that there was any right now-was that this notion of Caius allegedly claiming impropriety on the part of his fellow cops made him look slightly less heroic in the department's eyes.
However, when you looked at the list of crimes this story involved-conspiracy to commit fraud, bribery, assault, murder-none of the charges looked like they'd stick to these guys! Even the lesser charges of burglary, simple assault, and assault with a firearm were problematic, since Chuck and Randy maintained they were helping the police. Moreover, Chuck had called Caius from Jake's house, adding credibility to his story, and both claimed that Edward and I had attacked them before they'd had a chance to tell us they were there to "protect" Esme. It was our word against theirs.
"I don't get it. Don't they see that Randy can be directly connected to Demetri and Felix?"
"Yeah, but he claims that's why Caius asked for his assistance. Since Caius is coming out as a hero right now, their best bet is to say they were with the good guys."
"But there's no way they were in on this whole thing without making money off of it. They must have gotten paid somehow. There have to be bank accounts somewhere."
"We're looking, but their personal accounts are modest," Alice said.
"What about girlfriends? Boyfriends? Maybe they have accounts in their names?"
"None of them – including Demetri and Felix – have/had a serious relationship. Even Alec is a free agent. He's appeared at many different social functions with beautiful women on his arm, but he never stays with the same one for long. He does the "millionaire playboy" very well."
I thought about it. "Well, maybe no recent attachments, but how about eight to ten years ago?"
"That's exactly what Aro asked yesterday. You sure think alike," Leah marveled.
Of course we did; he trained me well. "Okay, what about other ties? Are there any broader connections that we'll have to worry about?"
"So far, we haven't encountered anything," Alice said. "Don't worry, Bella. With Aro and me assisting the investigation, you'll be safe. We'll find a way to bring Nicholas down."
"Does that mean we're free as soon as they arrest him?"
"Technically yes, but Aro says it's possible you'll have to stay put."
I'm sure my face showed my dismay. "For how long? Surely not through a trial!"
"After they've charged him, Aro will want another week to make sure everyone involved won't be coming after you," Leah said. "He's fucking amazing. Brilliant strategist. He's two steps ahead of the investigative team."
I smiled. "That doesn't surprise me. Okay, then we're only talking weeks."
"What the hell, Swan? You act like being locked away with your beautiful boyfriend is torture."
I looked at Alice quickly and then back to Leah, but before I could respond, Leah said, "Oh, speaking of beautiful boys, um, I got an email from Tyler. He's worried because you haven't responded to his calls or emails."
Tyler! God, I'd forgotten all about him. I grimaced. "I haven't checked anything. Is it even safe for me to check messages?"
"I can get them for you," Alice said. "And we can set you up with a secure temporary email that won't ID who or where you are."
I took a deep breath. "Jeez, I was supposed to see him when he came back-"
"Well, he gets back tomorrow," Leah said. "His trip was extended by a week, which is what he was calling to tell you."
"What do I even say? Clearly, I can't tell him about the investigation." I shook my head. "I'm not ready to deal with this. Could you email him back and tell him I had to leave town and will be in touch as soon as I can?"
Leah nodded. "Yeah, okay. But when the coast is clear, you're going to have to tell him what's up. I'm not breaking up with him for you."
"I wouldn't ask you to. I just hate the idea…"
Just then I heard some movement outside the room, and looked at my watch. "Oh, hey, it's getting close to lunchtime. Maybe Edward's up from his nap. I'm gonna go and take care of the patient. Thanks for the update."
I ended our link and opened the door, but saw no sign of him. What I did see, however, was my journal sitting open on the coffee table next to an armchair, and I hadn't left it there. While I had no problem with him seeing it, I'd hoped we'd be able to discuss it together. Hearing the sounds of one of the exercise machines going, I made my way to the workout room and found him walking slowly on a treadmill.
"Hey, you're up and moving!" I said enthusiastically.
"How long have you been awake?" I asked.
"Are you hungry at all? I could heat up some food," I offered.
"Nah, I'll handle it."
"Really? It's not a problem."
"I know it isn't. I should be able to heat up my own fucking lunch."
Oh good, Mr. Cranky is back.
"All right then," I said backing away. "I'll… just get out of your way."
I was turning to go when he blurted, "So Tyler, huh?"
I whirled around. "Okay, I'm DONE. Please tell me this isn't what your attitude is about."
"Yeah, your shitty bug-up-your-ass attitude right now." I threw my hands up in the air. "What?"
"You'll be in touch as soon as you can?" he said, repeating what I'd said to Leah.
I was getting more annoyed by the second. "Well I can't talk to him right now, can I?"
"What are you going to say?"
"I haven't figured it out yet."
He narrowed his eyes. "Excuse me?"
I huffed. "Look, I'm not about to email him a Dear John letter. I want to tell him directly and let him down gently. As it is, he may not be that upset, since we only went out a couple of times. But he's a nice guy, and I don't want to hurt him if I can avoid it."
He rolled his eyes.
"Edward, stop! Just stop," I said walking over to him and pressing the pause button on his machine. "What is wrong with you?"
"Nothing." he said quickly.
I raised an eyebrow and pursed my lips, staring silently.
He ran his hands over his face. "I went looking for you when I woke up, and I heard you talking with Alice. She was right about me; I always hated being sick as a kid, but this is worse. I was a doctor. I know how long this recovery can take, and it's driving me crazy. I don't like relying on others for help, particularly since it's been just me for so long."
He stepped off the treadmill, went over to the bench, and winced a little as he sat. "I was trying not to eavesdrop, and then I heard her mention your journal. It was just sitting on the chair, so I opened it, merely curious to see how full it was. The next thing I knew, I was reading it." He paused and looked down at his lap. "Not only were you spot-on with your thoughts and observations about what I've been feeling, but I see you've been having bad dreams, which shocked the hell out of me. Then I heard Leah mention Tyler, and it just boiled over."
He sighed, looking pained.
"Suddenly I was overwhelmed, feeling irrationally jealous and also completely shitty about how unobservant I've been." He looked up at me. "Why haven't you said anything?"
"About the dreams?" He nodded, and I shrugged. "You've been preoccupied with your recovery and your family. I didn't want to bother you."
"I want you to bother me. You should be able to talk to me. I want to be there for you. It would make me feel less… useless."
"You're not useless. You're recovering from major trauma to your body." I walked slowly over to him. "I'm glad you want to be there for me, but that's a two-way street. I'm here for you, too. I don't mind helping you, and that includes listening if you want to discuss how you feel about your family. I mean, I'm not a therapist but I am your… girlfriend?" I said. "With the emphasis being on friend, right now. No matter what, you need to remember that."
Whenever I call you friend…
"Girlfriend," he said, testing the word, then shook his head. "You're so much more than that to me." He gave me a sad smile. "So much for the honeymoon phase of our relationship. We got one afternoon of "honey" and jumped right into the "I'm-sick, care-for-me" phase."
"Well, considering that we started with the "help-me-run-away-from-the-bad-guy" phase, did you expect anything different?" I said with a shrug. "This is just us."
Everywhere we are, you and I were meant to be…
I ran my hand through his hair. "This phase isn't going to last forever, you know. We'll get past the bad times and then our good times will be wonderful, don't you think?"
I think about the times to come, knowing I will be the lucky one…
"If you're willing to put up with me during all this, we should make it through anything, including interactions with Esme and Carlisle." He reached up for my hand and squeezed it. "Can I just say that it bugs the shit out of me that my mother paid for that nurse, and it drives me crazy that you speak with him?"
"I know, but it's not like I can ignore your father, Edward. He's part of the investigation." I paused. "And, if we're going to be in this relationship, you can't dictate who I can and cannot talk to. They've been nothing but nice and helpful to me through this ordeal. Trust me, I'm not going to start inviting them over for tea or forcing you to meet with them, but I won't be rude to them just because you are."
He put his hands on his knees and sat staring at them. He looked torn, but I could tell he was considering what I'd said.
I knelt in front of him, putting myself in his line of vision as I sat back on my ankles. "We make a great team. I think we proved that last week. But that doesn't mean we'll always agree. It just means we need to make sure we try to work through the issue when we don't."
I placed my hands over his and when he looked up into my eyes, I continued. "Promise me you won't shut down or jump to conclusions when you think I've done something you don't like, and that you'll stop being a pain in the ass in general. And I'll promise to do the same."
"Are we making vows now?" he whispered, his eyes shining as he slowly smiled.
I winked. "Just some small ones. Do you promise?"
He nodded, his smile widening. "I do."
And with that we began a new phase of our relationship as we got to know each other in an entirely different way. We moved past the superficial late-night chats, past the rushed, overwhelming revelations of our run-for-your-life road trip, temporarily past our frantic physical need for each other – because that hadn't waned, merely been put on the backburner until he was ready - and began to really talk. About everything: his feelings, my dreams, our childhoods, our wishes for the future.
I learned about his family money and how rich they really were, shocked to learn they had a vineyard in Napa, among other properties. Then we discussed how to raise kids who didn't expect the world on a silver platter.
I told him story after story about growing up with Grams and Mr. Aro, and he expressed his sorrow that he'd never met her. We also discussed things we couldn't wait to show each other and do with one another; his included some secluded spot he loved near his family vineyard where he planned to have me naked.
We talked while we cooked, worked out and before we fell asleep at night. We worked on the foundation of our romance - friendship and trust – and things got exponentially easier.
On July 30, just over three weeks after the showdown at Esme's, the smoking gun was found at last.
Ironically, it was a model who provided the details needed to get Alec, although it wasn't one of his former gals: it was Caius's. JayN, a somewhat successful print and runway model, had been Caius's on and off 'girlfriend,' if you could call her that, ten years ago, when she was just brown-haired, blue-eyed Jane Newmark. She was quite different now, having gone blond and enhancing her looks with both nose and boob jobs. She moved to New York in 2002 to break into the fashion world.
According to Alice, when the investigators walked up to her on a photo shoot in Florida, JayN said, "I was wondering when you'd show up. A friend emailed me the news about Caius two weeks ago."
She then informed them that she wanted to have her lawyer present before she spoke with them.
They'd merely come down looking for information on Caius, having just stumbled upon her connection to him. But her next words got the ball rolling: "I can give you Alec. There's no way Caius should take the blame for everything, and that little weasel will definitely try to pin it all on him."
As it turned out, back before he became Carlisle's mentee, Caius used to like to record his sexcapades with Jane, and then watch them with her, particularly when he was high on coke. On occasion, Alec joined in on the sex – but not the taping. Or at least, not to their knowledge, since Jane was the one who liked to record everything.
So one night, when she was passed out on the bed, Caius and Alec got to talking. Alec had just made partner at a VC, but didn't know if he'd get a chance for more ownership. Meanwhile, a few months prior, Caius had given Alec a few thousand dollars to get in on a deal, and it had paid off tenfold. Caius wanted in on more deals, and Alec mentioned that they could make a fortune if they could just get a few researchers on their side. A year later, Alec started VolcaniC and, with Caius's help, they happened to hit it big on some key deals.
It worked like this: CR Walden was supposedly a rich investor who would throw in seed funding during the initial, or "angel" rounds. As head of VolcaniC, Alec certified CR Walden as an accredited investor – one who was legally able to provide funding because of his net wealth. But CR Walden didn't exist: It stood for Charles Waldman and Randall Green. While neither of them had much money to begin with, after a certain point the CR Walden account did.
They were able to fly under the radar by handing it off. Alec would tell Caius which clinical trials had the most potential for payoff, but could have problems with their data. Caius told Chuck and Randy, who determined which researchers might be amenable to a little extra cash, and got the money out of the CR Walden account. They passed it to Demetri and Felix, who gave the information about who would be coming to Victoria at the drop-off spot. Or Jane, back in the day.
Jane only participated in the payouts once or twice before she left to launch her career in New York. What got her moving was the night Alec showed up at her apartment for a romp with her and Caius. That night, Alec said to Caius "I hope kissing up to your FBI friend is working, because the two doctors could spell problems for the trial currently underway. Those two need to go."
A few weeks later, she told Caius she was moving. They hadn't been really serious, and he'd known she planned to do it eventually. Since they were really at the beginning of the scheme, and they figured her to be an airhead, they didn't think she could do any damage, unlike Victoria later.
Clearly they were wrong. She'd saved the threesome tapes as her own insurance should they turn on her. Once the investigative team had this information, they got Randy and Chuck to sing.
And so we continued to wait.
"How much longer did Leah say?" Edward asked, as he walked on his treadmill.
"A week, maybe two," I said as I jogged next to him. "By next week they should be able to convene a grand jury."
"It is, but the evidence is so clear, the only thing missing is a tape of Alec saying 'make it so.' "
He huffed. "And then we're free?"
"Well, shortly after the proceedings start, yes. In theory, there'll be no more need for us to be in hiding, because our testimony, should they call on us, is relatively minor evidence compared to JayN's tapes, the bank records, videos, and data they've put together." I thought about it. "Well, my testimony would be minor; yours is more important because you stumbled upon their scheme first. You'd have to recount what happened with the drug research you were doing with James. You may even have to discuss what happened with Tanya."
I glanced at his scowling face, then slowed my run until I was at a full stop, touched his hand and said, "But that's only if they think they can get him for felony murder. Since Demetri, Felix and Caius were the ones who did the dirty work there, it's more likely they'll keep it limited to the clinical trial bribery and the fraud."
His face softened. "So you're stuck with me for a bit longer," he said.
"Yeah, it's torture," I affirmed sarcastically as I stepped away and went over to the mat behind him. I got my notes and readied myself to try one of my mom's most difficult and favorite poses.
This time away from society had some benefits. I was in the best shape of my life, between running and yoga. And Edward was rapidly improving. While he had yet to be "fully functional," we figured it wouldn't be much longer, based on his reactions while we cuddled in bed. I was in no rush; I'd waited this long for him, I'd wait as long as he needed.
I read through my instructions, then got into a warrior pose for the starting position. I had to search on the internet to find it, because it had been fourteen years since I'd seen Mom do this. I breathed in deeply, contorted until I was in the right position, found my center, and held my standing split.
I didn't notice the treadmill behind me was no longer going until I heard his hiss. "Holy fucking shit!" he exclaimed. It surprised the hell out of me and sent me toppling over.
"What?" I said, looking up at him from my mat.
His mouth was hanging open. "You're really freakin' bendy."
I grinned up at him. "I told you you hadn't seen anything yet."
He wiggled his eyebrows. "Is that so? What else can you do?"
"Are you sure you should be watching? I know how much my flexibility," I said, doing a backbend into a stand a foot away from him, "turns you on…"
He groaned and bit his lip. "No, I'm not sure, but damn if I don't want to see what you've got." He took a step closer and grinned. "Maybe I should watch. It could be part of my therapy…"
The dream is not the same. I know it's a dream... I can tell it is, and yet it feels so real.
There's no grocery store, no hostages, no closet full of shoe boxes, and no search for a gun. There's just a meadow, and his bike is nearby. There's a blanket. There's warm sunlight. There's a picnic basket. And there's us.
Hands caress my heated skin. Warm breath dances over my ear. Lips and tongue taste my neck. Large "boat" pokes at my back…
I moan as he explores me. "I want you, baby," he says as he slowly pulls down my underwear.
I turn my head to look at him. "Can you?" I ask dream Edward.
"Finally, yes. I'm up for it," he says with a smirk, taking my hand and wrapping it around him.
I blinked and the daylight and flowers and trees disappeared. My eyes adjusted and I realized we were in our cabin bedroom. This wasn't a dream.
He moved his hand down past my stomach to touch me where I needed him to. The sensations were amazing, and his beautiful eyes gazed at me, filled with desire as I stroked him.
"Where do you want me?" I whispered as his fingers moved in me, getting me closer by the second.
"Finish first, then climb on top."
And so I did.
It wasn't quite like our time together during the afternoon of the showdown, but it was enough.
And it was so much better than the dream.
Two weeks later, seventeen Bay Area and two Los Angeles residents were indicted on various charges including bribery, conspiracy, and fraud. All of the defendants were arrested fairly quickly.
Alec Nicholas eventually pled guilty to bribery and securities fraud. Once he got to prison, the bad news really began as the civil cases against him began to pile up. While he managed to avoid a life sentence with his plea bargain, between the legal fees and the return of the illegal gains made on the IPOs, he was going to be broke when he finally got out.
Chuck and Randy received reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony against Alec, however they still went to jail for bribery and conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
JayN received full immunity for her participation early on in handling the payoffs in exchange for her testimony. This ended up being a nice boost for her career: the model-turned-heroine who helped bring down the genius investor. She was suddenly the IT girl.
There was a huge public outcry over the idea of tampering with the clinical trials. There would be detailed investigations launched into how much damage occurred because of their scheme, but proving that their actions caused any physical harm to patients would be difficult.
What Alec and Caius had effectively done was make trials earlier in the process look better than they were to generate the interest in and push up the initial public offerings. Adverse effects of the drugs would show up later, after the company was public, and slow down the time to get FDA approval; in most cases, the later phase trials brought other issues/effects to light. Only the drug that James and Edward found had truly caused damage and it was pulled off the market during phase IV trials. Who's to say that wouldn't have happened anyway?
The media frenzy was overwhelming. Everyone wanted a statement from us. Everyone wanted to get THE exclusive with me, Edward, Jake, and Nessie.
The news was fantastic publicity for Jake's shops. Our roles in uncovering the conspiracy made Jake even more of a local celebrity than he'd been before. Quil's and Nessie's roles in the rescue gave them instant fame as well. Moreover, his business picked up when it came to light that my rescuer, Edward, was a client. People really loved that angle. His Big Bike Shop was suddenly flooded with requests for custom work.
The news even had a bit of spillover effect on Emmett and Rose's classic car restoration business, as the boys' part in it all gave them a little more notoriety. People loved a good buddy story, and having two ex-cons come to help out strangers on behalf of their friend and his girlfriend was a great human interest story.
And then there was me and Edward. Our story fascinated the media to no end, and why not? It included a romance that started on the radio, a knight in shining armor coming to help, his damsel in distress taking down the thugs, an unusual connection to the bad guys, and a son turned in by his father. Even KFOG tried to cash in on the coverage, playing our clips quite often and having their DJs talk about the Great Treasure Hunt's role in all of this.
Of course, this effectively handled my "break-up" with Tyler, but I still wanted to talk to him and give him the entire story, and as soon as we were free, I did just that. He was disappointed, but bowed out gracefully.
However, unlike Jake or the McCartys, fame didn't enhance our lifestyles; in fact, it practically crippled it. Edward's late-night callers constantly wanted to discuss what happened, so he had to change the show format. He still discussed trivia, but had to eliminate the call-in segment. It really changed the dynamic. Everywhere we went, someone snapped a photo of us or tried to talk to us, and suddenly I had a small taste of what Brangelina must go through. It was suffocating. Soon, we rarely left our apartments.
Then one day, as I was considering whether I should do a People or Oprah interview, Aro surprised me by telling me about my twenty-seventh birthday present…
…and just like that, life got better.
Almost a year after I'd moved to the west coast to start a new life, I found myself relocating again. However, unlike the first move when I'd left it all behind to go to a strange city, I was very familiar with my new home. The Del Mar house that Aro and Grams rented during their summers in San Diego was mine. Aro had purchased it years ago, as soon as it became available, with every intention of giving it to me. As it turned out, it was lucky we'd been estranged when he bought it: had I owned it when I was married to Mike, it might have been taken during our divorce.
I paid my cab driver, grabbed my suitcases from the trunk, and then stood on the front walk admiring the view. I instantly noted the absence of visible cameras around the property, but I knew they were there. Aro had been in charge of the home security system, and I was sure it was state-of-the-art. In addition, I had no doubt I had my own personal secret service, somehow invisible to me, also thanks to my grandfather. Aro was a very wealthy man, having invested his and Grams' money well. And suddenly, I was wealthy too. I now had the resources to start over, and it was only a matter of figuring out what that meant.
Edward was wealthy as well, if he wanted to be. Esme and Carlisle were ready to give him back his trust fund, but he wasn't yet open to it, and I didn't push him. However, he was willing to consider therapy, and Jasper had recommended a nice doctor down in San Diego. For him, it was a big step forward.
Carlisle announced his retirement from the Bureau after the fates of Alec, Randy and Chuck were sealed. He and Esme entered counseling to try to come to terms with what they'd done to Edward and each other. While this event opened up a lot of old wounds for the family, I believe it also set them on the slow road to healing. Only time would tell whether Edward would ever forgive his dad.
I walked through the house, in awe over the improvements and upgrades that had been made, thanks to Esme and Alice. They worked closely with Nessie, who was most familiar with my "style," whatever that was. Well, leave it to them to know; it was perfect. I smiled as I peeked in the bedrooms and bathrooms, taking in the color schemes they'd chosen that matched my taste completely. The kitchen was a wonder, and I almost couldn't wait to get cooking.
They'd also placed many personal effects throughout the house. The photos nearly brought me to tears. Everywhere I looked there was a memory. Our Team Jacob pic. A photo from Leah's wedding. Pictures Aro provided of me as a child with my parents, and him and Grams. Some candids of me and Edward that I'd never seen. All were framed in a variety of silver-toned frames and sitting on side tables, shelves… and on top of a beautiful baby-grand piano that sat in the corner of the family room.
I continued through the house until I made it to the backyard door. Stepping outside, I admired the amazing landscape: the lush green succulents and colorful flowers, the thick bushes and tall trees that enveloped the property, providing complete privacy from my neighbors. The view of the ocean from high on this perch was breathtaking, and I noted that someone had set up a hammock under two trees, which was the perfect spot to recline and read, or just admire the view.
As I scanned the backyard in wonder, I immediately noted a splash of yellow off to the left side. I walked closer and grinned when I realized what I was seeing.
Tie a yellow ribbon round the old… palm tree…
I reached out to touch the ribbon when I suddenly realized I wasn't alone. I sensed him before he even said a word.
"You know," I said, "the guy in the song was away for three years… we've only been apart for three days."
His wrapped his arms around me, hugging me tightly to him as he kissed my neck.
"But they were three long days. And I wanted to be very clear about my feelings for you."
"I don't think I could have misinterpreted your intentions three nights ago," I said, reminding him of our long night and morning together before I'd headed off to Napa to help Nessie with some wedding planning and to attend her bridal shower/spa weekend. "You were quite clear." I turned to face him. He was wearing a leather jacket, jeans, and a pale yellow t-shirt. "You know, yellow isn't really your color."
"Okay, Tim Gunn," he said, glancing at his shirt, "but I'll have you know that I don't expect to be wearing this shirt, or any of these clothes, for very long. I thought it was more symbolic. With you, it's all about clarity." Putting his hands on my waist, he pulled me to him, dipped his head down, and kissed me tenderly.
Oh, man, three days away were too much! We hadn't been apart for that long since the first night I showed up at his apartment. I stood on my toes, wrapped my arms around his neck, and really kissed back.
Too soon we had to break for air. Pulling back to look at me, he brushed my cheek and said, "Who loves you, pretty baby?"
I gasped. "Did you just quote Frankie Valli?"
"Uh, nooo," he said slowly, "I quoted Kojak, and added the "pretty". I should have said "beautiful". Nevertheless," he began with a smile, "that doesn't make the words any less appropriate: "Who's gonna help you through the night?" And you did come to me when you needed help."
I shook my head incredulously as I grinned at him. "First Tony Orlando and Dawn, and now Frankie Valli. Edward Cullen, are you going soft on me?"
He raised an eyebrow, then moved his hands to my butt and pulled me tighter against him. "You tell me."
Damn! Say hello to my, uh, not-so-little friend!
"Already? With just one kiss?" I asked, marveling at the complete return of his libido.
"Only for you, darlin'," he said, giving me the look. Then he glanced at the house and nodded toward it. "Did you see the piano inside?"
"I did!" I wiped the grin off my face and gave him the big, innocent eyes. "Will you be visiting it much?"
His brows furrowed. "Visiting?"
"Your piano, in my house?" I clarified. "Feel free to come by and give me lessons. You know I love the piano men."
He snorted as he caught on. "You're crazy if you think I'm going anywhere, sweetheart." He squeezed my butt. "You're all I ever needed; baby, you're the one."
I pushed against his chest so he'd let go of me, and took a step back. "Hold it," I said, splaying my hands in front of me. "When they did your emergency surgery, did they hit your musical-tastes organ? Seriously, is it like when they cut Samson's hair? That's a nineties song!"
He shrugged. "Just trying to get us into the now."
"Okay, if you consider "the now" to be twenty years ago."
"Moving us up a few decades at a time."
I tapped my lip with my finger and looked up as if considering this. "Well, at least I was alive when that song came out, unlike the other stuff we've discussed."
He folded his arms across his chest and smirked. "Bella, are you calling me an old man again?"
I shrugged. "You're the one making Kojak references; I only know about him from Foul Play." Then I got closer to him. "But what if I am?"
"Oh darlin', this old man has no problem keeping up with you." He grabbed me and pulled me flush against him. "I think we both need to move out of the past, don't you?"
"Yes," I whispered as I pulled down his face and kissed him again.
Our kiss quickly became heated and his hands started roaming. I was considering a throw-down right here in the backyard when suddenly my phone started vibrating between our bodies. We broke apart and I quickly pulled it out of my pocket to see a text message from Alice:
GET A ROOM!
I groaned and looked around the yard. "Ugh, cameras." I texted her back: STOP LOOKING, NOSY!
I grabbed his hand and pulled him along with me as we walked back toward the house. When we were close to the door, I looked up. "Is there a way to turn those off?" I asked, gesturing at the cameras.
"Sure, if we need to. Why?"
I put my hand on the house. "This is a nice wall."
His eyes widened and then he cocked his head and licked his lips. "There are a lot of nice walls in the house too."
"Really? I didn't notice! Maybe you can show me some."
He grinned and took a step back. "Hold on," he said, then quickly strode across the yard and grabbed the ribbon from the tree and walked back to me.
Noting my puzzled expression, he said suggestively, "You never know what other wood we might find inside for you to wrap ribbons… or other things around." He opened the door and gestured inside. "Welcome home."
Jake and Nessie got married at the end of October on a warm, beautiful day in Napa at the Platt Family Vineyard. I was maid of honor and unofficial best man, although Jake's dad did the honors there. The wedding was really lovely and ended up being a nice reunion. Everyone I loved and cared about was there. Jake and Nessie had invited friends and family, including those who had helped them out of the mess. Leah, Sam, Angela and Ben attended. Quil. Embry and Bailey Call. Alice and Jasper. The McCartys and the Winthrops. Aro. Esme and Carlisle. Edward even managed to be civil to his parents, thanks to his therapy. All in good time…
The short bike ride we took the next day was even better. Edward finally took me on that picnic to his favorite place, and it looked just like he described. Wildflowers were still in bloom. Weeping willows surrounded us. Birds chirped, bees buzzed. A light breeze kept us cool under the bright sun. It was so much better than the dream.
We sat under a tree and munched on fruit and cheeses, and tried some of the Platt Family wine. We enjoyed the peacefulness of being away from the wedding and the media, from our families and friends. We talked and laughed, and marveled at how far we'd come over the year since we'd first spoken on air.
When we'd met, we were two people with drastically different perspectives on life. He was a man living moment-to-moment. I was a woman coping with the past and worrying about the future, with little enjoyment of today, always sacrificing the now. Our methods have merged somewhat, as have our perspectives. He now plans the future for us, and I enjoy and cherish every moment I can with him today.
You have to: life is too damn short.
The bad dreams come less frequently these days, but I know they'll never fully go away. While they're less scary than they once were, they still can wake me and have me shaking. And each time so far, he's been there, holding me, comforting me. He gets me through the night, just as he has since that first night we spoke.
It was a great day in his meadow.
He promised it would be secluded, and it was.
He promised he'd have me naked, and he did.
He promised he'd love me for as long as I'd have and want him.
I think it's gonna be a long, long time…
A/N2: Whew, it is done. While I have thoughts about life after this little adventure for Izzy and Tony, I'm going to Let it Be for now (yes, yet another 70s song reference).
Soooo, maybe it is too much but after a year of working on this one, I need to hand out some thank yous. If you don't want to read the rest, I thank you so much for reading and humbly ask that you PLEASE:
1. jump down to that little review button;
2. click on it; and
3. leave a review.
Otherwise, read on…
Are you still there? Okay:
A big fat tackle-hug thank you to the lovely and 'red-pen' wielding Irritable Grizzzly. I didn't have pre-readers and betas; I only had Grizzz, and she sorta played both roles. I let her know where I was going and what might change in upcoming chapters and she was my reasonableness test. Muah, IG!
Thank you to MrsEdwardCullenP and Milk40, two writers/friends who were very patient and understanding when I couldn't get to edit their stories as fast as I wished. Hugs, dear ladies.
Thanks to the reviews/recs on various blogs, websites, stories and tweets, I know many of you found my story. I don't know everyone who did this for me, so I apologize if I miss anyone, but thank you to: ginginlee and TwiFic Promotions/The Twilight Awards, Missypooh, nerac, Mac214, secamimom, Kassiah and The Fictionators, DeeDreamer and Random Acts of Rob, MsMomo and The Lemonade Stand, TwiCarol and Jasper's Naughty Girls, and cosmogirl7481, Marvar, Ironic Twist, spanglemaker9, afoolishmortal, DiamondHeart78 and KitsuShel for their recs in their stories or on ADF.
Finally, thank you to all of you for taking the time to read this and for sharing in my RL experiences, dreams and lyrics/movie lines that run through my head. As I stated in my AV Series, my FFn/Twitter name tells you for whom I started writing. However, your reviews and PMs kept it fun for me, particularly when you shared your musical memories/favorites.
I don't have any plans for a new story, but keep me or my outtakes on alert as I do have plans for one more EPOV outtake and perhaps one or two from my American Vampire Series. If there is another massive FGB auction, I might join in that as well if I can.
As is typical, I ask and I respectfully hope that you'll acquiesce to my plea:
Please leave a review.
I close with one more set of lyrics from the 70s:
I'm so glad we had this time together
Just to have a laugh or sing a song
Seems we just get started and before you know it
Comes the time we have to say: So long…
(…and thanks for all the fish!)
Post A/N: Here at last is the final (almost all) 70's playlist for Tunes with Tony Masen. The link to this playlist is now on my profile. All not mine:
Eagles – Lyin' Eyes
Billy Joel – Say Goodbye to Hollywood
John Lennon – Whatever Gets You Through the Night
ABBA – Take a Chance on Me
Barry Manilow – Ready to Take a Chance Again
Steve Miller Band – Fly Like an Eagle
The Guess Who – No Time
Queen – We Are the Champions
Don McLean – American Pie
Fleetwood Mac – Go Your Own Way
Styx – Renegade
Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run
Santana – She's Not There (outtake)
Journey – Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'
Aerosmith – Dream On
Boston – Peace of Mind
Paul Simon – Mother and Child Reunion (mentioned)
Kansas – Carry on Wayward Son
Foreigner – Feels Like the First Time
Wings – Band on the Run (mentioned)
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Free Bird (mentioned)
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (mentioned)
Derek & The Dominos – Layla (mentioned)
Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven (mentioned)
Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb (mentioned)
Eagles – Take It to the Limit (mentioned)
Foreigner – Double Vision (mentioned)
Thin Lizzy – The Boys are Back in Town
Jackson Browne – Running on Empty
Three Dog Night – Mama Told Me Not to Come
ELO – Do Ya
The Partridge Family – I Think I Love You (mentioned)
Peter Frampton – Show Me the Way (outtake)
Wings – Live and Let Die
The Moody Blues – Isn't Life Strange
Kenny Loggins (w/Stevie Nicks) – Whenever I Call You Friend
Tony Orlando & Dawn – Tie a Yellow Ribbon
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons – Who Loves You
Elton John – The One and Rocket Man
The Beatles – Let It Be (mentioned)
Carol Burnett's Theme Song (mentioned)
Carly Simon – Nobody Does It Better (outtake)