A quick thanks to JaspersDestiny, JaspersIzzy, Hammerhips, and AlexisDanaan for being soooo quick on this.
I'm gonna die.
The words were anathema to me. I'd never admitted defeat before, not on anything, not to anyone, and most certainly not to myself. Even as I felt the wiry hair on Jasper's thighs graze the back of my own, the lash marks on my skin stinging from the touch, an uncommon calm swept over me. Even as my fingertips tingled, aching to move down to my belly, to my Bug, my mind started to clear, and Edward's chiseled face rose out of the pain-fog, his emerald eyes like homing beacons to my soul. For one moment, a moment of reflection given focus from that face, I realized that for a mere blip on the timeline of my life, I'd had it: that elusive emotional bullshit contrived by Hollywood or Disney, or a handful of romantic dreamers.
"Damn, Beller, I'm so fucking hard right now."
The proof of that suddenly pressed against my ass.
I watched as my brother picked the lock on the door, thanking God there was no deadbolt.
Emmett and I had arrived at the ten-story building, parking a block over if only to camo the car. While he fished an arsenal out of his trunk, hushed orders were given out to his men by a phone once again precariously balanced between his ear and his shoulder. Flashlights, cuffs, another gun, ammo all handed to me and shoved in pockets I wished were larger, more apropos for the situation.
I refused to concentrate on anything but the fact that she was still alive.
"Put this on." He tossed something that looked like a black life vest to me.
I caught it, "No," and threw it back into the car. I didn't want to be hampered by the thing. Not if I had a direct shot.
Not if we were too late.
"Bro…" Emmett adeptly put his on like he'd done it before.
My stare back at him and accompanying silence said all that my mouth didn't. Emmett's noncompliant glare lasted only momentarily until he started barking instructions again into the phone.
At least ten men were at our disposal, ten of Emmett's most trusted and indebted associates. They were to post themselves outside and at every entry point, with just two following us. Only Emmett and I were going in until they were given a signal. One touch on his phone and his men would haul ass in after us. The interior of the building itself was a work in progress, the main floor empty and bearing the evidence and equipment of ongoing construction. Finding a stairwell was tricky, but we both knew an elevator would be a dead giveaway, not knowing just where, or into what, the doors would open.
On our initial drive-by, we'd both noticed barely discernible light slivering from behind what looked to be dark curtains in windows on the seventh floor.
"Of course it's the fuckin' seventh floor," I grunted to myself as Emmett and I snaked our way up the darkened stairwell, flashlights directed at the floor to minimize their glow. His glance back at me and befuddled expression drew my explanation.
"The asshole's actually an accountant who likes Vegas." Emmett's mere shake of his head and eye roll were his only answer.
Now, as my back pressed against the wall to the side of a door, two of Emmett's men crouched at the entry to the stairwell we'd just ascended. There were only two doors on either ends of a long hallway. After Emmett pried open one to reveal an unfinished half of the building, we both knew the other one was the one we wanted. I glanced back at Emmett's men, surveyed the rest of the hallway, and then watched as Emmett silently worked his magic on the lock. At this moment, I couldn't be more appreciative of his skills, even if I didn't want to know where he'd learned them. Or why.
She has to be behind this door. She has to be alive.
A sudden click had Emmett's hand turning the handle and flushing himself against it as he slowly shouldered the door in. Both hands on the barrel of his gun, his arm held outstretched, he inched in as I followed.
Or someone was going to die.
"Tell me you want me, Darlin'. Tell me." His voice sounded like what I imagined Satan himself would sound like, the sliding of his dick through my crack teasing out the last bit of my restraint.
"Go to fucking hell," I managed to breathe out, my palms impulsively gliding up the sheet underneath them only to clutch against what I knew was to come.
It couldn't end like this for me, not now, not when Edward and I, when we…
His one hand disappeared from my hip as his gut laugh belted out over the music and the rushing of my own blood through my ears, and with it wrenched a last bit of my willpower. My palms pushed against the mattress beneath them, attempting to twist my body to the side.
I would not die from that sorry excuse of a cock.
Emmett slowly crept in, his gun pointed, and surveyed the room, each of us maneuvering in standard search and attack formation. But all either of us saw was what appeared to be a typical living room, low light coming from a lamp sitting next to an empty black leather couch and two chairs placed on either side of a fireplace. With one glance, he signaled toward a hallway, and as we approached, the faint sound of music came from it, a tune I'd heard once or twice before. It was an overhyped, half-assed homage to cowboys everywhere, and my blood began to boil.
In a flash of his gun, Emmett pointed to himself and then to the door on the right nearest him, and then motioned with his chin toward me and then to the other door where the music was coming from. Nodding, I moved into position as he did the same next to his door. With a slight duck of his head, he pressed his ear against his door, and I watched as his jaw tightened, his eyes widened, and something told me he'd heard Rose behind that door. Signaling three fingers, he nodded them off as we both kicked in the doors that were in front of us.
I could taste the blood trickling in from the corner of my mouth as I rolled further on my side, breathing through the agony of each stretch of skin, each firing of ache my arm muscles triggered. Jasper's left hand, the one that must have been wrapped around his dick, flew to my thigh, his fingertips squeezing.
"Where do you think—" He was cut off by the bursting open of the door.
"Get your fucking hands off her, Whitlock."
Whipping my head around to see…holy fuck! Edward!
His gun was pointed at Jasper's back, and he glanced at me for only a moment but long enough to lock his gaze with mine. The look on his face changed from fierceness to…something – pain, panic – and then his determined gaze went back to Jasper, the gun in his hands outstretched even more, the cut of the muscles in his arms straining against the white of the dress shirt he was still wearing from the ball. I couldn't help but appreciate the whole Bond-thing he had going on, and he'd never looked more fuckhot—nor would he—to me.
The sound of a man's voice and screaming came from somewhere through the door. Edward's head flashed out the door and then back again.
Who the hell—
For a split second, I thought of Rose. If Emmett was here too, and somewhere else, then the other person must be Rose, and she'd better be alive.
Kick that fucking pixie-bitch's ass, Em.
"Cullen," Jasper jeered out as his fingertips loosened on my thigh.
It was just enough for me to get to my side, resting on one elbow, my other hand falling behind me. I stopped dead when I saw what was in Jasper's other hand: a gun pressed against his stomach. He still had my one leg trapped, his jeans at his thighs. His stiff cock bobbed as he stood straighter, and my one hand ached to rip it off.
But then it hit me. In the five seconds or so that I played it out in my head, I realized there was no way he could shoot Edward. But I was a different story. As my eyes ran a path from the gun over his stomach to his face, I caught the slow rise of the corners of his mouth. And then my eyes met his.
Pop him, Edward. Shoot the motherfucker.
"Get away from her, Whitlock, and I won't shoot your ass. And I do mean ass."
It was like that day in my office when I'd opened the box with the headless swan. Time froze. Everything stopped, even that for-shit tune that was blaring seemed to fade away. My quick, panting breaths were the only reminder that I was still with it. Jasper's face had a look I'd never seen before, and I hoped to never see it again. Eyes wide, beyond maniacal, they left mine and stared straight out, that God-awful smirk growing as if a plot were growing in that fucked-up head of his. As I glanced back at the gun still hidden against Jasper's gut, ignoring the pain my moving had caused, I gasped as the realization hit me.
He doesn't give a fuck. He's going to kill me.
And Bug with me.
"Back up and put your hands where I can see them, Whitlock," Edward commanded from the doorway.
My eyes flew from the gun at Jasper's waist to Edward's and back again to the gun. Edward couldn't see it, didn't know it was there, but he wasn't looking at me. His gaze was fully trained on the back of Jasper's head.
I had to do something. Create a diversion. It was now or never.
"He has a—"
I didn't get to finish because Jasper's arm straightened out in what seemed like slow motion, the barrel of the gun pointed at my face. With some noise that sounded like a squeak, I squeezed my eyes shut just as a shot rang out, and something fell over my legs, the bouncing of the bed next to me enough for me to open them wide once again.
Jasper had faceplanted onto the bed.
The scream that belted out of me was enough to stop the fucking planet on its axis, to send dogs from a radius of 500 miles, and to drown out Big & Rich effectively shoving them both up a horse's ass.
The next thing I knew, Edward was sprinting across the room, tucking his gun in the back of his pants as he approached Jasper. I didn't know if he was dead or alive and I didn't give a fuck. I just wanted him away from me. I kicked my legs, squirming to get away, not caring about the pain it caused. But Edward had read my mind. As he hauled the piece of shit off the bed, I saw the blood trickling from just under Jasper's right shoulder. My hands pressed against the mattress through the fire and stinging to try and sit up, my one hand reaching for the metal poster, clinging with everything I had so I didn't take a header backwards. Edward pulled out cuffs from his back pocket, the clicking of one ring going around Jasper's wrist, the other around the table leg, and then he turned back toward me. The muscles of my one arm started to shake with the last bit of effort to hold me vertical.
"Bella!" Taking the three or so steps back to me in a blur, he was on his knees and in front of me, his hands caught in mid-air, hesitating to touch any part of me. "Christ…what did he…you look like—"
"Shit," I breathed out, no doubt finishing what he wouldn't have said. His meager attempt at a smile had me falling forward, barely able to bring my arms to his sides. Burying my face against the silk of his shirt, my lips to his collar, every slice through my tits and stomach against fabric burned. The blood I knew was all over me was going to ruin his beautiful shirt. But it didn't matter. My fingertips twisted as they found purchase and gripped for dear life.
Edward had found me. Saved me. Us.
"Edward..." It was a half-ass whimper through the salty tears stinging my one cheek, and I whispered it over and over again as his hands softly held my hips, one making its way to the back of my head, his fingertips gently holding me.
"I'm here, baby. I'm here."
The voice from the stereo suddenly went from a whisper to a scream, the next song in Jasper's sadistic mix roaring. Rev Theory's Justice boomed irony, and I relished it and the man whose arms I was in.
Who'd given me justice.
"Get m—me…the fuck out of here," I grunted through the pain. I knew I was fucked up bad, the strength that had driven me into Edward's arms fading.
"In a minute. Just…relax." He breathed into my hair and placed a tender kiss against the side of my head.
"Bella…" he whispered as he placed another soothing kiss in my hair. "Fuck, I…" his voice grew gravelly, and my fingertips dug further into his shirt.
Don't lose your shit, Edward. Do NOT lose your shit.
"I thought he…I thought you—"
"Shhhh." The sound came through my teeth. "I…I'm ok." I knew it was a lie as I felt my body growing weaker, more relaxed.
His lips found my ear, softly skimming it. "I love you." His fingertips swam into my hair, caressing me. "Marry me."
At least…at least that's what I thought he said.
Did he just fucking…?
Pushing against his ribs, finding renewed strength, my head pulled back just enough to see as his did the same. I was caught once again by those Fuck-Me-Emeralds and the poker face he was trying to hold as he got a good look at me and my one swollen eye.
Of all the times for a proposal…
"So you…" I struggled to speak, my one good eye blinking through it, "… s—save my ass and think I'm…j—just gonna walk down the aisle? W—with you?" I countered with everything I had, attempting a bitchy glare, which at the moment was probably more of a squint, and more painful for me.
He blanched, his neck pulling back even more as his eyebrow did the what-the-fuck thing. "Twice. I've saved your ass twice. I'm not waiting for a fucking third." The corners of that delicious mouth twitched, giving away his attempt at humor, before his eyes zeroed in, roaming my face. He couldn't hide the furrowing of his brow, the narrowing of his eyes. The concern was written all over it.
I didn't like the look.
So I slowly turned away, my chin finding his shoulder as he drew himself closer to support me. Closing my eyes, or eye, I attempted a deep breath that only wrenched a grimace and a hiss, which brought Edward's supportive hand back to the base of my head. His tenderness wiped away the pain as his fingertips lightly massaged me.
I mumbled as his fingers worked their magic, "If…if you want to get technical, it was Emmett who…" I opened my eyes to look out the door, wondering what had happened to Emmett and Rose, only to land on Jasper. He was awake, his free hand stretching into his boot…
It all happened so fast.
My hand flew to the back of Edward's pants, pulling his gun, ignoring the pain in my arm, and I pointed it at Jasper, taking aim as much as I could at his chest. The memories of all of those lessons learned with Charlie flooded me with confidence. The visions of what that rat bastard Assper had just done to me gave me the adrenaline rush I needed.
And I pulled the motherfucking trigger.
The recoil sent my hand flying upward until the gun dropped from my hand and onto the floor. Hearing the clank as it hit the concrete, my good eye squinted to find him, to see if I'd hit my mark, and settled on a hole on the left side of his chest, blood running down his skin. His body was still and splayed against the wall, his free hand with the gun he pulled from his boot palm open at his side.
As Edward pulled out and away from me to look back at Jasper, the searing pain of the movement sent my body forward. At the same time, Emmett yelled from the doorway, but whatever he said was garbled, lost.
"I l-luh..," I tried to whisper as everything faded to black.
"Goodnight, my Angel, time to close your eyes, and save these questions for another day."
"We just don't know, Mr. Cullen. Isabella—"
"It's Bella. Just Bella."
"I think I know what you've been asking me. I think you know what I've been trying to say."
"Bella's been through a terrible ordeal, but she's holding her own."
"Doctor…you must do everything you can. Do you understand me? I cannot accept…I will not…"
"We are, Mr. Cullen. We are."
"I promised I would never leave you. And you should always know. Wherever you may go, no matter where you are, I never will be far away."
Jesus fucking Christ, can't anyone get some sleep around here?
The voices in my head were like Comiskey on Opening Day.
Everyone, just shut the fuck up and let me sleep.
And who the hell is playing Billy Joel?
Edward, hit the damn snooze.
"It's touch and go right now. Why she's not waking up, we're not sure just yet. But sometimes, after something like this, the mind just needs to…recharge."
What the hell is that noise?
Who the hell is talking?
"Dad, it's me. Yeah…She's…she's still unconscious. Yes. Yes. No head trauma that we can see, just…Yes. Dad…come as soon as you can. Please."
"...detectable brain activity."
"Yes, Doctor, I'm aware. They showed me the scans."
"Talk to her. Let her hear your voice. Play her music, like you have been. Something that she knows, perhaps her favorites."
"Something tells me her favorites wouldn't be appreciated in the hospital, but I'll come up with something."
That was Edward's voice. Talking to…a doctor.
Am I…am I in the damn hospital?
Like a seven-foot wave that crashed into me as I stood waist-deep in the ocean, it all came flooding back to me. Like the wind being knocked out, or a sudden blast of sub-zero air. The room, that bitch… Jasper. Each and every lash from every weapon he'd used, including his tongue, came zooming back. Those last few moments, Edward storming in…
Bug! No one had said anything about the baby.
Holy hell, I shot Jasper, and he was dead. Oh, my God, I killed Jasper.
I KILLED JASPER!
I wanted to scream but nothing came out.
His voice was so close now. Why couldn't I open my eyes?
"I'm right here, baby. Right here. Open your eyes, Bella. Open them now."
"...remember when I came into your office that very first time?"
It was Edward again, but his voice sounded…funny. Like he had a sore throat. And the music…it was that song, that classical piece he had on that day that had stuck with me ever since. I still didn't know what the fuck it was called.
"You were so beautiful, you know. Took my breath away. You, the attitude, the sneak peak at the skin of your thigh. Don't think I didn't know what you were up to. So confident and so fucking beautiful. I knew what I wanted even as I sat there, knowing what I knew about you."
I could feel the bed move beneath me, and realized I was lying on my side. His breathy whisper was suddenly right near my ear.
"I knew I wanted to be inside you." He solidified his point with a kiss to my cheek, the bed moving again, his hand scooping up mine. I could now feel my other one over my stomach, hanging from my elbow and my arm at my side. Fuck, if I could just move it.
"You have to wake up, Bella."
No shit, Sherlock.
But something was different now, even as I moved my eyeballs behind my lids and a dull ache spread across my back. I teetered between attempting to open my eyes, to fucking move a muscle, and staying still to see just how much more emo Edward could get. His words were like a fire running through me, warming me from the inside out in an oh-so good way. Or maybe it was the pain meds. The fuck if I knew. Even as my brain started to function, I could feel my body come alive, the pain of what I'd been through nothing like it had been.
Forcing my lids, I tried to open my eyes. Someone had put tape on them, or at least that's what it felt like.
He squeezed my hand.
"I'm right here. Oh Bella, open your eyes."
Like opening a heavy garage door, I pushed and pushed, for once doing as he asked. As the light filtered through, I found the hair, the face, those million-dollar pearly whites beaming as I'd never seen them beam before. My fingers dug into his skin where his hand held mine, but all I could think of, all I wanted to know…
"B—baby. Ed…the baby."
His smile grew.
"He's as strong as his mother."
The wave of relief was so encompassing, I attempted a grin of my own, noticing something gooey on my lips as they stretched. Bug was ok. I was ok. And Edward was here.
"S—stronger," I muttered.
His soft laugh made me blink my eyes open more to see him. He was sitting in a chair, pulled up as close as possible next to the bed. Looking a little rough around the edges, his hair was literally a mess, as if he'd been tugging at it for days.
"You…l—look like shit." I managed, my throat dry and sore.
As if he knew, he reached around to the bedside table, grabbing a pitcher and pouring some water into a Styrofoam cup. As I got a good look at him, I realized he was in jeans and a light blue button down, the white shirt and suit pants he'd been in the last time I could remember seeing him completely gone.
"Here. Just a little at first, though." He drew the straw to my lips, and I sucked slowly, noticing a twinge of pain but wanting the water more.
"'Kay." He set the cup back on the table and leaned into me, taking my hand in his as he did so and kissing my knuckles repeatedly.
The questions started to fly. "H—how long was I out? How's Bug? R—rose? Em? W—what happened to J—juh—"
"Shhhh…" His finger softly touched my lips, and the memory of me saying the same into the collar of his shirt struck me like a lightning bolt.
"You were out for nearly two days. What Bug? Rose is in another room and Emmett's with her." His face changed suddenly to that fierceness I'd seen when he'd broken down the door. There was something about Rose he wasn't telling me. "And Jasper…"
His hesitation scared the shit out of me. "Rose. Jasper. Tell me."
Holding my hand to his lips, I watched as his eyes left mine and danced around my face and then lower, a deep breath sucked in through his nose before he let it out. "He did things to Rose he didn't do to you. Emmett nearly…I had to…" He stopped again. "Jasper's still alive, but barely, and under 24 hour surveillance."
Fuck me, Jasper was alive. And Rose…what did he…? With what Jasper had been about to do to me, I couldn't let my mind go there, not now. The look on Edward's face said enough, though. Two whole days I'd lost. Two whole days of Edward probably going out of his fucking mind. I cringed for any nurse or doctor who had crossed his path. Edward must have seen it because his palm came up to the side of my face, his fingers lightly pushing back my hair. "She's ok, Bella. At least, she will be, with time. Emmett hasn't left her side either."
Either. Yep, Edward had been here the whole time. Like anyone could've made him leave.
But Bug… "Bug is…the baby… what I called him, while…when…" He pressed a soft kiss to my forehead as I tried to hide the twinge of pain from my lips moving.
"He's fine. Doctor Meyer, the doctor here, and even my dad…" Edward paused again, his smile receding just as his brow furrowed that telltale way.
"'Cuz he's…made from…very hearty stock." My attempted laugh turned into a groan as my body let me know it wasn't a good idea, and as I tried to roll onto my back, it suddenly became apparent my entire torso was wrapped like a mummy. Edward's hand left mine and was on my hip so fast, I barely had time to move.
"Stay where you are, Bella. I know it must be uncomfortable, but just a few more hours and then you can try to lie back."
"H—how…bad am I?"
The rush of air that came out of Edward hit my face, the scent of coffee wafting with it.
"You're alive, and you will heal. That's all that matters to me."
"Don't you…d—dare…s—sugarcoat it, Cullen."
"I'll be taking full responsibility for tending to your wounds. There are ointments we can try…"
Yes, I was fully aware of all of the soothing ointments on the market for what had been my escape of choice. But none that I knew that would fully erase the kinds of marks I had. Or the memory of how they got there. I closed my eyes, taking as deep a breath as was comfortable.
"There's plastic surgery, after the baby is born as well."
I felt the dip of the bed as he leaned in once again. I opened my eyes a crack to see his elbows leaning on the bed, my hand once again being held within both of his. I could only imagine how I was going to look later on. The marks that Jasper had left on my back from the cane that first time would be nothing compared to what would be there now. How would Edward be able to look at me? To touch me? To…
"Stop it, Bella. Don't even think it," he growled low, causing me to open my eyes fully to find his, searching them for any sort of sign that he was just saying what needed to be said because I was flat on my ass. Well, not ass.
He leaned in further, his eyes never leaving mine. "You've never been more beautiful to me than you are right now. Alive and awake and carrying my child. Our child."
Damn, the man had a way.
Suddenly, I remembered. Edward asked me to marry him. Asked me when I looked like roadkill, hanging onto consciousness, debating the technicalities of how many times he had actually saved me.
I slowly let me lips slide into as much of a grin as I could manage.
"What?" He ducked in further.
"My answer…is yes."
At first he had that what-the-fuck look on his face, as if I'd just confirmed the fact that I'd lost not only some skin but my marbles as well, but then he let out a tremendous gut-busting laugh as he sat back in the chair, one hand still holding mine as his other ran through his hair. I was sure someone, a nurse, was going to come running in.
"It wasn't a question," he sputtered through more laughter, and then came back to the edge of bed, that mega-watt smile once again ear to ear. "You're my life now. Both of you."
I closed my eyes, again feeling all of sudden drowsy, but I didn't want to sleep. I needed to tell him one more thing: those words that were just words days ago but were now so much more. So insignificant as three little words, and yet more important than I'd ever understood.
"I l-love you," I choked out through the immensity of emotion and feeling that I had running through me, unshed tears threatening the corners of my eyes as I opened them to find his. "S-so much…"
He leaned in further again, taking my hand underneath his chin, prickly stubble tickling my fingers. "Ahhh, but my gorgeous, brave, intelligent, impetuous, stubborn, sexy, controlling fiance…" his eyes searched mine as his smile receded a bit, his expression growing serious, "…I love you more," he whispered with a gentle kiss on my nose.
"Mmmm," I muttered, through uncooperative, lowering lids. "That…sounds…like a challenge."
His soft chuckle was the last thing I heard before I let peaceful sleep claim me.
Welcome to the end of the first multi-chapter fic I've ever finished. lol! I hope you HEArs liked this ending, because I had a few tossing about in my head, one much darker than this. I just can't resist the hope, the pull that is the HEA. Thank you all for sticking with this, for reading, reviewing, and being along with me for this ride.
And yes, there will be an epi. ;)