AN: Here is the promised EPOV from Chapters 31/32.
August 18, 2010
My fingers tapped anxiously on the keyboard as I stared out the window. Glancing at the clock, it was only a minute later than the last time I'd checked. I cursed under my breath and went back to my Seattle apartment search, deciding that I needed a distraction. Bella was due to be here in under an hour and James was running late for our meeting.
After glancing back at the computer screen, I let out a sigh. I really didn't want to spend even a moment away from them while I was living in the same state, but everything was so new and I didn't want to ruin anything by rushing. The look of disappointment in her eyes made me feel like a heel, but she reassured me that even though she was sad about it, she understood my reasons.
As I looked through listing after listing, I assured myself that it wouldn't be for long. Maybe three to six months, while we dated and got to know each other even more. My thoughts flipped quickly to the ring that was sitting in my dad's safe at home. It was a simple two carat diamond engagement ring that had been my birth mother's. The idea of giving it to Victoria had never occurred to me, as it had been meant for Bella all along.
"Mr. Cullen?" my secretary's voice came through the intercom.
"Mr. Brooks is here to see you."
"Send him in."
The door opened immediately and James swaggered in. Cocky, confident, cool; he hadn't changed much since our college days. He sat down across from me and opened his briefcase, pulling out a few documents.
"Sorry, I didn't want to tell you over the phone. I have the finalized drafts of the custody petition," he said, handing me a piece of paper.
My jaw dropped in shock, glancing down at the paper in my hand. "What is this?" I asked incredulously.
His brow furrowed in confusion. "When the girl showed up with Jackson, you asked me to draw these up, remember?"
Shame filled me as I recalled that very conversation. Groaning, I ran a hand through my hair.
"I was upset and didn't comprehend the situation clearly. I can't take Jack away from his mother."
James raised an eyebrow. "His mother? Edward, really. Think about this."
"I have, James. She is Jack's mother in every way that counts. I can't rip him away from her. Plus, I- I've fallen in love with her."
His mouth popped open and his eyes widened. "Edward, I don't know what's gotten into you, but as your lawyer, I would advise you to take a step back and think this through."
I straightened my back and leveled a glare at him. "I already have. I've thought about it long and hard."
My phone beeped and I couldn't help the small smile that formed on my face as I glanced down at the text message.
I told G not to interrupt your meeting, but I wanted to let you know that I'm out here whenever you're free.
xo ~ B
I looked James straight in the eye and handed him back the paperwork. "Get rid of it."
His eyes flashed with annoyance. "Edward, seriously. Dropping the suit would be a terrible mistake."
"We're friends, James, but as soon as you put on your lawyer hat, you work for me. You do what I say. Drop the custody issue."
He snatched the paper from my hand angrily. "You're going to regret this, Edward." He turned and stormed over to the door, before composing himself.
I sighed and wiped my hands over my face. That was not how I had envisioned that going. After a few minutes to collect myself, I took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
What do you expect of me
What is it you want?
Whatever you've planned for me
I'm not the one
"Gianna?" I buzzed through.
"Yes, Mister Cullen?"
"Can you let Miss Swan in?"
After a moment of silence, Gianna responded. "She's not out here, Mister Cullen. Shall I check the Ladies Room?"
"No, that's fine. Thank you."
I pulled out my phone to text her back.
Baby, I'm ready and waiting. ;-)
"Mister Cullen, Mr. Braley is on line one, sir," Gianna's voice said over the intercom.
I groaned. Braley was one of our biggest clients, so I couldn't just ignore the call.
"Fine, but when Miss Swan comes back, let her know that I'm on the phone, but to come on in."
After fifteen excruciating minutes, I was finally able to hang up. There was no response from Bella yet, so I tried to call her number.
After a few rings, it went to voicemail.
"Yes, Mister Cullen?"
"Miss Swan didn't come back, did she?"
"Would you mind checking the Ladies Room?"
"Of course not, just give me a moment."
Why would she leave? Did an emergency pop up? Worst case scenarios started to rifle through my brain.
"She's not there, sir."
I hit my fist lightly on the desk in frustration before picking up my phone to dial my mother.
"Hello, dear son of mine," her lilting voice answered.
"Mom? Is Bella there? Have you spoken with her recently?"
"No, I haven't. She's supposed to be there with you. Why? Is something wrong, Edward?" she asked in a concerned rush.
"I don't know, Mom. First she was here and now she isn't. She mentioned earlier about getting Chinese for lunch, so maybe I'll swing by where we were going to go. Maybe she opted for take away instead."
"Okay, dear. Let me know if everything is okay!"
"Of course. Thank you, Mom."
I slid my phone back into my pocket and made my way to the door. Throwing on my jacket, I let Gianna know where I was headed in case Bella came back. The trip to the parking garage was quick, unlike most other days. I stepped off of the elevator and walked towards my car, only to stop in my tracks at the sight of Bella's Aston Martin parked next to my car. Suddenly Bella's ringtone for Esme started to echo through the garage.
I'd like to make myself believe
That planet Earth, turns, slowly
It's hard to say that I'd rather stay awake when I'm asleep
Cause everything is never as it seems.
When I fall asleep.
I jogged a few cars over and saw her purse spilled open onto the ground. I fell to my knees in shock and looked around, but no one was to be found. I gathered up her things and raced back up to the office. Gianna looked up, startled to see me in such a state.
"M-mister Cullen? Is everything all right?"
"No," I practically growled. "Get someone from security on the phone. Now."
Ten minutes later, I found myself pacing a hole in my office carpet before Daniel from security rang me back after going over the surveillance tapes.
"Mr. Cullen, I think you're going to want to come down here and see this."
Punched in the gut. That's exactly what watching that tape felt like.
Bella stepped onto the elevator, smiling and happy, but got back on less than ten minutes later looking angry and upset. I winced when she hit the elevator wall. Something must have really been wrong. The moment she straightened and hit the tenth floor button, you could see that she had a determination to her stance. I couldn't help but wonder what was going through her head. She looked at her phone before answering it. The conversation was brief, but she looked angry again.
If she came back up, where did she go then?
When the elevator doors opened and she flew at James, my jaw dropped. I couldn't understand why she would attack him, but when he slammed her into the back wall, my chest erupted in fury. His arm pressed against her throat and I wanted to break him for touching her. A flare of pride shot through me when she tried to use his distraction against him and kicked him. Then he grabbed her by the hair and punched her, knocking her unconscious. As I watched her slide to the floor, I heard a feral, haunting sound. It only took a moment to realize that it was coming from me.
I pulled my hands roughly through my hair, unable to pull my shell-shocked gaze from the screen.
"Mr Cullen? What would you like me to do?" Daniel asked nervously.
I shot him an incredulous look. "'What would I like you to do?' You call the damn police!"
She had been right all along and I had been blind. Had he been sleeping with my wife behind my back as well, all those years ago? What the hell did he want with Bella?
A cold finger of dread trailed slowly down my spine, immediately drowning out my fury. What was he going to do with her?
"Daniel, call the police now and report a kidnapping. Give them this address, it's James's house." I scribbled the street and numbers down on a post-it note before handing it to him.
"Where are you going, Mr Cullen?" he asked in concern, his voice's cadence told me that he knew the answer already.
"I'm going after Bella."
I think I broke every traffic law in existence on my drive over to James's house. The one time I would have welcomed the police attention and I didn't pass a single cop. I pulled up in front of the three-story Victorian home and parked haphazardly. After rushing up the porch stairs, I quietly eased the unlocked front door open and silently slipped into the house.
My heart started to beat frantically when I walked past the study's open door and saw a puddle of blood slowly seeping across the floor. Bile rose up in my throat, but I pushed myself forward.
Please, not her. Please, not her. Please, God, don't let it be Bella.
When the crimson river flowed into a taller, slimmer body than Bella's, my entire being let out a shuddering breath. My legs shook and I had to lean against the desk for support. With my head at a different angle, I caught sight of the woman's face and my heart lurched once again. Victoria's lifeless eyes stared back at me. As angry as I was and as much as I resented her, I could never bring myself to hate her. She was my first love and had given me the greatest gift in my life, Jack.
After a moment of mourning for the girl she used to be, I heard James's voice coming from deeper in the house, calling Bella's name. Realizing that she must have been hiding from him, I knew that I needed to distract him to give her a fighting chance. As long as she had a chance at escaping, I'd take the fall in a heartbeat.
An unbearable pain
A beating in my brain
That leaves the mark of Cain
Right here inside
"Bella!" I called out, trying to send her a warning. "James! Where are you?"
My stomach wanted to heave as I stood next to my ex-wife's body, waiting for my supposed best friend to appear. Would he shoot first and ask questions later? How far gone was he?
A few moments later, James walked into the room, his face twisted in anger.
"Where is she?" I asked. He just cocked his head to the side and stared at me blankly. "Where is she?" I yelled. "Don't stare at me like that, James! Where the fuck is she?"
A mix of emotions crossed his face before he snapped. "SHUT UP!" he screamed, pointing the gun at me.
"James, calm down, man. Put the gun down. You don't want to shoot me," I replied softly, raising my hands in the air.
"You don't know shit, Edward! You never did!" he yelled back at me.
"What are you talking about?"
"You, Mr. Perfect. You came from money and a loving family. You had the perfect girl, and you blew it all away. And for what? A kid?"
"I don't understand. Just what did I blow away?" My brow furrowed in confusion, which was swiftly turning into anger. "A relationship with a woman who didn't give a shit about me? You're damn right I chose my kid first. I'd do it again in a heartbeat."
"You've always been a pussy, Edward. She needed someone to love her, and I could."
"Pussy? Who's the one not man enough to face me without a weapon? Who's the one who killed the woman he claimed to love?" I snarled, not being able to control my fury.
He glanced down at Victoria and I saw a blur of movement out of the corner of my eye. Bella rushed in and hit James upside the head with a large frying pan, causing him to stumble and drop the gun. When I saw his body turn and move towards her, I threw myself in between them. After trading a few punches, I was able to get the upper hand and kneel over his chest, punching him repeatedly. As my hand connected with his skin, the desire to end him grew wickedly stronger with each sickening thud. Out of the blue, he caught me with an elbow, which knocked me to the right.
I literally saw stars when his knee connected with my balls, causing pain to shoot up through my gut. I heard Bella yelling something at James, but I couldn't force my mind to register anything besides the pain in my groin. Panic shot through me and I began struggling to my knees at the sound of a gun shot. I looked up and relief coursed through me when I saw Bella standing next to me, the gun now in her possession and pointed at James's head.
"On your knees and put your hands on your head," she growled at him.
He complied immediately, glowering at her the entire time. Soon, red and blue flashing lights were visible outside. I leaned forward trying to catch my breath and willing the throb between my legs to disappear, when James suddenly shot up and knocked into Bella causing the gun to go off. The next thing I knew, James was slumped to the floor, unconscious and Bella fell to her knees, letting out a sob.
When my eyes connected with hers, a wave of relief coursed through my system and I felt tears fill my eyes. Not soon enough, she was in my arms, crying her eyes out.
Whatever I've done
I've been staring
Down the barrel of a gun
"Oh, God, Edward," she sobbed, burying her head into my chest.
"Sssh, it's okay, baby. I've got you," I whispered, stroking her hair.
A loud banging came from the front of the house as the police rushed in.
"Everybody, stay where you are!"
She pulled her arms around me tighter, refusing to go.
"Put your hands where we can see them!"
Knowing that we needed to remain calm, I slowly released her and raised my hands. As she moved to do the same, her eyes rolled back and she started to sway. I reacted swiftly and caught her before she hit the ground.
A pair of medics rushed over and took her from me, as an officer eyed me warily, his weapon still in hand.
"Sir, I need you to keep your hands where I can see them."
"My name is Edward Cullen. That woman is my girlfriend, Bella Swan. Please, I just need to know if she's alright," I pleaded helplessly, raising my palms.
"We're going to need you to answer some questions first, so we can clear this up, Mr Cullen," an older man in uniform responded.
I nodded. Thus began the second longest night of my life, second only to the day when I heard that Jack was missing five years ago. After hours of interrogation and waiting, I was finally able to make my way to the hospital where they had taken Bella.
My father met me at the entrance, a grim look upon his face.
"How is she?" I asked anxiously as we walked towards the elevators.
He smiled slightly. "She has a concussion and some bruises, but she'll be fine."
After he pressed the button for the seventh floor, he turned to me and placed his hand on my shoulder.
"How are you, son?"
"I'm fine, no injuries."
"That wasn't what I meant, Edward," he responded in a fatherly tone.
I sighed. "I don't know what to feel right now. Everything is a mess; all jumbled up. I've run the gamut of emotions today, to say the least."
The door opened and my father led me down the hall, stopping outside a room and knocking lightly before walking in. The room was quiet, the only sound echoing around was the beeping from the monitors that Bella was hooked up to. I walked over to her side and reached for her hand. She lay still, her eyelids fluttering with her dreams. A scraping noise drew my attention and I saw Dad pulling an uncomfortable recliner towards me.
"Here, it's not much, but you'll need it. She's going to be kept overnight to be monitored."
"Can I stay?" I plead, hopefully.
He smiled wryly. "I didn't think there'd be another option."
"Thank you, Dad." I reached out to shake his hand, but he pulled me into a hug.
"I'm so thankful that you two came through this safely. I don't know what your mother and I would have done," he whispered next to my ear.
I hugged him tightly. "I know, Dad. I felt the same way walking into that house."
I pulled away and sat down heavily into the chair, resting my head in my hands. "When I first saw Victoria's body, I felt so guilty because I was relieved that it wasn't Bella."
"I know it's not much comfort, son, but I would have thought the same thing. Your mother is my guiding star. Without her, I'd be lost."
I looked up and nodded gratefully. "Thanks, Dad."
He quietly left the room and I sighed, leaning forward and grasping Bella's hand.
"I love you, baby. Please come back to me soon."
Whatever I've done
I've been staring
Down the barrel of a gun
AN: Music used in the chapter is up on the Blog!
"Barrel of a Gun" by Depeche Mode
Esme's ringtone was "Fireflies" by Owl City