A/N: We don't own anything except our keyboards. Reviews get sneak peeks as always. Thank you all for the warm welcome back! We hope you all take a chance and enter The Age of Edward contest! It ends at the end of the month and if you've never written, is a great way to get your feet wet.
"For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them." –Thich Nhat Hanh
I squeezed tightly to keep her tucked in next to me. Before I could make sense of anything that had happened, Makenna was ripped from my arms and picked up like a child by Bal right before I too was scooped up into a set of strong arms. I gasped but before I could scream I was wrapped up the same way.
"I've got you, Isabella," Jasper said, "Duck your head and close your eyes."
I tucked my head down into his chest, keeping my eyes squeezed shut and felt us moving. Fast. A door slammed, voices were yelling and we were still moving.
Before I could say anything I was set down on my feet quickly, my face tilted up to Jasper's. His hands slipped across my face firmly yet gentle at the same time, his thumbs coming to rest in front of my ears with his fingers threaded through my hair. I had no choice but to look directly at him. His eyes were firm, his jaw tense.
"Stay here until we come and get you," Jasper said sharply, "Don't try to leave the room!"
I had never seen him so angry. Not even at me.
"Yes, Master," I agreed quickly.
"You need to understand the severity of this situation," he insisted sharply, "Do not open the door for anyone. Not anyone! We will come back for you and we will use a password. Only open the door when you hear the password."
I nodded quickly, my ears started ringing in panic, "What's the password, Master?" I whispered, terrified.
I was suddenly spun around and pushed into a dark room. Makenna was pushed in right beside me, our Masters standing at the entrance. The last thing I saw was Jasper's flinty scowl as Bal handed him a pistol. Then, the room went dark and the sound of a bolt sliding home brought the reality of the situation crashing down.
Someone was here.
Someone that was an obvious enemy and now we were locked inside this black room. My brain froze from overload. Panic caught up to me and my mind went blissfully blank, the emotion overriding and shutting down any thoughts.
I stood frozen in place for… I don't even know how long. My ears had stopped ringing so it must have been a good few minutes before I finally came back to Earth and moved, my hands stretched out in front of me.
"Makenna," I whispered urgently, "There has to be a light in here somewhere. Help me look!"
I heard her hastily moving about to my left so I went right until my hands touched the cold wall. Moving right I reached up and down as far as I could.
"I found it!" McKenna whispered, "but we can't turn it on."
I managed to find my way towards her until my hands found her dress.
"Why not?" Standing in this dark room that I didn't know made my skin crawl.
"The light might shine through the cracks of the door or underneath it," she explained, "We can't risk it. We're hidden so that we may not be found so easily."
I sighed shakily, agreeing with her. Should anyone come looking a light would give us away pronto.
"Master gave me a password so that we can know it's them before we unlock the door," I whispered, "But I don't know what it means."
"What is it? Maybe I can translate."
"Muerte," I said, not one hundred percent sure I even said it correctly.
I wasn't sure if Makenna even heard me but I heard her inhale before she answered, "Death. It means death."
Well duh. Dia de los muertos translated to Day of the Dead. Muerte, muertos, they were quite close. I was certain that I was losing brain cells, slowly but surely due to my, now, extremely mundane life. I'd always heard the brain was a use it or lose it organ and now I had anecdotal proof.
We were silent for a while, not able to hear anything from inside the room. I didn't even know where we were. It wasn't a room I had been in before. I felt Makenna shift to the floor and I followed her lead immediately, sinking down against the wall next to her, shoulder to shoulder. We sat together in silence, my heart racing and my head spinning. What was happening? And how did Jasper and Bal get to us before Joseph? Needing more human contact, I reached out and grasped Makenna's hand in mine. I don't know whose hand was trembling more but it was a small consolation knowing that I wasn't alone.
I closed my eyes against the darkness, no longer able to keep them open with the unnerving sensation of being stuck in a dark, unfamiliar room. But as my eyes closed my skin remembered Jasper's touch. The way his eyes looked. So hard, yet gentle… for me. His fingers firmly clenching my hair yet not to the point of pain and not for the point of pain.
I gasped aloud as my thoughts took another turn. Whatever this threat was, Jasper's first action was not to wipe it out… but to get me to safety first.
"You're thinking about it, aren't you?" Makenna asked, squeezing my hand tightly in hers.
I couldn't answer. My throat was uncomfortably tight, like a large marble was stuck there. Ugh, more confusing thoughts to convolute my brain and thoughts even more.
Beside me, Makenna sat quiet with an air of confidence now that I had calmed back down somewhat. The shaking must have been because of the snatch and run event rather than what I was afraid of. I couldn't see her but she radiated certainty that Balthazar was fine. I had never experienced this before. What was Jasper doing? Was he ok? Was he in some dangerous cat and mouse game with some sort of forces outside the fence? What would happen if he died or was taken? I would greatly prefer his safety because who knew what would happen to us if-
Suddenly the silence and my runaway train of thought was broken by the sounds of two sets of two muffled pops.
Charlie had taken me shooting many times before and I knew the sound of gunfire when I heard it. Someone or multiple someones had just been shot. I would wager two someones. Most likely in the head.
Time seemed to both stand still and speed up at the same time.
No one was coming to the door.
If I held my breath for a moment I could hear the pounding of my own heart as the seconds turned into minutes. It had to have been at least fifteen since we heard the muffled shots, or at least it seemed as much.
My heart thundered along, my hands clasping Makenna's tightly and my brain chanting 'What if, what if, what if' over and over until it became a mantra matching cadence with the thundering in my chest. I couldn't shut it off and yet I couldn't continue the thought lest my imagination break free and flood me with a myriad of horrific possibilities.
Makenna's breaths started to stop and then come faster and I worried about her passing out. She must have been holding her breath to try to listen harder and then panting to catch it back. Before I could proceed in my freak out three sharp raps hit the door.
"Isabella," Jasper said calmly, "Muerte."
I jumped from the floor and flew over to the doors, glad that my eyes had finally adjusted during my melt down and glad that there was a crack at the bottom to let the daylight in to guide me. My hands flew along the door seam to find first the handle and then the bolt, flinging it free and yanking the door open.
The sudden bright light temporarily blinded me but before I could regain visual clarity I was pulled into a tight, relieved hug. He slowly rocked me, side to side, a hand stroking my hair until we were jostled by an impatient Bal trying to get to Makenna. I had forgotten about them in my relief of being over the uncertainty of whether Jasper was going to come walking back through the door or whether I was going to be murdered by some devil or taken as the spoils of a successful raid. My thoughts turned for the briefest of seconds to Vikings before I stopped it. Later, I promised my brain, we can go down the rabbit hole on thoughts of Vikings in modern Mexico and be amused at the absurdity.
I glanced up in time to see him shoot his friend a dirty look. I almost wanted to laugh. Instead I relaxed against him for just a moment. It came to my attention then that my arms had gone around him without my permission and that my hands were resting just beneath his shoulder blades. He felt so tense, as if I had been in mortal danger.
It occurred to me then that perhaps I had been. I would ask him later. For now though, I rubbed his back and let him cling to me, just like I would have for Edward or Jacob when they were upset or I had scared the daylights out of them and they swept me up in an embrace such as this. Like after I'd jumped from the cliff while they were arguing.
I allowed him to hold me as long as he wished. Perhaps when I got him alone he would explain what had happened without prompting. He had begun to relax under my hands when a loud trilling ruined all of my soothing. I shot my own dirty look to the side but not quite enough to direct it to the point of origin of the racket.
"¿Qué deseas?" Balthazar barked into the phone. Suffice to say that he was angry at being interrupted.
"WHAT?! Nevermind! Tie them up, blindfold them and keep them in separate rooms. We'll be there immediately!" He growled in the phone with venom before disconnecting the call. Makenna slipped by us and took off at a run towards their room, no orders needed.
"My friend, I hate to rush but I am apparently having similar problems at the auction house. No word from my home but I'm sure if something happens there I shall find out soon enough. Should any information turn up, I shall let you know. My slave and I would like to thank you and your lovely pet for a wonderful little vacation and we hope to be able to meet up again soon." He stepped towards us. Jasper's hand left me long enough to shake his. Bal touched my arm gently, to which I gave a nod of the head in acknowledgement, it was up to him whether to interpret thanks or not.
"I hope so too, my friend. Should I or my people dig up anything I'll call you as soon as I get word. Safe travels. Watch the roads," Jasper said
He slipped past us to wrap an arm around Makenna, who had just came scurrying back into sight with their luggage. She folded into her Master's side and shot me a worry filled look. Although for once not seemingly worried for me but more so of the situation.
My hand reached for her even though she was being guided away rapidly.
"Bal!" Jasper called, spinning me in his arms as they skidded to a halt. When he gave me a gentle push in their direction, Balthazar realized his intentions and did the same to Makenna. That was all it took really, to send us flying to one another for a tight hug.
"I'll talk to you soon!" I whispered in her ear. "Master has promised Skype calls if our behavior remains good." Her reply was the tightening of her arms and a kiss to my cheek. "Be well, friend."
"And you too, Bella." Were her quiet parting words before she backed out and traipsed back over to Bal. He was giving us a warm smile and we nodded to one another again before they reclaimed their hurried pace to the foyer and then to outside.
A profound sense of loss washed over me as the door shut. Now I was back to being the singular captive with absolutely no one to really relate to, even if we didn't agree, on the situation. My shoulders sagged, the weight having returned.
An arm came around me and pulled me into a warm side.
"Come, it's not even noon and it's been a long day already," he said quietly.
He turned me around and led me back to the room we originally met up with Bal and Makenna in earlier today. He bade me sit and went to the bar. I couldn't see what all he got down and to be honest, it didn't really matter. A drink would be nice because the last hour had been brutal.
I heard a huff as he pawed around for something he apparently could not find. He turned and slipped out a pocket door that led to the kitchen. Huh.
How did I not know that door was there?
Before I could think on it too long he was back with bottled sodas and a bucket of ice. Hmm, maybe it was going to be a drinking day rather than just a singular drink.
He finished mixing his concoctions in a pair of highball glasses. He handed mine off to me, sticking his on a coaster while he went to fiddle with the record player. He kept the sound on the low end but from what I could tell it was most likely some sort of movie score or ambient album. It was relaxing, whatever it was.
I picked up my glass and took a sip before promptly choking. He snickered, swapping our glasses.
"My fault, I made mine a little stronger than yours," he said.
"All's forgiven," I muttered, taking a tentative sip of what was supposed to be mine.
This one was more doable. I actually tasted coke rather than mostly scotch.
"Better?" he asked.
"Much," I nodded before taking a long drink from my straw.
I sighed internally and decided to bite the bullet.
"What happened earlier?" I asked, taking another risk and looking over at him.
He frowned and drained half of his glass.
"Apparently some rival cartel has decided to be nosy and sent along a few spies. They were scouts but they were still carrying. I had them ambushed when they fled after they were spotted. Peter had gotten a flash of movement from one of the many security cameras we have hidden on the property. He went to the very top of the house with his high powered binoculars and began to do a bit of snooping in that direction. What he saw were a couple of guys with binoculars of their own around their necks, rifles on their backs and much more on their persons. For the moment they were just looking. But there was potential there and who knew what would change that. I have no idea if they even saw you. My guess is that they were looking at the house. Checking for potential weak points, points of entry and the like. It was also possible that they had a specific target. Or perhaps anyone from here would be suitable. Peter called me our guest had just left. Looking back I have to wonder if maybe he was a distraction. Maybe, maybe not. It matters little. Anyway, once we got the call we thundered outside, Bal tackled you both flat, I scooped you up and you know the rest," he sighed and knocked back the rest of the drink before getting up to make another.
That was probably the longest string of speech he'd ever given me at one time.
I had to marvel over pieces of it. The way his voice tensed up when he spoke of the rifles and whether they'd seen Makenna and myself or not. It was almost as if he were afraid of losing me in a way that didn't relate to all the money he'd spent on me and all the opportunities I'd taken to make him regret having me taken.
That thought brought Makenna's conversation with me back to the front of my mind. I could see some of the merits of what she had to say. I could even take a different perspective on it. If He were my employer I certainly wouldn't act the way I had. From what the others said I should really just treat him like he was my supervisor at a job. As much as I was loathe to do it because of what he'd done to my life, if things were to get better I would have to play ball. Throwing my bat down and sitting on my glove at the home plate wasn't helping me at all.
Ugh. Now my brain had come to see reason over my overwhelming and tumultuous emotions that had ruled me over the past few months. I was not a stupid person, but I was human. If I wanted things to be better it was clear that I would have to put more of an effort in than what I had convinced myself should be adequate. I had worked through the gambit of emotions and thoughts. Now that I had arrived at this conclusion, I couldn't go backwards.
It occurred to me that aside from the record player I had been silent other than working on that drink and subconsciously enjoying the taste of the Coke and scotch. Mike used to buy a much cheaper brand but we'd still celebrate with it on occasion.
My eyes slid over to find him leaned back against the shelves of records, leisurely sipping his drink now that the first had been conquered and watching me in turn. There was no demand in his eyes, just simple observance while I worked through my own chain of thoughts. He'd been better about letting me keep my thoughts to myself as well as letting me silently work through them, which I greatly appreciated.
"Did they tell you anything useful?" I chanced.
His lips quirked ever so slightly.
"No. Those types never do. It's why they're selected to go out on such ventures. You can't tell what you don't know," he said as he moseyed his way back to me, taking his place on his side of the wide loveseat.
Space between us was unusual. This room, on the other hand was intimate so it lessened the perception of any real distance. He sat with his back to the corner and his legs crossed at the knee. Gods, why did such a bastard have to be wrapped up in such beautiful packaging. I almost wanted to scowl but if I was going to be truthful to him I damn sure was going to be a thousand percent honest with myself first and foremost. Pretty did not have to equate to good, I rationalized. Lucifer was described as highly beautiful after all.
"There was no I.D. or tattoos or any indicating factor? Nothing? Fingerprints?" I asked.
He shook his head, "No point in stripping them down further than what we did. The most nondescript of nondescript people are used, such as them, in situations like this as a potential sacrifice. It would be stupid to select them for the job if they could be identified by something as simple as markings on skin or some paper. You don't give the game away so quick. You operate in the shadows for as long as possible. As for fingerprints, they were burned off, probably with an acid of some sort."
"But aren't they sort of required to get them?" I wondered.
He obviously understood where my thoughts were on this question.
"They say ink is permanent but both of us know that that is not quite true. But no, not all of us are required. Just the vast majority." He watched me as he drank.
"Do you? Have any, I mean," I fumbled.
That would be weird. I'd slept in his bed for months and in his room for longer but then again he was always gone by the time I woke up, starting his day and doing his own thing.
He grinned wolfishly.
"Later," he said, almost a promise, before he rose and disappeared to retrieve a matching pillow. He tossed the two down on opposite sides of the table, placing his drink opposite mine.
I took the hint and slid down onto the pillow, back to the couch while he leaned into the kitchen long enough to retrieve something off a counter.
I saw the box and groaned. He tilted his head with a hitched brow.
"I hope that's not chess you're intending on playing." I grumbled.
"Why's that, pet?" he asked, crossing his calves and sinking down onto his pillow, effectively crossing his legs as he sat.
I let out a silent breath I didn't realize I'd been holding. I thought for sure I'd be punished for that.
"Because I am abysmal at chess, Master," I admitted lowly. Carlisle had tried teaching and tutoring me. It didn't quite stick, much to our mutual disappointment.
He chuckled, "So was Emmett. He's improved some but Rosalie still trashes him on the regular. If he would practice, he would improve. Though between us I think he prefers to just let her win."
That was sweet. Ice-queen had found herself a quality partner. Poor Emmett. I could only deduce the man must be a masochist.
He unboxed the board and pulled out checker pieces. Checkers I could do. Unbidden memories wanted to come rushing back about Charlie but I did what I'd learned to do over the past few months and shut them down hard. Today had been good with the exception of the temporary invasion from the scouts. I didn't plan on letting anything else I could control mess that up. I could have one mostly good day even if it was with him.
After two games we were tied, one to one. Jasper was making us more drinks when Char brought in a tray of baked brie with jelly on crostini. Blackberry, pineapple and red pepper jellies made the assortment. Sometimes I wanted to ask Char why she couldn't make simplistic snacks. That is, until I put one in my mouth. Then it was all I could do not to hum my approval.
I reset the board quickly while chewing. We'd talked a little but mainly we'd focused on the game. It was bizarre and I struggled with wanting to be wary. This wasn't him. Then again this could also be attributed to the alcohol both of us were consuming too.
No, Bella, this isn't him as you've known him so far, I reminded myself. I didn't know what he was actually like. Did I want to? Normally I'd say no but if I wanted life to be better then I'd have to suck it up and deal with it until the opportunity to flee was realistic. So that sort of made the answer yes. If I could sit, talk, and laugh with Peter, I could do it with Jasper. I thought back to my conversation with Makenna and came to some conclusions, made a few decisions.
Perhaps it was a good idea for him to make us mixed drinks this afternoon. It was giving me courage to do what I was gearing up to attempt.
He was staring again. Great, I'd probably drifted off during my pep talk and made all sorts of faces.
"So, where are you from?" I asked in the most nonchalant voice I could muster, moving the first piece.
"Houston. I was born there in May of 1986 and lived there until I was seventeen," he answered as he moved his piece.
Huh, that was easier than anticipated. Not to mention strange, I figured this would be a silent drink and play session. I hadn't counted on him answering me as if we chatted all the time.
"Where did you go after?" I asked.
I ate another crostini as I contemplated the board.
"Mexico. Monterrey specifically," he replied.
"Why?" I asked, keeping my voice soft, low, as I made a decision and moved, taking one of his pieces.
I scowled as he took two of mine in turn. Bastard. That was fine though, I took that piece. Now we were even.
He was quiet long enough to make me think I'd fucked up. I peeked up through my lashes and saw him more or less steeling himself for something. I was about to rescind my question when he started talking.
"Because my parents were murdered by the police, my mother unnecessarily so. Her sole crime was being in the same car as my father. I saw it from behind the drapes of my father's third floor study. She tried to come out once the shooting had stopped to show that she was defenseless and they gunned her down anyway. Rosalie and I hid away in a secret panic room until our Godparents came to get us. Both them and my parents didn't want any interference from the police, social services or anyone else. The plan had always been that should anything happen while we were at home, to go there and lock ourselves away. They normally lived in Monterrey but Carmen lived with us at one of their second residences in Houston long enough for me to finish out my senior year. Rosalie had no desire to stay, so she finished her education via homeschool," He answered, letting out a long held breath.
I felt like I'd been cartoonishly bashed over the head with something. That explained a lot. If I'd seen Charlie or Renee gunned down when there had been no reason for them to die, I can't say I would have went the extreme of joining the mafia but I could see myself becoming extremely anti-police. I found my breath again.
"I'm so, so sorry." I murmured.
Normally I would reach out for his hand or something but I didn't know what in this situation would comfort him or what could set him off, if anything. This day had already been fucked up enough and I was probably testing the waters more than what was wise with my newfound decisions.
He sighed and looked me in the eye, "It's not your fault. It was a long time ago and I have made peace with the fact that they are gone and nothing I do will bring them back."
I noticed he said nothing of having made any sort of peace with the rest of the situation. I couldn't blame him.
"Still, I'm sad for you." I said.
I couldn't keep my mind from imagining Charlie murdered. It was all I could do to force the tears back afterwards.
"You shouldn't be. I know that I am an evil man and I probably deserve it by this point. Still, I appreciate it, thank you," he said.
He broke eye contact to eat a piece of crostini and study the board. He took another of my pieces and I pursed my lips. He was beginning his campaign to annihilate me. He'd already half way blocked off any good situation I could work my pieces into. I had been suspicious at first that he let me win the last round but once I thought about the match I nixed that idea. He'd seemed just as surprised as I when he lost.
"What did you like to do in your spare time?" he asked.
I had to bite back that since he had paid all sorts of money to know everything that he could about me he should already know. That would have been counterproductive.
"I liked to exercise. I used to run a lot. Alice and I talked about meeting up for running a half in Seattle sometime. I loved to read and frequented the library when I could," I answered.
He looked like something had switched on in his brain.
"I ordered you the complete Zumba DVD and accessories set, by the way. Charlotte swears by it. All this inactivity isn't good for you. Anyway, anything else? That's very little to occupy your time with," he commented.
It was a relief that I was going to get to be active again. Maybe I could talk Charlotte into doing it with me. That way when I tripped over my own two feet and landed on my ass she could help me back up.
"I was in college with a part time job. I took my studies very seriously. I had won several scholarships that I needed to keep, plus Charlie helped me with my apartment. Thought I shouldn't have to worry about bills when I should be focusing on my education. I wanted to keep my GPA as high as possible," I shrugged, trying not to get too defensive.
He held up his hands in surrender.
"I didn't mean to imply that you weren't focused or shouldn't be. Let me ask this then, if you could get into anything for a hobby, disregarding time or money, what would it be?" he asked, trying a different avenue.
That was an easy answer.
"Riding motorcycles," I answered.
"Really?" he asked, surprise evident.
"Yep. Jacob and I rode a couple of them for a while until Charlie found out. After that I never saw them again," I muttered the last bit. I would likely always be bitter over that.
"What about horses? Ever had any interest in them?" he asked, brow cocked.
I thought about it as I took a long sip and took another of his pieces.
"I think they're beautiful but I never knew anyone with them and I never had the sort of money to have one or keep them," I shrugged.
My luck was abysmal, I'd probably get bucked off of one on the first go.
He nodded and went back to destroying me in the game.
"Do you know if you have Fight Club in the library?" I asked. It had slipped my mind but for whatever reason popped back to the forefront.
He cocked a brow, "I never really took you as a Palahniuk fan."
I shrugged, "I've read a couple of books by him. Fight Club and Lullaby were both pretty good."
"I'm not sure right off hand but you can go have some library time tomorrow," he said.
"Thank you, I've missed it," I admitted. "And thank you for ordering me the Zumba stuff. I've missed regular exercise as well."
We played two more sets after I lost that one and made more small talk. It was three to him and two to me in the final tally. After packing up the board he stood and offered me his hand, palm up again. I took it and listened to my stomach start growling.
Apparently it was later than I expected.
He snickered and led me to the kitchen where a piping hot pizza had just been left in a pizza box. Under the lid was a bizarre and fabulous drawing of a T-rex with an EZ Reacher in each clawed hand. 'I am unstoppable!' was written underneath in surprisingly tidy handwriting. That just screamed Peter and the thought made me laugh.
Char had an affinity for keeping those types of boxes around since there was so much come and go. There was even a section of the gigantic pantry dedicated to take out containers.
After a delicious dinner, it was time for a bath. I took advantage of this and used the hot water time to mull over recent events.
It had been a big day of hard truths. I had decided to be completely honest foremost to myself and secondarily to Jasper.
As a result of that I had come to terms with the fact that trying to buck Jasper wasn't going to work out in my favor. I had recognized that if I played ball, my life would get better. Probably by a lot. I had looked the truth that everyone else had been trying to introduce me to in the eye and squared with it.
Just respect him. Ok, done. Nobody said it was easy and it certainly wasn't right but it would work out better for me if I did. So I could treat him like I had my previous employers, with politeness and respect. I had also decided to start talking to my captor because after coming to terms with the first two conclusions, why the hell not. Besides, I needed to at least look like I was going to play into his game. I was also tired of only having my thoughts for company outside what little I got to interact with Charlotte. If I continued to mentally talk to myself I was going to start answering out loud at some point.
There had been a terrifying part of the day; that part was undeniable, but none from this camp was hurt. My terror over change of hands or being killed had come to nothing, thankfully.
All in all, it was one of my best here so far. Sad but true.
The lukewarm water told me that it was time to wrap things up. I finished up, dried off and put on my pajamas.
My side of the bed was turned down, Fight Club on my pillow. I picked it up and my lips quirked.
He was sitting on his side, reading the paper and pretending that he wasn't watching me from underneath his eyelashes, but I felt it nonetheless.
I climbed into bed and settled in, cracking it open to page one.
"Thank you," I murmured. I'd been saying that a lot today.
He dipped his head once, as he was wont to do.
Yes, overall, it had been a good day.