AN: Thank you again for your patience. I know it's taking a lot of time between chapters, but I do promise, I am writing whenever I get a chance, even if it's just a couple of words.

Thank you to 6dlb5 for pre-reading and keeping me from making ridiculous grammatical mistakes. Thank you to Melee03 for steering me in the right direction and helping me work through my block.

**There is a violence warning on this chapter. The nature of this story has always been a little intense, so if you've gotten this far, it should be a given, but I don't want anyone taken by surprise.

~xoxoxoxo~

Chapter 12:

When I woke, I had no idea what time it was. Bella was still sleeping next to me, her bare back rising and falling with each breath. Her hair was sprawled out across the pillow. I had the urge to run my hands through it, but I didn't indulge.

Instead, I slipped from the bed covers and pulled on a pair of cargos, a t-shirt, and the hoodie Emmett had given me. None of it was clean, but it didn't matter. The job I had to do wasn't exactly going to require me to be neat. I wrapped my belt holster around my waist and lifted my Beretta from the table next to the bed.

Outside of Bella's quarters I found Jasper. He was wide awake, as if he hadn't been up all night. He glanced over to me and nodded.

"You get a break at all?" I asked, twisting my head from side to side until I heard it crack.

"Nope. Don't need one."

"You sure? I need you an Emmett today."

Jasper narrowed his eyes and nodded slowly. "Yeah. What's up?"

"You'll keep it to yourself?"

"Depends."

I let out a frustrated breath. Couldn't he just agree? "Payback."

I spent the next few minutes giving Jasper the lowdown on what had happened on the raid.

"So you want all of them?"

"Yeah."

"Including Charlie?"

"Especially Charlie."

Jasper whistled. "You're playing with fire, man. I'll help you with James and the other fuckers, but Charlie. . ." He shook his head. "I got a kid on the way. I back you up – Alice backs me. She can take care of herself, but . . . this could start a war."

"I get it." I sniffed and nodded. "First things first."

"First things later," Jasper said quietly, looking behind me. I turned to see my doll in all her goth glory. She wore her heavy black boots, netted stockings under a short leather skirt and a tight, blue tank top. Her hair was pulled back into two bunches at the back of her head. Her eyes were painted with thick black and grey, and her lips – plump and luscious, were stained blood red.

Fuuuuuck.

Bella smiled. "I can feel you. I think I'm rubbing off on you,"she purred, getting closer.

"Are you offering?"

She giggled and lifted herself up on her toes. "Anytime. Anyplace," she whispered against my lips. I slid my hand over her hip, resting it on her ass.

Jasper cleared his throat, reminding me that I had an agenda. I was going to have to make it quick, too. Word spread like wildfire and it wouldn't be long before James realized I was back and I'd lose the benefit of surprise. If he didn't already know, that is.

I threw my arm around Bella's shoulders and we started for the stairs. Halfway down, we ran into Emmett and Rose.

"Whatup?" Emmett smirked. "You look. . . tired."

Rose struck up conversation with Bella and I let them go ahead of me.

"You up for a beat-down?" I said under my breath.

Emmett grinned. "Who?"

Bella turned her head back towards me slightly, a curious look on her face. I winked at her. I probably could have told her, but I wasn't sure she'd be okay with the plan and letting James get away with what he did to me was not an option.

When she returned her attention to Rose, I dropped back a few steps to make sure she couldn't hear me.

"The asshole who left me for dead."

"He one of ours?" Emmett asked. I nodded. "Who?"

"James."

Emmett looked surprised. "Really? Dude, I wouldn't have thought he'd have the balls to try something like that."

"His balls belong to Charlie."

Emmett's eyes widened. "No way!"

We hit the main level and I threw my hood up over my head. Good thing, too. The dining hall was packed with people.

"I'm gonna hang back," I told Bella.

"Do you want me to get you something?"

"Yeah, baby. Thanks."

Emmett stayed with me while Jasper moved forward with the girls. We stood against the wall, watching. I kept my head lowered, but my eyes peeled.

As I scanned the room, I felt Emmett's hand clamp down on my shoulder at the same time I spotted him. James. Approaching my doll with a swagger that told me he had no clue I hadn't bled out in that old farmhouse. His eyes scanned her and his tongue shot out of his mouth in a disgusting display of sexual attraction. I wanted to rip it out of his fucking mouth.

After a minute of inappropriately long discussion, James smiled and reached his hand up to push back a strand of short hair that had fallen in Bella's face.

"What the fuck? Is that you?" Emmett asked.

"What?" I shifted my eyes to look at him. His mouth was slightly open. He shook his head.

"Nothing. Nevermind. I'm in."

I didn't take my eyes off Bella until James was ten yards away and increasing the distance. Fucker walked right past me, nodded at Emmett, and out the door. I palmed my gun.

"Relax, brother," Emmett murmured. "You'll get your chance. This isn't it."

He was right. A room full of people, including Bella, eating breakfast wasn't the time. I'd probably have a dozen people on me before I could land the first punch.

We took our seats in a corner; something out of the way to avoid interaction. Bella, Rose, and Jasper returned with food minutes later.

"What did he say to you?" I asked sharply.

Bella tilted her head towards me, not needing any further explanation. "He asked me who I was with last night?"

"Did you tell him?"

"No. I told him it was none of his business."

She looked down at her breakfast and pushed it around on her plate. She was keeping something back.

"The way he was looking at you. . ." I let out a low growl. "What else?"

She flicked her tongue out at her viper bites. I reached out and put my fingers on her chin, slowly turning her head back towards me.

"He wants me again." Before I could explode, she placed her hand on my arm. "I told him to fuck off. He's a dick, but he's harmless, Edward."

I chuckled, but I wasn't amused. Looking across the table, Emmett and Jasper appeared to be focusing intently on their meals, but the solemn expressions on their faces gave them away. I shut my mouth and ate my breakfast. I was going to have to find a way to get it done. And soon.

~xoxoxoxo~

It didn't take me as long as I thought it would to hunt down my prey. Within an hour after we'd finished our meal, Rose stole Bella away under the premise of talking about girl things. Jasper, Emmett and I all checked our pieces. Emmett's and mine were fine. Jasper's was jammed.

"Fuck!" he swore.

"Don't worry about it. Just back me up with your ninja skills if I need 'em. Don't let anyone get in the way."

"Will do," Jasper agreed, shoving his gun back into his holster.

We took off towards where we'd heard James was likely working. His job entailed cleaning moss and mold from the walls of the Hive, so he traveled around, but after asking a couple of people, we easily found him.

Standing on a ladder, a blunt hanging from his lips, James laughed at something his buddy Emery said from below him. As I stared at him, I saw him shiver and tense.

Slowly, he turned his head. I think it took him a minute to realize what he was seeing. The blunt fell from his mouth. I could feel my body lighting up, heat shooting down from my head, down my arms, legs, and finally hitting my toes. I smirked at his gaping mouth and crouched down in preparation.

A split second later, he was on the move, jumping from the ladder and shoving Emery out of the way in an attempt to escape. Emery hit the floor with a dull thud. His angry expression turned to fear as he saw us approaching. He scrambled to his feet and ran.

"Emmett."

"Got him."

Emmett took off after Emery. It wouldn't take him long to catch up. I wanted Jasper with me, though. People shouted as James booked it through narrow passageways with us hot on his tail. All it took was one big dude to get in his way and I was on top of him, forcing him face-first into the hard, rock wall. I flipped him around to face me. There was a large cut above his left eye.

"Hello, motherfucker." I snarled, repeating the words he'd said to me the day he was supposed to take me out. "Remember me?"

I slammed my forehead into his face, relishing the crunching sound of the bones in his nose as they shattered.

"Fuck!" he shouted, struggling against my grip. Blood poured from his nostrils and dripped down over his chin. "How?"

"You didn't think you'd actually win, did you?" I laughed.

"I. . . but you were. . ."

"I was still alive. That was your first big mistake. And you put your hands on my girl."

"I didn't."

"I saw you."

"When?"

"This morning, at breakfast." I took a shot at his face again, busting open his mouth. "And to answer your question, she was with me last night. She's been with me since the second I returned. And she'll be with me till my last breath."

The image of him licking his lips as he eyed Bella with lust played in my head. Pure, unadulterated hate took over and I had to clench my jaw tightly to keep myself from just capping him in the head and ending it. James began to shake, his eyes flashing confusion and then fear. He opened his mouth, but no sound came out. It was as if he couldn't breathe. I had to double check to make sure my hands weren't around his throat. They weren't.

"Who. . . what the fuck are you?" he rasped. I didn't answer with words. I sucker-punched him in the gut. As he folded, I nailed him in the face again. His legs buckled, taking him to the ground. I could have stopped – if I'd wanted to.

A crowd of people had gathered around us, but no one interfered. Whether they were afraid to get close to me because of the violence I was inflicting or whether they thought he deserved what he was getting – it didn't matter. I followed him down, allowing my fury to pour out of me through my fists. Eventually, James grew still. I leaned back. The air around me was thick; the only sounds were my heaving breaths and James' gurgling.

"Just kill me," he begged, spitting blood and fragments of teeth from his mouth.

"I want to," I sneered. "I really do. But then I'd be taking things beyond retribution." There was a murmur of what sounded like agreement around me. I didn't look up to see how many onlookers were there. I didn't care anymore.

"I tried to murder you. You deserve to kill me."

"You tried. And failed. Trust me, I wouldn't fail."

"Please." His voice was weak and his beaten face was beginning to swell.

"Why are you so desperate to die?" I asked, pulling my Beretta from its holster and scratching the barrel against my temple.

"It's better than what he'll do to me when he finds out I didn't finish you."

I looked up at Jasper, who met me with an unaffected stare. We both knew James was right. Charlie's consequences were going to be far more brutal than anything I would do. But I'd done what I came to do.

"Yeah," I said, sucking my teeth and looking back at the fucking prick. "Not my problem."

I clipped him across the skull with the butt of my piece, knocking him unconscious. Blood splattered up, covering my face. Fucking head wounds.

"I'm going to go see how Emmett's doin'" Jasper said.

"I'll go with you."

"No way, man. You need to go clean yourself up."

I stood up and wiped the back of my hand across my cheek.

"Shit."

"Yeah," he laughed.

"Here. Take this." I handed him my Beretta.

"You may need it."

"Nah, I'll be fine."

"You sure?"

I nodded. He took it and shoved it in the waistband of his pants.

"I'll come find you."

~xoxoxoxo~

Her eyes were on me. I could feel them. Like heat seeking missiles, they were locked on and wouldn't disengage until I took evasive action.

"What?" I groaned.

"Look at me," her voice was soft, but there was no missing the directive tone in it. I shifted my gaze upwards. "What did you do?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"I don't believe you."

I shrugged, taking a large bite of an apple so I didn't have to answer her. Unfortunately, that was when Jasper happened to open the door to the den, striding over without a care in the world.

"Here," he said, handing me my gun. "It's done."

I took the piece and shoved it into its holster without looking at Bella.

"The others?" I mumbled.

"They got the message."

"Good."

"Let me know when you. . ." When he stopped, I tilted my head to see him glance over at Bella. Shifting my eyes, I could see why he was hesitating. The expression on her face could melt steel. She knew she was being left out of something important – and she was furious.

"I will," I answered his unfinished sentence. He nodded and walked out of the den without another word.

I took another bite.

"Edward?"

"Don't worry about it."

"Fuck you! Don't tell me not to worry about. What did you do?"

"I didn't do anything."

She licked her thumb and reached over, swiping it over my ear. When she pulled it away, the tip was red. Blood red. I'd missed a bit. "Whose is it?"

I shrugged again, but I knew I was treading on dangerous ground. I could feel her anger growing exponentially as I continued to block her.

"Whose. Is. It? James? Did you kill him?"

"No."

"No? Then why is there blood in your hair?" She grabbed one of my hands. I fought the wince as she touched my bruised knuckles. She raised her eyebrows. "And these?"

I stayed quiet.

"Oh, my God! You cannot go around killing anyone who looks at me. You forget who I am to them, Edward. We have been living this way for a long time. Long before you ever arrived. You cannot expect them to stop just because I've chosen to be with you."

"Yeah, I can expect them to stop. But I didn't kill him," I insisted. Bella huffed and turned on her heel.

"Fine. You don't want to tell me what happened? I'll go find out for myself."

Before she could go anywhere, I gripped her bicep and pulled her back. Wrapping my hand around her throat, I looked deep into her eyes and pressed my lips against hers roughly. She couldn't struggle – she couldn't move at all. I felt her body begin to relax as my tongue delved deeper into her mouth. Her eyes grew heavy. I had her right where I wanted.

Or so I thought.

I hadn't felt her hand move downwards, but suddenly, my balls were in a vice grip. I let go of her and tried to pull away, but she only gripped tighter. She leaned in.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, her lips against the shell of my ear. "But I'm done being manipulated and lied to."

"Fuck, doll," I wheezed. "I'm not lyin'."

"Then you better tell me what the hell is going on."

"He's the one who shot me, okay? Let go!"

She released me and I sank to the floor, cupping myself. "Jesus Christ! That fucking hurt."

Bella opened her mouth in confusion. "James? How?"

I groaned. "This is a conversation left for another time."

"This is a conversation for right now," she demanded.

I grimaced, squeezing my eyes together tightly, and lifted myself off the floor and onto the couch.

"Look, I don't know what to tell you, doll. He wanted you. Apparently enough to come out and fuck me up and leave me to die."

She shook her head, sitting down beside me. "That doesn't make sense. There has to be some other reason."

"Yeah," I agreed, staring down at my hands, which were dangling between my knees.

I was trying not to lie to her. She would find out that it was her father who gave the command - it was only a matter of time. I didn't want to be on the wrong side of her temper, but I didn't want to be the one to tell her either. I was going to let Charlie hang himself.

"Are you sure it was him?"

I twisted my neck to look at her. Was she fucking kidding?

"I was just asking." She sighed.

"He deserved what I gave him and more."

"I don't doubt it. I shouldn't be surprised."

"What the fuck did you ever see in that douche?" I grumbled.

"I was young," she offered, shrugging.

"You're still young."

"I was stupid, then." Her eyes were dancing with mischief. She was daring me to agree.

"Good thing you got all smart and dumped his sorry ass then, huh?"

Bella laughed. "Good answer, cowboy."

I smiled and pulled her into my lap. I let my hand rest on her leg, just above her knee.

She shifted and her already short skirt drifted even higher. My dick hardened.

"I'm sorry about your balls," she whispered, kissing my neck.

I just grunted in response. It wasn't okay, so I didn't tell her it was.

She slid of the couch and down on her knees between my legs. "Can I make it up to you?" Her tongue peeked out and then disappeared back into her mouth. Her hands rubbed up and down my thighs.

She didn't wait for an answer. Her fingers went to my fly, a smirk appearing when she realized I was already up and rearing to go despite my . . . injury.

"Don't apologize to me."

"Does he need a kiss?' she purred.

A pounding on the door drowned out my resounding 'yes'.

"Go away!" I yelled. Another pounding. "Fuck. What?"

Bella leaned back on her heels, blowing air out her nose. Rose opened the door, a frown marring her perfect face."

"What is it, Rose?" Bella asked.

"It's Charlie. He wants to see you." She looked from Bella to me. "Both of you."

~xoxoxoxo~

I wasn't surprised that the entirety of the Hive now knew I'd returned after what had happened with James. I was glad that they didn't know the condition that I had returned in or that I'd required weeks of medical care before I could even walk, much less fight.

As Bella and I were escorted to Charlie's chambers, a crowd had gathered. I didn't know most of the faces. Some of them I recognized, but I didn't know names or stories. I didn't know if they were loyal to Charlie or if they would follow Bella should she. . . when she rebelled. I couldn't afford to think about the fact that she might not follow me when I took on her father.

One face stuck out, however. Zara. I met her dark brown eyes as we passed by. She looked away, regret evident. I didn't blame her. She was a fighter – a survivor. Her job was to provide for her child and her mate. I would have done the same thing if I were her.

A sense of deja vu washed over me as the heavy door closed behind me and I spotted Charlie flanked by Alice, the blond guard, and two others with heavy armory. He greeted Bella, practically purring her name. She approached him, kissing his cheek. This time, though, instead of staying by his side, she returned to mine. Charlie noticed. His nostrils flared as he spoke.

"Mr. Mason," he said loudly.

"Charlie."

"I'm thrilled to see you found your way back to us."

"I'm sure you are," I responded sarcastically.

His eyebrows raised. "You doubt me?"

"Of course not." I knew my resentment was showing. I didn't try to hide it.

"Good. Because I always mean what I say." The threat in his voice was unmistakable. This meeting wasn't going to end well.

"Did you need us for something?" Bella interrupted. Charlie's eyes stayed on me for a second before drifting over to his daughter.

"I'd merely heard a rumor that Mr. Mason had returned and wanted to see for myself. What kept you away so long?" His eyes returned to mine.

I shrugged and shook my head, a smirk fighting its way through my unaffected facade. The bastard was wanting to play games. I could play games, too.

"Got lost."

"I see." He sighed heavily and let out a whistle.

A door at the side opened, and two guards brought – dragged rather, the body of a man in. His face was ravaged and swollen beyond recognition, his shirtless body black and blue from being beaten. Both dried and fresh blood ran in streaks from his eyes, mouth, and down his torso. His pants were filthy, stained with dirt, blood, and other fluids. His eyes were open, but lifeless. He blinked slowly as if even that simple reflex was too taxing.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see Bella. Her expression hadn't changed, but I could sense her surprise.

"Did you do this?" Charlie asked.

"I'm not sure," I answered, my eyes scanning over the damage. "Possibly."

"Possibly? Either you did or you didn't, Mr. Mason."

"I wasn't aware I'd opened any wounds below the neck," I said flatly. "But I'll take responsibility for the face."

"Huh." He nodded as if appreciating my honesty. "May I ask why?"

"He came after me. I deserved my retribution."

"He came after you?" Charlie feigned confusion. "In what way? I haven't heard of any attack other than the one you perpetrated on him. And since you just returned to us, I don't understand when this instigating assault would have taken place."

I glanced around at all the people in the room. The false pleasantries weren't fooling anyone. They were all on edge, prepared for whatever might happen. No need to sugar coat anything given that Charlie already knew what had happened.

"While on the raid, James and his. . . friends shot me, beat me, and left me to die."

Charlie laughed. "That's not possible. James was not on that raid."

"No, he wasn't," I agreed. "Nevertheless, that's what happened."

"Where is your proof?"

"I am my own proof."

Charlie tilted his head. "Funny. You don't look injured. In fact, you look quite well. How is it that you claim such a brutal attack was made and yet – here you stand?"

I had to be careful. I had no doubt that if I revealed exactly how I'd been rehabilitated, Carlisle would be in danger.

"There are still good people out there," I stated.

"I see." Charlie stood up and put his hands behind his back. "Well, you'll understand if I'm hesitant to believe your story. I have you standing in front of me, healthy and capable. And I have my daughter's previous lover here, nearly unrecognizable, his tongue cut out so that he's unable to speak in order to defend himself, and no one to verify your claim."

His tongue cut out?

Bella's head turned towards me. Her expression questioning. I shook my head at her. "I didn't. . ."

"I've seen your temper. I've seen your jealously," Charlie continued. "I know what kind of man you are. I should have followed my instincts the first time you were brought to me." He started pacing. Something was about to go down. He was agitated. "I warned you, Mr. Mason."

I felt Bella's hand touch mine. She could feel it, too. Charlie was losing it. Fast.

"I warned you that I would be watching you."

All my senses were suddenly on high alert. My free hand slid to my holster.

"I warned you that this was my home. These are my people."

I gritted my teeth together as he turned to face me, his eyes black and narrowed.

"I've given you enough warnings, boy," Charlie hissed. "You want to know what happens to people who mess with me?" It happened in a split second. I couldn't have gotten my weapon out fast enough. His arm lifted straight up and without hesitation, he pulled the trigger.

~xoxoxoxo~

AN: Because what's the fun in me telling you who he was aiming at? LOL.

I took a little longer to post this chapter b/c I didn't want to leave you all in a lurch waiting for 6 weeks when I left it where I did. I've been working on the next chapter and hopefully it will be up sooner rather than later.

With that said, we're almost done. I'm not sure if my wrap-up will take one chapter or two, it all depends on how it all flows. :oD Thank you for reading and for reviewing!