AN: Huge thank you's to ysar, our awesome beta, and our lovely pre-readers this chapter: Mina Rivera, StupidLambTanya & SammieLynnsMom.
I posted a new story earlier tonight called Comfortably Numb. It's something completely different for me, so check it out if you have the chance!
Chapter 23: One Way or Another
One day, maybe next week
I'm gonna meetcha, I'm gonna meetcha
I will drive past your house
And if the lights are all down
I'll see who's around
One Way or Another by Blondie
Bella's eyes were weighed down heavily as she slowly awakened. Yawning, she reached up to rub her lids in an attempt to urge them open. She sat up slowly, in an unfamiliar bed, and glanced around the empty room. The walls were painted a pale yellow, and the carpet was brown. Her nose scrunched as she wondered who the hell would ever choose brown carpet.
She swallowed thickly, her throat parched and dry. She reached up and cupped her head, a throbbing pain shooting across her skull.
"Damn it," she whispered hoarsely. "Where the fuck am I?"
Bella closed her eyes and tried to recall what happened last. She gasped as she remembered Jane sticking her with a needle and the world going black. She flung off the covers and unsteadily got to her feet. She was thankful to find that she was still fully clothed, and the lump of her phone was still in her back pocket.
She pulled out the iPhone and slid to unlock it, only to find that it had zero signal.
"No, no, no!" she wailed, wandering around the room and trying to find reception. She walked over to a fairly large window, which started about waist-high and extended just above her head.
There were a few people milling about on the sidewalk, so she began banging on the window, hoping someone would notice. After a few minutes of the fruitless endeavor, she let out a sob and rested her head against the pane. She breathed deeply in through her nose and dried her eyes, determined to be strong about this.
Bella stared out the window, gazing down at the ground below. She briefly considered breaking the glass and jumping the three stories but quickly ruled that out, figuring that with her luck, the fall would leave her with a broken leg, and Jane would attempt to nurse her back to health all 'Misery'-like.
She wrapped her arms around her waist, glancing around the stark room, which contained only a bed. She sighed and tried one last time to pry open the window. The wood must have been glued securely, though, because it wouldn't budge.
The sound of a key sliding into a lock made her jump and face the door warily. The handle turned, and Jane sauntered in with a bright smile.
"Oh, Izzy!" she exclaimed enthusiastically. "You're awake already! I brought a friend to say hello!"
Bella's eyes narrowed as she noticed a tall man following Jane into the room. When his familiar smile came into view, she gasped and covered her mouth quickly.
"D-Dillon?" she stuttered in shock.
Her former bodyguard merely smirked and nodded his head in greeting.
"Wh-what are you doing here?"
"Really, Ms. Dwyer? I'm sure you can put two and two together," he replied snidely.
Bella's brow scrunched in confusion. "I'm sorry," she pleaded. "I honestly have no clue."
"When you pulled your little disappearing act, I got fired. I have kids to support, so when Jane offered cash, I jumped at the opportunity for a little payback. You're such a selfish little bitch."
He took a menacing step toward her, but Jane stepped in between them with a glare in Dillon's direction.
"You were hired for your strength and leg work. You will not a lay a finger on her," Jane growled. "No one touches Izzy but me."
The anger in Jane's voice slightly surprised Bella, and she felt a little safer knowing that Jane didn't want her harmed.
Dillon rolled his eyes before stomping out the door, leaving the two women alone. Jane smiled brightly at Bella, reaching for her hand and pulling her to the bed.
"Sit, sweetheart," the blonde cooed. "You shouldn't be exerting yourself."
Bella sat down hesitantly, looking up at Jane's happy face.
"Jane, why are you doing this?" Bella asked quietly.
A shadow crossed over Jane's face, but she quickly masked it with a smile. "I have no idea what you're talking about, Izzy."
"Why am I here? Why did you knock me out? What was in that needle?"
Jane sat down next to her and patted her arm gently. "You're here because we needed a place to be alone, without any distractions. I only knocked you out because I knew it'd be easier to get you here without your fighting me. It was only a mild sedative; it won't harm you."
Bella shook her head swiftly, immediately regretting the movement when her head began to pound again.
"Why?" she gasped through the pain in her head. "What do you want from me, Jane?"
"Oh, you're so silly," she giggled in a child-like voice. "You're here because I love you, and I know once you get to know me, you'll love me, too."
"You're kidding me, right?" Bella replied harshly. "You stalked me and drugged me because of a stupid crush?"
Jane's lip trembled, and tears welled up in her eyes. "It's not a stupid crush!" she cried out. "I've loved you for a long time. From my very first day as Tanya's assistant, I knew it was meant to be. You were everything I wanted in a lover: kind, sweet, and beautiful." Her eyes narrowed, glaring at Bella. "You're not being very nice at the moment."
Jane took a deep breath, and when she looked at Bella again, her face became cold and blank.
"I knew this wouldn't be easy," she murmured, stroking Bella's arm softly.
Bella jerked her arm away and glared at her captor. "Jane, I don't know what's gotten into you, but you need some help."
Jane moved swiftly, and Bella felt a sharp pinch in her thigh. She glanced down and saw another needle protruding through her jeans. Her limbs started to feel heavy, and she couldn't fight back when Jane stretched her body along the bed.
The blonde leaned down and kissed Bella's cheek, whispering softly in her ear. "I don't need help. I told Mommy and Daddy before, and I'll tell you now. Don't say that again."
Bella fought to keep her eyes open, but it was a losing battle. She heard Jane whisper that she was sorry for hurting her and that she loved her, before slipping quietly into oblivion.
The next time Bella awoke, shadows played on the room's wall. She glanced out the window, noticing the sun setting on the horizon. Pulling her legs up to her chest, Bella wrapped her arms around her knees. She was trying to remain calm, knowing that her guys would find her soon.
As the sun dipped lower in the sky, her hope started to dim. Thoughts began to swirl around her head in lightning-fast succession. Surely someone had found Tanya and noticed Bella's absence, figuring out that she'd been a victim of foul play. Wouldn't someone have seen her being carried out of the building?
She had too many questions and was unsure how to get the answers she sought. If she'd learned anything from earlier, it was to tread very lightly with Jane. The girl was a stick of dynamite, ready for a spark to set her off.
Bella jerked her head toward the door when she heard the handle being jostled. Jane appeared in the soft light from the hallway. She reached out and flipped a switch on the wall, bringing to life an overhead light that Bella hadn't noticed earlier.
Jane smiled shyly at Bella, waving slightly from the door. "May I come in?"
Bella cocked an eyebrow. "Sure. It's your place, right?"
Jane grinned and shook her head. "I know, but I wanted to be a good host."
Bella swallowed back a sarcastic retort, not eager to have another needle shoved into her skin anytime soon. Jane walked over to the bed and sat down at the foot. Bella's eyes unintentionally cut towards the wide open door, wondering if she had a chance to make it through before getting caught.
Jane followed her captive's gaze and let out a light laugh. "No worries about the door, my dear Izzy. You wouldn't be able to outrun me. Your friend came close, but I still left him eating my dust."
"You were the one wearing the mask?" Bella asked, fitting more pieces of the puzzle together.
Jane nodded. "Yes, I just wanted to check on you. You know, to make sure you got home from that boring awards show all right."
"How did you-"
Jane waved her hand dismissively, cutting off Bella's question. "I was there, silly girl. I'm always there."
A cold finger of dread ran down Bella's spine. "You took the picture of me sleeping? And left me the note?"
Jane smiled. "I did." Her smile fell slightly before continuing. "I'm sorry that I scared you and made you run, sweetheart. I promise to be good from now on."
Bella tensed, knowing that she was walking on a tight wire by sticking with her line of questioning. "How long are you going to keep me locked up, Jane?"
Jane cocked her head to the side, thinking about her answer. "As long as it takes, Izzy."
"As what takes?" she asked in confusion.
"As long as it takes you to love me," Jane replied with an eerie look upon her face.
Bella nodded slowly, dread turning quickly to panic. Her fingers cracked a few knuckles nervously, waiting for an opportunity to be used, which came a few minutes later.
A loud bang, like a door being slammed, echoed throughout the house. More than one voice started shouting at once. Jane started to jump to her feet to investigate, and Bella saw her window of opportunity unfurl.
She reached out and grabbed two handfuls of her captor's hair, yanking the girl back down to the bed and head-butting her with a vicious force. Bella winced at the white flash the impact caused behind her eyes, and Jane curled up in a ball, wailing.
Bella shakily made her way to her feet, stumbling towards the door when Jane regained her bearings and gripped Bella around the waist.
"You're not going anywhere, Izzy," the smaller girl replied angrily. "You're going to regret that."
Bella looked down to Jane's free hand and caught the glint from yet another needle, poised to strike her skin. Twisting out of Jane's grip, Bella reached for the girl's hand and turned it toward her own body.
Jane let out a squeak as the needle intended for Bella pierced her own skin instead. The pair struggled momentarily as the sedative worked its way through Jane's bloodstream.
"Buh, I lurr youuu," she slurred as her body grew heavy in Bella's arms, and her eyes closed.
Bella released her hold on Jane's body, letting the girl fall unceremoniously to the floor. Stepping back, she took a deep breath before rushing to the door and out into the hallway, intent upon finding a way out.
She'd made it down the hall and down one flight of stairs, when her body ran smack into a hard chest. Hands quickly gripped her arms tightly as she looked up into Dillon's face. A bruise was already forming on his face, and blood dripped from the corner of his mouth, which was turned up in an evil smirk.
Bella found herself quickly spun around, her back pressed against Dillon's chest as he carefully maneuvered them down the stairs leading to the ground floor. She felt something press against her side, and she swallowed thickly, bile rising in her throat.
"STAND DOWN!" her former bodyguard shouted as they stepped onto the landing. "Stand the fuck down, or I'll shoot her!"
Dillon jabbed the gun into Bella's ribs roughly, causing her to wince and prove his point.
"Ok, dude, just calm down." Bella felt a wave of calm pass through her at the sound of Emmett's voice.
Drawing strength from her best friend's voice, she slowly opened her eyes and let the tears she'd been holding back freely fall. Emmett stood in the middle of a small living room, his hands in the air in a surrender motion. Next to him stood the man she loved, a little battered but a sight for sore eyes.
Edward's eyes met hers, and the anguish she saw there made her heart break. She tried to give him a smile, but her lips trembled too badly.
"Bella," he whispered brokenly.
"Hi," she replied hoarsely.
Dillon jerked her closer. "Enough with the chit-chat. We're leaving, and you two are going to stay right where you are. Understand?"
Bella's gaze went to Emmett, looking into his worried brown eyes. "Remember what your dad said when Tyler Crowley tried to kiss you in third grade?"
Her brow furrowed, trying desperately to follow Em's line of thought. She saw a motion out the corner of her eye and instantly remembered the lesson: duck.
She stomped down hard on Dillon's foot and threw herself to the ground. A familiar body covered hers as the sound of glass shattering and gunshots being fired filled her ears. Edward covered her head with his arms, curling himself about her as protectively as he could.
Her heart pounded in fear, though not just for herself this time.
"He's down, guys!" Emmett called out.
Bella turned her head slowly to face Edward, who was looking down at her with wide, tear-filled eyes. He cupped her cheeks and kissed her forehead.
"Oh my God," he whispered brokenly. "I was so fucking scared, Bella."
She let out a sob, clutching her boyfriend tightly. After giving the pair a few moments to collect themselves, Emmett reached down to help both of them to their feet. No sooner was Bella upright than she was crushed into her cousin's arms.
"Scrappy," he murmured, holding her closely.
"Oh, Shaggy," she cried, sagging against his muscular chest.
Sirens wailing in the background grew louder and closer as Bella lifted her head to take in the scene around them. Dillon was face first on the ground, unmoving, while Alistair stood sentinel above him.
"Is he...?" Bella asked, trailing off.
Alistair shook his head, opting to give the prone man a swift kick in the ribs, causing him to groan.
"He's just unconscious. The cops will take care of him in a minute." Alistair walked over and rubbed her shoulder gently. "The more important question is how are you? Where's Jane?"
Bella shrugged half-heartedly. "I'll survive. She drugged me twice, and was going for a third when I turned it on her. She's knocked out up on the third floor."
She felt herself being extricated from Emmett's embrace, soon followed by Edward's arms wrapping securely around her.
"How did you guys find me?"
Alistair tensed, his face darkening with anger. "Her brother caused the commotion at the house and got himself caught. As soon as I said I was heading back there, Mac was already out the door on his way to you. When he got there and found Tanya knocked out, and you were nowhere in sight, we realized we'd been set up."
Her bodyguard took a deep breath and looked away.
Emmett scoffed. "Once Dad called and told us what was going on there, Al here went ballistic. He practically tortured the information out of the dude. He said he had nothing to do with any of the stalking; he was just there because his sister needed a favor. Bullshit, I say. He had to have known something."
Alistair nodded in agreement. "Do you know they lived together? There's no way he didn't have an inkling of what Jane was doing."
Bella shuddered and leaned back into Edward's embrace. "But that was hours ago. Why did it take so long to get here? Not that I'm complaining," she added, earning a laugh from the men.
"We went to their apartment," Edward spoke softly next to ear. "There was no sign of you or Jane. We'd hit a dead end until the police found a connection in her bank account transfers."
Alistair leaned against the banister at the bottom of the stairs. "An old friend of mine on the force called me with the info that she'd been paying Dillon MacKenzie large sums of money. When James heard the name, he mentioned that he thought the name sounded familiar. Once we figured out he was a former bodyguard, we rushed here to his house to beat the cops."
He smirked slightly as the shrill wailing of sirens stopped in front of the house, flashing red & blue lights bouncing off the walls. "Good timing, too, I must say."
In the early morning hours, just before dawn, Bella lay in her comfortable bed, wrapped in Edward's arms as he snored softly behind her. She lay awake, staring out the window as the sky grew lighter. She'd fallen asleep briefly, only to be woken by a nightmare.
After she'd been questioned thoroughly by the police, they insisted that she be checked over at the hospital. She rode in an ambulance and sat through all of the procedures and blood work they'd wanted done. Edward stayed by her side the entire time.
Three hours and a clean bill of health later, the pair fell silently into bed. She could see in his eyes that he wanted to question her—make sure she was honestly okay—but she was very grateful that he sensed her need to assimilate everything. Once they'd undressed and curled up together, she turned and kissed him on the cheek.
"Thank you for not pushing me. Tomorrow, I promise," she whispered in the darkness.
He squeezed her in acknowledgement, pulling her back against his chest before drifting to sleep.
As the sky turned pink, Bella could no longer hold her eyes open. She rolled onto her back, and gazed at the sleeping man next to her, marveling at how lucky she was to have him. She swore she'd never take one moment with him for granted ever again. She made a mental note to speak with Tanya and Aro in hopes of speeding up her move to Seattle. She was more than ready to leave the sour taste of Los Angeles behind her.
Shifting onto her side, Bella laid her head over Edward's heart, the steady beat of his heart lulling her into a peaceful sleep.
Chapter song: One Way or Another by Blondie
Can't remember where you've heard of Dillon before? He's mentioned in the first chapter. =)