A/N… It's always unnerving when I start a new story. So let me tell you a little bit about this one…
Edward Cullen is a soldier for hire that works for his father. Bella Swan is a private investigator and the daughter of Carlisle Cullen's best friend, Charlie. When Bella goes missing, Carlisle employs his own band of mercenaries, including his son, to find her and protect her. What happens when Bella finds out that her father's business partner and best friend isn't exactly what he said he was? What happens when Bella discovers that the boy she met one time is now an efficient military killing machine? And what happens when she decides that it doesn't matter? But what kind of Bella does Edward find?
This is darker than most of my stories. I wanted to give you fair warning. This has violence, though not rape…but it's still violence against women. This is angsty and dark but a fight for what's right. If you don't like guns, violence, and talk of war crimes…then this isn't for you. This is rated M for violence, future lemons, foul language, adult situations, sexual innuendo, and a fuck-hot group of gun-toting, cursing, and reluctant heroes.
I don't own these characters...SM does. I do own this plot and story line. I own my own original characters. And I own a kick ass little netbook that I just freakin' love 'cause I can drag the damn thing everywhere!
So let's get started…I'll say a little more at the bottom.
Blood and Glory
I was twelve years old when I met the most beautiful boy I'd ever seen. He was sweet, kind, funny, and had the most adorable speech impediment. He stuttered. A lot. He was shy – very shy – with crazy hair and a crooked smile, but it was his eyes I remembered the most.
Green. They were piercing green, framed with long, dark eyelashes women would give an appendage for. He had a round face – still somewhere between boyish and teen – and smooth, pale skin.
It was the summer just before I turned thirteen, and my dad, Charlie, was working on the old Camero he'd been restoring for the last few months. I was in my tree house, avoiding being his tool assistant.
"Bells, where are you?"
"Right here, Dad," I yelled, rolling my eyes and tossing the book I was reading aside. I climbed down from my tree house, scanning our backyard.
"Come here, munchkin, and meet an old friend of mine." Charlie smiled, waving me over.
I wrinkled my nose at the name he called me, but he'd done it since I'd lost my mind over The Wizard of Oz the first time I'd watched it. I'd been four, and the term was getting old.
Standing beside my dad across the yard was a tall man in some sort of dressy military getup. His hat was under his arm, and he stood tall and proud. His blond hair shone in the sun like gold, and his smile was warm as I ran to join them.
Just as I was about to reach them, my feet tangled with someone else's, my knees hitting the grass.
"Oh, gosh! I'm s-s-sorry," I heard above me, and a hand appeared in front of my face so I took it.
"It's cool, 'cause my dad says I'm clumsy to the point of being handicapped." I sighed, brushing off my knees, and finally looked up, my breath catching in my throat.
"N-N-No, I t-totally wasn't l-looking," the cutest boy I'd ever seen sputtered, running a hand through his unruly hair.
"Bells," my dad chuckled, "meet Edward. Edward, this is my daughter, Isabella."
"Bella," I said shyly.
Edward smiled crookedly, nodding and blushing, and ran another hand through his hair. It was such a wonderful shade – dark brown with mixes of bronze in it – but it was his eyes that were so pretty, so very green, like evergreens in the summer.
"And this is Carlisle Cullen," my dad said, drawing my attention to the very handsome, very tall, blond man in uniform. "You kids don't know this, but we've known each other since we were about your age."
"Wow, that long?" I teased my father, ducking his fingers.
"Yes, we even had pet dinosaurs," Carlisle added, smiling when Edward and I snickered, rolling our eyes.
"Why don't you take Edward inside and see if Jane's finished with that apple pie she's been working on?" Charlie suggested.
"Sure, okay," I said with a nod. "Come on, Edward. Jane makes the best pie. Ever."
"'K-Kay," he agreed quietly, but looked up to Carlisle nervously.
I could see that Edward was shy and unsure about being at our house, and it seemed that he was uneasy about leaving Carlisle's side.
"Go ahead, son. Mr. Swan and I need to discuss a few things," Carlisle soothed with a squeeze to his shoulder.
I waited until Edward finally agreed, and we walked into the back door of my house.
"Miss Bella, is that you?"
"Yeah, Aunt Jane," I called, leading Edward through our living room and into the kitchen.
"Well, who's this?" the elderly lady that lived with us asked.
She was a sweet woman that my father had hired after my mother's death. She did the cooking, cleaning, and the taking care of me. I loved her dearly because she was as close to a mother figure as I could get, but she was also sweet and loving and gentle.
"This is Edward..."
"C-Cullen," he said softly, looking up at Jane.
"Yeah," I said with a nod. "His dad is outside with Charlie. He sent us in for pie, Jane..." I grinned, giving her the hint.
She chuckled, shaking her head. "Great timing, as always, Miss Bella, because it's just now ready. Sit down, then. Let's see what we can rummage up for the two of you."
Edward and I took stools at the kitchen counter, and two plates appeared before us, heavy with pieces of warm apple pie and ice cream.
"Dig in, you two. I'm going to see if Charlie needs anything and then finish the laundry," Jane said with a warm smile before leaving out the back door.
"You live in Seattle?" I asked him, noticing we were both swinging our legs at the counter.
"J-Just moved from C-Cali-f-forn..." he struggled to speak with a wrinkle to his brow.
"Yeah," he sighed, shaking his head in embarrassment. He took a deep breath and started again. "M-My dad just retired from the Air Force. We j-just moved to F-Forks?" he said, but it came out like a question.
"Never heard of it," I told him with a mouthful of pie and a shrug. "Where's your mom?" I asked without thinking.
"D-Dead," he answered, turning another shade of red altogether.
"Oh, sorry. Mine, too," I whispered, blushing profusely.
"I-I-It's..." He huffed, shaking his head again in frustration. "D-Dammit..."
I smiled at him, but it was meant to be friendly. I had a friend with a lisp that avoided saying specific words...like specific.
"D-Don't laugh. I c-can't help it," he growled.
"I'm not, I swear," I told him. "If I can trip over flat floors, then who am I to judge you?"
"Yeah?" he chuckled, looking over at me.
"The school gym floor is my enemy," I said with a snort.
We both looked up when our dads walked in through the back door. They barely looked our way as they headed into my father's home office, my dad talking as they went.
"There are a few new technologies we're working on, Carl. Let me show you..." he said, closing the door behind them.
"Oh, boy," I sighed. "Work. You'd better get comfortable, Edward. Once my dad starts talking about his work, it's going to be a while." I rolled my eyes, picking up my plate and carrying it to the sink.
Edward laughed, setting his fork down. "Wh-What's he do?"
"He makes...gosh, all sorts of things," I told him, taking his empty plate. "Everything from software to guns. Your dad isn't the first military uniform I've seen." I looked up at him, and he was nodding but looking around my house. "Let me show you around, and we can decide what we want to do. I'm telling you, they'll be a minute."
He smiled again and nodded. I noticed that when he didn't have to say anything, he didn't. But then I also wondered if he was still uncomfortable. I was way too outgoing for that. Edward needed to loosen up.
"Hey, I wasn't laughing at you...okay?" I asked, making sure that he heard me. "All my friends have something that makes them different. Trish has a lisp. Jake gets into trouble with his temper. And I could fall down just standing here... If everyone was the same, we'd be boring."
Edward laughed, a true, comfortable laugh. "G-Got it. Thanks."
He relaxed after that, following me around our house. I showed him the media room and the pool, but we ended up spending the rest of the afternoon in my tree house.
"Wait, if you're s-so c-clumsy, why do you have a fort in a tree?" he asked with a chuckle as we climbed up the ladder.
I laughed. "Don't think I haven't fallen out of this thing. It was here when we moved in. I've only just in the last year proven I can climb those steps."
My tree house was my escape. It was pretty big and completely enclosed. It had been built professionally, my father had told me, including working windows and electricity. I loved it. In fact, if I could have slept up there, I would have.
I turned on the stereo, and we sat down. He looked around at all my posters, quietly absorbing my private world.
"I want to travel," I whispered, feeling a little exposed now that he was up there. "Those are places I'd like to see."
"New York...London...Paris...Italy..." he muttered, and I noticed when he was calm, comfortable, the stutter evaporated. "I've been there," he said, pointing to the poster behind me. "San Francisco."
"I want to see Alcatraz," I gushed, smiling at his laugh.
"It's cool, kinda c-creepy."
We looked through magazines, talking about anything and everything. I told him I wanted to join the FBI, to solve mysteries and catch bad guys. He told me he wanted to join the Air Force, like his father. He wanted to be a pilot, fly helicopters. We had so much in common that it was ridiculous. We both were starting middle school the next year, we both liked and read the same books, and we both loved music.
It was too bad he was going to be living in another city. It would have been nice to introduce him to my friends. It would have been nice to get to know him better. He was sweet and funny once his guard was down. And he was so very cute. I was crushing on him hard by the time we heard...
"Kids, where are you?"
"Up here, Dad," I called out, giving Edward an eye roll. "He knows where I disappear to," I muttered. "It's not a state secret..."
"Right," he chuckled, setting his magazine down. "Got a pen?"
I nodded and handed him one.
"My email and cell number. I'll send you pics of Alcatraz," he told me, handing me a slip of paper before scooting toward the door. He stopped, turning toward me. "Thanks for not laughing. Most p-people d-do."
"Thanks for helping me up."
"I knocked you d-down to b-begin with!" he laughed, opening the hatch leading to the ladder. "It's only fair, B-Bella."
And just like that, he was gone. It was the first and last time we met. We emailed and texted almost daily the whole summer and the first few months into the school year. We traded pictures and music and book titles we were interested in. But just like most young, long-distance friendships, we slowly became different people. By the time I'd reached the first year of high school, we weren't talking at all.
The next time I saw Edward Cullen, he was saving my life.
n., pl., soldiers of fortune: One who will serve in any army or undertake risky tasks for personal gain or love of adventure.
Let not the tie be mercenary, though the service is measured in money. Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not make life hard to any. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Edward, someone's on your six," I heard in my ear piece as I took the next corner of the burned down village.
"I know, I know," I grumbled, finding the next niche in the wall to hide behind. I waited, holding my breath, until the crunching of footsteps behind me broke the silence of the night.
Clicking off the safety of my gun, I squeezed my eyes closed, sending up a silent prayer before spinning around the corner. I had to look down to see the face of my enemy, but my breath caught.
"Shit, fuck…she's just a kid," I breathed into my mic. "A fucking little girl!"
I lifted the gun from her forehead, taking a deep breath, but I relaxed too soon – and so did the rest of my team, because they joined us in the broken down desert hovel.
"Damn, Ed," Emmett chuckled, lowering his weapon, but we all froze when the little girl pulled her hand from behind her back.
"Oh hell," Jasper groaned. "Yo, little darlin'?" he crooned, kneeling before her. "Why don't you hand that over to me, huh?"
"Oh, fuck me," Newton breathed, stepping behind the shaking child and shouldering his weapon.
The less than six-year-old little Iranian girl just shook her head and most likely had no clue what he was saying. Her little finger curled around the pin of what looked like an American grenade.
"Jazz, move," I growled, taking a step back and making sure my sniper was moving away from the child. "All of you...cover. Now!"
Emmett, Jasper, and I all dove behind whatever we could find at the same time the little girl dropped that grenade and Newton reached for her hand. An explosion ripped through the desert night. My ears were ringing, my face was covered in dust, and my leg was throbbing, but I was alive.
"Ed?" I heard in my ear, the radio communication sparking back to life.
"Fuck," I growled, grabbing my leg when I tried to move. "Check in...everyone. Now!"
There was a large metal piece of shrapnel sticking out of my leg, right at my knee.
"I'm good, Ed," Emmett moaned, landing at my side.
"Jazz?" I asked, sitting up and leaning against the stone wall.
"I'm cool, bro. But we gotta get you outta here," he said, helping me up with Emmett on my other side.
When we turned the corner, the disaster that was a small child was nauseating because Newton had fallen on her to save us all. It was the third person, the third friend, I'd lost in this Godforsaken place.
What the fuck were we doing? What the hell were parents thinking by using their own child as a weapon? And how the hell did we get home?
I came up out of that memory with a sharp breath because I'd slammed the hammer down on my own thumb.
"Dammit," I growled, picking up the rag next to me and wiping my face.
I leaned up against my workbench, downing the rest of my beer and getting another out of my cooler.
The memories never faded. The pain in my leg was gone, and the limp was barely visible anymore, but I still carried the scar. It took two long surgeries before they decided that I wasn't fit for military service, which was fine by me because that last tour had been fucking hell. My chopper had gone down in the dead of night, into a sleepy little village that proved less than safe.
I turned back to my latest project, gliding my hand lightly over the top of the table. Oak was a hard wood to work with, but the end result was always beautiful. What started as a class in high school had turned into my release, my passion. I never made anything I didn't need, and I never charged my friends and family for something they wanted. Building furniture was the one good thing I did.
My other job...made me a monster.
I sighed again, picking up the sander to smooth the top of what was to be my kitchen table. I'd bought my cabin in the back woods of Washington just to get away from...well, everyone. I needed space when I wasn't...traveling. I needed complete and utter silence because my own mind was loud enough.
When I heard a car in my very long driveway, I looked up, grabbing the gun that was nestled at the small of my back in the waistband of my jeans. I set it down under my rag, eying the black BMW 750i that was pulling up in front of me, but I relaxed instantly when I saw who it was.
"New car, Dad?" I asked, showing him my gun and stowing it back at my belt.
"She was tired of the other one," he chuckled, shaking his head. "She said she was just waiting for me to break down. Well, that, and she said that she could hear me a mile away."
"Tell me you didn't get rid of that old Camaro. You're crazy if you did," I told him, offering him a beer from my cooler.
"No, my old friend is looking after it," he told me, taking a long drink. "This is nice," he said, pointing to my new table. "Oak?"
"Yeah, and it's almost finished. I just have to stain it...maybe tomorrow, if the weather is better," I sighed, looking up at the Washington sky. It was always raining, it seemed.
"I need you to look at something for me." He tossed a manila file folder down in my lap as I sat down in my deck chair.
"I'm on vacation, Dad. I'm not taking another job right now," I growled, handing him back his file. "Hell, the whole team is spread all over the country. Em's in Vegas, and Jasper's in Texas. There's no telling where Mickey ran off to. She met someone," I chuckled, shaking my head.
"Just..." He sighed, his eyes carrying a darkness that I hadn't seen in some time. "Just look at it. Tell me what you see."
I opened the folder, flipping through the intelligence that was collected before me.
"He's not a target, is he?" I asked. "He's your friend, right?"
"He's my business partner, too. What else do you see?"
"I see he has unsavory clients." I frowned, flipping through some photos. "He's supplying to King? That's mafia shit right there."
"He didn't supply to King," my dad said, shaking his head. "And therefore, he has a problem."
I flipped through the pages again, finally closing the file and handing it back to him.
"Keep it," he told me, holding up his hand. "You're going to need it."
"No, I won't. I'm not taking any jobs right now. You know this," I growled, slapping the file down onto my unfinished table and pacing in the open garage door of my workshop.
"This is personal, Edward," he urged. "Cheney called me. King's called for a hit on him."
"King doesn't take out just one person," I mused, leaning up against my bench and folding my arms across my chest.
"He takes out the whole family, anyone associated with the target, and takes over the business that has...offended him," he finished.
"Exactly," I groaned, pinching the bridge of my nose. "Which means you, too, and me...and...fuck, all of us, Dad!"
"Swan thought he was doing the right thing by refusing King, son." My father sighed, falling heavily into a deck chair. "He wanted no part of the underground, but King can be...persuasive. Look at the file again...last page."
I studied my dad with a raised eyebrow and slowly picked up the folder. I flipped to the back page, which was a black-and-white, eight-by-ten photo of a young woman.
"Who is she?" I asked, holding it up.
"You met her once," he said, his mouth curling slightly in the corners. "Isabella Swan."
"This?" I asked, cracking a smile. "This is Bella?"
I looked at the picture again, shaking my head. The little twelve-year-old, knobby-kneed kid was completely gone, leaving a really pretty brunette woman. It seemed like a recon photo – one taken without her permission. She was tucking her hair behind her ear as she laughed on her cell phone.
I'd met Bella Swan one time, when we were just kids, liking her instantly. She'd made me feel comfortable, and I'd had a lot in common with her. She was so very nice to me when I'd needed a friend the most, because we were moving from everything I'd ever known, and I'd just lost my mother. We'd lost touch as we got older, but occasionally, I'd hear about her through my father and his connection to Charlie Swan.
"Who took this?" I asked, afraid of the answer.
"Riley Miller," he stated, his eyes growing dark.
"Fuck," I sighed, setting the picture down on top of the folder, breaking my gaze away from her unaware face. "That's...fuck, Dad..." I shook my head, thinking this was bigger than just King. "King isn't in charge. I've heard he has connections to Columbia..."
"Right, but Cheney says the hit is out. Bella's lucky they can't find her yet," he muttered, rubbing his face in frustration.
"What do you mean, they can't find her?"
"Exactly that, Edward. She's not...close to Charlie anymore," he said, looking up at me as he rested his elbows on his knees. "She used to live with a Jacob Black, but she's moved out since. My...resource says they're not sure where she moved to. And with her work, she's out of town a lot."
"Well, what the hell does she do?" I grumbled, pulling out my phone.
"They're gonna hate me for this," I sighed as I scrolled through my contacts, dialing Jasper and putting the phone to my ear.
"Yo, Eddie," Jasper sang into the phone.
I could hear all sorts of noise in the background, but I said, "Call everyone. Carlisle needs to us to fall in. Now."
"Oh, damn, what's up?"
"I'll tell you when you get here."
"Aw, Ed...what about vacation?" he whined. "I thought—"
"Me, too. Get your asses in here. Now!" I snapped, finally losing my patience, which was hardly there to begin with because I didn't want another job, and I damn well didn't want a job where the risks were so high; personal jobs made for dangerous jobs.
"Yes, sir. Be there in twenty-four," he told me with a sigh, hanging up the phone.
My father was laughing by the time I pocketed my phone. "Why do you snap at them like that?"
"Because they're all whiny children," I huffed, fighting my smile. "They'd never get anything done if I didn't."
He nodded, still chuckling. "Twenty-four hours, at the house. I'll see if we can't find Bella in the meantime, but don't get your hopes up. She seems to be in hiding for a reason."
"'Kay," I agreed, running a hand through my hair and looking back at the table I'd been working on.
"Hey, Edward," my dad called just before getting into his car. "You know, my girl's gonna want one of those."
"We'll see," I chuckled, waving a hand at him. "Give her my love..."
"Sure. See you tomorrow," he called before pulling away.
A flower captured my attention as I sat on the park bench in San Francisco, waiting for my target to finally move. I turned my camera, capturing it perfectly in the early afternoon light as my Bluetooth bleeped in my ear.
"Yeah," I answered after hitting the button.
"Isabella Marie," Rose growled into the phone. "Why didn't you tell Esme where you'd gone?"
"Because she talks to Jake, Ro," I sighed, shaking my head but keeping my eye on the idiot across the park. "I can't have him know where I've gone. He's an ass. He'll just show up on your doorstep and beg and plead at all hours. No...just fucking no."
Rose was practically my sister, my best friend, and my connection to my father's company, and at the moment, she was hiding me at her apartment in Seattle. After leaving my boyfriend of too many years to think about, Rose opened her door to me, swearing to hide my whereabouts from everyone.
"She's calling me at work, Bells."
"I'm sure. Did you tell her I'm fine and just to give me time?"
"Yeah, that's exactly what I told her," she chuckled. "And your dad—"
"Don't, Rose," I snapped. "I'm sure he's just...fraught with worry," I said sarcastically with a roll of my eyes.
"Actually, yeah, he is. There's something going down here, Izzy."
"Well, whatever it is, I'm sure it's karma. He'll survive, I promise. He's good at looking out for number one." I sighed, glancing up at my target. "I gotta go, Ro. I'm following this cheating senator, and his wife is paying big bucks to the lawyer to catch him before their divorce goes through."
"Be safe, Bells. And keep in touch... I've got a funny feeling, okay?"
I hung up and watched my target, Senator Alvarez, get up from his perch in the park, check his cell phone, and walk toward the very expensive hotel across the street. I dialed a number quickly.
"Ali's Mortuary. You stab 'em, we slab 'em," my other best friend – and the most incredible hacker and computer expert I'd ever known – said as she answered her phone.
"Ali, please check the Clipper Hotel for its guest list. I need to know what room he's going into," I told her, getting up and slowly following the pig of a senator.
We'd been hired by the law firm representing Mrs. Alvarez, because she knew he was seeing other women – younger women, most possessing a talent with a riding crop. Apparently, Senator Alvarez was a bad boy and needed to be beaten – something that I'd be willing to help him with after I'd seen the pictures of his last girlfriend, but the senator wouldn't be happy with how I'd handle the riding crop.
"The wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round...'round and 'round," she sang into the phone, meaning it was too easy of a task I'd asked of her.
"Shut it, pixie," I chuckled. "I promise to give you something harder the next time."
"Promises, promises," she sighed, but her little giggle could be heard right along with the frenzy of typing keys on her keyboard. "Okay," she said, dragging out the word. "No Alvarez, but there's a Montoya. Isn't that the senator's mother's maiden name?"
"Yup, sure is," I said with a grin. "What room, my tiny genius?"
"Four fifty three," she said. "And bring the pics. I can't wait to see that man being smacked around."
I laughed, ending the call and walking into the hotel. I made sure that Alvarez was in the hotel bar before walking to the elevators. I exited onto the fourth floor, slipping the girl at the housekeeping cart a large bill to let me into the room. I slid silently into the closet, leaving the door open enough to allow my camera lens to capture the bed in its view.
It wasn't long before the jackass was walking through the door, a bouncy young thing at his side. I could have gagged, and I totally felt for Mrs. Alvarez because it wasn't that his wife wasn't attractive; she was – insanely so. But a pig was a pig. Fortunately for me, this pig was a nice big paycheck.
I snapped the award-winning – or case-winning, in this situation – photograph, plopping down on the floor to wait out the disturbing sounds that were coming through the closet door.
I sent a text to Alice to tell her it was done, that the photos were in my possession, and then another text to Rose, telling her I'd be home tomorrow and that I would call her once I was on the road home.
Home. I took a deep breath, leaning my head back to the wall as I waited in the dark. Home used to be a small house on a quiet street. Home used to be a tall, handsome man with a beautiful smile and dark hair, but not anymore.
I'd known Jake my whole life, it seemed. His father worked with my father. We'd attended schools, parties, and Twilight Tech company functions together. When Jake had decided to work for my father, it was supposed to have been a good thing. It wasn't. At first, it was traveling and late nights that kept Jake from being home. Eventually, it was his personal assistant – Lauren – that did it.
I wrinkled my nose as I thought of her. Jake and I had talked marriage, kids, and futures, but it came to a halt when I started getting suspicious. Late night texts, phone calls, and emails to my long-term boyfriend had a tendency to do that. And I chased cheaters for a living! You'd think he would have been sharper about it, but deep down, I think Jake had wanted to be caught. He'd needed an out.
I gave him one...in the form of a poster-sized picture of him taking Lauren on the desk in his office – doggie-style, I might add. I hung it right above the bitch's desk out front in the lobby of my father's company, Twilight Technology.
My father had fired her, but Jake had been livid, telling me what I'd seen was none of my business. Yeah, he was in the hospital for two days. I'd broken his collarbone and given him a concussion.
My father was a different story. His attitude concerning Jake's infidelity had been disheartening for me. He not only allowed my cheating bastard of an ex to continue to work at TT, but he'd tried to get me to reconcile with him, telling me that I was lucky that Jake hadn't pressed charges for assault. That had resulted in a fight that had been a long time coming.
"You're fucking kidding me, right?" I snapped, pacing in my father's rather large office at TT. "You think it's okay that he was rutting a girl on his desk, only to come home to me?"
"No, Bells, that's not what I'm saying. At all," Charlie snapped back. "But men...they make mistakes. They can't think straight when a beautiful woman is interested."
My mouth fell open at that statement, and suddenly, I put a few puzzle pieces together that had bothered me since I was a child.
"You bastard!" I growled, pointing at my father. "You cheated on Mom, didn't you? That's why she was sad all the time. That's why she's dead. You broke her!"
"Isabella, that was between your mother and me."
"And me, you ass! She practically faded in front of me. I lost my mother at eight years old, Charlie. And you think it's okay?"
"Bella—" he sighed, looking so busted and guilty that I wanted to hit him.
"No, don't! Don't sit there and tell me it was a mistake. Don't sit there and tell me that what Jake did was okay. You have free will, you have a conscience, and you have a heart. But apparently, Jake's position here means more to you than I do!"
With that, I walked out the door, stopping at Rose's desk. "He's your boss, but I'm your best friend. Where do we stand?"
She looked at me with a raised eyebrow. "So you'll bring home pizza, or shall I?"
I smirked at her, nodding. "I will. Right after I change my phone number and grab some shit from the house...not to mention tell Alice to hide me in the system."
"Good," she sang with a cheesy-ass grin. "See you at home, then."
My eyes opened when the hotel door did. Peering out into the room, I realized the little twisted tryst was over. I gathered my belongings and headed back to my car.
I fell into the driver's seat, dialing my office.
"Gravity Investigations, Makenna speaking," my secretary answered.
"Hey, Mack," I said with a sigh. "It's done. Call Mrs. Alvarez's lawyer..."
"Right. Call Marshall Spencer, and tell him he'll have his proof by the end of business tomorrow."
"Gotcha, Bells. Anything else?"
"Yeah, you and Ali kick off early tonight. I'm tired, and I know you guys are. We'll make it an early weekend," I told her, rubbing my eyes.
"Thanks," she chuckled. "You should know, though. There are people looking for you."
"Like who? Charlie? Jake?"
"Among the many," she said, and I could hear her typing on her computer. "A...Carlisle Cullen has been asking for you. Isn't he—"
"He is, indeed," I said, smiling in spite of myself.
Carlisle was the reason that my company existed. He was a silent partner that wasn't as silent as he thought he was. Alice had found that out immediately. It was Carlisle's signature on the paperwork of my company, not my father's. He'd convinced Charlie that owning a PI service would be a money maker and having it at their disposal was beneficial, but my father had stalled long enough that Carlisle had stepped in to finish it with me via long distance, as he was always traveling and never in the office. I think I could count on one hand the times I'd seen Carlisle in person, but I'd spoken to him on the phone many, many times.
Yet just one more reason the relationship with my father had fallen into a tub of shit. His hesitation to help me start my own business, even though he would've benefitted monetarily from it, was another sign that he and I were falling apart.
"Who else?" I asked Mack.
"Esme Platt," she said with a deep sigh. "And you should probably call her first, Bells. She was in tears."
"Fuck, okay," I groaned, shaking my head and finally starting my car. "Anyone else?"
"Umm, a Riley Miller?" she said, making it sound like a question. "He didn't leave a number, and he was rude on the phone, demanding to know where you were – but I told him nothing."
"But you have a number," I chuckled.
"Right. Want it?"
"Nah...I don't know the name. I'll look into it later."
As I pulled out onto the highway, my plan to drive north as long as my eyes would stay open, I called my sweet neighbor from when I'd lived with Jake.
"Isabella Marie," she answered, a deep sigh of relief in her voice.
"You know, that's the second time someone has called me by my full name today. I'm not ten."
She laughed, a beautiful, musical sound. "Maybe you deserve it, then."
"Maybe," I chuckled. "I'm sorry I disappeared on you. Work and Jake and..."
"I know, sweetie. I was just worried. Jake came home looking like he'd been run over by a herd of elephants, and then he explained why he looked that way. Needless to say, I slapped him again, but that was three weeks ago, missy!"
"I know, Esme, I'm sorry. I just...had to go. I'm not speaking to Jake or my father."
"I know, Bella. I talked to Rose today. And it's going to be okay. I promise. Jake wasn't the one, that's all."
I took a deep breath, nodding stupidly into the phone like she could see me. "Thanks, Esme."
If I could've asked God for a replacement mother, it would have been my now-former neighbor, Esme Platt. She was calm, sweet, soothing. She was beautiful and selfless. She had grabbed my heart the minute we'd moved into the little house in the suburbs.
"Are you safe? That's all I need to know, sweetie," she begged, making me feel loved and cared for.
"Yes, ma'am," I answered with a sniffle, wiping a tear away that had fallen. "I promise to keep you posted, but I can't until things calm down. I know Jake and Charlie are trying to find me, and I just—"
"Don't want to be found," she finished for me. "It's understandable, Bella. Really. What Jake did...well, that's the highest form of betrayal between a man and a woman. And I don't know what to even say about your father, Isabella. I don't know how a parent can take sides like that. I should give him a piece of my mind."
I chuckled at her protectiveness. "He's not worth it."
"All right," she sighed. "Keep in touch, sweetie. I care about you. A lot. Okay?"
"Yes, ma'am," I said, ending the call.
I merged onto another highway, still heading north and sighing with utter and total weariness. I wasn't going to make it out of the state of California; I was going to have to stop soon. Staying up all night to follow Alvarez after driving five hours to get to California, not to mention having to wait through his disgusting rendezvous... I was mentally and physically exhausted.
I found a rather secure hotel after running through a drive-thru for something to eat, and then checked in and lugged my things upstairs. I dropped everything on the bed, finally making one last call.
"Bella," Carlisle said, sounding rather anxious.
"Look, I know that Dad probably bugged you to find me, but—"
"No, he didn't, I promise. Is this line secure, Bells?"
"Yes, sir," I told him while pulling out my laptop. "My computer tech makes sure it can't be traced."
"She uses a roaming signal, then," he guessed.
"I suppose. She tells me my signal pulls from multiple towers, and my texts and email can't be tracked."
"She sounds like she's pretty smart."
"She has a one ninety IQ," I told him with a chuckle. "Half the time, I have no idea what she's saying. But Carlisle, I really don't want to talk to my father."
He chuckled and said, "I'm sure, Bella. He's an old fool, really. But I'm not calling for him. I'm calling for you. I need to speak to you, but I'd prefer if it was in person."
"Sounds very cloak and dagger, Carlisle." I giggled, rolling my eyes. "I know you were military once, but—"
"I'm serious, Bells. Are you somewhere safe you can stay for a few days?"
"I suppose, but Rose is expecting me tomorrow..."
"I'll get a message to her...without your father knowing, okay?" he said, sounding more and more anxious.
"What's this about?"
"I'd really rather tell you in person, and I promise to tell you what I can. Hell, knowing you, you probably already know some of it. Tell me your location, and I'll be there tomorrow."
"'Kay," I said warily, telling him the name of the hotel, not sure why a man I rarely spoke to needed to see me that badly. "Carlisle, you're worrying me. Is this about Gravity?"
"Not at all, honey. You run that company with an iron fist. It's excelling," he said proudly, sounding more like a dad than my own. "Will you please trust me and do what I tell you?"
"Good. When you hang up from me, turn off your phone. No email, no texts. Don't even answer the hotel's phone – or your door, for that matter. Until you see my face in the peephole, don't open it for anyone, not even room service. Got me?"
"Good. I'll see you tomorrow."
I had no reason not to trust my father's childhood friend, so when we ended the call, I shut my phone down, put my laptop away, and slid the chain onto the door. With all my forms of communication powered down, I decided to take a shower. I was too tired to think about the things Carlisle had said, too tired to wonder what he'd meant by I probably knew some of it. Emotionally, I'd been running on empty for the three weeks since I'd moved away from Jake. Physically, I'd been working for the last forty-eight hours straight.
All my questions and musings would have to wait until Carlisle showed up the next day, until after I'd had one decent night's sleep.
A/N… So, lots of info in the first one, but there is more info to come. There's more to Bella than a camera. There's a lot that Carlisle is keeping from everyone... It takes a few chapters for this stuff to unravel, and it unravels in the middle of something that Carlisle wants stopped.
Oh, and Charlie...there's more to come about him, as well.
Like I said, this is a little darker than I normally write, but for those of you that have read my stories before, I weave in a lot of humor because that's life. Most of us need to laugh at the stupid shit in life in order to not go crazy. That's not to say that there isn't angst, because there is…a little more than I normally use... And before you guys ask...yeah, yeah. I'm sure I'll use music along the way, but not at first, okay?
I hope my regular readers give this a shot. I hope that I see some of you that I consider friends. And for those new to me...well, welcome. And please join us on Twitter...where we so don't behave – you guys know who you are... LOL
Thanks to JenRar for beta'ing this for me. She's guiding me nicely on something that's a little different, so a huge thanks for that.
Please review. I hope to see how you take this, and I hope you stick around because the action is just getting started. This will move quickly as far as action goes. Again, for those that know me, I will try to keep my normal posting schedule – which is twice a week – but I will usually tell you when the next post day is. I also post it on Twitter, as well. SO...let me hear what you think. I'm nervous enough as it is, so no matter what you have to say, I can take it. The next post will most likely be around Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. Until then... Later.