~ Missing Pieces ~

Chapter 15

Thank you for all of your reviews and pms! I truly love hearing from you – even if I don't always respond with quickness. Some of your pms crack me up over here! *HuGs*

I know we'd all like to know what Edward was doing all this time. So here's his version….

And we go backwards a wee little bit.

Also – I took some liberties w/his b-day last chapter * hoping this doesn't bother you, too much.

BTW – the number of shootings/killings mentioned on the "news" in this chapter are true * it is not an exaggeration* this was our 4th of July weekend of 2014 (and 2015 wasn't much better) **sighs* the city has literally become a war zone and gets worse with each day that passes* I think as the reader, it's an important piece of info – especially if you are unfamiliar with the happenings over here.

Your freak outs are freaking me out so I'm reposting this chapter with a note at the end. Please read after this chapter as there is a spoiler alert.

~X

E-POV…going back in time

Taking Bella home was the best thing to do for now.

In fact that was probably the most selfless thing I could have done tonight. Although, knowing Bella, I'm sure she wouldn't agree with that.

I had been drinking and partying most of the day but I was still sober enough to know I was a dick.

There isn't enough alcohol in this bar to change that.

I partied with Emmett ignoring his new friends before parking my ass at the bar.

Fucking Emmett.

Holding up two fingers to signal the bartender. "Jack." I put some money on the counter. "Make it a double and keep 'em coming." I looped my fingers in the air as I instructed.

The bartender put out a napkin and set my drink in front of me. "Bad night?"

I took a drink. "It's gonna be, if you don't keep pouring."

He nodded and moved about his business. He was smart to take the hint.

I felt a light hand slide over my back to my shoulder. I glance to the side to find Tanya. "What are you doing here?" I asked stonily, smacking her hand off of me.

She smiled despite my rudeness. "What? It's a nice place, good times – why wouldn't I be here?"

"Whatever." I turn away not giving a fuck what she does and take another sip.

She sits and I groan in aggravation. "There's a dozen other places to sit up in here – and you gotta sit right there?"

This fucking shit, I don't need right now.

"I called you, you know." She speaks low – I can barely hear her. I don't move closer to hear better because I really don't give a shit.

"A lot of people have called me. Take a fuckin' number." I swirled my glass and watched the ice bounce off each other then took another sip.

Her brows furrowed as she tapped her red fingernails on the bar. "You're the angriest man here." She sidles up next to me and leans in whispering now. "You know that, right?"

Looking straight ahead, I chuckled with zero humor. Angry doesn't begin to describe it. "Yeah, if I remember correctly, you used to like that." I quip back as my lips hover over the rim of my glass to sip my Jack.

She huffed out a breath – whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. "Why do I get the feeling you don't want me around?" She inquired standing now and fingering the hair at the back of my neck.

Again I smack her hand off of me. "This is just now becoming apparent?" I don't have many regrets but I was regretting the days I used to stick my dick in this pussy.

"What's wrong? We used to have fun – you and me." She sways her curvy hip into me and giggles.

She sounds demented and I laugh at this bull shit.

We used to fuck.

Plain and simple.

Grabbing the hand that's making its way up over my shoulder and down my chest, I corrected that shit real quick. "You're fucking delusional."

"You're being an ass and I-"

"And you what?" I interrupt and watched her grit her teeth. "What? You want company…" I pointed out some sap sitting at the other end of the bar. "Why don't you go shake your shit over there." I pointed out another random guy. "Or there." Then another random. "Or over there. You got your pick."

Ignoring my suggestion, she frowned with frustration. "What goes on with you, Edward Cullen?"

"Everyone keeps asking about me – I'm tired of me." I said more to myself than her.

"Let me tell you about me then." She smiles. "I'm pregnant."

I quirk an eyebrow in her direction. "And?" Before that pie hole starts up again I continue. "I don't know what the fuck you're telling me for. It ain't mine."

100% straight it's not mine.

When we started fucking, I personally took Tanya to the doctor for two very specific reasons.

The first, a clean bill of health – although I never, would never, tap that shit raw.

The second, for the pill.

My back up insurance policy.

She frowned. "Don't put words in my mouth." She complained. I used to put a whole lot more in her mouth and she's gonna protest about some fuckin words.

She glanced up to the left. "I wanted to talk to you about something." She sounded nervous now – a stark contrast to her usual self.

"We don't got nothing to talk about." Wanting to be alone, I move to get up.

"Wait –" She removed the hand she set on my shoulder before I had to smack it off again. "just let me - or just give me two minutes. It's more business related than anything else."

Again I had to laugh. "A proposition requires you having something of interest – something I would want. So I'll repeat myself – we don't got nothing to talk about." I wondered what her angle was but wasn't curious enough to open this door. Tanya wasn't my problem.

"If now isn't a good time – maybe another place? Please – just to hear me out." Her pleading wasn't going to change my mind.

"Looks like you'll be a fantastic mother." I nod towards her drink.

"This? It's only water." She swished the liquid around in her glass. "You know for appearances."

Enough of this bull shit. "Good for you, Tanya." Leaving a bill on the counter, I cash myself out. "Congratulations or whatever." I finish my drink in two gulps slam the glass down and leave Tanya sitting on the stool alone.

I found Emmett and told him I was out.

He could do whatever the fuck he wanted.

My right eye popped open with the fumbling in the bathroom.

It took a minute to remember I crashed at Emmett's.

It's a side place he keeps to bring his girlfriends.

Rose has no idea he has this pad.

If Rose were to find out so would her father, Robert.

Emmett would be parting ways with his cushy desk job and five digit payroll checks faster than he can unwrap his next sandwich.

Emmett's couch is lumpy and my back is killing me. I stretched out and pulled out the small metallic purse I apparently had been laying on all night, toss it on the glass table and roll over on my back.

Too fucking tired to pull the blinds closed, I rest my arm over my eyes to block the too bright sun streaming in.

My eyes take their time focusing – adjusting to the brightness.

Three feet from the table is a woman's high heal shoe.

What the fuck?

No sign of a second shoe.

This is not coming back to me.

I can count on my right hand the times I've partied with blackout effects in the morning.

On the table is a single shot glass.

Now that I recognized.

On the floor is an empty fifth of whiskey.

That I also recognized.

There was a lot of drinking done last night.

The bathroom opened and with steps that were not so quiet, but too light to be Emmett's big clubs, found their way to the kitchen and turned on the radio.

"Oh! Turn that shit off." My voice was gravely from sleep – or at this point lack of.

"I didn't mean to wake you." She sang back. It was too mother fucking chirpy. "Not a morning person?" She wasn't going to get an answer – I was trying to figure out who the fuck this was.

"I see. Okay, that's cool. I'll just be like a mouse in here, you won't even know I'm here." At least she was whispering now.

More fumbling around. Things – cups maybe clanking around.

"This is your idea of quiet?" I still didn't look at her.

"Right – yeah, shhhh." She spoke to herself – I'd guess. "I'm just looking for –"

"The way out?" Without looking I pointed towards the door. "It's over there."

"No – " She laughed. "I know that – but first is there coffee?"

"As long as it's to go." Cabinets were being opened then shut.

"Oh, my God….I am desperately in need. It's my morning go-go juice – without it I'm like a zombie by noon." She whined on.

"Top left." I instructed to get her ass moving. At least that was where it was the last time I saw it.

"Ah-ha, there you are." I think she was talking to the dishware now. "Yup – you're good." I assume that was directed at me but I didn't respond, instead I rolled over on the couch and played dead. Which truthfully isn't all that hard. I feel like I've been awake for weeks and my mouth felt like it had sandpaper lining.

She whispered, "Thanks by the way."

I said nothing.

"Hey?" She waited for a response but all she got was an annoyed groan as I stared at the ceiling. "Do you know if there's any sugar?"

"No. You done yet?" I yank out the pillow I was trying to sleep on and put it over my head. It's not enough to block out the annoying talk.

"Oh, ok sorry. That's okay. Go back to sleep."

My eyes barely had time to shut before she was talking again. "Wait is that a no, you don't know or a no, no sugar?"

"I don't fucking know." I say into the pillow slowly enunciating each word.

"Okay – no problem. I'll look."

My brain is still trying to process what the hell happened last night.

"Here – when you're ready. You're probably gonna need it. Actually, after last night, I know you are." I heard her set a coffee down and shake a bottle of aspirins. "Ok, gotta go."

Again my eyes just barely closed only to pop back open again.

"Oh, wait! Just so you know there's sugar in the same cabinet. You know just in case-"

I couldn't care less.

"Lock the door after you leave." I instructed.

"Yeah – ok. It's locked."

I heard the lock click, the door finally closed and it was quiet.

I stomped over to the door and chained it. I moved quick despite my pounding skull.

Squeezing my eyes shut tight, I squeezed my temples while I tried to drum up last night.

My thoughts are hazy - I remember Emmett and the chicks he was with. I reached for the aspirins sitting on the table and take four or five dry. Tanya was there. Beyond that I was just driving. Aimless at first – but ended up driving to Bella's.

She is always my worst distraction.

Even when I'm trying not to think about her – she still has that pull.

'We just swapped one hell for another' – these were Carlisle's first words about Bella. Not her per say – he didn't have anything against her personally.

'And even in hell an angel sometimes makes an appearance,' I thought as her petite silhouette pranced across the small living room.

I remembered her apartment lights were on – dim, like a warm glow and it surprised me when her door opened.

It was late – or really early depending on how you looked at it.

Sitting at the end of her block, I watched in the darkness as she sat on the ledge looking up at the sky. Like a pussy I tilted my own head to see what the fuck was so interesting up there.

The sky, all its stars they got nothing compared to the long dark curls falling over her creamy skin.

That skin that smells like vanilla.

It was easy to see her as she sat on the second story ledge right underneath a yellow light.

She pulled her knees to her chin and wrapped her arms around her legs.

Her tight stretchy pants and a tank in bright blue – Christ she will be my end.

All in all not a bad way to go.

At some point she must have gotten cold because she went in – I was surprised when she reappeared, this time wearing a hoodie.

I stayed until she went in for good but I don't remember coming back to Emmett's - actually driving away from Bella's.

That was all I could piece together. Just fragments of one long fucking night.

I squeezed my temples again to relieve the pressure building then rubbed my hand over my hair.

I needed a fucking shower.

Behind me another door opened - the bedroom door. Emmett came in and tilted the blinds, blocking out some of the light.

Emmett.

That explained a lot. "Who else you got back in there?" I wondered how many others were going to be parading through here this morning.

"You don't look so good." He laughed. "Bad dreams?"

Yawning, I rubbed my eyes with the back of my hand. "Yeah." Blinking against the light, I conjured up pieces of my dream. "Real trippy shit." Bella was in it but she turned into a white fucking rabbit and shot down some hole in the ground. I tried to follow her but she kept disappearing down deeper holes. I tried to follow but the ground melted beneath me, holding me in place in some sticky goop that smelled like strawberries. It was like some sort of marshmallow, I don't know, it was fucking weird. She's fucking hopping down rabbit holes and I can't get to her. I'm stuck - sunk to the knees in fucking peeps. The whole fucking time there's this moon, that's really an old pocket watch. Time is moving backwards. Like a countdown to something and at some point I needed my gun and pulled out a half-eaten carrot.

"You shouldn't lie around with your eyes closed." He wagged his eyebrows. "That's when they get you."

This would be his way of telling me Marcus thinks I'm losing it. And who knows – maybe he'd be right.

I raised my middle finger. "Fuck you."

Emmett, like me, was in the same clothes he'd worn out last night. Like me, he also smelled of booze. I still had liquor in me, but I was sober now.

Too deadly fucking sober.

"Your friends from last night-" I wondered where the rest of that party crashed.

"Weren't for you – with you, if that's what you're asking." A sense of relief flooded through my tired body. "You should know though, you're disappearing act made one very disappointed dame."

I pointed to the door. "That her?"

"Naw – she went home early, not very happily either. Her friend went with her." He looked pointedly at me. "Thanks for that by the way."

Although there have been opportunities, since Bella, I haven't wanted anyone else. At first it was like a bet I had with myself – a test to see how long I could go. It was a challenge and I was curious myself to see how long I could hold out.

Like I said, there have been opportunities along the way but I don't even look any more.

It's not a conscious thing – its more lack of interest.

"There's one less complication." I said offhandedly but feeling a fucking sense of relief.

"Ahhh." Emmett nodded. "You ever think that maybe this – whatever it is you have for this broad is because you're the same? You know the two of you?" HE tapped his temple. Think about it."

Emmett had mentioned this before. And no, I hadn't put much thought into that at all. I don't put much stock into anything Emmett thinks. This time I filed it away to think about at a later time. "Do you always talk so much in the morning?" I closed my eyes. "It's too fucking early."

My eyes popped open when the pillow Emmett launched landed on my head. "You're a real dick, you know that?"

I whipped the pillow across the room and spoke towards the ceiling. "And you're a real pussy." Emmett was headed towards the back room as I added. "You throw like one, too."

He raised his middle finger.

That was three fucking days ago.

I think.

The days seem to blend together.

I hadn't slept in my own bed in days.

Her scent – it was all over my sheets and it drove me crazy.

Staying at Emmett's side place didn't help.

Kicking Emmett's ass however, proved to be some good therapy.

"What's this?" Jake asked Emmett and motioned around his eye. Jake was referring to the black circle around Emmett's eye.

I laughed. "He's nursing a beating I gave him."

Although, I didn't find it so fucking funny 24 hours ago. Finding Bella's work apron at Emmett's was the icing on the fucking cake.

Beating his ass came first – questions came later.

Emmett rubbed his jaw. "It was a misunderstanding is all." He looked over at me pointedly. "We're good."

Jake kicked back on the corner chair, joining me and Emmett in watching the morning news. He was quiet. Too quiet. Watching the TV but not really listening. "Hey, what's with you?" I asked Jake.

"Nothing." He shifted in his chair, leaning forward and changed the subject. "I went down to Western to make collections. Turns out Bobby the Boxer paid our joints a visit."

"Bobby the Boxer? Fuck that pussy! Have the store's owner tell him they're spoken for. That should take care of it. The rest isn't any of his business." Other crew's trying to capitalize on another's turf wasn't permitted by The Outfit, but there were those who tried any way. Among other various disputes, this was the purpose of many sit downs.

Jake nodded. "Yeah, that's pretty much what was said. Just giving you the heads up."

"If he keeps up then Demetri can go set Bobby straight." I say, my tone dismissive.

"Awe Jesus! Speaking of heads up - Bella mentioned that Tori was looking for Tyler." Emmett said all at once.

Although I wasn't worried, I was curious. "So why didn't you say something before now?"

"Maybe you don't know but it's not so easy to have a conversation while being used as a punching bag."

"Good point." I smile reliving the beat down Emmett got. "Touché. So what'd you say?"

"Nothing – said he went home to Detroit. Things weren't working out for him and he moved on to something else."

I nodded – Detroit was a good explanation and I would have told her the same. "She wants him so bad, she'd better get herself a shovel." I laughed at my own joke.

"Like I told you – loose ends." Jake pointed out for a second time.

"Should you – " Emmett hedged.

I shook my head. "She's not a problem."

"Mark my words - she's gonna be." Jake countered.

I tap out a smoke and put it to my lips. "I can probably count on one hand how many times that girl sat on his dick – "

"If that." Jake agreed.

"She isn't going to be a problem." I continued, talking around my unlit smoke. "By next week she'll figure she's been played, start screwing someone else – move on. Outta sight -" I shrug and lit my smoke.

Jake shook his head, disagreeing. "You're thinking about it wrong." Jake tapped his temple. "He hasn't had time to be the fuck up yet. It's still all like Gone With The Wind and shit – that's gonna pull on the heart." He made a fist and bumped his chest for emphasis. "For all she knows she just lost her one and only prince charming."

I raised my arms up and spoke to the ceiling. "What the fuck am I listening to?"

"What I'm gettin' at here is that he was still Casa-fucking-nova in her eyes and she ain't gonna just let that shit go."

I caught Emmett's eye and based on that look we were thinking the same fucking thing.

"The fuck?" I felt like I was in some alternate plane with this shit. "You're serious right now?"

"Truth." Jake said with a straight face.

"You watch too much of that Life Time Movie shit. Gone With the Wind." I took a drag then added, "Should we have said a eulogy for the fucker too? Maybe leave him a nice bouquet?" This was bull shit. "Yeah, that mother fucker's gone with the fucking wind and she better get over it as fast as she got under it."

"She's a liability, E – and you know Carlisle would agree. " Jake is probably the only one who can get away with challenging me. But he also does what he's told.

"No – a liability is having another missing body – another fucking corpse rotting somewhere. One body goes missing in the city – nobody gives a damn. Two go missing and you got a crime scene on your hands."

"So what then? What do you want us to do?" Jake asked.

"Nothing." I took a drag then amended. "But if it makes you feel better, keep an eye out, she starts getting squirrely – well things have a way of changing."

In addition to airport security tightening due to terror threats being top news the other highlights included 82 different shootings this weekend alone – fourteen of those shootings were fatal.

With unorganized crime on the rise, the city was a hot mess. A body an hour between the early evening hours of Friday night to the early hours of Saturday. With the city's budget cuts and reduced man power, Tyler would not be on the top of any investigations.

They had enough on their hands. Too many innocent kids, mothers, grandmothers getting caught in drive by shootings and cross fires.

Now all the sudden the girlfriend goes missing, too? Well that changes things.

What hasn't changed though, was my new daily routine.

Emmett left and Jake and I had a few beers at the bar as usual.

Jake was watching the girls but his mind was elsewhere.

I took the seat next to Jake, ignoring the drink he already had, and set down a couple of beers. "Where you at today?" My tone was light.

Jake twisted off the cap and took a sip. "Let me ask you something?"

I took a sip of my own drink. "Yeah – ok."

Jake nodded and took another drink before answering. "When a girl gets dressed up for you – does it ever leave a bad taste in your mouth?" He looked back towards the girls on the floor.

I arched my eyebrow through the puzzled strain in my forehead and let out an amused chuckle. "You mean her mouth? That's sorta the point, right?"

Realizing he set himself up to be the butt of a pretty damn good joke, Jake's head dropped as he smiled toward the ice left in his glass. "I walked right into that shit." Jake threw up two fingers signaling for another drink.

I wasn't sure where the fuck this is going but wasn't opposed to the chance for a good fucking laugh. "Yeah, ok so dressed up? How?"

"Skimpy underwear, shit with lace- " Jake explained.

"That shit bothers you? Why?" I laughed. "Are her panties prettier than yours?"

"Forget it." He turned to watch the girls on the stage.

Usually Jake is a good sport – this just proved it was something heavier he had on his mind. "Ok, ok – I'm just fucking with you. What about it?"

"The other night we're at her place-" He began still watching the stage.

I interrupted. "You and Gianna?"

"Yeah. We're on the couch, it's getting pretty hot and she stops. She gets up to go to the bathroom and when she comes back she's wearing these lacy see through things."

Following along, I nod as Jake continues.

"And yeah, she's fucking sexy and hot and I'm like this…" Jake made a fist and flexed his muscle. "…but a part of me is just sitting there wondering who's been to this show before me?" Jake took a sip from his bottle.

"And?" I waited for the punch line.

"And nothing - I just left." He said matter of factly.

My index finger wiggled in my ear. "I don't think I heard you right? You left?"

"Yeah, I left. Told her I got a call when she was in the bathroom and something came up."

"Let's recap – just to make sure I got this. You're telling me you got a naked broad in front of you and all you're thinking about is other dudes doing her?" I shook my head in disbelief. At that point the only thing on my mind would be how fast I can get that shit off.

"Fucked up isn't it?" Jake labeled that correctly.

Not that I don't have my own 20 shades going on as of late.

I took a minute to think about this one. Tried to see Jake's point but it all boiled down the same way. "She should have pointed out your clothes and asked, "How many others have seen you being an asshole?"

"Yeah, she'd be within her right." Jake rubbed his forehead and opened one of the beers I set down.

I shrugged. "It bothers you so much open up your wallet - take her shopping. Buy her some new shit. Then you don't got to sit there wondering – you know it's fresh. It's a win-win for all parties."

"I haven't called her since." Jake confided.

I shrugged. "If you're not into her, you're not into her, man. Don't think you got to keep it up for me."

Jake nodded. "We'll see."

We threw back a few more then at the end of the day, I went back to Emmett's crib to pass out.

Alone.

I went to bed and didn't bother to set the alarm on my phone.

I slept till after noon sometime, took a shower and headed over to see Marcus and Carlisle.

Marcus was sitting at his usual table near the back.

At least he picked a decent place to eat. A diner on Harlem Ave. that has an all-day breakfast selection – just what I needed.

I was fucking starving.

"What have you been doing? I call, you don't answer, you don't call back – nobody sees you anymore. Last time Carlisle sees you, you up and leave – no explanation, nothing." He starts in before I even sit down.

I pull the chair out and sit my ass down so we're eye level. "Don't fucking quiz me." I bit back.

"Leaving Carlisle like that makes him a target. That could have been a bad situation for all of us." He lectures as he lays out a napkin over his lap.

"Carlisle was fine." I look Marcus in the eye. "Demetri was in the car, Laurent was sitting in the back – he was covered."

Marcus frowned. "What's the matter with you?"

"What?" I ask, my tone light now.

Marcus gestured toward me with the back of his hand. "You look like a bum." He paused to take in my appearance. I didn't shave. I threw on track pants and a fucking baseball cap. He reaches over and takes off my hat and tosses it on the table. "A bum."

A stark difference from Marcus's crisp button down shirt, dress slacks and fresh manicure.

My hand runs through the back of my hair and I offhandedly decide I need a haircut. "That's nice, real nice. No hello, Edward. Nice to see you, Edward. Glad to know you're still this side of the grass?" I put my hat back on.

"Ok, you want pleasantries - have it your way. Nice to finally see you. Here." He handed me a menu. "You hungry?"

I swiped it out of Marcus's hands and set it down off to the side. I already knew what I wanted. "Where's Carlisle?" Carlisle never misses these meetings – any meeting for that matter.

"He had a doctor's appointment." He rolled his eyes. "Esme made it – insisted he go."

This was news.

"What's he going in for?" Carlisle usually avoided Doctors at all costs.

"It's just a checkup. Nothing serious." He explained.

I nodded.

"You know our little friend made a real fucking mess with that stunt." He was talking about Mike. "Who does he think he is – Mr. Big Shot."

"I took care of it. One and done." I keep my voice low.

Jake sold off the shit Mike gifted himself plus whatever crap he thought could pull in a few bucks – which truthfully wasn't much. It wasn't much but it got the job done just the same.

Jake also sold Mike's car to the chop shop, a fact I kept to myself. We got the money back, plus some.

I split the extra with Jake 50-50.

Mike actually had a decent ride.

"And this cousin…" Marcus waved his hand in the air. "…with the truck?"

"Like I said – we closed that chapter. Demetri was on it." Demetri created a car accident for the cousin. A fatal accident that took the cousin and the truck out.

Marcus stirred sugar into his coffee then tapped his spoon on the rim before setting it neatly to the side. "Have you called Esme back?" .

"I think we just covered that. Why?" As I asked I wondered what now?

"Yeah – things are fine. Accept, you know, I just told you Carlisle is going to the doctor."

"Esme called several times – I didn't have a chance to call back yet."

"She was just wondering…" He hedged. "You're girlfriend- the one with the little one." He says this like I have more than one girlfriend.

Let him think what he wants.

"Bella?" There was that tightness in my chest again – like a dull ache. "What about her?" I asked rubbing my chest and wondering where this conversation was going.

Marcus eyed up my hand. "What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing – I'm just fucking hungry." Truthfully, I don't know what the fuck it is. Last couple of days, every now and again it's there.

Marcus continued. "Esme - she likes her a lot. She wanted to invite her over – out for lunch, shopping. She said she mentioned this to you before. She was calling you to arrange something like that. To make sure it was ok with you first."

I nodded. "She went to her friend's sister's to help with her wedding." My tone was indifferent as I lied. "She's gone for the week…" I thought about that, then added, "…maybe longer - way out in the southern burbs."

Fact was she was at home not more than a half hour away from here.

Jake was assigned Bella duty for the time being.

He was instructed to keep an eye out but at a distance.

The other day, Bella didn't show up for work at the coffee shop but it didn't take Jake long to find out she had been working at Jessica's salon.

The time between that call from Jake saying Bella was a no show and the time he figured out where she was couldn't have been more than a half hour – forty five minutes at the most.

Longest fucking minutes of my life.

I even left in the middle of a sit down with Carlisle and the Volturi family to take a ride out to Bella's just to make sure everything was ok.

Nobody was home. There were too many people out front to jimmy the lock open, so I let myself in through the unlocked window in the back.

It pissed me off that the window was still kept unlocked.

Everything was mostly in its place – which is actually out of place.

It was always clean, there was no question there.

Just mad clutter – magazines a mile high - stacked on a table, mail spread out all over the counter, toys spilling over in the corner, movies piled underneath the picture window they went all the way up to the frame.

I smiled to myself thinking about the last movie I saw with Bella. She wanted to see some scary movie but then spent the entire time peeking through her fingers. If she could have crawled up in my shirt with me, I have no doubt she would have. I didn't mind. I always want Bella close.

In the end neither one of us ended up seeing that movie.

The one thing that did stick out was a black picture frame she kept on the table next to her bed.

It had been turned face down.

It was a picture of me and that fucking hurt.

It left a knot in my chest.

Like an afterthought, it was just turned down.

Out of sight out of mind.

"Emmett thought you two had a disagreement." He asks with curiosity and brings me out of my own thoughts.

Disagreement was an understatement.

I was a flat out prick.

I was fucking ashamed of my behavior. Had Emmett known what actually transpired – he'd fuckin lay me out. Which, when you consider that it's Emmett, is pretty ironic.

Actually Jake would, too.

I made a mental list of people who'd want to take a swing at me and it was pretty long.

I'd probably let them, too. I fucking deserved a pounding.

I don't know why it amazed me that so many people – my family included were so taken with Bella.

Bella was sweet to Carlisle and Esme. Courteous to Nona. Playful with the baby. Witty with Jake and Emmett. And fucking amazing in bed.

There were so many faces of Bella and I loved them all.

That thought replayed in my head.

I loved her.

I fucking loved her.

She exploded onto my scene like a fucking supernova - bright lights, shooting stars and shiny shit all over the place and now any time she's not near me it creates a fucking gaping black hole in my chest.

"There was an incident." I admitted not wanting to divulge more and feeling fucking sick thinking about it. Bella didn't deserve the embarrassment of people knowing our business. "Something happened – she's pissed and rightfully so."

"With woman – noting is that simple." He advises – knowing it's deeper than what I let on. "I'm gonna tell you something. You do with it what you like – take it how you see fit." He folded his hands on the table. "Persistence. That's the key."

I look over at Marcus. "Persistence?"

He points his index finger at me as he repeats his words looking me in the eye. "Persistence. You want a dictionary?"

"I think I can keep up." I wasn't in the mood for Marcus or his stories. He talks all kinds of shit. Usually the same shit he's already told over and over again.

"I'm gonna tell you a story and you're gonna sit and for once you're gonna listen." He reached to yank on my ear but I pulled back.

"Get the fuck outta here." I swatted his hand.

All of his stories start this way.

I indicated with my hand that he should proceed.

"It's a true story – so listen good." His dark eyes twinkled - Marcus lived for telling stories.

"You gonna quiz me at the end?"

"Don't be a smart ass. There's a moral, I already told you."

I laughed. "A moral – yeah, got it. Okay go." I instructed without any real interest.

He shook his head knowing I could give a shit but began anyway. "There was this girl – ironically a waitress but she didn't work at a coffee shop - worked at a club down town. More like a lounge – it's been out of business for a long time now. But it was a nice place to go – respectable. They had live shows every weekend, all the top artists of the time. I'd sit in her section, listen to the music - only order drinks from her. She'd switch sections, I'd switch tables."

This reminded me of the days before I really knew Bella. Then she was just hot girl who I wanted a piece of.

It used to piss me off when I'd come in. She'd see me come in, I knew she'd seen me and yet she wouldn't even look at me – like I was a nobody.

All the sudden she's too busy with cleaning glass that was already crystal or filling display cases that were already packed full and ready to topple over.

But let me tell you, that perfect ass swaying back in forth – in perfect rhythm.

Fucking torture.

I'd be rock hard sitting there. And all the while she's prancing here and there – all over the place. Smiling nice and being friendly, greeting everyone else that comes in.

Everyone but me.

Now, thinking back about her antics, this is humorous to me and I even laugh about it.

Marcus frowns and looks confused. "What's funny?"

"Nothing – I'm listening. Waitress – lounge – entertainment – different sections."

Marcus said nothing - our waitress came just then, interrupting Marcus's story hour and my trip down memory lane.

He ordered a sandwich.

I ordered breakfast. Four eggs – scrambled hard, Greek toast and I couldn't decide between the sausage and the bacon, so I ordered them both plus a short stack of pancakes.

"Persistence. You see what I'm getting at – what I'm saying?" He lifted his left hand to show off his wedding ring.

"Not too long ago, you got nothing nice to say. Now you're sitting here, like nothing was ever wrong talking to me about getting married. What the fuck's wrong with this?" Still irked with Emmett's morning jabber, I looked around the restaurant at no one particular. "I'm surrounded by crazies."

"You know I tell you things – things like this because you're like a son to me. It's important to – I don't know…" He looked off to the right to get his words. "share things – experiences. It's what people do – help others get their head screwed on straight. Put them on the right track."

I looked up and quirked an eyebrow. "Noted." Marcus talks shit. His first love is money, plain and simple. He'd put a bullet in his own mother's head if he thought he'd make a buck.

Our food was delivered and I shoveled it in like I hadn't eaten in weeks.

We left the diner and I spotted him instantly.

James.

My eyes instantly locked on to him like a rabid dog. I could feel the blood in my veins turn hot like fucking lava and at that moment I realized how bad I wanted this cock sucker to suffer. I kept reminding myself that I would have my chance soon. This was the one pleasant fucking thought that kept me from gutting his worthless ass right here.

He was out of uniform and leaning against the building.

Marcus's eyes squinted as he followed my line of vision. "What's this cock sucker want?" He asked as we crossed the street.

"Definitely not what's coming down." I answered truthfully.

"This is becoming a gigantic fucking stinkworks." Marcus grumbled through clenched teeth.

"He's a complication." I conceded using my words to mute the blinding furry that was roaring just below the surface. "A temporary one."

Marcus shook his head and talked low out of the side of his mouth. "You are one stubborn son of a bitch."

We walked towards James as I reached for the inside pocket of my jacket – my movements were slow, purposefully exaggerated for my audience.

Unsure of my intentions, James stiffened for a second, flinching then straightened – standing tall now. "You point that at me – you'd better pull the trigger." He baited.

That was fucking amusing as hell.

Highlight of my shitty fucking day.

I laughed and held both hands up for him to see, before making a big show of pulling my cigarettes out nice and slow from my inside pocket. "Relax – you're a little jumpy. D'ju see you shadow?" I held the pack out so he could get a good look. "See? It's all good."

James watched me carefully, still leery of my intentions. I tapped a smoke out and put it to my lips. "Nah, I'm not gonna shoot you –" I stood facing him with a big fucking grin. I lit my smoke and took a deep drag. I took my time exhaling. "Too fucking messy." I reasoned as I walked away, Marcus laughing under his breath.

We walked a few steps when I came to a fast stop - I wasn't done yet.

Marcus put out his arm, resting the back of his hand on my chest. "Hey, don't – not like this, not here. Have some sense." Marcus looked around at the pedestrians. "Come on - let's go." Marcus grabbed my arm and gave a firm tug wanting to avoid a public confrontation. He was right to want to keep our affairs private but I wasn't going to make a scene.

I was calm – only because I knew I was going to get the chance to make this pig fucking squeal. Just not yet.

I whipped around turning on my heel to head back. I took great pleasure in seeing James's face drop. Marcus gripped my arm tighter and whispered quiet in my ear, "You don't want to do this."

I jerked my arm back and smiled big before stepping away from Marcus and closer to James. James stiffened when I leaned in to talk in his ear all the while smiling, "I ain't gonna shoot you. I'm gonna stick a knife between your ribs – " I let that sink in before continuing so low only he could hear me. "…slice you so deep, you'll be dead before you cry out." I kept it short and to the point.

Standing this close, out of ear shot from random gawkers, it was easy being direct and truthful.

James eyed me up before responding. "Guys like you – you always got the loudest threats. But you know what I think – weak."

"When you're bleeding out like a pig, we'll revisit that one." I promised turning away and not looking back.

Marcus shook his head in disapproval. "How many times are you gonna spit in this cock sucker's face?"

"He knows me – so what? I'm not gonna sit in the dark like I'm some fucking pussy." And for the record, back in the day, Marcus wouldn't either.

Marcus looked over his shoulder as he continued to complain. "You don't need to antagonize him – he's like a fucking fly on a hot day. Relentless."

"He won't be bothering anybody too much longer." James was on countdown now.

"You better know what you're doing." He wagged his index finger at me.

"I'd be willing to bet you know that I do." Marcus knew I was referring to the two hits I made for him early on in my career. These were the jobs that earned me my buttons.

He came to me because he knew I wouldn't fuck it up and it would never come back to haunt him.

And it never did.

I'm thorough.

You make a hit, the first thing you do is get rid of the weapon.

Once the weapon is out of your hands and can't be traced back to you, it's impossible to get pinned with a crime.

No weapon – no murder rap.

I break down the gun I use for the job. I got a guy who owns a machine shop – he takes it and melts it down. On a few occasions, I've flipped them into the compressor at the junk yard.

Once the barrel is destroyed it's impossible to match a bullet to the gun.

Marcus had no worries.

I did have a plan that was changing as we speak.

Marcus, like Carlisle, would never want the details or to know too much – just in case. He just wanted an assurance. My lack of appearance the last few days had him sweating.

"I know I've said this before, but you, your mind – it never ceases to amaze me. Your ability I mean, to make important decisions very quickly – and almost always make the right one." He emphasized the word 'almost'.

Marcus was giving me the go ahead to take care of James as I see fit but with a subtle reminder that if it came back to bite me in the ass, I was on my own. "Everything they got nowadays – nobody gets away with nothing no more. You remember, you were just a kid, but you remember how I always wore a jacket with a hood." Back in Marcus's day cops would look for hairs for forensic evidence. Today it's everything.

I nodded remembering seeing both Carlisle and Marcus with hoods. "And a hat." I added.

"That's was to keep loose hairs from falling. When you pull your hood off, your head was still covered. Remember what I used to do? Remember? I'd wash my hair before I'd go any place? So nothing, there'd be no loose hair."

I listened letting Marcus relive the 'old days' – something he never tires talking about then, "Whatever the world's first whore was laying – I bet she was also laying odds that she wouldn't get caught. Gambling is America's favorite past time – even my grandmother plays the numbers so, if I were you I'd take those odds." I thought about the payout that would be coming soon – in fact sooner than originally planned and added. "They're in our favor – your favor."

That was my assurance to Marcus.

Marcus turned to face me, resting his palm on my shoulder. "You were very young and you learned how to remove problems. I saw it – how your mind works. Didn't matter - every problem – be it mathematical, human, whatever, we'll leave it at that for now."

We left in separate vehicles.

Before calling my crew together, I had stopped for that haircut and to see Bella.

There were things I had to talk to her about – explanations and atonements to be made.

I don't know how she missed my name on the books but the look on her face was priceless.

I expected her to be pissed but I didn't expect the tears – or how they tore up my chest.

I considered myself lucky she agreed to see me later that night and as much as I wanted to kidnap her and have her to myself right then, I kept myself in check.

Control is something I have very little of when it comes to Bella.

It wasn't easy walking away from Bella but I let her be and went on to meet my crew back at my office.

It was a safe place to discuss business issues.

I have a guy I keep on payroll to come out every few days to do a scan for wires.

I sat back in my chair somewhat disengaged from the conversations. My own thoughts were everywhere and the image of Bella crying still pricked at my heart and I couldn't turn it off.

"Man this is going to be beautiful. By this time next week we're gonna be millionaires." Laurent said as he kicked back in a chair.

"First thing I'm gonna do is buy a stingray." Riley announced.

Nicky rubbed his palms together. "I'm going take a vacation – it's been a long time coming. To Italy – you ever fuck an Italian woman?" Nicky smacked his lips. "Best fuck there is."

"The only thing on your mind should be the score. Nothing else. Not the women. Not the cars. Not money. The score." My crew was good at what they did. The reminder wasn't necessary for them but I threw it out there just the same.

"Aw come on – we can dream a little." Riley answered. "Besides, we got it down."

His cavalier attitude irritated me. "Oh, yeah? You think so? No score is easy. You get careless, we all go down. I don't want anybody walking in there with that kind of cocky attitude. Understand?"

"Yeah. I mean – yes, I know. I mean I understand." Riley stuttered.

"Something else – we get pinched because one of you jerk offs did something dumb. I'll kill you myself." It was important Riley knew the truth.

"The property clerk is just a civilian." Riley added.

"Come again?" I asked wondering where Riley was getting his information.

"I've been doing my homework. They got no more training than a fucking janitor. Fuckin' easy as ABC."

"And this is a fact?" I questioned.

"Stone cold truth." Riley confirmed.

I nodded. "Mind telling me how you came about this piece of information?" The property clerk was never a concern. But it did make me wonder how Riley became enlightened so suddenly.

"You said don't talk to anyone. I didn't." He repeated the directions I gave him.

"Best way to get yourself pinched is running the mouth. You don't tell nobody nothing – take it to the grave." Nicky's advice was sound.

"If I find you're trying to set me up – I'll have your ass in a paper bag." I warned with every intention of falling through on that promise.

Riley's eyes widened. "Fuck, I'm not stupid. I want this bad – I need this to work out." He was half referring to his pay out once we whack the cash and half referring to being on my crew.

"I asked you a question." My tone serious.

"I bumped…" He made air quotes. "…into the guy while he was at lunch. He goes to a diner on 16th Street – every fuckin Tuesday. Anyway, I saw his tag – you know he wears it around his neck. You can pretty much find out anything you need about anyone with just a first and last name."

Riley was too eager – too new.

Ordinarily the new guys are expendable.

They're easily used for high risk jobs.

If the job goes south – well it's bye-bye birdie.

It's a push.

Nothing gained – nothing lost.

Riley was right, though.

For reasons of my own, I did want this, too.

I wasn't going to chance things getting fucked up.

Odds were good the clerk would recognize Riley on the spot. "You're not going in."

"But I-"

Riley needed to learn the chain of command. "That's final."

"I think I would be better in there with you. I could help." Riley looked to Nicky. "Tell him. Tell him I can do this."

Nicky had Riley out with him on a couple of small jobs – breaking him in so to speak. Riley wanted him to vouch for him.

Nicky said he did fine out there but he wouldn't go against my final word.

Nicky shook his head and looked to Riley. "Skip's boss."

I nodded agreeing with Nicky. "This is not a fucking democracy. You'll be with Laurent –"

I looked over at Laurent. "You - you keep an eye in him." That was just in case Riley did try to pull some shit.

"He's not going to escape. I'll dog him all the way to prison." Laurent winked at Riley.

Riley's brows furrowed while he looked at Laurent but talked to me. "This is full proof. Nobody's gonna go to prison." Riley assured.

Nicky laughed. "Famous last words."

I could appreciate Riley's attention to particulars and his resourceful efforts to hack out the details. He showed potential. "For the future," I let that sit there a minute, letting him know he had one for the time being. "you get a bright idea, you come to me first so I can tell you it ain't so bright. You got questions – need some clarifications, you come to me. That's how all this…" My fingers circled in the air. "works."

"Yeah, that's cool." He said agreeably.

"I tell you to do something – you tell me you did it yesterday."

"Not a problem." He answered looking back at me.

I nodded satisfied with his response and added. "And know - nothing is ever full proof."

There was a knock at the door.

I reached for my rubber band ball. "Yeah." I called out.

Squirrel let himself in. "Oh, hey Skip. I don't mean to interrupt nothing."

"Everything ok out there?" I asked.

"We got a small situation. I'm uh just looking for…" He squinted as he scanned my small office and pointed to Jake. "…you."

Squirrel watched the front counter during the day. He mostly answered phones and cashed people out.

Surprised, Jake raised his eyebrows as he looked up. "What's up?"

Squirrel smiled big as he lowered his gravelly voice. "Got a broad out here looking for you." He crooked his thumb over his shoulder. "Got her waiting over by the bar with Mongo." Mongo was the bouncer on duty.

Squirrel wriggled his fingers in the air and made his eyes big and round. "She's in a little bit of a tizzy. Mongo didn't really help – he wanted her ID, I think she's insulted." His thumb and index finger measured out an inch. "A little bit, she's insulted a little bit. Seems she felt we should've known who she was. We're sorry…" Squirrel looked to me his tone apologetic. "..you know Skip's rules and all."

I was pleased that Mongo was strictly adhering to the rule. Recently the city has cracked down on underage drinking and the penalties for establishments serving minors is severe.

Everyone who comes in gets carded. I don't give a fuck who they are. I don't need the troubles of serving minors.

Curious now I set my rubber band ball aside and flipped on the camera monitors.

"What the fuck?" Jake mumbled low as he looked over my shoulder at Gianna looking uncomfortable as she sat at the bar with her arms folded – looking at everything and anything just to avoid the girls on the floor.

Squirrel shrugged. "What? You want I should tell her you're not here?"

"Nah, it's cool." Jake started to get up. "I'll be right there. I gotta take a piss first."

Nicky walked up to the monitors. "Hey, who is that?" He asked.

"Trouble." I answered with a chuckle as I threw my rubber band ball in the air then catching it.

"Hey – I gotta ask. Why you guys call him Squirrel anyway?" Riley wondered.

Laurent started laughing. Laughing myself, I whipped my rubber band ball at him. He folded in on himself catching it before it tagged his ribs.

"What?" Riley asked missing the inside joke.

"Mostly because he's always digging in his nuts." Nicky finally replied.

"That's-" Riley wasn't sure what to say. He hasn't been around long enough to know the pecking order.

"Fucking nasty." Laurent finished. "You can say it." He said over his shoulder as he walked up closer to the TV screen. "Check this out. Damn girl, let me holler at you." Laurent called out. "She is sweet." He appraised then moved to the window to continue gaping and giving us the play by play. "He offered up a smoke, she took it. That's a good sign - like a peace offering accepted." He looked back at the guys. "Right?"

"I thought he quit?" Nicky asked.

"Cigarettes – not fuckin pussy." I answered. Jake's philosophy is as long as he has smokes on hand he doesn't need 'em.

Frowning, Laurent managed to tear his eyes away from Gianna and looked over his shoulder to Nicky. "Fuck going overseas for broads. With women like that…." He gawked out the window again. "…damn she is fine. Hello, Good Ol' U.S. of fuckin A. – we got it all. Proud to be an American, baby!"

Nicky moved to the window, too. "I tried quitting smoking once. I smoked only when drinking coffee – turned out I was drinking twenty five cups a day. My nerves were like this – " He held his hand out and made like he had the shakes. "I keep that up and they'll put me in the whack shack."

"They may do that anyway." Laurent answered without looking away from the window. "Whoa!" Laurent laughed. "She's got a temper and our boy out there's got some good reflexes."

I moved to the window and caught Jake deflecting another swing. "Oh!"

Riley moved toward the window, too. "Damn, she's going off. What's our Jakey-boy do to make her panties wound so tight?"

"She's not too happy with the time Jake's been putting in." Gianna was less than pleased that Jake has been unavailable and the fact that he walked out on her I'm sure didn't help.

This life isn't a clock in clock out kind of job. It's 24/7. You get a call, doesn't matter what time – you go. End of story. It's not for everybody and sometimes I wonder if Bella really understands.

"I love a woman with fire in her eyes." Nicky looked back at me. "Seriously, why does she look familiar?"

"She's my employee - works at the restaurant –" I said expectantly waiting for that to ring a bell. When it didn't, I sat back down and added, "You know - the hostess." Nicky must have seen her a dozen or so times since he's been out. Each time he has to roll his tongue up as she escorts him to our table.

He snapped his fingers. "That's where I've seen her." He hummed in approval. "I didn't recognize her dressed so scantily." He wiggled his fingers and wagged his brows.

"You didn't recognize her cause you never look at her face." Laurent reminded him.

Nicky laughed. "That could be, too."

"You snooze, you lose, brother. Jake put in his claim." Missing my rubber band ball, I crumpled up a piece of paper and flung it at Nicky's head. "Now will the two of you get the fuck away from my window."

They left the window and we got back to business.

"All right – school's in." I looked to Riley as I began because this was more for his benefit. "In most law enforcement agencies, the property room has been low priority in terms of operations – specifically staffing. I'm sure you're aware of the city's budget issues." That's no fucking secret. City's crying poor at every turn.

"Right – like I said." Riley took the seat Jake vacated and leaned forward, listening intently.

Nicky added, "Typically you can expect a property room to be assigned employees of a couple of different types. First," He counted off on his index finger. "you got your disgruntled employees, your cops who have been restricted from carrying firearms and such. Then," He counted off on his middle finger. "you got your employees who are recovering alcoholics or have other mental type problems." He made the cuckoo sign. "This is at its best."

Riley was nodding along – listening, taking everything in.

Jake walked back in and reclaimed his seat. "Move it, man." Riley relocated back across the room without argument.

"Everything cool?" I asked Jake.

"Whatever - women are always on the fucking rag – bitching about one thing or the next." Jake recently came off a fairly long relationship. Ended up calling it quits because she'd get psycho every time he went out. He's had a few one night stands here and there but as far as I knew that was it.

"Those mouths are good for one thing and one thing only." Nicky threw in.

Jake laughed as he leaned back in his chair. "Naw, it's all good."

I checked my watch then continued where Laurent left off. "Some places – " I clarified, emphasizing 'some'. He needed to get his facts straight. "…like this particular place, staff the property room with civilian employees. Now these fuckers have had minimal, if any, background investigation prior to hiring. They are the lowest paid employees within the organization and these are the fuckers who are given unescorted access to everything in there - drugs, currency, firearms and whatever else they got locked up in there."

Riley nodded. "So it'll be easy to take. We can overpower them – they won't know what hit 'em."

"Easy there – even a monkey can pull a trigger." Jake jumped in and didn't miss a beat. "Plus they use 2-way radios and have a silent alarm – not to mention the cameras."

"So…we'll need to cut the wire, cut the connection?" Riley tried but got it wrong.

This is where the rest of the crew becomes informed with my plan. "We're gonna go about it a little bit differently, a little less orthodox. We walk in, only two of us as one of their own."

Riley immediately jumps in firing questions before I've even started. "We're gonna impersonate a cop? How's that gonna play? They're just gonna hand over large sums of money because we're cops?"

"Hey, he catches on fast." I said to Jake.

Nicky shook his head at Riley's impatience. "Di'ju know I got this friend…." Nicky shrugged. "more of an acquaintance of sorts." Nicky set his glass down on the table then quick picked it up and used his hand to wipe away the wet ring. "Sorry, Skip." He put a coaster underneath his glass. "So this guy I know, he used to rob banks."

Acquaintance would be code for one Nick Petone. I sat back and let Nick take a turn at smoothing out some of Riley's rough edges.

"He'd walk in the bank like a regular customer – waited in line calm like, took the next available teller just like everybody else. He didn't need a mask, no fucking weapon – nothing."

"No gun? That seems…nieve. I'm sorry – I don't mean to insult your friend or anything. I'm just trying to understand."

"No offense taken." Nicky accepted Riley's apology and continued laying out the perfect bank job. "You don't do nothing that makes you stand out – nothing that's gonna help them remember you. He didn't need a gun because that's how it works in America. They'll comply quickly and readily because the amount of money they'd be out for a robbery is infinitely less than the amount of business they'd lose if shit went wild in the bank."

Riley's wheels were beginning to turn. "Yeah, makes sense."

Nicky paused for that to sink in before going on. "So, he'd strap a hammer in his pant leg – just in case he needed to break out of a window or locked door or something of the like."

"So….you said used to rob banks – did he ever get bagged?" Riley wondered.

"No. He'd go in around 3pm – that's afternoon shift change for the cops. When he'd go in he'd only take 50's and 100's – you don't want 20's because they're typically marked and anything less than that ain't worth their weight. Plus you start having them empty out their drawer, people are gonna start noticing. Larger quantities of 50's and 100's is a common transaction occurrence for many uptown banks."

Riley leaned forward in his seat. "Can I ask something?"
"You can ask and I may or may not answer. But you won't know until you ask." Nicky replied fairly.

"I was just - I mean how much did this guy pull in on jobs?"

Nicky nodded. "Around about 5G's a job. You're not gonna retire but you know -"

"Its not chump change either." Riley finished. "And never got caught?" Riley asked disbelievingly.

"Nope. All his jobs were solo and he kept his mouth shut. The things we talk about…" Nicky used his index finger to point around the room. "they don't leave these four walls." Nicky then pointed at Riley. "That's the secret to success." Nicky lit a smoke and pulled out his phone. "Le'me show you somethin'." He fucked with his phone for a few. "Com'ere – see this. That's me a few summers ago."

"Nice fish! What is that – a swordfish?" Riley was impressed but that wasn't the purpose for Nicky's visual aid.

Nicky took his due to correct Riley's error. "Fuck naw – that's the holy grail of fish right there. That's a 178 pound marlin."

In Riley's defense I didn't know the fucking difference either.

"No shit! Fuckin' nice man!" Riley handed Nick's phone back to him.

"Yeah, I know. It was a good time." Nicky gloated. "But there's a point to this - I want you to remember this here fish. He opened his mouth and he got caught, see?" Nicky pointed to his phone. "That's the lesson to be learned from that there fish. Keep your mouth shut."

Riley was staring at his new hero in awe. I snapped my fingers to redirect his attention. "We ready?" As I mentioned, this meeting was more for his benefit than anyone else's.

Riley pointed at my smokes laying on my desk. "Can I get one of those?"

I tossed him the pack and a light.

I continued with the particulars of this job. "For this, we're going to need to provide a case number – which won't be a problem." Robert Hale was an attorney giving him access to privileged information. "We're also going to need to provide identification in the forms of a driver's license and a badge."

"We-" Then he correctly amended. "You can do this?" Riley asked surprised.

Laurent talked over him. "If you go through your same source – that shouldn't be a problem either." Earlier last year, I paid for several fake IDs and a badge for a job. They were worth every penny and paid for themselves many times over.

I nodded agreeing. "Already done." I opened the safe and tossed one of the badges over to Laurent.

"That's the easy part." I looked back at Riley. "The harder part is looking the part. Just like Nick said, first impressions are what count. You gotta own it. Walking in there with confidence, no worries – just like you're meant to be there. You start fidgeting, beads of sweat start forming, you start looking over your shoulder, avoiding eye contact – they start looking at you a little closer and it's all over."

"What are you saying? We pin it on somebody else?" Jake asked.

"It's a slot that needs to be filled – feel me?" I shrugged looking at my crew. "Evidence points to where ever the fuck we make it point. We can provide so much fucking evidence even the asshole we pick will think he did it."

"You got an asshole in mind?" Jake inquired.

"Yes. I do." Jake didn't press – he knew I'd tell him when the time was right.

"Yeah," Nicky nodded his head processing the details I gave. "Yeah, I like it. This is gonna work."

"It'll be discreet and no one will be the wiser. In and out – the faster the better." Laurent threw in.

"So who goes in?" Riley asked looking a little less confident than he did a bit ago.

"Relax - like I said, you're with Laurent for the duration. Not far – nearby just in case. You're gonna have a car several blocks away."

"Ok, so…" Riley pressed for me to continue.

"Patience." I warned back. "Nick and Jake, you're going in." I pointed at Nicky. "Tonight you got yourself a date with the barber, sonny-boy."

Nicky ran his hand threw his hair. "Aww fuck." Then asked. "How soon you thinking?"

I laughed. "Tomorrow. We go at seven in the morning– it'll be shift change at this time, so there'll be fewer pigs around." I paused to look at everyone. "Plus it'll be morning rush hour, more traffic – making it easier to get lost if need be."

"Whoa…that soon." Nicky released a breath. "You sure?"

I smiled pointedly at Nicky then leaned over and popped a handful of Jake's little candies in my mouth. If I wasn't sure, one hundred percent positive this would work, I wouldn't be seeing Bella tonight. This was the second reason I've made myself scarce. Not only is it hard to focus on things I need to get done when I'm with Bella but I wasn't putting her in jeopardy if this thing should head south.

"All right – tomorrow it is." Nicky was quick to go along with the plan and don't fuckin kid yourself he'll be rock hard over this all night.

"We've got work to do. Meeting adjourned." I dismissed the crew.

I looked at my watch. Jake, Nick and I had an errand to run – a message of sorts to send and time was running short if I was going to make it to Bella's on time.

I genuinely made an effort to be on time for Bella's but as usual I was late and she was pissed.

Again, I had to question whether I could really do this whole thing with Bella right – so far I've been a pretty good fuck-up. But when I considered calling it quits, partying ways my chest fucking hurt – to the point where I started to wonder if I should go see Carlisle's doctor, too.

I always want Bella naked and in my bed but it wasn't my intention – not tonight. Not my intention but that's where we ended up and stayed. Bella couldn't stay the night which bode well for me – since the crew and me were getting an early start.

I made sure I walked her to her door this time. The beginning of atonements to be made.

I didn't really want to leave her but I didn't have another option tonight. We sat for a while on the ledge of her balcony. The very spot she occupied only a few nights ago. She pointed out Orion – her constellation. I figured that was what she found so interesting the other night.

I had a new appreciation for this particular constellation myself. What Bella told me – about her freckles and missing stars and shit, I don't know you have to hear her tell it, but it was fuck hot. I couldn't get it out of my mind.

Then like a couple of horny teenagers, we made out. Finally I had to take off. I gave her a chaste kiss on the lips, then once more, and then a third. I waited for her to head on in before taking off.

B-POV

"You were out late?" Jessica hinted looking for details.

I smiled so big. "Yup." It was way, too late when I got in. The birds were already singing. I am tired as hell but it was totally worth it!

"So…." She waited for more.

"So." I smiled big again thinking about the three little words Edward finally said. I felt like I had an inner glow – I was totally beaming. I shrugged indifferently but couldn't help the corners of my mouth peaking up or the telltale blush coloring my cheeks. "It was nice."

"Nice? Nice doesn't equate…." Jessica gestured to me with a quick hand. "…all this. For a week I've listened to the whining, the bitching, the moaning – I earned the details on this."

"Yeah, ok. It was fucking awesome. He's just…." I didn't know how to finish that, there are no words. "Shit, I don't even know." It didn't escape me that I'm sure my eyes are probably all dizzy star struck and moon pied and shit.

"So…it's all good then? You two made up?" She prompted.
I can't help the ridiculous grins that keep breaking out so I don't even bother trying anymore. "Definitely." I nodded. "Definitely good."

"I hope you at least played a little hard to get." Jessica chastised although she'd never take her own advice.

"I tried, I really did." In the beginning I did try. My control was in check. Then he came out in a towel, still wet from the shower and it was all over.

Control checked out at that very moment.

Right out the fucking window it went right along with my ability to speak and think.

Leaving me to fend for myself.

"But?" She hedged knowing me all too well.

"But I have zero will power when it comes to him." Truth is always best – mostly always anyway.

"You could have stayed. I would have taken Adrianna to her play date." Jessica offered.

"Yeah, I did consider that but figured I gave up more than I intended to for one night." I had visions of being a rock for once. No hanky-panky – period. Yeah, well you know what they say about best laid plans. I folded.

"I gotta say – I can't blame you. My, God he is fucking yum!" Jessica's mini Edward crush hadn't gotten past me – or Edward for that matter. "If it was me – I wouldn't have made it that long."

Jess gives me too much credit.

"Yeah, well get your shit so we can go while there's no rain."

There was a public pool over a couple of blocks and rain due later in the day. But I take that with a grain of salt. I'd love to have a job where you're banking some big rolls and only have to be right fifty percent of the time.

So with Adrianna on her play date, I agreed to getting some sun with Jess.

"So my sister has postponed the wedding now." Jessica looks over at me.

"Just like that?" I wondered.

"She spends too much time on Pinterest and she's hung up on a fall wedding now. She's thinking October."

"What about your dress and stuff?" I asked knowing this was already a sore spot with Jess.

Jessica's eyes flashed. "She's a real bitch isn't she?"

"I'd be pissed." What a colossal waste of money.

Jessica set down the raft she was blowing up. "Hey, look over there." She said in an uncharacteristically hushed voice.

Setting my magazine down, I look up and follow Jessica's eyes.

"Oh, my God!" It was hard to look away at the enormous boobs pouring over the top of the smallest bikini top I have ever seen and if that wasn't bad enough, it was white. "That top gets wet – every guy in here is gonna be sporting a real problem. I want to buy a pin for her bathing suit." She really needed to put that shit away.

Jessica chuckled. "Fuck that – as long as we're shopping let's pick out a new one – one that's two sizes larger." Jessica took a sip of water before setting it down. "Those are totally real by the way."

"Shut up!" I looked again – not really sure. "Really?" I pulled down my sun glasses for a better look at the perfect Tori. "No…" I thought but was still unsure. "You think?"

"Positive." Jess affirmed.

Then pulling the neckline of my tank out, I looked down at my own boobs. I even tried to squeeze them together to see what they'd look like slightly enhanced. It was a sad comparison to Tori's biggins. I shook my head. "You know that really chaps my ass – some girls have it all."

Jessica laughed as she sipped her water and watched Tori lean over the edge of the pool to reach her raft – she leaned far, too far but she kept her balance. "No one has to worry about her falling into the water." Jessica scoffed and continued blowing up her own raft.

Just then Jessica's ex came sauntering down the walkway; baseball cap tilted to the side and a White Sox tank misplaced and hanging from the waist of his shants. I noticed his plaid Tommy boxers peeking out over the top of his pants and thought it was probably on purpose that he put on his good underwear because he was at risk for losing those pants at any minute.

"What up, Bella?" He called over.

"Eh, I'm good. You?" I asked not really interested one way or the other.

"Doing good now baby doll." He winked as the words rolled off his tongue and my eyes rolled right along at his cheesy line.

He didn't notice because his eyes were already on Jessica who was still spilling hot breath in her raft. He spread his arms wide. "Hey! You're getting me excited over here!"

"She's out of practice!" I called back, laughing and taking too much pleasure in torturing Jess.

Both of his hands pointed at his crotch which was seriously close to hanging all over the ground. "It's just like riding a bike, baby." He shifted his hips forward and rocked them.

Jessica rolled her eyes. "Billy says I do it good." She retorted with a sneer and went back to a huffing and a puffing. Billy and Jessica have been on and off since early spring. The two of them drive me nuts. And it's not just me, Edward isn't a fan either.

A huge laugh came from the other side of the fence as Jess's ex closed the distance between himself and the pool gate. "All guys say that – they want you to keep giving it up that's all."

Jessica scoffed. "And all girls say size doesn't matter." I'm always amazed that nothing ever seems to phase Jess and nine times out of ten she's got a comeback just like that. Me? Three days later I might have some kind of quip but the reasonable opportunity for unleashing it is long gone. Most of the time I don't even bother anymore.

Her ex smiled big and even though he was closer now his voice was still loud – very loud. "You weren't complaining when you were cumin' around it." I should not have taken a sip from my water bottle just at that moment because literally I snorted water out of my nose and nearly drowned myself in a mixture of gagging and laughing.

Jessica took a second to shoot me a death stare then turned her attention back to her ex. "All I heard was blah, blah, blah – I'm an asshole."

Her ex swatted the air with his hand and began to turn to leave.

"That's right – you keep on moving." Jessica shouted and then turned to me. "What is it with these guys? They're all the same!"

"Not the same." I contradicted while swatting at a pesty fly. "They're like all hardwired with the same brain, though."

"They're the same. All those proclaimed nice guys out there – all they do is spend all their time trying to convince you that they're a 'good guy' …..bull fucking shit. They're no better than that…" Jessica hooked her thumb over her shoulder. "...dickhead over there."

I shrugged. "At least he's upfront about what he is." I looked over at Jess. "That's got to count for something I suppose."

We stayed at the pool until my skin started to feel prickly and I had to pee. To avoid becoming extra crisp and walking around with soggy bottoms we packed it up and went home.

"Oh, my God – food!" I threw my towels and shit on the floor and charged the kitchen then made a fast u-turn and made an even faster beeline for the bathroom first.

I didn't even have a chance to pull my bottoms back up before fumbling out and tripping over my own feet to get Jess. I don't do spiders.

Jess took care of the spider business so I could do business number one.

And I was quick because my stomach was roaring. "I am freaking hungry!" I just about whipped the door of the fridge off its hinges in my haste.

"Lou awake?" Jessica asked.

Lou is what I call my pretend tapeworm. Jessica insists I must have one because, according to her anyway, I eat like a pig and never gain any weight. Truthfully that's just not how it is at all. My eating habits are more reptilian like than anything else. Sometimes I eat like I've got two hollow legs. Then other days – not so much.

I guess it all balances out.

"Lou is a hollerin'!" I barely finished that sentence because I was already stuffing cheese in my mouth and looking for something else – something more satisfying.

From the tiny kitchen, I used the remote to flip on the TV.

"We turn our attention now to our top story this morning: Chicago police are neglecting to name a person of interest in the robbery of an evidence locker." The story came blaring out of the small box and had my attention immediately.

"They put Tori's mail in our box again." Jessica complained. "How hard is-".

Quickly interrupting her, "Wait – I want to hear this." I turned up the volume and stopped chewing the chips I shoved in my mouth because I couldn't hear over the crunch. Jessica set the envelope on the table and turned toward the television set to see what was so interesting.

"Sources say the robbery took place in the early morning hours. It has been confirmed that 6.2 million dollars has been stolen and an internal investigation is underway."

"Whoa," Jessica whistled then. "Can you imagine what it would be like to have that much money?"

"No." I spooned in a mouthful of cereal I was now grazing on. "I wouldn't be eating cheerios if I could." I pointed to the o's in my bowl with my giant sized spoon. "I can't even imagine what that much cash looks like."

"What do you think they're doing right now – the robbers, I mean?" Jessica wondered.

"What I would be doing if I had 6.2 million dollars…" I thought for a minute. "I'd buy a huge heavy duty vault to keep it safe and a heavy gauge, pirate quality chain to wrap around it."

"Not me. I'd find a country willing to grant me asylum – I'd for sure be able to afford it. Then, I'd buy my own private jet, you'd find me some place warm year round – that's a must."

"Ooh, yeah – I hate Chicago winters. A tropical place." I added for Jessica piggy backing on her pipe dream. "a beach is a non-negotiable, sipping pretty colored drinks in fancy tall glasses."

Jessica looked back at the TV but the story was over for now. "You know, I totally don't know who did it but I hope they get away. I know that's weird – but I do."

I laughed and talked while waiving my spin around. "It's not weird. It's like they obviously went through a lot of shit to get the money, they obviously got out undetected – they're like the underdog. Everyone always roots for the underdog." I shrugged. "I hope they do, too." I shoveled in some more o's then took the envelope Jessica tossed on the table and stuffed it into my purse. "I'll drop this off at Tori's later." The envelope was addressed to her full name Victoria and looked like some kind of bill.

It made me wish I had something better to tell her because no good news was coming today.

E-POV

"D'ju see the news?" Nicky cackled and turned the TV back on. "Look at this – " he flipped the stations. "every channel. We're fuckin famous." He looked back at me. "I can't believe you pulled this shit off."

In the end Riley did prove himself.

His information was better than good and it earned him a spot on my crew.

A recent vacancy needed to be filled anyway.

Riley did more this past week than Mike did in the last three years.

A week prior, it was brought to my knowledge that we weren't the only ones nailing a score.

We just had a larger vision.

Laurent discovered James had visited that same warehouse a couple of times each week.

Followed by a trip to Independence Ave.

He was regularly helping himself to kilos of coke – selling it out on the streets for quick money.

James was doing more work outta his car than the hookers out on Rush Street and it was this that paved the way.

The job came together fast.

James left his car behind on these trips.

Yesterday, after our meeting, Nicky, Jake and I followed James.

"We boosted that pig's car – and it's like fucking Christmas." Nicky's lit – still high from the rip.

His car was the beginning of payback – nothing more.

I didn't expect to find his badge in his car.

That was a well-timed surprise and the reason Nick got an eight dollar do it yourself dye job over his fresh cut.

"This cop?" Nicky shakes his head and points his finger. "One dumb mother fucker – and this is who's gonna protect me? Says who?" Laughing, he pulls out his gun and kisses the barrel. "I got everything I need right here – so help me." He looked back at me laughing hard now. "You lit his car up like it was a Christmas tree."

This was my own personal hello.

While we were dumping gasoline and lighting up James's car, Laurent and Demetri went and planted dope inside his house.

Hiding small bags of coke well enough to be difficult to find but not so good they're unable to find them.

And enough coke to be more than a possession charge.

Turned out they just had to add what James already had stashed.

Jake twisted the top off his beer and took a sip. "I would've liked to seen this prick's face – he comes back and he's got nothing. Fucking nothing." Jake had his own reasons for fucking with James. While on Bella duty, James tagged his car and gave him two kidney shots with his club. Jake would be pissing blood for another couple of days.

"Did you see that car? There was nothing left!" Nicky's still going on about the torched car.

"What do you want us to do with the extras?" Jake asked in regards to the phony badges purchased.

"Destroy them." We ended up not needing them.

Why use fake when you got the real deal?

Jake shrugged and suggested. "We could sell them – there's a good market."

"That kind of risk isn't worth the payout." I turned to Nick. "You take these down to AJ's – have them melted down. You do it yourself."

"Got it." He lit his smoke before reaching over for the paper bag.

"Hold on…" I stubbed out my smoke and walked over to the safe. "Here…" I tossed the real badge in the mix. "Take this one, too."

Jake walked over to compare the fakes to the real badge. "Damn, these are good."

"Damn straight they better be." They cost enough.

After frying that pig's car things fell into place fast.

Nicky got a makeover – became a blonde just for the occasion.

The guys have been giving him shit about it ever since.

Nicky was the perfect choice.

Similar build.

Stick his ass in a CPD uniform – and even I had to do a double take.

A rap at my office door ended that conversation. "Come in." I called back.

"Hey! Looking good!" Emmett whistled at Nick who was sporting a fresh dye job.

"Yeah, you know…" Nick smoothed his hair down. "As it turns out blondes do have more fun." He kissed the air towards Emmett.

"Me? I prefer brunettes – something a little more petite in size than you, no offense."

Emmett didn't even realize what he just said.

It didn't escape me. "Come again?" I asked feeling the burning rage that motivated his last beating return.

"What?" He asks dumbly.

"What you just said-" I repeated myself fighting the growing urge to bash his head.

Jake interjected. "I think he's referring to your wife – who's blonde."

I wasn't.

Rosalie was a pain the ass.

I was more interested in the brunette part.

"I'm just saying-" Emmett back peddled trying to dig himself out of the hole he just put himself in.

I wasn't going to let him get out if it so easily. "You're saying and I'm asking you to explain."

Emmett back peddled, stuttering over his words which are too little too late. "What the fuck, E? I'm just fucking with Nick. What's your problem?"

"My problem?" I was still pissed that he took Bella out, got her wasted and took her to his place.

"I already told you it wasn't like that." He continued to deny.

Nicky turned to Jake. "I think we missed something here?"

"We're never going to really know are we?" I laid it out there just like that.

Emmett's eyes widened. "What the – you don't believe me? Go ask her yourself then."

I wanted to believe Emmett.

But I trusted him about as far as I could throw him – which consequently wasn't very far.

When I didn't respond Emmett goes on. "Come on, man. What do you want me to say? What can I do?"

I took him up on his offering. "You can get the fuck outta my sight." I pointed at the door. "Go home to your wife."

"You know, maybe Marcus is right." He tapped his temple with his index finger then slammed the door as he left.

An awkward silence slowly filled the room after Emmett's departure.

Both Nicky and Jake cleared their throats making excuses about needing to be at this place or that. "Well,,,,we um…" Nicky tapped on his wrist watch and looked at Jake pointedly.

Jake jumped up and made for the door. "Yeah, that's right – we got that thing."

"The thing – it's…. you know, the traffic and all we should go." Nick grabbed the paper bag and was right behind Jake in making tracks for the door.

Having my office to myself, I used that time to fill out purchase orders for the bar and pay out the invoices for liquor purchases that came a few days prior.

The silence was making my head spin.

With nothing left to do and my own thoughts screaming too loud now, I left the club to take a ride out to Bella's.

I picked Bella up without telling her where we were going. We stopped to pick up flowers – I let her pick out what she liked while I finished my conversation with Carlisle on the phone.

Even though I had my back to Bella I heard her whisper, "It would help to know who the flowers are for."

Shaking my head, I gestured with my hand telling Bella to wait. She walked back to the displays and I held my hand over the receiver, "Pick out whatever you want – whatever looks nice to you. It'll be fine."

I distractedly listened to Carlisle while watching Bella look over flowers passing over several different options. I made a mental check list, noting that she apparently doesn't like anything that doesn't look like Fourth of July on a stem .

They didn't have her orange lilies so she went with some pink fluffy things with fuzzy brown middles.

She held them out to me and I gestured to wait a minute as I bent to take a whiff.

They smelled like shit. I nodded and smiled any way.

I looked at my watch. "Yeah, it should be getting done about now. I'll call after." Nicky would be shooting a text when he got that shit melted down. Carlisle could relax.

I handed Bella money and gestured for her to go and pay while I hung up with Carlisle and pocketed my phone.

"These are my second favorites!" She was too damn cute.

I pulled the tag to see what the fuck kind of flower this was. "Gerber Daisy." I winked. "Noted."

She sat in the passenger seat. "Where did you say we were going?"
I laughed. "I didn't." I shrugged and added. "Something I want – need to do." I amended. This would not have been on my top ten list for the day.

"You surprised me. I figured you'd be working today." She said happily.

"I'm always working." I reminded her. "So yeah, I'm still on the clock." That goes with the territory.

She gestured toward herself. "It was hard to know what to wear – " She frowned at me. "You didn't give me much to go on. Do you think this is ok?"

Sometimes Bella could be ridiculous.

I didn't even need to look – but I did. She could wrap herself up in that hideous smock she made me put on and still be sexy as hell. "You need to ask?" I meant that shit, too.

She looked down and frowned. "Will there be a lot of people?" She continued with nervous curiosity.

"You ask a lot of questions." I pointed out.

"Can't you just answer this one? Please?" She pleaded almost whining now. "That won't give anything away."
I turned and frowned at her not understanding what the difference was. "Depends how you look at it." That was true enough.

"Will Alice be there?" Bella asked still trying to pinpoint where we were going.

I shook my head.

"Was that Jake on the phone earlier? Will Jake maybe be there?" She asked too hopefully.

Frowning, I looked back over at Bella. "Since when do you worry so much about where Jake goes?"

"I just haven't seen him in a while is all. Plus if you get busy, doing…." She paused unsure how to finish that statement. "whatever or well….you know stuff then there'll be someone else to talk to." She confessed in a smaller voice.

"And you'd prefer to have Jake's company?" I inquired slightly irritated.

She jumped – quick to answer. "No – not at all. I just thought-"

"It's fine." That was a borderline lie. I wasn't willing to argue before I did what I needed to do. "No worries. " I kissed her hand before squeezing it. "I'm not going to be busy."

"Montrose Cemetery?" Bella read the sign. "Is this where we're going?" She asked sounding surprised and disappointed all in one. This didn't bother me – I'd be disappointed, too.

"Awe come on – didn't you know? People are just dying to get in." I laughed at my corny joke. Bella did not.

It was an older cemetery off of Pulaski.

We turned into the big black gates of the Cemetery entrance and began the windy road towards the back.

Bella stiffened in her seat – her right hand on the door. I chalked it up to being around dead people – some people get funny.

"And the flowers – they're not for Nonna, I'm guessing?" She guessed correctly.

"She'll be ticking long after any of us." I joked but that was probably true.

"Is it somebody you know – " She gestured towards the window. "that's… you know here?"

"You don't have to whisper – they know they're dead. And even if they could hear, there's six feet of dirt and a pine box between you and them."

"Oooo, I see." Her brown eyes turned upward, fluttering around and revealing only whites. "It's all becoming oh so clear now." She joked.

Who knows what she pieced together. "Reading tea leaves again? Hopefully you got the good kind this time around."

She playfully swatted my shoulder and chuckled. "You know I was just joking that day about the leaves and all."

"Yeah, I figured. I didn't really think you're a gypsy."

"Seriously, though - playing with that kind of shit is bad juju. My grandma once had her friend read tarot cards for her and everything she said would happen happened - only in a bad way." She said her tone serious now.

"How so?" I wondered.

"Like the cards read that she'd come into a lot of money. And she did but my grandpa died and she got his insurance money. So see she got her money but then the bad thing was my grandpa died." Bella was just jabbering now. Something she does when she gets nervous. "There were other things too but I can't remember the others. It was freaky though." Her wide eyes scanned the grounds before looking back at me.

"I don't believe in that shit. They were just a series of bad coincidences that's all."

"Hey!" She changed the subject without warning. Again, something I noticed she does when she's nervous. "Did you hear on the news about all the money that got taken?" Bella whistled and made her eyes large and round. "My mind can't even conjure up an image of that much cash. I have zero comprehension." She looked over at me. "How big do you think that money is? Would it fit in my room? And how do you walk out with that much money? Or can you even walk out?"

The amount of cash we walked out with was more than the news reported. It actually totaled closer to 8 million. That's what you get for letting degenerates keep your books – they don't know what they got in there. We confirmed to Marcus that the total was 6.2 million, took our cuts then on the side I split the extra with Jake and Nick…50%-25%-25%.

I laughed. "You don't walk out." Nick and Jake drove a white utility van from the locker straight to the chop shop I do business with from time to time for another vehicle and new plates. "Depending on the bills approximately one million fits in one large suitcase." Bella was a smart girl. "So, you do the math."

She took a second to count some math out loud. "Well, whatever – that's a shit ton of money to be toting around."

I glanced down at my clock. "Yeah, I'm pretty sure they're not just toting it around." In fact, it should be reaching its first destination very soon.

"Where would you keep it? I mean damn, that's a lot of cash!"

I laughed imagining Bella trying to sleep on a mound of cash that took up three quarters of her bedroom. "You don't stuff it in a mattress. You send it to offshore accounts for loan-backs."

Bella nodded politely but I knew she had no idea what I was talking about. "It's a way to clean up the money." I clarified.

Loan-backs were set up early on. You send your large cash deposits over-seas and then its 'loaned' to mob run enterprises.

Then just like that your orphan dollars are now pedigree.

"I don't get it." She confessed.

Bella always seems intrigued with anything related to what I do. And part of me gets off on Bella's fascination with everything. So much so that I find myself wanting to tell her things.

Maybe Marcus is right – because that's pretty sick.

The other part of me wants to hide Bella away from it all and keep her far from my world.

She's so wide eyed and innocent and just plain good.

Untainted.

And most of me wants to keep Bella that way.

Truthfully I haven't known Bella all that long. But I trust her. I don't know what makes Bella so different from the vast majority – but she is and Emmett should be kissing the ground she walks on.

If it wasn't for trusting Bella, Emmett would be in far worse shape right now.

I tried to break it down for Bella. "You take a loan and get paid with your own money for whatever you might be pursuing. Legit money gets sent over there too. They call it black capital – for purposes of tax evasions."

Bella scanned out her window again. "Well, I'm pretty sure the tax havens of the world do not have the interest Uncle Sam has in my measly tip money. It'd probably cost me more than what I actually had to begin with just to ship it out."

I laughed. "It's not cheap. Setting up an account is easy, but managing one costs." I explained. "Following the law requires lawyers and accountants – good ones. They monitor the tax laws in dozens of countries and keep your accounts on the safe side of rules." While that was true of legal funds, we preyed upon the fact that the US tax code is ridiculously complex, and riddled with loopholes.

Robert Hale earned big dollars to know these loopholes and make them work for us.

Then just like that Bella changed the subject again. "I finally know what we're doing here." Bella looked around, nodding her head like she was assessing the place then all cool and calm she stated. "This is it I'm getting whacked."

What the…

I had to do a double take.

With a big cheese ball smile she held up the flowers. "Nice touch letting me pick out my own flowers."

She was fucking around with me.

Wagging my eyebrows I smirked over at Bella.

Her eyes narrowed, watching me closely. "Can I ask you something?"

Bella had my attention. "You've been firing the question marks at me for the past half hour. Now all the sudden you need my permission?"
"But will you answer?" She asked seriously.
"Only one way to find out. I'm all ears so shoot."

"As long as we're on the subject. When you ….when someone's up?" She paused to gage my reaction. "You know – going to get whacked?" She paused and cleared her throat.

Hearing the word whacked out of Bella's mouth was comical but I kept a straight face. "Yes...?" I asked wondering where this was going and if I'd be able to answer her.

"Well, is it like the movies?" She asked with genuine curiosity.

"In what way?" Most of the movies were crap.

"You know how they do it - when they're that person's best friend, and they make them think good things are happening for them and then – well you know." It was amusing that she spoke like we were talking about a third party and not me.

This I could answer for her.

"Strategies – tactics …the how's vary from person to person." Hits were simple. You either want to send a message so you leave them where they fell or you make them disappear.

"Strategies? Like, if you know the enemy and know yourself, you don't need to fear the result of a hundred battles – or something like that?" She recited accurately and completely took me by surprise.

I laughed. "Listen to you over here."

Bella frowned. "I read that somewhere." She explained. "I think." An afterthought she added lamely with a big grin.

She knew she was busted.

Somewhere would be the book Sun Tzu – a book I had been reading.

I wasn't sure if I was pissed or turned on.

Again, I wondered if Marcus was right.

"That's part of it. You side with your enemy, learn his vulnerabilities, learn his fighting style, and expect the unexpected." I winked. "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

"And they're none the wiser?" Bella squeaked out.

"Something like that." I confirmed then turned the car off. I didn't even have my door opened yet when she flew out her door giving me no time to get around the Escalade. She spun in a slow circle, her hand clenched the flowers so hard her knuckles were white.

She walked a few paces away then turned to me, "Edward?" She left her question hanging.

I thought maybe she might be sick – dead people can be unsettling. "What's wrong with you?" I closed the door she left open and walked towards her.

She stepped back and looked around again with wide eyes. "Is this it then – I mean, where you wanted to take me?"

It's funny how cemeteries make people whisper. It's not like they're sleeping under there – they're fucking dead.

"Just up ahead." I pointed and started to move up the path. "When I called you…well this is probably not what you were expecting. I wasn't even sure about - "

I looked back because all the sudden I was talking to myself. Bella stopped dead in her tracks.

"Come on – the quicker we get this done - " I walked back to her and encouraged. "It'll be quick." I promised. I didn't have any desire to drag this out any longer than necessary.

"For you or me?" She wondered but I didn't have an answer.

"Just don't think about it – that's what I do." I've been around so many dead fucking bodies it doesn't even register any more. After a while you just become immune to it all.

I continued where I left off. "If this is going to work – you and me. "

"You and me?" She seemed confused.

And now I was confused. "Unless you have different ideas…." I gave her an out.

"No, no, no – ok. Us – you and me." She rushed out almost breathless.

"Yes, us…" I repeated slowly not entirely sure what's up with her today. I was tempted to say fuck it and try again on another day when she was more focused but I wanted to just get this over with so I could close this tired chapter once and for all.

Bella eyes darted around, her cheeks looked flushed now that her color was returning. "I just…." She peeked at her shoes and then sideways up at me. "I wasn't, I guess it was just - um, where did you want to go?"

I took a minute to look at Bella. Really look at her. There was something off. "You okay?"

Her brown eyes were round and large as they looked up at me. "Mmm-hmm." She nodded and looked back at her shoes. "I guess it's just hot out –" She lifted her hair up and rubbed the back of her neck then fanned herself. "I'm warm it just made me a little dizzy." She smiled.

My eyes narrowed as I studied her. It was barely eighty degrees today and it wasn't like Bella was wearing a whole lot in the way of clothes.

"Thirsty – " Bella cleared her throat and held her palm over her chest. "I mean, I'm thirsty is all. Maybe a little dehydrated from the sun and all."

"Here – just wait here for a minute." I went back to the Escalade and handed Bella a water bottle. She thanked me and we walked along in silence.

Her hand was cold in mine. Cold and clammy.

We didn't have too far to walk.

And I didn't need to point out what we came for.

Bella spotted it and froze.

She stood still like a statue. I assume she read the engraved name because all at once she turned to me with horror streaked across her perfect features. "What the fuck is this?" Now she just looked pissed. "Is this some kind of joke? That…that – this…it's just sick!" She turned away from me. "Why is your name on this…this…." She couldn't bring herself to say grave and just gestured wildly around.

"It's not mine." It didn't occur to me that she'd ignore the dates and confuse the names. "Although, you need to understand that this is a possibility." I tried a lighter note. "Hazard of the job, or so to speak." I joked.

"Don't talk like that!" She slapped me across the chest twice.

"Hey!" I grabbed her hand before she took another hit. "Take it easy."

"If that's not you – for you…then, then?" She twisted her hand out of my grip only to jab my chest with her pointer finger. "You need to start doing some talking, Edward!"

"Can you relax?" I rested my hands on her shoulders. "I can't talk to you like this."

"This is just – just fucking freaking me out!" She shouted back. "Why would you do this? Bring me here like this? What the fuck is this supposed to be?" Each question was fired a little louder than the last.

"Are you gonna let me talk?" I asked to get her back on track.

She didn't answer right away. "Yes!" She took a deep breath. "Talk, please – say something, anything." She folded her arms and stood waiting with a deep frown etched into her forehead.

Before she could go red rats on me again, I jumped in. I moved to stand in front of Bella, the grave to my back. "This is – was my father. I'm named after him."

She peeked around me at the grave then met my eyes with expected confusion. "Then Carlisle…?"

"Carlisle is my father's brother. My uncle. Esme, his wife is my aunt."

"Why here?" She asked more calmly looking around again.

"I'm going for honesty here – you want to know me? Who I am?" I spread my arms wide. "This is me."

"Then this whole thing, us coming here it's because you want to talk?" Bella squeaked as her cheeks looked more and more flushed.

"Did you drink the water?" I asked her reaching for the bottle.

"Don't change the subject, Edward." She retorted.

"This wasn't a good idea." I grabbed for her hand. "Come on – let's go."

"No!" Her wide eyes looked up at me as she jerked her arm away. "No, we're here and you've got my attention. We're going to do this – whatever this is." Bella's tone was sharp. "I want to know what you want to tell me. Why we had to come all the way out here to do it!"

I pointed to her hand. "You're going to drink that first."

Bella glared back. "Fine." She opened the bottle and chugged maybe a third down then sat on the grass cross legged. "Happy?"

"You don't need to get lippy." I said as I took her invitation and sat next to her. "Fuck – " I rubbed my forehead. "Where to begin?" I thought out loud.

"The beginning is probably easiest." She prompted.

No - beginning, middle, end, it didn't matter none of it would be fucking easy. I haven't thought about this shit in so long, I needed to collect my thoughts.

An earlier conversation with Emmett played through my mind: 'Did it ever occur to you that you two are the same? Maybe that's why you feel this…whatever this is for her?'

Emmett can surprise you once in a while.

That was an interesting thought.

My parents, my real parents were both gone.

My father dead.

My mother may as well be for all the fuck I care.

I tried to remember the last time I actually saw my mother. Ironically it was my birthday – my 20th birthday to be exact. I didn't even recognize her. No hi - how are you, Edward. No nice to see you, Edward. No Happy Birthday, Edward. No, I'm sorry I've missed your last 19 birthdays, Edward. Instead this bitch has the nerve to ask me for money. How many years – she don't know me – can't be bothered, now she needs money and she knows my fucking name?

She claimed she needed a new pair of shoes for a job interview.

I shut the door in her face.

Fuck that bull shit.

"You don't have to – you know. I mean if you don't want to- if it's" Her quiet words dispelled the ghosts of the past and brought me back to the present.

I cut her off to get this over with. "For years she'd walk in and out on my father." I cleared my throat and clarified. "My mother, I mean."

Bella nodded, following along so I continued.

"When I came along he figured she'd stick around – things would be better." I laughed bitterly. "They weren't. She had no interest in being a wife, a mother."

I shook my head in disgust. Bella sat still as a statue, listening.

I used my thumb to crack my knuckles and went on. "My father tried to divorce her – " I looked off picturing how hard that would have been for him - how embarrassed he must have felt in front of family, neighbors, whoever the fuck. "…she'd check herself into the crazy house to evade the divorce papers."

Bella slid her hands into mine. They were nice and soft – just like the rest of her.

"She was in and out all the time. Racked up all kinds of bills. The state still has outstanding bills in her name. My old man worked himself to death to pay those bills. He could barely rub two nickels together after the state took their cut."

"Edward, I don't know what to say? I'm so sorry." She said genuinely. My thumb mindlessly made small circles over the top of her hand.

"If he could have worked three life times, he still wouldn't have been able to pay that shit off."

"Wasn't there anyone who could've helped your dad? I mean Carlisle, maybe? He seems to be well off – or maybe he knew someone who would have been able to help in some way?"

"Carlisle didn't have the position he has now – at that time he was still earning his buttons himself. My father wasn't a part of the life and didn't talk a lot about his private affairs – even with family." Or so I was told – I really don't remember him.

"Nonna took me so the state wouldn't. But eventually Carlisle and Esme took me in. I was still small so in truth they really are the only parents I know."

"Where's your mother now?" She asked softly.

I shrugged. "When I turned eighteen, Carlisle had Rosalie's father, Robert, take an affidavit to the courts proving I don't know this woman as a mother and therefore am not responsible for her actions or outstanding bills."

Robert advised me to make sure I don't give her anything with my name on it – like a check or the state will take that as a recognition on my part. He told me if I wanted to help – cash was the way to go.

Fuck that.

I wouldn't give her two fucking cents.

Bella crawled in my lap and I hugged her tight. This kind of closeness, openness – or whatever you wanna call it was new to me but it felt good. I buried my face into her neck and inhaled.

I remembered how that scent haunted me last week.

She has a way of making me hate everything that smells like her.

Including my own bed.

Sheets, pillows, the whole fucking room smelled like her.

It drove me crazy.

Crashing at Emmett's each night didn't help. Her scent haunted me even in my dreams.

"You're not your parents. Respect and success aren't inherited." She paused and let her fingertips get tangled in my hair. "Success is worked for and respect is earned. You'll only be as successful as you want to be. Your parents have nothing to do with that." She took a page from my book and kissed the tip of my nose. "And my God, Edward – look at you. Everything you've accomplished."

"Where I come from you expect the worst, not because you hope to be pleasantly surprised but because the worst is bound to happen."

"I don't know about you but when bad things happen, I like to think something good is on its way."

"Something good?" I hummed against her neck. "I got my something good right here."

Her eyes were bright now – her coloring looking more human now. "I love you."

I nipped her nose. "Now it's your turn. What did you think we were doing here?"

"Mmm-mmm – no way." She shook her head no.

I leaned back and looked at her and that's when it clicked.

She wasn't joking earlier. "You think this was gonna be a hit? That I would….could whack you?" This pissed me off. "How do you think I could do that?"

"You were just acting…I don't know – different, I guess. You told Carlisle on the phone it'd be taken care of, you got maddish then we came here. I started to think about not hearing from you and that maybe you wanted out but didn't want to leave liabilities. Then you said you keep your enemies closer…and I don't know."

I shook my head half shocked and still pissed. "I know things with us are off – but…" Killing Bella wasn't something I could even speak about let alone actually do. I'd rather cut off my own hand.

Bella cleared her throat her voice quiet. "Things are only weird with us if you let them be."

"I was never far, Bella."

"I didn't go into this blind, you know. I knew being with you would be complicated but I made that choice."

I used to remind myself that this was her choice but at this point letting her go, for me, is no longer an option.

"My behavior, what I did to you, Bella…it should never have happened." I was still struggling with what had happened – what I did.

"You wanna know something?" Bella whispered all sexy in my ear. "I liked it." She nipped my ear lobe but I pulled away feeling sick again and just looked at her.

"What?" She asked her bright eyes looking confused.

I shook my head. "Don't play it like that."

"You worry so much, about everything." She scolded with a frown.

I had to laugh. "If not me, than who?"

"You have to let somethings go, Edward." She lectured.

I pulled her back to me and she straddled my lap. "Not this something." I kissed her nose lightly.

She met my eyes. "Are we gonna be okay?"

And there's the million dollar question.

One I wish to fuck I had the answer to.

I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to Bella.

I answered her question with one of my own. "Why? You planning on calling it quits?"

Bella slid off my lap as she rolled her eyes back and fluttered her lashes – she was playing around again. "My tea leaves are cloudy at the moment."

I laughed. "Come on – let's get the hell out of here." I grabbed her hand and pulled her up with me.

We went and got some food.

She was barely in the door when I grabbed her wrist and pulled her back to me. I was quick to pick her up and wrap her legs around my waist.

I kissed her deep, her legs tightening around my waist as she opened her mouth to me meeting my tongue. My already hard dick strained against my pants so I slid her a little lower, pressing my hardness against her center. Heat radiated from her core making my dick stand even taller.

My hips shifted and she moaned into my mouth, squeezing a fistful of my hair as I made my way up the stairs and to my bed. My fingers slipped the strap of her tank off her shoulder, proceeding to kiss down her neck and over her chest – my tongue leaving a slick trail as I tasted her. It wasn't even close to being enough. Bella pressed herself tighter against me and I couldn't move fast enough.

My shoulder pushed the door out of my way as I stumbled my way into my bedroom, kissing Bella hard on the mouth before lying her down. My arms held my weight – allowing me to just hover over her gently sucking that plump bottom lip. She hummed as I placed a soft kiss on her chin, running my nose along her jawline whispering against her ear. "I want you."

She moaned, her eyes were wild - ready. Her lips red and swollen. Her chest heaving trying to keep up with her ragged breaths.

"Oh, God I want to – so bad." She rushed out shaking her head and pushing against my chest. I complied, getting up.

"We can't." This fucking surprised me and I pulled back to look at her. "I have cramps." She confessed turning a light shade of pink. Then she leaned close like she was gonna tell me a secret. She does that every now and again and I've been around Bella enough now to know that whatever she's gonna say embarrasses her. "You know it's a no fly zone – code red." She whispered in my ear like I didn't know what having cramps meant.

"So?" I didn't know what the big fucking deal was. Chicks bleed – what the fuck are you gonna do? "Cumming will make it feel better." I tried to reason with her. "Plus it will lessen the time – make it end sooner." Tatianna used to call it Magicdick.

"No." She squirmed away a little more and pulled her knees up to rest her chin. "I won't feel better about it." She wasn't giving in.

I moved closer and nipped her ear lobe. "I'll do the work - less mess." Not that I cared one way or the other but it apparently bothered Bella.

She frowned and pushed me back. "So – I don't care. It's bad and it'll be all over and-."

I kissed her lips and she kissed me back. "We'll put a towel down." I reasoned with patience I didn't have at the moment. I had gone too long without her.

"No, Edward, I just-." She squirmed back again – away from me. I fucking hate when she does that.

"And what? What do you think's going to happen?" I shrugged. "It's not a big deal. I'll just wash my dick off."

My calculations figure a chick will be on her rag roughly 500 times in a lifetime.

At five days a pop, that's about 2,500 days or 350 weeks.

That's 7 fucking years of no sex.

Not fucking cool.

She played with the material of my sheet then turning into shy Bella, looked up at me threw her eyelashes, debating her next words. "Ben said-"

"Ben?" I frowned because I had no idea how he ended up in my bed. "The guy you work with?"

She nodded. "He has a disgusting roommate, they always fight. Her big head is always in the way of his programs, she goes in his shower and she eats all his leftover cakes and…"

"Bella?" I warned her to get to the point. My dick was aching and the last thing I wanted to do right now is hear about Ben.

"Right – yeah so they ended up having sex last week – which I could totally see coming…."

"Bella – " I stonily reminded.

"Yeah right so they did and it was that time of month." She hesitated. "When it was over and you know…." She motioned her hand in a circle. "…he pulled out, he had it on him and he said he was in the bathroom and just looking at his …you know – his personals and it made him throw up." She let out a big puff of air. "There."

For a minute I debated a different argument. She was so opposed to letting me stick my dick in her pussy there were alternatives.

'When the red river's flowing take the dirt road home.'

My arms wrapped around her waist and pulled her on top of me as I laid back. She kissed me back and played with my hair. I love that shit and groaned against her collar bone. With a mind of its own, my hand slid over her hip and made its way over the perfect curve of her ass – then a little further. "What about here?" My index finger put pressure on her back entrance. The rigidness in her body confirmed what I already knew – this was new territory for her. "I'll be gentle." I promised, while kissing along her neck.

She froze and looked down with eyes like saucers her cheeks still pink from her earlier confessions. "I've never-"

I didn't press. For one, I didn't have any lube and I wouldn't chance hurting Bella like that.

Second, she wasn't ready.

And that was cool.

She met my eyes looking apologetic. "I love you."

"You don't have to be sorry." I kissed those soft lips again. "And I love you, too." I meant it.

I was just lying there looking up at her when she started up again. "It'll be messy, and it'll be all over - on you, your bed." She argued sounding more like she was trying to convince herself now.

"First, I don't faint at the sight of blood and second, it's you."

"I just-"

"I don't fucking care." I covered her mouth with my lips and flipped us over so I could climb on top of her.

My right hand reached over my shoulder to yank my shirt off then to make her happy I grabbed my dark hoodie she left on the floor and slipped it under her.

She started to sit up. "I should at least go to the bathroom to you know- take it out."

"I'll do it." My hands slid under her tank laying Bella back down. My mouth was greedy, kissing her exposed skin as I slid up her body letting my full weight down and whispering in her ear. "With my teeth."

She let out a tiny gasp, "Edward, I-"

My lips interrupted her while my hands were quick to unbutton my pants. "No more talking."

Kissing down her jaw line as my hands slid off her shorts and panties all in one shot. My lips found their way down, over her collar bone then lingered over Bella's puckered nipples. Her hands clenched my shoulders as my tongue swirled over her perfect hard peaks – nipping at one and then the next. Bella moaned, stretching beneath me in offering as my hungry lips trailed down her flat stomach, paying homage to my mark first then kissing her inner thigh.

First one then the other while I palmed her tits, my thumbs flicking her hardened nipples.

My hands grasped Bella's hips, spreading her open, her juices already seeping through and glazing her folds. Bella's thighs clenched as I blew softly over bare pussy then swirled my tongue over her swollen bud. She tasted sweet, just like always with a hint of metallic and it made me groan.

Her hips moved forward now seeking friction as my tongue continued exploring between her folds. Moving lower, my teeth clenched the pink stained string and gave a yank, creating a vacancy for my throbbing dick.

Like I had a trophy hanging from my mouth, I looked up at Bella, and growled. Hungry for more my head whipped to the side flinging it across the room and I pounced like an animal. Her mouth met mine, her lips firm and just as needy - that was fucking hot.

Her legs spread further, giving me an open invitation and in one swift motion I entered Bella balls deep. She circled her hips and moaned. She was so fucking wet and tight, I was paralyzed. "Christ-" My voice was strained with the effort I was putting into not emptying my nuts and my hands begrudgingly had to still her hips.

"Mmmm Edward – " Bella was stretched out, her head tilted far back on the pillow, swaying from side to side fighting her own needs. "- Please." She whispered breathlessly, begging for me.

"Come here." She brought her lips to mine, moaning as my hips started to set a slower pace. Her legs opened wider and she meets me thrust for thrust. The only sounds – our slapping skin and the grunts that escape as the pace picks up.

Bella's walls start to tighten, clenching my dick and creating an electrical current that rips deep through my groin as my balls start to tighten. My thrusts are long and deep purposefully hitting her sweet spot and making Bella thrash harder with her impending release.

Bella yanks on the back of my hair. "Yeah, yeah there…it's….fuck it's almost – Oh, my God - so close!"

Her legs wrap tight around my waist as she cums while screaming my name and with another two pumps she takes me right along with her emptying everything I have.

Breathless, I lay on top of her still joined – content.

That lasted all of ten seconds.

"Oh, my God Edward – is it real bad?" She asked, draping her arm over her pink cheeks and starring at the ceiling.

Using my elbows to lift up, I look down where Bella and I are joined and chuckle. "You might want a shower."

We took a shower together – cleaned up and like normal people watched a little TV.

And at the end of the night I got to keep Bella with me.

Best fucking sleep ever.

A/N

Clarifications for this chapter * truly so sorry that some of you thought E cheated * cross my heart he did not * and not b/c he wasn't drunk enough * truthfully I think he might be dead if he partied any more – lol * I thought I made it clear as the chapter got rolling ~ but based on some reactions I did not **** so sorry *

* I can roll w/ most things in regards to life and/or relationships ~ and if we're being honest have * I'm fairly open minded and totally random * I've dated my fair share of "charming" assholes so there's not much that phases me * my list of done its is probably longer than won'ts * and I'm a sucker for happy endings * so all of that to say - cheating crosses all lines – for me there is no redemption for a cheater * not to say that I think killing is ok ~ but what kind of mafia story would I have without it * shrugs*

* E is hypocritical – it's true * all these guys are * it's do as I say not as I do *

This was listed as a mafia story so * there is violence * there is foul language * there is bad grammar * there is drug use * there is smut * there won't always be sunshine * but you might find a thing or two funny at times * if the characteristics of this genera bother you – no biggie just move on to things that make you happy b/c life is too short to waste it on anything less *

~X