Disclaimer(s): All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owner (Stephenie meyer). The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.…(Throughout the story, you will see photos of the characters. I do not own those photos or the people in them.) Banner by RPattzscene Translations by Vulcaniana. Beta'd by HollettLA and aeglow.

*Note about translations* Aro will translate after it is spoken. There is no glossary at the end.

WARNING: Rated M for adult content. Violence. Sex. Death.

Summary: Takes place between Quiet Storm chapters 24 and 25 (January). It's what you didn't see, and in Aro's point of view. We'll get to know Aro, along with Lauren, during one hell of a day. Crazy long. This is like Aro's own fic…

"Quiet Storm" outtake number one. I broke this into two parts because it was just TOO long for one sitting. Please Enjoy

I would like to thank DeeBelle1 for giving me this brilliant idea. A HUGE thank you and leg humps to all the pre-readers! You guys ROCK!

"The Hunt" Part One



A "Quiet Storm" outtake


Aro the Cleaner

I woke up to the bus pulling into the stop right outside my window. The 8:05 A.M. B63 bus manages to wake me every morning, and every morning I say the same thing.

"Fucking bus." It's not very original, but I can't wait to move out of this neighborhood.

Fucking bus is right…

A light moan made me do a double take at my side. Then a silly grin appeared on my lips. "Ya gotta get up." I gave Michelle a light spank on her ass.

She rolled over to wipe the sleep out of her eyes. "It's so early."

"I have shit to do. Get up." I gave her a short peck on her cheek.

She grinned and pulled the blanket back up, and I pulled it back down. "Come on sweetheart..." I gave her a few loud kisses on her neck. "I gotta get outta here."

I wasn't lying. After the shit that went down last night, I was told to get out of the city. I planned to do so as soon as possible, but when I stopped by "The Wicked Monk", the bar down the street, Michelle was just getting off work.

I stretched as I rose from the bed and grabbed my tank to put it on. "You want coffee?" I asked as I flexed my shoulder. It was stiff from sleep.

She sat up, shaking her head no. "I left Ma with the baby last night...I gotta go too."

I nodded then stood back to watch her dress. Michelle and I have been friends for years, and that body—Goddamn. Having a baby did her ass some good. She had some meat on her bones now. She's not fat but I will admit that she's a little thick.

She turned her head to grin at me as she eased into her jeans. "What?"

I grinned back. "You're beautiful."

She scoffed. "Okay..." She grabbed her bra.

I slowly walked toward her and helped her close it. "You are beautiful," I whispered in her ear.

She sighed and stepped away from me. "Wish that piece of shit sperm donor had thought the same."

"He's an idiot," I said; meanwhile, I don't even know the punk that knocked her up.

"You still seeing that chick in the city?" She placed her shoes on. "She hasn't been around lately."

"Lauren," I said. "We're always fighting about some bullshit."

She laughed. "You? Never. I can't see some chick fighting with you."

I snorted. "With her...I always have the ability to piss her off. Don't know why she cares. Last I heard, we were only fucking."

She grabbed her purse, walked to me, and cupped my chin. "You men are so dumb—I bet it's not just fucking to her."

I placed my hands on her hips. "Then what is it?"

She looked back to the bed. "What we did last night? That was fucking, but what you and Lauren have is something else. When you see women more than a handful of times, dine them, make love instead of fuck, talk on the phone—I'd call that your girlfriend," she giggled, taking my arms from around her. "That doesn't say much about me, does it?"

I laughed. "What are you talking about?" I pecked her lips.

"Nothing," she sighed heavily. "I saw Ang the other day. She looks good—happy."

I shrugged, not giving a fuck. Last I heard, she started dating some teacher.

"Take care of yourself Aro, I'll just…let myself out." She pointed to the door.

I waved and watched her go. Her jeans hugged her bubble ass so tight I had to stop myself from creeping up behind her.

As soon as the door was closed, I started to gather a few things into a bag. I planned to drive north, up to the small bungalow I own. I didn't lie to the Skip when I said I wouldn't be far. I plan to go upstate, but my place is still close to the city. I packed a few sets of clothes and a few stacks of cash, along with a few mags. I have a couple of nines there, but I wasn't sure about bullets.

They're like peanut butter and jelly…

Go together.

When all that shit was settled, I put on some music, did a few bench presses, and jumped in the shower. Then as I washed, I tried as hard as I could not to let my bandage get wet.

After drying, I faced the full-length mirror while I got dressed. With the music still pumping and feeling giddy from the pussy I received last night, I felt amped up for something. Then I laughed as I realized I was checking myself out in the mirror. My shoulder was still fucked and wrapped up, but I kept flexing it so it wouldn't get stiff. I flexed it a lot last night, when I was bouncing Michelle off my cock.

Motherfuckers think they can take my ass out… Well, it takes a lot more than some pussies driving by to do that shit.

They did manage to take my ass out of commission for a good week, though. I'm not invincible, just hard to catch…

As I put on my gold, Cuban-linked chain, I blew myself a kiss, and then turned to throw on my leather coat and grab my duffle. I made sure all the windows were locked and my sound system was unplugged before I left my apartment.

I smiled, locking my door as I heard humming behind me. Mrs. DiMiglia was humming as she swept the hallway. She does so every morning, always dressed in black. In the old country after one loses a spouse, it's customary to wear black, including a black shawl to cover the hair. I'm not sure how long they wear black for, but for as long as I can remember, even when I lived with my folks a few blocks away, Mrs. DiMiglia has always worn black.

I call her Nonna, something she requests all us younger people do.

As soon as I turned, she stopped sweeping to wave her finger at me. "Perché Michelle se ne è andata a quest'ora di nascosto? State di nuovo usando i vecchi trucchetti?"

I grinned at her for noticing. In truth she's just an old, nosy widow who loves to bust my balls. Oh, and she never disappoints; she always has a comment about which or how many different women go in and out of my apartment.

"Buongiorno nonna." I walked to her and kissed her cheek."Michelle ha dormito qui stanotte perchè è rimasta chiusa fuori casa," I lied, telling her Michelle was locked out of her house and that's why she spent the night.

She gave me those shifty eyes, like she didn't believe me. But then she reached up to cup my face and kiss my lips. "Il mio ragazzo," she sighed. "Buongiorno a te."

I smiled. "Come stai?"

She looked down to the floor. "Eh… Per fortuna lavoro ancora." She shrugged, and just like a perpetual grieving widow of her kind, she told me she's blessed with work.

"Don't work too hard." I poked her nose.

"Eh?" She grinned.

"You know what I said." I chuckled.

She shrugged. "I am'a olde...vecchia signora. My a hearing is a not so good."

I nodded, and didn't want to comment on her translation skills. "Devo lasciarti...you take care." I patted her back.

"Aspetta!" She stopped me. "Come sta il signor Cullen, ha già avuto figli? Eh?"

I rolled my eyes then. The Skip may have taken MC and himself out of the neighborhood, but even old and deaf Mrs. DiMiglia wants to know if they're with child yet. "Um...Non credo li avranno presto." I shrugged. "Not yet."

She frowned. "Lei non è italiana, vero? Le ragazze italiane li fanno subito i figli." She nodded. "Se mia nipote fosse stata più grande…" she mumbled.

I raised my eyebrows and wore a smirk. I couldn't believe she said that. She basically just said that if Bella were Italian, she'd be pregnant already. She also said she wishes her granddaughter was older, so that she could have married Edward.

"I think Bella—um—Signora Cullen is Italian. I'm not sure. They will have one when they have one..." I trailed off, as my head whipped to the side. Her granddaughter that she was just talking about ran by us. She tried to hide her face, but I saw it.

"What's wrong with Candace?" I pointed to my eye. She looked like she had a nice sized shiner.

Mrs. DiMiglia then started to shout profanities to the ceiling as she bit her knuckles.

"Nonna?" I turned her to face me. "Che è successo a Candace? Chi le ha ridotto l'occhio così?" I asked her what was wrong with her granddaughter and who did that to her eye.

She leaned away from me. "Disgraziato!" She spit into the air. "Quel pezzo di merda del suo fidanzato!" she roared.

I nodded. "Really? Her boyfriend did that?" I walked around her and pointed to her door. "May I talk to Candace? Posso entrare?" I tilted my head to the door.

"Sì," she gestured to her door, "..e poi voglio che parli anche con lui."

I shook my head. "I won't be talking to him."

"Faiqualcosa o altrimenti chiamerò il Sig. Cullen..." She continued to curse under her breath.

I nodded again. "No need to call the Skip. I'll take care of it."

"Good. Good." She began to sweep again.

Old ladies like Mrs. DiMiglia call me—to get in touch with the Skip—for the littlest bullshit. It's true—that we protect the neighborhood—but we're into bigger things now. I'm into bigger things—bigger than roughing up the neighborhood punks that run around and think they own the place. The punks who shake down local business owners because they think they got it like that. They don't; we do. They can try to shake down whomever they wish. The bottom line is our crew runs this neighborhood.

The door was open, so I just let myself in. I saw Candace sitting at the kitchen table as she unloaded a paper bag.

"I got a bacon, egg, and cheese bagel. Want half?" she asked.

I shook my head no and sat down next to her. "What happened?"

When her brother Donovan died two years ago, over in Iraq, I promised her father that I'd look after her. He works full-time. His wife took off years ago, and the only person around is Mrs. DiMiglia. I tried quite a few times to hook Mr. DiMiglia up with work, but he's denied me each time.

I got Candace a job at La Bella Italia. I make sure she's safe, and I try to do the things an older brother would. But what does she do?

Every time I am alone with this little girl—she's seventeen or eighteen now, I can't remember—she hits on me. Plus, she slept with Carlisle. That's what the Skip says and I believe him. She now works with Patrick at the bowling alley and I am to give her a few extra bucks every week so she doesn't say shit about her little romp with C.

She stood up from her chair. "The coffee from downstairs is always cold." She popped the top off her coffee cup to place it in the microwave. "I was stupid. This is stupid." She pointed to her eye. "Frankie was mad—I—"

"Frankie? Frankie's crew, Frankie?" I laughed.

Frankie's crew is the local unofficial name of the small street gang that runs around Bay Ridge. They don't do shit, but throw around that name and get drunk in Shore Road Park.

The closest they ever come to running with anybody is washing the Skip's cars or mine. That's it. Or, if we need someone roughed up. They're good enough for that. The group of them gets together, think they're tough guys, and do what we say.

The main tough guy, Frankie, would probably get on his knees and suck the Skip off if he asked him, and do you know why?

It's out of respect.

They're a joke.

"Don't do anything—it was my fault. He saw me talking to Mike and—"

I chuckled. "He saw you talking to his boy, so he punched you in the face?"

She shrugged and turned to face me. "I'm his girl. That's a big deal. He runs the whole crew now…Dave left for college."

I continued to chuckle. "You're his girl?"

"Yes, and I disrespected him, so..." She looked down.

I stood up to walk toward her. "That doesn't matter. No man should ever place his hands on a woman…if you're his girl, then that means he's your man. He's supposed to care for you and love you, not hit you. Hitting you was a punk move—you can do better."

"He didn't mean it."

I ignored that. "He should keep his hands to himself. He puts his hands on you again; you come and tell me." I wiped my hands clean. "He has a problem with you? He can come talk to me."

"Aro...please." She grabbed my hand. "Don't do anything."

I took the hand she was holding and palmed her cheek. "Stop running with Frankie and them, okay? Your grandmother told me you skipped school the other day—"

"Old bitch. She needs to mind her business."

"Ay!" I shouted. "That's your grandmother and you will show her some respect. You got that?"

She nodded and looked down.

"Stop chillin' with Frankie, and be more respectful to Nonna. If I find out you're skipping school again, I'll make sure you don't leave this apartment for a month. Understand?" I bent down to her level.

She nodded. "How come you're not around a lot anymore? We haven't gone to the mall in like forever. And who is that blonde I saw? She was here all last week…Where is she now?" she giggled.

"I've been busy. That blonde is Lauren, and that's another thing." I leaned away from her. "You think you're so cool? Hanging out by the subway with your friends?"

She looked away from me.

"Lauren told me how you and a few girls followed her to the train. Don't do that shit no more."

"Is she your girlfriend?" She grinned up to me.

"She's my friend...I gotta go." I stepped back. "Remember what I said." When I turned from her, she pinched my ass. "Cool it with the hands."

"You love it."

"No," I said over my shoulder. "I don't. Wise up, chick-a-dee." I shook my head, before I left the apartment.

As I walked to the elevator, I patted Mrs. DiMiglia on the back and told her I'd take care of everything.

Finding Frankie wasn't too hard, even this early in the morning. That's all these kids do is hang out in the street. Do they ever sleep? All I did was pull up to Bay Ridge Avenue. He was standing outside the pool hall with his buddies.

When I slammed my car's door and they saw me, they all scattered like cockroaches.

"Ay-oh! Frankie!" I shouted. "Don't make me chase yo' ass!"

He stopped in his tracks and turned toward me with his hands raised, like I was a cop.

I chuckled as I walked to him. At first, I opened my mouth as if I was going to speak, but then I punched him in the gut, in the eye, and then kicked his sorry ass onto the ground.

"You like hitting women?" I picked him up by his hair so he looked up at me.

His chest heaved as he tried to catch his breath. "I—I—" He stuttered, which earned him another hit to the face.

I bent low to whisper in his ear. "The next time you hit Candace? It'll be your last…or better yet…every time you place your hands on her, I'm going to come after you…why should you get off so easy, huh?" I grasped his chin when he looked away from me.

"Look at me—" I smacked his cheek. "Every time you raise your hand to a woman, I want you to remember this..." I pushed him away from me to throw more punches and kick at him. "...And stay away from my shop. You and your little boys ain't down, you feel me? Stop—"

"Cullen says... Cullen said... last time..." He tried to catch his breath. "We were to keep an eye out—watch everyone's shit."

I kicked him. "You don't say his name." I punched him in the mouth, gave a small wave to the shop owners who witnessed all that, and hopped back into my jeep.

I laughed out loud as I turned up my music and drove away.

As I continued to drive and hit the highway, my phone started to ring. I just let it ring and tried to ignore it. Everything I did for Mrs. DiMiglia and Candace should not have gone down. No one was supposed to see me. After all, I'm supposed to be dead, and everyone saw me. I fucked up.

It started to bother me when I ignored Lauren's sixth call. I grew concerned.

Last night we spoke three times, but we kept the calls short. She called to bitch about some party Skip set up without telling her. Eclipse was hosting a small get-together. The way Lau described it, they were people she sees there sometimes. The club hosting small parties is no big deal, but it was late, and happened after everything else went down last night—after the Skip and I left Eclipse.

That's what weighed on my mind. After I left Skip and that whole mess downtown, I called Lauren once again to see how she was doing. Edward never mentioned any sit-downs or small parties at Eclipse either.

It concerned me, but I brushed it off because Lauren eased my mind about the situation. As soon as she picked up she said, "Am I the only person in New York that doesn't speak Italian?" I laughed at first and then wondered who these party people were. Then she went on to say that she barely served anyone, took back the statement about recognizing them, and said "maybe" one or two faces looked familiar—now that she had a better look.

Then she had to go.

Then she called me when she got home. I was at the bar at the time, but still listened intently. Lauren told me that "those guys" gave her a ride home. She figured they were our friends; however, our friends wouldn't exactly shove my girl into the back of a black SUV and give her a message for me.

That's all this dude—a man named Ralph—said, "Tell Aro, I have a message for him."

Lauren, who heard his name from one of his buddies, replied, "Tell him yourself."

Ralph—the only Italian speaking Ralph who's Alec's cousin from Jersey, I know—then said, "I just did," and took off in the SUV. They dropped her off at home and had never asked for her address.

I didn't want to startle her, but I knew what the message conveyed.

The status of our relationship doesn't matter to anyone. Lauren is mostly seen with me and so she is my significant other to watchful eyes. The message they gave me was that they could get to her at any time.

Last night, after everything that went down, I didn't want to think about that. I told her to simply, "Stay home." I told her not to go to school, not to go into work, and to lay low until I spoke to Edward. My morning had been pretty busy, and it suddenly felt like I have a million and one thoughts running through my head.

That's a lot for a "supposed" dead man to think about. Right?

When Edward called to bitch me out about not laying low this morning, I just listened. I didn't say a word. I fucked up and I knew it. When he was finished and I was just leaving Manhattan two things happened; Lauren called again, and I gave Edward a brief low down of what went down last night. Lauren's call went ignored and Edward said he'd look into it.

He was going to call Momo and find out who chilled out at Eclipse after everyone left last night. He also told me to relax. Marcus and his father were there too, along with two other crews, and no one reported anything suspicious back to him. Before we ended the call, I asked him to call John—his buddy, who's the underboss, over in Jersey—to see if Ralph came to visit New York.

Do I think a "friend" of mine would relay that message? No, I don't. It has nothing to do with being too trusting. I just know that the people I am closest to, the family members I associate with, wouldn't do something so cowardly as to try and scare the woman I am seeing.

Whoever this Ralph is or had Ralph do that—all signs point to Alec—is a pussy. That was a real pussy move. If you have a message for me, you tell me.

Edward had an after thought and called me back. He told me to shut off my cell. As of now, I was to officially disappear. We were set back since I was supposed to have died last night.

I really fucked up, and fucked up again when Lauren called a ninth time. I picked up the phone, but I didn't say anything.

"Aro… Are you there?" She sounded out of breath and frightened. "Please…"

"I'm here," I said. Then I pulled over to the side of the road. "What's wrong?"

"I—I don't know. I um… I went to get a coffee—"

"I told you to stay inside. Come on, Lau…" I pulled at my hair.

"Stay inside? What the fuck is going on? I don't know what's going on, okay? You tell me things and you never tell me why… The thing last night and then I went for coffee and two guys followed me back… I keep looking out the window… they're still there. Someone even knocked—I—I told Mary not to answer. She had class so she left. I told her not to and she did anyway…What do I tell her? What… Are you in some kind of trouble?" She rambled away like a nervous wreck.

The sad part about all this is, Lauren thinks she knows—about our thing—but she doesn't really know. To her, I'm her boss's friend who hangs out at his strip club way too often. She thinks I own a custodial service too, which I do, but that's it.

"I'm not… I'm going away for a little while…"

"How can you—" she spluttered. "Just… just leave? Aro…tell me," she cried.

I tried to hold back the urge to punch my windshield. I hate it when women cry; makes me feel bad.

"I'm scared. Should I call Mr. C? Tell me."

I groaned. "The fire escape that's outside your bedroom window…use it."

"What?" she shouted. "What about Mary? What if she comes back and these guys are still here?"

"Listen to me. I need you to calm the fuck down—" I pulled into a lane and started driving to the nearest exit. "I'm coming to get you, okay? But I need you to leave your house. You will sneak out the back, climb down from the fire escape, and go somewhere public. Do not go anywhere near Eclipse. There's a Starbucks three blocks away… put your fucking laptop in a bag, and play on your computer until I get there."

"Aro…" she sobbed.

"Baby," I sighed. "I'm here. I'll be listening. Turn your Bluetooth on, and I'll be here. I won't hang up."

"Okay." She sniffled. "But Mary…"

"They don't give a fuck about Mary, and neither do I. You get your ass out of your apartment, now." I sped up a little.

"How can you—"

"I don't hear you packing shit. Get a move on it!" I shouted. Then I heard her grumble under her breath and some movement; she was getting ready to leave. Luckily, I wasn't too far out of the city. I could make it back to her apartment within twenty minutes if traffic wasn't bad, but as long as she left unseen there shouldn't be a problem.

"This thing is so rusty…"

I chuckled. "You live on the second floor. I could jump that if I had to…"

"Oh… so white men can jump," she giggled.

I grinned. "That wasn't funny."

"Yeah, it was…okay…I'm going…" I heard creaking, a loud bang, and Lau mutter the word "shit" ten times. "That was so loud."

I rolled my eyes. "Just go." I was just entering Manhattan again. Then I heard Lauren as she climbed down the fire escape.

I continued to drive.

"I'm down… now I'm filthy."

I chuckled. "I like you…filthy."

"Not the time…" She paused. "Okay, um…I'm walking."

I nodded. "So go. I'll be listening and driving, and you tell me when you get to Starbucks. Get me a cappuccino. Please?"

"You're worried about coffee?" She sounded winded.

"Don't run or draw attention to yourself. You don't see anyone, right?"

She blew out a breath. "Right…so a cappuccino? Can I get you anything else, maybe some biscotti?"

I laughed again. "See if they have scones. I like scones."

"I never pegged you for the scone type…Okay, I'm in the street. It's crowded…" She trailed off, and then we didn't speak until she arrived at Starbucks.

"Don't order my shit until I'm close," I said. "Wait like five minutes…then order, and then wait outside. When I pull up, you're going to run and hop into the Jeep." I chuckled because I was fucking with her.

"Okay…" she said breathily. "I can do that."

"It's very important that you are not seen. You have to think like a ninja—"

"Aro…" she whined. "I'm really scared. Stop messing with me."

I snickered. "Sorry…" Then I stayed quiet until I was five minutes away. That was when I told Lau to order my cappuccino and be ready for me outside.

I slowed to a crawl when I approached Starbucks. I didn't see anyone that I would consider suspicious. Then again, I have no idea who had been following Lauren.

Nevertheless, Lau took what I said seriously and sprinted out to the Jeep wearing a large messenger bag and carrying a beverage tray in her hands.

"Drive. Drive. Drive…" She chanted.

"Christ…Don't I get a kiss?" I leaned over to kiss her cheek. "Seatbelt," I said before I drove off.

"How are you so calm?"

I shrugged the good shoulder. "You have any Advil? My shit is in the back—in my bag."

"You need to cool it with those Vicodin. Don't think that I don't know you drink with them…how are you so calm?" She gripped the beverage tray tightly and looked seconds away from a nervous breakdown.

"I took a Vicodin." I grinned.

"Ass..." She sat back and unloaded the tray into the center console. "So who are these guys? What did they want with me?"

I pursed my lips. "Let's just go… and then we'll talk, okay?"

"Where are we going?" she asked.

I gave her a brief glance. Despite how I felt about her, I wondered if I could really trust her. Then I looked away from her. She had her hair up and all I could focus on was my want to bite her neck—just to bite it. "You look sexy."

"I'm in pajamas." She scoffed.

"Still…" I sat up straight again. "I never see you in pajamas."

"Duh! That's because I'm always naked… can we focus, please? Where are we going?"

"Soon…" I sighed and turned the music back up. "You didn't ask for none of the non-fat garbage again, did you? I appreciate that you look out for me but…" I picked up my coffee and took a sip.

She let out a frustrated groan. "I know you're in the mob…so, just be straight with me. I've seen the kind of people that come in and out of the club…I've been working at Eclipse for over a year now. I'm not stupid—"

I grinned and gave her a fleeting glance. "So just because a lot of Guido's chill there, you automatically think they're Mafioso?"

"During my senior year of high school? I took journalism. And it just so happens, I wrote an essay about Marcus Misone. The essay focused on the article that featured his trial. It was about how important Miranda rights are, and all that garbage. I still have that paper somewhere at home…in Cali." She rambled. "He totally got off on a technicality; meanwhile, when I met him and put two and two together, I felt like such a dumb ass because I acted as though I met a celebrity. Now be straight with me—"

I didn't reply and continued to drive.


I looked in the rearview mirror. "Those are some strong accusations—me mobbed up." I chuckled and placed my hand on her thigh. Then I frowned when her hand touched mine. "I'll elaborate more when we stop."

"Okay," she whispered. "I don't care. You know that, right? None of that is important." She leaned over and kissed my cheek.

I leaned into her and reached up to weave my fingers into her hair. "That's—" I was at a loss for words and let her go, but not before I quickly stole a kiss.

What Michelle told me this morning wasn't anything new. I know how much I do care about Lauren. I'm not very knowledgeable when it comes to relationships, but I was in one for a very long time.

Angela and I…it all went to shit after I got involved with the thing. She didn't approve and wanted me to finish school. Since I couldn't play ball anymore, that didn't mean I couldn't make something more of myself, work to pay for tuition when I lost my scholarship and all that.

If I wasn't playing football, school held no interest for me.

She, too, had an idea about what I was doing. I was away a lot, working my ass off to make a name for myself. Doing things I would have never imagined myself doing.

Breaking the law in so many different ways—including, icing motherfuckers and disposing of dead bodies—and surprisingly none of it mattered. I embraced my new life and quickly began to love it. I was a natural. The jobs and money came to me fast. The attention I received from the opposite sex, just because of the people I was around, was incredible, and so was the level of respect I gained.

I didn't want school anymore. I didn't want the family business when my parents moved down to Florida, and after a while I didn't want Angela anymore either. But that still didn't stop my feelings. She has come and gone so many times over the last few years, and now I finally don't give a shit.

Why? Lauren is the first woman to make me forget about her. Every other woman I was ever with, there was always a comparison—a war within myself—wondering what was up and down. I may be a quiet guy, but my brain is always fucking with me.

Lauren saying what she just said, it meant a lot. Probably more than I could even express in words.

But most of all, it made me feel bad about boffing Michelle last night. "Can I tell you something?"

"Anything." She trailed her hand up my forearm.

"I slept with someone last night—" The car swerved when she started to punch me repeatedly.

"I was scared for my life! My life! —Trying to call you! —Get a straight answer! —And you were with some other woman?" She continued to hit me.

I let her do it and pulled over so we wouldn't get into an accident. "Stop…" I leaned away from one of her fists. "Can you let me finish?"

"Fuck you!" She got me right in the shoulder, which made me groan and close my eyes. "Oh my God… Baby, I'm so sorry." She fussed over me before her face crumbled. "Why—why would you—" She looked to her hands and broke down in front of me. She sobbed, looking like a little girl. She was in these pink pajama pants with—I don't know—bunnies on them, and she was wearing an 'NYU' hooded sweatshirt. Plus, her hair was a mess and she wore no makeup. She was beautiful, but now my beautiful angel was crying.

I shook my head to snap myself out of that stupor. "Stop crying," I said and lifted her chin. "It meant nothing. I just thought you should know. Last night… you didn't seem that scared. Lau, it was just sex…"

"Like what we have." She huffed a breath and looked away from me.

"It's nothing like what we have." I made her face me again. "We never set rules…"

She grinned. "So I can date then? That's good to know."

I gritted my teeth together. "No…you can't."

"If it's good enough for you—"

I smiled and leaned in real close. "Sweetheart, if I even see you with some fucker who isn't me? I'll break his fucking legs…and maybe his jaw. So you think about that." I righted myself in my seat.

She was quiet for a minute, and right when I was about to pull away she turned off the music. "So what are we then? We didn't have rules… maybe we should make some."

I pursed my lips. I have never been a fan of rules. Not for me anyway. But I get that double standard shit she's talking about. "We're together. That's it for right now."

"What about—"

I shook my head. "Not now, okay? Let's get going."

"You can't talk and drive?" she asked. "Is that too hard of a task? If you can you chew gum and pull a trigger at the same time, then you can talk to me while you drive."

"Oh!" I shouted. "Listen to you…" I ignored her and turned the music back on. Then I lit a cigarette, only for her to grab it and throw it out her window. Little did she know that she was seconds away from following my cigarette. "Take a nap or something." I lit another one.

She didn't argue and I sped up again. There was no traffic and I was able to go eighty for a good twenty minutes; we were doing well. I had nothing to say. Neither did she; although, I'm sure once we stop I'll get an earful. The whole time I felt her eyes on me and tried to ignore it. Is she trying to will me to spill?

After a while, I guess it became too much. "Can't you tell me something?" she whined and did a little agitated dance in her seat.

I grinned. Whining is okay; I just hate crying. "We're going to my house. I own a small cottage, just outside of Cold Spring."

"Where's that?" she whispered.

"It's a little more than a half hour from here—where we are now. I go there sometimes." I looked to her briefly. "It's small—nothing fancy."

"Oh…" She sat back and didn't say anything else for the remainder of the ride. She had fallen asleep, and for my own peace of mind I grabbed her hand and held it. Our half hour ride turned into an hour and change ride. I had noticed a car following a little too close. It could have been a generic tailgater, but to be safe I left the highway and continued to drive along the backcountry roads where I couldn't go more than forty-five.

There were a few cars but none got too close.

When I pulled into the driveway, I became nervous. No one has ever seen this place besides my sister and Edward. We had business out this way a while back and stayed here a few days.

It used to be an account of my custodial service. We service people's vacation homes all the time. Actually, most of the houses around here are vacation homes—bungalows. People vacation here in Cold Spring for the summer, and go back to wherever the fuck they came from in the winter. We keep their places clean while they're gone, and do routine maintenance.

When Mr. Goldstein canceled his account and informed me that this house would be on the market, I went to check it out. This was back when I was still working my way up, so I actually did spend a lot of time running my father's business.

I saw it, loved it, and then scrounged for a job to make some quick cash. Mr. Goldstein loved me for that. I paid cash, and he didn't have any hassles.

It's not that far outside the city at all, but I love it here and it's all mine. Maybe I should have kept driving, gone further north, and maybe rented us a hotel room, but I didn't want that.

It's been a long six months since the last time I was here. I missed it, and regardless of what Lauren thinks, I wanted to share this with her.

It's odd how I can't commit, and yet want to open up to her at the same time.

Maybe I should lay off the Vicodin. It's fucking with my head. "Hun?" I ran my nose across Lau's cheek. "We're here." I placed a soft kiss on her jaw.

She grinned and let out a small sigh. "Hi."

I smiled wide. "Hi…Did you enjoy your nap?"

She sat up and stretched out while she looked out her window. "Where are we?"

"Upstate New York, like I told you." I shut down the car and grabbed her hand again.

"It's so…so woodsy," she giggled. "Look at all this snow…"

I nodded and took a look around myself. "It snows more up here…Later, we'll go into town. I don't keep the fridge stocked."

"Oh…How long…"

"I don't know." I leaned over to peck her cheek again. "Come on…let's go."

We left the car, gathered our things, and then entered the house. The steps to the porch were covered in snow, and I cringed at the thought of shoveling that shit. Since I'm private, my company no longer does any upkeep for this spot.

Then when I fumbled with my set of keys, I saw Lauren shivering from the cold.

"Where's your coat?" I asked as I tried to warm her in the foyer.

Her teeth chattered. "I was scared—I just left. I didn't even feel the cold—" She hugged me tight.

I shrugged out of my coat and draped it over her back. "This is it…go sit down, take a look around, and get comfortable. I'll start a fire…" I rubbed my hands up and down her back. "There's a Wal-Mart somewhere around here. We'll get you a coat later."

She made a face.

"Go sit down," I sighed.

"No!" She rushed out. "It's not that—I just—I hate going to Wal-Mart. The lines…Is it 24 hours? We should go late. They have food too."

I shrugged. "I don't know." I let her go and locked all the locks on the front door. Then I turned the thermostat up higher, and went in search for one of those fire starter logs.

I'm no Paul-fucking-Bunyan, so I hope Lau didn't expect me to go chop some wood.

Once I had a fire going, I joined Lauren on the couch. "This is so cozy—like what you see on TV." She pulled a throw blanket over her. "This is what I always imagined when I thought about snow, the woods, and the northeast. I knew New York City wouldn't be like this, but I always hoped I'd get to see something like this…I wish it was under better circumstances." She turned to stare at the fire.

I scooted closer to wrap my good arm around her. "What's it like, where you're from?"

She grinned at me. "Do you even remember where I am from?"

"Surf City?" I kissed her cheek.

"Newport Beach… It's never too hot or too cold. I loved growing up there. I always…" She stopped talking and had a wistful look about her.

I nudged her. "What is it?"

She shook her head and looked back to me. "I always…I always had this—this day dream of being in love and being with my boyfriend or husband…We'd sit on Newport Pier and watch the sunset…be so lost and in love that before we knew it, we were watching the sunrise," she giggled and tried to hide her face. "That's stupid, right?"

I held her tighter. "Not at all… It sounds very… romantic." I yawned.

She nodded but wore a frown. She also, ever so slightly, pulled away from me—like she didn't want me touching her.

I didn't move a muscle. "I'm sorry about last night."

"So am I…I thought…I guess I just thought you were different." She actually cringed away from me now.

"It didn't mean anything. Would you rather I'd kept that secret? I felt…I thought you should know." I withdrew my arm. "We never said we were exclusive…"

She nodded. "You're right, but I'm still pissed about it." She swallowed and looked like she might cry again.

"Why does it bother you? I said it was just sex…"

"Because I…" She kept her mouth opened like her words were caught.

"Because…" I nodded her along.

"Probably the same reasons you'd break someone's legs." She stared at the fire.

"Fair enough," I said and stared at the fire too. "Where's your cell?"

She grabbed her purse. "Here, why?"

"Call Heidi—tell her you won't be in tonight. We'll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow."

"Crap…I called out just a few weeks ago because I had bad cramps. She's going to be pissed, and I so don't want to hear her mouth." Lauren looked to her phone.

"Just tell her you're not coming in. I'll deal with her if she has any problems when we go back."

"Okay." She put the phone to her ear while I excused myself to the bathroom. My shoulder had been so sore since she hit it earlier, and I wanted to check it out. Sure enough, a little blood had trickled out and soaked the bandage. I was just content that my stitches hadn't opened.

Lauren, since the day I met her and up until today, continues to surprise me. She was always so quiet, seemingly a little stunad, and then once I got to know her a little better, I realized quite a few things. She's feisty as hell, doesn't take shit from anyone—including me—and she's pretty smart, ballsy even.

With that being said, I felt even worse about last night. Considering that she is so gutsy, why didn't I take her concerns more seriously? Why did she have to call me so many times just to get my attention?

I hate rules yet take orders well. Maybe not today, but I usually obey orders…

As a street soldier—'cause lets face it, that's what I am—I have to work hard for both respect and to move up in rank. When we took care of Catello, that was my time to rise up—be on Misone's crew and get my button—but I didn't mind staying on Edward's. It essentially made no difference, only on another level it did. After working for Edward, I quickly realized that he's the one who really runs shit. Misone is still on the team, but he's more of a benched player, if you know what I mean.

Edward—the Skip—is a hard nut to crack. Sure, we're buddies and shit, but that doesn't mean anything. I'll get my wings when he believes I've earned them. That can be tomorrow or a year from now.

If I stayed with Misone, I probably would have been made shortly after.

I don't mind working to earn my place. After all, that's why we're here today. Alec was made just because of his name—because he's a Volturi. He outranks me in title alone. He's a permanent member of our thing, whereas I can be considered a visitor. He's a made man and I am not. Regardless of that fact, now that he's with Ronnie, he's back at the bottom.

I'm higher in the chain of command on Edward's crew—where he would have been if he stayed on Edward's crew. However, if I was suddenly out of the picture he'd be back on Edward's crew—or so he thinks.

I know how shady motherfuckers like Alec think. It doesn't take a genius to. If he takes me out and Skip takes him back, he's one step closer to Edward – a place he is so far away from now. Then, if he took care of Edward he could be up for the throne

Edward would never take him back. He doesn't renege—or go back and change a decision. He keeps with his original plan. I get it, and it's a great strategy. If you're indecisive that doesn't say much about your leadership skills. As a skillful leader, you can never back down or be unsure of anything.

And so, even if the Skip makes a wrong decision—which I do not believe he did when it came to Alec—he'll deal with the chips wherever and however they may fall…

I sighed after staring at myself in the mirror for so long, I just became a blur.

"Are you okay?" Lau asked.

I nodded and turned. "It's getting late…"

"I found a box of mac and cheese." She made the box dance. "It'll suck, but we can make it work with just water."

I shook my head no. "No fucking way," I laughed. "Let's go grab a bite…stop at a store for drinks, and worry about more food when we're hungry. Deal?" I put my hand out for a shake. When she took my hand I pulled her in for a kiss, and she was quick to turn away from me.

"Okay…" I frowned and let her go. "Put your shoes back on."

Lauren played nice while we went to eat at a local diner, when we went to Wal-Mart and bought a bunch of shit—including a coat for her—and when we bought more firewood. She insisted on the firewood just so we can add to the starter logs I bought. She sounded like a damn cub scout when she went on about how to keep a fire going. She then explained that her brothers are skilled outdoorsmen that used to take their little sister camping.

That was another new thing I learned about her, along with something else I wish I didn't learn. Lauren played nice, but retracted from me whenever I reached to touch her, kiss her, or even say something sweet. It was like there was suddenly this wall between us, and I knew it was because of the shit I had told her earlier.

I wished I never said anything, but I know—felt it in my gut—that I did the right thing. If I can't be open and share certain things with her, why not share the good and bad things that I can?

I'm not a fucking idiot. I knew she'd be upset, but I thought she would have gotten over it already.

"Are these new tire tracks?" She looked down to the snow.

I walked to the back of the Jeep and looked down. "I doubt it. It's from us."

"Okay…" she sighed, and took a few bags out of the hatch. "Maybe I'm just paranoid."

"Don't be. I have a whole fucking artillery in the attic." I blurted and then stared at her for her reaction.

"Oh…" She didn't react.

I nodded. "Right…" I cautiously gave her ass a light smack.

She gave me a glare.

I chuckled and piled the bags from Wal-Mart into my hands. "It's dark…let's get in the house." I waited for her to walk ahead of me. "Sometimes wild dogs run through here…"

She ran up the porch steps, and I smirked.

"That's not funny."

I ignored her and opened the door. "Relax."

"How can you be so calm?" she shouted.

I laughed some more and walked in ahead of her. I flicked on all the lights, checked shit out, and nothing was amiss. "It's good." I pulled her inside. "No one knows about this place," I said to keep her calm but that new tire track shit she spewed did alarm me. Then again, they could be the Jeep's tire tracks. The driveway is a complete circle; you drive in and out, and around. Before we left earlier, I drove around to show Lauren the property, too.

"I'll go put this stuff away." I walked into the kitchen, and when I stopped short by the kitchen table she bumped into me.

"It's creepy here at night." She stayed close.

"Oh…now you wanna be close to me…" I shook my head and emptied the bags.

"Give me a gun…maybe that'll give me peace of mind."

I thought about it. "No…just relax. I don't need to get shot again. You hear a bird or a fucking wolf howl, and you start shooting…nuh-uh. No fucking way." I turned to put the milk in the fridge.

"I know how to fire a gun…did you know Bella keeps one in her purse?" She shook her head. "Now she's paranoid. I don't know her that well, but I saw it…"

"Never mind what MC is packing," I said.

She threw her hands up. "God forbid I talk about 'the Queen'…Fuck…If I didn't know any better, I'd say you were fucking her."

"Watch your mouth." Needless to say, I was less than enthused with her recent theatrics. She can be mad at me, but what she did and said was just wrong. If she spoke ill about someone else, I wouldn't give a fuck. MC is like my little sister. We may not be blood related, but I still consider her to be that: blood.

And regardless of how I feel about Lauren, blood is thicker than water…and some good pussy, even with all my gooey feelings.

I put the rest of the shit that needed to stay cold into the fridge, and then left the kitchen.

"Where are you going?"

"Television," I said and turned back to her. "Would you like to watch TV with me or are you going to continue to be a cold-hearted bitch?" I asked.

She gasped.

"Sorry," I laughed and walked away from her.

She followed and stomped her feet behind me. "You sleep with some slut…and I'm not allowed to be angry?"

"Be angry… just don't drag others into your emotional garbage. Understand? You should respect Bella. Not only as your friend, but also as someone close to me—she's like a sister. I'd extend the same respect to you…to your brothers, even if I didn't like them."

"I like Bella. I just don't like you sleeping around. She's not my problem—that is." She looked away from me.

"Why can't you overlook it? I don't care that you spread your legs for C, without so much as a hello when you first met him, now do I?" I raised a brow.

"That shit happened so long ago…"

"And yet, you still wanted this…even after." I cupped my junk. "Lau, don't play yourself. It's the same fucking thing. You may not know the girl, but others…other guys like me, would have never gotten involved with some other fucker's used goods. Does that make sense?"

"Oh!" she laughed. "So now I'm beneath you? And what exactly did you mean by, 'a guy like you', please tell me."

I put my hand out, ready to surrender. I don't do this shit at all. "Tolerate me...tonight. Tomorrow, I'll make a call…drive you somewhere and have Joe come get you. He'll look out for you."

"What?" She frowned.

I shrugged. "I'm not doing this. I'm not going to fight with you. I wanted to share something with you…I told you about Michelle—"

"Now the ho has a name…" She had screw neck—twirling her head—and threw the attitude at me with full force. I was waiting for her to snap her fingers or stomp a foot. "Shit."

I reined in my smile. "I told you about Michelle because I felt bad. I thought if we were going to move forward with this thing of ours…" I gestured to us both, "…then we should be truthful. You want to know things that I cannot and will not share with you, and so I went with something else. Something I felt very bad about today. Everyone makes mistakes, Lau. Even you, and I was just pointing that out." I ranted.

When she didn't say anything I kept going. I had to because my gut told me to keep going. "The first night I took you out, did you or did you not fuck me?" I asked.

"I did…but…"

"Have you slept with—excuse me—fooled around with anyone else…since then?" I asked. "You can tell me…Just don't tell me who it is. After all, we had no commitment, remember? We still don't."

She looked away from me.

I wanted her to say "no", but I knew the truth. A few nights after we started dating, she got drunk at the club and blew Felix. I know because he told me. He found out I was seeing her the day after it had happened. He apologized and did the right thing by telling me. Dude was so fucking scared, I thought he was going to buy me a fucking Hallmark card—an "I'm sorry I let your girl blow me," card.

I snickered at the thought, and Lauren just looked angrier.

I won't say I overlooked the BJ. After that, I decided to sever all ties with Lauren, but she's just…Lau…and I couldn't do it. Now—now if she did that shit…fuck. I'd go nuts, so that's how I can relate with her being angry. But I'd also look at the logical side.

"Sweetheart…" I palmed her cheek. "I never put a ring on your finger. We never discussed anything, and before Michelle, there was Christina—two weeks back."

She backed away from me.

"I'm just being honest with you…and yes…" I paused to step back too. "I do what you think I do, and you can do what you want with that information, but I wouldn't share it with anyone. You feel me?"

"Who's Christina? And where do you know Michelle from?"

I grinned at her audacity. "That's what you want to know?"

She nodded with a puss on her face. "Yeah, I wanna know." I had tough Lauren back—the one that I adore.

"Michelle works at a bar near my crib…She knows all about you because I bitch to her about…my 'lady' problems, as she calls it."

"She knew you were with someone and slept with you anyway?"

I snorted. "You knew Carlisle was engaged and slept with him anyway, did you not?"

She nodded. "Fair enough…Who's this Christina?"

I laughed out loud. "Oh…you taking names now? Gonna go out—hunt them down?" I hated to admit that her jealousy kind of turned me on. Okay, so it turned me on a lot.

"What do you care?" she asked.

I nodded and bit my lip as I stared at her. "Okay, rock on with your bad ass, but I have news for you…my type…my usual type?" I placed my hand on my chest. "I like tough, feisty bitches that can roll." I stepped toward her. "A cute little thing like you? You'll get your ass—" I slapped hers, "-handed to you."

She flexed her jaw and wouldn't look at me. "Who's Christina…is it the Christina that works with Bella? The one she talks about?"

I nodded. "Yeah…it is," I admitted.

"That just makes it worse…screwing people I know."

"Wow… you and Bella chilled once and now you suddenly know everybody? You don't know Christina…but you can learn a thing or two from 'the Queen'; she's one tough shorty—a cute little thing just like you, but can hold her own…Maybe I should have given you some heat…" I pushed a few flyaway hairs away from her face.

"Don't touch me."

I took my hands back and continued to smile at her. "I thought you wanted to know everything…that's not everything, but it's some."

"Stop looking at me," she said through clenched teeth.

I smirked at her because regardless of what this was all about, during our little chat I had become horny as fuck. "I can't help it." I poked her nose.

She looked like she wanted to smile but she was being stubborn. "Stop fucking looking at me."

I shook my head. "You're such a fucking brat." I pulled her and held her tight while I searched her eyes. "I tuoi occhi brillano più del sole…" I kissed her lips, and then licked my own. "Le tue labbra sono più dolci del miele," I whispered, and received the response I wanted.

She swallowed, kept her eyes closed, and dug her nails into my biceps; she was holding me so tight. "What's that mean?"

I grinned and nuzzled my nose to hers. "I said, your eyes…" I took a moment to kiss both of her closed lids. "—are brighter than the sun, and your lips…" I kissed her hard, mashing my mouth to hers only to pull back. "-are sweeter than honey."

She gave me half a smile and finally opened her eyes. "You fight dirty."

I leaned down to bite her chin. It caught my attention and I had to do it. "What other way is there?" My hands roamed down her back and took hold of her ass. "Be with me…only me, and I'll show you the same respect. It's me and you…no one else, and what happened yesterday, last week or last month, doesn't count."

She gulped and wrapped her arms around my neck. "You mean that? Because I think…"

"Shh." I kissed her again. "I do…mean that," I said.

Even if I wasn't completely sure, I wanted to mean it.

"Me too…" she whispered.

*squee* We didn't even get to the good part yet. I promise. Combined, it was over 21k, and I couldn't do that to you guys...make you sit and read that long...so with two chapters, you have a choice?

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