Summary: Gravity's business is booming, but what happens when a ghost from the past shows up, taking the only thing that matters, can the team work together to fix it or will they rip apart at the seams?
A/N...I'm back! LOL From the notes you left me on the teaser, I think it's a good thing. So much love...thank you! Goober_Lou calls this the "Gravity Series," so I suppose we could go with that.
Now, on to the sequel... Let's see... Carlisle and Esme are getting married, Rose and Emmett are expecting their first child, and Gravity is pretty busy. Most of you are worried about a few things, and I can't say that I blame you, but I really need you to just calm down, brace yourselves, and have faith in me.
So Mercward is back...as a daddy. GAH! I do love him. So that being said, let's say hello to everyone again. This story starts out a little different than the first one, not that there won't be action (hey, this ME we're talking about) but it just won't take place just quite yet. I really hope you enjoy the new story, because it became a cemented idea in my head the very second I finished B&G. SO...On with it... I'll see you at the bottom.
"Edward, it's almost time for the toast," Rose said from the balcony doorway.
I nodded at the poor thing as she held her lower back while she waddled back inside. She was due within weeks. In fact, getting her there, in a dress that fit, not to mention maintaining her disposition, had been a daunting fucking task for everyone involved – especially for Emmett and Bella.
I snickered to myself as I walked back into the reception for my dad's wedding. It had been a beautiful, but very fucking large event – a far cry from what the rest of us had done. Bella and I had gotten married in San Francisco, with just my father and Esme in attendance at the courthouse. Emmett and Rose had gotten married in Vegas, right after the huge events took place in Seattle, and Jasper and Alice had thrown a small party, invited just close friends, and hired a Notary to say their vows. All simple, all private.
My father, on the other hand, who was getting married for his second time, decided to go all out. I knew most of it was for the public, because he was still very much involved in Twi Tech; once the media got a hold of the information that he was engaged, it all got fucking out of hand – including the fact that his first wife had died from cancer. But more than that, he wanted to hand my now new step-mother, Esme, the world. And that I fucking understood, because she was an amazing woman.
A small miniature torpedo collided with my legs, and I looked down to see a grumpy, but always adorable little three year old. Bethy never looked more like her mother than when she was mad.
"What's this, little sweetness?" I chuckled, scooping her up and rubbing her dramatically wrinkled brow with my thumb.
Elizabeth Renee looked like a baby doll in her bright yellow dress and black patent leather shoes. Her dark hair was half up and curled adorably at the ends, secured with a sweet, yellow bow at the back of her head. Her legs wrapped around me, covered in now wrinkled white tights, as she grabbed my face with one hand and pointed behind her with another. She'd been the flower girl for the wedding, the basket of rose petals long since discarded once we'd all made it to the reception.
"D-Daddy, JW is b-bothering me," she grumped and huffed, folding her arms across her chest in a gesture so much like Bella's that it took all I had not to laugh, when obviously we were having an emergency of the utmost importance.
I glanced over her shoulder to see who she was talking about. Jacob Black's son, JW – or Jacob William Black – who was just a year older than Bethy, was rubbing his shin and tugging on his father's pant leg at the same time, and I had a feeling my daughter had just kicked the shit out of the poor boy.
"What happened, pretty girl?" I asked, walking around the dance floor with her in my arms.
"He was playing a game and wouldn't let me join...s-so I k-kicked him," she sputtered, her green eyes blazing and sounding more like me everyday. If she got anything from me, it was my stutter, though hers was more prominent when she was excited or in trouble, whereas mine was a tell of nerves. And she'd received a wonderful combination of mine and Bella's tempers. My beautiful, sweet, ever so smart little girl could take zero bullshit – from anyone.
"Tell him the real reason, Bethy," Bella snorted from behind me, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. Her amusement at our daughter could barely be contained.
"Oh, yeah!" she huffed, her eyes growing dark with ire. "A-And he tried to kiss me!" Her arms spread wide as she gaped at me, like she couldn't believe someone could possibly have offended her in this most hideous of fashions.
I laughed out right at not only my little one's actions, but of who JW belonged to, my wife joining me. Jacob Black was my wife's ex, and it wasn't a secret that he was not only afraid of me, but of Bella, too. JW was the karmic result of his cheating on Bella during their relationship with his assistant, Lauren, and even though the little boy was a funny little kid, I couldn't help but feel that JW would genetically receive a "cheating" gene, so there was no way he was good enough for my Bethy. I didn't give a fuck how young he was.
"Well, then, I see nothing wrong with your reaction, little sweetness." I shrugged at her, smirking when Bella laughed again, kissing my cheek.
"Of course you don't," she chuckled against my jaw. "Personally, I hope she keeps that attitude permanently."
"Me, too," I snickered, kissing both my girls, before handing Bethy over to Bella. I pointed to my daughter as I raised my eyebrow. "Next time he tries to kiss you, run away and tell him you'll bring your dad and your uncles back with you," I growled into her neck, loving the squeal that erupted from her.
Bethy grinned and nodded, pushing and shoving at me. She wriggled down from Bella's arms, running across the reception hall, yelling, "Hey, JW, guess what!"
Bella snorted into a laugh, wrapping her arms around my waist. "You know she's told him that you, Jazz, and Em are all soldiers, right? She's about to scare the shit out of that boy."
I chuckled, kissing her forehead. "That's my girl," I snorted, looking down at my wife.
"Nervous?" she asked, tilting her head at me.
"No," I sighed. "Well, trying not to be, anyway. You?"
"Not really," she stated, shaking her head.
We were the Matron of Honor and Best Man, and it was time for the toast in front of a very large crowd – the one thing neither of us was particularly looking forward to, but were doing anyway, because we loved my dad and Esme.
I looked down at her, cupping her chin and bringing her lips to mine. She looked amazing today – though all of the girls did, really. Esme had gone with a Spring color theme, because not one of the girls could decide what color to wear, so they wore them all, though every dress was made alike. My Bella was in pale, icy blue, Rose in a light pink – a lot of light pink – Alice in lavender, Mickey in a sage green, and Makenna in a pale tangerine color. The guys and I had all teased the shit out of them when we first heard about it, telling them that they all represented flavors of sherbert. But once the dresses were revealed, all flowy, form-fitting, and sexy, we shut the fuck up. Quickly.
"You're so beautiful, baby," I whispered against her lips, pressing my forehead to hers.
"You're lookin' pretty good yourself there, Edward," she giggled, wrapping her arms around my neck. "If I hadn't been the size of the Goodyear Blimp when we got married, then I'd feel like I missed out on this tux situation..." she teased, biting her bottom lip.
"You," I growled in her ear, biting at her earlobe, "were gorgeous pregnant, sweetness."
"So you told me...repeatedly," she chuckled, pulling back and looking behind me when our names were called. "It's time," she sighed, rolling her eyes up to mine. "This is one of those times when the 'ladies first' shit is for the birds. I wish you'd go..."
I grinned, holding my arm out for her, and guided her back to the wedding party table. "You'll be perfect, love. I'm sure." I kissed her temple as we stepped behind the table. "I'll be right next to you. Or...you can pretend everyone's naked."
"Edward!" she hissed, rolling her eyes. "That is somewhat disturbing, what with some of the people in this audience."
"But not for me," I chuckled, giving her whole being an appraising glance as I dragged my tongue along my bottom lip.
"That's because you have a one-track mind," she laughed, kissing my lips.
"Only with you, Mrs. Cullen," I said with a shit eating grin.
Bella took her place at my side, but stayed standing as Rose tapped her glass to get everyone's attention. She held up her glass of champagne, looking over at my father and Esme, who were sitting beside her. The music quieted, and people took their seats back at their assigned tables, giving my girl their attention.
"I met Carlisle for the first time when I was twelve years old," she started, giving my chuckling father a wink. "He was my dad's best friend and business partner. He'd just – and I mean just – retired from the Air Force, so he was a little intimidating in full uniform," she snorted, shaking her head. "It wasn't until years later that I really got to know Carlisle, got to see that he was far from intimidating, and that he held more than just the titles of best friend, business partner, and retired Air Force Captain."
She took a deep breath, swallowing, and I touched the side of her leg where no one could see it, because I'd heard her speech. I knew where she was going with it. She glanced down at me and took another deep breath, her little chin jutting out in determination as she turned back to her audience.
"He's my godfather, my father-in-law, my child's grandfather – or Poppy, as he prefers. He's one of a handful of heroes that I owe...everything to," she said, her voice filling with emotion, "and he's now the husband to a woman that I love as much as my own mother. And I know if my dad were still here, he'd be so very happy for you, Carlisle," she said with a nod. She swallowed thickly, wiping a tear away, and I'd never wanted to hold her more.
"Esme," she said, a sweet smile gracing her face. "She and I used to be neighbors, and she holds a few titles of her own," she snickered, smiling down at the bride and groom. "She's Gamma to my daughter, she's been my therapist, my cooking partner, and my nanny. She's the glue to the cluster of people I've come to know as my family, because without her, I'm sure we would have all fallen apart at the seams a long, long time ago."
"Or killed each other," I muttered, smiling up at my wife when she heard me.
"Right, or killed each other," she giggled, rolling her eyes at the laughter. She turned back to my dad and Esme, holding up her glass, and we all followed suit. "I couldn't have picked two people who were more perfect for one another. To Carlisle and Esme," she stated, and we all drank with her.
She hugged them both, nodding to whatever my dad was whispering to her, before sitting down.
"Perfect! See, love?" I whispered against her ear, and she nodded. "But I'm glad you went first," I teased her, laughing when she punched my leg and rolled her eyes at me.
I stood up, looking around the room. The front few tables were filled with the closest of friends – the ones we considered almost more than family. The tables on either side of the bride and groom table held the rest of the wedding party: Emmett, Rose, Jasper, and Alice on the left, and Mickey, Obie, Makenna, and Wes on the right. In the middle of the front section of tables sat Benny, Angela, Aunt Kate, Sam, and Alec, and the table beside them held Eleazar – Esme's brother – Felix, Eric, and shockingly enough, Eric's sister, Victoria, and her little girl, Chelsea. Everyone else in the room seemed inconsequential to me, because they were either media, Twilight employees, or clients that my dad felt the need to invite. It was really to the people up front that I spoke, but I finally let my gaze fall to my dad.
I cleared my throat and took my own deep breath to calm my nerves – not for speaking in front of everyone, but for what I was about to say. I felt Bella's hand on the side of my leg, because she also knew what my speech was about.
"I asked my mother once why my dad was gone a lot when I was a little kid. She told me that he was working really hard keeping us safe. She said that his job was so important that they needed him all over the world, and that we should appreciate the time we actually got to spend with him," I said with a small smile. "But something about that answer didn't sit well with me, so I wrote him a letter. He was stationed in Germany at the time, and it seemed like forever before I got an answer, but when he called me, his answer made much more sense. He told me...and I quote, 'because they fucking tell me to go, son.'" I smiled over at my dad, who was chuckling, along with the whole room, and shaking his head.
"When we found out he was retiring..." I continued, bracing myself, "...b-because my mom was sick, she gave me the best piece of advice when it came to my dad. She said... 'Just because he's gruff and impatient, doesn't mean he doesn't love you, Edward. He's the best friend you'll ever have, son.'" I sighed, looking over at him. "She wasn't wrong. He's been there for me more times than I can count, taught me everything I know about being a good soldier, a good father, a good husband...just a good man. Just after my mother passed away, my Aunt Kate gave me a letter from my mother, and I've never let anyone read it, but I wanted my dad to hear a part of it."
I pulled out the letter, or at least the copy that Bella had been nice enough to make for me, even going as far as highlighting the part I wanted to read. I cleared my throat, looking at my dad's surprised face, but read the words to him I'd read many times to myself.
"Edward, there may come a time that your father finds someone...someone that he may want to marry. Please understand that it isn't a an insult to me, or any memories you two have of me, but take comfort in the fact that maybe he's found someone that loves him just as much as I do. Your father is a caring, loving soul and deserves to find happiness.
"Always be a gentleman and treat her with respect, son, because if she's worthy enough to capture your father's heart, then she'll be worth getting to know."
I tucked the paper back into my pocket, lifting my glass. "I couldn't agree with her more, because my dad has never been happier since Esme walked into his life, and not only do I respect her for it, I love her for it. Congratulations, Dad...Esme."
"Here, here!" the front three tables bellowed, standing up when we downed our glasses of champagne.
My dad stood, hugging me close and saying, "Thank you, son."
I nodded once at him, practically catching Esme as she dove into my arms.
"I know that wasn't easy, sweetheart," she whispered in my ear. "But it was beautiful...thank you."
"Unca Alec! You're doing it wrong!" my daughter huffed, looking up at Alec like he was crazy. "You're n-not s-supposed to spin the noodles like that...you suck them in!"
I grinned over at the next table as my daughter tried to teach an Italian how to eat spaghetti.
"Ah, Bambina," he crooned to her, pulling her into his lap. "Let me show you how to really eat pasta." He tucked a napkin into the front of her dress and proceeded to teach her how to twirl spaghetti around a fork, making sure that each noodle had the precise amount of sauce on it, before making her take a bite.
Her sweet, sharp green eyes lit up as she chewed, licking her lips, and I couldn't help but giggle at her. There wasn't anything she wasn't willing to learn, but that face was her father's – that sweet, happy look of just plain adorable goodness. Her face practically glowed. "Oh yeah...you're so right!"
Rose chuckled from the seat next to me, and I turned to look at her. "Sometimes, I'm not sure who she's more like...you or Edward."
I snickered and shrugged. "It's true. I see us both in her." I reached out and rubbed her belly, getting rewarded with a hefty kick to my hand. "I'm sure we can play the same game when Caleb gets here. How are you feeling?"
"Fucking exhausted," she sighed, rolling her eyes at me. "I think Emmett threw my shoes off the balcony about two hours ago, because my feet are now three times bigger."
I laughed, looking at her bare feet. "Glad we talked you into the pedicure, then."
"No shit," she snorted.
We both looked up when Alice, Mickey, and Mack joined us.
"Damn, damn, damn! Now I know why we didn't have a big wedding," Alice groaned, looking around the reception hall, which really was a giant ass ballroom on the top floor of a hotel in downtown Seattle "This is...ridiculous!"
"I said the same thing," I told her, pointing to Carlisle and Esme on the dance floor. "But she's happy."
"That's all that matters," Mickey added. "I personally don't want this shit...but to each their own."
Not one girl sitting at that table, with the possible exception of Makenna, was a frilly girl. I could see Mack having the traditional wedding, but as for the rest of us, not a chance. Every last one of us had a license for a concealed weapon, a black belt in martial arts, and had killed when necessary. My girls were competent, skilled, and extremely smart, which also made them very, very practical. Frilly...was not practical.
That wasn't to say my girls weren't feminine, because they were. Every last one of them could turn on the sexy charm to catch a cheating husband or finagle information out of a cop concerning a missing person. And they all were very good at their jobs. I counted my blessings that they all worked for me at Gravity Investigations – even Mickey, who occasionally helped us out from time to time.
"Yeah, and when's that date?" Rose teased, because Obie had asked Mickey to marry him ages ago, but they just hadn't gotten around to it.
"Shut it," she growled, smirking when we all laughed at her. "There's no hurry. What the hell?"
I grinned at her, shaking my head. "How long can you stay in Seattle this time?" I asked her.
"How long do you need? Or should I ask...what do you need?" she countered, a wry smirk on her face.
"I might have...something I could use you on. Can you come by the house tomorrow?" I asked, knowing that she'd be perfect for what I needed. There wasn't a lock or safe Mickey couldn't get in to.
"Yeah, definitely," she said with a nod and a laugh. "You mean, you're not giving anyone a day off after this shit?"
"Ummm, no! She's a freakin' slave driver," Alice growled, but broke into a giggle when I flipped her off. "Is this that cold case, Bellsy?"
"Yup," I sighed, playing with the flowers in the center of the table. "I'm not sure, but I really think there's something in that old warehouse. Perhaps... I need help getting inside," I said cryptically.
Mickey's smile widened, and she nodded slowly. "Perhaps... Well, let me know tomorrow, then."
"No work at my wedding," Carlisle growled low in my ear, making me jump, but he offered me his hand. "I suppose the only way to stop that is to make you dance with me."
I looked around the dance floor, smiling at some of the strange pairings. Aunt Kate was dwarfed in Sam's presence, because she was no taller than me and he was a massive sized man, and I could see that his scars were making some of the people that weren't used to him very nervous. Esme was dancing with Eric, but they were deep in conversation, and I was pretty sure she was finding out the update on his sister, who Esme had counseled for quite some time after we removed her from under the threat of Royce King. My daughter had dragged her Uncle Alec out to the dance floor, and he was dipping her dramatically, just to hear her uncontrollable laugh.
Edward, Emmett, Jasper, and Jacob were all leaning against the bar, deep in conversation. I smiled when I could see Jake rub the back of his head – his nervous tick. My husband and his best friends made my ex very fucking nervous, because he knew what they were capable of, and he was nowhere near that physical.
Seeing Jake reminded me of Lauren, so I found her sitting at a table, sharing a piece of wedding cake with her son, JW, as he sat in Billy's lap. Jake and Lauren had tried to work out a relationship for JW's sake, but they'd failed miserably. They were currently pretty damn good friends and roommates. It was a weird kinship, but JW was benefiting the most from it. Jake still worked for Twi Tech, under the heavy gaze of Carlisle, and so did Lauren. She was offered a position back at the company as soon as JW was born and Jake had recovered from his gunshot wounds after trying to protect my father, Charlie.
Carlisle placed an arm around my waist and took my hand in his as the orchestra changed to another song, but he caught my line of sight.
"I think Jake can handle things while I'm gone," he stated softly, and turned back to me.
"It's what he was born to do," I chuckled, shaking my head. "Between my dad and Billy, they were placing their bets on him, because they were pretty damn sure I wasn't going to run the world."
Carlisle grinned, kissing my forehead. "They did a good job with him, then. He's smart, innovative."
"I still see the kid that I went to high school with. The one that decided to toilet paper and shrink wrap the principal's car the week that a journalist was writing an article on the high GPAs we all carried."
Carlisle laughed. "Oh, Bells, remind me when I get back to tell you a few stories about Charlie and me from back in the day. We were not innocent."
"D-Daddy!" I heard behind me, recognizing the stutter of my baby, but I could hear it wasn't her usual call for her father; it was her cry that something was wrong.
Carlisle turned us so that he could watch his son scoop up Bethy and dust her off. She apparently had slipped down, barely scraping her knees, but her hands took the brunt of the fall, because she held out both hands to him – palms up – so that he could kiss them all better.
"I'm going to miss that little thing," Carlisle muttered, looking back at me.
"A whole month long honeymoon, Romeo," I teased him. "Your own doing, I believe. Did you actually buy the island, or are you just renting it?"
"I'm just renting it, silly," he huffed, but he fought his smile, still staring at his son and granddaughter. "Though, I'm waiting to make my decision until I actually see the damn thing," he mumbled, rolling his eyes at my laughter.
We were quiet for a bit, just swaying to the music and watching Edward set Bethy on the tops of his feet to teach her how to dance. It was moments like that, when he didn't even think about how perfect of a dad he was, that made me fall in love with him all over again. He didn't care that people were watching, that he was in a custom tailored tuxedo, or even the fact that she was standing on really expensive shoes. What he cared about was watching her tears dry as he spun her on the dance floor.
"How's that daycare in Forks working out?" Carlisle asked, the fierce business man and former mercenary coming out in him, but I wasn't sure if they even came close to the protectiveness of Poppy.
"Mrs. Cope is really good with her," I replied with a nod. "Bethy only goes every other day; she works with Alice the other two days. Both women want Bethy tested."
"Yeah," I sighed, smiling with pride, because the people that surrounded my child on a daily basis, along with her natural curiosity, made her brilliant. "She's already reading, Carlisle. And I'm pretty sure by the time she makes it to kindergarten, she'll be fluent in Spanish."
Carlisle grinned, nodded, and took a deep breath. "Let me guess," he chuckled, shaking his head. "Makenna is teaching her art... Alice, computers and language, Jasper, math..."
"And Edward has just started teaching her how to cook," I giggled up at him. "Now that is something to see. He sets her on a bar stool next to him, both in damned aprons... He reads the recipe, and she carries it out to the letter. They baked a cake together for his birthday last week."
"Next...he'll be teaching her how to fly," he snorted, rolling his eyes.
"Don't think she hasn't asked!" I laughed, my head falling back. "She sits up in the pilot seat, pretending to shoot down enemies, like it's an Apache or something."
Carlisle chuckled. "I should thank you every day for her...and my son. Look at them."
"I don't have to," I snickered, rolling my eyes, but I looked anyway. "They are two peas in a pod," I sighed, looking at the two people that meant more to me than my own life, but I knew what my father in law meant. Before I came along, Carlisle was truly worried about Edward and the closed off personality he'd developed, but the truth of the matter was, Edward and I had healed each other.
"How's Gravity?" Carlisle asked, tilting his head at me.
"I thought no work at your wedding?" I teased, biting my bottom lip, but I answered when he huffed sweetly but impatiently, because in all reality, he was my boss. "Busy," I stated with a shrug. "Now that we've incorporated the security part of it, and with Rose bringing in new business, we're always working on something. Alec and Emmett have a governor they're meeting at the airport tomorrow. He's to be guarded while he's here for the next three days. Edward and I...and possibly Mickey...will be helping a guy try to find out what really happened to his brother. It's a cold case that the police could never close, because the trail ran cold."
"If you need anything, you call Angela or Sam. They can get messages to us while we're gone, okay?" he said, his voice taking on an urging tone.
"Carlisle, we'll be fine," I sighed, smirking up at him, but looked down when there was a tug on my dress. "Pretty girl, did Daddy dance with you?"
"Y-yup!" she beamed, looking like a little ray of sunshine dressed in yellow as I gathered her into my arms. "He s-said that it w-would make me forget I fell."
I smiled when the word fell somehow ended up with a W in it. "Well, was he right?"
"Yeah," she said, but a long, wide yawn escaped her as she held out her hands to show me the damage.
There wasn't any broken skin, but both palms were bright pink. I picked them up and kissed each one loudly, before she lay her head on my shoulder. I could see Angela talking to the wedding director, and she looked up to signal to me.
"Give Poppy and Gamma hugs and kisses, Bethy," I whispered to my sleepy girl. "They're leaving soon." I jerked my chin for Carlisle to turn around so he could see they were signaling for him.
"'Kay, Mommy," she said with another yawn, reaching for her grandfather.
"Bye, Poppy. I'll draw you p-pictures while you're gone on your hummy-moon," she muttered adorably as she hugged him tightly. "Miss Makenna is teaching me twees next."
"You better," he growled at her, covering her in kisses until she was a giggly mess. "'Cause I'm gonna miss you, baby girl."
"Love you, Poppy," she said as he set her down.
She ran to Esme, who immediately scooped her up and kissed her like Carlisle had.
Warm, strong arms wrapped around me from behind, as I felt kisses being placed to the back of my head. I leaned back into Edward, sighing contentedly in the comfort he unknowingly brought with him.
"You two take care of each other and my granddaughter," Carlisle ordered with a pointing finger, before placing a kiss on my cheek and pulling me into a hug, only to place a strong hand on Edward's shoulder, giving it a squeeze.
"We will, Dad," Edward snorted. "Go...have a good time. Check in when you can."
Edward and I both walked to Esme, who was wearing a beautiful dress in the prettiest of cream colors, and Bethy reached for me, snuggling into me sleepily and laying her head on my shoulder.
"A month is too long," Esme sniffled, tears filling her eyes. "I'll miss you all too much."
"You won't have a chance," Edward teased her, kissing her cheek. "Dad will keep you too busy. I'm pretty sure he's going to show you just about every island down there in Brazil."
"Relax, enjoy being away from whiny clients for a while, and you get Carlisle all to yourself," I chuckled, kissing her cheek.
"My clients have problems, Isabella," Esme snorted, rolling her eyes at me. "One of them being Delia, you know," she growled, raising an eyebrow at me.
I winced, shaking my head and instinctively placing kisses to the top of Bethy's head. Delia was Riley Miller's first victim, the man that had kidnapped and beaten me – the very same man that Edward and his dad had saved me from almost four years ago. Delia was in a hospital for mental issues, but Esme worked with her as her psychiatrist twice a week out of the kindness of her own heart. She'd done the very same with Victoria, but the latter was ever so much better off than Delia, especially once the news of Miller's death had reached our ears. Poor Delia had lived with Miller's abusive mother, until Wes Mitchell went in there – per Benny's and Edward's requests – and used his FBI status to declare the whole house unfit, securing Mrs. Miller in an assisted living facility and moving Delia to a mental hospital.
Carlisle, Sam, and Eleazar had stowed Riley Miller away in a prison down in South America, with the knowledge that he would never escape. He didn't. He had died six months to the day after we'd dropped him off. Carlisle had received "proof of death" from Sam, by way of photographic evidence. Miller was practically unrecognizable. He was covered in bruises, marks, scars, and burns, not to mention the loss of another digit to match the one he already had – all the things he'd used to torture his victims with. He was a tenacious bastard, surviving for so long under such circumstances, but I supposed it had all gotten to him in the end, because he'd found something in his cell to slit open his wrists, causing him to bleed to death in the deep hole in the ground that his wardens had kept him in.
"Fair enough," I admitted, "but the rest are spoiled rich wives."
Esme grinned and shrugged, planting kisses on mine, Bethy's, and Edward's cheeks. "You guys be careful with that work you do, and don't hesitate to call us if you need us," she urged, "but thank you both for everything."
Edward and I smiled, because we knew she meant the wedding. Carlisle was so busy at Twi Tech that had we – our friends included – not helped her, she would have gone insane planning this enormous event.
With more hugs, more kisses, and a few dirty honeymoon innuendos thrown their way from Emmett and Mickey, Carlisle and Esme dove into the elevator with Sam. He was their escort to the airport, overseas, and would be staying on the mainland throughout their stay on the island that Carlisle had rented. We wouldn't let them go out of the country any other way. Carlisle was way too high profile for that.
"I'm glad we rented a room here tonight," Edward mumbled softly against my temple. "My girls look tired."
"We are," I snorted, looking up at him and rubbing Bethy's back as she slowly drifted off, despite how much she was fighting it. "Exhausted, actually. And we have to be back at the house tomorrow."
"Well, head to the room, sweetness," he sighed, placing kisses to Bethy's cheek. "Get her in bed. I'll finish up with the wedding guy."
"Careful with him." I chuckled at Edward's eye roll. "He thinks you're oh-so-cute."
"I am aware, Bella," Edward answered dryly, snorting at my giggle. "Though, I may be in the clear, because ever since the pictures, he's been eying Wes."
"Well, good. You're mine," I sighed dramatically, smiling at his grunt of agreement. "Come to us soon, Edward," I said, carrying my now completely unconscious child into the elevator, with my husband following us as far as the doors. "You know she'll fight sleep if you're not there," I told him, because I knew as soon as I changed Bethy from her dress to pajamas, she'd ask for him, even though she was half asleep. She always did.
"I know, love. Give me twenty minutes," he sighed, and the doors slipped closed.
"Beautiful family," I heard behind me, and I turned from the elevators to see a woman in her mid- to late forties standing in the hallway.
"Thank you." I smiled politely, though I didn't recognize her at all. She was dressed like she'd attended the wedding, but there were so many people that it was hard to say for sure whether I'd seen her there or not. "Were you here for the wedding?"
"No, no," she sighed, shaking her head. A small smile curled up on her face, but it didn't reach her eyes. "I was here for...something else."
"Hey, Edward!" Mack gushed, rushing to the doorway of the reception hall. "The guys want to know if you'll help load the presents, so Em can take them to Twi Tower for your dad. And that Stephen guy needs someone – a Cullen someone – to sign that the whole she-bang is over and done with."
I smiled and nodded, turning to look for the woman, but she was gone. When I looked back up at Makenna, she was staring down the hall. "What?"
"She looked...familiar," she mumbled, her brow wrinkling.
"I thought you didn't forget faces," I teased her, walking back into the ballroom with her.
"I don't," she grumped, giving one more glance behind us.
It took me longer than the twenty minutes than I'd promised my girls. After narrowly escaping the gawking gazes of Stephen, the wedding planner, I had to make sure the hotel was notified that everything was done, that all the guests had left, and help Jasper, Emmett, and Wes load up Emmett's Jeep with all the presents to take back to Twi Towers to store at my dad's apartment.
I also escorted a very tired Rose to her hotel room, while Emmett made the present run.
"Can I ride to the house with you guys tomorrow?" she asked wearily, looking down at her poor swollen bare feet as we rode the elevator. Luckily, she was on the same floor as Bella, Bethy, and I.
"Yeah, sure, but don't you need to rest?" I asked, remembering how my Bella had taken a little time towards the end of her pregnancy with Bethy.
"I can't," she sighed. "Staying home just pisses me off. I get bored. Plus, I need to be there for the case that you and Bells are starting tomorrow. I'm pretty sure it's a waste of time, but the guy is begging for someone, anyone to try to find something out about his brother."
"And you want to listen in as Alec and Em pick up Governor Palmer," I surmised, just knowing that every girl in that office worked the same way. If our spouses were separated on different jobs, the other tended to monitor every movement with Alice's help.
"Yeah, there's that, too," she sighed with a nod as we walked down the corridor. "But I'd rather be close to everyone if Em's going to be away for three days, especially since I'm due any freakin' minute."
I grinned at her and waited until she got her door open. "I don't blame you. You're welcome to stay with us."
"Thanks," she said, rubbing her back, "but Alice has already claimed me. She has a room ready and everything. I'll be staying with her until Em's done with this job."
I snorted and shook my head. "Call us when you're ready in the morning, Rose. We'll roll you downstairs."
"Funny, jackass," she laughed, shoving me back.
I waited until she was secure behind her door, before walking the rest of the way down the hall. I stepped into our suite, to find the lights off in the sitting area, but a dim glow coming from the master bedroom. Both of my girls were curled up on the king size bed, dressed in pajamas, and Bella had even gotten Bethy to sit still long enough to braid her hair to keep it from her face during the night.
"Damn," I sighed, shaking my head, because they looked so sweet, so fucking perfect. There were times when I thought my chest would explode with the love I had for them.
I shrugged out of my jacket, vest, tux shirt, and tie, tossing them on the chair in the corner of the room. I kicked out of my shoes and socks, leaving on my white undershirt and pants.
"Daddy," I heard softly behind me, and I turned to see my sleepy girl sitting up and rubbing her eyes.
"Shh, little sweetness," I whispered, pointing to her mother. "Mommy's sleeping." Bethy crawled to the end of the bed, and I scooped her up. "It's time for lights out, little soldier," I said softly, loving this routine with her.
"Yes, sir," she said, yawning widely, wrapping her arms around my neck as I carried her to the other bedroom and planting the sweetest of kisses to my cheek. She smelled like clean soap, toothpaste, and whatever shampoo Bella was buying her these days as I buried my nose in her hair.
I tugged back the covers and set her gently on the cool sheets. "Only sweet dreams, okay?"
"Yes, sir," she muttered, her eyes barely open. "Love you..."
"Love you, too," I whispered against her forehead as I tucked the covers around her.
I watched as one deep sigh pushed her over the edge that she'd been fighting until she could see me.
I didn't close the door, because she liked to run to our bed first thing in the morning, and I left the bathroom light on, just in case she woke up and panicked from being in a strange place. Back in the master bedroom, I carefully situated Bella under the covers, and after stripping down to just my underwear, I slipped in beside her.
Bella turned over to face me, her legs tangling with mine and her face nuzzling the crook of my neck. "She asleep?" she muttered sleepily.
"Mmhm," I hummed, "so go back to sleep, baby."
"I will...I just..." She sighed, and I felt her lips press to my neck and her hand travel down my chest and around to the small of my back, pulling me to her. "You smell good – like scotch and cake icing...all sweet and smoky."
I chuckled, pressing myself closer to her. "I might have indulged in both before coming to the room. The bartender was cleaning up and had just enough for a glass left over in a bottle. Heaven forbid it go to waste."
"And the icing?"
"I helped pack up that monstrosity for Emmett to take to my dad's."
My girl giggled softly as she pushed at the waistband of my underwear, and I caught up to her quickly. Apparently, she wasn't too tired. I pulled her face back so that I could see her in the dim light shining from the hallway. Her eyes were dark as I pressed my forehead to hers, my hands slipping underneath her nightshirt.
"Bella..." I breathed, not wanting to force this, but fuck, if she didn't feel good. She was all warm and clean, and she'd been pushing my limits throughout the entire wedding, because she'd just looked so fucking beautiful.
"I want you," she moaned, her eyes rolling back when on of my hands cupped her breast, while the other glided into the back of her underwear.
That was all I needed to hear. I gathered up her t-shirt and tugged it off over her head, tossing it to the other side of the bed at the same time that she pulled me on top of her. We made quick work of ridding ourselves of our underwear, Bella using her toes to kick mine down and off of me, which made both of us laugh softly in the darkness of the room.
"Are you wet for me, sweetness?" I asked her, skimming my hand down her side and slipping my fingers through her folds.
"Yes," she breathed, pulling me by the back of my neck and bringing my lips to hers.
Bracing an arm by her head and continuing to kiss her, I slid two fingers into her wet heat. She was indeed ready for me, but I wanted – no, I needed – to see my girl come. I found the spot that always made her breath catch at the same time my thumb swirled around her clit.
I knew exactly what would make my name spill from her lips, exactly how to draw out her climax, and exactly how long she could take the teasing. I knew her body better than I knew my own. It was a good thing to know, because it never got fucking old to watch her fall apart under my touch, my mouth, my cock.
There had been a time when she couldn't let me touch her, and every step we took on the road to her recovery after she'd been kidnapped was a step that I didn't take for granted. At one point in my life, I couldn't imagine being with the same woman for the rest of my life, but now, I couldn't imagine any woman but Bella. Period. I needed no one else.
"Edward," she hissed, her head pressing back into her pillow as my fingers curled just right inside of her.
"Come, baby," I commanded at the soft spot just behind her ear, unable to stop my hips from grinding against her. "If you really want this," I purred, pressing my throbbing dick against her leg, "then you'll come for me."
I smiled against the sweet skin of her neck when little fingers dug into my back and twisted into my hair. Her back arched up off the bed as her whole body shook with her orgasm.
"One," I growled, dragging my lips across her cheek to capture her mouth with my own as I lifted myself up, settling between her legs.
Bella smiled against my lips, knowing what I meant. "Oh, it's like that, is it?" she chuckled darkly, licking her lips as I held myself above her. "How many?"
"I need..." I said, wrinkling my nose and pretending to truly consider it, "at least three from you, love..."
"Mmm," she hummed, wrapping an arm around to my back and the other hand reaching for my face as I slipped into her slowly. "We'll see, Edward. We'll see..."
"Okay, the way I see it," Rose stated from her desk in Gravity's office as she rubbed her swollen belly, "the best way to start with this case is to talk to the witnesses and friends again. It's been ten years."
"You're probably right," Bella said, looking out the window. "We also still need to meet with Todd Jackson before we start. What time is he available?" she asked distractedly, as she watched Jasper push Bethy on the swing outside.
Without my dad and Esme around, everyone was taking up the slack when we needed a babysitter. Normally, they would take Bethy when we were starting a new case, but since they were off on their honeymoon, everyone stepped up to help us.
"We're supposed to meet him at a diner in Seattle later this afternoon," I told her, looking up at the schedule on the wall and back down at the file in front of me. "He said he'd be bringing some of Rick's things so we can look through them."
"So why am I here?" Mickey chuckled, looking at the bulletin board that Makenna had set up just for this case.
"See that warehouse?" Bella asked, getting up from the table. "This was the last place anyone saw Rick Jackson alive. It used to be a club back then, but it closed not long after the investigation cooled off. He used to work there as a bartender."
"Who owned it?" I asked, flipping through the file. "Simon Parker..." I mused, answering my own question. "Isn't he that..."
"Yes, he made his money through porn. Legit porn, but porn, nonetheless," Bella snorted, rolling her eyes. "Now he backs local film makers...mainly independent film students from UW."
"Gay porn," Rose chuckled, holding up a picture of a DVD cover.
"Men or women?" I asked with a smirk, knowing the reaction I would get from Rose and Bella.
"Shut it!" they both growled. "We were drunk!"
I laughed, my head falling back. It never failed to amuse me that the two of them had made out at one time, because they were trying to teach some guy in Rose's dating life a lesson.
"Anyway," Bella huffed, giving me a dangerously raised eyebrow before turning back to Mickey, "that warehouse is still owned by him and has never been cleaned out. It's just been...locked."
"So you're thinking that there are still records, security tapes...that sort of thing in there?" Mickey clarified.
"Yeah, I hope so," Bella stated, pulling out a satellite image of the warehouse. "They were never granted a search warrant for the place, because they couldn't really narrow down whether Rick's death was suspicious or not."
"Oh, gotcha," Mickey mumbled with a nod. "Okay, I'm in. I'll go with you guys."
"Good," Bella huffed, but we all turned when Alice and Makenna erupted into an argument. They were in the computer room right across from us and had been awfully quiet throughout our meeting.
"Pull it up, Alice!" Mack urged. "I need to know if I'm right!"
"Okay, okay, okay," Alice sighed, shaking her head. "But who gives a shit if you're right? She was probably a guest at the wedding, or hitting on Edward..."
"Hey, hey," Bella chided. "What's this all about?"
Makenna stood up straight from where she'd been leaning over Alice's shoulder. "There was this woman last night in the hall just outside of the reception hall. She was talking to Edward, but I swear to God that I know her from somewhere." She handed Bella a drawing of the woman's face, the details all the way down to the small scar just above the woman's eyebrow. "It bothered me that I couldn't remember who she was."
I snorted, but looked at the picture when Bella held it up for me. "Yeah, that's her. I thought that she was there for the wedding, but she said no. All she said was that I had a beautiful family. She was there when I walked you and Bethy to the elevators."
"You mean...here?" Alice asked, pulling up the security footage from the hotel.
"Yup," I said with a nod as I watched the silent conversation on the monitor. The woman and I shared all of thirty seconds on the screen before Makenna interrupted her, but it was the woman's reaction to Mack that was interesting.
Her eyes widened, and she turned the other way, leaving the hallway instantly.
"She knows you," I stated, pointing to Mack. "That's for sure. Play that again, zoom in on her face."
"Hmm, I don't recognize her, either," Bella mused, tilting her head at the woman's actions. "Alice, can you run facial recognition on her?"
"Yeah, sure," Alice replied, pulling up another screen on another computer. "It'll take a while, because I've just recently been able to tap into Washington's database, thanks to Benny and Wes. They gave me the parameters a few weeks back, and I haven't been able to adjust the format for..."
"Alice!" Bella snorted, shaking her head. "Just...do it. Stop trying to tell me how...I've never understood it."
I chuckled with Alice on that one, because she was too damn smart for her own good sometimes. She was registered as a fucking genius as it was, so when she really got to spewing knowledge, half of it barely made sense.
"What's a while?" Makenna huffed, clearly upset that she couldn't remember this woman.
"Days?" Alice answered with a shrug, though it sounded like a guess. "I have to capture her picture from this video, map out her face, and then set it up to compare to the list of faces in the system. We have to hope she has a criminal record."
"'Kay," Mack sighed, folding her arms across her chest and sitting down next to Alice, but she turned her attention to Bella. "You'd better get going. I'll watch Bethy until you guys get back tonight. Wes is out of town, speaking at a convention in LA. He left this morning."
"Speaking of..." Bella chuckled when the office door slammed open and a whirlwind of energy came bounding into the room, with Jasper barely able to keep up with her. "There's my pretty girl," she gushed, scooping up our daughter and planting kisses to her face and neck.
"Mommy, do you hafta work?" Bethy asked, giving her mother the full, undiluted power of the begging puppy face, and I couldn't help but laugh, because I had more than once used that same tactic.
"I do, but guess what!" Bella gushed. "Aunt Makenna is going to stay with you, so you know what that means!"
"I get to paint!" our daughter squealed, not unlike Alice when she was excited, and Makenna chuckled, shaking her head.
Every last one of our friends adored Bethy on some level. She was the first born, and they'd all taken some sort of ownership to her. There wasn't one of them that I wouldn't trust her with, and not one of them my daughter didn't adore.
"That's right. And don't forget...you promised Poppy and Gamma all sorts of pictures for when they come back," I told her, catching her when she wriggled down from Bella's arms and climbed up in my lap.
"You're going, too, D-Daddy?" Bethy asked incredulously.
"I'm afraid so, little sweetness, but we're going to try to be back to tuck you in tonight, okay?"
"P-Promise?" she whispered, grasping my face in both of her tiny ones.
"I said we'd try, Bethy," I told her, kissing each hand before standing up with her in my arms. "If we can't, then we'll call Aunt Makenna, and I'll tuck you in over the phone."
She huffed, her eyes darkening with that statement, but she didn't argue. She folded her arms across her chest as she watched her mother gather our things together, including pulling our guns out of the safe.
I set Bethy down on the edge of the conference table, taking my Glock from Bella and securing it in my waistband at the small of my back. Bella also reached in the locking cabinet and pulled out my bag, and Alice handed her the laptop.
"Bethy, don't forget, you've got school tomorrow," Bella reminded her, because Bethy adored Mrs. Cope, the sweet older woman that ran the Forks daycare downtown – if Forks could even claim to have a downtown.
"I know. I want pudding for my snack," she gushed, beaming up at me.
"Chocolate or vanilla?" I asked her, hoping to distract her so she wouldn't be too upset when we left for Seattle.
"Both!" she giggled, squirming when I tickled her sides.
"We'll see, little sweetness," I chuckled, looking over at Bella, who was ready to go. I hoisted Bethy up into my arms, asking, "What do we say when we have to be apart from each other, baby?"
"Be safe!" she answered like the little soldier that she loved to be with me.
"And?" Bella and I chuckled.
"Love you!" she said, squishing my face to kiss me as I told her the same, and then she reached for Bella.
"Love you, too, Bethy," Bella snickered, kissing her puckered lips. She set her down on the floor, saying, "I want a picture, too, pretty girl."
"Okay, Mommy," Bethy sang, immediately taking the paper that Makenna was pulling out for her.
We took the opportunity to load up the car and leave while she was happily distracted.
The meeting with Todd Jackson didn't take long. He brought us a few letters, a couple of photographs, and the funeral sign-in book.
"I didn't recognize some people at Rick's funeral," he said, sitting back in his chair as we sat outside at a little cafe on the sidewalk.
Mickey and Edward flipped through the things he'd brought as we listened to him.
"There were our old friends from school, some distant cousins, and our family, but there was this whole group of people that stood towards the back at the cemetery," he continued with a shake to his head. "I never knew what that meant, but the police never gave it much thought. They said due to his profession, it was likely that there were going to be people we didn't know."
"Makes sense," I agreed. "And it's possible they're right."
"I know," he sighed, shrugging one shoulder. "I just want you guys to have everything, just in case. I really appreciate you trying. They said he killed himself because he was deeply in debt from school loans, and then they considered that he had gotten in with the wrong crowd... You know, drugs and stuff. But that wasn't my brother's way. He was kind of a health nut. He liked eating right and exercising."
Todd was a little older than Edward, with light brown curly hair and a spattering of freckles that made him seem younger than he actually was. He was thin, with a sad smile.
"What about girlfriends...exes?" Edward asked, tilting his head at a few pictures. "I mean, is it possible for him to have met someone and it went...wrong? Because they're declaring him a suicide, but you don't believe it. I'm just wondering if there were...circumstances that you may not have known about."
"Rick dated in high school, but nothing really serious," Todd answered, shaking his head. "I suppose it's possible, but that's not like him. He liked going home to his apartment. He liked just hanging out, watching TV, maybe having a few beers. He wasn't a manwhore, either, if that's what you're thinking. I can't see him treating anyone with any callousness. He was really kind to people. All around, he was a pretty happy guy."
Edward nodded, absorbing that information, but he wasn't finished. "And Simon Parker? Did you ever meet him?"
"Only at Starlight," Todd answered. "I went to the club every now and then, but I never really talked to the man. He seemed pompous and snobby, to be honest," he snorted. "We don't come from a lot of money, so I'm not used to that scene."
"It doesn't take money to make an asshole," Mickey stated, almost under her breath, but we all chuckled.
"I suppose that's true, but I never asked Rick about him. He was his boss. Bosses can be...difficult."
"No kidding," Mickey and Edward both teased, looking up at me.
"Shut it, both of you," I snickered, pointing at them. As Edward's hand caressed my thigh under the table, I turned to Todd. "I'm going to be honest with you. It's been a long time, and people's memories fade with this amount of years," I said, my finger landing on the funeral sign-in book. "We'll try, but I don't want you to get your hopes up."
Todd nodded, like he was already preparing himself for that inevitable outcome. "This is my last ditch effort...for our mother. My dad died last year, and there's not a day goes by that Mom doesn't ask about Rick's case. She never believed he killed himself on some back alley of Seattle. She never felt him capable of it."
My nose wrinkled, but I understood where he was coming from. "Okay, Todd, we'll be in touch."
"Thanks, Miss Swan," he said, standing up and shaking my hand.
I used my maiden name with most clients, and Edward used his mother's – Masen. It was a form of security that we'd all agreed on when we combined both his crew and mine. We tried not to use our real names or mention any family, and we didn't even allow anyone else on the crew to reveal those things about themselves. It was a rule the boys and Mickey had used when they were mercenaries, and we'd incorporated it into Gravity. It was something I wished we'd used when I'd first opened the doors.
Todd left us, and I felt warm fingers tuck my hair behind my ear. "What do you think, sweetness?" Edward asked as I sat back in my chair.
I sighed, picking up a photo of Rick with his brother, and then a picture of Rick with three people Todd said that he didn't know. Finally, I cracked open the funeral sign-in book and tapped it with my finger.
"I've read Simon's statement to the police, and it was so...vague," I stated, looking at the highlighted names that Todd had marked for me. "Alice wasn't able to get an employee list for this...Starlight club."
"I'm not sure tackling every witness will be worth the work, Bells," Mickey added. "I'm with you...I think you need to compare the employee list to the names in that book in order to see who you need to talk to first."
"I think you're right," I mumbled, flipping through the police report again.
"Okay," Edward stated, standing up and tossing some money onto the table to take care of the bill. "The old warehouse it is..."
A/N... There you have it...the first chapter. I tried to catch up some things that I knew you'd wonder about from the last story, the main one being Miller's fate. Before you ask, it was Sam that went down there to verify Miller's death, so he's dead...really dead. I couldn't bear to bring that asshole back! LOL
So Edward and Bella and Mickey are working a case, Rose is about five seconds from going into labor, and Makenna doesn't like the fact that she couldn't remember a face. Carlisle and Esme are off on their "Hummy-moon," and a month at that. If you're wondering about Bethy's IQ, then trust me when I tell you that I know a kid that smart. At four, he could explain – in utter detail – the process of photosynthesis. Mmm'kay? ~raising an eyebrow at you all~ He is wicked smart! Anyway, he's sort of my base for Bethy, though the combination of Mercward and Bella makes her so easy, so fun! :)
Like I said before, this starts a little different than the first one. I know the first one was action right out of the starting gate, but this will get there. This one will build, though the warehouse coming up is interesting. Remember, Gravity isn't always dangerous cases.
I really hope you guys like this new one, because it's important to me. It's emotional for me to write these characters, especially considering some of the future events. DON'T PANIC! I'm just saying!
Now, I need to thank a few peeps... JenRar for beta'ing this as always, and for the constant "send everything you have done!" mentality. To MedusaInNY for all that she does for me when she doesn't have to concerning my blog. To les16 for her amazing cheerleading! And to Goober_Lou, who lets me grab her and bounce ideas and scenarios off of her left and right, and who also tells me exactly what's going to get me in trouble with you guys! Sigh...I catch hell from all directions, trust me!
Okay, review for me. Let me know what you're thinking. I want to remind you guys that I don't reply to reviews, but I read every single one! I do, however, post twice a week instead...or at least try to as long as RL stays level. I figure that more story is better than a "hello and thank you" from me. The extra post is a hello and thank you! LOL And I do thank you...so let me hear what you think... Next post looks like the usual Wednesday, so until then... Later! :)