RIDING THE RAILS

CHAPTER 31

Yes! I have arisen from the ashes! Sorry to have been so long in posting. Things in life get out of hand.

Thanks again to my pre-reader Caz, and my BETA's Ms. January and Jasper's Destiny. They have been very patient with me on my first endeavor.

As usual - DISCLAIMER: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and its characters. I'm just taking them for a ride!

As Bella approached Track 3 to board the train home, she held the styrofoam cup in her hand like it was a sacred chalice. While Metra doesn't forbid alcoholic beverages to be brought on board, it would not bode well for her, as an employee, to be caught with one even though she was off duty. Instead of boarding the first car, she continued down the gangway toward one of the designated "quiet" cars. She had a lot to think about and didn't want any interruptions.

Just as she was about to board, she heard her name being called out. Damn, she thought. She didn't want to chance getting caught with a drink, and she really didn't want to answer any questions about this morning. Turning toward the man approaching her, she felt a bit of the tension gripping her body ease at the sight of a friendly face. "Hi, Garrett!" she greeted the lanky, blonde haired man. Garrett was one of the first men on the crew who'd ever treated her with respect. No feminist jokes were ever uttered by him. As a matter of fact, he was the one responsible for the decline of said jokes.

"Bella, I heard about this morning. Are you okay?" he asked as he stopped in front of her. News of a conductor being injured while on duty travels fast through the network. It wasn't an uncommon occurrence for thugs and delinquents to hop on one rail-line into the city then switch over to another after causing havoc.

Garrett was extremely relieved that what happened earlier in the day was just a random group of teens acting out. Not long ago there were incidences of two men harassing women on the train then attacking them after following them off at various stations. None of the victims recovered to provide a description of their attackers. He, and quite a few other people, would have been upset had Bella been injured or attacked today. .

"Yes, I'm fine, thanks.". She moved her drink to her left hand and swept back a few strands of hair with her right. . The movement caught Garrett's eye, which caused him to spot some fresh bruising on her knuckles.

He reached out and took her hand lightly in his. "Is this from this morning?" He paused and looked her in the eye. "I heard you kicked ass."

Bella looked down, avoiding his eyes, and retracted her hand from his soft grip. "No," she answered softly. "This happened later." She didn't want to go into further detail but had a feeling that she wouldn't get out of an explanation.

"Later, as in when?" he pushed.

She let out a long sigh, knowing that there was no way she would be able to put this off. "In Laurent's office," she murmured.

"Laurent's office…?" He trailed off. "Son of a bitch!" Bella jumped back at his exclamation. "Motherfucker!" Garrett ranted as he paced up and down the platform next to her. "I knew I shouldn't have told that son of a bitch," she heard him mutter. "Bastard was just too fucking sneaky, acting all concerned about her and all." He continued to mumble to himself. Finally he stopped pacing, took a deep breath, and turned to face her.

Bella had just taken a deep drink from her cup when he stopped in front of her. Her eyes were closed in obvious enjoyment of the beverage. He folded his arms across his chest, raised an eyebrow, and casually asked, "So what'cha drinking there, Swan?"

Bella snapped her eyes open and spluttered. Oh shit, she thought. Think fast, B. "Um, it's a Coke," she replied as casually as her pounding heart allowed. .

He was close enough to her that on her exhale he could tell that it wasn't a simple soda she held. Raising an eyebrow, he replied, "A Coke, you say?"

She took another small sip through the straw. "Yeah. It's a Cherry Coke."

"Well, at least you're not on an express train going home. That should give you enough time to finish the drink, uh, Coke before you get to your stop." Given the condition that she was in and the obvious tension she was under, he didn't want to press Metra's rules, but he was also letting her know that he knew it wasn't a plain soda she was drinking and that she had plenty of time to finish it and be capable of driving when the train arrived at her destination.

"Yeah," she gulped.

"Bella, I'm sorry," he said as he put a hand on her shoulder. "I'm responsible for that jackass finding you. And obviously the injury to your hand was a result of him locating you. Again, my fault."

"Garrett, it's okay. I'm a big girl. It's nothing that I couldn't handle." She felt bad about him experiencing guilt that wasn't truly his.

"I know you can take care of yourself, Bella, but that bastard has pissed me off for the last time. Jake said that he was contacted by the hospital since he's Billy's son.. He told me that Billy hadn't heard about what happened to you and sent Jake to find out. Obviously that wasn't the case," he finished as he glanced down at her bruised knuckles. "How bad did you kick his ass?" he asked with a low chuckle.

Before she had a chance to respond, Garrett received a message through his earpiece that it was time to start boarding. He looked at his watch then down the platform and raised his hand, signaling he had received the message.

"You going into the quiet car, Bella?" She nodded "I'll come find you in a bit. I'd like to hear about what happened in Laurent's office, if you don't mind telling me."

"No problem, Garrett. I'll see you in a bit," she said as she turned and climbed up the steps into the train.

As she settled in one of the upper level seats, she leaned her head back, closed her eyes, and thought back over her time with Jacob. When she and Jacob had been together, she had always sensed an underlying anger in him but never realized how angry and dangerous he could be.

"Maybe I'm a magnet for trouble," she mumbled. Glancing around to ensure she was alone in the car, she then shut her eyes and continued her soliloquy.

"You're an idiot, Bella. How, after all the time you spent with Royce, could you not have recognized the similar traits in Jacob? Sure, he was sweet and adoring and he pampered you—at first. But how long did that last, huh? Remember when he started to change? He started coming home later than usual after his shift, remember? Oh sure, it wasn't every night, but frequent enough.

"Oh, and remember that time he smelled of perfume that you knew wasn't your brand and definitely wasn't his cologne? You just chose to ignore the fact that he could have possibly been fucking around on you. Admit it! Your pride would have gotten hurt if you had confronted him right then and he admitted to it. But no, that didn't happen. Instead, you walked in on him and his two whores in bed together. That was a real treat, wasn't it? But at least it got you to open your eyes and get the fuck out of there."

Sensing she was being watched, Bella opened her eyes and looked around, finding the source of her discomfort. Cold, blue-grey eyes that belonged to one of Jake's whores stared at her from a seat in the lower section. Lauren Mallory.

Lauren's lips curled into a wicked sneer. She ran her tongue over the ridge of her upper teeth and then raised an eyebrow. "Well, well, well," She said with a bit of a snarl. "What have we here?"

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Meanwhile, back at the office…

"I believe you, Edward, but I really hope I don't walk in on something like that again," Angela said to Edward as she reached over and squeezed his forearm. She loved her boss more than any other man she'd worked for. When she first met Edward, she was astounded by his good looks. But what finally drew her feelings out for him was his kind nature. He had, in a sense, rescued her, and she would always love him in the same way she loved her brother.

"Thank you, Angela," Edward said as he wrapped his long arms around her for a much-needed hug. "I don't know what I would do if I lost you."

"Well, let's make sure you never find out, then!" She hugged him then took a step back. "Now, let's get back to your office and check on the rest of your appointments."

As they turned to do just that, Edward placed his arm around Angela's shoulders and quickly kissed the top of her head.

Angela had the distinct feeling that they were being watched, and she looked over her shoulder to see Tanya staring at them with an evil glint in her eyes.

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A/N Sorry that this has been so long in updating. I thought I would have had more time to write while the hubs was recuperating from surgery, but that didn't happen. Then with the weather, I was a bit down. I really don't like winter. I like to walk outside, and that just wasn't happening. I write better when I walk because I can concentrate on something other than moving my feet. Hopefully now that spring is here, I will get more time. Plus there's a cemetery behind my house that's peaceful to walk through. Who knows, maybe I'll find some new characters there!