A/N: Howdy! This is the beginning of a plot bunny that wouldn't get out of my head. Rest assured, ACAP is my first priority, and Lullaby is my second, so don't expect too many updates of this one until at LEAST ACAP is finished. :-)
All human. No babies. Violence and mentions of rape (no depictions as of yet; I'll let you know if that changes). There are several stories here about Bella being held captive as a pet by evil vampires and rescued by the Cullen family. My very favorite (warning - has been abandoned!) is called Finding Bella, and you can find it in my favorites list. This is a little different take on the genre, since it's AH.
"First ace deals."
"That's embarrassing. Did you cut those cards, Jazz?"
"Somebody ought to cut Jazz."
"Cut the crap and ante up. How about a little five-card stud?"
"Bet a buck blind."
"The winning hand is...folding." Edward tossed his cards on the table and stood, stretching a little. They'd been playing for several hours already, and he wasn't as into the game as usual. Something was off tonight.
"The pot is ripe."
Jasper's girlfriend Alice had set up a snack spread on the breakfast bar before leaving for a girls-only night. She didn't begrudge their poker evenings, and made sure the kitchen was well-stocked with junk food before leaving them to it. It was one of the reasons their regular poker crowd liked it best when Jasper hosted. Edward leaned on the bar, holding a handful of pretzels as he watched his friends relax into the rhythm of the game.
This was their ritual, the first Friday of every month, and had been for years—since high school. Beer and whiskey now took the place of soda, but not much else had changed. The core group remained the same: Edward, Jasper, Emmett, Mike, Eric, Peter, and sometimes Carlisle when he was in town. As a much-requested thoracic surgeon, one of the top in his field, he was often away on business.
Tonight Mike had brought a new player with him, which wasn't generally kosher with this group but there was little they could do when he just showed up. James had done nothing wrong, per se, but something about him rubbed Edward the wrong way. He crunched a pretzel as the hand ended and Eric picked up the spare deck of cards to deal a new game.
"You sitting this one out, Edward?" Jasper called without looking.
"No; I'll be right there." Edward crammed the last few pretzels into his mouth and regained his seat. He liked these poker nights, liked how easy it was to settle in with the guys and not worry about table manners or other, similar pressures from the outside world. He and his friends had their own understandings, their own cadences and customs on poker night. Feet on the table? Sure, no problem. Talking with your mouth full? Go right ahead. But they only played for small amounts of money—a dollar here, five there. It was a practice started when they were high school kids, and it had carried over now that they were older, too. After all, it was supposed to be a friendly game, not a high-stakes table in Vegas.
There was also no smoking, no matter who was hosting that month. James hadn't been particularly pleased to hear that. Edward knew it wasn't necessarily normal to forbid smoking at the poker table on a guys' night, but Carlisle wasn't the only doctor in the bunch and they all had sworn off the little cancer sticks.
The no-smoking rule wasn't the only one James hadn't been particularly fond of, Edward remembered as he picked up his cards and heard the familiar flow of male voices begin again, easy and loose with alcohol and the late hour. James was a bad winner and a worse loser, and he seemed almost obsessed with winning, no matter how friendly the game or low the stakes. Idly sipping at his beer, Edward wondered where Mike found this guy. Not that Mike was a stunning example of manhood himself, but his poker buddies knew and understood him, whereas they didn't know James.
Edward had been friends with Jasper and Emmett practically since infancy. He couldn't remember a time when those two weren't part of his life. He had come to live with his uncle Carlisle and aunt Esme after his parents were decreed unfit, but he didn't remember. As far as he was concerned, Carlisle and Esme were his parents. The fact that they were young—much younger than his friends' parents—and insisted that he call them by their names didn't undermine the bond he shared with them. Carlisle had taught them all to play poker, after all, during long afternoons in the basement of the old house. Now that Edward was an adult, he considered his uncle a friend as well as a confidante, and was happy to have that sort of relationship with his father figure.
Mike and Eric they'd met in middle school, and they'd all gone on to high school together. They weren't necessarily the best of friends, but it was nice to have the extra bodies for poker nights. Peter was Jasper's cousin, and had moved to the area for college. He was the newest member of their group, but unlike James, he fit in well.
"What do you think the odds are of me getting the fifth jack?" Emmett asked dryly. "Ah, well." He tossed in a chip.
Jasper rolled his eyes.
Once again, Edward tried to relax into the rhythm of the game. It was difficult, though. James kept trying to up the ante, and he ridiculed the whole table when they refused. Then, around two in the morning, he developed a losing streak that he couldn't get rid of. James kept getting angrier and angrier, fuming quietly—and then not so quietly—as the pile of chips in front of him dwindled to nothing.
Jasper finally called an end to the night around four am, which was close to their usual quitting time anyway. On normal poker nights they played until first light, when the game would end congenially and the biggest winner would take the rest out to breakfast.
Edward had a feeling that would not happen tonight.
But they had one more ritual on poker nights, and as Edward watched Jasper reach for the spare deck one last time, he knew they weren't skipping it. The host always got to deal the last round.
James was out of money, though, and he was adamant about not sitting out the final round.
"Cash only," Jasper said stubbornly when James tried to offer his watch as collateral. "Besides, Edward already extended you credit." The rest of that sentence went unsaid, though it was obvious what was meant. No one expected James to pay them back, and Edward had been a fool for not being firm enough to resist.
"My truck," James said quickly. "And everything in it. There's some nice tools, whatever."
Jasper wrinkled his nose. "That rusted piece of crap isn't worth anything, and you know it."
"Wait a minute," Emmett said. He cocked his head to the side, considering. "It's rusted to shit, but it's a classic. Rosie might like it."
James looked mildly insulted, as if the thought of handing a truck over to a woman was somehow repulsive, but he wisely kept his mouth shut. "You'll deal?" he asked, turning away from Jasper.
"I don't have that kind of dough on me, man," Emmett said.
Edward knew exactly where this was going, and he exchanged a long look with Carlisle, who only shrugged back at him. Emmett was going to ask Edward to loan him the cash to front James' final hand, placing the truck up for grabs. With James' luck, the vehicle would be Emmett's before long. Edward hoped his friend was right and Rosalie would appreciate the gift. She was a mechanic with an eye for classic automobiles, but that didn't necessarily mean James' truck was worth saving.
"Edward?" Emmett asked. "What do you say?"
Edward considered. He didn't particularly want to give James the cash, particularly since it seemed the guy had a fairly serious gambling problem. But Emmett was trustworthy, and if he wanted the damn truck, who was Edward to tell him no? "How much?" he asked, and though his eyes were on Emmett, he wasn't overly surprised when it was James who spoke.
"Five hundred," James said.
"Highway robbery!" Emmett crowed. "Two-fifty."
Edward tuned out the sound of bargaining, turning to look at their reflections in the darkened window. He couldn't see the truck from here, but he knew Emmett would likely overpay for it. Honestly, when he'd heard James rattle up in that old thing, he'd been surprised it even ran. The engine sounded sick, and that was coming from Edward, who appreciated a smooth-running vehicle but knew virtually nothing about what went on under the hood. He trusted Rosalie to take care of his Volvo and didn't worry about it.
The final price—three seventy-five—was settled on, and James retreated from the table to dig the pink slip from the cab of the truck. Edward dug in his wallet, extracting the cash and eying Emmett carefully.
"Thanks, Ed," his longtime friend said. "I owe you one."
"You sure do," Jasper said. "And you'll owe Rosalie, too, once she gets a look at what you tried to buy her."
"It's not that bad!" Emmett insisted. "She'll like it. Won't she, Carlisle?"
Carlisle merely shrugged, though Edward could see a glimmer of humor in his father's eyes. At least someone was having fun.
James returned with wrinkled ownership papers, plopping them down in front of Edward in exchange for the cash. He then traded most of the money for chips from Jasper, who doled them out unwillingly. It was clear that Mike's friend would not be joining them for poker night again.
Edward tried not to care too much about the outcome of this final hand, but he was honestly a little afraid of what James might do if he lost again.
He wasn't the only one, either. It became painfully apparent after only a few minutes that Jasper wasn't even trying, and Edward distinctly saw Carlisle discard an ace—something he'd lectured them never to do unless they were extremely sure of themselves. Since Carlisle was not a risk-taker, it was obvious that he wasn't really trying to win either.
But Emmett, being Emmett, had no such compunctions. He won handily with a beautiful full house that Edward would have been proud of, if circumstances had been different.
But circumstances were not different, and James' face turned red once it was apparent that he had lost again. He shuddered, closing his eyes as Emmett raked in the small pile of cash and the pink slip to James' truck.
Surprisingly, there was no outburst. James simply asked Mike for a ride home, and without a word to anyone else, they quickly left.
Carlisle, Jasper, and Edward threw careful glances at each other as the others also began to stand and stretch, scraping their winnings together. Mike hadn't bothered to trade in his chips for cash, which wasn't entirely unusual—the chips were perfectly good for their next game, and with the exception of James, no one else played for amounts they couldn't afford to lose. Emmett was busily counting piles of plastic chips in preparation to exchange them for bills, but Jasper wasn't watching.
"That was...interesting," Carlisle said.
"To say the least." Jasper's mouth flicked up in an ironic little grin.
It was strange, perhaps, that Edward had not been the one to follow Carlisle into medicine. He'd considered it—for a long while, he'd assumed medical school lay in his future. But once in college, he found himself gravitating more and more toward the social sciences and less and less toward the requisite pre-med courses. A guilty visit home and a muttered admission had been all it took for Carlisle and Esme to assure him that he didn't need to follow in his uncle's footsteps for them to be proud of him. They expected him to follow his dreams, to be happy with his life choices, and nothing more. A doctorate in sociology and two widely-cited books later, Edward was happy to say that he'd found his niche.
It was Jasper who had followed Carlisle into medicine, though he vacillated for the longest time about his specialty. Finally he almost sheepishly settled on pediatrics, admitting that helping children felt so much more rewarding than placating hypochondriacs. Since deciding to complete his medical degree, Jasper had grown closer to Carlisle, who had been a mentor to him and Emmett when they were young. Edward did not begrudge his best friend and uncle their relationship. He was secure in his family ties, and he knew Carlisle loved and appreciated him for the successful person he had turned out to be.
"Hey," Emmett said, jamming wads of crumpled bills into his pockets, "let's go take a look at my new truck!"
"It's not yours yet," Jasper reminded him. "You have to pay Edward first."
"Aw, shit. He knows I'm good for it."
Emmett was good for it. Edward held back a grin, though, as he teased his friend. "I don't know," he said, plucking the pink slip off the table. "I think this is mine." As if he'd even want it.
"It might be wise to let Edward drive the truck home," Carlisle said, standing and stretching. His back popped several times, and he grimaced. "He and I carpooled here. How would you get your Jeep home if you took the truck?"
Emmett conceded, saying he'd beg Rose to use the tow truck to pick up the monstrosity from Edward's house tomorrow. No one wanted to leave it at Jasper's, on the off chance James came back and tried to take it.
So Edward was left with the thing, and he grimaced as he stepped out the door into the darkness of pre-dawn. The woods of Washington were quiet and still, the nocturnal creatures settled for the night and the morning birds not yet awake. He eyed the rusted monstrosity of a truck, a hulking shadow among shadows. Light from Jasper's house spilled into the darkness, sharp golden illumination that hindered more than it helped his night vision. He squinted, ignoring the ribbing comments from Carlisle and Jasper as he approached the vehicle almost as if he was afraid it might attack him.
But the truck did nothing—it just sat there, dark and old, and with a deep breath Edward grasped the driver's side door handle and pulled.
It opened with a hellacious screech, and Edward winced as the nails-on-a-chalkboard feeling vibrated down his spine. He fumbled around inside, searching for keys, finally finding them tossed on the dashboard. One key for the doors and ignition, and it looked like a second key for the ugly black camper shell that had been placed over the bed of the truck.
"Sure you can handle her?" Emmett asked, laughing at Edward's hesitation.
Edward made a face. So what if he was used to driving his Volvo and not something this big? It didn't mean he couldn't do it. He shifted his weight, springing up into the tall cab of the truck, and slotted the key into the ignition.
The cab stank of cigarettes and the sour reek of old alcohol. Rose was going to have a coronary when Emmett brought this thing home. Edward just hoped that, for all his trouble, he was able to see the fallout.
He turned the ignition. The truck coughed and died.
On the second try, a low, angry growl rumbled from the motor. Edward pumped the gas pedal with his foot, urging the beast to life. It grumbled at him, coughed and spluttered, and finally roared to life with a din Edward knew was going to rouse Jasper's neighbors. With a resigned sigh, he began angling himself out of the driveway and toward his home.
Home wasn't too far away, at least at the moment. He had a condo in Seattle, but whenever he was in the midst of writing a new book he took up residence in the smaller house on his parents' property. It was a nice little place, a cabin really, and it provided the perfect amount of solitude. The town of Forks was close by, but he wasn't surrounded by the noise and bustle of the city. He could really think when he was out here—really settle down and puzzle out the thoughts in his head, turning them into words that made sense.
Parking the truck was another adventure—there was no parking brake, and the beast didn't seem to enjoy staying still on the slight incline of Edward's gravel driveway. He shook his head slightly, wrinkling his nose as he jumped out of the cab. Just the short drive had made his clothes stink. No way was he getting in that cab again. Rose and Emmett could come with an extra car or the tow truck, but he damn well wasn't driving this thing to their house.
The sun hadn't risen yet, but the grey pre-dawn light was getting brighter as Edward blinked away the fog of a night of poker. He rubbed his face, staring at the unwelcome truck in his driveway. James had said there were tools in there. Maybe there was something useful? Emmett wouldn't mind—he could call it interest on the loan he'd extended Emmett.
Unlocking his house, Edward turned on the outside light and peered through the tinted windows on the side of the truck's camper shell. The windows were so dark and dirty that he couldn't see anything so, resigned, he fished the keys out of the cab and walked around back, slotting the smaller key into the lock on the back of the camper shell.
The key did not want to turn, but Edward jiggled it until it finally clicked. He turned the handle, hearing the grating sound of rusty parts, and shoved the vertical door up.
A waft of foul-smelling air hit his face, and Edward nearly gagged. What the hell had James been keeping back here? It smelled like excrement, and something horribly unclean. Had a small animal somehow found its way into the bed of the truck and been trapped? Died? Knowing James, it was equally likely that he had killed something during last hunting season, tossed it in the back of the truck, and forgotten about it.
The smell was almost enough to make Edward close the hatch and leave the whole mess for Emmett, but Edward was still a young man—a young man who remembered what it was like to be a small boy. The revolting smell and the mystery of what made it called to that little boy inside him, and he couldn't quite make himself let it go. Carefully, lest something from the dark bed of the truck fall on him, he lowered the tailgate.
Not much light filtered through the filthy windows of the beat-up black camper shell, and Edward frowned. There was something in there—a blacker shape against the rusted color of the truck bed—but he couldn't tell what. He fished his own keys out of his pocket, turned on the little keychain LED he carried, and shined it into the darkness.
As a sociologist, Edward felt an odd detachment, his academic training trying to catalogue what he was experiencing even as it happened. A single LED bulb did not illuminate well, making a pinprick of light more than anything else, and he squinted as the cold blue beam found what looked like a mass of dark, tangled hair. It was too long to be the fur of a deer or mountain lion, or even a bear. He frowned. The creature was much too small to be any of those things, too. Moving the light, he encountered...skin?
Yes. His eyes knew what they saw, though his brain was in no way ready to process it. Cold, pale skin—human skin. A shoulder, a fragile, unmoving arm.
The light went crazy, and it took Edward several heartbeats to realize it was because his hands were shaking so badly. His pulse was racing, his breaths sharp and jagged as he dropped his keys to the ground and grabbed blindly in his pocket for his cell phone.
It took much longer than it should have to unlock the device and find Carlisle's number. "Please don't be asleep. Please don't be asleep," Edward begged. He didn't want to call the house phone and risk waking up Esme, but he would if he had to.
Carlisle answered on the fifth ring, sounding sleepy but remarkably unperturbed. "I'm not as young as I used to be, you know," he said lightly. "Can't an old man get some sleep?"
"Girl," Edward stuttered, unable to make his mouth form a coherent sentence. "Girl—dead girl. James—Carlisle!"
Instantly Carlisle's voice shifted into doctor-mode. The brusque, no-nonsense tone grounded Edward slightly—this was a voice he knew well from childhood. It was the voice that meant everything would be okay. Right now, it was music to his ears. "Edward, son, take a deep breath. Where are you? Did you have an accident on the road?"
"No!" Edward tried to follow his father's advice. "I'm home—just come. Please!"
"I'll be right there."
The phone disconnected, and Edward was left by himself with the naked body of a dead girl.
A/N: I LOVE abuse fics (as you can probably tell, lol!). There's something about the hurt/comfort genre that really appeals to me. I think it's the idea of someone (usually Bella in this fandom) finding a person (Edward) or a family (the Cullens) to love and help her when she needs it most. Something about the idea of family and love soothing the wounds of the past...idk. Here are some of my favorites:
The Mocking Moon by newmoonaholic
Finding Bella by Wishingforlove81
Torn by Dooba
Empty Panes and Pretty Things by Ayden Morgen
Hit by Destiny by ocdmess
Dark Waltz by Moonchild707 **I hesitated to add this one, since the actual writing is not superb. But the storyline is compelling, and it's better than some of the other offerings from this particular author, so I decided to include it.**
Any/all of the stories I rec here or later are read-at-your-own-risk; there may be violence, sex, rape, and/or other uncomfortable topics.