A/N: I feel awful for leaving this story unfinished. It's so much fun to write but it needs the perfect mood combined with tons of creativity and inspiration. This chapter took me a while to write and it is full of unexpected twists.
Thanks for the constant flow of reviews and alerts. They keep me motivated big time. All I need now is some free time and a faster internet connection in order to reply to your PMs and reviews. I've fallen behind these past few months so please bear with me. :)
Here is a refresher for all of you:
Hunter accompanies Bella on a trip to the Caribbean. He becomes sick so she transports him back to Oceanus.
Queen Cora takes Bella to an underwater dungeon where Charlie is kept hidden in a jail cell. She orders Bella to break up with Jacob in exchange for her father's freedom.
Rated M for language.
I felt trapped.
Every night, after having dinner with mom and JP, I retreated to my elegant Parisian bedroom and brooded for hours. I was restless, powerless and anxious.
My thoughts wandered to places I shouldn't be thinking about.
Five more months…
I reminded myself to be patient for Charlie's sake. It was the only thing I was good at these days; being patient and pretending to be okay.
My mother's countless fashion events and parties were the perfect backdrop for my fake persona. I played the part of aspiring fashionista pretty well, splurging on Jimmy Choos, Birkin bags and designer jeans.
Paris was my doll-house and I was its tortured Barbie.
Fashion Week began with a flurry of activities and the return of Mom-Zilla. She was bossing everyone around and fussing over her flawless designs. She also decided to put me in charge of hiring models for her fashion show.
The task itself was challenging because she required a specific type of model: brunette and elvish looking.
It took ages to find 25 models who closely resembled Arwen from Lord of The Rings. They were a cocktail of Italian, French and Spanish girls in their early twenties. One of them reminded me of Hunter. She was easygoing and funny, so I hung out with her the most. She had a unique sense of style and always wore a quirky hairpiece whenever we went out together.
It was a cold, rainy day in February when we managed to sneak into the VIP section of one of the hottest clubs in Paris. Claudia was wearing a hairpiece decorated with mini bottles of champagne, tequila and wine on her head. It was ridiculous yet funny, complimenting her flashy bronze dress.
I chose to wear one of Juliana's designs: a knee-length dress with sheer sleeves and tiny Swarovski snowflakes sewn into the arctic-blue fabric. It was a masterpiece and my favorite dress from her Winter Wonderland collection.
The club was loud and thrumming with energy. It was also packed with many attractive French guys.
I knew my dress attracted enough attention, especially with Claudia by my side. She was upbeat and leggy with hazel doe eyes and cute dimples.
A few sleazy guys approached us while we were sitting at the bar but she simply flashed them her engagement ring and told them to fuck off in French. 'Imbeciles.' She sneered. 'They come out here for an easy lay, taking advantage of insecure and drunken girls. Losers.'
Claudia was somehow able to coax my heartbreak out of me. I told her all about Jake minus his Atlantis origins and she consoled me by ordering a Toblerone martini for the two of us.
'There is more to this story, oui?' She asked, curiosity written all over her face.
"Maybe." I replied, downing my drink and ordering a shot of tequila.
Claudia noticed my distress and quickly changed the subject. 'There is a very handsome man staring at you.' She smiled. 'His hair is the color of powdered sugar. Very striking.'
"Where?" I swallowed, afraid of looking behind me.
'Nine o'clock.' She subtly nodded. 'There, by the dance floor.'
I slowly turned around, expecting to find Hunter standing there, under the green laser beams. He did say that he was going to come back for his jacket.
I felt a tiny pang of disappointment when I discovered that it was just a guy with fake albino hair.
"You call this handsome?" I snorted. "You'd better check your eye-sight, C."
'No. You need to get over this Jacob guy.' She remarked. 'He is getting married soon, non?'
'Girl, it's his loss. There is plenty of fish in the sea.' Claudia motioned to all the hotties around us. 'Take your pick. I will be right back.' She said, sliding off her stool.
"Where are you going?"
'Ladies room. You wanna come with?' She offered.
"Nah. I'm good."
She grabbed her clutch from the countertop and cat-walked her way to the bathroom.
White haired dude was still lurking near the packed dance floor. He was beginning to creep me out.
I hated the way he was leering at me, so I picked up my drink and left the bar.
The atmosphere around me suddenly changed and the tempo of the music became faster. I saw creepy guy follow me past the crowd of heavy smokers as the laser lights turned red.
Alarm bells started going off inside my head so I changed my course and darted left towards the exit.
It was snowing outside and I had forgotten my coat at home. My stylish ankle boots were thankfully snow-proof so I stepped onto the slippery sidewalk while keeping an eye on the exit.
My instincts taught me to be cautious these days, especially after what happened with Cora. Charlie was still alive thanks to our agreement but everything could change at the drop of a hat.
I was so paranoid, the slightest movement made me jump. The street was dimly lit and a couple of cars drove by as I contemplated my next move.
The last thing I expected was for my ring to go all glow-y and unpredictable. The diamond stone was glowing bright enough to be spotted on Google Earth!
I was too distracted by my alien ring that I failed to notice Creepy Guy who startled the hell out of me. He attempted to grab my Louis Vuitton purse, but the moment his fingers touched my arm, the ring went crazy.
A strong ray of indigo light shot out from the stone and hit him square in the chest.
I watched in horror as his body collided with the sidewalk. His cheap coat was instantly soaked as he lay there unmoving…either dead or unconscious.
I was too afraid to check his pulse, the ring still glowing like blue embers on my finger.
My foggy breath reminded me just how cold it was even though I could barely feel it. I was still frozen in shock, staring at the motionless thief on the ground.
"What the fuck just happened?"
Tiny flakes of snow fell into my eyes as I searched the empty street for a taxi.
I needed to return home and lock myself up in my room where it was safe and predictable.
Claudia could've witnessed the -thief zapping- incident. Hell, anyone could have witnessed it! It was something out of the pages of a fantasy book.
The ring itself was very deceiving. It was pretty and sparkly but clearly lethal.
My terrible sense of direction combined with the dark streets of Paris made it impossible for me to find my way back home. I was lost, cold and my legs were killing me.
The sheer sleeves of my dress were gradually becoming wet and so were my boots.
I rounded yet another unfamiliar corner and that's when I heard it; a loud growl that made my skin crawl.
At first, I thought it was a stray dog so I ignored it and maintained a normal pace along the empty sidewalk. The shops were closed and hardly any cars drove by.
I knew that by the time I find an open café or a nearby hotel, I'd be sick as hell. It was the fucking icing on my crappy cake. All I needed was a rabid dog to bite me in the ass and my cake would be an epic fail.
"I fucking hate Paris!"
Tears burned my eyes as I spun around, trying to find the Eiffel Tower since I used it as a landmark whenever I was lost. It should have been easy to spot since it was all tall and hard to miss.
I was busy staring up at the sky starlit sky when a white blur of fur suddenly emerged from the bushes.
At first, I thought it was Alpha…but then I noticed the dark grey spots, feline ears and those predator eyes. It was a freakin' snow leopard.
He crouched low on the ground, teeth bared and ready to attack. There was a silver collar around his neck though; an expensive looking collar with a glowing red stone in the center.
I instantly knew that the leopard was sent here to kill me. His pale green eyes were staring at me like I was dinner.
My trembling hand automatically reached out to activate my ring and summon Pearl.
'Bella!' She greeted me cheerfully. 'What can I…'
"Call Hunter." I whispered, taking a cautious step backwards.
She followed my gaze and gasped in horror. 'Shit. This is not good. Not good at all.'
"Yep." I nodded.
My knees felt like jello and I knew that it was only a matter of time before the evil leopard makes his move. The bastard knew he was much faster than me, so he was enjoying my panic. I was on the verge of becoming dead meat.
Pearl vanished for barely two seconds before reappearing with a frantic Caspian in tow. 'Master Hunter is on his way.' He informed me. 'His ring is synced with yours so he is going to cloak you in five seconds.'
"Cloak me? As in make me disappear?"
'Yes.' Pearl replied. 'Once he does, you must run, Bella. Atlantean Leopards are trained to hunt humans, so he can still hurt you if you are not fast enough.'
"How can anybody run in this goddamn snow?" I hissed.
Caspian floated up to my face, his blonde hair all frizzy and on edge. 'Miss Bella. You need to run NOW!'
My legs sprung into action before my brain registered the buzz of energy radiating from the ring.
I ran as fast as I could, looking over my shoulder to check if the leopard was hot on my trail. He was almost four feet away, sniffing the air for my scent.
Unfortunately, the pavement was too slippery and I ended up tumbling down on my knee, scraping it in the process. I ignored the pain and the fact that my dress was practically ruined. Even my so-called 'snow proof' boots were soggy and uncomfortable.
'Bella. You need to get up. The leopard is closing in on us!' Pearl urged me.
"Thanks for the update." I panted, my foggy breath flirting with her tiny face.
I focused hard on my balance and finally managed to stand up and plant my legs firmly on the pavement.
It was too late though, because the stealthy leopard was too close. Inches close. He froze mid-step, his black pupils scanning the area as he concentrated on finding me.
I held my breath, my heart pounding noisily in my ears.
The sound of footsteps gradually became louder as a group of guys came jogging down the street. They were holding their jackets over their heads to shield them from the snow.
I took advantage of the situation and darted past them, grateful for their presence.
Pearl (God bless her heart) was like my own personal GPS. She gave me directions to my mother's apartment which turned out to be three blocks away.
I felt incredibly stupid for not giving her the chance to help me earlier. She was proactive, resourceful and time efficient.
"My feet are killing me!" I groaned, slowing down to a jog.
'We are almost there, Bella.' Pearl floated up to my face and gave me an encouraging smile.
I coughed, and my vision started getting blurry.
'Miss Bella. Are you alright?'
The adrenaline in my body was fading along with my strength. I could feel it slipping away until the world started spinning and everything faded to black.
I slowly regained consciousness, my body aching all over.
A silky voice said my name so I tried to open my eyelids. They felt so heavy. "Hmm?"
The cold was thankfully gone, and I was cocooned inside something soft and warm.
'You fainted and almost gave Caspian a heart attack.' Hunter stroked my left cheek with his thumb.
He looked exhausted but extremely relieved.
"What took you so long?" I asked him. My voice sounded a bit nasal thanks to my stuffy nose. "I was hunted down by a freakin leopard tonight. I repeat: a leopard assassin."
'Yeah. I got the memo.' He sighed. 'Those leopards are hard to track down. The one who went after you probably retreated when he saw me. Too bad it's snowing outside. Those fuckers use their fur as camouflage.'
"I know." My warm hands reached blindly for my dress. I smoothed my hand over the protruding crystal snowflakes and found the silky fabric beneath it completely dry. "How did you…"
'Blue fire.' He explained, holding up a silver lighter. 'It's our main source of energy.'
I tried to lift up my head from my fluffy pillow but it was like lifting a handful of bricks. "Ugh. I feel like shit."
'You look like shit too.' Hunter teased, dragging my desk chair closer to my bed. 'On a serious note, I uh…have some news for you.'
"What is it?"
'Cora died a few hours ago.' He divulged. 'She was murdered in her own private wing.'
"What?" The shockingly unexpected news made me bolt upright so fast, I almost fainted again.
'Whoa. Easy there, Firecracker.' Hunter guided my head back to the pillow. 'You need to rest or you'll end up with a nasty cold.'
"No. I…need to check up on Charlie."
'Charlie?' Hunter frowned. 'You mean your dad?'
"Yeah." I lifted my hand from beneath the covers and activated the live-feed camera using my ring. "He's trapped in the underwater dungeons. Cora made me promise not to tell anyone."
'Wait a sec…is that why you broke up with Jacob?'
Hunter was finally putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
'Cora made a deal with you.' He deduced. 'Fuck! I should have known she was up to something.'
The live-feed took a while to appear, and when it did, the images didn't make any sense.
'Bella. I don't see any jail cells on the screen.' Hunter remarked.
My blood ran cold as I stared at the empty ocean bed. A school of rainbow fish swum past the camera but other than that, there were no signs of life whatsoever.
The dungeon was gone, and so was Charlie.
"He was right there this morning!" I insisted. "They must have relocated him or something."
Hunter ran his fingers through his long blonde hair. His eyes met mine and they were dark with anger. 'Fuck, Bella. Why did you keep this secret from me? I would've found a way to free your dad.'
"Yes, and the two of you would have ended up dead in the process!" Tears prickled my eyes as I glared up at him. "Cora threatened to kill Charlie and deliver his head on a silver platter. Her threats are far from empty. She is…I mean, was a psycho bitch. She took him from me once. I can't afford to lose him again."
Hunter sighed pinched the bridge of his nose, leaning forward in his chair. 'Don't worry. We'll find him. Just try to get some sleep…'
"No!" I stubbornly flung the covers aside and tried to sit up on my own. "I need to make sure he's okay."
'Bella. You're in no condition to go anywhere right now.'
"But…" I swallowed, my body refusing to cooperate. "That is so not fair. None of this is."
Hunter got up in one fluid motion and tucked me in thoroughly. 'I know, baby, but you're still alive and kicking. We should have kept a closer eye on you tonight, but Jacob has his hands full and the island is on lockdown. No one is allowed to leave so you should count your lucky stars that I'm a Knight.'
'Because knights can slay dragons and rescue damsels in distress.' He quipped.
"Haha. Ow...my throat is so damn sore. Can you get me a bottle of water from my mini-kitchen?"
'Your wish is my command.' He bowed dramatically, crossing the length of my ivory furnished room. I had my very own balcony and a cute mini-kitchen in the corner complete with a small fridge and a microwave.
"How's Jake holding up? I know he hated Cora but still…she's his mother. He must be devastated."
'Devastated is a bit of an overstatement but yeah, he's in shock. The good news is he won't be marrying Ondine. Their engagement is ancient history.'
'Yep.' He popped the P and opened the fridge, fishing out my leftover cheeseburger and fries. 'As your knight in shining armor, I deserve a reward for saving your ass tonight. This burger shall be satisfactory.'
"Umm…sure. Go ahead and eat it. There's an entire bag of assorted burgers in the main fridge but if anyone catches you tip-toeing around the apartment, you're going to be in big trouble."
'Speaking of trouble…' Hunter placed my leftovers inside the microwave and pressed the reheat button. 'Did someone other than the leopard try to attack you? Because your ring used up most of its stored energy on an earlier incident…'
"Yes, actually. I almost got mugged by this creepy guy who tried to steal my purse."
'What? Are you serious?' He handed me the water bottle and paced back and forth on my pink macaron carpet. 'This is fucking ridiculous. No one knows your location. No one except me and Jacob.'
I listened to Hunter curse and hiss while chugging down the entire water bottle. His eyes were bright and filled with guilt. 'I feel solely responsible for what happened to you tonight.'
"Don't be silly. None of this was your fault. I'm the one who pushed you away and broke Jake's heart."
He rubbed his palm over his face and sat down on my bed. 'His Royal Highness is going to be so angry when he finds out about this. You lied to our face, Bella. You insulted Jacob and his pride, and on top of that, you dumped him. It's gonna take more than just an apology to fix things.'
The microwave beeped, putting an end to our conversation. 'Dinner is served.' He went and fetched the burger and fries. The smell of cheddar cheese made my stomach growl.
"Please don't forget about Charlie. Find him before it's too late. If he dies…"
'Shhh…' Hunter silenced me with his thumb. 'Since when are you this pessimistic? Snap out of it, Lucky Girl. You survived two attacks in one night. Someone is definitely watching over you.'
"Yes, Angels are watching over me. They probably think that I'm a murderer." I moaned, covering my face with my pastel blue comforter.
Hunter chuckled in response. 'Your creepy mugger is not dead. The ring rendered him unconscious is all.'
'Bella. I need to make a few urgent calls, ok? In the meantime, try to get some sleep. Tomorrow's going to be a long day.'
"Why? Are we going somewhere?"
'Yep.' He nodded. 'I'm taking you to Oceanus. Jacob's grandmother wants to see you. She's also an excellent healer. She'll cure you in no time.'
"But…what if Jake refuses to talk to me?"
'Not possible.' Hunter replied. 'He's been moping around the palace for weeks. It's pathetic.'
'Absolutely.' He grinned. 'Your Prince is such a goody-goody. It's like he's wearing a chastity belt under those royal pants of his.'
Hunter's words made me laugh. His sense of humor was the only silver lining in my disastrous night.
I drifted off to sleep seconds later, hoping that tomorrow would be the day I finally reunite with Charlie.