The untold secret he had been keeping from her was never far from his thoughts; tainting whatever peace he had begun to feel. He felt like a liar and a hypocrite every time she expressed how happy she was that he was finally being honest to her. The longer he waited the heavier the burden of keeping it became.
So he had told her as he drove them both to work. Unable to keep it hidden anymore, he told her he secretly met with the father and the son in his office after she explicitly told him not to do anything. He told her about Joshua Quileute's lies and how ever since that meeting, he had sensed something dangerous in them and was now having them both watched for his sanity's sake.
Bella had been too quiet as she listened to him and digested what he was telling her. She only nodded silently, her eyes rounding in shock at his revelations until finally the shock gave way to disappointment and even worse, grim resolution.
"I can't say I'm surprised," she said on the end of a heavy sigh. "I mean I should've known, right? You haven't said much about them and thinking you would abide by my wishes, well, that was too much to hope for wasn't it?"
"Bella, that was before. I vowed to be forthcoming now…to not railroad over your wishes."
"Then prove it to me that you can do this, that you want to do this."
"How?" he asked her warily.
"Call off whomever you have watching Sam and his father."
He had yet to agree even though their conversation was hours ago and after a tense ride up in the elevator, he had to watch her walk away from him as the doors closed. He didn't know if he could do it. It went against everything in him to know that she wasn't protected in some way when there was, what he perceived, a very real threat.
Would he be proving himself at the sake of her life? Could he take that risk?
His fingers itched with indecision as they hovered over the keypad of his phone and he prayed as he picked it up that this wasn't going to come back to haunt him.
A few moments of his time were all it took and it was done. Pinching the bridge of his nose, trying to alleviate some of the tension that had gathered there he waited impatiently by the fax machine for the final report to come through; all of the Quileute's movements that had been tracked.
"Excuse me, Sir, there is someone here to see you."
Edward looked up from at Dolores, the timid temp the agency sent over this morning. He had already been through three temps in as many days and this girl would probably be the fourth.
"Sir?" Dolores prompted him, her hands wringing together and her eyes wide and wary. This would probably be her last day as well.
"I don't recall having any appointments on my calendar for this time."
"No, Sir, you didn't. He came in unannounced. He says it's urgent he speak with you."
"I don't care how urgent he says it is. How the hell did he get past the security desk? Who let him through?"
"Don't yell at the poor girl, Edward. I was pretty insistent."
Edward's head snapped to the figure standing behind Dolores and paled, his eyes widening in shock as he stared at the man he hadn't seen in years; the man who essentially turned his back on them and walked away.
He took stock of his mother's brother. He was expensively dressed right down to his Gucci loafers and the diamond encrusted wedding band that adorned his ring finger. The years had been good to him, it seemed.
"If it isn't Uncle Carlisle. How did you find me?"
"It wasn't hard," Carlisle threw down a newspaper on the desk, the paper already opened to a page.
Edward stopped the slide of the newspaper with two fingers and looked down at it. There was a picture of him and Bella with a small caption; "Billionaire Bachelor, Edward Cullen with first ever, confirmed girlfriend, Isabella Swan. Will we be hearing wedding bells soon?". He grimaced at the words and how he hated that his relationship was being treated so sensationally before glancing back at his uncle.
"Okay, we have the how. Now I want the why. The last image I have of you is your back as you walked away."
Carlisle's shoulders slumped as he cast his ashamed eyes downward. His graying blonde hair falling over his face before he looked back up again, his expression resolute.
"May I sit down?"
"Why not? Let's chat, shall we?" Edward sneered and gestured towards one of two chairs that were positioned opposite his desk. The offending couch that had been there, had already been removed. He had still been enraged over what Tanya had done and the perversity of it that he had ordered his whole office be stripped clean and the large space disinfected to the point of near fumigation as if that would somehow erase the memory.
"It's been a long time, Edward."
"Fifteen years since I begged you to help me…help us." He refused to make this easy on his uncle. He couldn't. Not after what he did. All sense of any familial feelings he may have once felt for the man were obliterated long ago.
Releasing a heavy sigh, Carlisle nodded. "I know. I remember. If I could go back in time and change it-"
"I was young then, just getting into med school. Your mother told me you were lying and she was very convincing. I had no reason not to believe her."
"You had me. You had my words. My bruises."
"She told me you got into a lot of fights."
"With him!" Edward roared, standing to his feet. "Most of my fights were with him!"
"I know that now. I knew that since the trial. Your girlfriend, she told me."
"You know Bella?"
"I do." Carlisle looked away from Edward's glare. "I was one of the attending physician's in the ER the night that - well, I'm sure you know."
Yeah, he did know and it still had the power to nearly bring him to his knees. Edward's jaw worked furiously as he tempered the desire to ask him for details of that night; anything Bella may have left out to spare him.
"I was an idiot then, Edward," Carlisle continued. "I ignored all the signs in favor of denial mainly because I wasn't equipped to handle it if it were the truth. But when faced with the cold hard truth, I couldn't deny it anymore. I've made my amends with Elizabeth a long time ago."
"And now that you've found me, you're asking for my forgiveness?"
"No." He shook his head. "I came on Elizabeth's behalf. She needs you."
"I needed her! All those years ago, I needed a mother. Now she needs me? And of course she couldn't come on her own." He barked out a bitter laugh, slamming the palm of his hand against his desk. "She's asked you do it. That's rich."
"She couldn't come on her own!" Carlisle shouted angrily, shoving his hand through his hair.
"Why?" he asked, his mouth suddenly dry. A shred of concern wormed through him but he fought it back, remembering all those times he begged for her to leave, to save them both but she never did. "And more importantly, why should I care?"
Bella hung up the phone with a frustrated sigh and shoved her hand through her hair. She had to work, damn it, not field calls from overzealous society reporters wanting the scoop on her relationship with Edward.
That's what you get for dating a local celebrity, her subconscious chimed in.
They were stealthy too; lying about who they were to get past the receptionist. It wasn't only the New York papers that were interested either. Interest in her private life was pretty much scattered all over the eastern seaboard. It was only a matter of time before they dug back far enough to find the blights in her past.
She'd have to deal with it when it came, she supposed. Worrying about it wasn't going to change the facts and it damn well wasn't going to erase what happened.
"I thought you'd be celebrating, not burying your head in your desk."
Bella lifted her head from her hands and gave a half-hearted smile at Siobhan. "Celebrating? Why? What's up?"
"You haven't heard?"
"Um, no," she said, her brows furrowing in confusion.
"Demetri is being sent back to the Miami office."
"Oh yeah." Siobhan nodded with a wide grin. "Between what he was trying to pull with you and now apparently, his replacement for you, Caius had about all he could take."
"How did I not know about this?"
"I have no idea. The office has been buzzing with it all morning. Caius was overheard yelling at him behind closed doors and it wasn't pretty."
"Has he left yet?" she asked hopefully.
"Packing his office up as we speak, from what I hear. He's not too happy about it so be forewarned."
It wasn't long after Siobhan dropped the news that she found herself summoned by Caius. She felt the eyes of her co-workers follow her as she walked down the hall. Managing to pass Demetri's office without being seen by him, she entered Caius' office and shut the door behind her as he gestured for her to do.
Already inside was the girl she recognized as Demetri's Junior Executive, Charlotte. She was so young, Bella thought as she watched the girl wringing her hands in her lap. She'd been crying. That much was obvious by the tear tracks on her cheeks and the mangled tissue, Bella now saw in her grip.
Caius looked relieved when he saw her. He motioned for her to sit down and handed Charlotte another tissue. Steepling his hands under his chin, his shoulders slumped as he sighed.
"Caius, are you all right?" Bella asked him with genuine concern. His initial look of relief had morphed into one of defeat and disappointment so quickly.
He shook his head and rubbed his tires eyes with the palm of his hands. "I'm sure word has gotten around that Demetri will be leaving tomorrow, permanently."
"I only heard a little about it," Bella confessed.
"Certain things have been called to my attention that I couldn't in good conscience ignore, thanks to Charlotte here."
Bella spared a glance to Charlotte and saw her stiffen. What exactly had the creep done to her.
"Suffice it to say, we'll need someone at a senior level to handle some of Demetri's local clients. Though I am sure Charlotte here, can take care of most of the work, some clients are a bit more picky than others."
"I understand." It was something she knew well and encountered often when she was at Charlotte's level. There were clients that would only deal with senior level executives.
"I knew you would, Bella," he said with a sad smile. "Charlotte can give you the logistics about the campaigns."
"Caius, may I speak freely?"
"What is it exactly that Demetri has done?" Aside from leering at me and trying to make me doubt my relationship, she quipped silently.
"He made advances on me, Miss Swan," Charlotte answered. "Physical advances and then threatened my job."
How terrified she must've been, Bella thought horrified. Demetri was a Volturi, a fact she was sure he would've tried to use to his advantage to keep her quiet.
"There's more," Caius said. "Go ahead, Charlotte. You can tell Bella."
"It upset me, of course but I was going to keep quiet. I need this job, Miss Swan. Peter, my husband, is unemployed right now and..." She gave a broken sob and pressed a tissue to her mouth.
"It's okay, Charlotte." Bella reached out and grabbed her other hand with reassurance. "Speaking up was very courageous and Caius is a fair man."
"You don't understand." she shook her head violently. "I overheard him last night talking about you."
"He was planning something. I don't know what exactly but it sounded..." Her voice trailed off like she couldn't finish the sentence, which had Bella's internal alarms buzzing. "I had no proof but I knew I had to say something. I would've never been able to forgive myself if something happened and I did nothing to stop it. So I took the risk and came to see Mr. Volturi this morning."
"And I believed her," Caius stated with conviction. "My first thought was to fire his ass." He grimaced. "But after conferring with my brothers, we made a mutual decision to send him back to Florida where he will work in a low-level position under Marcus. Should he decide to quit the firm entirely, he will do it without any references."
Which, as Bella knew, would look extremely bad to any potential employer, knowing he had been fired without a decent reference from his own family's business. It would be career suicide.
She was still reeling from the meeting as she walked back to her office on shaking legs. She knew she owed Charlotte a lot for potentially putting her job on the line by coming forward. Edward had been right all along. Demetri wasn't as harmless and easy to handle as she thought. He was dangerous.
When Charlotte told her exactly what she had overheard when she asked her to elaborate, Bella felt the bile rise to her throat. She was still nauseous.
God, should she even tell Edward? He'd lose it. She had to though. She couldn't expect absolute honesty from him and not deliver it herself.
The object of her thoughts was sitting in her office when she entered. He didn't notice her at first, standing and staring out the window as he was, his hands clasped behind his back. She was surprised to see him there and she took a moment to study him, noticing right away the stiff line of his back. Something was horribly wrong.
"Edward?" she asked, shutting her office door behind her before she approached him. "What are you doing here?"
He turned sharply around, the look in his eyes so empty and desolate, she momentarily pushed any thoughts of Demetri aside. All her concern was now for the man standing before her.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
In two strides, he reached her and pulled her into a tight embrace as he buried his head in her shoulder. She stroked his back comfortingly, feeling him tremble in her arms.
"I need you. I don't know what to do," he spoke against the skin of her exposed neck.
He pulled away from her slightly, searching her eyes with his own. "Come with me?"
"Anywhere." He stumbled back from her, gripping his hair. "Just away. I can't - I don't know how to fucking deal with this, Bella."
"Deal with what? You're scaring me. What happened?"
"Elizabeth," he breathed out finally, clenching his eyes shut.
It was the last name she ever expected to hear from his mouth voluntarily. "You're mother?"