Edward drew a hot bath, inhaling the steam that rose and topped it with a cap full of lavender bubble bath. After pouring the red wine, he lit the candles, illuminating the room in a soft, gentle glow. Soft classical music filtered in from the speakers built into the wall. She needed this. They both did. And he wanted to give it to her, give her a small oasis of peace amongst the chaos. It wasn't a grand gesture but Bella was never into those anyway. When the tub was filled up to his satisfaction, the bubbles rising high over the rim, he turned the water off and walked into the bedroom, wearing only his bathrobe.
Bella stood in front of the mirror, unclasping her necklace, her eyes tired and her mouth drawn. She had been mostly quiet since they left the police station. It was her way of coping but he would give anything to know what was going on in that head of hers. But first, they both needed to relax.
"Come." He took her hand and led her into the master bath, closing the door behind them.
The steam rose around them, embracing them both with the scent of lavender. When she opened her mouth to speak, he silenced her with his index finger over her lips and a silent plea in his eyes.
"Today is over and done. No more talking about Tanya or Joshua or the press," he said as he gently pinned up her hair in a loose bun. "But right now…"
She poked at a wayward bubble, making it pop. "We're taking a bath?"
"We're taking a bath."
His fingers effortlessly unbuttoned her blouse and slid the silk slowly down over her shoulders. He unzipped her skirt and watched it slink down her legs until it pooled around her high heels and she stood there wearing only her bra and panties. With a tantalizing slowness that almost made him forget his initial purpose, Bella smiled and removed the rest of her garments while he watched with eyes full of green heat. Her breathing became heavier, her cheeks more flush as her agile fingers untied his robe and it fell next to her clothes, revealing his own arousal.
Ignoring his own physical wants, Edward guided her into the tub and slid in behind her, the water lapping at their heated flesh, embracing them both in its warmth. He loved the feel of her wet skin against his, loved how she languished against him, her body supple, as with gentle hands he massaged the tension from her shoulders.
This had been exactly what they needed, this physical intimacy, this emotional connection of the senses that went beyond sex. These small moments of peace where they could grab them meant more to him. It was a revelation, one of many he had been having lately. He was changing, breaking from the rigid emotional prison of his own making. It was scary, this unknown. Scarier still that it could be taken away so easily, if he let his own fears cause their own destruction.
No, this was not the time nor the place for the intrusion of such morose thoughts. He was resolved to not concentrate on the what ifs and instead vowed to focus on the what was. This here. Now. They were together and that was the most important of all. It needed to be savored and nourished not tainted.
She moaned in pleasure when he wrung out the soapy loofah sponge over her back watching, fascinated as the rivulets cascaded over her skin.
"Nice?" he asked, moving the sponge in slow, circular motion across her shoulders.
"Mmm," she hummed the sound deep in her throat and closed her eyes. "Very nice."
"Lean back against me. Relax."
"Are you trying to seduce me, Mr. Cullen?"
"Oh, I think we're way past that, don't you? No," he whispered, his lips close to her ear causing her to shudder deliciously against him. "This is just about us, you and me, unwinding. Just being."
"I like just being. Especially when it's with you."
Edward closed his eyes and became silent again. When he spoke, his voice was gravelly with emotion. "We've missed out on ten years of just being, Bella. I don't want to miss out on anymore."
"And we won't, no matter what gets thrown at us."
"That's not what I'm trying to say exactly."
Sitting up, Bella twisted so she was facing him, concern marring her features. "What is it?"
When she went to move a tuft of hair from his face, he caught her hand and brought it to his lips, kissing kissing her palm. Will you marry me? The words were right there on the tip of his tongue. He just wanted to blurt them out. But no, he had more finesse than than to ask her the most important question ever in a tub and without a ring.
"Edward? What are you trying to say?" Her voice sounded, worried and that was the last thing he wanted.
He cleared his throat, deciding to change course. No, he wouldn't propose now. There was plenty of time to do that when their lives were calmer, more settled. She'd probably turn him down anyway, thinking he was asking out of fear and even he had to admit to himself, a part of him was.
Finding out Tanya may have been behind their accident was something he had never considered despite the detective's suspicions that he did. He felt so many different types of foolish and angry for not even considering that Tanya would retaliate, for underestimating her. Now she was gone. Had something really happened to her or was she waiting, biding her time, setting them up? Bella was still watching him and he realized he hadn't answered her.
"When this over, we're going on a vacation."
She beamed a smile at him. "Jeez, you really had me worried for a second. A vacation, huh? Where would we go?"
"Somewhere with no phones, no televisions, no internet service…maybe a tropical island and we can make love on the beach and listen to Bob Marley with no inhibitions."
"And no Mike Newton watching us?"
"Ahh, yes." He chuckled, remembering. "Newton, the little fucker. There were so many times I wanted to kick his ass just for looking at you the wrong way. Then one day he just stopped."
"That might have been because I threatened his nut sack and future generations of little Newtons."
He sputtered in his surprise. "You?"
"Yes, me." She shot him a look of amused indignance. "Why are you laughing? Between Charlie and Emmett, I learned a lot. You saw my awesome sauce moves against the heavy bag." She grinned. "Admit it, I can be bad ass."
"Awesome sauce moves." He tapped her nose with his finger. "You're cute. And getting cold. C'mon," he stood and helped her up, appreciating that she looked like his own little water nymph rising from the water. "Let's take this party to the bedroom."
"Anything?" Detective Kate Donovan called out to her partner. They were back at Tanya Denali's apartment in trendy Union Square the next day with a small team of officers going over her residence again, looking for anything they might have missed. So far, they had reached nothing but dead ends.
"Nothing," Benjamin said, scrubbing his face with latex covered fingers and a scowl of disgust.
"Here neither. The voice mail is clean and the caller ID has numbers we already ran and checked out, except for that one private caller."
"Yeah, and I just bet that private caller is our guy. What about the neighbors? Were we able to get any new information?"
"Hmm," Kate checked her notes. "Let's see, Mrs. Delancy in 4C said, and I quote, 'I'm not surprised she got herself into trouble with the way she walks around, putting on airs' and Ryan Petrullo in 2A said 'for a hot chic was a cold fish'. He thought she was a 'lipstick lesbian' by the way since she turned him down a few times and he never saw her with a man." She rolled her eyes.
Kate and Ben swung around at the noise. The door across the hall was opened just a crack.
"Psst!" The door opened a little wider and a gray haired lady with thick glasses waved them both forward.
"Did we interview her?" Kate asked.
"Apartment 4B? No, she wasn't home."
"No time like the present. She obviously has something to tell us."
"Or maybe she wants to offer us cookies and milk."
"Hey, after today, I'll take it. C'mon," Kate nudged his arm, "let's go see what she has to say."
Kate's nose wrinkled delicately as she stepped into the dimly lit apartment. The smell of moth balls, cat and a scent she could never name but always attributed to the elderly assailed her. It was some medicinal smell. Joint cream perhaps?
Something furry rubbed across her leg and she took a step back, colliding with Ben. Looking down, she spotted a white ball of fur pounce up onto the throw covered sofa. Well, it looked more like a giant doily - the sofa and the cat.
"Don't mind Princess. She's a friendly cat. I have some tea on. Would you like some? It's Darjeerling."
"No thank you, ma'am."
"Just call me Addie. Everyone does. Shoo, Princess." She chased the cat off the couch. "Let these nice police officers sit down."
Kate thought about all the clumps of cat hair that would inevitably stuck to her ass and her legs. She didn't want to be rude. "Umm…"
The tea pot kettle whistled causing them all to startle.
"Oh, my tea! I'll be right back then we can chat. Are you sure you don't want any?"
At Kate's barely perceptible nod, Ben answered for them both. "We're good."
As she scurried off, rather spry for a woman her age, Kate turned to Ben with a raised eyebrow and a hint of a smile playing at her lips. This was going to be interesting. Hopefully, Addie had some good info to share. Ben's eyes widened when he saw the old woman come back after a few moments trying to wrestle through the doorway with a tea set laden silver tray. He scrambled over to help her when the whole thing tilted sideways and let out a relieved breath when he caught it in time.
"Thank you, young man." She beamed at him. "You can put the tray over here." She motioned to the wooden coffee table and sat down. "I know you said you didn't want any but what sort of hostess would I be if I had my afternoon tea in front of you?" Addie gave a sad, warbled smile, "Since my Bernie died, I don't get to entertain much."
"I'd love some tea," Kate said feeling guilty now as she thought about her own widowed grandmother and resigned herself to sitting down. Ben took her cue and sat down on the other side of her with a shrug. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
Addie stirred her tea and took a sip, a smile forming on her face. "Perfect. Now," she set her cup down and turned to Ben, suddenly all business. "You must have questions. I was away at my granddaughter's wedding and didn't hear about Tanya until just this morning or I would have called someone straight away."
"We're here now. So tell us what you know about Miss Denali."
"She's not a nice person that's for sure. Even Princess hissed at her and she loves everybody. Tanya told me if caught Princess sneaking out of my apartment one more time, she was going to give her to the Chinese Restaurant down the block and they would make Chow Mein out of her."
"That isn't nice at all," Kate said, her expression appropriately sympathetic.
"Just so." She gave a huff and nodded. "Well, I could go on and on…why…" Addie continued to ramble on about Tanya Denali and none of it was flattering. Kate listened with half an ear, writing some of it down, trying to pick out important information but all it really sounding like was gossip from a nosy neighbor. "… it was no wonder her young man was so angry with her. She had that effect on people."
Kate perked up and gave Ben a pointed look. "Her young man? She had a boyfriend?"
"Well," Addie said with a sly smile. "I don't know if he was her boyfriend but he waited for some time for her to come home a couple of weeks back. He stunk up the hallway with the smell of his cologne. I have allergies, you know. Even if he was in the stairwell, the smell still gets around."
Kate didn't understand how a woman who claimed to have allergies could have a long haired cat but she let it slide. That wasn't why they were here. "How did you know he was waiting for her?"
"My peephole, of course. I don't go out much,"she gave knowing purse of her lips and tapped the side of her glasses,"but I watch."
"Did she seem afraid of him?"
"Oh goodness no." Addie chuckled, covering her mouth. "She told him she didn't even want to be seen with him before she dragged him into her apartment. That's when the argument began."
"Did you hear what they were arguing about?"
"No, dear, I'm sorry. My ears aren't as good as they used to be. They were definitely arguing though. He left soon after…alone but I did happen to see her the next day when I went to get my mail. She had a nasty bruise on her forehead, right here" Addie pointed to a spot right above her eyebrow. "I don't like to pry but I had to ask about it."
"And?" Ben asked, prompting her to continue.
"She said she was in a bit of a fender bender the night before. I'm not sure I believed her. You hear about cases of domestic violence all the time, you know and her boyfriend or whoever he was, was not in a good mood when he left."
Ben looked at Kate, his features grim. Thank goodness, the car had been left in the impound lot so they could comb it through again for evidence. She knew what he was thinking but until they got back the forensics report comparing the hair they found in the car and the ones in Tanya's hairbrush, they were only speculating that she was the one that hit Cullen. And then for her to get a visit from an angry mysterious man hours afterward? What were the chances? Ben pulled out his phone and typed "Edward Cullen" in the search box. He clicked on a recent image and handed the phone to Addie.
"Was this the man you saw?"
Addie studied the picture, squinting and tilting her head from side to side as she did so.
"Well, he was wearing one of those long leather coats and his face was obscured. He had a black cap on. But no, I don't think so. That's that rich guy, the one that's been in papers recently, Edward Cullen, isn't it? If I were younger…"
"If his face was obscured how do you know it wasn't him?" Kate asked her.
"Tanya's man looked shorter than Edward Cullen. He's over 6' feet isn't he?" Kate confirmed with a nod. "No then, it couldn't be him."
"Are you sure?"
"Sweetie, my ears may be shot but I know a man's body."
Kate was grateful for a new lead but was still disappointed that they couldn't get much more out of the woman. She went into the stairwell across the hall, examining it for any possible evidence. It was a long shot but if Tanya's mysterious visitor was hanging out here, he may have left something behind because he sure as hell left nothing in her apartment.
She took out her penlight and shined it into every corner of that stairwell landing. Something nestled into a corner, almost camoflaged in the shadows, caught her eye. Taking a pair of tweezers, she picked up a button and placed it in a plastic evidence bag.
"What is it?"
Kate grinned and held up the bag, letting it dangle in front of her, heard Ben suck in a breath and he smiled too. "Either Tanya Denali knows more than one wealthy person out to get her or Addie's eyes aren't as good as she thinks they are. This baby here is from a Burberry leather coat. I estimate in the over three thousand dollar range."
"Hopefully we can get a viable print from it."
"If we do, I will give Addie a big fat kiss. Princess too."