Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, quotes, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners and are simply used under 'fair use'. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. This story is written for the legally recognized adult population.

In Love And War

*~*~*Chapter Four : Giving Me Religion *~*~*

'You know that when I hate you, it is because I love you to a point of passion that unhinges my soul.' (Julie de Lespinasse)

The storm continued raging, violent as ever, so we had the girls moved to another room…

And yes, I mean the girls, plural. Alice decided to keep Bambi company.

But that was the least of my worries at the moment. I, Edward Cullen, a Masen by birthright, allowed dangerous sentiments to worm their way into my body. Having feelings for the daughter of my nemesis? It was ludicrous. Utterly motherfucking ludicrous! The mere thought had me gripping my hair hard enough to tear it out. Why? Because I couldn't find a single part of me that fucking cared about any of it. None of it mattered. I simply wanted her.

"Well dude, what the fuck was that?"

I groan, shutting my eyes against the curious and slightly amused undertones in Emmett's voice.

This is one commanding reason that forces me to be concerned about what just transpired, even if I don't want to be— I had fucking witnesses to what just happened with Swans daughter! As Capo I should avoid a situation like this at all costs, because I can't afford to lose control of the family or have them question my capabilities under any circumstances, especially these circumstances. Fuck, this could go from bad to worse quick with Father here.

Turning to Emmett, the usual hard edge returns to my face. "What was what, Emmett?" My voice is void of all emotion except pure and utter boredom, but he's not falling for it so easily.

"A Masen," he exaggerates his confusion, "shunning his duty and comforting a Phoenix?" Shaking his head, the fucking mammoth smirks at me, goading me. I wonder briefly if Rose would forgive me if I broke his face, dick and spine. Probably not. Keeping her in mind I try to keep calm. "Tsk tsk Eddie, what must we do with you?"

"I wasn't comforting her." I hiss in response to the dubious looks they're sending my way, smug as fuck as they do it too, part of them gloating at a kink in my armor. I snigger. Un-fucking-likely. Not now. "I thought it was Alice!" I lie easily, smoothly, flawlessly. My walls are up again, and as Jasper, Em and Father gaze at me, I feel the need to keep it that way.

I would not slip, I can't.

She was a girl, a very beautiful girl, one that fucking fascinated me, but I couldn't give into it. A girl could not jeopardize my status, especially in the eyes of my own kin. I'm mean look at these fuckers, they're like dogs with a bone.

"After 19 years with your sister?!" Southern questions me incredulously, looking toward the room that now holds Bambi and his wife. "You didn't realize Isabella wasn't Alice?"

They've been humored but now I'm done with this shit. "Since when am I answerable to anyone?"

My voice remains deceptively calm, the lies pouring out my lips too easily to be doubted.

"Yes, I mistook her for Alice. I was operating out of fear for her life and they're both fucking dwarf-sized. Scanning the room for whatever threat Alice was facing took precedence over checking who the fuck was clinging to my arms!"

There's an underlying warning in my voice that they don't miss and it thankfully stops them from commenting further. Wise choice right now. I'd just about run out of patience—with them and myself.

"Now, if this matter is settled, on to other business." Choosing to take their silence for compliance, I nod, pleased with the chain of command being reaffirmed. "Follow me, boys."

Father huffs at the grouping he's being slipped into and I snigger internally like a motherfucker.

Suck it bitch! Your fucking decision to make her stay here led to me getting stuck in this fucking hole with Swan's daughter.

"Where to?" Emmett questions, falling into step with me. The other two men are also on alert again.

"Here," I say simply, coming to a stop outside the room that currently holds my sister and Bambi.

Through the corner of my eye, it's easy to notice the men falter when they realize where we are, but I chose toignore it.

"What—" Emmett begins to speak, but he's cut off when I walk into the room.

Striding to the bed, I kneel towards Alice and tap her shoulder softly, "Ali…"

"Hmm…up, up," She mumbles in response, sleep thick in her voice, rubbing her eyes.

It would've been funny if I wasn't so pressed to do what I needed to.

"Come on," I say, helping her to her feet gently and leading her out the room.

"Shut the door, Em."

He skeptically complies, beginning to question it, "Edward, man, what—?"

"Good," I continue, my voice still like steel. Then, looking him in the eye, I instruct, "Now, lock the room down."

"Come on—" This protest is voiced by Alice, but I can tell she may not be alone.

I watch them carefully. They have to do this right. This is a test, a push, to see if everyone is still in line. Something even my father would do from time to time with his crew had he ever needed to highlight his position. Give a fucked up order, a hard one, and see if they follow it through. It's no longer Edward they're being addressed by, it's their Capo. So they tread carefully, knowing anything to the contrary of the order I'm giving would be treason, and they'd be going against the organization. It's a dangerous test of loyalty. How ironic, considering I'm fucking up grander than any fucker present. But what they don't know won't hurt the organization.

Folding my arms, I wait for anyone of them to voice their disapproval. This little test secretly forces me back into my role as well—I'm the Masen boss, and under no circumstances can I forget that. This entire family functions according to me. It's a big responsibility and it's not simply a power past down to me, it's a duty for me to carry out. And it is for their sakes – the family, their safety, the organization, the generations before us, everything they did to get us where we are and the loyalty we must show to them – that I cannot falter… no matter how much, in this case, I want to.

"My plan stands." It feels as if I'm forcing ice into my veins, and it fills up my body until there's enough to make me completely hard—void of emotion or regret, until my commands become easy to spew out. "Now seal the windows and lock the door."

When Emmett and Jasper hesitate, my fierce eyes make them reconsider. "Is that simple enough for you to understand or should I get someone else to do it?"

"On it," Emmett says, and walks out to take care of the outside with some of the guard.

With a nod in his direction, I turn away to face Jasper. "Three guards on duty," I instruct. He nods, but otherwise says nothing. "We won't require many. Just have two guarding this door and another on foot below in the garden watching the window when Emmett's done."

"Sure, Boss." Southern's voice is clipped, pulling out his cell.

I watch as they perform their duties, everyone back in their positions— protecting and remaining loyal to the organization and what is in its best interest.

If things were different, this would all be easier, but it's not simple. This is the mob and if it's not run right, we could all lose, taking the rest of the family down with us… I think back to the tree and the fact that Alice had been in the room with Isabella and a cold shiver travels down my spine. Alice's, Mother's and Rosalie's lives depend on us holding the most power in Chicago. And it's their lives that will be affected if we were to ever lose control of the mob or succumb to the death or mutiny any mistakes on our part would bring. And as long as I'm around, I will never allow them to face that fate.

I glance at my annoying little sister and can tell she's upset at what we're doing but there's no going back now. We can't. I nod my head in silent request that she leave. She refuses to look at me as she storms away. I watch her retreat, her wet eyes shining, but she says nothing. I say nothing either, the further away from this part of the plan that she is, the better.

"Good. Let's call it a night." I appraise them and turn to leave, noting that as expected, the others follow suit wordlessly.

Hours later I lie in bed, peacefully, for some reason. Maybe it's because I've successfully, albeit narrowly, managed to avoid having my motives and position questioned by my family? Maybe it's because I've finally got a stronghold over Phoenix? I couldn't be sure…

But just before I finally doze off, I vaguely acknowledge that I was really pleased because she was stuck here…close to me… Bambi.


Morning arrived too slowly for my liking, but what a glorious morning it was.

The second I opened my eyes I couldn't wait to go into that room.

I had it all planned out, as a whole it was so fucking intricate, but for now, all I had to worry about was the first part, the simplest part, then we'd get to the shit hitting the fan.

Bambi was to be moved to the château, along with the women in my family. From there she would be made to call daddy-fucking-dearest to tell him where she was and with whom, Château Coeur de Lion, otherwise known as the Masen playground, a place Swan both knows and fears because he has no way to enter the fortress. We're untouchable there. The agony it would cause Swan to know exactly where she was but be unable to do fucking anything about it filled me with venomous contentment, a poisonous delight. And fuck if I didn't need him agitated! This was a ballsy enough move so that the other families want to stay out of it. They'd know we had an advantage because it was definitely premeditated and would want to keep their noses clean because of the extra hold we'd have over Chicago once Phoenix was out of the picture.

It wouldn't be easy, I'm under no illusions. It would be long and fucking hard but in the end Swan needed to blink, that's all I needed. Carlisle had long ago figured out what we needed from Phoenix to get power over their side, once we had that taking Charles and his sons out would be child's play, Phoenix would fall apart on its own once all was done. But with two powerful families we never had something to tip the scales in our favor. Now, that a shot has finally presented itself, the need to use it was almost seductive. I couldn't let it slip though my fingers, I needed it. Swan had to be brought down to his knees first, it was the only way for us to get close enough to take him out completely.

And we'd been ready for absolutely everything, Carlisle and I had been over everything countless times, what we hadn't counted on though was Isabella herself… She was complicating this.

As if I didn't have enough fucking bullshit to deal with, it fucking irked me that Swan let her stay here at all. It wasn't out of concern for her. No fucking way. Just because I had the strong desire to pulverize this son of a bitch and his incompetent motherfucking sons for permitting this vulnerable girl to come un-fucking-accompanied into the heart of fucking danger and thereafter allow her to stay the night at their enemies place, did not mean that I cared at all for her. Fuck. It…

I rub a hand over my face and get the fuck out of bed. I need to move her to the Château.

I'd admit that I was curious…actually, I was unbelievably curious as to how they allowed her to stay? Even if Carlisle's sworn word was something to go on, Charles knew me, and it was my house she would be in not Father's, and I'm bound by no oath, so how did they allow her to stay?

She can't defend herself, she's alone, she's naïve, and their fucking blood no less! Did those bastards really care for her safety that fucking little? Didn't they realize that once captured she would be their downfall? That she would be in danger. Something didn't fit.

My phone buzzed, leaving me little time to go over it further.


Southern's voice is sharp enough to cut glass on the end of the line.

"E, we have a rodent problem."

Sitting up, I make my way to the closet, malice rapidly filling me up with each step. The muscles in my body begin tightening in a tense and dangerous rage.

Someone is going to fucking die.

"That so?" Balancing the phone on my shoulder, I tuck my glock in the back of my pants, then slip on a shirt.

No one fucking crosses me.

"Yeah," Southern answers. I can hear his hurried footsteps echoing as he goes through one of our warehouses, "real fucking rat-run. Going to find out about it right, now. We should take care of it before it gets any bigger. Don't want any of the disease spreading."

He's quiet for a beat. The scrape of a chair against cement fills the line and Southern's taunting voice follows.

"C'mon, Stefan boy." The heavy sound of his fist connecting with a jaw prompts a pained cry from my rat. "Say hi to the Boss."

My snigger sounds cold and I know Stefan hears it because his breathing completely stills at the other end. Until Southern lands another blow and he chokes on his screams and, possibly from the sound of it, blood.

"Easy there, Southern," Jasper's cautioned. I don't want this fucker dead. Not yet anyway. "Why don't you boys lock the joint down? Don't want any pests getting into anything important."

Jasper catches my meaning. "Clean this mess up, will ya?" He instructs and soon I hear water splashing and Stefan's spluttering, before the bucket used to clean him up drops to the floor.

"Good. Keep things quiet for now." I instruct, slipping on my jacket. "Where you at?"

"Old haunt."

The old holding cell downtown. Nice. Haven't had reason to use that joint in a while.

"Should I handle this?"

"No, I'll take care of this one. May turn out to be useful," I reply offhandedly. "We'll see how it plays out."

Postponing my meeting with Bambi was both disappointing and pissing me off, but the snitch had to be taken care of first. I needed to know who the fucker was working for and what the fuck he'd told them so far. I'd be back soon enough. Unfortunately for Stefan though, the further away from Isabella I got, the more my temper flared.

This fucker's toast.

"I'm on my way." My voice is suddenly arctic, unrecognizable even to me. "Have fun till then, but I want him alive and moved in the loading bay." I cut the fucking call.

I'm going to murder this bastard then get back to this girl. My one.


My footsteps coupled with that of my guard echoes ominously through the damp, cold and dark passage way of the warehouse basement. So far I've been informed that Stefan's been working for Black as an inside man.

To say I'm fucking pissed would be a motherfucking understatement. I seem to be on a shorter fuse than usual today, so Stefan is shit out of luck.

I've spent the duration of my time here going over this situation from every possible angle. If he was in cahoots with Black then he could surely be used against him.

He'd live long enough to prove his usefulness to me. That was it.

The door at the end of the passage creeks open, illuminating the area and creating a halo effect around Jasper. The sick bastard in me finds dark humor in this. He likens Southern to an Angel of Death, which is fitting, considering he was the one opening the door to grant Death himself entrance.

I wipe the smirk off my face and enter the room, turning out the light.

The room already reeks of sweat and blood, both old and fresh. It's dimly lit, aside from the lone lamp that shines down on Stefan, tied to a chair at the center.

He's beaten badly, leaving him disoriented. It creates sinfully traumatizing effects now that we're engulfed by the darkness outside of the dim ring of light that's covering him.

His breathing picks up rapidly and his crazed eyes dart around the room trying in vain to find his would-be assailants.

With deliberate steps, I move through the dark towards the table along the wall. Alarm wrecks havoc on his body as he tries to follow my footsteps that are bouncing off the wall. It's causing him to convulse. Each step I take, that he can't pinpoint my location, tortures his heightened senses due to the partial blindness.

Leaning against the table and crossing my legs, I light a cigarette lazily, letting him panic. He stews in his fear until his bladder gives up and a disgusting puddle forms around the chair legs.

"Motherfucker!" Jasper spits and flings a bucket of water on Stefan.

The flame of the lighter briefly illuminates my face but all is lost to him in his state of distress as he shivers from the wet coldness.

"B—Boss, I can ex—plain," his voice is weak and trembling. Fear causing the syllables to crash together and come through strained.

I can practically hear the effects of the blood that's pooling in his lungs from the injuries he's already sustained. Southern pulled a real number on him.

His eyes continue to roam wildly through the dark, searching for me when I don't answer.

I sucked in a deep drag, and his eyes finally come to a stop on the glowing tip of the cigarette.

Congratulations fucker, you found me.

"B—Boss?" he questions in a voice so quiet, I almost don't catch it.

"Well done, old man." I laugh humorlessly and exhale, watching as this bitch continues to squint through the dark. "Don't stress yourself, you already look like shit," I drawl out lazily, saving him time. "It's me."

"Mr. Cull—Cullen?"

His continued blabbering was wearing my already scarce patience thinner. I snigger.

"Who the fuck else imbecile? Do I like repeating myself, Jasper?"

"No, Capo," Jasper taunts from his corner, eyeing Stefan darkly.

It takes three strides to get to him. His whole body heaves, pushing more blood into his mouth. He looks pale as a fucking ghost, as he tries to compose himself to my now visible presence.

My fist connects to his jaw and it sends him skidding across the floor till he collides with the back wall. The chair he's bound to tips over quickly, crashing to the floor.

"Pick him up, Southern."

Jasper lifts him off the floor by the neck and places him upright. Stefan coughs and heaves from the pressure on his throat.

"Now, let's do this the easy way." Wiping my fingers free off the blood they collected, I drop the messy handkerchief with the pile of random shit Jasper's already used to rough him up.

Stefan watches it fall to the pile that will be burned, along with his body, with brutal defeat, already knowing his fate.

"I'm going to give you an out." This gains his attention again. "You give me all the information you have on Black, from what information you gave him to what you know about his own deals and I'll consider not hacking you before you're capped."

Jasper grabs his head, tilting it to the side. It's an odd angle and Stefan screams out from the pain and discomfort. He shouts out random pleas between sputtering blood and choking on air when Southern flicks a blade open and slides it snuggly under Stefan's ear, ready to slice it the fuck off.

I seem to have Stefan's full attention again.

His eyes hold true fear as he looks at me. His throat is too strained to speak but the fucking tears falling freely now makes his silent plea for mercy all too clear.


Crouching so that we're at eye level, I smirk at him and he cowers. "And I would prefer honest answers…"

"I— can't—" Stefan rethinks his words fast as Southern runs the blade across his earlobe, neatly slicing the bottom tip off.

His scream is drowned partially by the bucket of water I throw on his face, before Jasper and I are distracted by the door opening.

"Boss," Emmett calls, not walking in to join us. "You may wanna here this."

He enters when I nod and hands me his phone, moving over to Southern to help him keep Stefan quiet in the meantime.


The answering voice is of the housekeeper from the mansion.

"Good day, Monsieur Cullen," her quiet voicegreets politely. Her accent is thick and it sounds more like 'Goose zay Monsieur Cullen'.

My voice softens ever so slightly for the old lady's benefit, "Hello, Annette. What did you have to tell me?"

She wastes no time in filling me in, "I was going to give Mademoiselle her food and she was not in the room."

The fucking world stopped fucking spinning.

"WHAT?!" My eyes shot up to Emmett.

She quickly attempts to explain. "I check everywhere but she is nowhere to be found—"

"Thank you for informing me, Annette," I hiss into the receiver and snap the phone shut, not trusting my trembling self to stay calm.

Isabella was gone? No, she couldn't be. No, no, fucking no!

My body trembles with rage as I pace.

The room was sealed shut! Only Emmett or I could've let her out!

Emmett, already seeming to know where my mind's at holds his hands up in surrender. "Hey don't look at me Ed. I've been here all morning." Jasper nods to confirm this and I'm fucking furious.

"Motherfuck!" I kick the bucket fucking hard to relieve some of the tension.

Okay, so it wasn't Emmett! And it sure as fucking hell wasn't me! Fuck this! Who cares who did it?! She's. Gone!

Whatever expression I'm wearing manages to even startle Southern and Em, and they eye me wearily.

"Find out where the fuck she is." I fucking bark.

"Already did." Southern nods to his phone in his free hand.

"Carlisle says she's back at Swan's. He saw her drive her car down the highway when he was heading to the mansion just now," He answers matter-of-factly and stands awaiting orders.

Conflicting feelings filter through me. There's relief that she's okay, but it's followed by a heavy sense of loss that she's gone, and then comes the overpowering feeling of anger.

All things considered, anger was the safest one to focus on so I went with it.

Anger that she that her leaving has this fucking effect on me. Anger that I fucking cared.

She was gone and how the fuck she managed to do that, I have no idea!

I check my phone and see a list of missed calls, all of them recent, meaning when she left she'd managed to fucking do it without alerting any of the guard until they went in with Annette to serve her breakfast.

No! Fuck no! She can't leave! I won't let her!

What if she isn't home? Any number of things could've fucking gone wrong.

I have to see her.

My face is the hard mask that never falters. With new determination filling me, I stalk forward. "Come on," I barked, without looking back at Em and Southern. I know they will follow. The sharpness in my voice could slice through diamond.

"Stefan?" Em asks.

My eyes shift to the man in question and my anger boils over, completely consuming my body.

This is his fucking fault. I have no fucking idea if she's okay because he kept me away from her and now she's fucking gone.

As if it's an out of body experience, I have no control over my hand as it raises and quickly pulls the trigger… successively releasing shot after shot straight into Stefan's head. His blood sprays out in a scarlet rainfall as we turn wordlessly to leave.

Fuck whatever he told Black, I'd find a way to deal with it. For now, I had to get to her.


Driving in three separate cars, we reach the other side of town within what feels like minutes. We park a good distance away to avoid being spotted.

I'm walking a very thin line. All these conflicting feelings for this girl are confusing me, and its fucking with me, I've never behaved so spontaneously before, I want it to fucking stop. Fuck, this is getting dangerous. I can't afford to lose control like this. She makes me completely irrational. I take a second to calm my shit. When I'm completely certain I've got this, I get out the car. Two things I'm sure of are that I need to see her, there's no turning back. And that this is tricky so it needs to be executed perfectly. I already know how to get in, I just never foresaw me trying to get in for a reason as insignificant as a girl. Southern and Em are two of my best. Fuck, as both my crew and family, we'll get this done, not without complaint but done nevertheless.

"Come on." Leading the guys to the southern side perimeter wall of Swan's fucking place, I stop at Emmett's voice.

"Sure," he quips, "we're just gonna drop on by."

Ignoring him, I scale the wall so that they'll follow suit. They do, as equally silent as me.

Even though Charles could've put a hit out on me if I had managed to kidnap her, I was not only prepared for it but I would have been waiting for it. Here, despite this being unplanned, which should have disadvantaged me, I still land in a safe zone. Charles can't make an attempt to off us without reason and being on his property wasn't an offence in the eyes of the other families. Charles can't do shit unless we pose a threat to him. I won't be taking Bella now, and considering I have no intention of him seeing us, I won't be giving the fucker reason for a sit down either. And if we are seen, we'll deal with it, it won't be the first time we've had to do it.

Dropping lightly to our feet, we barely have enough time to crouch behind the shrubbery lining the garden when we spot six of Swans guard covering the area.

"Are you trying to get us killed?" Emmett bitches in a hoarse whisper.

"Of course he isn't," Southern shoots back at him pissed off, his voice equally quiet, "He has a plan." Then back to normal he turns to me and drops his voice further, "You do have a plan right?"

I give him a look to say shut the fuck up and he backs off, the worry slipping off his fucking face now that he knows this isn't pulled straight out my ass.

"I found an accessible way to Isabella's room the last time we were up there," whispering back, I point to the corner of the mansion. "Look."

They eye it, calculating our next move, but I've already done that. I did it several times over in my head the night we left her welcome party. I spent hours tormenting myself with plans to break into her room and see her again, robbing me of my sleep through the fucking night. Pushing aside my wayward thoughts, I focus on the task at hand.

"There's a fucking huge blind spot," I point out. "The building itself provides us with cover, we just have to get across and climb up to the other side ofthe house."

"Scaling the wall works to our advantage, they're not going to be looking for us in the air." Jasper completes my thought, agreeing with me.

Em nods in understanding, silent approval.

"Good." I nod back, "From there on, getting into her room is child's play."

They can see it for themselves. Thanks to their overconfidence, her room is probably the most accessible in the house with all the windows. They took the cover for it too lightly due to it being situated on one of the upper levels, assuming she's only reachable from within the mansion. They're wrong.

"Great plan, man," Southern quips taking over from Em as the resident funny man. "Fucking fool proof if we were pulling it at night! Did you miss the six guards and the broad daylight?"

"Of course not." I opted to ignore it because I wanted to check on my girl. Fucking hell, cut me slack. I seriously want to punch something or someone. Fuck, for all I fucking know I should fucking punch myself. Sighing, I move from my crouched position. "Move quickly."

They snort, but comply seeing as I'm already moving while the guards are preoccupied with securing the other side.

Remaining in the greenery and keeping to the shadows of the trees, we cut across the area quickly and stealthily. We're all cautious and hyper aware of our surroundings. Staying alert as we duck and dive between the trees, getting closer and closer to our end goal.

We're just about to cut across the few feet of clearing to get from the trees to the side of the house when we stop short.

Her laughter filters through to us from another direction and my heart pounds, following it like a fucking siren call.

Staying close to the shadows cast by the trees, we remain fully alert and armed as we move forward, stopping by the large trunk of a dead tree at the end of the miniature fucking forest Swan's got going on.

Pulling a branch away, the first thing that comes to view is Bambi and that's all I want to see.

There she is in all her glory, all ten fingers and ten toes, playfully chasing after a pretty, pale child that couldn't be a day older than 10.

"Bree, stop!" Isabella shouts. Laughing as she swoops down to capture the giggling girl. "It's not so bad!" She scolds, despite being unable to wipe the smile off her face, "Two pills and it's over. Now, come on, get inside before I get James."

"Ooh, big, bad Jagger-James," the little girl sings, and I have to fight back a snigger.

"I'm terrified!" She feigns terror briefly along with Isabella, before they both burst out laughing.

"Bree!" Riley's voice brings us to attention as he yells for the child from inside the house. Contrary to her joke, the kid makes a bee line for the house. Heart of a lion.

Turning my attention back to the one I want to see, I watch asIsabella walks gingerly towards a swing chair and begins reading a worn copy of Wuthering Heights that looks oddly familiar.

I begin to walk forward only to be stopped mid-step by Southern's cautioning hand on my shoulder. How very Carlisle of him.

"Hide your piece." He jerks his head to my gun wielding hand.

Slipping it back into my pants, I continue towards her with them watching my back from the shadows.

She's got her eyes closed with her head tilted up to the sky, and it's impossible not to appreciate the view. Her long neck is extended and I can see the faint blue markings of her veins under her milk white skin. I feel the overwhelming urge to bite her. Tasting her is forbidden and seductive all at once. Surrounded by the quiet, she looks absolutely serene… She's beautiful.

"Isabella." When there was barely a foot between us, I call her name out softly and chuckle lightly when she jumps about a foot in the fucking air and spins to face me.

"You!" She exclaims. It sounds like a squeal, and much to my amusement, pink tinges her cheeks as she catches her slip up. She quickly tries to undo it and goes on, "— almost gave me a heart attack!"

I almost gave her a heart attack? What the hell was she thinking leaving my fucking house like that!?

It's a thought as simple as that that darkens my mood once again. Jesus, what's this girl doing to me?

"You left rather abruptly, now didn't you Ms. Swan?"

My voice is fucking cold as I stare down at her. Stepping forward, I flash a crooked grin to her that, much to my satisfaction, causes her breath to falter. She catches herself quickly though.

"Well, the doors and the windows were rather securely locked down, Mr. Cullen," she replies, with her usual spunk. It does weird things to me but still does nothing to calm my temper.

Clearly not secure enough.

My darker side is fighting its way to the forefront. Fuck this— just get her back to the mansion, he argues, not appreciating my lack of action. I can't tell what his reasoning is behind it. Is it to keep her or fuck with Charles?

"For your safety of course." My game face remains securely in place as per usual. Even though she throws me for a loop; even though sometimes when she opens her mouth and says things that piss me off, I want to lose the mask with her. Instead, I stick to the cover, remembering my place and the two spare pairs of ears hidden in the trees. "You know my house is home to very dangerous men, Isabella."

A less sinister part of me wants to warn her. Dangerous men like me and the sinful fucking thoughts of what I'd like to do to you.

I stop and stare down at her, for the first time taking the time to notice what she's wearing, and as if there's a direct line from my eyes to my dick, I can feel my body start to respond to her. It's like my cock's trying to stand to attention and point her out to me. Fucking hell woman, what were you thinking wearing that outfit?

Thank God, she's still fucking thinking my words through and can't see me check her out. I can't help it. My eyes rake over her all on their own. She's wearing dark wash jeans that are practically fucking painted on, converse and a green knit sweater that has a horizontal slit just above her breasts, her fucking perfect, ripe tits.

My mouth serious as fuck went dry at some point. She looks fucking stunning.

She's 16, you sex crazed fuck!

I snap out of it with that heartwarming thought. Fuck my life. It made my blood boil knowing that I thought of her in that way. I'm fucking upset at myself. I should get Carlisle to call in a fucking shrink. I'm losing my mind.

One consolation to my internal battle is that, when Bambi looks up, my face is still hard as fuck, despite the smirk that I manage to keep on for her benefit. If anything, I probably looked amused that she was contemplating shit in front of me.

From her face, I can tell she bought my story about locking her in. The place had been dangerous for her. There's a tiny smile working its way on her face and she begins to say something before slowly eyeing me. It's like she does a double take.

Standing still under her burning gaze, I feel like I'm locked. I'm used to the looks I often receive from chicks. I get them a lot, so usually I wouldn't care, but having her eyes on me is different. It feels important and my chest burns from the intensity.

But then I falter… because her eyes aren't moving. They're fixed on one spot on my abdomen and she looks—shocked. She's. Fucking. Frozen.

I glanced down to see what's eating her and I could've shot my-fucking-self!

I rushed out to find her so fast that I didn't notice the small blood splatters that covered a part of my waist from when I shot that fucker this morning.

Looking up to her quickly, I find her backing away from me.

Instinctively, I want to reach out and stop her. My heart's fucking working double time and the only words in my head are No. No. No!

Shaking my head slowly, I step forward. I'm trying to explain, trying to do anything to stop her from looking at me like that. I have no idea what to say.

"That's just—" I stop when she backs away faster, shaking her head. It felt like a knife going through my chest.

Isabella, don't run from me. I'm asking in my head, but it's in vain. She looks terrified. I feel something I've never felt before and it feels like it's killing me. I should have Carlisle look into it.

I realize something that never struck me before. She's the one person I don't want to be afraid of me. But she is! She's scared of me and I don't like it.

"What the fuck are you doing here, Cullen?!"

My distress is immediately sidelined as Riley rushes out the door, speeding towards his sister and I, his gun held readily in hand.

Instantly Jasper and Emmett are at my side, flanking me, the three of us armed as well.

"Bree, stay inside!" He barks as the young girl from earlier tries to follow him out.

She falters for a second before looking at Bella and running again.

"Hold this."


I look down with furrowed brows at Isabella who's made her way back to me and is looking very frantic.

Riley's closing in and she needs me to hold something? Are you fucking with me?

"Hold this," She hisses more desperately this time, motioning to her book.

At my cocked brow, she gives up and just shoves the book into my waist. My hand automatically catches it, despite my complete confusion.

Her tiny hand grips mine, causing electricity to shoot up my arm and I let her position the book the way she wants. I'm stunned. She's trying to cover up the visible blood.

"Keep it there," she begs, "and for the love of God, please put your guns away," she directs to Jasper and Em who, unlike me, have them fully drawn.

Spinning to face her brother, she flies in front of him before he can reach us. Her hands braced out before her to try and stop him. She presses her palms into his chest, "Riley, please don't. They didn't do anything."

"Bella!" Riley warns, pushing her aside.

My muscles constrict and I can't help the snarl. I want to tear him apart.

Back the fuck up, bitch.

Isabella gets between us again, shoving against her brother's chest. "Honest, Rile," she speaks as if we're at a picnic at the local park. Her voice is void of stress and completely calming. "I left very early this morning, Riley, and without informing anyone." She lies through her teeth, "Carlisle was nice enough to send them to check if I reached home safely and to return my book." She motions to the book in my grasp, "Just give me a sec, please." Her voice gets firmer, drawing her brother's full attention, "I promise I'll be done soon, Rile."

Hers was the only stance that relaxed. We're all ready to strike. We're all waiting to strike, but fuck me, if Bambi didn't astound me once again.

Riley backs down, watching his sister carefully to see if she's fucking with him and we've secretly got a bomb strapped to her.

"C'mon," she reiterates meaningfully, "I'll be fine."

He shoves something into her hand, his body blocking what it is and nods at one of his guys, Laurent, the big fucker with the dreads.

"Gardens." Laurent barks orders into his phone. "Eyes on Bella."

"You've got a second, Isabella," Riley says to her, keeping his eyes on us the entire time in silent warning. "And you fuckers should be informed that my snipers are watching you from the roof. Try anything" he emphasizes with barely contained rage, "and you'll be making me a very happy man. Say what you have to and then get the fuck off my property Masens. I'm not my father; I don't give a fuck about the code." He looks back to Isabella, grudgingly conceding to her request and walks back to the mansion.

From what I've gathered so far, he seems to be the more affectionate towards her of the two brothers and, contrary to everything I stand for, this was the first time that I took a threat so well. I was fucking grateful that he was threatening me, and completely saying fuck the code, all to protect her.

And true to his word, I count as six of his men appear on the roof, all armed, and all aiming at us.

"Hey guys," Bambi greets Em and Southern, who return the favor."Well, that was fun," she mumbles cutely under her breath, clearly pissed off.

Her face breaks into obvious relief when she sees Riley disappear behind the doors. I watch her closely and want to brush back the hair that's fallen into her face, blocking her eyes from me.

"I'll be seeing you really soon, Isabella." It's a promise, not a threat and though it's not obvious, I think she catches it. "Please visit again."

She catches me smirking at her and pushes back her hair. My smirk then threatens to turn into a full blown smile because her sparkling, chocolate eyes are open to me again.

"You know, you're not as scary as you want me to think you are." She looks me dead in the eye, musing out loud.

It takes some effort to suppress my amusement and overwhelming interest. "I'm not?" I cock a questioning brow at her.

"No, but you are observant." She bites her lower lip and thinks something over. It causes wrinkles to appear on her forehead and makes her nose twitch. I fight the urge to smile again. "It's like you're constantly making mental notes. Like just now, with Riley… you didn't draw your gun. You were watching to see when would've been the best moment to take him out… spontaneously."

She takes a huge breath and starts ticking off things on her finger as she thinks out loud. "The weapon would have taken him by surprise and granted you, possibly, the second where his concentration was broken for you to simply fire… It would have been too easily done."

I'm kind of fucking stunned mute right now. The guys do a bit of a double take, but Bambi, for however perceptive she apparently is in the Masen-method, is perfectly oblivious to us right now as she goes on telling us her findings of how we work.

"And when you were in my room that night too... Yeah, you were searching every single spot visible to your eye. It's like you're looking for anything that could help you at any given time, whether it's right that second or at some point in the future. You're just burning everything to memory and storing it for later."

"It's kinda admirable." She makes a face and I wonder if she hadn't meant to say that out loud. "Because it means you're smart," Bambi quickly goes on, "cunning even. And I can't hold it against you… Well, not really."

True. It comes with the territory and she knows it.

"And because, despite being armed, you guys didn't rock up guns-blazing until my brother did," she directs to Jasper and Em, "I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt."

There's a silent moment where we simply stare at her.


Jasper chuckles and then mutters, "You're pretty observant yourself, Bella."

"Oh…" She frowns, "sorry."

She apologized. Emmett sniggers. I ignore him and smirk down at her.

There's more to her than I originally thought… she's more optimized than I gave her credit for… and I wonder just how far it extends. In fact, I'm dying to get into it.

The urge to run my fingers through her hair makes itself known again. "Goodbye, Isabella."

Before I turn to leave, I take a second to look at her intently before she sees me.

The young girl and Bambi turn away too, heading back to their mansion.

A moment passes then I vaguely hear the young girl whisper to Isabella, "Bronzy is hot."

It's followed quickly by Isabella's hiss, "Shut up, Bree."

The little girl giggles and I turn back, walking towards them, "Isabella."

Startled that I'm still there, she spins back around right into my chest and stares at me, scarlet faced, as I tower over her tiny frame.

"Your book." I hand it back to her, amused at how she doesn't make eye contact with me.

She grabs it from me with one hand and the child's wrist with the other, turning to walk away, turning to run away… and this time, I'm all right with it.

There's a smirk on my face that I doubt is going away anytime soon. "Oh, and Bree, is it? It was very nice meeting you too, beautiful."

Isabella freezes and Bree turns to look at me, beaming with pride. Chuckling, I playfully wink at her and the small child tugs happily on the older one's hand.

Bambi, on the other hand, doesn't appear to share the little one's sentiment… not now that she knows that I heard their little exchange. She stares ahead, then slowly darts her eyes to watch me when I turn to leave.

Don't worry, Bambi, it's not over…

~.~.~ Thanks for reading. Share some thoughts. Lots of love, your Kat;) ~.~.~

Authors Note: First, my mailbox is flooded sorry, to everyone who PM'd to ask, yes, Dine and Dash will be updated. I have not abandoned any stories. I took a temp hiatus to fix my house and life up after Sandy hit. We lost so much and I've repaired and replaced whatever I could but my finances took a heavy hit and I'm working and travelling a lot to try and catch up with bills and school. Things are very touch and go, and will be for a while.

I have a whole list of people who I want to thank, you girls know who you are and I really appreciate all the love *hugs you tight*. Thank you to the sweet as hell ArstyBitch, she made ILAW a gorgeous banner, it's on my website. And all my love and best wishes to my amazing beta, JustJJ, for helping me with this chapter, and all the best to her while she too recovers from Sandy.

Quick Replies/Questions: Edward, his behavior, the feuds, Bella, etc, start to explain themselves as the story progresses, they're in the future chaps and this is entirely from one persons point of view so I can't add it ahead of time, sorry. Edward? Yes, I agree he knows Charles and his operation inside out, (he has to seeing as they're at each other's throats for so long and he's seen by Phoenix as the biggest rival), but just a small question of my own, has anything taken him by surprise? If yes, then that would be one thing he has no knowledge about and has to figure out (and we'll figure it out with him, seeing as it's his POV). Bella? We haven't gotten inside her head yet but yeah like every teenager she has her own motives for pretty much everything she does. JustJJ and I will be adding some Q and A to the website as well for stuff we discussed so you can get inside our heads for some aspects for the fic and some of the characters and their behavior.

I've manipulated reality a ton in ILAW, I know, kick up your legs and enjoy the AU ride, it's all just to suit the initial plot it had back in 2009 before it was pulled in FF's breakdown last year. I'm trying to work through the rest of the chapters I had, but I will be updating Dine and Dash before that. Teasers will be available on my website, I'll let you know when it's up on Twitter (atKatieA_Tyler). Hope all of you are doing well, have a safe and blessed week, love Kat;)