DISCLAIMER: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the intellectual property to the respective author. The original characters and plot are the property of Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.
I squeeze the trigger. There's a muffled pop. The distinct smell of gun powder saturates the air. Feathers float down to the ground. A few stick to the bloodied headboard. Eyes hollow and dull, no longer sustaining the essence of life.
My heart is pounding.
I'm running fast now, down the stairs, past Edward, and out the front door. Security guards jump up from their chairs. They yell at me.
"Put your hands up!"
I don't listen.
Edward is pulling me back. "Come inside."
There's nowhere to go.
Raising my arms, I point the gun.
There is loud popping around me. The smell of gunpowder hits my nose again. Pain is everywhere. I fall. Tears that aren't mine stain my cheeks.
I've killed Esme, and as a result of my deed, the guards kill me…except, it was a lie—all of it.
In reality, I was still aiming the gun at her head and only a second had passed since she opened her eyes, but that was all it took to turn my world upside down.
The resemblance to Edward was uncanny. The striking and unique hue of their green eyes, golden flecks on the outer rim of the irises, took my breath away. All my anger and hate dissipated in a puff, leaving me as quickly as it came. When the smoke cleared, I started to think…what if.
Those two words changed everything.
I couldn't do it. No matter how much I fucking believed she deserved to atone for her sins and the sins of Renee, I was physically and emotionally unable to pull the trigger.
What the hell was wrong with me? I was absolutely crazy. I had to be. There was no other explanation for my chaotic thoughts and rash decisions.
What sane person attempts to whack their boyfriend's mother?
The room was too small, walls caving in on me. Esme's eyes were too judgmental, piercing a hole into my soul. The air was too thick, gasping and suffocating. I was losing my mind, spilling into a spiral abyss of hazy thoughts.
I had to get out of here…fast!
Lowering the pillow and tucking the gun into my stomach, I took a tentative step towards the bed. "Esme…" She lifted her head to the sound of my timid voice and cocked it to the side. I edged forward and continued, "…I'm here for your dry-cleaning."
Staring up at me, eyes bloodshot and glossy, she cataloged every feature. I knew it was a risk to be flaunting my face so openly, but a deeper part of me wanted her to remember that I was here. That her life was in my hands and I allowed her to breathe for another day.
"Do you understand?"
She blinked, each one slower than the last until her lids drifted down and stayed closed.
I stood there for a moment and watched her chest rise and fall as a soft snore reverberated from her small frame. Ambien was making another trip through her bloodstream, knocking her out cold. It was quiet in the room, peaceful even, and I could feel my tense muscles start to relax.
"Fuck!" I hissed, my heart bursting out of me in a panic as I swung around, my gun pointed and searching for the threat.
The antique grandfather clock was in the corner, the second hand clicking, edging away from the six.
It was a false alarm, but my pulse was still bounding behind my eyes.
I was so over today.
Tossing the pillow across the room, I stuffed the gun back underneath my uniform and secured it in the belt strap wrapped around my waist, buttoning the dress back up.
Esme had her face buried in a mass of pillows and a duvet, sound asleep and peacefully unaware of what had transpired only moments ago.
I bid my future mother-in-law adieu, knowing that we'd never meet again. And if we did, I wouldn't hesitate to put a bullet in her head.
Snatching the garment bags off the bed, I threw them over my shoulder and headed for the exit, my feet shuffling on the wooden floor, moving faster than than ever. I wanted out of this never-ending hell before the senator came home.
Rushing, head down, I flung the door open and went flying out of there like the room was on fire, slamming face first into Edward's chest. The dead stop of my blind momentum knocked me off my axis and I went stumbling back into the open doorway.
"Fuck!" Edward was quick to grab me, clutching the front of my uniform and pulling me forward with a jerk.
My hands flew up instinctively and grasped his biceps, needing the extra support to keep myself steady and upright.
"Hey, turbo," he teased, bending at his knees to get eye-level with me, "are you okay?"
My eyes traveled up to his face and I gasped.
God, he was beautiful.
I'm not sure if it was because of my emotional instability for nearly killing his mom or the fact that I'd missed him that much, but he was a sight for sore eyes.
The little nuances in his appearance that I'd taken for granted were suddenly heightened and unavoidable. The four-day scruff, a slight shade of red, maybe a penny bronze, tickled my skin when he hugged me and buried his face in my neck. That chiseled jaw and perfect nose. The bushiness of his eyebrows, furrowed with worry for my well-being. A sly smirk curved on his mouth when he noticed me staring up at him, wanting to feel his full, soft lips on mine.
It had only been ten minutes since the last time I'd seen him and yet it felt like a millions years. How would I survive an actual separation?
"Are you a mute now?" he asked.
I smiled, running my hands up to his neck, feeling the heat of his skin inflame my own. "No, I can talk."
"Good," he said, standing up to his full height and glancing over my head. "What were you doing in there?"
Flashes of red hair, green eyes, grandfather clocks, guns, duvets, pillows, and lies brought me out of my Edward-induced stupor.
I reached behind me and closed the door to block the view of his sleeping mother. "Nothing."
Edward knew me well enough to know that I was always up to something. It worked both ways, and our bad habits got us into sticky situations—case in point, this fucking robbery gone awry.
But who was he to question me?
Secrets and omissions were a part of our relationship now because of him. I was just doing my fair share.
"Why didn't you to wait downstairs like I asked you to?" I asked, leaning away from him.
Like a magnet, he was drawn to me, following my movement by leaning in, placing his hands on the door frame.
I was trapped, surrounded by Edward.
"I did wait," he said, "but then you started to take too fucking long. What was I supposed to do?"
"You keep on waiting." I said, ducking underneath his arm and heading for the stairs.
"What were you doing in my parents' room, Bella?" Edward called after me.
I turned back around. "What?"
He was standing in a wide stance with his arms folded over his chest. He raised a single eyebrow. "What were you doing in my parents' room?"
"I already told you."
"Yeah, I know what you said, but..."
I groaned. "Ugh, Edward, why does it matter? I didn't kill anyone."
At that, his eyes flashed to the door, and I knew he was going to go in there.
I didnt want to be around for the big reveal.
"I'll be downstairs."
It was a test to see what was more important to him. Would he stay to satiate his curiosity and lose me forever, or would he take a leap of faith and trust me?
Thank God he was smarter than he looked, because he was running up behind me before my foot even got to the top step.
"So what's your plan to get us out of here?" He flicked at the garment bags draped over my shoulder. "These are new."
"Yeah, it's our reason to be here."
He laughed. "That's your grand plan?"
I shot a hateful glare. "You have a better idea that doesn't involve getting shot?"
He threw up his hands in mock surrender, shaking his head.
"Then shut up!"
"Damn, Kid, you're fucking sexy when you're angry," he said, rushing behind me as I speed-walked down the hall, wrapping his arms around my waist. He sighed. "I'm an asshole."
"Yeah, you are."
"Don't be mad." He bent down and pressed his mouth to my neck, kissing along my ear. "I just see us getting out of..."
I jerked my head away. "Don't do that."
"What am I doing?" he asked, tracing the tip of his nose across the contours of my neck.
He was good. I'd give him that. The asshole knew what his touch did to me, but my self-preservation exceeded my arousal.
What good was the promise of sex if we got arrested?
"That! Kissing me and distracting-I need you to stop."
"Are you sure?" he asked, hands gliding up the side of my body, forming and palming my breasts. He kissed the shell of my ear. "This might be the last time we're together."
"So what? You're going to fuck me in the foyer until Papa Cullen comes home?"
"Wouldn't be the first time he heard us fucking..." He smiled against my neck. "Although it would be the first time he'd actually see me between your legs."
I rolled my eyes. "Can we just focus, please?"
"Sure, Kid, whatever you want," he said, stepping back from me, and my traitorous body objected to the injustice.
It screamed for him to come back, but my mind overruled it. I needed to stop being so fucking weak for him.
After that we kept a reasonable distance and didn't talk much. We took turns looking out the peephole and assessing the guards in the hall, formulating a plan.
There were three guards, all middle-aged and massive, dressed in black suits. Their pistols were hidden underneath their blazers. I saw the handles poking out every time they moved. Laughing and joking around, they seemed well-fed and at ease.
I felt a small glimmer of hope that maybe my plan would work.
"Maybe when we get out there, I should do the talking," I said, glancing back at him.
He was rubbing the back of his neck, brows knitted with uncertainty.
"What is it?"
"They're going to pat us down."
He lifted up his jacket and gestured towards the Colt. "And it's not customary for the help to be carrying."
"Shit," I said.
"Yeah, shit is right."
"Maybe we could..." I looked around the room, contemplating whether or not we should just stash the guns somewhere.
Edward caught on to my train of thought and shook his head. "You're out of your fucking mind if you think I'm going to ditch my gun here."
"If we get arrested, you'll lose it anyway."
"I know that…and already lost Tanya to those fuckers."
He had to rub that damn car in my face. It'd been over a month and he was still sulking.
I was losing my patience.
"Look, what's more important? That stupid gun?" He glared and I smirked. "Or your freedom? You choose."
"Give me a second to think."
"Sure, sure, take your time. This is a life and death decision."
He glared at me, pacing the floor. Two to four seconds went by and he stopped, grinning like a fool. "I've got an idea." He took bags from my arm and laid them down on the foyer table. He unzipped the bag and exposed a beautiful gray suit.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm putting our guns in the inner pocket of this jacket. I don't think they'll pat down the senator's dry-cleaning." He smiled up at me. "You think?"
"I think it'll weigh the bag down."
"Maybe," he said, sliding the Colt into the pocket and securing the safety of his precious gun. He held out his hand. "The glock?"
Suppressing a sigh, I unbuttoned my dress and took out my gun. Edward hid it in another pocket in the suit, adding the folder he stole from the safe before zipping the bag up.
"All right." His eyes flashed to me. "Hold out your arms."
I did, and he picked up the bags and folded them neatly, dispersing the weight evenly.
"How does that feel?"
"It's okay. I can't really feel the guns...but what if they open the bags and find end up finding-"
"Bella, listen to me," he interrupted, "it'll work, okay? All you gotta do is keep the weight of the guns high on your arms, all right? Can you handle that, tough guy?"
Edward was back to being his self-assured and bossy self, taking charge of the situation and telling me what to do.
I liked it… a lot.
"Fine, whatever," I said, giving a slight shrug of my shoulders.
He tugged on the hem of my sleeve and grinned. "I guess we're ready then, yeah?"
Fighting back the urge to smile, I chewed on the inside of my cheek. "I guess so."
"You guess so?" he grumbled and shook his head, stopping at the door with his hand on the handle and waited for me to join him. "Well, are you coming?"
"Ladies first?" I asked with mock surprise at the chivalry coming from my tattooed criminal with the devious eyes.
"Just you," he said, leaning down to kiss me, and it was rough, brief, taking my breath away but leaving me wanting more. He pulled away from my lips and moved upward, leaving soft kisses on my nose, eyelids, and forehead, the last one lingering the longest. "I love you."
"I love you."
We stood there, quiet and reflective, knowing what waited for us outside the door. It would either lead to twenty years to life or one heart-pounding, all-over-each-other elevator trip to the lobby.
"Don't do anything to get yourself shot, you got me?"
I wanted to scoff at him, but the sincerity and intensity in his words as he pleaded with me to not do anything stupid stopped me. I remembered my vision of tears and heartache. The hurt and pain would be…boundless.
"Bella, I'm serious." He held my face in his hands, eyes imploring mine, deep and penetrating. "Please."
"I won't," I said, wrapping my fingers around his wrists and pulling his hands down from my face. I held them to my chest. "I promise."
"Okay." He nodded and kissed me one more time. "Here we go."
This was the moment of truth and we said a silent prayer to a God we don't believe in before opening the door and walking through it, no matter what danger greeted us on the other side.
Time moved in slow motion but my mind was quick, picking up every fragment of detail, from the mundane like the eggshell painted walls to the most crucial way the guards didn't even look up at us.
They were in conversation about the senator and how miserable their lives were going to be in twenty minutes when he got home. I didn't know whether to clue them in on their sudden company or attempt to sneak by them unnoticed.
Fate decided for me when the door closed behind Edward, locking and beeping. All eyes shot up and were on us, alarmed and somewhat confused by our presence.
It was the young guy with something to prove who jumped up first. His hand wrapped around his gun, ready to pull it out at a moment's notice.
The other two stayed seated, but they were just as prepared to shoot if either one of us made a threatening move.
"Who are you? What are you doing here?" he asked.
"My name is Mary Jackson," I said, according to my nametag, "and this…" I paused, glancing back at Edward. "…Tony Guarani."
The young guy narrowed his eyes. "What were you doing in Senator Cullen's apartment?"
I lifted my arm and gestured to the bags. "Mrs. Cullen needed some dry-cleaning done for an event tonight."
I had no idea if that was true or not but it sounded legit, and the faces of the seated guards relaxed, their hands moving away from their guns.
"All right, raise your arms and spread your legs," he ordered and patted Edward and me down.
I fought the urge to smack the guard when he dropped to squat and his hands stroked my legs, edging higher and higher until he was practically up my dress.
Edward tensed, and I could feel the fury radiating off him. It wasn't me we had to worry about it. It was the touchy-feely guard and Edward's possessive nature.
"What's in the bags?" the guard asked, rising to his feet and unzipping the bags before I could even answer him.
"It's the dry-cleaning." Edward spoke up for the first time, and I could hear the hatred and anger seeping through each syllable. If he had his gun, I'm pretty sure the young guard's brains would be splattered all over his comrades' faces.
"I wasn't talking to you," he snapped, barely skimming over the suit before being satisfied and zipping the bag back closed. "I know what she's doing here, what about you? What's your deal?"
Edward breathed heavily through his nose to keep from losing his cool. "She's new. I'm training her."
"Uh huh, is that right?"
"Yes," Edward said, and his knuckles cracked under the duress of his tightly clenched fists.
Believing Edward no longer a threat, he turned his attention back to me. "How old are you?"
"Un-fucking-believable," Edward hissed under his breath.
The guard was younger than the other two—who were laughing at the fucker's antics now—but I estimated him to be in his mid-thirties.
"Sixteen," I said with a smug smile, because that was old enough to work but fucking illegal to touch.
That changed his demeanor towards me and it was back to suspicion. He snatched a book off a table and fingered through it.
"What did you say your names were again?"
"Mary Jackson and Tony Guarani," I said.
"Hmm, well, your names aren't on the list," he said, snapping the book shut and handing it to the pudgy guard behind him.
"It was a last minute decision," I said. "Mrs. Cullen only called an hour ago."
"Mrs. Cullen called you? From where? The airplane?" He laughed, thinking he caught me in a lie.
This was what he needed to prove we didn't belong, and I could see the satisfaction in his eyes—as if he was going to be awarded a medal for being the best darn security guard there ever was.
I had to bite back my laughter…little did he know.
"No, she called the front desk from the apartment."
He scoffed. "This apartment?"
"Yes, she's the one who let us in. You can go talk with her if you like." I could feel Edward's eyes on me. "But she's laid down for a nap and asked not to be disturbed."
He didn't know what to say, glancing back at his colleagues and they shook their heads. They were unprepared for us, but knew better than to question the senator and his wife. It was the only thing I had going for me, because if they did go up there, they would find Esme Cullen, and in her sleepy haze she would corroborate my story.
"Give it a rest, Felix. She's a kid," the burly guy with tired eyes and white hair said. "Let them do their job so we can do ours."
"Fine," he huffed, holding his hand out to me. "But I am taking your keys."
"We don't have any keys," I said with slight bitterness.
Ramon had the keys—that fucking asshole. He left us high and dry with no possibility of escape. Time ran out and he spilt. To be fair, he did warn us, saying that was exactly what he was going to do if shit went down.
"No keys? Then how in the hell did you get up here, then?" Feliz asked.
"I let them up."
We all turned toward the sound of the unexpected voice. Shocked beyond comprehension, I found Ramon standing there by the elevator. He met my surprised gaze and winked.
"And I came back up here because picking up dry-cleaning shouldn't be taking this long," Ramon continued, his eyes narrowed with contempt at a squirming Felix. "Imagine my surprise to find out that you're harassing my employees."
"They weren't on the list and we didn't know they were here. You know how it is with the senator every time he's issued a high alert watch. I was being cautious," Felix rambled.
Ramon waved him off. "Yeah, but now you've put my workers behind and if that dry-cleaning isn't done in time for the charity benefit, it's your ass on the chopping block, not mine, you got that?"
Felix nodded and stepped back. "Sorry, Ramon, but I had to be sure."
"Yeah, yeah," Ramon said, grabbing my arm and leading me away with Edward close behind. "Next time call me if you got questions about my employees." He shook his head and muttered, "Fucking amateurs."
"Yeah, we'll make sure that this shit doesn't happen again," the pudgy one said, giving Felix a hostile glare.
They were bickering with each other and placing blame when the elevator opened and all three of us got on. The door closed, silencing them for good and my ears were bombarded with Mozart—the elevator version.
I'd never been so happy in my life to hear shitty music.
"Holy fuck!" Edward said, attacking me with his arms, all the weight of his body making me stagger back to the nearest wall. He breathed deep, burying his face in my neck. "I was so close to strangling that fucking rent-a-cop for touching you."
Clutching the back of his blaze, relishing the feel of the itchy, stiff fabric under my fingertips, I smiled.
Ramon laughed. "You pinche pendejaos are crazy."
Edward and I looked up at him, simultaneously replying, "We know."
A/N: Thank you for being patient with these updates. It drives me crazy that it's taking me so long.
A special thanks to my pre-reader, Brina, for always being there and being an amazing friend. *mwah*
Thank you to Cris for betaing this hella fast and always demanding more and more Chopward. You're awesome!