So the plot thickens...any of you got it yet?

Chapter 4 - Kate

The stairwell door slammed shut behind me and although I knew, knew, that it was just closing after my hurried passage through it, I still screamed out in fright. My heart was still racing, my whole body shaking as I ran and ran, as fast as my legs would carry me, down, down, down, I ran until my legs just wouldn't run any more and I collapsed midway down a flight of stairs, my breathing labored and my vision blurred by my tears.

I was being completely irrational, I knew that too. I didn't even know the man. Oh I knew who he was, I'd heard enough whispers and hushed conversations on my daily travels around the building to know that I'd just had my first run in with Edward Cullen. And the fact that he came storming out of the CEO's office, was all the confirmation I needed.


When his office door had first been ripped open I had just handedhis assistant his lunch – it was the same everyday, Turkey sub on white rye, no spread, no tomatoes, no onion, just four slices of turkey, lettuce and cucumber – I'd been so startled that I'd dropped the bag on her desk as I looked up. Everything about him screamed alpha-male, his build, his stance, the ridged set of his jaw, and I felt the first spikes of fear induced adrenaline shoot through my veins. Every cell in my body was screaming at me to run, to get as far away from him as fast as possible – and then he opened his mouth and my whole body froze, I was terrified.

And that's where the irrational side of me took over. I had no reason to be so scared, not only were there other people about, but his anger wasn't aimed at me, it wasn't even aimed at his assistant, it was just there, bubbling just under the surface of his tailored suit. I could almost see his muscles rippling with the effectsof it.

I hadn't seen anyone so angry since the last time I'd seen him, I couldn't even say his name, I couldn't even think it. His death was so wrapped up in the pain of Charlotte's disappearance – God it hurt so much – I wrapped my arms around my waist, as tightly as I possibly could, attempting to hold myself together as new sobs, different ones, more agonising ones, ripped through my body.

Charlotte, my baby, God how I missed her, every second of every damn day, I missed her. Her laugh, her smile, her voice, her smell – she'll be turning fourtomorrow!

The day that my whole world imploded, the day I woke up in the cold, sterile hospital room, surrounded by people, but so very alone, still haunts my every waking moment, my sleeping ones too, – when I actually sleep that is.

They kept me there for two weeks, hiding me from the press, from the public eye – the Hunters didn't want people to see what their son had done to me. And I was so consumed with guilt. I knew it was my fault that Charlotte was taken, they had told me enought times.


They thought I killed her!

And hid the body

By the time I'd left the police station, forty eight hours after I'd been taken in, I was numb, I'd died just as surly as he had. I'd trashed the house that night, I'd screamed and cried and thrown anything and everything I could get my hands on. Then I'd curled up on myself in Charlotte's bed and cried myself to sleep – I hadn't cried since, not until today.

And that was what scared me the most about Edward Cullen, not his livid face, his heated words or his barely concealed anger, it was the fact that he made me feel!

Fear, anger, hatred, heartbreak, agony – it all came flooding back, in that one split second that I had looked up into his deep green eyes, that safe, secure, comforting blanket of nothing I'd wrapped myself in that night in Charlotte's bed, had fluttered down from around my shoulders, shredding into a million scraps as it fell, exposing the gaping hole in my chest where my heart once lived.

But it wasn't that which had sent me running, no, the fear and anger and hatred, heartbreak and agony were what had me pinned against the wall, my body shaking and unresponsive. It was the attraction, the desire, the lust that had burned through my veins, the overwhelming need that his beautiful face and seething rage had ignited in my body that had me running for my life.

I couldn't do that to myself, not now, not again.

It was the look in his eyes, the ridged set of his jaw, his clenched fists and demanding tone. It had all felt so comforting, so familiar and it terrified me.

So I ran.

And now hereI was, in the cold stairwell, the summer storm outside paling in comparison to the one that was raging inside of me. All of the feelings I'd kept locked away deep inside, all battling to be the dominant emotion.

I grabbed my hair in two tightly clenched fists, pulling as hard as I could, hoping the physical pain would drown out the emotional one as I screamed out in agony, not caring that someone could hear me.

I didn't care, I just didn't care any more!

I didn't hear the door open, didn't hear the footsteps behind me or the whispered words of comfort. It was the tight warm embrace that awakened me to the fact that I was no longer alone. I didn't care who it was, I hadn't been held in so, so long, that the overwhelming desire for someone, anyone, to just hold me was so great, that I fell into the strangers arms and held on for dear life crying out my agony in bone shaking sobs. I just neededsomeone to take away the sudden grief and pain that was threatening to consume me.

I cried and cried and cried. I had no idea how long we sat there, how long they held me, how many times they told me that I would be okay, that everything would be okay. It wouldn't, I knew that much at least, but I didn't tell them. I just sat and soaked up what comfort they were willing to give.

"Ali?" I heard a voice whisper, "Is everything okay? Do I need to call Edward?"

"I don't think so, can you grab my bag for me though? I left it in your office," the person still holding me whispered back. It was a woman. Now that I'd heard her voice, the whispered conversation that had seeped into my consciousness, I could feel that the body I was wrapped around was small and delicate.

"I'm sorry," I choked out, my breath stuttering, as I pulled back from her slightly.

"Ssh, it's okay," she reassured me quietly, pushing my hair back from my face, "How are you feeling?"

How was I feeling? Drained, washed out, exhausted.

"Better," I whispered, "Thank you."

"None of that either. Now when Jasper brings my bag, we're gonna get you freshened up a little, then you and me are gonna find somewhere quiet where we can grab a coffee and talk, okay,?" she asked, gently, quietly and I looked up at her for the first time.

She was beautiful, her short spiky hair framed her small face, her deep green eyes were water logged and red rimmed – she'd been crying too, that thought brought tears back to my own eyes.

"I'm sorry," I apologised again, my voice thick and still shaky.

"Stop apologising," she smiled, a warm caring smile that had me breathing deeply to try and get my emotions back under control, "I'm Alice, by the way."

"Kate," I supplied with a small, weak smile of my own.

"Well, it's nice to meet you. . .Kate. Now about that drink?" she asked again and for the first time in eighteen months, I wanted this. I wanted to talk to someone, talk about what happened, what I'd been through. I didn't know if I would be able to, but I wanted to try.

"I'd like that," I nodded, offering her another smile, a slightly bigger one this time.

"Good," she nodded, just as the door to the stairwell opened up.

Now this man I knew. He was tall and blond, his suit highlighting his muscular frame, his blue eyes softening as he looked down at us both still sat huddled together on the stairwell. It was Jasper Whitlock, CFO of Cullen Corp.

"Here you go, honey," he said softly as he handed her a huge pale pink handbag, "You both okay?" he asked looking at me this time.

"Thanks, babe," Alice smiled back at him as she took hold of her bag, "We're fine. Kate and I are gonna go grab a coffee so I'll see you at home later."

I looked down at the hand that was holding her bag and cringed. I'd been crying all over the CFO's wife – what a complete moron I was!

"Okay," he nodded, his voice still quiet and soft, "I hope you're feeling better soon, Kate," he smiled at me.

"Thank you, Mr Whitlock," I replied, my voice just as quiet, "I'm sorry about all this."

"You've nothing to apologise for, darlin'," he told me, and I could see he meant it, "I'll see you at home, Ali." And then he was gone, walking back through the door he had just come through.

"Right, well let see what we can do shall we?" Alice giggled, pulling my attention back to her. She was rummaging through the huge bag, pulling out all kind of beauty products. My eyes went wide, I'd never seen so many products outside of Macy's, "What department do you work in?" She asked as she pulled out a brush and a small compact mirror.

My face paled and a muffled curse left my lips. I hadn't even thought about work. Taking up Mr Cullen's lunch was always the first job of the day, after which I would return back to the coffee shop and grab the trolley to deliver the lunches around the building that had been ordered that day. I had no idea how long I had been MIA.

"I have to go!" I exclaimed, jumping up. Alice looked up at me frowning slightly.

"Why?" she asked, confused.

"Because, I've been gone God knows how long. Seth is gonna kill me," I cried, panicked. I needed this job, it was my only means of paying for my studio apartment in Harlem – not the best neighbourhood, but it was all I could afford. My adrenaline spiked again. I didn't like it. I'd been used to feeling absolutely nothing for so long, each and every emotion that was coursing though me felt like it was supercharged.

"Calm down, hon," Alice instructed, standing up and grabbing both of my arms gently in her hands, "Now tell me, who is Seth and why is he going to kill you?"

"Seth is my boss," I told her, taking deep calming breaths, "I work at The Coffee Shop on the ground floor. I was suppose to be delivering lunches," I explained.

"Okay!" Alice nodded, fishing through her bag again. This time she pulled out her phone, tapping in a number and pressing send. I watched her, wondering what she was doing, "Hi, Jessica, It's Alice, Alice Whitlock," she started, "Can you patch me through to Seth at The Coffee Shop, please?"

She went quiet then, and my eyes opened wide and my face paled further.

"No, Alice," I whispered, but she ignored me.

"Hi, is that Seth?" She asked, "Great, I'm Alice Whitlock, a friend of Kate's. She's not feeling well, been in the bathroom throwing up for the past hour, so I'm gonna take her home," she paused and I held my breath, "That's great, Seth, will do. Thank you so much, Bye now!"

"What?" I asked panicking again as she stuffed her phone back in her handbag.

"Seth told me to tell you that he's sorry you're not feeling well, he hopes you feel better soon and if you can't make it in tomorrow just to give him a call," she nodded, then smiled, "Right, now where were we?" she asked, looking down at the products that she had placed out on the stairs.

Picking up a black stretchy headband she pulled it over my head then lifted it over my face, pushing the front of my hair back. I stood there silently as she went to work, wiping my face with cleansing cloths, applying creams and God know what else. I was in a stress and tear induced trance as she worked quickly to put me to rights.

"There, done!" She exclaimed,as she pulled the brush through my hair for the last time, "What do you think?" she asked holding a small mirror up to my face.

She hadn't done much, just calmed down the blotches that I was sure were covering my face from all the crying I'd been doing. Applied a little make-up and pulled my hair down, but I almost didn't recognise myself. The dead look in my eyes gave me away though.

"Thank you," I whispered, handing her back the mirror.

"You're welcome, now lets go," she packed her bag and grabbed hold of my hand, pulling me down one more flight of stairs on to what I saw was the thirty sixth floor. I hadn't got very far down before I'd collapsed, just thirteen and a half flights.

The stairwells were dark in comparison to the brightly lit office spaces, and I blinked my tender eyes as the lights made them water. Alice pressed the call button for the elevator and we stood in silence as we waited for it to arrive.

Now that this was really happening, I was really going out for coffee with a virtual stranger, a stranger that wanted me to talk about biggest pain, my greatest loss, my insides started to churn. And the hole in my heart, the one that had been ripped open and left to bleed not two hours ago, started to throb. I wrapped my arms back around by chest, hoping to hold the gaping hole together, hoping that I wouldn't bleed out onto the rich carpets that lined the hallways of Cullen Corp.

If Alice noticed my protective stance or the increase in my breathing, she didn't say anything. She just placed a gentle hand on the base of my spine as she lead me into the elevator. She kept her hand there the whole way down to the basement and across the parking garageuntil we arrived at a bright yellow car. I had no idea what type of car it was, but it looked sporty, and it kinda hurt my eyes to look at it.

"Come on, Kate," Alice whispered as she opened my door and helped me slide into the seat.

I'd been distracted in the stairwell as Alice had worked her voodoo magic on me. That distraction was gone now, so in a vain attempt to hold back the tears that were threatening to fall again, I watched the storm that raced around us and we moved slowly along the streets of Manhattan. There were crowds of people rushing to get in out of the downpour, even the windscreen wipers fought uselessly against the rain.

Soft classical music played in thebackgroundand Alice hummed along to it quietly, it was strangely soothing and heartbreaking at the same time. I hadn't listened to classical music – any music really – since that day. I bit my lip and looked out of the side window again, trying to block it all out.

I didn't have a clue where we were going, and I didn't know Alice enough to say that I trusted her, that no harm would come to me, it was just that I really didn't care! If she was taking me to my death somewhere – what did I have to live for anyway?

Charlotte my subconscious shouted, you have to live for Charlotte!

Yes I'd given up on myself, life, love, meaning. It was all over, but the one thing I would never give up on was Charlotte. It was the one and only reason that I could still think, still say her name and not his. She was still out there somewhere, waiting for me to find her, loving me as I loved her. If I locked her away, didn't think about her, didn't buy her birthday gifts and Christmas cards, then it would be as if she never existed, and Icouldn'tlive in a world where she didn't exist!

I swallowed back the sob that was trying to break free as I felt the car slow and Alice turned into another underground parking lot. She turned and smiled at me softly, patted my knee and climbed out of the car.

"Come on," she twitched her head to the side, towards the wall where two elevators stood, their silver doors closed, hiding what lay behind them, where Alice had brought me.

"Where are we?" I asked quietly, as I climbed out of the car and followed along behind Alice.

"My place, well our place, Jasper'sand mine. I thought that it would give us a little more privacy than a coffee shop. I have a feeling that we are about to embark on a difficult journey," she smiled sadly – she had no idea. "We may need reinforcements,and my old friend Jose is always good for that." she laughed lightly.

I followed her into the elevator and watched as she pushed the button for the penthouse, inserting a pin number into the keypad when the screen requested it. I had no idea things like that even existed. I was quiet on the ride up, but when I stepped into the marble entry way of Alice's apartment, I could do nothing to stop the small gasp that left my lips. The place was out of this world.

"Wow, Alice. This is beautiful," I complimentedas I followed her into the kitchen. There was no hallway off the elevator leading to a door with a number on it, no, the lift came straight into the penthouse.

"Thanks, it's nothing compared to my brother'splace, but we love it here," she smiled as she placed her bag down on the kitchen counter and flipped on the coffee machine, "Pull up a chair, take a load off," she laughed.

Doing as I was told, I pulled one of the comfy looking bar stools – an oxymoron in itself, but true none-the-less – out from under the breakfast bar and hopped up. Resting my elbows on the granite counter I watched Alice as she pulled out mugs, cream, sugar, salt, a lime that she sliced up, two shot glasses and a bottle of Jose Cuervo Gold. She filled the two mugs with coffee and handed one to me. I took it gratefully, added a little cream, and took a small sip. I think it had to be the best coffee I'd ever tasted.

"This is good," I told her honestly.

"It is, not as good as this though," she laughed handed me a shot of Jose, "Salute," she raised her glass, licked the salt off the back of her hand and knocked the drink back, quickly gabbing a section of lime as she shook her head, cringing.

I laughed, actually laughed. It was only a small one, but it was the first time that I'd done it in so long. I couldn't even remember.

"Your turn," she nodded at me. Shaking my head, just knowing that this was a very bad idea, I licked my wrist, picked up the salt and followed the ritual Alice had just preformed.

I heaved. I couldn't help myself. It was disgusting!

"Not a fan?" Alice asked through her laughter.

"What gave it away?" I shuddered.

"Come on, grab your coffee," she instructed, grabbing her own and waiting for me to follow suit, "We'll sit in the den, it'smorecosy in there."

I nodded and followed behind her, taking in the beauty that was her home. The den, unlike the hallway and kitchen, was covered in a think beige carpet, I'd kicked off my shoes next to Alice's in the entry way, and the luxurious carpet tickled me between my toes as I walked.

Alice was right, the den was cosy, all beiges and warm browns. The walls were lined with pictures, both art andphotographs. The enormous dark brown couch looked like it would swallow me wholeand the huge picture window let in what light the stormy August sky would allow.

I walked over to the window, watching the rain drops as they bounced against the glass and rolled down like a thousand tear drops.

"It's my daughters fourth birthday tomorrow," I began, tears already rolling down my cheeks, I didn't turn to face Alice, I couldn't do this if I had to look at her.

"That's great. What did you get her?" Alice asked, having no clue where this was heading.

"A star," I whispered, swallowing hard and looking up into the stormy sky.

"Wow, a star! What made you chose that over a Barbie?" She laughed lightly.

"So it can watch over her now, while I can't," I choked out,losing the battle against my owntears.

"Why, where is she?" She asked quietly now.

"I have no idea!"

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