Retaliation.

By retaliating, one is fighting back. They are saying that they are finally done with all the shit they have been putting up with, and they will fight back.

He had always been a competitive, driven person. And now that he had a purpose, something to drive him even harder, he would not be backing down. The trucking company had done something unforgivable and he would be retaliating.

Retaliation can sometimes be more subtle, and a less confrontational thing. Sometimes retaliating simply means that you're not going to accept your emotions or ideas and you were going to change them, no matter how challenging.

It was those wars with yourself that were sometimes the most difficult.

But he was waging war on the force that had taken his life away from him. And he would win.

~O~

"Why am I wearing jeans again?" Bella asked, anxiously crossing her legs one over the other.

Edward didn't take his eyes off the road. "I thought it was your idea."

"Only because you were too dense to suggest it," she retorted.

"Because I knew you already had it figured out," he grinned. "You know, your intelligence level has always surpassed mine."

Bella rolled her eyes and scoffed. "I'm already here, so don't start the flattery now."

"And my dad thought you were good with people…why?" he smirked.

"It's something I can turn off and on," she replied haughtily.

"That must have come in useful during college."

"Oh, you better believe it."

Edward glanced over at her and saw her uncross her legs and recross them before strumming her fingers on the armrest of the seat.

He sighed.

"Will you stop fidgeting please?"

Bella narrowed her eyes at him. "Your suit is unsettling. Has anyone ever told you that?"

"And that's why you're in jeans," he replied.

"Why aren't you in jeans?" she demanded.

Edward would say he was growing exasperated, but he had actually passed exasperated about ten minutes ago. "Because one of us has to look professional."

"It can't be me, why?" she questioned.

"Because I'm the lawyer," he replied, exasperated. He was silently glad of the amount of sleep he had received in the past two days, because otherwise, he would be banging his head on the steering wheel by now. Not that the thought wasn't tempting as is.

Sharing a bed with Bella was still interesting and rather tentative…but it was working. Having her near him allowed him to get over eight hours of sleep, depending on when they turned in. It should have been awkward, but for some unknown reason, it really wasn't.

True to her word, Bella had agreed to go and visit Stephanie Nain and try to learn more about her termination of Volt Trucking. She hadn't wanted to get involved in the case, but found it was hard to say no to Edward.

Bella didn't agree with what they were doing. They were taking on this case with the intent to run the company out of business, one way or another. But she understood why the Cullen men were taking on the case with such a malicious, blood thirsty intent. She was angry too. She hated the unnecessary way Taylor died, but the man who hit her was already being prosecuted in a court of law.

So, that morning, she had pulled on a pair of dark jeans and a nice blouse, ready for the unexpected. It was a Friday and she had no meetings, so she was able to get away with wearing that outfit to work after they were finished at the Nain residence. She had dressed more casually in hopes of appearing less intimidating to the woman they needed to speak to.

"Oh thank God, we're almost here…" Edward muttered to himself as he turned onto the street where Mrs. Nain resided.

Bella shot him a less than amused look.

"I resent that," she informed him.

"Fair enough," he agreed as he pulled into the driveway of the house that matched the street number he had been given.

It was essentially the definition of a suburban house. It was two stories and nice. The yard was littered with plastic vehicles that a child would ride, chalk was scribbled on the driveway and there was even a wood picket fence on one side of the yard.

"So, I'm just supposed to follow your lead?" she asked as they unbuckled their seatbelts.

"That would be great, yes."

"Well then let's do this shit."

Edward silently chuckled to himself as Bella opened her car door and confidently let her heels hit the pavement. She was a confident woman in every way possible, and he had to admit that he really admired her for that.

Once he had caught up with her stride and they reached the front door, Bella rang the doorbell. They heard the ring inside the house which was followed by a dog bark and some chaos.

A woman in her late twenties answered the door. Edward had to assume it was Stephanie. She had her blonde hair thrown in a messy bun on the top of her head, a tank top on and sweatpants. She had a young little boy settled on her hip, and even though her brown eyes were tired, Edward recognized the curiosity in them as well.

"Hello, can I help you?" she asked.

Edward offered her what he hoped wasn't an arrogant smile. "Are you Mrs. Nain?" he inquired pleasantly.

"I am," she replied, her tone quizzical.

"I'm Edward Cullen. We're here from Watson Cullen Law and we were wondering if we could have a moment of your time?" he asked.

Before the woman could reply, probably decline, Bella spoke. "What's this little guy's name?" she asked with a smile.

"Andrew," Stephanie answered, smiling down at her son.

"He's incredibly adorable," Bella complimented with utter sincerity.

"Thank you. Do you have kids?" she asked.

Bella shook her head. "No, not of my own yet. Someday though."

The mom nodded in a womanly understanding that left Edward somewhat baffled.

Bella had diverted the question, why?

"Is he your only one?" Bella wondered.

Stephanie shook her head. "No," she replied, "He's one of two. He has a twin sister named Katie."

"Twins? That must be a handful!" Bella exclaimed, a smile on her face, "I bet they keep you busy."

"Oh yes," she agreed heartily.

The little girl of the conversation came into view. She was very cute, just like her brother. But unlike her brother who had his face tucked against his mom, she seemed much less shy.

Edward was surprised when the toddler walked around her mom's legs and came over to him. She held her little fist up to him, and looked up with big brown eyes sparkling with a lovely innocence.

Knowing what she wanted, Edward crouched down where he was standing on the welcome mat. He offered her his own fist, which she beamed at and bumped with her own. He chuckled at her silly giggle.

"I'm sorry, it's one of her more interesting habits."

Edward looked up at the mom and offered her a smile. "Don't worry about it; I have a daughter of my own."

"Oh, how old?" she asked, addressing him in a friendlier way that she had been with Bella.

"Just about 14 months," he smiled. He stood up from his crouch and addressed Stephanie with a more serious look. "She's actually why I'm here."

"I'm not following you," she admitted.

"As I mentioned before, Mrs. Nain, I'm a junior partner at Watson Cullen Law, and we're suing Volt Trucking. As your employment was terminated from that company two years ago, we are here to see if maybe you could help us?

Stephanie immediately lost the friendliness that had edged into her voice. In fact, she put her hand on the door to make a move to close it. "No, I'm sorry, I don't think I can."

"Wait," Edward said before she could close the door. "We just want to know if you know anything that can help us."

"Why should I?" she challenged.

Edward opened his mouth to respond, maybe even tell his story, but the words got caught in his throat and he found himself unable to speak. Bella glanced over at him and saw the faraway look in his eyes and frowned.

"Mrs. Nain, as my partner said, we are here for his daughter," Bella said with a soft, calming tone. "She is growing up without a mother because of an accident caused by reckless law breaking of Volt Trucking. This is very important; otherwise we would not be here."

Stephanie's eyes widened as she reacted to the words. Letting out a short gasp, she looked over at Edward with true sympathy in her eyes.

"I'm very sorry for your loss."

"Thank you," Edward said quietly.

"How exactly did Volt Trucking break the law?" she inquired, looking over to Bella now.

Bella sighed. "They were letting their drivers overextend the shifts and their legal maximum time."

"I worried as much."

Edward and Bella exchanged glances before looking back at Stephanie, their eyebrows raised.

"Pardon?" Bella asked.

"Look," she sighed, "I'm truly sorry for your loss. I would like to help you but there's not much I think I can do. I need to talk to my husband before I agree to anything though."

Bella nodded in understanding, but Edward pushed just a little bit further.

"Thank you, Mrs. Nain…one last thing; could you tell us why you lost your employment there?"

Mrs. Nain shifted her son on her hip and let out a shallow breath. The lines on her face were grimly set as she spoke.

"I was fired because I threatened to report Volt for not adhering to the labor laws and shift requirements."

~O~

From: Edward Cullen
Subject: It Was The Jeans
Date: 8/8/10 4:07
To: Bella Swan

I just got a call from Mrs. Nain. She's coming into the firm on Monday to discuss more about her termination and her accusations of their misdeeds.

We got 'em.

Edward Cullen
Junior Partner, Watson Cullen Law

From: Bella Swan
Subject: Damn Right It Was
Date: 8/8/10 4:13
To: Edward Cullen

Well that was quick. Do you usually get a response within hours? Or was it just my shining personality that convinced her? Rhetorical question by the way. We both know it was the latter.

Good luck with the rest of the case, because my short career in law is over.

Bella Swan
Branch Manager, Gray Books Publishing, Inc.

From: Edward Cullen
Subject: Thank You For Your Suffering
Date: 8/8/10 4:17
To: Bella Swan

Well of course it was the shining personality of yours. That goes without saying!

I really appreciate your help; you saved my ass from the second we started talking to her.

I'll pick up dinner tonight…any requests?

Edward Cullen
In Your Debt, Watson Cullen Law

From: Bella Swan
Subject: You Are Welcome
Date: 8/8/10 4:22
To: Edward Cullen

What can I say? I'm great at girl talk.

Something fattening and greasy please!

Bella Swan
Branch Manager, Gray Books Publishing Inc.

There was a knock on her office door just as she was closing her laptop. "Come in!" she called.

Landon, who never really did adhere to casual Friday, was looking impeccable as ever in a black dress shirt with the top few buttons open and grey slacks which were form fitting and fantastic in Bella's eyes.

His confidence had noticeably risen over the past week. Landon was no longer an intern, but rather a paid employee. He was now the assistant of Carson Pawn, the director of marketing. One of the perks of this was that he was still on Bella's floor.

He had a box in his hand, one you would get at clothing stores. She grinned at him and he returned the smile easily.

"Getting ready to head home?" he asked.

"Well, I have to wait for Edward to pick me up because he dropped me off, but yes I am!" she said cheerily, glad to have the weekend here.

"Plans for the evenings?" he asked with a curiously raised eyebrow.

"I think they play the Big Bang Theory on Friday nights," she informed him.

"What would you say if I told you I could make those already great plans even better?" he asked.

She finished putting her laptop in her carrier case and looked up at him with a smirk. "I would question if you've ever actually seen the show, and tell you that those plans can't get any greater."

"Your sarcasm is adorable."

"I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or not."

"The beauty of sarcasm as one would have it."

Bella rolled her eyes but didn't hide her smile. "What's in the box?" she wondered.

"Well, I figured that last time we tried to do this we hit a wall…so I took it upon myself to do things a little differently." And with that exceedingly vague answer, Landon handed her the box he had been holding.

Curiosity getting the best of her, Bella withheld any comments as she took the box and opened it. She lifted the shirt that was folded in it out and examined it.

"Why am I holding a Twins shirt?" she asked, looking at the baseball team shirt and then over at him.

"For the same reason I'm holding two Twins tickets," he said, holding up two tickets in his hand with a grin.

Bella looked again at the shirt and then back at him. Her eyes watered slightly as she realized the implications behind the incredibly sweet gesture. She hadn't been able to do the date they had planned due to stress and the absence of Taylor and the thing that had set her off had been choosing an outfit. Landon had eliminated both elements that had upset her last time, making it spontaneous and even choosing her clothes for her.

Without a word, Bella crossed the space between them and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly. His arms came around her waist and he held her back with matched silence.

"This is wonderful, Landon," she whispered.

"As long as you can deal with company," he whispered back with a soft chuckle.

Bella pulled back from embrace and smiled brightly at him. "I don't think that should be a problem."

Landon kissed her cheek softly and smiled in return. "Well then let's get going. The game starts in an hour."

He offered her his hand which she laced her fingers through, slinging her bag over her other shoulder. "You're going to change, right? Otherwise I might have a wee issue dealing with the company," she informed him as they left her office.

"You don't like the attire?" he asked with a smirk.

"Oh I like the attire," she told him, "But you would look like an asshole at a baseball game."

"Really?" he asked as she pushed the elevator button, "This screams asshole?"

"In certain places?" she asked, "Oh yeah."

"Interesting," he commented, letting her step into the elevator first.

"I mean seeing as how you're the polar opposite of an asshole, I'm just letting you know!"

An hour later and a quick clothes change in Landon's case (Bella was easily able to slip the new shirt on) they were sitting in the stands right in line with first base. Landon had bought both of them a beer and they were settling in as the baseball team's lineup was announced.

"So," Landon said, making her turn her eyes from the field and give him a smile, "As this is our first date and you already know my story, tell me about your life until now."

Bella made a face but decided to humor him. "Well, I grew up about 20 minutes away from here, in the city where Edward and Taylor's house is. My parents sent me to a parochial grade school but a public high school in an effort to make me a more diverse person. My graduating class had 375 people and I was number 2 in my class with Taylor being ahead of me by .008%."

".008?" Landon interjected with a chuckle.

Bella rolled her eyes but fought a smile. "It was the damn A- I got freshman year in Geometry one semester. Still a sore subject."

"Of course. Continue," he grinned, gesturing to her.

"I don't know if you know this or not, but I played Division I tennis at the U of M for four years."

Landon's eyes widened. "Holy shit, did you really?"

She smirked. "That's the tone of surprise I get whenever someone finds out that I used to be incredibly athletic."

"Well, come on, D1? That's amazing!" he exclaimed, causing a few people around them to look at him.

"I couldn't have done it without Taylor. She was my doubles partner my entire life and without her, we wouldn't have won state our senior year or junior year for that matter."

"And she didn't go on to play in college?" he wondered.

Bella shook her head. "After ten years of it, Taylor had gotten a little burned out from tennis. She fell in love with a Division III college a few minutes from mine and agreed to play for them for two years, but it wasn't too competitive."

She thought back to where she had been before they had gone off track. "After my junior year at the U, I got accepted into an internship at Gray Books in the New York office. Somehow or another Mr. Collins, CEO of Gray Books, had heard me make a rather sarcastic yet still informed comment and told me, 'I like you kid, you've got spunk.' I managed to be his intern that summer after that. And when I was finished with college, that spunk got me a job at the northern branch of the publishing company."

"Which you promptly became the head of?" he asked, teasing in his voice.

Bella grinned. "It took two years, thank you very much. But yes, I did promptly become the head of the branch, which if you haven't already gathered, is awesome."

"I think it's amazing how much you love your job," he told her. "More people should just listen to their heart and find what they really want to do."

She shrugged. "I thought about being a lawyer for a while actually. I was really close to declaring a pre-law major in college."

"What changed your mind?" he wondered.

"It was a combination of my tennis coach Kessler and Taylor. Taylor and I always use to go back to our high school and help him out with the program before school started. We were having a conversation about our futures and when I mentioned law my coach gave me a funny look and said, 'What the hell, kid? That's really what you want to do?'"

"Sounds supportive."

Bella rolled her eyes. "You have no idea." She would have to give that sarcastic coach a call one of these days.

"Anyway, I didn't really have an answer for him so he went on to say 'You're passionate about a lot of things Swan and I know if you set your mind to it you would be one hell of a lawyer. But is that what you want to do?' And I kind of thought to myself, you know, is it? And Taylor interjected, 'Bella, we've talked about this. I think you should do something you love, no matter how insane you think it may be.'"

Landon stayed silent and continued to listen as Bella remembered the conversation that had changed her life.

"You know how tennis players get a short break after every two games during the match?" she asked.

He nodded.

"Well," she said with a sheepish embarrassment, "I may have brought a book to a match once and read it during that less than five minute break," she admitted.

Landon didn't try to contain his laughter. Bella blushed slightly, remembering how much shit she had gotten for that for years from her team.

"So, anyway, that one day, Kessler said 'You love books to the point of it being obsessive and I'm thinking the match with the Harry Potter book speaks for itself. Why don't you do something with that?' And I had said, 'There are no jobs in the field of books!'" She smirked at the irony of contradiction of her life now and her words then.

"And Taylor said, 'Bella, look who you are. You do whatever the hell you want and if the world tells you no, you ignore it. If you love books then why wouldn't do something with them? Don't set yourself up for a career that will make you miserable before it even begins.'"

Bella smiled distantly, remembering Taylor and missing her and their talks, some of which were quite literally life changing.

"So here I am," she finished with a shrug.

"Here you are," he agreed.

Bella opened her mouth to say something, but the roar of the crowd in the outdoor stadium interrupted. Landon and her looked over to the field and when they saw one of the more popular players running into home base, they stood up and clapped, whooping and hollering with the rest of the section.

When the crowd was back in their seats, Landon had settled his arm on the back of Bella's seat, casual but still very much there.

"So I have Taylor to thank for you being here, huh?" he asked.

Bella thought about it and realized there was no way she would have met the guy next to her without the intervention of her friend nearly six years ago. Taylor had, in a way, brought them together.

"Yeah," Bella smiled, "I guess you do."

Before either one of them could say more, Bella felt her phone buzz. She wiggled and pulled the iPhone out of her back pocket while Landon took a sip of his beer. She saw that it was Edward texting her.

-She's watching for you on the big screen.

He had attached a picture of Molly sitting on the floor in front of the TV, her head tilted up to look at the screen which was clearly showing the baseball game they were currently at.

Bella smiled at the picture that made her just want to scoop the little girl up and nuzzle her nose. The grin was on her face as she texted a response.

-Emmett will be thrilled that he instilled a love of baseball in the girl.

Bella turned to Landon who was politely looking out at the baseball game instead of trying to read over her shoulder. She showed him the picture Edward had sent and watched him grin at the adorable little girl.

"My God she's cute," he said, shaking his head.

Her phone buzzed again and she read Edward's response.

-I don't know about that. But whenever a woman is on the screen she points. Even if she's 70. You should probably be offended by that.

She again responded with a smile.

-Give her an extra kiss for me!

-Will do. Be home by ten, young lady!

Bella laughed at his response before she tucked the phone back into her pocket and settled back into her seat, a content smile on her face.

Landon looked over at her with a funny, almost quizzical grin on his face.

"What?" she asked with a laugh.

"You really love that little girl, don't you?"

Bella gave him a soft grin. "Yeah, I really do. I'd do anything for her."

"And you're an amazing person because of it."


93 million miles from the Sun, people get ready get ready,
'cause here it comes it's a light, a beautiful light, over the horizon into our eyes
Oh, my my how beautiful, oh my beautiful mother
She told me, "Son in life you're gonna go far,
And if you do it right you'll love where you are
Just know, that wherever you go, you can always come home"

Every road is a slippery slope
There is always a hand that you can hold on to.
Looking deeper through the telescope
You can see that your home's inside of you.

Just know, that wherever you go,
No you're never alone,
You will always get back home
93 Million Miles, Jason Mraz


AN: Well, as this update is on time, I'm sure you can deduce that the Vikings lost their game in a somewhat embarrassing fashion. That does conclude my annoying NFL tweets tho! You're welcome.

This was as about as "graphic" as it'll get between Bella and Landon. You guys have endured enough lack of canon in this story! Hang with me, it's all about plot development (;

Show of hands: you like Landon? Think he's good for Bella, someone to have to herself? Don't like him? Need time to jump and Edward to get going? Don't need time to jump? What do you think about learning more about Bella? Lemme know!