Chapter 26

39 Steps

Just a HUGE thank you to byrd009 for pre-reading and pointing out some of my mistakes. I should have just had you beta the whole thing, LOL. So any mistakes are my own because I was in too much of a hurry to get it posted.

To the guest reviewer who seems to really, REALLY dislike this story … can't please everybody. Are there thinks I'd like to go back and change now that I am less nervous about this being my first fic; sure. But that's with anything. I've had works published in scholarly journals that later I was like "What the … what was I thinking." But that's the great thing about writing. You grow as you go. I do love hearing from you all though; and I welcome constructive criticism given in a respectful manner. But I love each and every one of my readers and reviewers. God bless you and have a good Sunday!

Next update should be around Monday or Tuesday.

Stephanie Meyers owns all rights to Twilight.


The night of the masquerade ball is finally here. Security was tripled for the event, at Carlisle and Edward's insistence. While Edward hasn't mentioned it, I believe he has received more messages from my stalker. Some days he seems more intense than others; holds me tighter and refuses to let me out of his sight. Much like he did after the night of the dinner, he often wakes from a bad dream, desperately seeking me out if I have moved from him. Most nights, he has such a tight grip on me, I don't have the option of moving. He never tells me what the dreams are about, and I shudder to even guess.

I have a new phone, but Edward made sure the number was private. He and "my detail", as I've started to refer to them, also lectured me on the importance of never taking off my new necklace, which is actually a well disguised GPS locator.

At first, I thought Edward had simply bought me a lovely gift. It was a platinum disc with "Edward's" written on one side, and "Baby Girl" written on the other. I should have known it was more than that. Felix has hired two more guards; ones he knew for years and trusted implicitly. My detail seemed to be growing, and when I tried to argue that point, I was told, point blank, by Carlisle — it was not an option. I was slightly mollified when Carlisle explained the extra guards would be keeping at watch on the rest of the family as well, in case my monster decided to target them.

The guilt when he said that flooded me, and I couldn't help but think this would all go away for them if I went away. I think Edward knows me too well. When I looked up, I was stunned by the furious gaze that had me locked in place. He simply mouthed, "Stop it". I nodded my head and focused on other things, but it was still, always in the back of my mind.

Edward and I decided it was best to dress for the ball in different rooms, much like we did the night of the dinner. Edward had a tendency to get a little handsy when I was around him naked. I honestly didn't mind, AT ALL. We simply didn't have time for it tonight.

While my nerves had my insides in turmoil, I was excited about this evening. Esme, Alice and I had worked hard on getting items for the silent auction, gaining sponsors, and creating a presentation of the two apartments (for now) that some of the donations would be helping to keep up, as well as a presentation on the program to help train the single parent or of-age children for jobs that would help pull them above poverty level; if even by just a small amount. I felt in my element for the first time since before the attacks in Somalia. I was a good nervous, as my public speaking professor would say.

The program wasn't so much a new concept as much as it was just expanding on an already existing foundation. While living in the apartments, anyone able to work would choose from a few different professions. Esme and I had been able to get certain business owners to agree to on-the-job training. Alice would help them dress for success. And I would help them improve any skills, such as resume writing, public speaking, or grammar, while also helping them find programs to assist with any other needs they had. Rosalie desperately wanted to help us with the planning, but her schedule at the hospital was so hectic it was quite impossible for her to find the time. She was thrilled when I presented her with the opportunity to help some of the participants with possible careers at the hospital. All in all, it was coming together so incredibly good.

The dress I had chosen was crimson red and looked much like the gown worn by Kiera Knightly in Anna Karenina. I loved the story, and the film (all versions of them), but that costume always stuck out. My mask was very elegant, with jewels all around the eyes, delicate satin ribbons trailing all the way to my back, and long black and red feathers sticking up pretty high all over the top. My open-toed shoes matched the color of my dress, with jewels adorning the T-strap on the top of my foot. My air was up in intricate curls and my make-up was light with the exception of my smokey eyes.

I headed downstairs to wait for Edward to finish dressing, as well as wait on the rest of our group. We were all riding together. As I passed by Edward's office, I found myself stopping as the memory of the fight with Paul overtook my thoughts. I was so stunned when he accused me of acting like a whore. He had never said anything like that to me before. It was as if he slapped me. As angry as I was with him —as hurt— it didn't change the fact Paul was the last blood family I had. I haven't spoken to him since that evening, but he has tried to call.

The few times he tried to call the house (I had yet to give anyone my cell number), Edward answered yelling at him to "give the fuck up". Once, he was able to leave a message on the machine. He begged me to forgive him. Told me he was stressed out, worried because he didn't know where I had gone for so long, and hurt he wasn't the one to walk me down the aisle. I understood to an extent; but I just needed time to convince Edward of Paul's sincerity. The one time I tried, it ended in a huge argument.

I suddenly feel two strong arms wrap around my waist, hugging me close to a very firm chest.

"What has you so deep in thought, beautiful?" I love when he calls me that. Whether I think I am or not, he never fails to make me feel that way.

"My fight with Paul." At the mention of his name, Edward tenses.

"Bella, let's not bring Paul up tonight. This is supposed to be about the foundation and the launch of the programs you and my mother have worked so hard with all these agencies to being to fruition. Bringing his name up will only taint it for us both." I turn in Edward's arm so I can see his face. He is right. This night is a celebration. There is no point in bringing up an argument from weeks ago.

"I know you're right, Edward. But I wish so badly you could understand … Paul is the only blood relative I have left. I know I have your family, and you, and I thank God for that! But when it comes to my past —my history … he's the only one left who experienced any of that with me."

"Baby girl, I do understand that part. But as your husband, please understand that I cannot allow someone in our home who so blatantly disrespected you. Now, we can talk more about this later; just not tonight, okay?"

I nod my head, because I honestly just want to have a good time tonight. I don't want to think about stalkers or drama with my family. I'm about to tell Edward how excited I am about the ball when I notice how he is staring at me. It's actually a little more like leering at me.

Minutes pass as he stands in silence, slowly scanning me from head to toe, as if committing everything about me to memory. Finally, as his eyes meet mine, he lingers without saying a word. There is heat coming from his gaze, but more than that, there is love. When the silence seems to be too charged for me, I finally speak, but only in a whisper for some reason.

"What are you looking at so intently?" He still says nothing for a few more moments.

"I'm looking at the most beautiful creature I've ever seen. And seeing you in this costume only proves that your beauty transcends time."

I'm rendered speechless. Edward has always had a way of making me feel treasured, but sometimes his passion is just so intense; it takes away my ability to breathe or even speak. I look down at my dress, feeling the blush creep slowly up my chest, my neck, and finally my face/ I shake my head, ready to dispute his claim, only he never gives me the chance. Locking his mouth firmly over mine, he walks me forward, into the foyer where there is a large mirror. Breaking the kiss when air becomes a necessity, he slowly turns me around to face the mirror. Locking one arm around my waist, the draped across my chest, he pulls me tightly to his body.

"Tell me I'm wrong," he challenges with a quirked eyebrow. He looks almost menacing with his medieval cape and full face mask atop his head. He is wearing a tuxedo underneath the cape; one he makes look incredibly sexy I might add.

"You're biased," I respond, the both of use still whispering as if we don't want to be overheard.

"We'll see. I'd bet a million I'll threaten someone before the night is over." I laugh at his confidence, but mostly because he thinks most men who speak to me are thinking lascivious thoughts. My laugh is cut off when Edward dips down to place open-mouth kisses along the column of my neck. When he hums, the vibrations seem to reverberate through my whole body. A sudden knock breaks me from the moment, causing me to jump slightly. With one last kiss, Edward chuckles and reluctantly releases me to open the door.

"Quit trying to maul my sister and get your ass downstairs," Emmett's voice echoes a little, being as he is so loud. I giggle at his comment as he picks me up with the customary twirl. I see Rosalie, Jasper, and Alice trailing behind.

"Oh my goodness, Rosalie … Alice, you both looks so beautiful," I exclaim after Em puts me back on my feet. Rosalie is dressed in a beautiful blue gown with delicate fairy wings on her back, while Alice in dressed in the most astounding, emerald green gown. Rosalie has her hair partially up, with little white flowers randomly placed all over, while Alice's dark brown locks are completely down sparkling with what looks like diamonds throughout.

"Oh, Bella, I knew you would look stunning in that dress. The color … just … wow," Rose says as she has me turn. She and Alice helped me find the dress after I told them what I had in mind.

"See, I'm not the only one," Edward whispers against the shell of my ear, causing me to shiver slightly so that he is the only one who notices. Em and Jasper are dressed much like Edward, only with different masks; Edward's being silver. Somewhat fitting as Edward can be quite the silver-tongued devil.

Deciding we would all ride together, Felix meets us in the parking garage. Carlisle and Esme are waiting along with him. Esme is wearing a shimmering grey gown, with a half-mask, while Carlisle is wearing a phantom mask and a hat with a long feather lying towards the back. Everyone looks so beautiful, I can't help it when I insist on everyone taking a photo before we pile in the stretched hummer to leave. To my surprise, no one complains. Felix insists on taking one with me in the shot after the initial photo I take. I guess the paranoia is starting to get to me because, suddenly, I just want us all inside the car and not out in the open. Thankfully, there is so much chatter going on, Edward doesn't notice my sudden anxiousness.

The entire drive there, Edward never takes his hands off of me. Even when I am speaking with the others in the car, I can sense every time he looks at me. But he doesn't just look; he gazes. I'd ask what it is he sees, but it may not be appropriate for our company. He barely joins in the conversations, and when he does speak, it's only to ask me a question.

"What made you choose this gown?" I wasn't expecting him to ask me that, but I answer him quickly.

"It reminded me of the latest version of Anna Karenina. I love the film, and the novel. The dress was so beautiful … I don't know. I've never been to a costume party before and it just seemed like fun to dress as a character I've read about and watched," I respond with a shrug of my shoulders. Edward's brows furrow a bit, as if he's remembered something unpleasant.

"What is it, Edward?"

"Nothing, really. It's just … isn't this the dress she was wearing in the end, when she …" he trails off, but I know what he's referring to.

"Well, yeah, but it's still a lovely gown. Right?" I'm starting to second guess my choice a little now. Suddenly, the darkness leaves Edward's face and he smiles tenderly at me.

"You make the gown look exquisite, baby girl. I was just curious, that's all. The color makes your skin glow so beautifully. I can't seem to stop staring at you."

"I don't mind," I answer sheepishly. He leans over and kisses my shoulder, then pulling me close to him. We spend the rest of the ride just listening to the boisterous laughter of our family.




I've never seen so many people at one event. And the costumes are mind blowing. Some went all out, wearing the full Venetian masks and hats. Others kept it simple. Knowing my love of Russian history, I've noticed there is a lot of Russian music being played by the orchestra tonight. Edward thinks I didn't see him sneak over to the orchestra leader, but I did. I decide to let him have this one, so I act none the wiser.

I can't recall ever having this much fun before. I know I've never laughed this hard. My stomach and my face actually hurt. The silent auction is successful beyond what I could have imagined, and the presentations went off without a hitch. I feel as if I'm floating on air tonight. Edward has been a near constant by my side, and while security is literally everywhere, he is ever watchful even when he does walk away for a few moments. One of those moments included when Carlisle "stole" me (Edward's words, not mine) for a dance, insisting Edward needed to "get out of my ass" (Carlisle's words, not mine).

I've danced with so many people tonight, including Jasper, Em, and Felix. We even did a dance just us girls. As Edward and I take a break from the dance floor, Edward heads to the bar to refresh our drinks. While he's gone, several people stop to congratulate Esme, Alice, and myself on the successful evening. A few moments later, the opening strings of one of my favorite songs float through the air.

"Lara's Theme" from Dr. Zhivago is so hauntingly beautiful. I have a music box given to me by my mother when I was a child that plays this song. Suddenly, a hand extended towards me pulls me from my memories. As I place my hand in Edward's, he pulls me gently to my feet. I'm so moved he remembered about this song, I feel my eyes sting. Just as a tear falls, he reaches his hand up to wipe it away.

"When did you put gloves on?" I know he had gloves with the costume, but he hadn't worn them the entire evening. He simply tilts his head towards the dance floor, so I let it drop for now. When we dance, I notice it's very formal, as it would have been during a different time period; not the usual closeness Edward has been insisting on all evening. My mind drifts as the music nears its climatic end. In these clothes, the way we are dancing, the music playing … I feel transported.

As the song closes, Edward bows deeply. I curtsey in reply, bowing my head as I do so. When I look up, he is gone. I look through the crowd but I can't see him. It's almost as if he vanished. Unsettled, I head back towards our table. When I arrive, I give another look around for Edward. Suddenly, I feel his arm slide around my waist. More importantly, I feel his bare hand.

"There you are. I was just looking for you," he murmurs as he gives me a kiss to my neck.

"Just looking for me? What are you talking about; I've been with you the whole time." I can't explain it, but at that moment, my blood runs ice cold. I notice the perplexed look on Edward's face at both my statement and no doubt the feel of my skin that I am sure has turned just as cold as my skin.

"Bella, are you feeling alright? Your face looks pale all of a sudden. Are you not feeling well," Esme asks as she rises from her chair. Before I have a chance to answer, my phone sounds from my purse alerting me to a text. I'm terrified to look at it, but I don't want Edward to flip out in the middle of all these people. Trying not to show my nervousness, I quickly reach for my phone, hoping Edward doesn't catch my shaky hand. I should have known it was useless.

"Bella, what's wrong? Why are you shaking?" Edward grabs my hand, rubbing it between his two large, warm ones.

"I'm fine, really. Just residual nervousness about this evening," I lie smoothly. Removing my hand from Edward's, I reach again for my phone. I determine to keep my face neutral no matter what the text. I refuse to allow this night to be ruined.

New manuscript waiting on your desk. Red jump drive. Must be picked up tonight! Needs to be edited ASAP.

I relax a little realizing the text is from my boss, Mr. Gerandy. While I hate the thought of having to run by my office, I am so glad it wasn't from the stalker.

"It's my boss. I need to run by the office on the way home to pick up a manuscript," I tell everyone as I am typing out a response. I'm hoping to avoid going there. Seeing as he is also at the ball, perhaps he would let me off the hook tonight.

Sorry for the inconvenience. Must be picked up ASAP.

With a sigh, I place my phone back in my purse.

"Sorry guys. Boss says it's important. I can catch a cab …"

"Bella, don't be ridiculous, we all rode here together, we will all ride back together," Esme tells me with a smile.

"Thanks you guys. I appreciate it." I take a sip of my drink as Edward and I sit down to join in the conversation.

After a few more hours, the evening is winding down. The only people left are a few groups still engrossed in conversations and the catering crew. Grabbing my things for me, Edward and I head for the car that Felix has pulled around front. Esme, Alice and I make sure to tell the remaining guests how much their support means and bid them a good night. Once inside the car, I laugh as I see Alice and Rose immediately taking their shoes off.

"What? They may be gorgeous, but they hurt like a bitch," Alice says with a laugh.

"Language, Alice," Esme scolds. Alice giggles and shrugs her shoulders. Turning, Esme addresses me now.

"Bella, I can't tell you how proud I am of you! You worked so hard on tonight, and I am so happy to tell you we received a record amount of donations as a result." My eyes get misty again hearing her say that. Grabbing mine and Alice's hand and giving them a gentle squeeze, she continues.

"I just couldn't be prouder of you girls. And Rosalie, the time you are donating to help some of these families … that is so above and beyond. I'm so happy to be able to call you my girls."

We can't help it; as Esme finishes, me, Alice, and Rose have tears in our eyes. Esme doesn't give herself enough credit for the work she's done.

"Bella, we're here," Felix calls from the front.

As I reach for the door, Edward leans forward to follow me out.

"Edward, its fine. You don't have to go in with me. There's a security guard inside. He eyes me warily, not really wanting to let me go alone. He reluctantly nods his head and I crawl out, heading into the building. I don't see the guard at the front desk. He must be making his rounds. Stepping into the elevator, I hit the button for the 32th floor. I haven't been to my office since we left for the honeymoon. I'll be ecstatic if it's not covered in cobwebs and dust.

Walking down the dark halls when the building is empty has always given me the creeps. It makes it seemed abandoned; like a ghost town. Opening my office door, I smile as I see the "Welcome Back" sign, as well as cards and flowers all over my desk and windows. I'll have to be sure to come back by here Monday to thank everyone in person and give a few hugs.

It only takes me a moment to find the jump drive. Just as he said, it is a red drive sitting on top of all my other files. Grabbing it, I head back for the elevators. After pressing the button, I get a cold chill down my spine. Turning quickly, I see nothing out of the ordinary.

Get a grip, Bella. You've been in this building hundreds of times this late.

Shaking off my paranoia, I notice the light on the elevator isn't lighting up. Pressing the button again, I still get nothing. There isn't even the noise of the elevators moving. Figuring they are out of order I head for the stairwell. I dread the thought of walking down 32 flights, but it is what it is.

I make it a few floors down when I hear a door above me open and close. When using any stairwell, my heart always races a little when someone else enters it, at least it does before I find out who it is. That's the result of watching one too many thrillers. The only person I can think who may be here at this hour is the guard.

"Boris? Is that you?" I get no response, but suddenly a face pops over the railing … a silver face with a hoodie. I let out a scream, startled by his sudden appearance. Then I realize it's Edward's mask I'm looking at.

"Edward Cullen! I could just slap you for scaring me like that! You almost gave me a heart attack!" I can't help but scream at him. I get angry when I get scared.

He doesn't respond, but begins descending the stairs slowly, all the while keeping his masked face where I can see it.

"Did you forget the floor I work on, Edward," I ask with a giggle. He's at least ten floors above me. "I know I haven't been here in a while, but surely you didn't forget that fast! And take your mask off," I whine a little. "I admit it, you got me, now let's …" I trail off as I hear someone from below call out to me. A voice I am sure I can't be hearing right.

Looking down ever so slowly, I see Edward and Felix looking up the stairwell. My eyes go wide with terror. Looking back up quickly, the face is gone. It only scares me more because now I can't see where he is in relation to me.

"Bella, who are you talking to?" As soon as the question leaves Edward's mouth, the face from before pops back over the railing, only closer this time.

"BELLA! RUN!" Edward roars. It's all I need to hear before I take off running for my life down the stairs towards Edward, Felix, and safety. The only thing I register is the sound of footsteps from all around me.


I knew it. I had a feeling from the moment we entered the car to go towards the ball. I had the same feeling when I told Bella I had been looking for her and she said she had been with me the whole time. I knew something wasn't right, but I pushed it down; wrote it off as paranoia. And now … now I'm in a race against a madman to reach Bella first. The minute I saw his face come over the railing, my muscles tensed, ready to take off. I was running before the words left my mouth.

"Bella, keep running, baby! Don't look back, just run towards me!" I scream, knowing anyone still in this building could hear me.

I became impatient waiting in the car for Bella, feeling off. Everyone else waited in the lobby while Felix and I went to Bella's office on the 32nd floor. The security guard wasn't around, so we headed straight for the elevators. When they never arrived, we entered the stairwell. That's when I heard Bella talking, but I couldn't understand who else would be here this time of night. Or why Gerandy was so damned adamant she pick a file up tonight.

But the minute I saw that face over the banisters, things starting clicking into place; things that would have to wait until another time to be sorted.

I was sure between the running and the fear; I would have a heart attack. By this time, my screaming had alerted the others. I could vaguely hear voices at the bottom of the stairwell, as well as footsteps several floors down from me. I had no idea where Felix was, but none of that mattered. I just needed to get to Bella. I push myself faster, feeling the burn in my muscles, but it doesn't matter.

I can feel myself getting closer to her. It's no different than any other time; my body just reacts to her. I can't explain it. Occasionally looking up as I climb, I catch glimpses of her stalker as he races down the stairs. He's jumping them every time he rounds a corner. I have to be faster.

"Edward … I CAN'T …" I hear Bella scream to me. I fucking hate that she is terrified right now, and I can hear her labored breathing. She's starting to wheeze, which can only mean her asthma is about to hit her full on. And with the panic she is feeling, this could be bad.

"KEEP RUNNING, BABY." I know its pure adrenaline pushing me now. I'm so close.

Just a few floors below her now. Felix isn't far behind me. I've never moved so fast before in my life. My heart is pumping, blood roaring in my ears. Then, as I'm rounding the corner on another flight of stairs, I see her. Just a little further and I can reach her. But before that happens, my worst fucking nightmare … I see a gloved hand reach out and grab Bella by the hair. She screams in pain as she is dragged backwards up a flight. I see red. I'm fueled by a rage I've never felt before. My skin actually prickles from it.

"GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF HER!" I'm just a few feet away now. Bella is struggling to get free of him, but her breathing is so labored she is getting weak. She's in the beginning stages of a severe asthma attack. When her stalker looks behind me, I know it's because Felix is closing in. Suddenly, he looks down, and dread floods my stomach. I can hear the shouts of Rose and the others even if I am too focused on what's in front of me to recognize what's being screamed.

Then, time just stops. My heart fails and my knees almost give out as I watch him lift the mask just enough to place a kiss on her cheek, look me dead in my eyes, and with no hesitation, throws Bella over the railing of the stairs.

Instinct propels me forward. I dive for her, grabbing her wrist just before it is out of my reach, desperately clutching onto the only person I would die without. She is my lifeline, and now, I'm hers. I hear Felix rush past me chasing after him. But I have one last thing to tell him tonight.


I vaguely hear a door slam open, followed by the same sound a few seconds later. My heart is beating so fast it feels like one steady constant rhythm now.I look down into Bella's terrified eyes and I can feel my own begin to sting.

"Baby, can you give me our other hand? Can you reach up for me?" Her breathing is getting worse by the second. I can only pray someone thought to get her inhaler from her clutch in the limo. Each time she tries to give me her other hand, it slips from my grasp. The hand I'm clutching to is slowly slipping. Bella begins clawing at her chest. She's panicking because of the asthma attack.

"Baby … please, baby girl," I plead. "Listen to me, try …" Try to what? Calm down? How fucking stupid would it be to ask that.

I lean further over the rails in an attempt to keep hold of her. She notices. She begins shaking her head looking from my face, to my position over the rail, then to the floor 17 floors beneath us. She's never survive the fall. From the corner of my eye I see Rosalie and Alice running up the stairs. I can't see Jasper or Emmett, and Felix has yet to return.

When Bella finally looks me in the eyes, I see it. I know what she's thinking. If I don't let go and no one reaches us in time, I'll go over with her.

"DON'T YOU FUCKING DARE! DON'T! Baby girl, please! Just hold on a little longer! Just … P-please, just a little longer!" I sound desperate because I am. Doesn't she know I'd jump anyways?

"God, please! Don't take her from me now! And not like this," I whisper to myself.

"SOMEBODY FUCKING HELP ME!" I don't understand where everyone went. I can't hold on to the railing anymore and hold on to Bella at the same time.

"I … I l-l-love … you," Bella tells me between gasping for air. Oh fuck, no!


Like a scene from a horror film, I watch as she releases the one hand I have her by. The sweat from my palms doesn't allow me to keep hold very long. In slow motion, I watch her literally slip through my fingers.

I hear a blood curdling scream. "NOOOOOOO!" It's me, I realize. I close my eyes, the last imagine of my Bella being the look of love on her face.

At least we can die together.

As I prepare to follow her down, someone grabs me from behind. I struggle to get free.

"Let GO! Let go of me," I snarl, but the arms never release me.

"Edward … Edward, listen to me," I shake my head. I don't want to hear anything.

"Edward … you have to listen to me. Jasper has this! Just open your eyes!"

Opening my eyes for what may be the last time, I see Bella free falling, but not making a sound. Why would anyone be so cruel as to ask me to watch this? My soul is dying.

Out of nowhere … Jasper, with something tied around his waist, jumps from the rails seconds before Bella falls past, latching on to her. The momentum of his jump and the tightening of whatever he has tied around himself swing them underneath a flight of stairs, only I never see them re-emerge.

My head doesn't comprehend what my heart so desperately wants to believe.

"Edward, we need to get down there to her. The police and EMT's are on their way up," I'm can't force myself to respond to who I now know is Felix. My entire being wants to collapse.

"Edward, Bella …" He doesn't finish the sentence before I bolt down the stairs as fast as I can. Her name causes something to awaken inside me. I'm glad there was no one in my way because they would have surely been injured.

Rounding the platform leading to the next flight of stairs, I see our family huddled around something on the floor. Not something, but someone. Not caring about them, I shove and push until I find Bella lying on the floor. Her breathing is coming out in shallow pants and she is a deathly pale color. Rose is trying to speak to her and check her heart rate, but I shove her out of the way too, gathering Bella into my arms. I back away from everyone, not trusting them to not try and take her from me.

When I walk backwards on the steps to the platform I just came from, I don't stop until my back hits a corner. Sliding to the floor with Bella still tightly in my grips, I rock us back and forth.

"Edward?" Rosalie approaches us slowly. "Edward, we need to help Bella. She can't take her inhaler. She's not responding to us. Can you try?" She keeps her voice low. I also notice she is holding everyone else back from rushing us. She gently holds the inhaler out, which I snatch from her hands, not wanting to miss a single moment of touching my baby girl.

"Bella, baby? Can you look at me … please? I need to help you." She makes no movements to respond. She is staring straight ahead, but staring at nothing. I have her completely in my lap, both arms pinning her to me. The shaking is bad, but I can't tell which of us it is coming from. Probably both.

Moving my mouth against her ear, I begin whispering to her as I close my eyes.

"Please come back to me, Bella. I love you. I swear to you, he will die. I'll never let him take you from me. You're mine alone, Bella. To have and to hold, to honor and cherish, for better or worse." I continue to whisper calming words into her ear, rocking us back and forth. Without her responding to me her inhaler is useless. I open my eyes to notice the police and EMTs rushing up the stairwell. Doors are being slammed open as they begin to search every floor of the building. I'm trying so hard to keep some sense of rationality together, but Bella is turning ashen as sweat begins to pour down her face and chest.

"Please, baby, please come back to me," I beg. That's when I notice EMTs rushing towards us with a gurney they think they will place Bella on. There is no other way to describe it other than I lose my shit.


I press my back harder into the corner, as if I can make it move. A small part of my brain recognizes I am acting irrationally, but I can't force myself to stop. They try advancing again.

"STAY THE FUCK BACK! YOU CAN'T HAVE HER! SHE'S MINE!" I think I may actually have growled, although I can't be sure. I hear Rosalie begin to speak with the EMTs.

"Don't be stupid! They are both in shock! Stay where you are! Get me a shot of Breathine and A-Methapred stat! I'll administer it myself, just don't move any closer!"

"Ma'am, I'm sorry but we can't allow …"

"Listen you little prick! I'm a doctor at NYU and we don't have time to argue over this! I take full responsibility, but you get me those damn shots now before she dies or I swear you won't make it out of this building on your own!"

Only a few minutes later, Rose speaks softly as she approaches me.

"Edward, I'm not going to take her, okay? I just need you to let me give her these shots to help her breath. Will you let me do that?" I nod, desperate for her help as long as no one moves her.

Rosalie asks the EMT for one more shot, I'm not sure what, before Bella finally begins to take deeper, more even breaths.

"Her breathing seems to be regulating now. We should take her to the hospital, Edward. Just to be sure everything else is okay."

"I won't let her go. You can't make me," I say softly.

"Of course not, Edward. No one will make you. We can take her in the limo. But we should hurry to be on the safe side." Rosalie's gentle manner puts me at ease. It's only when I go to stand and feel hands on each side of me that I realize Felix, Emmett, and Jasper are still with us. Alice must have gone to the car to keep mom and dad posted.

Twenty minutes later, we are sitting in an exam room. Bella was given a breathing treatment, after which the administered a mild sedative in an effort to relax her. They wanted to give me the same, but I refused for now. I just want to get my baby girl home and in our bed. Other than a few bruises, nothing else seems to be damaged. I'm concerned when Bella still hasn't spoken or at least taken a quick glance to take in her surroundings. Rose and her colleague say Bella is in shock; we both are.

When I walk into the door of the penthouse, everyone is waiting anxiously. I can't deal with them right now. I just want my Bella. Without a word, I climb the stairs to our room, kicking it closed and locking it so no one can disturb us. Climbing into bed, I don't bother stripping us down, I only pull Bella as close as physically possible, wrapping around her after drawing the blanket over us both. I give her one last promise before I let the silence take over.

"He will die."