Mine to Mark Contest

Title: Get Cullen

Pen Name: CallMePagliacci

Rating: M

Genre: Crime

Word Count: 5,285

Pairing: ExB

Summary: Edward Masen is a bad man. He is without remorse. They took his wife. Now someone has to die.

Disclaimer: The original characters and plot of this story are the property of the author. No infringement of pre-existing copyright is intended. This story is copyright (c) 2013 CallMePagliacci. All rights reserved.

All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc., are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author of this story. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any previously copyrighted material. No copyright infringement is intended.

Warning: There's a great deal of violence in this fic. Also profanity and drug use.

GET CULLEN

Blood crusted around an ugly gash on Edward Masen's forehead. It matted in his hair, changing the color from reddish-brown to an ugly brunet. The red liquid pooled around his head: a mocking halo. He was prone on the worn wooden floors of a modest two-story house in the wilds of Washington State. He'd run to the opposite end of the country, but still they found him.

Consciousness returned, first as awareness of a throbbing in his temple and followed by aches all over his body where he'd been beaten. He groaned. When he tried to open his eyes, he found one was swollen shut. Vision in the other was obscured by a pink haze; he blinked the blood away. The scent of copper filled his nose. He tried to get up but fell back to the floor, crying out and clutching his chest. He likely had several broken ribs. Massive bruising.

The house was quiet. Edward didn't have to look to know she was gone. He knew, but still he pulled himself up onto his hands and knees to crawl to their bedroom. He left grooves in the wood from digging in with his fingernails to pull himself up the stairs. By the bed, a lamp was toppled over, broken and flickering. Something sparkled in the uneven light. Gripping his side, he dragged himself to it. A small diamond earring. He'd given it to her on their first anniversary, back when he was a broke street-soldier.

He gripped it tightly in his fist. The post dug into his skin. The pain was minor compared to how the rest of his body felt; that, in turn, was nothing compared to his broken heart.

They took her. They took his wife. His beautiful girl.

Edward screamed. He screamed until his voice gave out. He thought he'd gotten away. He thought he'd have some peace. He just wanted a simple life with her. They-he-thought they could take that from him, steal his dreams away with his wife?

No. Fucking no. They'd made a fatal mistake, leaving Edward alive. That fucker was going to pay.

"She's mine now."

Gripping the diamond, he pulled himself hand-over-hand to the closet. He didn't look at her simple dresses hanging neatly from the bar. He ignored her few pairs of shoes. Edward reached into the far back corner and withdrew a steel lockbox containing the few remnants of his former life. With shaking hands, he dialed in the combination for the lock. It opened too easily.

Inside were several inches' worth of hundred-dollar bills, a nondescript burner cell phone, and a Glock nine-millimeter. Grasping the gun, Edward felt familiarity flow over him, like slipping on a pair of perfectly broken-in jeans. There was no more time for sadness. He had a goal now. Edward always accomplished his goals.

Edward looked at the earring. Her earring. The small, mid-grade diamond. All his love-his broken heart and vulnerability-would be held inside that diamond until he needed them again. Edward would make his weakness his strength.

He set the gun down beside him and picked up the cell phone. There was only one number programmed in.

"Whitlock."

"I need three things."

"Name 'em."

"I need a doc who won't ask questions."

"Done."

"I need guns."

The contact laughed. "You know that ain't a problem."

"And I need to know where I can find Carlisle Cullen."

"What-why?"

Edward opened his mouth to utter the one word that meant more than any other. His wife's name wouldn't come out. He made a vow: her name wouldn't pass his lips until he could see her again. It may be the last word he'll speak. It'd be worth it, if it was.

"He's taken something that belongs to me, and I intend to get it back."

XXXXX

Whitlock drove quickly but carefully down the highway. It wouldn't do to get pulled over with an armory like theirs in the trunk. His face was impassive behind his sunglasses-unnecessary in the heavy Pacific Northwest gloom-but his heart beat faster in his chest. In the seat next to him, Edward held himself stiffly, trying to keep the pressure off his ribs. His chest was wrapped in tape but the breaks would take weeks to heal completely. Edward didn't have weeks.

"Tell me what you know," Edward demanded of Whitlock.

"Not a lot. I got out just after you did. Not quite so… spectacularly, though."

Edward hmphed and winced. He wished he could take some of the many Schedule II painkillers the back-alley doctor had provided, but his mind needed to be clear. He just focused on the earring in his fist.

Whitlock sighed. "Did you really think 6,000 miles'd be enough?"

"I was hoping." Edward grimaced. "They must've gotten the drop on me-I don't remember a thing. It was probably Felix, though."

"Probably. Look, Masen, I'll help you if I can. You can have all the fucking guns you want. Cars. Contacts. I'll tell you everything I know, but…"

"I get it. It's not your fight. I take it we're seeing Jenks first?"

"Yep. He's close. Not a part of Cullen's inner circle, but he does enough jobs for him. He'll know something."

XXXXX

"Where is she?"

"I don't know!"

"Liar!" Edward drew his arm back, ignoring the biting pain in his side, and slammed his brass-knuckled fist into the side of the fat, balding man's head again. "I know you know where she is, Jenks, you fucking weasel. Tell me!"

Jenks was tied to a chair in his office's basement. Sweat shone on his face in the thin fluorescent light. His shirt was torn; his face was nearly unrecognizable, beaten and bloody. Several of his teeth lay on the floor. He was whimpering.

Edward walked to the corner where the tall blond man stood, smoking a cigarette.

"Ya mind?"

"Not at all." Edward took Whitlock's cigarette and walked back to Jenks. He held the smoke in front of Jenks' face, loosely gripped between his thumb and forefinger.

"Where is she?"

"He'll kill me!"

"Oh, Jenks," Edward said, smiling. "You think I won't?"

Edward pushed the lit cigarette into Jenks' eye.

XXXXX

Jenks had talked, of course, and Edward killed him.

Edward bandaged his knuckles as Whitlock drove east. Jenks had been unaware of the plan to take the boss's daughter back, but at least he'd known the general movements of the Organization in the past few months. Whitlock and Edward figured she might be in Chicago or Miami-if she was still in the country at all.

Likely, she'd be wherever Cullen himself was. Right now, that was Miami, according to Jenks. But first, Edward had a little business to take care of in Chicago. Business named Felix.

"Felix always wanted her."

"I know, man."

"She's mine. She might've been Cullen's once, but she's mine now."

"I know that, too."

"I took her away from all that. Me. We were making a life together."

"You'll get her back, Masen."

"Will I?"

Whitlock didn't answer. The Rocky Mountains disappeared behind them, and the expanse of the Northern Plains loomed ahead.

XXXXX

Edward ducked behind a Dumpster and watched Felix stagger, a woman on each arm, up the steps to his apartment building. He must be high-he didn't even look over his shoulder when he unlocked the door. Edward tossed up a broken-off piece of pallet-wood, catching the door before it closed. Edward waited, breath measured, for them to clear the hallway. He hurried up the stoop and slid inside the building. He knelt in front of Felix's door and withdrew a set of lockpicks from his jacket pocket. He fumbled; normally he'd just kick the door down.

Finally, the lock clicked open. Edward slowly turned the knob, letting the door swing open. The floor buzzed with waves of bass from the stereo in the corner. The two women were dancing while Felix was bent over a mirror, credit card in hand. The women noticed Edward-gun raised-just as Felix put the rolled-up hundred-dollar bill to his nose. Edward kept his gun trained on Felix and jerked his head toward the door. The women hurried out of the room.

"All right, ladies, don't be shy…" Sniffling, Felix looked up. His dilated pupils flicked back and forth, finding no ladies. Only an angry man.

"Masen."

"Felix." Edward pulled the hammer back with his thumb. "Where's my girl?"

"Long gone. How're the ribs?"

Edward jerked his hands down and to the right and pulled the trigger. Felix's kneecap exploded, and a splatter of bone, blood, and cartilage splayed across his living room wall. He collapsed, screaming and clutching his leg.

"Motherfucker! Figlio di puttana! Stronzo!"

"No need for name-calling," Edward said as he walked toward the writhing Felix. "Now. Tell me where my girl is or never walk again."

The enforcer panted and groaned as he rolled onto his back. He tried to kick at Edward, but he stepped out of the way, firing another shot. Felix's other patella joined its brother decorating the walls. He screamed.

"You'll pay for this, scarafaggio!"

"In Hell, maybe," Edward said as he knelt down next to Felix. "But nothing you or any other man here on Earth can do to me will keep me from her, until the Devil comes to take me. Now, Felix. Tell me where to find my wife, and I'll end you quickly. Stay silent, I'll call an ambulance… in a minute."

"Bastard! You bastard…" Felix gasped and panted. Tears streamed down his face. "He took her back home, back to Miami. To the compound there. He said something about a private island in the Bahamas. The one he bought Esme. That's all I know."

"You sure?"

"Yes, yes. Fuck, put a bullet in me already."

"Hmm. No, I don't think I will." Edward stood, towering over the whimpering goon. "This is for the way you used to look at her."

"No!" Edward's bullet blew away Felix's dick. Another shot destroyed Felix's cell phone. Edward strode from the room with Felix's shrieks echoing in his ears. They grew fainter as he walked out the door and back to the car Whitlock had idling.

"Miami." Edward looked in the side mirror and wiped the blood off his face. His handkerchief had a hand-embroidered E on it.

XXXXX

"You're gonna die," Whitlock said as they entered Tennessee. The sun was rising in Appalachia.

"Maybe. Probably. I won't live without her." Edward was reclining in his seat, waking from a nap. His dreams were full of brown eyes, brown hair, and red blood.

"So she has to live without you?"

"She's stronger than me. Always has been. She's the one who had the balls to run in the first place."

"You could use some help, Masen." Whitlock glanced over at Edward. He was looking out the window. The green here reminded him of his new home in Forks. It was a bluish green.

"I burned those bridges, man."

"Well… there are a few. A few who burned those same bridges."

"Like you?" Edward turned his head to stare at his erstwhile best friend.

"Not exactly like me. But-beggars, choosers. We need to stop in NOLA."

"How long? Time isn't a luxury I have."

"Few hours." Whitlock was already pulling out his cell phone and steering with his knee.

"Jesus! Pull over, man. My suicide mission is pointless if you fucking kill me first."

"Carmen? Pequeña o peque, it's good to hear your voice. What would you say to a chance to get Cullen? Of course. We'll be there in… eight hours. Get everyone together."

"I owe you."

"Yeah, you do." Whitlock was pulling off the highway. He gestured to the golden arches glowing in the distance, marking safe passage for all pilgrims. "Buy me breakfast."

"Done."

XXXXX

Whitlock's nondescript sedan crawled through the streets of New Orleans. Revelers were already out in huge quantities, drunk or high or both, enjoying the lack of accountability. The two men passed through the French Quarter to a run-down old colonial on the edge of the tourist zone. Whitlock knocked-rap-rap, rap-rap, rap-rap-rap-on the door. The sun setting behind them cast long shadows when the door opened. A small Hispanic woman greeted Whitlock enthusiastically in Spanish. Edward recognized her, vaguely, as being a forger and a fence. When she turned to invite them in, he noticed the gentle swell of her belly. He felt a pang in his chest that had nothing to do with his broken ribs. Would he ever have that?

Lounging around the parlor were a number of men and women. Some Edward knew; others were strangers. Foremost was Laurent, a Creole heroin dealer, sprawled out on a fainting couch. They nodded at each other.

"We ain't got a lotta time," Whitlock said. "I'm Jasper Whitlock, and this here's Edward Masen. Maybe y'all have heard of him."

There were a few murmurs in the gathered company. Edward stepped forward.

"Yes. I'm the one who spirited Carlisle Cullen's daughter away. She's my wife," he said and held up his left hand. The dim, moody light from red-shaded sconces glinted off his simple gold band. His eyes were fervent. Burning and intense. "I know some of your complaints with Cullen. Others not. I don't care. We all have our reasons. I only care that they work toward my goal. Come with me, stay here-tomorrow I head for Miami and what's mine."

The room was quiet as the criminals absorbed Edward's speech. Laurent was the first to speak, his Haitian-French lilt rolling like a Gulf wave.

"I am with you, Masen. To Cullen's compound, and perhaps death. I am sick of waiting for him here to come for me."

Carmen's husband spoke next. "I cannot leave-I think we all agree that likely, I won't come back. But Cullen must pay for what his man did to Carmen. He must." He wrapped Carmen tightly in his arms, his hands resting on her belly.

"Felix is twelve hours dead, Eleazar," Edward said. "I shot his balls off for looking at-looking at my wife the way he used to look at Carmen."

"Que Dios le bendiga, Edward." Eleazar's voice was quiet, reverent. "For sending that pendejo to Hell, I owe you my life. My son's life. Whatever help is in my power to give, it is given."

"My name is Mary. Do you remember me, Masen?" came from a petite, ginger-haired girl. Woman. Girl. It was hard to tell.

Edward shook his head as he tried to remember.

"I was living with Garrett."

"Oh. Oh…" Edward didn't know what to say. How did he apologize for doing his job? He did what he had to do. At the time.

"You put him in the hospital."

"Yeah… I…" Edward rubbed the back of his neck.

"He's still in the hospital."

"Shit. Look, I'm sorry, but-"

"You saved his life, you saved our relationship. Thank you."

"I broke both his legs with an aluminum baseball bat."

"And now he can't gamble everything we both make on the riverboats, at the track-at fucking jai alai. When he's done with PT, we can start over-if I can erase his debt to Cullen."

Edward nodded at Mary.

"My name is Siobhan." Another redheaded woman spoke up, this one tall and imperious. She stood and walked over to Edward, looking him directly in the eye. "My sister's name was Maggie."

"I know who she is. Was." Edward kept his face as expressionless as possible, but the stress of the situation tingled in his palm. He wanted his gun. He settled for reaching into his pocket and gripping her earring.

"Yes. Cullen took her for one of his whores, used her, hooked her on drugs, and tossed her aside like garbage," she spat. "She killed herself. Our priest wouldn't perform the Last Rites. My sister was a good girl, but now she burns. I'll be a bad girl and help you and burn with her." She walked back to her chair and sat, back straight and arms folded in her lap.

"Well… all right then," Edward said.

"As much as I hate to interrupt this charming oh-captain-my-captain moment you have going on," came a voice from the stairs, "not everyone has been introduced." The man stood and walked down the last few steps and into the room.

"My name is Alistair."

Edward took a deep breath. "You're… you're Cullen's cousin."

"Yes," he said, smiling. "And by extension, Bell-"

Before he could finish, Edward had Alistair pressed up against the parlor wall, his forearm against his throat. He was trembling as he spoke.

"You will not say her name. No one here will say her name." He'd made a vow. No one, for any reason, would endanger the surety of its magic. Edward drew his gun from his waistband behind his back and pressed it against Alistair's forehead. Adrenaline and anger made him strong and freed him from pain.

"Is that understood?" he asked slowly, emphasizing each word. Alistair could only choke out a few gasping breaths, so Edward let him down. He lowered his gun but did not replace it in his waistband. His finger was still on the trigger.

"Everyone knows you've been shunned, but no one knows why. I want to know why you're here, why you think I should trust you to have my back."

"Oh, just the usual family shit." Alistair's voice was raspy. He rubbed his throat. "The Irish black sheep, you know how it is. And you don't have to worry about me having your back, because there's no fucking way in hell I'm coming with you. I don't give a shit about-about your principessa caduta, but if there's even a chance Dear Cuz will be taken down… Well, I'll help any way I can." He chuckled and sat on the end of the chaise, shoving Laurent's feet off to do so. He took a long draught from a silver flask and replaced it in his pocket. "Fuck, there's a good chance you'll all be killed, so what's the harm in telling you what I know?"

Edward looked around the room. He met the eyes of each member of their little coup, as it were. Each was united by one thing: their hatred of Carlisle Cullen.

"Let's get to work."

XXXXX

"How many of you can shoot a gun?"

Around the room, everyone raised their hand.

"Okay," Edward nodded. "Stupid question. How many of you are good shots?"

Eleazar, Alistair, Laurent, and Siobhan raised their hands. Two, only two. Edward rubbed his eyes.

"Why don't we all sit down? The dining room? Carmen, amada, something to eat for our friends?" Eleazar leaned down and kissed his wife on the cheek, murmured in her ear, and smiled. Edward had to look away.

He settled himself at the head of the table, and the various criminals took their seats: Eleazar to Edward's left, Whitlock to his right, Alistair at the other end.

"You'll need this," Mary said, sliding a piece of white plastic the size of a credit card across the table. Edward caught it. A security passkey. "It's for the compound in Miami. Carmen will be able to make you copies, if you need 'em."

Edward slipped it into his pocket with his most valuable possession-a piece representing the whole.

"If Cullen gets wind of this…" Whitlock sighed. "He'll hide her so far down that rabbit hole, you'll never find her."

"Which is why we leave tonight. No delay." Edward made eye contact with Eleazar then flicked his eyes around the table. Eleazar nodded.

"I don't think he'll take her to Miami, or not keep her there." Alistair leaned his chair back onto two legs and scratched his shoulder. He stretched.

Edward didn't have time for his bullshit. "Where do you think he'll take her?"

"That island. It's basically a fortress, a fucking island fortress. And I just happen to have the coordinates… and the alarm code."

"Write them down."

Alistair smirked and withdrew a folded piece of paper from his shirt pocket, held between his first two fingers. He handed it to Siobhan, and the note was passed, grade-school-style, down the table. Edward stared at the paper, willing himself to memorize the two neat rows of digits. He carefully tore off the dangling edges where Alistair had torn the paper out of a notebook.

"Here, everyone eat up." Carmen placed a platter of food in the center of the table as well as a stack of plates. The aroma of cumin and coriander made Edward's stomach growl.

Over tamales, the group of criminals strategized how best to take down the boss.

XXXXX

"Here, my friend," Eleazar said as they were about to depart. He gestured to a car covered in a sheet. He and Edward were in the detached garage behind the house. There were a number of impressive cars here, and Edward was excited to see what would be worth protecting from sight. Eleazar pulled the sheet off with a flourish.

"What the fuck? It's a Volvo."

". A Volvo. I was saving it for school runs with el niño. It's yours."

"I, uh, I appreciate it, Eleazar, but I need something fast…"

"Edward. You know me. Of course I've tricked it." Eleazar laughed. "It's very fast. I will keep the others here. They will not betray you. Vaya con Dios, Edward." Eleazar clapped Edward on the back, and they hugged roughly.

"If I do not see you again…"

Edward nodded. He got in the car and pulled it around to the front of the house, where Siobhan was waiting. Whitlock, with Laurent, tailed him all the way to Miami.

XXXXX

Edward looked down at the compound through his binoculars. Even with Siobhan driving most of the way, he was exhausted. He'd climbed a tree to see over the white stucco walls surrounding the hacienda-style mansion. The Cullen crest was easily visible on the wrought-iron gate. A lion rearing over arrows. Pride and aggression.

Edward's fatigue fled from him. A gush of nervous energy trembled down his limbs and settled into the deadly calm of a man with a purpose.

He jumped down from the tree next to where Whitlock was waiting.

"She's not there, is she?"

"I asked a few maids, and nah. Their opinions didn't change when introduced to Mr. Benjamin, neither."

"Motherfucker!" Edward strode over to Eleazar's shiny Volvo and leaned down on the hood. He breathed deeply but only grew angrier. He punched the trunk.

"Masen… Masen!"

Again and again, smearing blood on the silver paint, until Whitlock grabbed his arm.

"Edward! Jesus, man, that's your gun hand!"

Edward was panting, gasping for breath, holding his bloodied fist in his hand and cradling both against his chest. Whitlock grabbed Edward's hand and examined it.

"Don't think you broke anything. You need to get that temper under control-"

"No. No, I don't. How much C4 you got in the trunk?"

"Couple pounds."

"Hm. Not enough… Cullen's yacht is missing." Edward withdrew the keycard from his pocket and broke it in half and half again. He tossed the pieces to the ground. "Call your old cartel contacts. We need the fastest boat you can get your hands on. But first… first I'm gonna burn that fucking place to the ground."

XXXXX

With the boss gone, security was lax. It was too easy to get a hired van through the gates. He gave the driver ten minutes to get out and then triggered the remote detonator. Laughing, he watched as a couple hundred dollars' worth of fertilizer and diesel fuel destroyed a multimillion-dollar mansion. The fireball in the Miami twilight was spectacular. Edward could feel the heat on his face.

"You get that boat?" he asked Whitlock next to him. He was still chuckling.

"Yeah. It's waiting."

"I feel a little better now."

"You killed a lotta people."

"Yeah. Let's go."

XXXXX

The speedboat was long, sleek, and black. From a distance, its low, curved shape would be barely distinguishable from the waves in the gloaming-light. Instead of cocaine, the hold carried a number of weapons with which the trio would attack Cullen's private island.

Edward jumped in the boat and stood at the tiller. He turned to wave at Whitlock and found him standing on the dock, a mooring line in his hand.

"Aw, fuck it. I've come this far." Whitlock tossed the line to the side and jumped aboard.

"You don't have to do this," Edward said.

"Can't let you go alone. Let's get this over with."

Edward nodded. "Get below with Siobhan and Laurent."

"Aye-aye, cap'n," Whitlock said drily with a mock salute. After he'd ducked down into the hold, Edward punched Alistair's coordinates into the GPS.

"Gallows humor," he muttered and turned the key. With the throttle all the way down, he'd be an hour or so away from getting her back.

XXXXX

As Edward crossed the ocean, he thought of his girl. How they met. How they fell in love-sidelong glances and stolen kisses-and how she suggested they run away together.

Their first time making love. Her first time, period.

The sun sat fully, finally, behind Edward as he raced into the deepening night with his head full of memories and a furious heart.

He was going to get her back. Or die in the attempt.

XXXXX

Edward cut the engine when he saw the lights of a house twinkling in the distance. The boat's engine was loud. He'd idle it in as far as he could go, drift, then wade.

The sea was calm, and the shallow-draft boat rocked gently on the swells. Whitlock came abovedeck and nodded to Edward in the gloom. Laurent and Siobhan followed while Whitlock dropped anchor. Edward took a knee and withdrew the map one of Whitlock's bribed maids drew.

"Just like we discussed," Edward said. He clicked on a flashlight and pointed out different entrances to the house. "Laurent, there'll be armed guards outside, patrolling. You and Whitlock take the rifles and clear a path. Then get my back while Siobhan and I take the house. Whoever's first, 6017 on the alarm to turn off all the Fort Knox shit. I'm counting on you to take the dock." He pointed at Whitlock and Laurent.

"Steal one of Cullen's boats to head back to the mainland, even if-especially if-I don't make it out. If I don't get Cullen, get out. Understood?"

Edward looked around the circle and nodded at each of his companions. He looked at Whitlock last. "Understood, brother?"

"Yeah."

"All right. Let's go."

One by one, the would-be rescue party slipped over the side and into the bathwater-warm ocean. With their weapons held over their heads, they waded up the beach toward the house. It glimmered grey-white like a pearl in the tropical moonlight.

XXXXX

Edward heard gunfire in the distance. He'd separated from Siobhan a moment ago as they swept the house. Three guards had his bullets in them, as well as several house staff. Edward had stepped over five bodies tonight, and more were to come.

He ran up the stairs with his gun raised. Guest bedrooms, all empty. Where was she? Had Cullen sent her even farther away? He had houses all over the world, and access to more. Switzerland, Italy, fucking Tahiti.

It didn't matter. Edward would find her. Wherever she was, he would get her back. And Edward would kill Cullen for taking what was his.

Finally, he saw light coming from under a door at the end of the hall. He ran forward, busting the door open with his shoulder, and stepped into the room.

There she was. Sitting on the edge of the bed was Edward's girl. His wife. When she looked up at him the cold, hollow place his heart used to be flooded full again. He dropped his arm but still kept a hold on his gun and rushed toward her. He fell to his knees by the bed and threw his arms around her.

"Bella," he whispered. The word was joy. He buried his nose in her hair and kept whispering her name. "Bella. Bella, Bella, my girl."

She smelled so damned good, just like she always did. Bella felt soft and so, so small in his arms; her presence was the perfect salve for his body's many wounds. Edward didn't feel broken anymore. He had her now, and he'd never let her go.

"My girl. I've got you. I'm going to take you home."

Edward pulled back to look at her-and to kiss her, finally. His Bella. She looked pale and very tired. Her eyes were red. Bella had been crying.

"Bella?"

She put her hand on his cheek. "I'm sorry, baby."

"Hello, Edward," came a cold voice from behind Edward's back. He heard the click of a gun cocking.

XXXXX

Edward stiffened. Bella looked down as her lip started to tremble. With the way he was holding Bella-and his broken ribs-there was no way Edward could get a shot off first.

Cullen chuckled. "I know what you're thinking. Slowly, raise the gun over your head. Do it now."

Edward had to comply. Cullen pulled the gun from Edward's hand.

"Turn around. I want to look at you, you little shit."

Edward shuffled and turned to sit on the bed next to his wife. If he was going to die anyway, he wasn't going to waste another moment out of contact with Bella. He wrapped his arm around her.

"Aw, how sweet." Carlisle Cullen had always been a distant, calculating man, but now his entire manner radiated pure cruelty. His face was hard and closed. Edward knew the look in Cullen's eyes. It was the same look in his own: hate.

"I bet you think this is all very Romeo and Juliet, don't you? Going out together, blaze of glory?"

"I just wanted what's mine," Edward said. He was eyeing Cullen's gun, which was trained on his forehead. Cullen had Edward's gun in his other hand. "She was happy with me. Is happy with me."

"It's not about her happiness!" Cullen shouted. "It's about my pride!"

"So you'll kill us both over your pride?" Bella's voice was quiet but clear.

"No, sweetheart. I'll kill him and make you watch."

Bella wasn't surprised by this. Neither was Edward. He glanced at the door.

"Hah, I don't think you can count on your friends this time, motherfucker. I haven't heard any shots in a while, have you?"

No, he hadn't. Edward tightened his grip on Bella for a moment and released her to put some distance between them, protecting her as best he could.

"I love you, Bella."

"No! No, Daddy, please… Let me say goodbye? Please?"

When Cullen nodded, Bella turned to face Edward. Only then did he notice her unadorned ears, one red and a little torn.

"I have your earring," he said. "It's in my pocket. Please take it when… when I'm gone."

"Edward, baby, please, just look in my eyes."

"Tick-tock," Cullen said.

"Okay, okay! Edward…" When he met her eyes, he was shocked. Yes, there was sadness and definitely fear. But more than either of those was determination. Edward had seen this exact expression before. This is how Bella looked the night she told him she wanted to run away together.

"I love you, too." She leaned in, as if to kiss him goodbye. Her hand rested on his chest just above the wet part of his t-shirt. Out of the corner of his eye, Edward saw Bella's hand creeping under the bedsheets behind him.

Bella shoved him, hard, and he fell back. A flash of shiny silver metal caught his eye.

Bang.

Bang-bang.

THE END

AN: Thank you to Sara and Cris, who pre-read this for me when I wasn't sure if it was worth pursuing. HollettLA took care of the beta-validation for the contest, so thanks to her as well. BeatrizHoya corrected my middle-school Spanish and JMDarhower supplemented my inventory of Italian curses. Gracias, Grazie.