Author's Note: Thanks for checking out my new story! The one-shot "Instant Karma" is a prequel of sorts for this story, covering Bella's back story. It can be considered a spoiler, as her background is revealed a piece at a time throughout this story, but feel free to read it if you like to be spoiled. If you don't wish to be spoiled, I will let you know when it's safe to read "Instant Karma."

Moosals is my pre-reader again, and has been along for the ride since the day I first e-mailed her my plot bunny idea!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"How about I come down to the lake and take you out to dinner this weekend for your birthday?" my father's voice comes through the computer.

"Dad, I really don't feel like going out," I reply with an exasperated sigh.

"You never feel like doing anything, Bells."

"Don't start, Dad." I love my father. I do. But every week, it's the same argument.

"Look, Bells, you're 30 years old now. You are wasting your life living by yourself in the middle of nowhere. You don't see anyone, you don't do anything… I worry about you."

"I'm fine, Dad. And I do something — you know I'm writing for an online blog."

"I just wish you'd go back into society. If not Seattle, you can come back to Forks. Dr. Gerandy from the animal hospital is going to be retiring in a few months. Please, Bella, just promise me that you'll think about it," my dad implores.

"Fine," I sigh. "I'll think about it." For two seconds.

Suddenly, I hear a loud pounding at my front door. My head turns toward the noise, while Leo, my very furry orange tabby cat, jumps from my lap to go hide underneath the kitchen table. Wimp.

"Is that someone at the door?" Dad asks, hearing the noise easily via our Skype connection.

"Yeah. Probably just UPS or something. Mom said she was shipping my birthday gift. Let me sign off and get that. I'll talk to you next week, all right?"

"All right, goodbye, Isabella. And think about what I said."

Closing the connection, I roll my eyes at my dad's badgering. I'm just not ready to face the world again. I don't know if I ever will be.

The pounding starts again as I unlock all of the deadbolts that my dad, ever the vigilant cop, installed on the door after I moved in here. "Just a second," I call.

Once I finally get the door open, I'm shocked when a tall figure rushes into the house. The only thing I register is that he's wearing an orange jumpsuit — like you see prisoners wear in cop shows on TV.

"Close the fucking door," he yells. Without thinking, I slam the door shut and turn around to inspect the intruder. The staring contest that we now seem to be in gives me ample opportunity to study him. He's tall — definitely over 6-foot — and lean, with a head of messy reddish-brown hair on top of his head.

And if the orange jumpsuit didn't give it away, the fact that his hands are handcuffed together and he's holding a gun would be enough to tell anyone that this guy is bad news.

I'm too shocked to scream, too shocked to do anything but stare at him. When he finally moves, I hear myself give an involuntary yelp. Fuck, where is my purse? I swear my dad gives me a new can of pepper spray every time he sees me, but I always keep it in my purse.

It takes me a moment to register what the prisoner is doing — he's closing all of the window blinds.

"Please don't hurt me," I utter meekly.

"I'm not here to hurt you," he replies shortly. "I need you to help me get these handcuffs off and find me some less conspicuous clothes, then I'll be out of your hair."

I just stare at him. He wants me to help him escape from prison? Well, I guess he already did that, but still, he wants to make me some kind of accessory?

"I promise," he adds, when I don't reply.

I swallow hard before speaking. "Do you have the key for the handcuffs?"

"If I did, I wouldn't need your help," he replies, rolling his eyes.

"Um, am I supposed to know how to remove them without a key?"

"No," he snorts, "I guess not. You look like a good girl — not the type who likes to get kinky in the bedroom with a pair of handcuffs."

Embarrassed by his correct assumption, I slowly walk toward the kitchen, keeping one eye on him. "Um, my dad might have like a hacksaw or wire cutters or something, from when he used to come down here fishing."

"Stop looking at me like that."

I stop abruptly. "Like—like what?" I stutter.

"Like I'm gonna hurt you. I've never hurt a woman. As long as you don't try anything, I won't lay a finger on you."

"O—ok," I reply as he follows me into the kitchen. There is a box of my dad's tools on the bottom of one of the cabinets. I almost never go in there, so I'm not really sure what I'll find.

"You escaped from Stafford Creek?" I ask in a pointless bid to make conversation while I search through the box. Stafford Creek is a state prison located out on State Route 105. It's about 10 miles from here though, so he's come a long way if that's where he escaped from.

"Not quite."

He doesn't elaborate and I wonder what on earth that is supposed to mean.

"I'm not guilty," he says quietly. "I was tried and convicted for something I didn't do."

"Wouldn't anyone say that?"

"Probably, but I'm not lying to you."

"Ok," I reply as I finally find a hacksaw buried in the box.

"That?" he scoffs. "You might be able to cut through the chain with that, but you'll never be able to cut through the cuffs."

"It's a start, isn't it? At least your hands will be separated."

"Fine. Whatever," he replies as he takes a seat on one of my kitchen chairs. I'm shocked to see Leo slink out from under the table to sniff at his leg and shoe. Leo hates strangers and usually hides under my bed whenever there's another human being in the house.

I am just about to pull out the chair next to the prisoner when I hear another knock at the front door. Both of us freeze in place, just staring at one another.

"Is anyone home?" a muffled voice calls through the door. "It's the police."

"Fuck," he whispers, staring at me. The look on his face is one of unbridled panic. And in that moment, he reminds me so much of myself on the day my life changed forever. The day I'd give anything to take back. It's too late for me, but it's not too late for him. He still has a chance to live.

Standing quickly, I urge him to stand up. "Go hide in the bathroom," I whisper, pointing out the room. "I'll get rid of them."

He walks to the bathroom, but then stops, looking at me skeptically. "How do I know you're not gonna turn me in?"

"You don't, I guess," I shrug. "But I won't. I—I believe you." I'd never tell him, but I also trust my cat's instincts.

As he moves behind the bathroom door, I take a deep breath and blow it out slowly. I can do this. I've lied before, after all. But look what that cost you, Bella.

"Good evening, officers," I say with a forced smile as I open the front door. "I'm sorry it took me so long to get to the door; I was in the bathroom," I lie smoothly. "Is there something I can help you with?"

"Ma'am, a bus carrying new inmates to Stafford Creek ran off the road about a mile from here. One of the men escaped. Have you seen or heard anything unusual this afternoon?"

So that's what he meant by "not quite."

"No, I—I haven't. Should I be concerned?"

"Yes, Ma'am," the officer replies. "This man should be considered armed and dangerous. Lock your doors and windows, and if you see anything suspicious, call 9-1-1 immediately."

"Of—of course. Thank you for letting me know."

"Have a good evening, Ma'am," he says as he turns to leave.

"I hope you catch him," I call after the officer before closing and locking the door. I remain standing there, breathing deeply again. When I finally turn around, I'm startled to see the prisoner right in front of me. I hadn't really studied his face until now. His eyes are a startling green, staring into mine. And my God, he's is a good looking young man.

"I hope you catch him," he parrots.

I shrug. "It sounded like something I should say?"

He makes a face, shaking his head, then holds up his bound hands, still holding the gun in his right one. "The handcuffs?"

"Right, come on," I reply, motioning him back to my small kitchen. He sits heavily on the chair, holding his hands out to me.

"Um, could you maybe not be pointing the gun at me as I'm trying to do this?" When he doesn't move, I continue, "I won't pick it up and use it against you. If I wanted to do something like that, I would've told the cop where you were."

"Fine," he sighs, gingerly setting the gun on the table. "Do you know how to handle that if you did pick it up?" he asks, nodding toward the gun.

"Um, yeah, I do. My dad is Chief of Police up in Forks."

His eyes widen but he only moves to hold his hands out again. I begin sliding the hacksaw back and forth over the chain separating the two cuffs, pushing down as hard as I can. No one is more surprised than me when the chain finally snaps.

"Fucking finally," he sighs, stretching his now-separated arms out in front of him. "We're not done yet though."

Glancing down, I notice for the first time a dark stain on the left side of his stomach, just above his waist — blood.

"Oh my God," I gasp, "Have you been shot?"

"Yeah, a fucking guard got me as I was running off. It's not bad."

"Not bad," I repeat. "It's a gunshot wound. Let me look at it."

"Are you a doctor?"

"Not exactly," I reply.

"A nurse?"

I shake my head. "I'm a veterinarian."

He stares at me, mouth gaping. "So you know how to treat a gunshot wound?" he finally asks.

"Well, not really. I did once. A kid was playing with his dad's gun and accidentally shot the family dog," I explain. "Just let me see it."

"I think you just want to see me half-naked," he replies with a smirk and a wink, as he starts unbuttoning the prison-issue jumpsuit.

As he shrugs the oh-so-attractive garment off his shoulders, my eyes widen as the colorful ink adorning his chest and arms is revealed to me. I can't help staring at the images, wondering what each of them means.

When he is finally naked to the waist, I shake myself out of my stupor and try to concentrate on his wound. There is far too much blood to really see anything, so I quickly run to the bathroom and get a washcloth, holding it under the faucet.

As I wipe the blood away, I see the exit hole near his side. Almost missed him. "Turn for me," I direct quietly. I almost miss it in the mass of colors, but there is another smaller hole in his back — entrance wound.

"Well, the good news," I explain, "Is that you don't have a piece of metal inside you. The bullet went right though."

"So I'm fine," he replies with a shrug.

"Not so fast… who knows what the bullet may have hit. You could have internal bleeding, or it could've damaged some of your internal organs."

"If it hit anything important, I wouldn't have been able to run a mile over here. Just put a bandage on it and I'll be fine."

I don't feel like arguing with him, so I go back to the bathroom for my first aid kit. Leo stands at the door watching me, then decides to follow me back into the kitchen, planting himself next to the prisoner's feet again.

Luckily, the hole in his back is small enough that just a large band-aid will cover it. I have to tape a bandage over the larger hole in his stomach.

"You can put your clothes back on now," I say when I'm finished.

"I'm good like this," he smirks. "It's warm in here with that fire burning in the fireplace."

It actually is rather warm in here, but I'm not sure it's from the fire.

"Do you have a cigarette?"

"What? No, I don't smoke."

"Of course you don't," he mumbles. "I shouldn't be surprised."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I ask, my eyes narrowed.

"Nothing, Good Girl."

And that reminds me.

"Look," I begin, "I really have no idea how to open handcuffs without a key. I have internet on my computer. Why don't you Google it or something while I make dinner?"

"Yeah, all right," he agrees, standing and picking up the gun. As he turns to walk over to the PC in my living room, I notice that his back is a little less colorful than his front, with only a large set of wings on the top of his back to go with the swirls of color that wrap around from his front near where he was shot. I've never really thought of ink as attractive before, but on this man, it is.

Tomorrow is my usual grocery shopping day, so it's kind of slim pickings for something I can make the two of us for dinner.

The two of us. I'm not used to cooking for two. I haven't cooked for two since…

No. I can't continue with that thought. The last thing I need is some sort of breakdown right now.

As I look through the cabinet that functions as my pantry, I finally give up on the idea of cooking something exciting and just grab a box of spaghetti and a jar of pasta sauce. Everyone likes spaghetti.

After placing a pot of water on the stove to boil and pouring the sauce into a small saucepan, I go check on my "guest" in the living room.

"Find anything?" I ask, startled to see Leo curled up on the computer desk watching him. The gun is lying across his lap.

"Yeah, we need bobby pins. That's what all the articles say. There are even demonstration videos on YouTube."

I scrunch my nose. "Um, I don't think I have any bobby pins. I usually just pull my hair back in a ponytail. I'll go check in the bathroom though."

I spend a minute or so digging through my container of beauty supplies, but just as I suspected, no bobby pins, only ponytail holders.

"Sorry, I definitely don't have any," I report as I rejoin him in the living room. "I can get some tomorrow though."


"Yeah, it's my shopping day. I'll pick some up at Walmart, along with some clothes for you like you wanted, then you can be on your way." I know he said he won't hurt me, but I just want him gone.

"Why can't you just go get them now?" he asks with a frown. "Isn't Walmart usually open 24 hours?"

"Walmart is three miles away," I respond.

"So what?"

"I don't drive," I explain. "A… a friend, I guess, will drive me to the store tomorrow, like she always does on Friday mornings."

"What the hell kind of American adult doesn't know how to drive?"

"I didn't say I don't know how. I said I don't drive." Please, please, let him just accept that and not ask any more questions.

"Um, the water is probably boiling," I add, rushing back to the kitchen before he can say anything else. I dump the spaghetti I'd measured out earlier into the boiling water, then set the timer on the ancient stove.

"What are we having?" his voice asks from directly behind me, startling me.

"Um, just spaghetti." I give the sauce a stir before turning around. "Sorry it's not more exciting. I really need to do some grocery shopping tomorrow."

"It's fine," he shrugs. "Better than prison food."

"Have—have you been in jail for a while?" I ask nosily.

"I was out on bail most of the time before my trial. I've been at the Washington Corrections Center up in Shelton for about a month though."

"The cop said the bus transferring inmates to Stafford Creek ran off the road?"

"Yeah," he nods. "Swerved to avoid hitting a deer or something. Ran off the road and into a tree. In the chaos, I elbowed one of the guards in the face and grabbed his gun, then took off."

I stare at him, mouth agape.

"Don't look at me like that. I can't spend the next 25 years of my life in prison for something I didn't do."

"Ok, fine," I reply, holding up my hands in a gesture of surrender. "What would you like to drink?"

"A beer," he answers quickly.

"I, um, don't have any alcohol." I turn and dig through my fridge. "I can offer you Pepsi or water, or… well, about two sips of orange juice."

"The pop is fine."

I pour each of us a glass then turn back to our meal, stirring the spaghetti and sauce. I can feel his eyes watching me but I don't turn around. I need to avoid staring at his naked chest.

When the timer goes off, I quickly prepare two plates and carry them to the table. We eat in silence for several minutes before he finally speaks.

"So why don't you drive?"

"None of your business," I answer quickly.

"Have you tried?"

"Recently? No. I tried earlier this summer," I admit.

"And what happened?"

"Can we not talk about this?" I reply, quickly standing up to rinse off my plate.

"Fine," he sighs. "Could you put the fire out?"

"What?" I ask, spinning around to face him.

"In the fireplace. Could you put it out? It's hot in here."

My nose wrinkles. "It's not that hot." I notice beads of sweat on his brow and walk over to the table, laying the palm of my hand on his forehead.

"What are you doing?" he asks, trying to bat my hand away.

"You have a fever. It's probably from your wound. I told you that needed to be cleaned out."

"I'm fine."

"No, you're not. Let me try to look at it."

"You're a vet, not a doctor," he scoffs.

"Well, unless you plan to turn yourself in, you're not going to get a doctor."

"Forget it," he says, standing up from the table. "I wish you had a fucking beer."

Shaking my head, I grab his plate and begin washing our dishes. After using the bathroom, he plants himself on my couch and picks up the remote control.

I spoon some canned food out for Leo, then spend as much time as possible cleaning everything in the kitchen before I finally make my way into the living room. He glances up at me, and I notice he seems to be looking worse. His face is so pale.

"Ready to let me look at it yet?" I ask snarkily.


"What's your name?" I ask, sitting on the far end of the couch from where he's slouched.

"Edward. You?"



"Do you know how many times I've heard that cheesy line in my life?" I snort.

"Does it work?" he asks with a grin.

"No, it doesn't."

We sit and watch a movie on HBO, Leo curled up in my lap, before Edward gets up and walks back into the bathroom. It's getting late, and Mrs. Cope will be over by 9am, so I decide to grab some extra blankets from my bedroom and start making Edward a bed on the couch.

Spotting the gun sitting near the corner of the couch, I reach for it, but then stop, pulling my long sleeve down over my hand. I pick it up with the sleeve so that I don't leave fingerprints, hiding it in my jewelry box on top of my dresser. I'm searching the top of my closet for an extra pillow when I hear the bathroom door open and Edward appears in the bedroom doorway.

"I don't… feel so good," he says quietly. I look over at him and gasp. He's now deathly pale and sweating profusely.

I quickly move from the closet and reach an arm around him to try and prop him up. "Let's get you back to the couch."

Edward takes one step and falls to his knees, looking up at me with a heartbreaking expression. "I… can't…"

Shit. "All right, change of plans — can you get to the bed?" He's no more than five feet from the end of my bed.

Crawling on his knees, Edward reaches the bed, and I help him to stand up enough that he can sit on the edge.

"Am I gonna die?" he asks as I help him lie down.

"Not if I can help it. I wish you would've let me look at your wound more earlier," I admonish.

"Yeah, yeah… just like a woman to always have to be right."

I help him to arrange himself with his head on my pillow then begin taking his shoes off. "You'd better not bleed on my bed," I warn before I start tugging the ugly orange jumpsuit down his hips.

"Trying to have your way with me?" he asks with one eye closed.

"You wish. I'm trying to make you comfortable."

"Thank you," he says quietly, reaching out to grab my hand.

Nodding, I give him a small smile. "I'll pick up some things tomorrow to try and fix you up, all right?"

"You won't turn me in?"

"I told you I won't. I'll pick up whatever you need so you can leave. Just try to rest now. I'll be back with a cool washcloth for your forehead."

When Edward closes his eyes, I dart into the bathroom. He's out cold by the time I return to him. I do my best to place a towel underneath him, in case his wounds start bleeding. Gently, I rub the washcloth over his face and chest, trying to cool him down. He can't die here in my bed — how the hell would I ever explain that?

I grab my first aid kit from the kitchen, looking for anything that might be useful, but there really isn't much. After confirming his temperature with my thermometer, I find a small bottle of rubbing alcohol that might kill some of the likely infection in his wound.

Carefully removing the bandage on his stomach, I pour a little bit of the alcohol into the wound, thankful that Edward is pretty much passed out — or he'd be yelping in pain right about now. Adding a clean bandage, I pull the covers over his nearly naked body, find myself some pajamas and turn out the bedroom light.

Guess I'll be sleeping on the couch tonight.

A/N: This Edward has been nicknamed Cheekyward by moosals and me. What do you think of him so far? The book cover is how I picture him.

For "Oh Brother" readers, most of the chapters in the first half of the story are longer than what you may be used to seeing from me, before reverting back to my typical 2,500-word chapters for most of the second half.

Note to readers afraid of a WIP: this story is entirely prewritten, except for the Epilogue, so postings will be regular.

I will be unable to reply to any reviews on Tuesday or Wednesday, but I'll get to them!