AN: Reviews are lovely and thank you for reading!
A giant thank you to mauigirl60 for her beta magic!
Isabella typed away on her article about innovations in horse breeding. Mama Esme's kitchen table was covered in notes and books about animal fornication. It was surprisingly dry information.
"Honey, I still need to get lunch on the table," Mama Esme scolded sweetly."Not that I don't love your company, but why aren't you at the office?"
Isabella gave a tiny grin. "James won't stop teasing Jessica. Alice is blasting loud rap music and trying to write an article. Also, Dr. Matthews is stopping in every two seconds trying to give me more breeding articles."
Mama Esme snorted. "Bella, that man wants to get breedin' into your purty head, so maybe he can get to breedin' with you."
"Please don't say that! Edward is jealous enough as it is!"
That truth was as plain as day. Edward was finding reasons to come in and hover over Isabella. There was a new veterinarian in town named Garrett Matthews who was trying to convince the farmers in the area to use the newest techniques to breed their livestock. What had first been the handsome doctor's attempt to help contribute to an article was now an attempt to woo one of the newest females in town. Edward was not impressed.
"Aww honey, it's good for my boy. He's too sure of himself. Eddie needs to woo you more." Mama Esme winked at the girl she expected to become her future daughter-in-law. "He loves you."
"I love him." Bella blushed.
"Then everything will be comin' up roses." Mama Esme grabbed a tray. "It's a beautiful day. Let's eat outside on the porch."
Isabella hopped up and started grabbing sandwich fixings from the fridge, when the back door opened, banging into the wall. It made her jump.
"Carl, watch my woodwork!" Mama Esme scolded.
"That no-good, goddamned son of a bitch!" Carl cursed loudly. He was followed by his solemn sons.
His wife put her hands on his hips and glared. "If you think I won't wash your mouth out with soap, Carl, you'd be sadly mistaken."
Edward came up to Isabella and wrapped his arms around her. "Hey, darlin'."
He kissed her hard.
"What's wrong, Edward?" She stroked his face.
He nuzzled into her neck, the chill from the open refrigerator making her shiver in his arms. Edward tightened his hold. "It hasn't been the best day, honey."
Emmett grabbed a slice of chicken off a platter. "Mama, give Daddy a break. Aro has been causin' trouble again."
"Mr. Volturi from the bank?" Mama Esme asked, wiping her hands on her apron. "What bee got into his bonnet?"
Jasper sat down at the table heavily. "He's foreclosing on the Harris ranch."
"They've paid their mortgage on time, even when that son of a bitch raised it!" Carl raged. He was usually such a calm and soft-spoken man. "The bastard wants to put up a damned Walmart!"
"He can't do that can he?" Mama Esme fretted. "If he can do that to Carol and Joe, what's going to stop him from doing it to the rest of us?"
Isabella looked at the worried faces of those she thought of as family and made a decision, she was going to try to help them. Pulling away from Edward, she grabbed her cell phone from the table.
Edward took her hand. "Whatcha doin', sweets?"
"Seeing what the media can do to help." She scrolled through her contacts and put her phone to her ear. "Yo, Al, remember how you mentioned you missed the challenge of investigative reporting? Well, I have quite the challenge for you."
Edward and Isabella sat by the watering hole and held hands. "Darlin', are you sure you want to challenge Volturi?"
"It's my job to ferret out the truth if someone's trying to hurt others. Mr. Volturi is shady and if no one else will uncover his misdeeds, then I will." She winked at him. "That's why it's called the free press, baby."
Isabella had watched, with her eagle eyes, the way the townsfolk would cross the street if Mr. Aro Volturi was walking in their direction. He was all skin and bones and his dark suits hung awkwardly from his shoulders. A red carnation was always present in his lapel. The man looked better suited for work in a mortuary or at least be one of the corpses.
Truth be told, she liked mysteries and this one she was going to solve.
Her phone rang beside her. It was a private number.
"Are you goin' to answer that, darlin'?" Edward asked, taking Isabella's hand.
"It's probably a wrong number." Isabella yawned. The sun hitting her face was making her sleepy.
Edward was persistent. "What if it's important?"
"Fine, worrywart." Answering the phone, she said, "Isabella Swan."
"Hey, kiddo," a gravelly voice said.
It was her father.
"How did you get this number?" Isabella asked coolly. This wasn't happening, her mind screamed.
"I've missed you, Bells." He sounded sad. Isabella didn't care. Maybe, his new daughter would give him a comforting hug. "I'm so happy to see that you've settled in with the Cullens."
"Uh huh." Isabella's grip on Edward's hand was painfully tight. He was wincing. "I need to go."
Charles Swan quickly said, "I want to see you, kid!"
"I will never set foot in Forks again, Charlie," she countered. Her words were like ice.
Edward had never seen her that way. He rubbed her soft hair and kissed it.
"I can come to you! Sue and I..." Charlie tried to finish, but was cut off.
"Sue is never welcomed!" Isabella started shaking. Anger and intense melancholy filled her to her very core.
"Bells...no, Sue. That's not a good idea..." Isabella's father stated to a mumbling voice in the background.
There was a click on the line.
"Bella, this is ridiculous! You need to come home!" Isabella's stepmother reprimanded. It was if she was talking to a petulant toddler and not a grown woman. "Your father is always worried about you. This disagreement that you have with Leah and Jake is silly. We're your family!"
"Excuse me, Sue. Are you trying to tell me that your daughter and my ex-fiancé embarrassing me in front of the whole town was silly? You're a fucking bitch!"
"Isabella Marie, that's your mother!" Charlie admonished. "I understand you're upset..."
"She's a stupid cow, Charlie! Renee's my mother. She was wonderful and supported me. I have no one now!" Isabella cried, a single tear rolling down her face.
"Bells," he pleaded. "I need to see you with my own eyes."
"I never want to speak to you again!" Bella turned off the phone. She breathed heavily in an attempt to calm down.
Who told them she was here?
"Mama Esme promised she wouldn't tell my father that I was here!" Isabella looked at Edward with sad eyes.
He took his hands and placed them on her cheeks. "I thought it was a good idea. I'm so sorry, sweetheart!"
"You did this?" She pushed him away hard. Edward stumbled backwards.
Betrayal. It was being hissed at her repeatedly in her head.
"Stay away from me!"
Isabella found herself running again.
Alice held her hand and watched as Isabella gulped down vodka as they sat at the bar. They'd been there for hours and it was getting dark outside.
"Izzy, let's get a motel room here in town if you don't want to go back to the ranch tonight," she suggested.
"More drinking," Isabella slurred. "Let's go back to New York, Al. We can get a job being Martha Stewart's craft bitches. Write about making your own wrapping paper and needlepoint."
"You don't mean that, Iz." Alice rubbed her heartbroken friend's back. "You love Edward Cullen. Girl, he made a colossal mistake! I'd skywrite that for all to see if I could; he did it because he loves you, too. He was just trying to help."
"I know," Isabella took another swig. "It's just...my dad..."
Taking the glass out of Isabella's hand, Alice motioned to the bartender. "Please tell me you have some hot and strong coffee back there for my friend."
The muscled cowboy winked. "I sure do, honey. I also have some hot and strong for you right here."
The man flexed and Alice wrinkled her nose. "The coffee will suffice."
Isabella made circles on the chipped wood of the bar. Both her head and heart hurt.
"Ms. Swan...Ms. Brandon, is everything all right here?" Garrett, the handsome vet, came up with his kind eyes. He had dark hair and piercing blue eyes which normally would have drawn Isabella in, but she only had eyes for a red-haired cowboy.
"We're just peachy," Bella slurred. She seemed to sway and Alice quickly steadied her.
Garrett looked at her with concern. "Can I escort you home?"
"We're just dandy," Alice stated, with a tight smile. The last thing they needed was an unwanted suitor mucking up the already murky waters of her best friend's emotions. "I got her."
Alice was about to tell Garrett to take a hike when Jasper came up, his face tense. "Hey, Ali-girl. How's our Bella?"
He kissed her quickly and Alice shook her head sadly. Isabella was ready to pass out.
"She's hurting and her family is shit, Jazz," Alice said sternly. "Your brother wasn't using that pea-sized brain of his. I know he called them because he loves her, but it was fucking stupid. Don't worry; I'll take care of her. I always do."
"No, Alice, I will." Edward stood next to the bar with a somber face. He had done this and needed to make amends.
"I..." Alice began.
Edward patted her hand. "You're a wonderful friend, but I'm the man who loves her. I need to make things right, li'l bit."
Jasper pulled Alice out of her chair. "Dance with me, my girl."
Alice blushed. "You and your dancing!"
"I just like my hands on ya," he stated with a wink, as he pulled her to the sawdust-covered dance floor. "Eddie's got this."
"Baby, I'm taking you home." Edward wrapped his arms around Isabella's waist.
"I'm not an infant. Don't call me baby!" she huffed. She inefficiently attempted to slap him away. "I'm mad at you! I don't wanna go!"
Garrett put his hand on Edward's arm. "I think I'll get the lady safely home."
"Doc, back off! Bella's my gal, got it?" Edward glared at the veterinarian.
"She doesn't seem to be interested," Garrett retorted with narrowed eyes.
Isabella stood up uneasily. "Boys...I'm good."
Edward swooped her up in his arms. "Goodnight, Doc."
"Let me down, you pretty Cro-Magnon!" She hit his chest with her fists.
"Darlin', relax! Let me take care of you!" He carried her struggling body out to his pickup truck.
She spat, "Are you gonna call my dad? Tell him I got drunk. Maybe he'll ground me and I'll have to spend time with my ex-fiancé and my slutty step-sister. That'll teach me!"
"Shh, my love, I've learned my lesson." He placed her inside the truck.
Five minutes later, a red-faced Isabella was passed out drunk.
Edward's hands held tightly to the steering wheel. He prayed for forgiveness and a way to cement his love in her broken heart.
The next morning, Isabella woke up in one of Edward's large t-shirts. The sun was streaming on her face and her head was being bludgeoned by sledgehammers.
Edward sat on the side of the bed with some aspirin and a glass of water. "Take these, my Bella."
"I'm mad at you," she whispered.
She looked at his handsome face. She loved him so much.
Betrayal. Betrayal. Betrayal.
"I love you so much!" he softly cried. "Forgive me! Forgive me! Forgive me!"
She wanted to, so badly. Isabella Swan was a runner, that was a fact.
It was now a fact that she didn't want to run anymore.
"I'll try, because I love you, too."
The kiss he gave her was so sweet and so loving. Isabella prayed it was true.