Chapter 1 Pressed Irises and Other Memories

The plot bunny visited again! Now you all get to reap the reward. Kitty Masen, thank you for your excellent beta skills! Who wants to meet Detectiveward?

The women tempted him every time he saw the performance. He was mesmerized by the sway of their hips. No one noticed him as he recorded everything on a small video camera. It was dark in the theater. He knew their names. His raging hard on was almost unbearable as he continued to study the women. The music was almost as hypnotizing as they were. He came here every time they performed. He would watch this recording over and over while he masturbated and imagined his fantasies. For each one of the women, he had a different plot, but each one ended the same way. He was biding his time for now. The first one he wanted to seduce was the red head. She would receive flowers tonight from a secret admirer. His plan would be set in motion.

-LISTP-

"That was an excellent performance, tonight, Bella." Victoria told her this after she gave her a big hug. The ladies were in the dressing room, changing into their street clothes. There was a small after party at a restaurant following their show tonight. Most of the dancers were too excited to go home after a performance. They had all grown very close over the past year.

"Thank you, Victoria," Bella remarked. "Was that a knock at the door?" She walked over to open it, and there was a delivery man holding an oversized flower bouquet. She took them from him and handed them over to her friend once she read the tag.

"Wow! No one has ever sent me flowers after the show. It's from a secret admirer. Who would send these to me?"

"I don't know. What about that guy you had coffee with last week?'

"Alec? It can't be him. He wasn't really interested in me."

"Whoever it is, this person must really be interested in you. I've never seen this many flowers in an arrangement. He's really interested in you, Vicky."

Bella walked out of the main dressing room toward to bathroom. Her dance routine was among the very best of the troupe. She was probably the best dancer of them, but she was humble about her abilities. Belly dancing had become her life many years ago. It was more than her life's work; it was her heart's calling. She had put everything she had into her art so that she could forget the pain. She stood looking in the mirror of the bathroom remembering when she used to get flowers almost every week. Her bedroom always had a vase filled with irises. They were her favorite flower, and he had never forgotten that fact. She had saved some of the blossoms by pressing them in wax paper between two heavy books.

She could not stop the traitorous tears that were falling down her cheeks. He was still there, ever present in her heart. There was no way that she would be able to push him away. There were moments when she wanted to do nothing but hate him. But that was impossible because she still loved him, more than she wanted to readily admit. Bella had curled up next to the wall as she thought about him. They had a bright future, filled with possibilities. If only his family had not stood in the way of their love, everything would be different now.

Victoria walked into the bathroom, gasping when she saw her friend crying on the floor.

"What is the matter, Bella? Are you ok?"

"I will be fine. I just got caught up in a few sad thoughts. It's nothing that I want to dwell on right now. Are we still going out for a late dinner? I'm starving."

-LISTP-

The following day…

Detective Edward Cullen was exhausted, but that was a side effect of his job. He ran his fingers through his thick auburn hair as he studied the case file again. There were several reports of a suspicious man harassing women near the fine arts performance hall. He was described as having blonde hair pulled back in a low pony tail, and he looked rather unkempt. With a city as big as Seattle, it would be challenging to find him based only on this information. There were other cases he needed to pay attention to besides this one.

He knew what it was that drew him to these incidents, though. The woman that he loved with all of his existence could have been harassed by this character. She was at the performance hall frequently because she was an amazing belly dancer. Edward kept every review he could find on Bella Swan's bi-weekly performances. It was only a matter of time before her career would take off, and then she would leave the city behind.

She had owned him since that day he watched her performance in college. The raw talent she had was visible in every shimmy sway of her hips. There were plenty of other young men watching her dance, but he felt the urge to claim her as his. They began seeing each other after that day and soon fell happily in love. Bella was the softer side of his life, infusing it with her vibrancy. She supported his dream of becoming a detective, and he loved her fantasies involving hand cuffs and questioning.

Their love was brought crashing down around them by his family. His parents, Carlisle and Esme Cullen, hated her from the moment he brought her home for Sunday brunch. When she told them she was a dance major, his father nearly choked on his Perrier after hearing this. It was a disastrous meal, but Edward found a way to brighten her mood. He drove to a flower shop and bought every iris they had in stock for her. She had mentioned they were her favorite flower. Every week, he brought her at least one bouquet of them. It had become one of their traditions.

They had forbidden him to see her because they felt she was below him. Bella came from a working class family, and, in his parents' eyes, they were below the Cullens. This infuriated him. The woman of his dreams was everything to him, and the fact that his parents thought she was below him made Edward feel white hot angry. They added injury to the situation by tampering with his opportunity to fulfill his career dreams. Carlisle threatened to tell the special law enforcement division various lies about his son's past. He would never have the chance to become an investigator if they believed any of these falsehoods.

Edward remembered the day he told Bella all of this information, and it crushed her to see him loose his opportunity. She loved him so deeply that she was willing to sacrifice herself in order for him to realize his goal. Neither one of them wanted to walk away, but there was no way she could live with her self if he lost this.

All of these memories flooded his mind, as though everything had happened yesterday. He was brought back to the present when the phone rang. The head of the department wanted to see him, as well as a few other detectives, in his office. He grabbed his coat just in case he had to leave afterward. There was a serious look on the chief's face when Edward walked inside.

"We have a new case on our hands. There was a dead body found in the Cherry Laurel Apartments. It was a female, mid- twenties possibly. I need to get two of you out there this afternoon. The forensics department needs to have the evidence to begin their research. Cullen, you and McCarty need to get over there."

Emmett McCarty was eager to take on any new assignment. He and Edward trained at the academy, and they worked well together. It was not uncommon for them to be paired for assignments. Emmett had a sarcastic wit that added a touch of levity to Edward's serious manner. They walked out of the building together silently toward the parking lot.

"Hey Em, do you know where the Cherry Laurel Apartments are?"

"I think they are about five miles away, down near the university. Are you okay man? You've been quieter than usual today. What's up?"

Edward had never divulged his relationship with Bella to him. It was hard enough to think about it, let alone talk openly about the woman who owned him. He sighed deeply as he tried to get comfortable in the police cruiser.

"I've just got a lot on my mind lately. How are things with you and Rose?"

"She is amazing, Ed. I don't know how I lived before she was in my life. I'm thinking about asking her to move in with me."

"Rose would have to be seriously in love with you to live with you, Emmett. Your place is always a mess. Does she know that you are incorrigible?"

"That's just part of the Emmett McCarty Shizzazle. I made that one up myself, Ed."

"Shizzazle? If you weren't one of my friends, I swear I'd drop you off at the hospital to let them observe you. I think we're here."

The complex had numerous police officials around it. There were quite a number of people just milling around, wanting information about their dead neighbor. After the detectives walked into the apartment, they headed straight into the bedroom. The victim was tied to the bed wearing a jeweled bra. Edward looked over her as he put on gloves to examine her. She had on a layered, gauzy skirt that was low on her hips. He checked her nails to see if she had anything under them. There were stab marks across her chest. Once he obtained a plastic bag, he untied her wrists and began placing the evidence in a bag. Emmett was taking various pictures of the scene when he noticed something under her bed.

"Ed, what is that near your left foot? It has a square shaped and I think it's black."

Edward leaned back on his legs and looked down under the bed. He reached under and felt a something cool to the touch. He pulled it out to discover he had a small video tape in his hand. Emmett gave him another evidence bag to place the object in to take back.

"We'll look at this when return to the department."

-LISTP-

Bella was shaken up and visibly upset since she heard the news. The last time she saw Victoria was the previous night when she left with her secret admirer. He bought her several drinks and offered to take her home. She could not remember if she mentioned his name. She was happy for her friend when she left, and they talked about getting together later on today after rehearsal. Now Victoria was dead.

Their producer, Philip, had called each of the dancers to tell them the disturbing news. He offered to let them stay home today, but Bella had to find a way to handle her grief. Dancing was her outlet. She felt at home on the stage or dance floor. As she drove to the performance hall, she passed the apartments where Victoria once lived. The place was covered in law enforcement, but Bella considered it no less. Philip's description about the murder was vague. He was given few details.

For a moment, she wondered if Edward was over there at the scene of the crime. He could solve any mystery she concluded. Lately, her mind roamed over to thoughts of him, and her heart felt heavy. They could not be together because his family thought so little of her. His career would be in jeopardy if Carlisle had suspicions about Edward being close to her. This was not the time for her to have a breakdown. She had to get to the hall and work it out there.

-LISTP-

Once they had returned to the department, Edward was eager to see what was in the tape. They gave the chief a full report of the scene, as well as the forensics department. The paperwork was filled out with every detail they could find. Now they were ready to see if the tape had any useful information.

The screen was dark, and the camera wobbled. There was the voice of a man talking about how excited he was to see his girls. A heavy curtain was pulled back to reveal a stage with six women on it. The music began playing an exotic rhythm of drum beats and horns. The man was groaning almost as if he was pleasuring himself while watching this performance. Edward watched the dancers on the stage with rapt attention. They were belly dancing, and he was captivated by the brunette with long hair. She was the only one he noticed. It was his Bella. He had never seen any of her professional performances. He body moved perfectly with the music, and there was he sensation he had back in college the first time he watched her dance. Listening to this guy talking about the dancers made him feel equal parts white hot angry and sick to his stomach.

"That's her, the victim. She's next to the one with the long brown hair," Emmett replied as Edward was thinking. "She had on a bra like the ones they are wearing. What a shame, she could really dance. I need to get down there sometime."

They finished watching the tape, and it was turned over to forensics for them to get fingerprints off it. Edward sat in the chair still lost on thought. He had seen her again, and his love for her was coming back with a vengeance. There was another aspect to this. He walked over to the chief.

"This guy kept talking about his girls. He's going to keep coming back for more, sir. I don't think he's satisfied with just one."

"What are you trying to tell me, Cullen? Do you think we have a stalker situation?"

"Yes sir. It's our duty to keep them safe and protected. If that were my wife up there, I'd want to make certain that she was out of harm's way." This was not the first time he had wished Bella was his wife. "We need to talk to them, especially if they know anything about our perp. I'll go over there this afternoon."

"Now you are thinking like a senior detective, Cullen. Bring back a report after you and McCarty are done."

Edward was not sure if this was the right thing, but he was sure it was the safest thing to do now. He could not have Bella's life at risk.

-LISTP-

The music was loud, just the way she needed it to be right now. Her circle steps and torso rotations were the envy of the other dancers. When the music changed, Bella picked up her zils, which to the everyday person were called finger cymbals. They fit snuggly around her thumb and middle finger. She held them in front of her body as she practiced the Egyptian basic. The emphasis on the bounce and sway of her hips was seductive. Her arms moved up to frame her face. She could feel every note of the music cascading over her as she moved over the stage.

The images of the past day came rushing over her, as well as thoughts of Edward. She had to push him away from her mind. There was still a part of him deep within her soul, and it tore her apart to know he was still so close in all aspects of that word. Had he finally moved on from her? Bella had to turn away from this and focus on the Arabic music that pounded through the speakers. One of the songs Victoria used to practice came on. The delicate sounds of the single reed instrument in the melody were haunting. The intensity was exactly what she had loved about this song. She could see her friend rotating her torso and giving the crowd their money's worth at any performance. Next to Bella, she was one of the rising stars, and her future was unlimited.

Then the music stopped, and the silence began to come over the hall. She had been in the middle of her choreography when it ended. She collapsed to the floor in a sweaty heap. Philip came walking toward her carrying a bottle of water. She looked up at him wondering why he was interrupting her practice session.

"I've been watching you, Bella, and your dancing is only improving. You did not have to come today. I know how hard you all are taking Victoria's death."

"I could not sit around and do nothing today. Dancing is my way of handling whatever reality throws my way. Did it really surprise you that I came here?"

"To tell you the truth, I'm glad you came here because there are some officers that want to speak with you and the rest of the troupe. You can meet with them in my office in a few minutes."

"What are the police here for, Philip? Do they think we had some involvement in Victoria's death?'

"They did not mention that to me, but they said it was important to see each one of you."

"I'll be upstairs in a little bit. I need to cool off."

"Thank you, Bella."

She walked into the main dressing room to change her clothes. The shower would have to wait until she returned home. She brushed through her brown tresses and sprayed it over with dry shampoo. A little lip gloss and a dab of her signature perfume, Pure Seduction, and she was set to go see the boys in blue. It did not hurt that she wanted to brighten their day by sitting near a beautiful woman. It might give them a slight thrill.

She walked up to the second floor, and the sound of a booming laugh startled her. Bella was not expecting to hear that coming from a police officer. The next sound was even less expected as she heard it when she was standing ready to open the door. It was Edward's voice, the sound that never left her mind, and she stood frozen before she could turn the door knob. He was there, closer than he had been to her in years. How could she face him, and what did he have to tell her? This would surely only open up the wounds that time had tried to close up.

Before she could open the door, Emmett pushed it in her direction. He looked down on her and could not fight the smile that crossed his face. "Hey pretty lady! You've had us waiting here too long. Come on inside." He closed the door behind her. "Hey Ed, you have to see this woman. If I did not have Rose to love on, I swear I'd be on her like white on rice"

Before he could turn completely around, the scent of her perfume came over him. Edward had not smelled that in years, but he knew automatically it was Bella. Once he saw her face across the room, the time they had spent apart had vanished. She looked more exotic and enchanting than she had in college. The pull between them had done nothing but increase ten-fold. She was taken by how he still retained the ability to make her melt with just a glance. Edward had only become more handsome over the past three years of their separation. No one in the room said anything for a few moments as they stood looking at each other.

"Officer McCarty, you mentioned that you needed to look over the hall and the entrance. Would you like to do that now?" Philip noticed the tension in the room, and he felt the need to get out for a few minutes. Getting Emmett to walk out with him was a good idea to him.

"Yes sir, Philip. Tell me; are all the dancers this good looking? I might have to come for a show."

They walked out, leaving Bella and Edward alone in the office. The memories washed over them. He walked closer to her and the pace of her breathing increased. She wanted to reach out and touch his face, to caress his skin to see if it was as soft as she remembered it. The desire to pull her in to his embrace was overwhelming. As Edward stared into her endless brown eyes, he saw longing and sadness. He wanted to take away her pain.

"I've missed you, Bella. More than I could ever express."

"We can't do this, Edward. Just tell me what you came here to let me know. Then we can both just walk away before this gets out of hand."

She crossed her arms over her body in a protective stance. He still captivated her, more than she dared to realized. It still was not too late for her to run out of the room and behave as if she had not seen him. He placed his hand on her shoulder as she began to turn to leave.

"Don't go," he said. "I need to talk to you. I'm concerned about your safety, and I want to protect you from danger." Just like that, he had cast his spell over her once again. She was powerless against the fight she was putting up against him. He led her to a chair and sat across from her. His green eyes beckoned her with their quiet longing. The fire was growing inside once again.

How could anyone ever say no to him? Let me know what you all are thinking about this, please. Don't forget to come by my group on fb! groups/163281877153436/?fref=ts.

Love you all! XXOO