Driven to Desperation
My meeting with Tanya ran longer than I had hoped, but it was necessary. Having showered after I was with Bella, I had arrived almost twenty minutes late. Tanya dismissed my tardiness and offered me an apology for insisting on meeting early. She wanted to head out of town with her family and needed our business handled before leaving.
Emmett and James reported to me hourly as requested via email or text. I needed access to my laptop in my hotel room to take a better look at the information Emmett had already obtained.
Opening the door, I heard Bella's voice murmuring softly from the bedroom. Slowly, I approached since I wasn't sure with whom she was speaking with. "I'm sorry I had to leave, baby."
"Why did you go away, Mommy? Did I do something wrong?"
Bella's denial was quick and I could hear the desperation and heartbreak in her voice. My fists clenched at my sides, anger coursing through me hard and fast. Those that dared hurt her and Logan would pay dearly, that I could guarantee.
I turned away from the room, allowing her some privacy. I also needed a few minutes to myself. Beside a sunlit window of the city was a table with several of the products I had Angela purchase for Bella. They were various shades of cover up, since I knew she'd likely make a video call to her son and wouldn't want to face the media we'd undoubtedly find when we left the safety of the hotel.
When her voice started to rise, I walked back toward the room to find out what was the cause.
"James, please. I'm trying to understand why Edward has someone watching my son. I thought it was just some homeless man that tried to grab me. Why would he have you there? And don't try to tell me that you're only visiting Logan."
It was time to step in, since James wasn't the one that needed to give her the answers she sought. I made sure she heard me as I entered the room. "Bella," I said, watching her tense as she sat in the middle of the bed with my laptop in front of her. Her eyes lifted from the computer screen, narrowing as they met my gaze.
"Tell me what's going on," she stated firmly and the look she was giving brooked no argument. I sighed, having every intention of telling her but I wanted to give her some time to recover from what happened.
"I will," I said simply, which seemed to surprise her. I walked over and turned the screen enough for James to see me. "Thank you for not telling her, I wanted to do it myself. Everything okay since you last checked in forty minutes ago?"
"Good, we'll talk soon."
I ended the call, closing the laptop and placing it under my arm. "Let's go sit in the living area and have it out."
There was a challenge in her gaze that indicated that it wasn't going to be a pleasant conversation. Considering the subject matter, she was correct.
I extended my hand, which she hesitantly took. I hated that tiny moment of doubt and I realized at that moment why I'd held back the words. She loved me, this I was sure of, but she didn't trust me. That hurt more than I expected.
"I have a right to know, Edward," she said as she sat much too far from me on the opposite side of the couch. This was unacceptable. Still careful of her injuries, I pulled her onto my lap, placing my computer on the coffee table in front of us.
She sighed, resting her head along the crook of my neck.
"I know you have the right to know. It was always my intention of telling you everything I'd learn. As an informed person, you would be less inclined to make a mistake. I want you informed so that you'll know what to do if you find yourself in a situation like before."
"You didn't tell me because you were worried about me," she concluded, having read in between the lines as always.
"Yes. You'd endured enough in the last day and I didn't want to add more to that. I planned on telling you before we returned home."
"I appreciate that, if you had anything bad to tell me after I flew in, I probably would've fallen apart." From the sound of her voice, I could tell it was hard for her to admit that to me. My heart lightened a little after learning her trust was still tentative.
"Jason chased the assailant down the alley. He was fast, too fast even as he shed layers of clothes and shot at Jason."
She sucked in a breath. "Oh, hell."
I soothed her as best as I could but continued to inform her. "He had a car waiting for him with another driver. The car was reported stolen only minutes before the incident. That was how he was able to get away, even after Jason clipped him." She groaned softly, nuzzling my neck. My hands tightened around her and I kissed the top of her head. "I have one of my men looking into who could be responsible."
"Aro or Alec."
"Yes, I've had someone on it since the gala and they have unearthed some interesting information. A connection," I replied.
"What information?" She looked up at me, her head falling back against my shoulder. I cradled her closer, indulging in a kiss before answering.
"A rather large property was bought by one of Aro's many companies. The agent on the sale was Alec."
"They personally know each other?"
"For the last two years, it appears so, though not publicly it seems."
"They didn't even look at each other at the gala."
"You noticed that? But you're right. They did not. That might have been for show." I sighed and lay my forehead against hers. "I don't know what they're after. Because of that I have someone watching your every move."
Of course she noticed him. "Yes. He'll be with you most of the time."
"Since I'm unsure of what measures they're willing to take to obtain what they want, I wanted your son watched. James seemed like the best bet since Logan knows him personally, so he'd watch him from the inside. I have two others outside, too."
"What could they possibly want?"
"I'm not sure. Force me to sell my controlling stock in my company or money? The prototype would likely garner the most money."
"How would obtaining the prototype work in their favor?"
"It wouldn't, not right away at least. Even if I handed them everything I had on Oasis for ransom, they'd need to release the product line before I had a chance to recover from the theft. In all likelihood they'd ask for everything so that it would take considerable time for me to recover and put it into production once again."
"It would ruin you, wouldn't it?"
I answered honestly. "I would lose billions in profits and research."
"We can't let that happen."
I captured her face in my hands and glared at her. "I don't give a damn if it meant you were safe and sound."
She swallowed and she nodded. "I just don't want that to happen to you."
"Don't worry about it. They'd have to get to you first and that will not happen."
For a few minutes, after she confirmed there was nothing else, we sat in companionable silence. She was the first to break it, "Why the property? What's so special about it?"
"Nothing from what I gathered. It is worth a considerable amount. If he is able to rezone it, it would be worth even more. But he had the property for a while and had not done a thing with it. There is nothing from all our contacts in various government offices. He hasn't tried to file for a rezone or any permits for the property."
I adjusted her, so that she was sitting sideways and I pulled the laptop onto her lap, opening it. I pulled up my email, accessing it with my fingerprint. It was a security measure I had on most of my files on the computer.
"Emmett was sending me some more information on the parcel." I pulled the parcel map from the city and examined it.
"Is there any other properties nearby that he purchased?" she asked.
"Good question." I tapped on the screen and thankfully Emmett had thought of it, too. Listed below the picture were color coded properties based on the owners, including one that surprised me. I enlarged the property map of the area and confirmed my suspicions.
"See this property here, that's one of mine." I pointed to a purple shaded patch on the map, one that butted up against one corner of Aro's property.
"It says it's owned by Albert Jefferson." She looked confused, and I had to kiss her softly.
"It's a cover for what is housed beneath it."
"What is it?"
"About five stories below is one of my secret labs that houses my prototype. Well, part of it."
"That can't be good."
"It means I have a fucking leak," I hissed and set her down to sit beside me. Taking her necklace in my hand, I lifted one of the pendants. "It has a panic button in it, and yes, I was going to tell you."
"Is it tracking me?"
"No. Though it will give out a signal the second it's pressed in distress."
She cocked an eyebrow, but the relaxed state of her body suggested she believed me. In seconds, Emmett was inside the hotel room with his gun in hand.
"Sir?" he said, his eyes assessing the situation in seconds.
"Sorry, I had to test you."
He nodded, still scanning the room for possible threats. "Is there anything else, sir?"
"I have some information for you," I said, waving him over. I gave him the information I had learned from his enlightening email.
"So you think they're after your prototype?" he asked.
"If I had to hand it over for a ransom and they sell it as their own, they could make billions for years. I'm not sure if they're aware, but there is no one lab that is working on the project. I have three sites where each component of the product is being made."
"I see." It was obvious that the information about my secret property was new to him, and he didn't seem to like that. If he hadn't been able to obtain that information, with his considerable connections, how had Aro? A leak in my company was the only possibility.
"There was an attempted robbery two months ago on the building above. It's a warehouse for a food company."
Emmett's eyes narrowed. "Did they get inside your facility?"
"I'd double up at each site and I'll look to see if there have been any recent real estate sales in the vicinity of the other sites."
"If there is, then we have a big problem. It's obvious now that there is a leak in my company. There are only a handful of people that know where all three locations are." One of those was Bella's own cousin, James.
"I'll need a copy of that list."
We concluded business and agreed to meet personally in a few days. I'd only see him when I was with Bella back in Washington, which unfortunately was not often enough. After I escorted him to the door, where he'd stand watch in the hallway, I went to find Bella again. In the bedroom suite, she stood in the middle of the room and in her hands was a tiny box.
"What's this?" I asked, standing before her as she handed it to me.
"I realized when you gave me my necklace that I had no idea when your birthday was, so being the nosey person I am, I looked it up. I am surprised to find that its today. Why didn't you tell me?"
"It isn't important," I stated simply, adding a shrug. She frowned, an expression I had come to dislike. I thumbed her lips.
"Don't do that," she said softly, holding my hands and the box in both of hers. I looked down at them, expecting to find that her small, feminine hands would never be enough to cradle my own. However, they did. I wasn't sure why I noticed such a thing. "I know the last twenty-four hours has been unusual and I even understand that your birthday wasn't the foremost thing on your mind, but you are important to me."
I didn't know what to say to that, well, maybe a part of me did. "The last time I celebrated my birthday was when my mother was alive."
Her hands tightened around mine and she opened them up enough for me to watch her lift the lid of the box cradled in our joined hands. Inside was a key.
"I want you to be a part of my life. We'll have to talk with Logan together and explain somehow why you are spending the night sometimes—"
Before she could say another word, I kissed her. My hands cradled her face, my thumbs brushing her cheeks as I brushed my lips along hers. Breathless, my heart thundered in my chest, laying my forehead against hers after a few minutes.
She trusted me enough to invite me to her home, her heart and into her family. For now, it was enough.
"I love you."