Bella and I froze where we stood, understanding seeping in too slowly. "Did you hear me?" Emmett asked, moving to grab my jacket from one of the chairs near the kitchen island. His words immediately brought me into focus.
"Go," Bella whispered, nudging me into action. I grabbed the jacket from him and flung it on quickly. She pulled the pan away from the heat, turning to look at me again. "We'll be fine."
I hated that I couldn't stay and that I would miss one of Logan's milestones—his first day of school. Thankfully, she understood that something like this was important and that I had to handle it.
"Get me a casualty and damage report," I said firmly but quietly so that Logan wouldn't hear. Dropping a kiss on Bella's soft lips, I held her for a moment. "I'm sorry." It was a whisper, meant only for her. "I'll make it up to you both."
With understanding in her eyes, she replied, "There's nothing to make up for." With another kiss, I reluctantly pulled away.
Circling the island, I approached Logan. "I'm sorry that I can't go with you," I said, hoping that he was as understandable as Bella. "You know I want to be there for you today."
He grinned a little, looking at his mother quickly and then back at me. In a low voice he responded, "Don't worry, Edward. Emmett will be able to hold her hand when she cries."
Bella huffed, rolling her eyes at us, but a smile still in place. "I'm not going to cry."
Yes, she would, which was one of the reasons I wanted to be there for her, for them.
"I'll see you two soon," I said, buttoning up my jacket and grabbing the football from the counter. Emmett was quick to take it from me and put in the new briefcase I had custom built myself for it. The contents within would be destroyed if someone tampered with it. I didn't want my life's work to fall into anyone's hands.
I worked too hard for someone to destroy Oasis or take it from me.
Bella joined Logan and I, and started to push me out the door. "We'll just have to make sure you make it to the open house."
"Yup," Logan said, before stuffing his mouth with a large bite from his pancakes. Laughing, I ruffled his hair.
I pulled Bella in close, kissing her temple. As if she sensed my turmoil, she rubbed my back soothingly. "Love you," I whispered, kissed her once more, and walked out of the kitchen.
The second I passed the threshold of the house, I was ready for the other part of my life to be a priority. Without looking at James, I let my need to be in control take over. "Tell me everything." James started to rattle out information, but I held up a hand to stop him when I noticed Emmett still walking with us toward the SUV. I looked at him. "You know you have to stay with them."
Emmett's jaw twitched as he answered, "Yes, sir."
"He needs to be informed of the incident," James assured me. "It would help him determine…"
Emmett finished off for him, "If it was an accident or intentional. I need to know. It would tell me the kind of people that are involved. If there are casualties, we have to step up security even more with Bella and Logan."
"You've already determined that it was sabotage and not an accident?" Their silence was answer enough. "I agree." I slipped my hand in my pocket and jammed all signals within the block. It was inconvenient for the neighborhood but a necessity. Down the street from Bella's house was a parked sedan that Emmett reported belonged a reporter. A man that was willing to do anything to get his story, and with certain devices, our conversation could be overhead. It was best to be cautious.
Emmett nodded, aware of what I'd done. We turned our attention to James. "Four confirmed dead, thirteen staff members are unaccounted for and twenty-two are reported injured. A bomb squad is in route to the site."
"Shit," Emmett hissed, he spun around to head back inside the house. "I'll take care of things, but fuck this shit. I'm ordering a damn armored vehicle to drive these two around."
"Consider it done," I stated and gave him a phone number and name. "Give him a make, model, and the amenities you'd need installed. Get it here today. No exceptions."
"That's what I'm talking about," Emmett said, running up the steps on Bella's porch. "Keep me posted. You know Bella, she'll be going crazy."
It was his way to tell me that I had to contact her throughout the day. Even a text would help at a time like this. She would be worried and distracted if she didn't hear from me.
"Understood," I stated as James opened the SUV's door to allow me inside the backseat. From there, I looked toward the house. At one of the windows stood Bella and Logan, both worried. I knew Logan was smart enough to realize what an explosion meant, that people probably died. It didn't make leaving them any easier.
I set those emotions aside as one of Emmett's men from his unit, Paul, pulled away the vehicle from the house. James continued to give me reports as they came in, and my phone had started ringing from media outlets before we reached the city.
They were already aware of my connection to the property. James immediately called to have my number changed.
It was going to be a long day.
An hour later, my office downtown was under a media siege as developments continued to pour in from those on the scene. Due to security reasons, they wouldn't allow my security team or I to remain at the location. Authorities explained they found another suspicious package on a floor of the underground lab and wanted all personnel evacuated.
The damage, according to some of the witness, was astronomical, but that meant little compared to the number of deaths so far. Seven and climbing it seemed. James kept Emmett updated, while I did my best to assure Bella that everything would be fine. However, I was positive she knew I was lying.
It was sabotage.
My new personal assistant informed me of an expected visitor. I stood up as Bella's father entered my office. His usual calm demeanor was gone the second the door closed behind him.
"Are Bella and Logan safe with you?" He didn't pull any punches and I respected that.
"We're taking every precaution in their security, sir," I stated, shaking his hand. He sat in the chair in front of my desk, a deep breath exhaling him.
"Call me Charlie please," he insisted, and I nodded in return. "I'm prepared to send her to Texas with some family there," he stated, carefully watching me.
"She will never allow it," I said as I took my own chair again. "We both know how stubborn she can be. She wouldn't want to run away from the issue, but face it head on. She can't do that hiding."
"She can't do that dead," he hissed, hitting his fist hard on my desk. Several items shook and fell, but he offered no apologies. I expected none since I was as upset as he was about the situation. The word "dead" alone brought untold horror to my limitless imagination.
"What would you have me do?" I argued, shaking my head.
His eyes narrowed, but he relaxed and shrugged. "Breaking it off would be my first suggestion, but Bella has already read me the riot act with that one." His eyes met mine, assessing my reaction. "Something tells me you'd never agree."
I internally sighed in relief. Not even her father, whose opinion mattered to her, could change her mind.
"I tried to suggest the same, and she was quite vocal on that matter, sir."
"I can imagine," he huffed. "This shit was deliberate, and thank God that second bomb didn't go off or more lives would've been lost. Care to tell me what was going on in that underground building."
"It was a laboratory of sorts," I stated, a half-truth. "I will tell you this, but it must stay between us. Today, we were moving my new product from one place to another, though not at this location. We made it look like it was, but it was a decoy shipment."
"That can't be a coincidence."
"We don't believe it is either," I said, sitting a little further into my chair. I tried to look as calm and cool as possible, while inside I worried what my enemies were after. All of this seemed too personal.
"Heard your father—"
"Alistair," I said firmly, interrupting him.
"Alistair," he tried again, "was released. The prosecutor believed the information was only circumstantial and they couldn't hold him."
"You think he had something to do with this?" I thought as much all day, but according to reports, he didn't have the means to pull off something like this.
"The timing is too convenient and coincides with Aro's return to the US, too."
That was news to me. I pressed a button on my watch, alerting James. He joined us within a few minutes and was on the phone as he had been all morning.
"It seems Aro has returned," I informed James. His eyebrows rose in surprise. "Get someone on him, his associates, and his wife immediately."
"Yes, sir, but I'm heading to Bella after this," He hesitated by the door, and winced. "You better call her."
That had both Charlie and I sitting up straighter, as my hand grabbed my cell phone. "What happened?" I asked, the second she answered. For her father's benefit, I put it on the speaker.
"The fucking school was surrounded by media. Emmett refused to let us get off. My son can't go to school today!"
"I was afraid of this," I stated, shaking my head. "Go back to the apartment and we'll figure out how to handle it tomorrow."
"I'm going to the house to pack some clothes," she whispered, "Are you safe?"
"I'm at the office, Bella," I replied as Charlie cleared his throat.
"Baby, you two okay?"
I heard Bella sigh and knew she worried over his health. "We're fine, Dad. I'm going to find something for Logan to do to keep him occupied for the rest of the day."
"Let's go to the zoo!" I heard him say in the background. I frowned, knowing that wasn't an option.
"Not today, honey," Bella replied, "How about we go pick up the Wii and take it to Edward's apartment?"
"Yes! I'm so gonna kick his butt in Lego Star Wars."
Charlie and I chuckled. "He can hear you, son," she said, doing nothing to cover the phone.
"Oh," Logan said a little softer. "I'm not gonna kick it too hard."
That made Bella and her father laugh a little harder. Amused, I asked to talk to him. "Logan," I said as he said hello. "I'm sorry that school didn't work out today."
"That's okay. I'm a little scared of the girls Mommy said would chase me because of my dimples." I loved his honesty and innocence, so genuine. "Plus, I'm wearing sunglasses, I look good today."
"Oh my, where did you learn such modesty?" Bella asked in the background.
"Emmett and James," he answered.
As we continued to talk, needing the reassurance that they'd reach the house safely, I wanted to take them away from all this, if it meant it would protect them. The moment we ended the call when they arrived at her house, I sent a message to James and Emmett.
"Not sure whatever you just did," Charlie said, watching me carefully, "is a good thing or a bad thing?"
I met Charlie's unwavering gaze. "I'm going to postpone anything to do with Oasis until further notice."
"That's exactly what they want."
I rubbed a hand over my mouth, the first sign a wariness I'd shown all day. "I know.
As the investigation continued over the course of the next two weeks, life was busy. Logan was able to attend school two days after the lab explosion, though still under careful guard. Bella and I were there to send him off and I held her as she tried not to cry that he'd grown too quickly.
My security teams continued to work around the clock, keeping an eye on every location and on my suspected enemies. Three of those sites were attacked simultaneously. They failed to produce the devastation of the first incident, since security was better prepared for such things.
Bella returned to a full schedule at several of her job sites, busier than ever. She chose to delegate more now that Logan was in school and had volunteered twice in his classroom since he started.
After a lengthy and loud discussion, Bella convinced me to announce a new date for the Oasis beta launch. The postponing didn't appear favorable for my company and critics were quick to jump on my back about it. They'd gone as far as to accuse me of self-sabotage to buy my company more time to work the extensive glitches in the programming. Though most computer software and hardware companies worked hard to create a perfect product on time for release, it usually was impossible.
However, the group of hard working real everyday people that I hired to test the product had put my product through every possible scenario. It was ready, yet my critics—Aro among them—would say anything to plant doubt in potential customers. That didn't sit well with me and in the end I agreed with Bella.
My enemies were no doubt enjoying the criticism, which sprung me into action. During the weekend, my company would be holding a dinner and reception where I'd make the final announcement that included the first in depth look at Oasis for the public.
Busy looking over figures, I answered my cell phone, anxious to hear from Bella. For the last two days, I had to remain in my apartment while she stayed in her home with Logan. I'd been flooded with constant meetings and a quick trip to Texas, another lab site.
Even under constant surveillance, I worried about them. I couldn't help it. The police and my team were no closer to finding who was responsible for the explosion that cost eleven lives. Emmett and James worried that with the event during the weekend, it would cause my enemy to do something drastic, as if an explosion wasn't enough.
"Edward," she whispered through the line. Her voice sent a pulse of desire through every nerve of my body. It had been too long since I held her. "Will I be able to see you tonight?" I heard the rush of wind behind her words, evidence that she was in the Humvee.
"My flight to California is early tomorrow morning," I said as way of answer. I hated saying no, but it wasn't plausible for her and Logan to come only for a couple of hours at most.
"I need to see you," she said, even softer than before. There was urgency in her tone. "Logan can stay with my aunt and Alice tonight."
"My last meeting ends at five, I'll be at the apartment by six." I heard her sigh of relief, as if she was afraid of my rejection. "Bella, you know I miss you, right?"
Silence stretched for several seconds. "It just seems that you're avoiding us."
I was aware of how busy I'd been and so was the media, claiming our relationship was over. "With everything going on, I can understand that, but it's the furthest thing from the truth."
After a moment, she apologized. "Sorry, life has gotten a little crazy and sometimes I need to hear the words to make sure you're still with me."
"Your life wasn't a circus until you met me," an old argument that usually made her flush with anger. It was an enticing image, and one that usually ended with us in bed.
"Oh you are looking for a little action," she said, her voice deepening to a sexy lilt.
"We'll see," I promised, but the rest of what I had to say would have to wait. My new personal assistant Jane waved from the door to capture my attention. "I'll see you tonight and tell Logan I'll see him this weekend."
There was a hitch in her breathing, but I quickly dismissed it as Jane placed a file on my desk. One that needed my immediate attention.
"I will," she replied, adding, "I love you, Edward."
Her words and the softening in her voice brought a smile to my face, again, sending my personal assistant into a state of shock. The same look that Angela had when I smiled because of Bella. I waved Jane away.
"Love you, too," I answered and moments later, ended the call. I pushed away from my desk, standing to look out my window. The city shined under the bright August sun, glittering from the light rain from the early morning hours.
We needed a vacation, and once the Oasis launch proved successful, I needed to discuss permanency with Bella. I wanted them to be the biggest part of my future.
James called to say he was sick and Emmett filled in his spot until he felt better. Seth, my driver asked if we needed to make any stops before heading to the apartment.
I gave him the address, deciding to pick up a few of Bella's favorites from the menu. Armed with Thai food and a bottle of wine, I entered the elevator as Seth drove to the parking garage.
"Hold it," a man said, waving a little to catch my attention. Wary as always, I looked at him closely. He didn't appear harmful, but looks could be deceiving. Considering the lengthy security check in place since my enemies started a one-sided war I knew he'd be unarmed.
He issued a quick, "Thanks," and stood beside me as the door closed. Instinct had me on alert, cursing at the lack of foresight. Had Bella and Logan been with me, security would surround us all the way up.
Several floors from the top, I saw his hand reach out for the button, forcing it to come to a halt. I dropped the items and my recent purchase was aimed at his chest in seconds.
"Who are you?" I asked, having to look a scant two inches above my own height to reach his eyes. Vibrant blue eyes met mine and he smirked.
"A friend," he said, voice deep with a thick unknown accent.
"Who are you?"
His face, a mask of determination and fierceness didn't waver, but I saw the curious tilt of his head. He was assessing me, trying to determine if I'd shoot him. Too tired of all the incidents that surrounded me as of late, I wanted answers first.
"Who are you?" My voice rose with every word and breath, as I tried to remain calm. No training in the world prepared me for what it would feel like to find a real life human target at the end of the barrel. Yet, I knew I'd kill him if he dared to threaten my family.
"Demetri." He claimed to be the tail that Esme and Carlisle Cullen ordered to follow and protect Bella.
The name, though familiar, didn't have me stop from keeping my site on him. He smirked, a scar on his chin, white against darker skin, drew my attention. In seconds, my gun was on the floor and his forearm thrust up against my throat.
"I'm not here to kill you, but to give you a warning," he hissed, his blue eyes glazed with anger. "Something is wrong. I don't know what, but something is wrong."
I stomped on his foot, driving both my arms up, forcing him to drop his hold and take several steps back. My second gun glinted under the harsh light from above, pointed at his forehead. Again, a smirk flashed onto his face, wiping some blood from his lip where my elbow had caught him.
"What's the password phrase?"
Carlisle, Esme, and I were cautious when it came to the safety of Bella and Logan. Emmett that called it paranoia, but considering everything that happened, I felt better knowing that I had someone that had Bella's best interest in heart—her family.
"Good. You remembered. It's 'the sins of the father will not fall upon me.'"
I exhaled sharply, my heart still racing. Despite his correct response, I didn't allow myself to be complacent. Instead of aiming at his head, I dropped it to his groin. His smile was not helping him. His dark hair peppered with grey at his temples cut short and well groomed. His height and scar however, made him too visible. It was a wonder how he managed weeks of surveillance without our knowledge. Not even my trained security team had picked him up and they had tried.
"What do you mean something is wrong?"
"I'm not sure," he said, "I lost them for almost twenty minutes today."
"You lost them?"
He nodded. "It's never happened to me before, and it's quite a blow to my ego."
"When you say 'them', who do you mean?"
"Isabella, Emmett, Paul, James and the boy."
Nerves and anxiety had me reaching for support on the wall. "James claimed he was sick."
"Emmett dropped him off at his home shortly after I found them again, he was limping."
"Fuck," I hissed and pulled out my cell phone. Demetri waited patiently and aloof, as if he didn't have a gun pointed at him. His composure was remarkable. "He's not answering." I started to dial up Emmett, but Demetri stopped me.
"If something happened and they are sworn not to expose it, you calling them out could put them in danger."
"Where is she?"
"Already here," he stated. "I'll be nearby if you need me." He placed something in my hand. "Not even your device will disrupt the signal to this. Press it and I'll come, but let this serve as a warning, I'll be armed and quite dangerous. I will shoot and ask questions later."
I cocked an eyebrow as he opened the hatch above and hoisted himself on top of the elevator. "Press the button once I'm gone. I'm sure security is going haywire with you stuck in an elevator." I nodded. "This is between us until I can figure out what's happening."
He was gone in the next moment, the hatch quickly replaced. The second I pushed the button after replacing my weapons in their holsters, the elevator phone started to ring. I answered as someone explained that the cameras and elevator was down, asking if I was all right.
I was far from it, but put up the act I needed to perfect before I faced Bella. When I reached the floor, she was already there with Emmett worry etched on their faces. "I'm fine," I assured them, as Bella wrapped her hands around me.
"What the fuck is going on?" Emmett continued to bellow on the phone. "An elevator doesn't just stop working along with its camera, which is on another circuit. Find out what happened now!" His finger punched at the screen on his cell phone and for the first time, he wouldn't meet my eyes as he reported as usual.
Whatever was wrong, he knew what it was. My gaze drifted from his face, down to Bella as she tucked herself along my side, my arm automatically reaching to pull her closer. Concern for me could account for the shudder that moved through her. The tears that she fought so hard to contain leveled me.
"Where's Logan?" I asked.
Bella offered me a soft reply, "With family."
She was lying.
I staggered to one side, halting Emmett's report as he led me further inside my apartment. "Did you do a bug sweep?" I asked. The look they shared made my gut twist, but it was fleeting. Emmett answered in the affirmative as I took a glass of water from Bella. If he was lying, it could mean that someone was listening. I silently assessed them from head to toe.
Emmett had reddened knuckles, one of Bella's knees appeared as if she'd fallen, but it was the three broken fingernails that alarmed me most.
Only one conclusion came to mind, someone had Logan.