Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer & Little Brown Publishing own all rights
That morning, I felt the need to loaf in my bed. Returning to bed and being lazy wasn’t a luxury I often allowed myself but it was a nice diversion. Besides, it smelled like him: Bourbon, Lucky Strikes, and Brylcreem. His smell lingered on my pillow and in the sheets long after he was gone. I wanted to think only of him, spend the day dreaming of Edward Cullen: his wicked grin and bedroom eyes.
Eventually, I knew that I needed to get some work done. After a quick shower, I dressed in lounging clothes. Even though I didn’t plan on leaving the house, I never knew who might stop by. I knew who I hoped would stop by. I chided myself: Work, Rosalie. Think about work! I was scheduled to return to the La Bella offices bright and early Monday morning and I needed to get back into the work mindset.
Pulling out a notepad and pencil, I outlined a few new campaign ideas that had been flitting around in my head. Some were things that Daddy and I had discussed before his passing, and others were new ideas I thought we should explore. As the new head of La Bella, I knew that my every move would be watched, my every decision critiqued. I wanted to come across as strong, confident, and fair, just as my father had been.
The room was too quiet, so I snapped on the radio only to hear “I’m a Fool to Want You.” It was the song we had danced to at the Gala. Instead of making me think of him less, I only thought of him more. Was I a fool to want him? Could I get along without him? I was afraid to answer those questions.
Snap out of it, Rosalie!
Attempting to focus, I turned my attention back to the notes I had scribbled on the paper in front of me. Realizing I didn’t have the latest information about the newest line in my room, I slipped my feet into my slippers and walked down the hall to my father’s study.
The door was partially closed. Odd. It was usually either open or closed, but it appeared as though someone might be in there. Slowly swinging it open and not sure of what I would find, I was surprised to see my brother. He was on his knees in front of the bottom desk drawer, surrounded by papers and rifling through the meticulous files our father had kept.
“Jasper?” He startled at the sound of my voice, looking up from his place near the desk to where I stood in the entrance of the room. “Jasper,” I repeated. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was seeing. He had a wild look in his eyes, somewhat crazed. “What are you doing?”
“I’m looking for… something, Rose.” He seemed hesitant to tell me any more information.
Quickly, pieces started falling into place and the room spun around me while I stood there, rooted to one spot. Once more, in the same study where I had completely and truly accepted the fact that my father was dead, I realized who was responsible for his death.
Moving toward the window, I sat down on the settee so that my legs wouldn’t give out from underneath me. I had to keep it together. I hope to God I’m mistaken.
“That note… it wasn’t for Daddy.” I said quietly, sadly aware that I wasn’t asking a question but stating a fact. Wrapping my arms around my torso, I continued, “You won’t find it here. Edward has it.”
“Rosalie-” Jasper started over to me, putting his arm out as though he was going to wrap it around my shoulders.
I put my hand out to rebuff him. “No. Don’t touch me. Sit down over there and answer me. The note,” I said, trying to keep the slightly hysterical rise from my voice, “it wasn’t for him. It was for you.” I needed to hear him say it.
Jasper didn’t answer. Instead he rested his hand on his forehead and blew out a long breath. He leaned over the desk and picked up a rock paperweight that he had painted and made for our father when he was in elementary school.
“You know, I made this for Cuthbert when I was in fourth grade. It was a Christmas project. I was so proud that he used it but I always asked why he didn’t take it into the office. He said that it was better for the home study.” He placed the paperweight back down on the desk as he looked at me. “I was always better at home. He took you out, paraded you around. He would have given you the world if you asked.”
“This can’t be about jealousy, Jasper.”
“Jealousy?” he spat the word out at me as though it personally offended him. “It’s not about jealousy.”
“Then what is it about, Jasper?” I nearly begged him, “Please help me because I can’t possibly understand your rationale and Lord knows, I’m really trying to here.”
“This is about our father not helping his family, his son.”
It didn’t make sense. This conversation, his animosity toward our father; none of it made sense. “I am not sure what you are insinuating. Daddy would have helped either of us, if we needed it.” He shook his head vehemently, repeating the word no as I spoke.
“Daddy didn’t help me when I needed it.” He moved next to me and sat on the settee. I shifted slightly so that I wasn’t sitting so close to him.
“I got in a bit over my head with a gambling debt-”
I arched an eyebrow. “If I recall, and I’m certain I know more about this than you think I do, you often get in ‘a bit over your head’ when it comes to gambling.”
Jasper looked at me, emotions warring on his face. Both sadness and anger were evident in his expression. “Well, our father wouldn’t assist me this time around. I guess he didn’t tell you that, did he, dear sister?” He took a deep breath and his eyes met mine. Once again, I was reminded of our father and the thought now sickened me. “And Rosalie? It was big, I’m talking a lot of money. The people involved weren’t taking no for an answer. I was desperate. I had nowhere else to turn and I brought the note to Cuthbert.”
I willed my eyes not to squeeze shut. Not to force the angry tears out that I was holding in. Those tears would show a sign of weakness, which I couldn’t afford at the moment. Thankfully, my voice did not betray me. “And what did he say?”
“He told me that he’d see what he could do. Dismissed me like I was one of the help.”
My heart hurt within my chest and my lungs felt like they couldn’t get enough air. Drawing in a sharp breath, I said, “Jasper, I don’t believe it. Daddy didn’t treat the staff like ‘the help,’ he treated them like family. I’m sure if you-”
“I don’t know when this is going to get through your thick skull, Rosalie, but our father wasn’t the martyr you make him out to be. He wasn’t perfect; far from it, actually. He was flawed and sometimes I think I was the only one able to see those flaws.”
I needed to get away from him. I stood and went to the drink cart, pouring some sort of alcohol with a shaking hand. I couldn’t even pay attention to what it was. I just needed the distance between us. Jasper continued with his rant. “I was always second best to you, even though I was his son! The one who would carry on the Hale name. He couldn’t get past the fact that Mother passed away after birthing me. So instead, he turned to you for his source of comfort. You were his reason for being. He decided to raise you to run the family business, and he put all his hopes and dreams into your future, not mine.”
My mind raced. I wasn’t sure what to say in response to his bashing of our father. Instead I stood there, saying nothing. I knew if I spoke, I might fly off the handle and I couldn’t risk possibly having the rage he felt for our father directed at me.
“Do you know what it’s like to be the failure, right out of the womb? I didn’t even stand a chance! He held our mother’s death against me. Said that he was through helping me financially. That I could handle it and it would help me build ‘character.’ What a fucking joke.” I tried not to flinch at his harsh words. “The only thing he accomplished by not helping me was put an expiration date on my birth certificate, a date that would be in the very near future instead of a distant one.” He dropped his head into both hands, his elbows resting on his knees. I heard his words full of pain but I couldn’t bring myself to comfort him.
“He wasn’t going to give me the money. He made that quite clear when we last spoke about the issue. So to save myself… to save my life… I had to take his.”
His face twisted into a pained mask that I had never seen before on my baby brother, until this day. “I should have guessed that he had altered the will so that everything would be left to you. The final blow to me and it shouldn’t have surprised me in the slightest.”
“How much, Jasper?” My voice was low.
I couldn’t look at him. My blood burned through my body and roared in my ears. I was surprised I could hear his low answer of “Fifteen.”
I closed my eyes, the inside of my eyelids were a vivid red.
I opened my eyes. Still red. “Jasper. Fifteen thousand dollars?” I took a deep breath in an attempt to calm myself. It did not work. “For the love of all that is holy! How could you do this?” The money. Our father. All of it.
He stood from the chair with such force that it shoved backward into the wall. I took a step away from him. He was standing in front of me in an instant, grabbing my shoulders and shaking me, “Please, Rosalie. How could I not do this? I’m sorry but Cuthbert left me with no other choice.”
This wasn’t my brother standing before me. This was some enraged man who was obviously not thinking clearly, not thinking at all. I couldn’t think of the right words and I was completely torn with what to do. My brain frantically tried to sort things out. I considered just giving him the money, letting him pay his debt and flee. The other part of my brain was screaming to call the police and turn him in. He’d be in jail, but I knew the people he owed and they could probably get to him, even in jail. Either way, I would lose my brother.
If I were being honest with myself, he was already lost.
It was the longest fucking taxi ride of my life. The cabbie deftly wove his way through the busy midday, downtown Chicago traffic as I sat fidgeting and helpless in the backseat. I kept my fists clenched in my lap while my foot impatiently pressed on an imaginary gas pedal on the floor. All the while, my mind raced with the implications of everything I had learned in the last half hour. Obviously the coat mix up hadn’t happened at the Gala. Emily must have given me Jasper’s coat this morning by mistake.
Jasper. Jasper, who had conveniently skipped out on our arrangements to meet. Jasper, who wasn’t inheriting a single nickel from the estate. My guess was that note belonged to him. He must have needed cash and gone to Mr. Hale for help, who then refused him. It was the motive I had suspected earlier today, but certainly not from Mr. Hale’s own flesh and blood.
I knew the who, and I was pretty firm on the why, now for the how. I was aware of the potentially lethal properties of the toxic Foxglove flower. When I was a teenager, my mother, Esme, had a little black poodle named Embry. He got into mom’s flower garden once and ate some of the foxglove roots he’d dug up. That was the last time Embry got in the garden. That was the last time Embry got into anything. Mom had the foxglove taken out the very same day. The incident made me curious so I studied up on it. If any part of the plant was infused in alcohol in the proper way, it could kill by inducing cardiac arrest.
Rosie’s going to be devastated.
My brow wrinkled in pain. How was I going to tell her that her brother, whom I knew was her closest and only remaining relative, was her father’s murderer? My heart broke for her and I knew that this would be the hardest fucking day on the job I’d ever be forced to suffer through.
An eternity later, the cab pulled into the driveway of the Hale estate, and I tossed a bill over the seat at the cabbie for the fare. I had the door to the cab open before he came to a stop and jumped out, running to the door. I didn’t bother with the bell. I flung the red front door open and saw Emily to my left in the dining room, polishing the big carved mahogany buffet. Her head jerked up in surprise when she heard the door hit the wall as it flew open.
“Emily, where’s Rose?”
“Upstairs, in the office with Mr. Jasper,” she replied, her brow furrowing with concern and confusion.
I turned and went swiftly up the stairs two at a time, torn between staying calm for Rosie’s sake, or beating the crap out of Jasper for the pain he was about to cause her when she learned the truth. Of course the latter wasn’t a realistic option…only a desirable one. As I approached the halfway point, I heard the sliding of a chair across the wooden floor. Then the sound of a raised male voice.
I came to the second story landing. The door to the office was open, and through it I saw Jasper. His face was tense with urgency and his strong hands gripped Rosalie’s shoulders tightly. But the look on her face told me she already knew the truth. I was beside her instantly and glared at Jasper, my expression black with warning.
“This isn’t your business Mr. Cullen,” he said tersely, dropping his hands from her shoulders but never breaking his frantic gaze from Rosalie’s disbelieving and disappointed blue orbs.
“Being on her payroll makes it my fucking business, Mr. Hale,” I growled.
He let go of Rosie and chuckled darkly, glaring at me as he leaned toward my ear. “Was last night on or off the clock?” he almost whispered and smirked sarcastically. He pulled away and he took in my expression, which, I’m sure, very plainly said FUCK YOU.
My arm started to recoil, my brain automatically calculating the perfect angle for my right hook to inflict the maximum damage, but just as my spring loaded arm was about to release, I saw Rosalie’s small and delicate fist, replete with flaming red fingernails, connect squarely with Jasper’s nose.
I stared at her in astonished respect for a split second before I saw, out of my peripheral vision, Jasper’s open hand raised towards Rosalie. My arm, still loaded in mid air, let loose and my right hook didn’t fail me, landing near his eye. He surprised me with his quick recovery and I took an upper cut to the mouth; I could taste the blood on my tongue as my upper lip split. I advanced on him and threw a jab, which he dodged by backing up until he bumped into the drink cart next to the settee. Two brandy snifters fell to the floor, shattering on impact. He swung a left hook which I barely dodged by ducking just in time. I stepped toward him as he shifted his position and backed up toward the window and the settee. He chanced a look behind him and I saw my opportunity. I drove my fist into his already swollen nose again, landing my blow in the same place Rosalie had landed hers. He fell backwards, onto an end table next to the settee, which broke apart under him as he fell to the floor.
My eyes flew to Rosie, who was a trembling mixture of shocked anger and broken-hearted disappointment. I pulled her to me just as she started to lose it.
“It’s okay, baby doll. I’m here and I won’t let you go,” I cooed softly, kissing her forehead as her tears started to flow. I felt her hand reach into my pocket and pull out my handkerchief. I could hear people coming up the stairs, alerted by the sounds of glass shattering and furniture breaking. Emily and Sam appeared at the doorway and their expressions turned to confusion at the sight of Jasper sprawled out unconscious on the floor.
“Emily, would you please call Jacob up here? I’d like both he and Sam here when Jasper comes around,” I requested softly. Emily nodded and quickly departed the room with purpose. Sam moved toward Jasper and before I knew it, Jacob was there. Between them, they managed to get Jasper off of the floor and onto the settee. I felt the cloth of my suit growing damp with Rose’s tears, but she hadn’t made a peep yet. I pulled her closer to me, trying to press some of my strength into her. She just clutched me around the waist, and dabbed at her cheeks in fucking heartbreaking silence.
“Rosie, honey, do you want me to call the police?” I whispered to her and winced on the last word. I felt her press her face harder into my chest before she let out a single sob and nodded her head yes.
I reluctantly moved closer to the desk, Rosalie still enveloped in my arms, to make the phone call that would shatter that last little corners of her heart.
The receiver felt as heavy as an anvil when I lifted it to my ear. “Operator, the police please,” I said regretfully.
Jasper started to come to. Once he realized he’d lost our little prizefight, his shoulders slumped and his eyes clouded over with regret. He stood to move toward Rose and me. Jacob and Sam stayed two paces behind him, but I could tell from Jasper’s expression his intentions were harmless. His simply stared remorsefully at Rosalie.
“Rose, I’m so sorry,” he began softly.
“Jasper, I can’t do this right now,” she said through hitched sobs and pulled away from me to look at him. “I’m going to need a little time,” she whispered as her eyes welled up with more tears. “Edward, can you talk to the police please? If they need to talk to me, I’ll be in my room,” she said.
“Of course Rosie,” I replied. She gave me a relieved, albeit weak, smile and squared her shoulders for a brief second before she strode from the room. So damn brave.
The coppers showed up not long after. Jasper was cooperative and explained how he had prepared the foxglove seed and brandy cocktail for dear old dad. Within ten minutes, they had a full confession. I handed over the receipts to the cops and took off Jasper’s coat; I had still been wearing the most damning piece of evidence, since I’d rushed in here with such urgency. They didn’t handcuff him; they just escorted him down the stairs and out to the waiting patrol car to take him down to the local precinct. He wasn’t putting up a fight, and for Rose’s sake, I was relieved he seemed to accept her decision to turn him in without resentment. That would make this easier for Rose.
Once Jasper was en route to jail and the cops had cleared out of the house, I went to Rose’s room. I expected to find her sprawled out on her bed, face down in the satin covered pillows, crying her little heart out. I should have known better.
She stood in front of her bedroom windows, gazing blankly out at the front lawn. “Rosie, you alright?” I asked lamely, know that of course she wasn’t fucking alright, but what else could I have said?
She kept her back to me, kept her gaze fixed on the grey January sky. “I’m all alone now,” she whispered in a flat emotionless monotone that scared the hell out of me.
“You’re not alone. I promised you, I won’t let go,” I soothed and moved toward her. I placed my right hand on her shoulder and started to draw her to me.
She slipped away from my touch and went to the doorway of the bedroom. “I suppose you would like your payment now, Edward?” she said and crossed the hall to the office. I followed her and tried really fucking hard not to let her see how much her words and actions stung me.
Just pick up the pieces of your heart and get the hell out Cullen. You always knew this is how it would end.
“Now or later. It doesn’t matter,” I said quietly and followed her to the desk where she pulled out Mr. Hale’s check register. She’d already paid me half my fee earlier in the week. I watched her shaking hand scribble out a check for another quarter of my fee.
“I’ll get you the rest in a few days, if that is agreeable? Financially this is going to be a nightmare, and I need to talk to my accountant,” she said more to herself than to me before continuing, “And the press is going to be hounding me when the news about Jasper breaks. It might be better for me to stay out of the public eye for a little while,” she said and looked at me blankly.
I examined her expression carefully. I knew her exquisite face well, and it dawned on me that her cold and distant manner was because she was in complete shock. It certainly was understandable, after what she had been through today. I wanted to comfort her, I wanted to hold her and let her ruin my suit as she cried all over it. I wanted her.
If she said she needed time, then I would wait. I brought my hand to her face, cupping her cheek while I whispered in her other ear. “Sure, I’ll see you in a few days, doll,” and kissed her forehead before taking the check from her hand and leaving the room.
Emily caught me at the door with my coat. I took it from her and shrugged into it. “Promise me, Emily, that you’ll keep an eye on Rose? That you’ll let me know if she needs anything?” I requested anxiously.
“Of course, Mr. Cullen, I’ll call you first thing,” she agreed solemnly.
“Thanks,” I smiled gratefully, “and it’s just Edward, Emily, none of that Mr. bullshit. I work for these people just like you do,” I said and winked at her. She cracked a weak smile and offered to call me a cab. Soon enough, I was in the cab and pulling away from the Hale estate. My chest grew heavy at the thought of going home to my cold, dingy apartment without knowing for sure if I’d see her again. Not knowing when I’d see her blue eyes light up or smell her roses her again.
You’re in for a few long fucking days, Cullen.