Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer & Little Brown Publishing own all rights
I woke in the early morning hours, naked, and wrapped only in the sheet that adorned Edward’s bed, instead of Edward himself. Sitting up, my hair glided over my shoulder and down my bare back. My eyes scanned the small apartment, unable to find him him the darkness. “Edward?” I called out, my voice thick with sleep, my mind not processing how exactly I could miss him in the tiny place. The door to the bathroom swung open and he stepped out, looking over at me, backlit by the moonlight that crept in through the lone window and stark naked.
Greedily, my eyes drank in the pleasant sight. His long lean body had filled out a bit after we’d met, thanks to my constantly stocking his kitchen and feeding him home-cooked meals at the Hale estate. He caught my unabashed staring and smirked in response. “Like what you see, Rosie?”
Rolling my eyes, I decided a taste of his own medicine was just what the doctor ordered. Innocently, I dropped the sheet from where it sat on my chest, letting the sheet fall around my waist. I put my hands on the bed, pushing my chest out and crossed my legs below the sheet, fluttering my lashes at him coyly. I didn’t miss the way his eyes widened at my little show. “Always, Eddie.”
I giggled to myself as he cursed under his breath. He looked torn but then headed toward the kitchenette area. None too carefully, he slung the refrigerator door open and started rummaging through the meager contents. From my vantage point I could see it was nearly time to go shopping again, or at the very least, have some groceries delivered. Curiously, I asked, “What are you doing over there?”
Grumbling about the cold, he pulled out some leftover Chinese food containers. Pushing the door shut with his foot, he grabbed a spare set of chopsticks and made his way back over to the bed. “Hungry?”
I folded my arms across my chest, playfully pouting at his choice of midnight snack. “But I thought that I was your dessert.”
He rounded the bed to sit next to me, nuzzling his face into my hair. “You were, doll. And, for the record, I plan to make you my breakfast too. But in the meanwhile… we need sustenance to keep up our strength.”
Nodding quickly, I scooted around him and stood, the sheet falling completely off the remainder of my body and to the floor.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked, as I pressed a fast kiss on his lips. I sashayed over to the kitchenette area, pausing to look over my shoulder at him sitting on the bed. He was watching me with a hungry look that had nothing to do with the food carton resting on the bed. “You’re wicked.”
“You’re not the only one who’s hungry, Edward.” I plucked my own pair of chopsticks out of the nearby drawer.
“Oh doll, I was going to share with you.”
I snorted a noise that wasn’t very lady-like and he chuckled at my response. “You know I don’t share well. I’ll compromise and at least share the container.”
“Well, neither do I, being an only child and all. But for you, I make an exception.” He watched as I made my way back toward the bed. This time I could fully see the hard stare and the drawn brow of the man sitting on the bed, watching me. His eyes drank my every movement and I was reminded of the way he watched me when we first met, when we’d gone to the Children’s Gala and he’d undressed me with his eyes. Later, he used his hands to remove the red gown instead of just his eyes, bringing us together for the first time. So much had changed within the past eight months but he remained the same. True and steadfast, loyal and constant. I smiled softly at the thought.
“Hey, you okay, Rosie? Looked like I lost you there for a second,” he questioned. I climbed back onto the bed next to him, leaning toward him to peer into the carton and rooting around to find the perfect piece of cold chicken.
“I’m fine. Just thinking.”
He quirked an eyebrow, silently asking what was on my mind.
“You. Us. This. Everything,” I explained, moving my free hand between the two of us. I popped another piece of chicken into my mouth and chewed slowly before answering. “I’m very lucky to have you. And I’m so happy that you and your parents have reconciled.” He leaned his back against the wall, pulling my naked body flush against his. Leaving his chopsticks resting in the carton, his hand wound through my hair and I continued picking out pieces of chicken and alternating between his mouth and my own. He sensed there was more to what I’d been thinking about but he knew that I had to talk things through on my own terms. Physically, he showed me that he was in tune with my every word while saying nothing. His hand lightly scratched my scalp while still playing with my hair.
“After speaking with your mom at their house the other day and turning things around in my head, I think that I’m at the point where I’m ready to talk to Marcus about the trial and trying to get Jasper released.” I placed the chopsticks I’d been using into the carton. Edward leaned down, placing the container onto the floor before returning to snuggle me to his chest once more. I picked up his hand and held it in my own, tracing circles lightly across his knuckles. “But I would never want to put you in a bad position. I know that the staff would never say anything to the contrary but you… you’re…”
“I’m what, doll?” he asked gruffly.
“You’re you. I’d never want to put you in a compromising position. Ever. And by asking you to lie, I’d be doing just that.” My eyes were still watching our hands clasped together. He pulled his hand away from mine and walked his fingers up my left breast, pausing to play there for a moment, before continuing to bring them up my chin and tilting my head so he could clearly see my face.
His eyes sparkled in the moonlight and I brought a hand up to his hair, gently playing with one of the longer pieces that had fallen over his forehead.
“I’d do it for you. Only you. Besides, I don’t need to lie, dollface. I’m a private detective, not a cop. The cops are supposed to gather the evidence, take the confessions, protect and serve. I’m in the grey and that works to my advantage.”
I murmured about his desperate need of a haircut before letting out a breathy sigh at his answer. “I’ve just been thinking about what is best for me and I think that having Jasper in my life is better than not having him at all.”
He nodded his head at my assessment. “Your happiness is first and foremost.” His fingers tickled my arm as he lazily brushed them up and down the length. “Do it. If that’s what you think is right for you, I’m right there with you.”
My heart swelled in my chest and I was once again reminded of how lucky I was to have found him. The man with the hard exterior but the heart of gold. At that thought, I swung my leg over his lap, sitting on him so that I could face him.
Giving me a questioning look, he leaned forward and caught my lips in a gentle kiss. “Not that I’m complaining but… what’s this about?” His hands found their way to my breasts and he palmed them before bringing his lips and tongue to each. “Fucking perfect,” he breathed out as I watched his lavishing display of affection.
“I know you mentioned something about breakfast but could you be persuaded…” my question trailed off as he flipped me over onto the thin mattress and I squealed in delight as he kissed me from head to toe. I knew then that the answer was an astounding yes.
The morning quickly approached and I slept in a bit longer than normal after our late night. When we woke, the sun was streaming through the window, paying little attention to the thin blind that was pulled shut.
Leaving Edward in the bed, I stood and picked up his discarded shirt from the night before. I needed to be in the office that afternoon but I was afforded the luxury of taking it easy for the morning.. For the most part, things ran like clockwork at La Bella. Pulling on his shirt, I buttoned it as I made my way to the kitchen to start the coffee brewing in the percolator.
While the coffee was brewing, I decided to call Marcus’ office and let him know of my decision. Running my hand along the satin inside liner of my purse, I found the small folded up slip of paper with the few notes I had written on it. Sitting at Edward’s desk, I drummed a tuneless song onto the wooden surface, waiting for the call to connect after speaking with his secretary.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Edward sit up in the bed, running his hands through his hair before sliding them down to his face and scrubbing it a few times repeatedly. It was his way of waking each morning. I knew the big stretch, hands fisted toward the sky, was coming next, along with a massive yawn. The phone still on my ear, I turned in the chair as I watched, transfixed. He stretched his arms and the sheet that covered his torso slid lower, revealing the well formed V of his lower abdomen.
“-Rosalie? Miss Hale? I’m sorry to keep you waiting.” Marcus’ voice sounded distant and I realized that the phone had fallen a few inches away from my ear.
“Yes, Marcus. I’m here.”
He cut straight to the chase, as was always his way. Time was money for him. I was happy that my life didn’t operate the same way; it seemed like a misery. “What do you say, kid? Made a decision about which way we are going to take things?”
Edward had gotten up and put his boxer shorts on. Standing in the kitchenette, he pulled two mugs from the cupboard. Our eyes met and he smiled crookedly, giving me the encouragement I needed. I felt the corners of my lips tug upward, a satisfactory grin appearing at the knowledge that I was going to go through with springing Jasper and regaining my brother. “Okay, Marcus. What do we need to do to make this happen?”
He guffawed and I could picture him sitting up in his chair, gleam in his eye. “I was hoping you might say that. How about sooner rather than later?”
There’s only one sound better than Rose’s peals of laughter as I playfully ravished her, and that was the sound of her moaning my name in the darkness as she came unraveled. I held her as she fell asleep against me afterward, stroking her hair gently and watching the worry lines fade from her forehead with contentment. She’d been worrying so much about Jasper and what to do about his trial, and I was always happy to help her take her mind off of things. The call she’d gotten from Jasper’s lawyer had given her hope, but murder is a hard thing to forgive. Especially in Rose’s case. How do you forgive your brother for killing your father? I doubted I’d be able to, and the fact that Rose was could made her that much more amazing.
She needed my help to make this work. It was hard to stretch the truth about what happened that day Jasper confessed to his father’s murder, but I’d do it for her. If anyone even asked me, I figured I’d just play up on the dirty cop angle. I’d always pegged Aro as a shady cad with sticky fingers. As it turned out, I was right. In any other situation I wouldn’t consider lying, but this time my sense of duty lost the battle to my heart. I really believed Jasper wasn’t a threat to anyone else; he just never struck me as that guy. I was confident that he’d be left alone by his old “friends” and that he knew better than to get himself into hot water like that again. Rose had paid off his debts and he had a chance to start over. She wanted to help him do that, and really, it made no difference what I thought. I’d be beside her no matter what, ready to step in and lend her a hand if she needed one. We were partners, and she was my baby doll. I pulled her to me a little closer and listened to the restful sound of her soft steady breaths. It wasn’t long before they lulled me to sleep.
It was the fucking glorious smell of coffee that woke me up. Rose was sitting at my desk in one of my shirts, using the telephone and watching me as I went through my usual wake up grunts and groans. I got up, threw on a pair of boxers and stumbled sleepily toward the coffee. Rose chatted with someone I gathered was Jasper’s lawyer and was as animated as I’d seen her in quite a while. It was obvious this was hard on her, and by the looks of it, she’d made the right decision. There was no way I could ever deny her that. She lingered for a while after her call was finished and asked what my plan was for the day as we got dressed. I gave her a brief rundown before she called her house for Emmett to come pick her up. Not long after, I gave her a slow devouring kiss against the door and a slap on the ass as she sauntered out into the hallway. Leaning against the door frame, I watched her walk away. She must have felt my eyes on her because she glanced over her shoulder, peering coyly at me.
“And dessert, doll,” I promised earnestly. A satisfied smirk crossed her lips as she turned and continued down the hallway. I continued to watch until she was out of sight.
Turning back inside with a chuckle, I put my shoes on and called a cab. I wanted to check out this address first. My buddy, Garrett, who worked at the County Clerks office owed me some favors. Chances were, he could tell me who owned the building and, with little luck, it might set me on the right track. The cab arrived, and I secured my gun in my holster, making sure I had extra bullets. I went downstairs and got in the cab, telling the driver to take me to the address. Not long after, we pulled into an industrial area near the rail yard.
I asked him to drop me off down the street so that I could case the joint on foot and hopefully, go unnoticed. The street was busy; a steady stream of cars passed and several pedestrians bustled along the sidewalk. A dingy diner was across the street, and there was a newspaper stand on the corner nearest to me. I stopped to buy a copy of that day’s Tribune, the good accessory for those times on the job when I had to stand around and blend in. Tucking the paper under my arm, I stepped a few paces away from the newsstand and lit a Lucky. Examining the addresses on the buildings surrounding me, I knew the one I wanted had to be down the street to my right.
I puffed on my smoke as I set a leisurely pace in that direction. The buildings were all similarly constructed of plain utilitarian beige bricks and small rectangular windows with closed blinds. As I drew closer, I kept my eyes peeled for a more secluded spot to watch from. The building a few doors down had a side entrance with a large overhang and stoop. I pulled the brim of my Fedora down over my eyes and walked toward the stoop, even though it offered me less cover than I’d prefer. Sometimes you just have to make due with what you’ve got. I went up a few steps and lowered myself to the stoop. Unfolding my paper, I pretended to read it as I kept an eye on the prize; the front entrance down the street.
At first, I wasn’t sure I had the right place since there weren’t any numbers on the building, really no indication of what sort of business was conducted inside. That was pretty fucking suspicious in and of itself. I hoped to see some foot traffic going in or coming out. It was oddly quiet and inactive for two-thirty on a Wednesday afternoon. I puffed on my Lucky, and began to seriously wonder if the building was vacant. I sat there for a while longer, reading the sports section and smoking a few more cigarettes before I decided I’d better shove off before someone got wise to me. I set off toward the diner, back the way I’d come. I glanced at my watch, 3:48; I had some time to kill. I decided a slice of pie and some coffee would help me kill an hour until the work day ended. Then I’d go back and case the joint up close.
At 5:23, I made my way back. I watched the place for a few minutes for any stragglers that were leaving the office late. I waited for fifteen minutes and no one came or went. I made my move and walked briskly to the side of the building. Peering into the windows was pointless, they been covered on the inside with newspaper, also very fucking suspicious. I continued down the side, my hand brushing lazily along the ugly grey bricks. I turned the corner around the backside of the building, and saw nothing. A whole lot of fucking nothing. Coming out here was turning out to be a waste of my time. I sighed and fleetingly wondered how much gumshoe work this case was going to take to crack. Maybe I’d get lucky and catch a break with Garrett’s help, or the library, sorting through hundreds of Tribune wedding announcements.
Not fucking likely, Cullen.
I was startled out of my internal bitching by the screeching halt of car brakes. I jumped into the shadow on the building, pressing myself into the wall as much as I could and quietly pulled my gun from it’s holster. Two car doors slammed successively with a force that indicated either hurry or stress. Feet shuffled up the five steps to the side entrance I’d walked by. Then, relative silence. It was safe to assume they went in, and that they had a key. I shimmied along the wall cautiously, this was never a good spot to be in. Yet, I had to see if I could see anything.
Carefully, I approached the corner of the building and peeked around it. The car that had screeched to a halt was a gorgeous silver Mercedes 540 but that wasn’t what really interested me. I put my gun away and took out my note pad and pencil, quickly jotting down the license plate number. I’d have to call Garrett back, forget who owned the building, I wanted to know who owned that car.
I jumped as I felt a tap on my shoulder, behind me.
“Looking for somethin’, Mister?”
I put the pad and pencil back in my pocket before turning around to face him. “Nope, just admiring the car,” I said, cheerfully casual. “Is it yours?” I asked. I kept my expression open and friendly, trying not to let on how I took in all the details of this person in front of me. The guy was huge, bigger than Emmett, his dark eyes were tight and the seams of his pinstripe suit looked they were about to bust apart. I turned back toward the car and walked toward it.
“It’s a ’39 right?” I asked again trying to quell the suspicion I could feel rolling off of him.
“Yeah, that’s right,” he said cautiously. “Haven’t I seen your mug before? In the papers…” he squinted his eyes in examination of my face. “Yeah, you’re that private dick, Edward Cullen.”
I turned to face him. Never have your back to the bad guy. He looked me up and down, and I’d seen that look several times before. He was appraising how much of a fight I’d put up. I heard a door open, and looked past him and saw another lackey coming down the steps of the side entrance and walk toward us.
“Looky what I found, Demetri,” the big guy said. “It’s Edward Cullen.”
“Well whaddya know, Edward Cullen. Felix, isn’t this the joker boss told us to keep a look out for?”
You’re really fucked, Cullen.
I started backing up as they came toward me. I was in serious fucking trouble and too close to the car. After a few steps, my back was up against the fender. I could have run, but I wasn’t a pussy, and I had to try to find out why they’d been told to watch for me.
“You lookin’ for me, boys? I’m touched,” I said putting my hands up slightly, I sure as hell didn’t want a scuffle. Felix stopped right in front of me and his massive bulk blocked out the sun. His hands were the size of a gorilla’s and just as hairy as his patted me down. He quickly felt the gun in it’s holster under my suit jacket and pulled it out, tossing it to Demetri.
“Nice .32 Special,” Demetri admired as his fingers tickled the short blue steel barrel of my Colt. Seeing your gun in the hands of the enemy was always a slap in the fucking face, proof that you’d fucked up and gotten yourself in trouble. The situation was fast approaching life threatening. I quickly reasoned that they were obviously associated with the person I was looking for, and that realistically, that person needed me to achieve his goal, getting the baby.
“What was it the boss told us if we found him?” Demerti asked Felix with a sarcastic smirk that told me he knew damn well, and that I wasn’t going to enjoy it. Felix stood over me, eagerly watching me like a pit bull entering a dog fighting ring.
“He said to tell him to lay off the case, and to make sure he sees stars,” he replied coldly.
“Fellas, there’s no need to get fresh,” I said as one of Felix’s meat hooks pawed my lapel, crinkling it in his pulverizing grip. His other fist drew back and I squinted my eyes shut, knowing full well what was coming. Sure enough, it came with shocking force, the pain exploding in a concentrated epicenter on my chin that quickly radiated outward. The force of it spun me around and I ended up with my arms sprawled out on the hood of the car. I tasted salt and iron on my tongue and assumed he’d busted my lip open. I quickly collected myself and clenched my fist. Pulling myself off the hood, I spun and swung at him with all the force I could muster, landing my punch right in his gut. He snorted his obvious disappointment that I wasn’t much of a challenge.
I saw his fist coming at me again, this time it caught me right in the eye. The pain took my breath away for a moment. I could feel my legs giving out on me and saw the encroaching blackness swirling around me on the periphery. I clutched at the car, trying to steady myself, but missed and vaguely felt my face hit the asphalt. Out like a fucking light.
When I came to, I found myself in a car, and by the looks of the interior, it was the Mercedes. Demetri was driving, and Felix was in the back seat beside me. My right eye was quickly swelling shut and hurt like blazes along with my lip, which was still trickling blood into my mouth. My head swam and I was only partially conscious as I looked out the window trying to see if I could recognize anything. We passed a white house with black shutters on a corner and I knew immediately where we were…on Rose’s street.
Not good. Not good at all, Cullen.
“Boss wants us to tell ya, you’d better lay off the case, Dick,” Felix growled next to me. I looked at him cockily out of my one good eye and spat on the floor of the car, leaving a nice splattering of my blood for that bastard to clean up later.
“And if I don’t?”
“You’ll be sorry,” he warned in a low menacing voice. “And so will she.” He pointed out the window. I looked where his finger indicated and saw Rose’s pristine white mansion. My stomach turned and I had to fight the urge to retch from the idea of them hurting her. Even though my head was swimming, I was conscious enough to know I’d never let that happen.
He reached across me and opened the car door. “No second chances,” he warned and pushed me out of the car.
I fell onto the gravel driveway on my knees, and the car sped away, the tires kicking gravel painfully into my back. I tried to stand, to get my two leaden feet under me to carry me to the door, but the blackness encroached again and I didn’t have the strength to fight it. I fell forward, only vaguely aware of the pain of my eye slamming into the gravel. Before my eyes closed I saw four high heeled feet rush out of the door and run toward me, followed by muffled frightened cries. I felt Rosie’s hand on my face, and it was then that I lost the battle to stay coherent and I blacked out.