Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer & Little Brown Publishing own all rights
The scorching hot summer day had faded to a cooler night. Shivering slightly as a breeze drifted in from Lake Michigan, I slipped my arms into the pale yellow cotton sweater that had been sitting on my shoulders. Wrapping my arms around my body, I sat on the porch swing, rocking the swing absentmindedly with my feet.
I’d picked up some reports at the office that afternoon regarding the California branch, and I decided to read them in the fresh air. However, the workday had been a long one and soon my eyes began to wander, watching the setting sun and its vibrant pinks, purples, and oranges in the sky. When we were younger, Jasper and I used to sit out on the porch, watching the colors change in the sky. Daddy had told us that it was something that Mama enjoyed doing because she felt that it brought her closer to lost loved ones. A sight of beauty, reminding you to slow down and just breathe while being surrounded with their love. As I sat there, I thought of Mama and Daddy and I wondered if they were watching me, if they were okay with my decision regarding Jasper. Thinking of all the lessons Daddy had taught me through the years, I had to believe they would both be happy that Jasper would be returning home soon.
The low call of a mourning dove from the weeping willow in the corner of the yard lingered in the air. Its sweet coo-oo-oo called my attention to that direction and I watched the bird flutter its wings and hop to the ground in search of seeds. A car glided down the street and the bird startled, taking flight as the car drew closer. Squinting into the sun’s low rays, I raised a hand to shade my eyes, trying to figure out if I knew the owner. The door swung open while the car was still in motion and I tilted my head further, trying to understand what I was seeing in front of me. A figure was pushed from the car and it took my mind a moment to realize it was Edward, falling from the cab of the car before the door slammed shut and the car sped out of sight.
My heart fell into my stomach as I leapt to my feet. Throwing open the front door I cried a quick plea for help, before running down the steps and out into the driveway. Edward had crawled up the driveway toward the path leading to the house and from the looks of things, he was a broken man. Who did this? I was vaguely aware of footsteps but I didn’t turn to see who had joined me. All I could think about was getting to him. I ran as fast as my legs would carry me, falling on my knees beside his head. “Oh my dear sweet Lord, what happened?” I cried out, as I cupped his face with my hands.
He mumbled, “Rosie… love…” and then his eyes rolled back into his head.
“Edward! Talk to me. Please, please stay awake!” I begged, lightly tapping his cheek with one hand, cradling the other side. I heard voices behind me but I couldn’t focus on them. My mind couldn’t focus on anything until I knew he would be all right. I leaned down and whispered words into his ear. Words about us, about what he meant to me and how much I needed him. I don’t know how much time passed before Emmett and Jacob were by my side, Emmett bending on his knee, his head next to mine and telling me that they would get him inside.
“Don’t touch him!” I snapped. The harsh words flew out of my mouth with surprising force, a signal of how upset I was. Emmett pulled his hand away from where it gently rested on my back. With both hands grasping my shoulders, he turned me toward him, forcing me to look him in the eye. Tearfully, I took my eyes off Edward, and Emmett could read in my eyes what I was thinking.
His fingers gently squeezed as he spoke earnestly. “I know.” My bottom lip trembled as he moved closer, pulling me into a light embrace. “Rosalie, I know what you’re thinking. But it looks like somebody roughed him up to send him a message, not to kill him. Let’s get him inside and check him out, clean him up and see what the damage is.”
Jacob and Emmett placed their shoulders under Edward’s armpits and effortlessly hoisted him into an easy seat carry as they moved him inside. He began mumbling incoherently and I could make out the word Dad. Emily walked beside me, her arm wrapped around my waist and asked if I wanted her to call the Cullens. I thought about it for a split second and ultimately decided that it would be better if I were the one to speak to them. I really felt as though leaving his side to call them would be the only way to reassure them that he’d be all right. It needed to be me. The men took Edward into the parlor while Emily got a bowl of cool water and a towel to begin cleaning up the blood. I whispered to him that I’d only be a moment.
I spoke to Carlisle briefly, sharing just the few details that I could surmise. What had happened? I heard Esme’s muffled cries in the background as Carlisle numbly repeated my words to her. Then the two listened on the receiver together as I told them about the car and his tumble into the driveway. They rushed to get off the phone with me, hastily saying that they would be at the estate as quickly as possible. After I placed the receiver back in the cradle, I moved to sit on the floor right beside Edward, who was had been laid out on the couch.
Grasping his hand, I brought it to my lips and kissed his bruised, swollen knuckles. He cracked an eye open and while I could only see a small sliver of it, it was mostly hidden by his dark lashes and swollen face. His eyes were swollen, as were his cheeks, and there was a gash that ran from his brow to nearly his hairline. My eyes flitted frantically around his face, surveying and taking inventory of each and every injury. There was a huge bruise on his jaw, puffy and uneven, a small gash laced through it. He began to speak but before I let him say anything, my lips were on his, careful and hesitant. His hand reached around to the back of my head, fingers threading through my hair, and pulled me closer. He moaned against my lips and I pulled back, afraid I was hurting him with the added pressure he applied. Gasping, I pressed my fingers to his lips, where my lipstick had stained and whispered, “Are you all right?”
“Why did you stop kissing me?” he demanded, his gravelly voice rough.
“I thought I was hurting you!” I exclaimed as I tried to pull back and sit up. Instead, he reclaimed his hold on my head, pulling me forward.
He raised his head from the pillow and his mouth met mine, kissing my lips again. “Don’t ever stop kissing me.” He growled the words lowly as our lips pressed together. He shifted and pulled my body next to his, grumbling and hissing slightly as my fingers slid to his jaw and tentatively stroked the tender skin. Everyone had cleared from the room, giving us a private moment to just be with one another.
“Your parents are on their way. I called them after…” I pushed my nose lightly into the crook of his neck while my eyes roamed over every inch of his face and jaw.
“Yeah? That’s probably good,” he mumbled as he skimmed his hand lightly up and down my back.
“What happened? Who did this and where were you? Who was in-”
He cut me off, forcing out his response as though it almost pained him to speak. “I’m not sure yet. Give me a chance to let my head stop swimming and sort out the facts. Just stay right here, okay?” We stayed locked in each others arms until I heard a knock at the front door. Emily’s soft footsteps quickly made their way to the foyer and I heard her low voice telling them where we were.
Edward’s parents rushed toward the parlor, pausing in the doorway as they found Edward and I locked in an embrace. Embarrassed, I moved to get up, but he only tightened his arms around me. I murmured his name under my breath and whispered that perhaps he needed to let his father examine him. He scoffed and try to brush off the suggestion but Esme made her way to the other side of the couch wearing a pained, pleading expression. His grip around my waist loosened and I stood. “Doll, would you get a piece of meat from the refrigerator? I can feel my face swelling like a son of a bitch.”
“Edward! Language!” Esme scolded as she moved to sit next to him and gently touched his face while Carlisle rooted around in his bag. Despite the gravity of the situation, I couldn’t help but chuckle under my breath, shaking my head.
I said my proper hellos to both Carlisle and Esme before leaving the room and heading toward the kitchen. The idea of getting meat to put on his face was somewhat repulsive but I figured they knew better than I did what would help him heal. As I was walking out of the room, I heard Esme’s sweet voice saying, “If anything had happened to you…” My heartstrings tugged once more at his parents dismay. They were brought together by this case and I knew that if anything had happened to Edward during it, it would quite possibly break them all. Nothing can happen to him.
I returned with a piece of meat while Edward was in the middle of a sentence. “-ing bastards took my gun right out of my holster.” Esme gasped although I wasn’t sure whether it was at the sentiment or the language. I handed the piece of steak to Carlisle and he laid it on Edward’s face. They appeared to be deep in conversation so I excused myself, knowing that he was in good hands with his parents and giving them some privacy. I knew I’d get the entire story later on.
I grasped onto the banister as my feet carried me up the steps. I could still hear them speaking in the parlor although I wasn’t able to hear the words, just the murmur of voices and the occasional hiss as Carlisle dressed Edward’s wounds. I reached the landing and fluidly entered the office. After hearing only a small portion of the conversation in the parlor, I knew what I was looking for. Round the desk, I spun the dial of the wall safe. Swinging the metal door open, my hands slid in and pulled out a rectangular box.
Undoing the clasp, I flipped the wooden box open. The dark velvet of the case nestled the cold metal of my father’s Smith & Wesson .38 Special. My fingers traced the barrel of the gun and I left it sitting there in its case. I didn’t feel comfortable picking it up, holding it in my hand. I left it there in the case, looking at it thoughtfully. Shutting the box, I picked it up once more and carried it out of the office. I might not be able to assist with the case, but I could assist with this. First thing tomorrow.
I flitted in and out of consciousness, only recognizing Rose’s worried face hovering over me. I heard her frantic whispers in my ear, but I was only able to make out a few words through the fog of my concussion. Words like don’t leave whispered desperately, and what happened. For the most part her voice was a soothing jumble of incoherency, but intermittently I caught a need, a wantand I swore I heard love in there somewhere. I internally cursed those bastards again for fucking me up too much to be able to ask her to repeat herself.
I felt myself being carried inside and placed on the sofa in the parlor. Slowly, my faculties were coming back to me. I could hear Rose on the phone, her words running together in a jumbled mess from stress and worry. She hung up the phone, then came and sat on the floor beside the couch, her hands all over me, searching for hidden wounds and reassurance that I was in one piece. Her lips brushed mine softly, and despite my busted chin, I willed her to kiss me harder. That’s the funny thing about fear, it makes you reach out and fiercely grab the things you love, determined to never let them go.
My parents arrived soon after. Mom’s worried frown was an identical match to Rose’s. While Dad stitched up my chin and cleaned up my eye, Rose slipped away from the room and I felt her lack of presence immediately. Dad kept working on me and before long, I was cleaned, stitched and provided with a dose of morphine. When Rose returned, she stayed by my side constantly, her hands always on me. Her red nails lightly trailed my forearm, or swept away tendrils of my hair, toyed absentmindedly with my fingers. I understood her need to feel close to me; I felt the same way, like I wanted to wrap her up in silk and slip her into my pocket to protect her from the world.
After dinner had been served we moved from the dining room to the parlor, where mom and Rose sat together cozily on the sofa. The pain killer that my father had given me had worn off, so I casually moved to the drink cart and poured myself a little bourbon to dull my headache. I shot Dad a significant look and understanding immediately, he followed me.
“Pour me a scotch, Edward,” he said grimly. His tone was my tip-off of how worried he was. Somber and grave, he’d hidden his fears from Mom and Rose well.
“Anything unusual at the house today?” I asked him. I wondered if my new friends had pain a visit to his estate as well. It seemed likely. Obviously they knew where Rose lived, they’d been so kind as to give me a ride to her house that afternoon after kicking my ass. It’d be smart to assume they were watching her house and possibly, my parents house too.
“Nothing that I’ve been told of. I told the staff to be particularly vigilant, but I’m still not resting easy,” he admitted.
I sighed heavily, not sure how to tell him the extent of what happened today, and certainly not thrilled about making him worry more. I took a swig of my bourbon and met his gaze with a heavy heart. “They threatened Rose. They said if I don’t lay off the case, she’ll get hurt.” I gave him a moment to digest that, and lit a smoke. “They know where she lives, obviously, and frankly, this is hitting much too close to home for my comfort,” I added sarcastically.
Dad’s shoulders slumped, and I knew he was placing the added weight of this burden on himself. “I’m sorry I’ve gotten you two kids mixed up in this,” he apologized sadly.
“Stow it, Dad. I’m sorry I was such a piss-poor detective this afternoon. I shouldn’t have been so careless to let myself get in a jam like that.” I should’ve predicted that our villain would assume my father would call me in on the case, even if we had been estranged for a decade. I was turning out to be a pretty sorry excuse for a detective all around.
Dad took a thoughtful sip of his scotch. “What are you going to do next?”
“What can I do? I have to keep at it. If we don’t move forward, mom’s safety is in jeopardy. If I keep digging, Rose is in danger. Either way, we’re in hot water,” I acknowledged. I caught Rose watching me from where she was seated on the couch chatting with mom. I tried to offer her a reassuring smile but she quirked her brow at me; she didn’t buy it. I sighed and turned back to Dad. “Tomorrow, I’ll do some more footwork, hit the library, her old job at the cleaners, see if I can dig up any more trails. What cleaners was it she worked at anyway?”
“Cole’s down on Broadway.”
“Right,” I said, taking a long drag on my smoke. “Do me a favor, Dad. Don’t let mom out of your sight. If she has to leave the house, make sure she’s not alone. Give her a little pep talk about being aware of her surroundings and who she encounters. I’ll have the same discussion with Rose. Thank god she’s got Emmett with her all the time, or I’d be a fucking wreck,” I confessed, accidentally letting a curse slip into my sentiment. I couldn’t help it, I was too on edge to edit my thoughts to my father. He put a hand on my shoulder.
“Sure thing, son, we’ve discussed it before, but I’ll remind her in light of today’s events. Don’t beat yourself up. We all know you’re doing the best you can. Nothing is going to happen to Rose.” His hand squeezed, trying to impart his faith in me through his touch. I tried to believe him, but optimism wasn’t really part of my hard-ass nature.
Not long after, my parents left and Rose and I were alone for the first time since I’d been dropped off at her doorstep in less than mint condition. I took her hand and led her out to the porch swing. We sat down and swayed gently back and forth, letting the summer evening air be the soothing balm we needed after a tough day. She relaxed into me, her head resting on my shoulder and sighed in contentment. I lit a smoke and watched the cherry tip glowing in the starlight, it’s smoke swirling up in abstract obscure patterns before being whisked away by the unpredictable breeze.
“I need you to do me a favor, baby doll,” I began carefully. I knew Rose wasn’t going to be keen on going into virtual hiding until I got this case wrapped up.
“Anything, Edward. Just name it,” she said, trustingly and snuggled deeper into my side.
“I need you to be extra careful until I’m done with this case, Rose. I think they are watching the house, and you. They warned me to lay off or else…” I couldn’t force my mouth to say the words that ripped my heart in two.
“Hush, darling,” she cooed sitting up to look me in the eye. “Nothing will happen to me. Emmett is always with me, everywhere I go. He’d never let anything happen. Not to mention, I have a houseful of staff watching over me.”
“I know, baby. But I don’t know who we are up against here, or what resources they have at their disposal. I can’t stomach the thought of you getting hurt.” My face twisted up making my forgotten black eye throb painfully.
Her hand reached up and brushed a lock of away away from the offending eye.
“Edward, I’m a big girl and more than able to handle myself. You just focus on solving the mystery. Let me worry about me,” she said confidently. I wanted to trust in that, I really did. Sure she could take care of herself against an overly friendly sales clerk or gas pump jockey, but these guys were professionals.
“Just promise me, Rosie. Let me hear you say it, please,” I practically begged, my hand gripping hers more tightly than necessary.
She offered me a sweet smile that bordered on patronizing. “I promise, Edward. I’ll be very careful and vigilant,” she said and kissed me gently on the cheek.
That night in Rose’s bed, I watched her sleeping beside me in the soft incandescent glow of the radio dial while Glen Miller’s “Sleepytime Gal” floated around us. I laid beside her for hours and couldn’t get my gears to stop turning, despite their lack of grease. It had been one damn long day, and one that I was more than ready to be done with. My overactive brain, however, wasn’t ready to stop thinking. Above all else, one thing stood out among the many exciting and painful events of the day. Although my eye throbbed mercilessly and my chin stung from the pain of the stitches, I knew it was manageable. I also knew those physical pains could not remotely compare to what it would feel like if they harmed Rose. Me getting roughed up because of my involvement, and even my stupidity, was one thing. If she were hurt, I would never fucking forgive myself.