Chapter 12 – Pistol Packin’ Momma

Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer & Little Brown Publishing own all rights


I pressed my hands to my stomach and took a deep breath, trying to calm it and myself. I was a tangle of both nerves and excitement and I could feel the energy coursing through my veins, pumping through my body with each beat of my steady heart. Emmett had left nearly an hour before to finally bring Jasper home. The trial had gone exactly as Marcus had said it would. Aro’s missteps had created the opening that was necessary and Jasper was acquitted of the charges without ever having to take the stand. He and I were able to speak privately at the courthouse and once again, I was able to reassure him that I wanted him to move back into the estate. His debts had been paid: to the men he ran into trouble with, to “society,” and most of all, to me. I was ready and anxious for my baby brother to return.

I’d wanted to go with Emmett to retrieve Jasper from the Cook County Jail but Jasper requested that our reunion take place at home. His plea was a reasonable one, but I was antsy for them to arrive. Pacing in the foyer, I waited to hear the tell-tale sound of the Fleetwood pulling into the driveway, tires crunching on gravel and Emmett’s cheerful humming alerting me to their arrival. My ears strained and my eyes flitted to the open window at every noise I heard; every passing car and every rustle of the wind through the trees caused my heart to beat faster. The smells of Jasper’s favorite meal wafted through the house; Sam was going all out preparing a rib roast, potatoes with gravy, green beans with almond slivers, and dinner rolls, not to mention the pecan and cherry pies he had made earlier in the day. He knew that pecan was Jasper’s favorite and being that Independence Day was only a few weeks away, he decided to make cherry pie as well. Plus, we knew that this day was a day to celebrate Jasper’s freedom.

Edward had been diligently working on his case the last few days. Instead of skulking around random rail yards, he decided to take a bit more of a cautious approach, visiting the library and doing other leg work that didn’t put him in harm’s way. He told me it was the boring but necessary part of the job. I’d rather have him be bored and safe any day of the week. At his insistence, Emmett accompanied me everywhere, which wasn’t far off from the norm but now that I knew he was watching over me, it irked me a bit. Thankfully, Emmett was used to seeing me at my best and my worst and could handle my temper when I snapped every now and again. Good egg, as always.

I heard a car in front of the house and I raced to the door, opening it wide and stepping out onto the porch. I tried to cover my disappointment when I saw it was the cab that Edward had taken back from his errands of the day, but he caught the look anyway. He squinted at me as he walked toward the porch and said, “I might be offended if I didn’t know better, doll.” Standing on the porch step, I wrapped my arms around his neck and gave him a tight squeeze, welcoming him home. Leaning back, my fingers did their routine tentative dance around his face, visiting his healing bruises. They were still fairly fresh but he said they were no longer as painful as they were when it happened two nights prior.

“I have something for you.” I took his hand and led him into the house. My attention shifted from waiting anxiously to presenting Edward with something I knew would help him out. He grabbed my wrist lightly and spun me around to face him, his lips crushing against mine. I pushed back, the intensity of my kiss matching his. Once more I thought about how right we were for each other and how there weren’t many that could keep up with me. He did and he did it well, always pushing me further than I ever thought possible.

Eventually, he pulled back and smirked at me. “Was it that?”

I smiled and teasingly ran a finger under his tie, pulling him closer. “I always have that for you,” my voice huskier than usual. I saw him swallow hard, his throat bobbing and I was glad to see I still had just as much an effect on him as always. “This is something a bit different.” I walked to the low table near the mirror and picked up the box sitting there. I had taken the gun to the jeweler and he’d been able to do the inscription I’d requested in a quick amount of time. He polished the gun and I was able to pick it up earlier in the day while on my lunch break. Walking back to where Edward stood, I flipped the lid open, showing him the .38 Special that lay nestled in sapphire blue velvet.

“It was my father’s,” I stated quietly. His expression softened, his eyes quickly glancing at the gun before meeting with mine once more.

“May I?” he asked as his fingers inched toward the gun, holding back until I nodded my head. He gently lifted the gun out of its box, testing the weight in his hand, handling it with the utmost care.

“I know those goons took your gun and I know that this can’t replace yours but… I don’t like the idea of you out there, unarmed. I was wondering if this would be suitable for you?” My heart thudded heavily in my chest although I wasn’t quite sure why. This was something that I wanted him to have but I guess that my heart knew that this was something more.

He breathed out, placing the gun back in its case. I thought for a moment he was hesitant so I didn’t point out the inscription. He put the box back on the table before returning to me, wrapping his arms around my waist. His nose pressed into my hair and I heard him inhale before placing a soft kiss along my hairline. “Sweetheart, are you sure?”

“I’m sure. Anything for you.” My voice was slightly muffled as I leaned my head onto his shoulder. I felt him nod his head, a silent answer to the question of whether he’d take the weapon. My heart stopped worrying and began to swell with happiness. I began to tell him about what I had done at the jewelers but it was then that I heard the Fleetwood pulling into the driveway, the gravel kicking up softly under its tires. I pulled away from Edward, holding him at arm’s length and gave him a blissful smile.

“Go! He’ll want to see you. I’ll wash up and be with you in a few minutes.” Edward seemed to understand that we needed this moment, just as he had needed time to reconnect with his parents. I leaned in and gave him a brief kiss before letting out a little yelp as he pinched my bottom when I turned for the front door.

“You’re fresh!” I blew a kiss at him over my shoulder as I headed outside.

Turning my attention to the driveway, I saw Jasper getting out of the back of the car. He looked thinner than the last time I’d seen him; he’d been losing weight while he was in jail. My heart was in my throat as I walked down the pathway toward him. He brought a hand up to his hair, which was much shorter than it had been when he’d left. Our matching eyes met and his lips curved into a tentative smile. I continued walking toward him and he headed toward me, his strides matching mine. We met near the end of the path and he threw his arms around me while I did the same in return. “Good to have you home, baby bro.”

“Good to be home, sis.”

Arm in arm, we walked inside, my fingers gently touching the lose fabric of his clothing. He and Edward exchanged pleasantries, although I could tell he was still a bit leery of the entire situation, remembering Edward’s roll in his incarceration. His eyes raked over Edward’s bruised face and his brow raised questioningly when I quickly said we’d explain over supper. Things had been strained between us after Daddy’s death, but for different reasons, as I now knew. They were strained again, but we knew why and hopefully would be able to get past it. If we couldn’t, then we’d have to find a new normal, I guessed. Soon after Jasper was settled, Emily told us that supper was ready. He seemed very touched that everyone had gone to such great lengths to make him feel comfortable and welcome him back into our home once more.

While we ate our meal, we filled Jasper in on the events of Edward’s case from start to finish. He listened intently, questioning here and there and grew concerned when Edward told him about Wednesday night and the drop-off here at the estate. His lips pressed in a thin line and I reached across the table, clasping his fist gently in my own. “I’ve been very careful, Jasper. I think this guy and his cohorts are spooked because Edward is getting close to figuring out what is going on. Please don’t worry about me.”

He grimaced. “Well, sis, I’m going to have a lot of time on my hands until I figure out what I’m going to do. So I’ll worry about you since I have the time to do it, and the ambition.” His grimace evened out slightly as he took a large bite of the pecan pie in front of him.

Edward smiled broadly at Jasper, wincing as he did so, the pain of stretching his bruised skin evident. I sighed, knowing that they would surely gang up on me and said nothing more. Inside, my heart sang that I had both men there and concerned for my well-being.

That evening, before I retired to my room and Edward’s company, I stood in the doorway of Jasper’s bedroom. His room had been untouched since he left, except to right the things that had been disturbed by the police during their investigation. Jasper sat on his bed, looking somewhat lost as he gazed around the familiar space. His eyes no longer looked as haunted as they had while he was in jail, but he looked tired.

Confirming my suspicions, he smiled at me wanly. “I think I’m going to hit the hay. This bed is going to feel more comfortable tonight than I ever appreciated before.”

I nodded, smiling once more before crossing the room and hugging him to me. “Good night, Jasper. I missed you.”

The following day was the start of a weekend and I was grateful to have some extra time to run errands. Edward had planned to go to his parents’ house in the morning and stay for lunch. He tried to cajole me into joining him, using a visit with Esme to lure me, but there were quite a few things I needed to get done. I had found a ring of my mother’s tucked away in Daddy’s desk a while back. I’d brought it with me to the jeweler’s to be resized when I’d gone there to get the engraving work done.

Emmett and I were just wrapping up the errands and he helped me into the car after placing the packages in the trunk that we had picked up throughout the day. While I loved downtown Chicago, I was ready to make my way home. I assumed that Edward would be there and I knew that Jasper had planned on relaxing at home. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were there together and how they were dealing with that. They had both assured me that they would behave but you could never be too sure when male egos and machismo were involved. I’d seen it happen.

We hadn’t been in the car for long when we stopped at a light. I noticed a man in the car next to us staring at me intently and I felt a bit uneasy. However, I was never one to divert my eyes, so I stared back, silently daring him to look away first. The light turned and we were moving again. Emmett was chatting about his recent trip to the pool hall with Siobhan and telling me how he actually got to teach her how to play. I’ll admit that I wasn’t completely paying attention to what he was saying as my eyes were trained on the car beside us, which seemed to be going slightly slower than we were. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the man signal to someone and I turned to an identical car on the other side of us.

The Fleetwood rolled to a stop at another stoplight, Emmett pumped the clutch slightly before easing his foot onto the brake. I was still watching the man in the car beside me, thinking he looked somewhat familiar. I didn’t notice that two men had gotten out of the car behind us until they were nearly right beside our car. Startled, I let out a muffled scream as one man pushed his way into the front seat with Em; I saw a flash of a gun and then it was pressed against his ribs. The second man came into the back of the limo with me and for a brief moment, I considered trying to push my way out the other side, but my mind quickly calculated that we were surrounded.

The man next to me wrapped an arm around me and with his other hand, started to bring a white handkerchief toward my face. “Get the fuck off me,” I said as I spat at him.

His laugh was low and lecherous. “The pretty little lady said fuck. Harsh word from a sweet thing like you.” He sneered, whispering in my ear as his hand moved closer. I winced, turning my head and trying valiantly to move away from this man but it was no use. The cloth pressed against my face and then…



After the clobbering, I licked my wounds and let Rosie nurse my pride, staying by her side as much as I could and worrying incessantly about her safety. Emmett was always with her as she’d gone to the Jasper’s trial and run her errands over the last few days. I knew damn well he’d stand between her and anyone that wanted to hurt her, but that wasn’t fucking good enough. As loyal and strong as Emmett was, he could still be overpowered. So I stayed by her, leaving her side only when I had to work on the case, knowing that there was safety in numbers. When I wasn’t by her side I couldn’t shake the feeling that something might have happened, and if hadn’t already, it was going to soon.

Thursday, I tore myself away from Rose and focused on the gumshoe work I’d been neglecting. First, I made a phone call to Garrett and asked him to check out the license plate number for me, too. He agreed easily and I was grateful once again that I’d stepped in and saved his ass over that poker game years ago. It was handy to have a buddy at the County Clerk’s office.

Next, I dragged my ass off to the library. I usually enjoyed my job, but I had to admit the research aspect of it left much to be desired. Spending the day in the library sorting through months of old wedding announcements in old news papers was not my idea of fun. I was only able to stick with it because I believed I’d find him, my needle in a haystack. After six hours of tedium and too many daydreams of seducing Rosie in a dark, book camouflaged corner while daring her to be silent with low whispers, I had nothing to show for my efforts. I put my fedora on my aching head and went home to Rosie’s house.

No dark corners tonight, but maybe some smooth white satin instead.

Friday, I paid a visit to Cole’s cleaners where I talked to her boss, Mr. Banner. He certainly remembered Maria as being a diligent worker and always on time. He couldn’t remember ever seeing her with any men, nor did he have any idea about her next of kin. Lucky for me he was able to furnish me with an address where she’d told him she lived; a girl’s boarding house in the area. I jotted the information down on my notepad, grateful that maybe I’d caught a break. He apologized for not having more information and said he was sad to hear of her passing. “Such a respectable, sweet girl,” he said sadly. I nodded my head solemnly as I ducked out the door.

The street was lined with various shops and restaurants, even a motel or two. I decided to ask the locals some questions as I made my way to the boarding house. I figured Maria would have frequented the surrounding businesses since she worked on the block. Hell, maybe she and lover-boy had gotten a room at the motel down the street. I poked my nose everywhere, talked to proprietors and sales clerks, waitresses and newsstand boys. None of them could tell me anything. Of course it would have been fucking helpful if I had a photograph to flash around, but I just had the description dad had given me. Nevertheless, it seemed lover-boy had been pretty careful and covered their tracks well. No one could tell me jack.

Miss Newton, the woman who ran the boarding house had plenty to say about Maria, but nothing about any male friends or visitors.

“Having men around ain’t allowed,” she told me with an exaggerated hand on her hip. “Same goes fer drinking and smoking. And there’s a curfew, nine o’clock, even on Saturday nights. Only respectable girls live here.” Miss Newton obviously took her job very seriously. Poor girls.

“You never had any trouble from her, did she ever confide in you?”

She pursed her lips, thinking. “One month she had trouble paying her rent. I knew she’d just lost her father in the War and she and her Ma had a falling out. I told her not to worry about being short that month. Poor girl, I could tell she was embarrassed about it and didn’t have anyone to help her.”

I smiled softly at her; that was generous, a rare trait that I didn’t run into often on the job.

“When she told you she was moving out, what did she say?”

“That she was going back home to Indianapolis to help out her Ma. I was surprised, but figured they must have gotten over their argument. Mothers and daughters fight all the time,” she stated matter-of-factly. I nodded in agreement; she’d have known better than I would.

“Did she ever mention…that she was pregnant?” I asked, lowering my voice on the last word. Ms. Newton’s eyes showed her disbelieving shock.

“No,” she whispered. “Is she alright, Mr. Cullen?”

“She passed on, giving birth,” I confessed. “The child survived and I’m trying to track down the father.”

She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and dabbed at the corner of her eye. “I wish I could help you with that, I never saw any men with her, and I didn’t know she was in a family way. She must have hid it very well.”

“It seems she hid a lot of things very well,” I returned.

When I got back to Rosie’s house, the place was in a state of subdued uproar. Rose’s excitement about Jasper’s homecoming was contagious, and even though I wasn’t one hundred percent certain I trusted Jasper, I couldn’t rob Rose of the happiness that colored her cheeks and lit up her eyes. When I got out of the cab, I read the disappointment that I wasn’t Jasper plainly on her beautiful face.

She pulled me inside, telling me she had something for me and being affectionate and fucking adorable. I reached out and caught her wrist spinning her around and pulling her against me. My lips crashed into hers and for a moment I was able to forget everything that was wrong with the case. For a moment there was nothing but me and my baby doll. My rigid, insistent lips danced against her soft eager ones, and I let myself relish the taste of her.

“Was it that?” I asked hopefully as I reluctantly broke the kiss and pulled away from her.

“I always have that for you,” she confessed as she toyed with my tie. “This is something a bit different,” she continued and pulled away from me to move toward the entryway table. I hadn’t noticed the wooden box sitting there when I’d come in; Rosie had thoroughly distracted me. She plucked the box off the table and brought it to me, opening the lid to show me the treasure inside.

“It was my father’s,” she explained and looked at me expectantly. Of course, I guessed as much. I didn’t miss the flicker of grief that flashed in her eyes and that it still pained her to speak of him. I turned my attention to the box. Nestled in royal blue velvet was a beauty of a gun, a Smith & Wesson .38 Special that gleamed like liquid mercury in the afternoon light. I looked at her questioningly.

“May I?” I asked hesitantly. I’d be a moron not to understand its sentimental value to her. She nodded encouragingly, so I hefted the gun out of the velvet lined box and got a feel for it. The fit of the smooth wooden handle in my palm felt as perfect as Rose’s hip, cradled in my hand. I was perfectly balanced in my hand, the ideal weight for a hand gun. It was as if it were made for me, just like Rose. It was a gorgeous piece to be sure, one that had been well cared for and recently cleaned.

“I know those goons took your gun and I know that this can’t replace yours but…I don’t like the idea of you out there, unarmed. I was wondering if this would be suitable for you?”

She said it so formally, but I knew her formal tone wasn’t indicative of her feelings. In fact, I think it was safe to say I was the only person on the planet that knew the full meaning of the gift she was offering me. I knew damn well everything that had belonged to her father meant more to her than all the money he’d left her. Each thing he’d touched and collected and been fond of was tied to a memory of him, and she was giving me this memory. She was offering to give me one of her precious memories housed in a rich blue velvet box so that I would be safe.

You lucky-son-of-a-bitch, Cullen. She just might love you, too.

I placed the gun back in the box and snaked my arms around her waist, bringing her to me. “Sweetheart, are you sure?”

“I’m sure,” she said resolutely. “Anything for you.” I just smiled and repressed the urge to squeeze her silly. She began to speak, but the distinctive sound of the Fleetwood’s tires crunching on the driveway told us Jasper was home. Her lovely face blossomed in a frisson of breathtaking beauty as she pulled away from me. I released her with a playful pinch and a promise to meet her after I’d washed up; I left her to have a private reunion with Jasper.

At dinner, I watched her glowing happiness and contemplated her motivation for helping Jasper after what had happened. She’d never be able to forget what Jasper had done, but she had been able to forgive him. Rose placed her family above everything else; she was loaded with unswerving loyalty. She’d likely give up anything she had to keep the ones she loved safe. All the while, I observed Jasper with a friendly, nonchalant scrutiny. I laughed at their playful teasing and listened to their easy conversation all evening. As the hours passed, I saw that they’d started to mend the pieces, trying to recapture what they had before. Just like my family, Rose’s would never be the same.

That night I had a nightmare. It woke me from a dead sleep, but I couldn’t remember details. All I knew was that I’d lost something really fucking important.

In the morning, while Rose was out running errands, I went up to her office to use the phone. While I’d been up all night worrying, I remembered I had never called Garrett after I asked him to check out the license plate number. It was an incredibly stupid oversight on my part and one I’d berated myself for all night and morning. I gave the operator the number and lit a smoke, waiting for him to pick up.

“Garrett, property records department.” The boredom in his voice was unmistakable. I didn’t envy him his job as a paper shuffler, even if it equated to a steady paycheck.

“Garrett, it’s Cullen.”

“Hiya, Eddie! I was wondering when I’d hear your sweet voice again. You promised you’d call sooner.”

“I was with a real girl, ya sally. Remember what that’s like?”

“You keep promising to introduce me to one of the sweet little numbers I used to see you palling around with,” he reminded me.

“Tell me you’ve got something for me, and I’ll hand over my address book, buddy,” I said sincerely. I really needed to catch a break in this case and I had Rosie; I didn’t want random dames in my life.

“Well then I guess it’s my lucky day! Edward Cullen’s address book… I imagine that’s better than winning the sweepstakes.”

“Spill it, Garrett. Clock’s ticking,” I reminded him.

“Alright, fine. You know I love to shake your cage, Cullen. Anything to entertain me while I’m stuck in this joint,” he mumbled to himself; I could hear papers shuffling in the background. “Seems like you’re a lucky bastard, too, pal. The building and the car are both owned by King Rail Lines.”

I nearly choked on the drag I’d just taken. Royce King was the owner and president of King Rail, one of the premier luxury passenger rail outfits in the Midwest. The handkerchief I’d found had the initials RK and Maria mentioned her man needed an heir to his railroad fortune. Seems like Garrett had single-handedly solved the case.

“Thanks, buddy. Now I owe you one. Gotta go.”

“Hand over your little black book and we’ll call it even.”

I chuckled. “It’s all yours, Garrett. I’ll drop it off and buy ya a drink for your trouble,” I said sincerely and hung up with him to call a cab. I wanted to pay a visit to my parents’ house.

I had a leisurely lunch with my folks and told them everything I’d learned including the name of our suspect. They were visibly relieved but I reminded them the case wasn’t over yet. I wanted to poke my nose around a little bit more, just to be absolutely sure I had my man. Even though the day had been productive and I had a name to investigate, I still hadn’t been able to shake the unease of my nightmare.

The sun sank lower in the sky, having reached its zenith hours ago. Rosie was sure to be home from her errands and dinner would be served soon. The events of the last week had put things into the proper perspective, and I’d finally come to understand what is important once you grow the fuck up. I was anxious to get home to her, mainly because there was something I’d decided while I sat in the cozy glow of my parent’s living room. I watched my mother and father interact with the timeless love of decades of marriage. Their easy familiarity and security in each other was a shining example of something I wanted to have; a future filled with loving acceptance. Yes, I was anxious to get home to talk to Rose about the future.

I began to take my leave, telling them I needed to get back because Rose would be waiting for an update. I called a cab, and just as I hung up the receiver, the phone rang. Dad answered, and it sounded like one of his patients from the sound of the questions he was asking. I knew this was my opportunity. I pulled mom aside and quickly whispered in her ear. I needed a favor, and I needed it just from her. Dad would have complicated matters.

“Now, Mom, don’t get yourself all worked up when you hear what I have to say,” I warned her as we walked toward the foyer.

“Edward, is something wro-” she said, alarmed.

“Not anything beyond the usual,” I said dryly. “I need you to give me something,” I bit my lip nervously. I felt like I was suddenly sweating bullets. I tugged at my collar and pulled my tie loose.

Her hands went to my face, one on each cheek and the calming warmth that only a mother’s touch can inspire radiated from her hands. “Edward, just tell me what you need, honey.”

I smiled awkwardly and took a deep breath as her hands fell away. She always knew what I needed to hear. I gathered up my courage and tried again.

“I need…I want…” I stammered moronically.

Just spit it out, you want this.

“Can you give me Grandma’s ring?” I finally managed to blurt out. The joy that lit her face was unmatched as understanding began to dawn over her. She stared to say god knows what with the excited glee of a five year old on Christmas. I gave her a stern look, reminding her of how I’d started this little speech. She closed her mouth with a pop and with a quick and earnest, “I’ll be right back,” she practically floated up the stairs.

What seemed like mere seconds later, she was beside me, pressing a tiny black leather and gilt trimmed ring box into my hand. She stood up on her tiptoes and kissed me softly on the cheek.

“Your father and I would be so happy for you, and her, Edward, ” she said, her eyes glowing with maternal pride.

“We’ll see, Mom,” I told her, patting her hand resting on my forearm. I looked back over my shoulder. Dad was still on the phone with his patient. He waved at me, gesturing to the phone, his signal he’d be tied up for a while.

I pecked Mom on the cheek. “I’ll call you tomorrow,” I promised, and left to grab onto my future.

As I sat in the backseat of the yellow cab, the foreboding I felt from my nightmare returned in full force. When we pulled into Rose’s driveway, I hurriedly paid the cabbie and raced up the steps. The house was eerily quiet, no signs of the usual early evening hubbub of dinner being prepared or the radio playing. In fact, it felt like no one was around. My mind replayed flashes of muffled cries and flaxen wheat, rope and the scent of moldy concrete. I pulled Rose closer to me, burying my face in her neck and tried push back the images every time I shut my eyes. But I couldn’t.

I ran into the parlor, which was empty. Next I ran upstairs to Rose’s bedroom, flinging the doors open and calling her name hopefully. Her musical voice didn’t answer; I only found the teasing smell of her perfume. I found Jasper in Rose’s office surrounded by the staff. Emily was dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief, Jasper was pacing nervously, his shoulder tense and his eyes tight.

She should have been home long before me; she didn’t have that much to do from what she’d told me this morning. It didn’t need to be spoken; we all seemed to know something was wrong.

“No one has heard from her or seen her since she left this afternoon?” I got a bevy of that’s right and Yes, Sirs back in reply.

“Where’s Emmett?” I asked nervously.

“He hasn’t come home either, Mr. Edward,” Emily said with a frown, confirming my worst fears had come true.

For hours we waited for word of her. Royce wouldn’t be interested in money; he had plenty of his own. He wanted his son, but he wasn’t getting him, either. I sat in her desk chair and smoked a whole pack of Lucky’s, waiting out the excruciating torment of not knowing. Left to my imagination I conjured all sorts of awful things they might have to done to her and fucking trust me, I thought of just as many infinitely worse ways to make them suffer in return. Jasper chatted nervously about what to do and the mutual horror we were suffering through bonded us together more than anything else could have. The girl both of us loved was in trouble.

At last, the phone rang with shrill insistence, its high trilling tearing through the somber silence that sat heavily in the room. All of us jumped and our eyes darted to one another. A mixture of relief and fear and anxiety touched our faces. My hand lunged for the receiver, and brought it to my ear wondering how in the fuck I was going to stay calm enough to find out where she was.

“Hale residence, Cullen speaking,” I blurted tightly,

“Just the dick I wanted to speak with,” a calm, disgustingly smooth voice insulted.

“Where is she?” I demanded, too pissed to engage in fake pleasantries.

“My boys warned you to lay off the case, Cullen. You shoulda listened.”

“Where is she?” I growled.

“Right here with me,” he said slowly and I noted the underlying tone of desire in his voice.

“What do you want?”

“What I’ve wanted all along and what I know you won’t be bringing to me: my son. I’ll have to take out my disappointment on someone. I have a feeling toots here could be very consoling,” he chuckled and I thought I heard Rose yelling in the background.

I thought for a second I might black out from rage. “You touch her, you son-of-a-bitch, and I’ll kill you.”

“Too late,” he said lightly, carelessly.

If I’d had the strength, I would have pulverized the phone receiver in my murderous grip.