Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer & Little Brown Publishing own all rights
The sounds of car doors slamming and muffled voices drew me from a heavy sleep. Disoriented and weak, my mind was fuzzy with confusion. Automatically, my body and mind were in search of the gentle hands that usually rested on my hips, drawing me close to him. The nose that skimmed my shoulder and neck and the lips that would always trail soon after were sadly missing.
My eyelids tried to flutter open but met with resistance as my lashes brushed against a heavy dark cloth. Valiantly, my mind tried to play catch up, tried to remember the last thing that had happened. I heard the car door nearest to me swing open and felt a rush of warm air against my skin. With that, the thoughts came flooding back to me, rushing my mind like a maelstrom and pulling me under. I turned my face toward the open door of the Fleetwood and tried to swing my feet to the floor, attempting to right myself.
The cloth that was on my eyes let a bit of light through, although it was only enough that I could tell the sun was low in the sky. A pair of thick paws wrapped around each of my arms and I tried unsuccessfully to squirm away. He just chortled blackly, pulling my body out of the car as though I were a rag doll, easily lifting me into the air so my feet hung a few inches from the ground. I took the opportunity of my free-swinging feet to kick, trying to catch his leg with my heeled shoe. The effort was fruitless; the only thing I succeeded in doing was giving him a reason to squeeze my arms more tightly.
His heavy voice was hot in my ear as he held me tighter to his body. “Looks like our feisty little kitten here still has some bite in her.”
I was unable to say anything back, as I had a gag wrapped around my mouth, mimicking the cloth further up on my face against my eyes. The cloth dug painfully into the sides of my mouth and I pressed my tongue against the coarse fabric, attempting to make any semblance of words that I could but falling short.
“Felix, bring the driver over here.” I heard a voice behind me bark out the order and felt the air near my left side shift, as though there were people walking. The man holding me lowered my feet to the ground, but kept the same tight grasp on my forearms. Clamping my teeth around the intruding fabric, I turned my face toward them. I needed to talk to Emmett, needed to make sure he was okay and needed to get us out of here. I knew that I was powerless and it was frustrating.
Without warning, there was a sudden scuffle. I heard muffled voices and curses spit amongst frantic shouts. Punches were thrown and my arms were freed as the man holding me let go. Not able to see or talk, I shuffled backwards, knowing the car was right behind me. My wrists were bound behind me and I felt the still warm curves of the car under my palms. I heard Emmett’s low voice growl at me under his breath, “Rosalie, run.”
I tried. But without the sense of sight and my hands bound tightly behind my back, I didn’t stand a chance. I’d gotten no more than a few steps when the large mitts grabbed me once more. The muscles in my neck strained as I tried to pull away but it was no use. The man wrapped one arm around my shoulders, pulling me flush against his body, his other hand came up and harshly ripped the blindfold from my eyes, pulling my hair along with it. I blinked furiously as the light assaulted my vision. My eyes widened when they landed on Emmett, there were two men flanking him and one had a pistol pointing at his head. His face was bloodied and his mouth was turned down in a frown.
“You see what happens when you try the funny business?” The man on Emmett’s right side looked at me while he pressed the gun further into Emmett’s temple. I know him! What was Royce King’s involvement with all of this?
Then suddenly, it made sense. The handkerchief, the diary, his wife. I knew of his wife and I knew how crazy she was and how she was unable to bear children. The pieces of the puzzle clicked together in my mind at once. He was the man that Edward was searching for, he was the man who had threatened Carlisle. My eyes flashed at the gun and then back to his eyes, silently pleading with him to stop. “Felix, let’s bring this one to the front room.” He nodded his head at the man standing on Emmett’s left side. “Demetri,” he looked to the man who had me pressed to his body, “take her to the back. The others are already inside. No doubt Cullen will be around eventually and we won’t be making this easy for him. Or for her.”
“You got it, boss.” Demetri walked me toward a door, but my eyes were trained on Emmett and I watched as Royce took the butt of his gun and slammed it onto the back of Emmett’s head. I gasped around the gag and felt an angry tear slide down my face as I raised my eyes up to heaven. Please God, don’t let them hurt him. Let him be okay! The two men dragged him in the other direction as Demetri pushed me forward. My feet wanted to resist him but they were no match for the large man.
The warehouse was dingy and dimly lit. Demetri was not gentle as he pushed me toward our destination. I didn’t want to give him any opportunity to think that I wasn’t cooperating, despite the fact that I was mad and scared. We walked into a large, desolate room; only a few wooden crates and chairs were scattered about. There were high windows but the sun was low in the sky and it was getting darker, both inside and out. He dragged a chair to one of the beams that ran floor to ceiling and forced me down, so I was seated. Quickly he secured the chair against the beam before retying my hands around both the chair and the beam. He left the blindfold off and looked down at me, seedy and lustful.
“Just the way a woman should be – quiet.” His finger ran along the gag and I resisted the urge to turn my head and give him any clue that I was disgusted by him. I held my head high as he stood over me contemplating something. He untied the gag and suggested I do something useful with my mouth. Disgusted, I started yelling, spewing curses in his direction and telling him exactly what would happen should any part of him make its way toward my mouth. The gag was replaced almost immediately and Felix appeared in the large open doorway.
His eyes flicked between the two of us before settling on Demetri who had securely tied the gag around my head once more, tangling it with my hair. I knew better to make noises of complaint even though it smarted. “Demetri. Boss is on a phone call but he wants you in with the big guy. He’s heading back here, wants some time with little lady.”
Demetri shrugged as he pulled his lighter and cigarettes from a pocket. “I could go for smoke. Let’s check on the driver and then head out to the stoop for a few minutes. You know what the Boss said about smoking in here.”
They both headed out the door, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I tried to work my hands out of the rope that bound them together but it was no use, there was no give whatsoever. I believed that Edward would be coming soon but in my mind couldn’t help but think: What if this is it? I couldn’t understand why Royce King would kidnap me. I wouldn’t be able to get the baby back to him and didn’t understand why he’d involve me with this.
I’d just gotten Jasper back into my life.
I needed Emmett safe and always in my life.
I wanted Edward in my life, forever. I hadn’t told him that. I needed to tell him that.
Just then, I saw Royce appear in the same doorway that Demetri and Felix and exited a few moments before.
“Rosalie Hale. Never thought that we’d have the pleasure of being together, just you and I.” His voice was dark and I couldn’t help but wonder what Maria had seen in this slimeball. “Too bad Cullen got to you first. You and I could have made some pretty babies. I don’t take anybody’s sloppy seconds, though.” He circled around behind me. “Of course, no reason we can’t tango now, doll.” The implication of his statement made me shudder and I did my best to hide my reaction. It was clear that he had gone off the deep end, his eyes were wide and crazed and he kept pushing his hands through his hair, pulling on the strands.
I knew I needed for him to keep talking. I raised my eyes to him and silently goaded him on, willing him to talk.
“My wife was never supposed to find out about Maria, about anything. She was my saving grace. Something that got me away from the monotony of my daily work and the craziness that was my wife. When I found her sitting there by the lake, I knew I needed her to be mine. She started as a fling and became more of an obsession. I had to be near her, no matter what the price. Fuck, I knew she was a virgin, and that one day I just snapped. My wife had been yelling, as she always was, and I just went to the dry cleaner’s because I knew that’s where Maria worked. I didn’t even think about what I was doing, what we were doing. Maria just took my mind away from everything.” He ranted like a mad man and I sat there, the disgusted feeling overwhelming. I knew I had to play my part. I sat, blinking my lashes at him and nearly grateful for the gag in my mouth at this point, keeping me from sharing my true emotions of what a coward he was.
On and on he spoke of what we had learned from Maria’s journal, the details that Edward had told me about, only from his side. “…then Dr. Cullen just had to go and get in contact with his dick son, your boy, Cullen. If he had just done what he was supposed to, if he had gotten the brat back from the family he found, then we wouldn’t be here right now. But no.” His eyes flashed murderously as he became enraged again while he recalled that things hadn’t gone the way he had planned. “No. So, here we are. Eye for an eye?” In that moment, he moved closer toward to and leaned into my ear. His breath stank of alcohol and sourness as he breathed into my ear, “Tooth for a tooth?”
My eyes scanned the room once more and I wondered when Edward was going to arrive. I knew it was only a matter of time but if he could hurry up, it would lessen the chance of something happening with this goon. I saw red once more as I closed my eyes, attempting to steady myself and my thoughts. Think Rosalie. Think!
“What do you fucking want?” I repeated to Royce, the bastard that was holding my baby doll captive. Jasper moved to my side, his expression tight and angry.
“Come by the warehouse where my boys gave you that pretty shiner and find out. I dare you,” he taunted. “And, dick, I know you’re not so dim you’d call the coppers. Toots here would be sorry if you did,” he warned smoothly before hanging up the phone.
I slammed the telephone receiver down on its base and leaned over her desk, my palms face down on her leather blotter, and started sorting through my options. I wasn’t stupid enough to call the cops but I also wasn’t stupid enough to try to walk in there alone, or at least without back up.
“Well?” Jasper demanded worriedly.
“Royce King has Rose at a warehouse down in the industrial part of town. I’m not sure what he wants or what his plan for Rose is. He said no cops,” I explained in clipped sentences that betrayed my frustrated worry.
“Well, let’s go,” Jasper’s calm voice said simply beside me. I honestly wasn’t sure how I felt about him coming. I wasn’t positive I trusted him and if anything happened to him, I’d feel responsible and I have to explain that to Rose. On the other hand, what fucking choice did I have? I didn’t know how many hoodlums Royce had on his side. My tight unsure eyes met Jasper’s determined gaze. They then traveled over every face in the room. They were Rose’s employees, yet each was her friend and just as much her family as Jasper was. They all watched me tensely, waiting for me to tell them how we were going to get her back, how this was all going to work out and that she’d be home safe soon. I wished beyond anything I could have told them that and meant it, but false hope wasn’t my forte.
“I’m not really giving you a choice, you know, she’s my sister,” Jasper said plainly, “And, you need me,” he tacked on suddenly. He was damn right about that.
I nodded slightly and wasted no time. “We need a car and you need a gun.”
“My car is out in the garage and running like a champ. Em kept it in shape for me while I was gone…” he trailed off on the last few words and I smiled at him.
Now’s your chance to redeem yourself, buddy.
“Good, Jasper. Get the car and meet me out front in two seconds. I’m gonna call Sergeant Swan and tell him to bring the cavalry in about half an hour. Hopefully, that will give us enough time to get Rose out before tipping off that bastard. You still need a gun,” I said more to myself than to him. Suddenly Sam spoke up.
“I’ve got my uncle’s old pistol,” he volunteered suddenly as if just remembering he owned a firearm. With an encouraging nod from Jasper, he sprinted off to retrieve it. Jasper followed behind him.
I picked up the phone and rang Sergeant Swan. After a quick debriefing of the situation, he promised he’d be there with his regiment in precisely half an hour. I hung up the phone before running out of the room, down the stairs and jumping into Jasper’s running car.
Once, a handful of months ago, I’d sat in the back of a cab and suffered through what I thought had been the longest car ride of my life. Now I was seated in Jasper’s ’37 Olds L Coupe trying to suppress a maniacal laugh at the memory. Only now did I have an inkling as to what worry really fucking was. As Jasper speed his way though the darkening backstreets of Chicago I tried not to think about what they might have done to her, but my imagination could be really fucking creative. My line of work had afforded me the opportunity to see the heinousness mankind was capable of. If their dark evil touched my golden angel, my wrath would make them wish for the devil’s mercy.
I told Jasper to park a few blocks away so we could sneak up on foot. As we drew close to the warehouse, he shut the lights off and switched off the engine, coasting silently alongside the curb before he parked. We looked at each other, both our bodies alert and ready for whatever we were about to face together. I drew out my gun and made sure it was loaded. Jasper did the same.
“Look, I don’t know what’s going to happen once we go in there. We may not come out.” I tipped my hat up and looked him dead in the eye.
“I owe her this,” he said with a tense regretful jaw. “I’d rather lose my life protecting her than keep living, ashamed for being a coward and ashamed of what I’ve done to her,” he finished resolutely.
“Just follow my lead and don’t get yourself hurt. Rosie would kill me,” I said and peered down the street trying to see the front entrance to the building, wishing I had binoculars. I assumed there’d be at least one man at both doors, the front and the side. We quickly hashed out a loose plan and with a nervous hand, I opened the car door and stepped onto the sidewalk.
We approached the building as silently as possible. A few doors down, I halted and peered into the darkness, trying to see the front entrance and if it was being guarded. I watched anxiously, hoping King was an idiot and hadn’t sent someone to be on the lookout. Of course, I wasn’t that fucking lucky. In the shadow of the overhang, the glowing orange embers of two cigarettes betrayed a the first of many obstacles that stood between me and making Rose safe. I watched them emerge from their hiding place and recognized them immediately. Felix’s hulking mass was unmistakable as he turned and went back inside. Demetri took a few casual steps down the stoop, and now two had become one. Maybe I had some luck after all.
“Give me a smoke,” Jasper whispered, his eyes trained on our target, too. I cocked an eyebrow at him incredulously; it was hardly the time for a cigarette. He rolled his eyes when I didn’t answer right away. “I’ll ask him for a light, and while I’ve got him occupied, you come up behind him, knock him out with your gun.” My hand dipped into my jacket breast pocket and pulled out a Lucky for him.
Casually, Jasper started to stroll down the street with a practiced cockiness that was a side effect of prison time. I crept behind him, sticking close to the walls beside me until Jasper was at the bottom of the stoop, talking to Demetri who’d was on the sidewalk now. I pulled my gun out, gripping the barrel tightly. Jasper had positioned himself so that joker’s back was to me as I came up behind him, clocking him in the back of the head. He started to go down, but Jasper caught him. Together, we carried him up the steps. At the top, I cautiously opened the door and threw up a silent prayer that we’d be walking back out of it soon.
We slipped inside the building, me going first with my gun drawn and ready. I let go of my grip on Demetri and told Jasper to stay put for a minute while I tried to find a place to stash him. There were doors all around me, opening up to long corridors with more doors. After the fifth one, I found one thing I was looking for, Emmett. I quickly motioned for Jasper to bring sleeping beauty and follow me.
Emmett was tied to a chair, his mouth taped. He was trying to break free from the ropes around his hands and his ankles. His relief that we had come was obvious as his shoulders relaxed and he stopped struggling. I shot him a quick look of apology before gripping the corner of the thick tape over his mouth and ripped it off with a swift jerk. His eyes crinkled from the smarting pain but it didn’t stop him from telling me what happened while I worked furiously to untie the rope at his wrists.
“We pulled up to a stoplight, completely boxed in by other cars. Two men got out of the car behind us, and got in the limo. One guy jumped in the back seat with Rose and one in front with me. That asshole in back covered Rose’s mouth with something and it knocked her out. They both had guns and told me where to drive while the car behind us followed.” It all tumbled out in a low urgent rush of horror. Jasper met my furious, fearful gaze. I knew by his look, he’d be just as angry as I would if they touched her. We freed Emmett’s hands and feet, he stood and continued in a low whisper. I helped Jasper put Demetri on the chair and we quickly tied him up. Emmett continued the story as we made short work of it.
“When we got here they forced us out of the car and I threw a few punches trying to give Rose a chance to run, but she couldn’t of course. Her hands were tied and she’d been blindfolded. It was 4 to 2 and then I got clocked in the back of the head. When I came to, I was tied up in here.”
“So you don’t know where she is?” I asked.
“No, Edward. Sorry,” he answered remorsefully. “I’m sorry I didn’t protect her better.”
I gripped his shoulder tightly, trying to remove the guilt wrinkling his forehead. “You did what you could, Em. We’re going to find her, she’ll be okay,” I handed him Demetri’s gun and really fucking hoped I was right.
I sighed and adjusted my fedora. “Well, it’s show time, boys. The cops should be here any minute. We have to find Rose. Em, how many did you say there were?”
“I saw four.”
“Four,” I repeated, thinking. “We took one out already, but there’s a good chance there could be more and we can assume they all have guns.” I surmised grimly. None of us liked the odds, but we had to do something to help her.
I looked at the gun in my hand. I’d never pulled the trigger on the job before. I’d often wondered if I’d be able to go through with it. I knew that this time, there’d be no question, no hesitation. Rose was my everything and as long as I was breathing, I’d willingly die protecting her. It was that realization that made me finally understand just how much I was in love with her. As I held her father’s gun in my hand, I hoped that if I had to pull the trigger the bullets would find their mark.
“Let’s go get our girl,” I said with determination and we left the room in search of her and the bastards that took her away from us.
We searched room after room; finally, as we drew near the back, I heard muffled voices and shuffling feet. I went first, sneaking up to the doorway. Jasper stayed back a covered me while Emmett kept an eye out, each convinced we would be discovered any second. I stopped next to the door and peered into the a cavernous space realizing this was the warehouse. I heard a male voice and saw the back of two heads, one much taller than the other. The taller guy had to be Felix; my face and memory still had a good feel for that particular goon. The other guy was doing all the talking; figuring he was in charge, I assumed it was Royce. Glancing around, I saw a few wooden crates not too far from the door and hidden in partial darkness. Perfect cover for our purposes. I motioned for Jasper and Emmett to follow me and we crept through the door one at a time, the two who weren’t moving ready to provide cover and protection should the other one be spotted. From that vantage point I took in what I could of the room.
What I saw, besides the broad backs of two men, was Rose. I forced myself to resist the nearly irresistible impulse to ignore safety and rush to her. At first glance she seemed okay. The more my trained eye examined her I realized her hair was disheveled, the top few buttons of her dress were undone and her skirt was up around her thighs. More than anything she was pissed off, anger was definitely the dominant emotion on her face. Whatever they’d done to her hadn’t broken her; it had only stirred the wasp’s nest, and I knew from personal experience, pissed Rosie was a force to be reckoned with.
I never knew murderous fury until that moment. If they had touched her… I…I couldn’t even think about that, I’d end up shooting them all. Now. Instead I tried to focus on the fact that she was alive. Her hands were bound behind her and she sat there seething and shooting daggers at Royce and his henchmen. I knew my baby would do everything she could to get us out of this jam. I counted her as much of a weapon as the gun I had in my hand.
The gun in my hand. I looked down at it adoringly. The light shimmered along it’s frame just right, and I noticed something I hadn’t before, an inscription on the frame. I assumed it was something someone had done for her father. I brought the gun closer to my face to read it in the dim light.
“E, To keep you safe and bring you home to me – Rose” it read in elegant script.
My heart clenched. I was counting on it keep her safe so she could be my home.
My enraged stare went back to her face. Something made her peer into the darkness where I was hiding. Maybe she felt the weight of my stare, full of fear and love for her and hatred for those bastards, but something made her look straight at me. In her eyes, I saw the furious worried plotting of trying to save her own skin transform to total and utter relief once she knew I was there to save her. I loved her so much in that moment, my heart almost broke. Even when the odds were stacked so horribly against us, she knew beyond any doubt that I could rescue her. No matter how misplaced her faith was, what mattered was her faith was always in me. She trusted me implicitly, and I realized I wasn’t just the luckiest son of a bitch in Chicago. I was the luckiest son of a bitch in the world.
I mouthed a silent “I love you,” fucking praying she saw it. I didn’t know what was going to happen in the next five minutes, and I needed her to know. She must have seen me, because her eyes blinked in shock before her brow furrowed with longing and forgetting herself for a moment, she whimpered.
“What’s that, sugar?” Royce turned to her, eyeing the creamy legs I coveted, and I had to repress a hateful hiss.
Rose looked up at him and seductively winked. I couldn’t hold back the hiss that time. Jasper’s hand on my shoulder kept me steady, barely.
“Easy, Edward. Rose is using her weapon, give her a chance.” A low growl of frustration rumbled in my throat. He was right. As much I didn’t want to let her continue, I knew it was our best hope. I had to trust her enough to give her a chance. Royce moved behind her and untied the cloth gagging her mouth.
“I just don’t see why we can’t come to an…understanding,” she said and brought the toe of her shoe lazily up the inside of Royce’s calf, over his knee, up his thigh. I watched in a state of enraged helpless torture, clenching my teeth so hard I thought they might shatter. His sinister eyes grew wide and appreciative as her looked down at her. She offered him a coquettish whimper inspiring him to grunt disgustingly.
“Felix, take a fiver,” he commanded and I could tell Rose was suppressing the urge to shudder. I suppressed the urge to shoot him. Barely.
Now was our chance. “Follow him and put him, and anyone else you find, out of commission until the cops show up. Royce is mine.” I whispered to Jasper and Emmett. They nodded and snuck out of the door as quietly as cat burglars. I turned my attention back to Rose.
Royce slithered behind the pole she was tied to and quickly unfastened the ropes. Her eyes were trained on mine the entire time. I willed her to be strong, to go through with whatever crazy idea she’d cooked up. The moment the ropes fell from her wrists to the floor, I knew this asshole was mine. He came back around and stood in front of her. His fat well-manicured fingers roughly grabbed her chin and yanked it up, forcing her to tear her eyes from mine. She stood and brought her hands up between them, her red fingernails lazily tracing up the lapels of his suit jacket. That was more than my jealous nature could handle.
I emerged from my hiding place, keeping in mind that I didn’t know if he had a gun on him. I took a step forward and saw Rose’s hands curl around his neck. I took another step; his hands slid around her waist, bringing her breasts within mere inches of brushing against him. I was going insane watching this, all while trying to use my only advantage; surprise. I was almost to him now, just a few feet more and he’d be introduced to my gun. I saw Rose’s fingers playing with his hair which nearly ruined me; it drove me wild when she did it to me.
Finally I was right behind him and I didn’t hesitate. I shoved the barrel of my gun in his ribs. “Take your fucking hands off her and put ’em where I can see ’em,” I growled. “One wrong move and you’ll lose more than a kidney.”
He chuckled but slowly pulled his hands away from Rose and put them up. “Don’t be sore, Cullen. We were just getting to the fun part.”
I pushed my gun harder into his ribcage. “Rose, search him.” She didn’t waste time going right for his holster. She must have known he had a gun, she knew right where to find it. Good thing I’d let her take the lead, as hellish as watching it had been. She extracted the gun from his holster and stepped back again, his gun held surely in her hands and pointed at him.
“You’re a fucking tease,” he spat at her and, god fucking help me, my finger itched to pull the trigger. I hardly registered that Rose had let the gun fall to her side and had stepped forward, standing right in front of him. I raged an internal war not to shoot and make up some story to the cops while Rose was taking matters into her own hands. Her fury finally caught my attention; I’d never seen her so pissed off. She was glorious. Her hand pulled back and flew forward, landing square in Royce’s kisser.
“That’s from Emmett,” she spat angrily. “And this is from me,” and swiftly kneed Royce right in the balls.
That’s my baby doll.
I laughed as he doubled over in agony and I pushed him toward the chair he’d tied Rose to. Pulling out my handcuffs, I secured his arms around the pole, making sure he’d stay put until the cops showed up.
I flew to Rose and pulled her to me. I needed to check on Jasper and Emmett, but I had to hold her for just a moment first. I had to feel her against me and no one else. “Are you okay, baby?”
“Fine,” she whispered and her arms went around my neck, pulling me to her with a force she’d never shown before.
“It’s over now, Rose, I’m here.”
“I know,” she said plainly. “I knew you’d come.”
“I’ll always come,” I whispered against her forehead. Taking her hand I led her out in search of Jasper and Emmett. it wasn’t long before we caught up with them. They tied Felix up with Demetri and had rounded up a fourth lackey, too. Now, all we could do was play the waiting game until Swan and the cavalry showed up.
Finally I could appreciate that it was over, and that Rose was safe beside me. I brought my hand up and brushed my fingertips from her jaw to her chin, tilting her face to me. My lips met hers began to dance tenderly together. This kiss felt different to me than any other before. Maybe it was the sweetness of relief that she was safe or perhaps it was the engagement ring burning a hole in my pocket. One thing was certain; I never wanted it to end. I never want to be without the option of reaching out and pressing my eager craving lips to her soft loving ones. Always accepting, always believing, always willing.
She must be near me.