Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer & Little Brown Publishing own all rights
The traffic signal was stuck on red. I stared at it, willing it to change and drumming my fingernails in time to Lucy Ann Polk crooning on the radio, “Back in Your Own Backyard.” I was pretty sure that Emmett was going to throw me out of the car before we even got to the Cullens, I was driving him bananas with my impatience. I leaned forward like an anxious child and spoke by the partition near Emmett’s head. “How much further?”
Emmett’s low chortle floated through the glass and he shook his head in disbelief. “You mean since you asked two minutes ago? And I told you ten minutes? It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you with ants in your pants. This is pretty funny.”
“Oh, hush. Stop making fun of me! I’m excited to see where Edward grew up and to find out what he discovered today about the case.” From my summation, Emmett had heard a bit in the car from Carlisle and Esme while he had driven them to and fro the day prior. They’d known him for many years now as well from meetings back when Daddy was alive. Together they came up with the work out regiment that Daddy and Emmett partook in each morning. I leaned back so my head was near his, the glass partition hard against my skull. Glancing down at what I was wearing, I was suddenly nervous that my office attire wasn’t appropriate for supper. It was a simple white dress with small hyacinth-colored flowers. I turned once more in my seat so I could talk to him again, my arms resting on the mohair. “Do I look okay?”
Emmett groaned. “You’re kidding, right? Did you really just ask me that, sweetheart?”
“Placate me,” I demanded and his laughter once again drifted back toward me, his eyes still trained on the road.
“You’re gorgeous, kiddo. You know this. I know this. Stop being such a girl.”
I glared at him in mock indignation. “Emmett McCarty! You know I would punch you if I could reach you.”
“Well, then. I’ve never been so thankful for this glass. I know that you pack a mean punch. You’d probably knock me to the floor.” His lips pressed into a line as he concentrated on the left turn he was making. I thought about the last real punch I threw and realized it was when I hit Jasper, that day in the study. Not wanting my thoughts to dwell on that, I focused my attention back on my line of questioning of the Cullen’s house.
“So, tell me. What does the house look like? Did you go inside?”
Emmett acquiesced and I listened to every word with interest. “Well, Dr. Cullen was trying to insist that I come in for tea when I came to pick them up yesterday, but I think he was just being polite. Or maybe it was because he was nervous as all get out.” Emmett had told me on more than one occasion that he gets to hear a lot of interesting information as a driver. Apparently some people forgot that there was actually a person on the other side of the partition, even though they could full-well see him. In fact, that’s how Daddy found out about a business associate who was not on the up and up. The Cullens were the type of people who would engage Emmett in conversation though and he told me of how Carlisle was acting just like Edward and how bizarre it was to see the two of them, so alike in their nerves.
“We’re nearly there, Rosalie. They live near the end of this street.”
I figured I’d ask about the girl Emily told me he was seeing. “How’s Siobhan?”
He didn’t ask about how I knew of Siobhan because he didn’t need to. He knew where I got my information. “She’s good. Taking her to play pool this weekend.” He crossed one hand over the other as he turned the car into the driveway. I wanted to ask more about Siobhan but that would have to wait until another time because we had finally arrived.
My eyes drank in the large Victorian home. It was not as grand as the Hale estate but it was large and beautiful in its own right. Red brick, trimmed with dark green, the eaves a prominent feature. My eyes lingered on the lovely rose bushes along the edge of the grass and I knew that those were Esme’s pride. It was one of the few things that Edward had let slip by when he was estranged from his parents while I had shooed Riley away and was contently weeding one day in the garden. My eyes welled up with tears because I knew that he was here, in his childhood home, where he belonged.
Getting soft, Rosalie. Chin up.
Exiting the car, I smoothed my skirt, lifted my chin and made my way toward the door.
At precisely 5:42, I heard the gravel of the drive crunching under the weight of a vehicle and a second later I recognized the low purr of the Fleetwood’s V8 engine. At the sound of the doorbell, I jolted up from the chair in the sitting room where I’d been chatting with my parents. I knew my actions showed to them both how happily anxious I was to see Rose. I had to admit to myself, the intensity of my urge to see her was pretty fucking overwhelming. I always looked forward to seeing Rosie, but this felt different for some reason, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.
Some damn detective you are, Cullen.
I repressed a snort at my completely accurate internal chastising as I opened the door. I couldn’t help but smile at the stunning vision that was Rosie. She had on one of her signature flirty fucking dresses that made me hot under the collar. It was frilly and very feminine as it flowed around her in the soft breeze of the June evening. It was white with little purple flowers, and big ruffles at the neck that barely hung on her shoulders. One slight movement and the fabric could so easily slip off and reveal her slender shoulder and delectable collarbone. Sometimes I seriously wondered if she wore them simply to torment me, because, Lord knows it damn well did. Then I remembered this was Rosalie Hale, she’d look drop dead gorgeous in a fucking potato sack.
“Hello, Edward,” she whispered huskily, her red lips smiling seductively as she stepped into the house. I shut the door and pulled her to me, eager to show her with a kiss how much I’d missed her that day. I had to force myself to remember where we were. Restraint wasn’t something I was used to showing where Rose was concerned. This was going to take some getting used to.
“Hi, Doll,” I returned warmly, taking her hand and kissing it instead.
“Sheesh, is that all I get?” she pouted impishly in mock affront.
“Later, sweetheart,” I promised roguishly and squeezed her hand. Her pout dissipated and her smiling eyes flitted away from mine as she looked over the foyer with obvious curiosity. Behind me I heard the creaking of the floorboards as Mom and Dad came to greet her.
“Rosalie, it’s so nice to see you again,” my father came forward and took her hand. “I’m so pleased you’re joining us for dinner,” he said with sparkling sincerity.
“I’m so happy to be invited,” she replied warmly and offered her hand. He took it and respectfully bowed over it for a moment and released it. Then my mother came forward.
“Give me a hug, my dear,” she insisted sweetly, embracing Rose and not really giving her a choice. “Now, let me take your things, Rosalie. Our Kate is off for the evening.” She released Rose and held out her hands while Rose removed her hat and gloves, and handed them and her purse to mom. “You all go into the dining room and I’ll let Charlotte know we are ready,” she suggested and disappeared down the hall. Dad led the way, and I placed my hand on the small of Rose’s lower back and followed behind her.
Dinner was the best I could ever remember having in that house and it wasn’t because of the food, although the stuffed Cornish hens were excellent. In the soft glow of the firelight, it was the warmth of family that fed me that meal. The conversation flowed in much the same vein as the night before, lots of catching up and getting reacquainted with one another. Mom told us stories about their trip to Italy a few years ago while Dad sat back and enjoyed her obvious delight in the memory. Over the course of the meal, I caught several small exchanges between them that showed me that they were just as much in love as they had ever been. I’d always admired their relationship. I’d even go so far as to say I admired their marriage.
I looked at Rosalie, her golden waves glistening like a wheat field in the sunrise. She was laughing heartily at whatever Mom was saying, I’d lost track, caught up in my own thoughts. Her rich throaty laugh was the sweetest sound in the world to me. Well, second sweetest after hearing her moan my name in bed. I watched her, laughing so hard tears were glistening in her eyes, a demure hand went to her chest, flattened over her heart as she tried to catch her breath. She was exquisite, and she caught me staring at her. Instead of teasing me about it, she just fucking winked at me and I smirked back.
After our dessert coffee had grown cold, Mom offered to take Rose on a tour of the house. I was grateful for the suggestion; it would give me a chance to talk to Dad about the things I had found. He and I had much to discuss.
“Rosalie, would you like the grand tour of the Cullen estate? I could show you all the prime locations where Edward used to give me heart attacks on a daily basis.” Esme smiled warmly at me as my latest giggle fit died down. My heart leapt at the offer; I’d been so interested in nosing around and seeing where Edward grew up. A personal tour from him would have been interesting to get his perspective on the house but I knew that Esme would hold her own. Plus, she’d give me some insight on what Edward was like growing up and how he became the man I knew today.
My eyes found his once more and I silently questioned if he was okay with me disappearing for awhile with his mom. He winked and gave a slight nod before turning his attention to his mom. “Hey now, Mom. I had to keep you on your toes. Otherwise you would have been bored and where’s the fun in that?” She moved behind where he sat and pressing a gentle kiss on the top of his head. He glanced at me again and I knew from his expression that he’d take the opportunity while Esme and I left to tour the house to speak with Carlisle about what he had found. He and I would have the car ride home to catch each other up on both the case and what I had found out from Marcus in regard to Jasper’s case.
“I’d love a tour, Esme,” I said as I stood up from the table. She smiled broadly at me before linking her arm with mine.
I giggled once more. Maybe I had a little more wine with dinner than I thought. Come to think of it, while I sipped on it throughout the meal, the glass always seemed to remain full. I’m sure I had Edward to thank for that.
“We shall!” I answered, brightly. I heard Carlisle laugh lowly and say something about the two of us being trouble together. We walked arm in arm in the foyer. The dark wood paneling was warm and cozy and Esme started telling me about the house, how she decided on decorating, and how long the house had been in the family. The grandfather clock in the hall chimed, reminding us that it was precisely eight o’clock.
“Did Edward ever tell you about the time he touched Carlisle’s antiseptic?”
“Antiseptic?” I asked, tilting my head to the side. “No, I’m pretty sure he never mentioned that.”
“Well, Edward always liked following his father around when it came to patients. We didn’t see many here but occasionally Carlisle would have someone come to the house if there was no other option and Edward would be his ‘assistant.’ He had a patient come for a routine exam and afterward, he cleaned his kit with antiseptic.”
I leaned against the stair rail, absorbing her story and wondering where the story was headed.
“Edward was probably around eight or nine-”
She was cut off by Edward’s voice drifting in from the other room, “Ma! I was six.”
Esme rolled her eyes at his interruption. She raised her voice and called back, “Hush you and stop eavesdropping. It’s rude!” We heard the low murmuring of their voices resume in the adjacent room. “Okay, fine. He was six.” Her face showed that she clearly thought otherwise but was indulging him. “He wandered in the office after Carlisle had finished cleaning his instruments. His father was in the middle of paperwork and Edward kept asking him questions and pestering him, as he always did. He was playing with the bottle of antiseptic and the cap opened and he got some on his hand.” She sat down on third step and patted it so that I joined her. Once I had settled on the step, she continued with her story.
“So, he gets the antiseptic on his hands and then asks Carlisle the stuff in the bottle was. Carlisle, annoyed that Edward kept asking questions, just gave him the brush off. Told him,” she put her chin down into her chest and did her Carlisle imitation, “‘Don’t touch the bottle, buddy. It’ll kill ya.'” She slipped back into her own voice once more. “Carlisle always has had a bit of a sarcastic side…”
“Ah, so that’s where Edward gets it from.”
She rolled her eyes and glanced toward the room where the two men sat together. “Well, Edward took him at his word as little boys often do of their fathers. I found him here,” she patted on step with her hand, “sitting on this very step, looking sad and staring at the clock. I wasn’t exactly sure what he was doing so I continued about reading my book. A while later, he was still here, still staring at the clock.”
I tried to picture little Edward, sitting in the foyer of his house, on the same step that Esme and I were perched presently.
“So I sat down next to him and took his face in my hands and asked him what exactly he was doing sitting and watching the clock.”
Mystified, I inquired, “What was he doing?”
“Well, he told me in his small but serious voice that he was ‘waiting to die.'”
My heart squeezed inside my chest, sad for six year old Edward. “Awww, how sad!”
“It was heartbreaking, Rosalie! Then he explained the whole story and what exactly transpired to make him think that he’d be dying right then and there. Now granted, Carlisle didn’t know he had gotten any on him but let me say this: Carlisle was almost the one to die that day when I confronted him,” she stated, ruefully. She smiled with fondness at the memory. It was clear that despite her anger toward Carlisle during the event, she found Edward’s ability to take him at his word to be most endearing.
She stood from the step, her dress flowing once more around her legs. Reaching out her hand, she asked, “Are you ready to see the upstairs?” I nodded and she pulled me to my feet.
As we walked up the steps, she pointed out the portraits of Edward and their family that lined the walls. She showed me the office and then she showed me the room that Edward once called his. It was no longer decorated as it was when Edward had been there but she walked to the dresser and pulled the drawer open to reveal a large scrapbook. Lifting it gently out of the drawer, she placed it at the bottom of the bed.
“This is the most recent one I’ve made. I’ve been clipping the articles that Edward’s in since he started in the business…” The words unspoken were since he left home. Page after page showed the dedication of a mother to her son and I was reminded of the clippings I kept of Jasper’s case.
Her finger traced the printed page, picking up the black ink. “I’ve missed him, Rosalie.” Her eyes met mine and they filled with tears as she spoke. “You, of all people, may understand the feelings I felt. The pain. The longing. The knowledge that he was so close yet untouchable… for whatever reason.” She tacked on at the end, equaling our feelings. Her hand rested on mine and she squeezed gently. A few tears fell, racing each other down her cheeks and I stood silently by her side, raising my hand to rest gently on her shoulder.
I wasn’t one who knew how to comfort well, but I couldn’t help but feel a camaraderie with Esme. She was correct in her statement, we were more alike than we were different. I witnessed her joy and relief in her reunion with Edward. The choices that they had made, for whatever reasons, separated them for ten years. Now that I knew there was a chance for Jasper’s release, that he might actually be able to rejoin me and our life at home, I needed to assess whether I truly wanted him there, knowing what he had done; if I’d be able to separate the act of taking our father’s life from my love for him.
We watched them disappear from our view as Mom began the ‘tour’. I looked back at Dad and I’m sure we wore matching expressions of indulgent adoration. We shared a mutual chuckle and Dad stood up, walking over to the bar.
“Would you like a drink, Edward?” he asked and poured himself a scotch.
“Bourbon, if ya got it,” I replied gratefully. I was alone with Dad, there was no other person to be the buffer to stifle the underlying tension still between us. I hoped a drink might take the fucking edge off.
“You’re mother is just over the moon about you and Rosalie,” he said as he brought my bourbon over to me and sat back down in his chair.
“Yeah,” I smiled softly. “Mom’s a real cheerleader.” He chuckled and took a drink of his scotch. I pulled a Lucky from my pack and lit up, hoping I was successfully hiding my own elation over my relationship with Rose.
“So, did you find anything today?” he asked, setting his glass down on the end table beside him. For some reason, it felt off for me to dive into discussing the case with him and not try to patch things up more between us. It still felt too new, too raw. Too delicate.
“Dad, I want you to know I’ve missed being a part of this house.” Walking through that front door that morning and spending the day with Mom had been great, but an overwhelming reminder of how much I’d missed over the last decade.
“We’ve missed you, too, Edward,” he replied genuinely and I knew he meant it. It still wasn’t right, wasn’t sufficient. My guilt over my actions forced me to continue.
“I’ll never be able to rectify what happened,” I offered honestly.
“Edward, stop tearing yourself down. You forget so easily that you weren’t the only one who made mistakes. I’m guilty too, but it’s in the unalterable past. Let’s not talk about it anymore, it’s counterproductive in my opinion. We are together now, and there’s a task at hand, ” he said earnestly, trying to quell my guilt. His penetrating gaze held mine, and I recognized the look of seriousness in his eyes from my youth. It was telling me he had forgiven me, and he wanted me to forgive myself. He was telling me that focusing on the past would only hold up the future. Time was the only remedy.
I took a drag off my Lucky and pulled the diary and handkerchief from my pocket. “I found these in the room upstairs,” I said, handing him the items.
His brow wrinkled in confusion. “Where? We went over every inch of that room.”
I smiled. “I know where to look for its secrets,” I reminded him and put out my cigarette. His eyebrow quirked. “What do you think?” I asked, prompting him to open the diary and thumb through the pages slowly.
“It’s Marie’s handwriting. Have you read it?” he replied.
“Not yet, but you’re certain that is her penmanship?” I questioned again. I had flipped through the book looking for a name, something that would tell me who it belonged to for certain. I’d found nothing , so I couldn’t be positive it belonged to her.
“Without a doubt, this was penned by her, Edward,” he confirmed. Perfect. Now I could take it seriously, knowing I’d find something fucking relevant in it. I just had to find a time to sit down and read it like a housewife with a nickel romance novel. I also had another lead to check out, the address. That would be the best place to begin nosing around.
“I need that address where they want you to meet them.”
“Certainly,” he nodded and went to the desk, pulling open the top drawer. After extracting a small slip of paper, he walked back to the chair, sat down and handed it to me. The street name scrawled out in his physicians scribble was one I didn’t recognize. I was lucky I was able to read Dad’s chicken scratch at all, but years of forging his name on my report cards had taught me the intricacies of his hand. It had even led me to study handwriting as a hobby, a hobby that turned out to be useful on the job every now and then. I pursed my lips in thought as I studied the address, then slipped the scrap of paper between the pages of her diary.
Descending the porch steps, Edward guided me toward the car, his hand on my back. Looking over my shoulder, I waved once more at Esme and Carlisle, who stood on the porch, looking almost ethereal as they were back-lit by the lamp behind them. Their voices rang out in unison as they both called after us, “Be safe.” They kept their guard, watching over Edward and I until we were in the car. I expected them to turn and head inside the door but they held one another, arm in arm, waving until the house was no longer visible. I looked over to see Edward staring toward the direction of the house as if he could still somehow see them.
My hand reached to grasp his, our fingers marrying together, and I leaned my head on his shoulder, my hair falling over his jacket. He turned his face into the crown of my head and pressed a gentle kiss there.
“Mom treat you okay?” he questioned, his lips still resting on my head.
“Need you even ask? Your mom is an angel,” I said softly, playing with his hand and tracing his fingers with my own.
I felt his lips pull upward into a smile. “That’s funny, I always call her a saint when referring to her. An angel works just as well.” He moved one arm so that it wrapped around my shoulder, pulling me in to lean against his body.
At the same time we both started to speak.
“How did the call with-”
“I have to tell you about what Jasper’s-”
Catching each others eyes in the dark, we both smiled softly. “Tell me,” he implored, settling back so he could hear what I had to tell him about the talk I had with Marcus earlier in the day. After telling him everything that we discussed, he sat quietly beside me as I once more turned everything around in my mind. I didn’t want to make a rash decision. I knew that if I were to have Jasper freed, it would have to be something I’d be willing to do because he was my brother and I loved him and forgave him.
“Dollface, you’re awfully quiet.”
“Just thinking about the options. I miss Jasper more than words can say. What he did was reprehensible but would I rather have both of them out of my life forever? Or forgive him and move past this with him? It’s a lot to think about.”
“This is your decision, Rosalie. But if there’s anything that I can do to help you find your answers, you let me know.”
Settling back into his arms once more, I nodded, agreeing to his offer. Our faces caught the city lights surrounding us as the Fleetwood returned us home.