Chapter 25 ~ The Reveal
"I may be the asshole ex-husband, but I'm not an asshole!"
Jake was being questioned by the officer I recognized as one who had been at my house on Halloween: Embry Call.
"If you wish to arrest me for something, Officer, get on with it and I will call my lawyer. If not, kindly stop speaking to me as if I was wanted by the F.B.I. for hiding Bin Laden in my basement."
I couldn't keep from smiling as I bit my lip in an attempt to keep the giggles from escaping. In spite of the near panic attack that had left me shivering as I sat on the parking-curb, Jake's jacket wrapped around my shoulders, I had to hand it to the man. I'd always loved the way words effortlessly trilled off his tongue in often amusing patterns. It was beautiful to behold. I could sit and listen to him speak, about anything, for hours and never get bored. The man had literally talked me out of my panties once upon a time, after all.
Of course, the fact that he was big and beautiful and his skin glowed a tawny-russet didn't hurt matters much, either. Realistically, my panties and I never stood much of a chance.
Officer Call, however, was not as amused. He stared blankly back at Jake, who stood a full four inches taller than he, at least, but who didn't really seem that much bigger from my perspective. He had a pen in one hand and a pad of paper in the other and the look in his eyes told Jake (and me) that he did, in fact, consider the professor to be an asshole.
"Forgive me if I find it curious that Ms. Swan's vehicle just happened to be vandalized on the night you had dinner with her—a dinner you were late for."
Jake sighed and put his hands on his hips. "Officer, I am a tenured and well-respected professor of American Literature at UCLA. I have a small baby at home and plan to marry the woman I love as soon as my divorce is final—which happens to be tomorrow, by the way. What in the word would I have to gain by harassing my ex-wife in this way?"
The officer simply shrugged and looked down to his pad of paper, making notes. "I don't pretend to understand the motives of some people. I'm just doing my job." He looked pointedly at Jake. "And luckily, the restaurant has video surveillance of their parking lot. So we'll just see who the perpetrator is."
"Well, I can certainly see why we're all standing here wasting time, then, instead of reviewing the videotape." I thought Jake's head might explode.
Officer Call looked down at me, then, the expression on his face softening greatly. "We'll be in touch, Ms. Swan, when we've reviewed the tape. It won't take long, but we can't do it here so you might have to come down to the station, to take a look at it, as well."
I cleared my throat, which was choked with the emotion of the evening. "Yes, of course. Thank you, Officer. For everything."
I didn't bother trying to stand up. The last time I'd done so, I'd essentially fallen back to my seated position anyway. He nodded before giving Jake one last glare and turning his back to us. Jake plopped his large body down on the curb next to me, wrapping his arm around my shoulders. I nuzzled into him, gratefully. He was always incredibly warm, even hot. During summers, when we'd shared a bed on a regular basis, I'd more often than not ended up sleeping in our spare bedroom for much of the night, because sleeping next to Jacob Black was like sleeping next to a space heater that pumped out a consistent 108 degrees. On cold winter nights, though, when our drafty old house fell to frigid temperatures, having my own living and breathing furnace to snuggle up to as we each read our respective book-of-the-moment had been extremely inviting, comforting, and occasionally even titillating.
We watched together as my old truck—now tainted with the ugly words Slut and Whore, among others, courtesy of a cheap can of black spray paint and someone's vile intentions—was lifted up onto a tow truck and prepped to be hauled away, to the police station. The windshield was bashed in and it looked like someone had taken an ax to her hood.
A few tears slipped down my cheek as I thought of Charlie, of all the years he'd spent behind the wheel of that old Chevy and all the miles of road the three of us had seen together. I felt a piece of my heart tearing a little as Charlie seemed ripped away from me again with the turn of the tow truck's engine. Jake's arm tightened perceptively around me and I buried my face in his big, wide chest, still hard with muscle even as he neared fifty.
"Charlie's still with you, Bells." He kissed the top of my head, knowing my thoughts without my having to speak them.
"I know." I sniffled. "It's just ... Jesus, what the hell else is going to happen?"
Jacob let me cry silently for a few minutes before he ruffled my hair with his large hand. "So ... Anything you'd like to tell me, Bella? Anything new going on with you?" I could hear the amusement in his voice, though I kept my face to his chest.
I took a deep breath before I replied. "Somebody's stalking me." I figured a direct answer was my best option.
I pulled away from him finally, sitting up and wiping my face with my hands. "I think it's this guy who used to work with me."
"Oh?" He looked at me curiously.
I knew he wanted to know every last detail, but I hadn't the energy to give them. Instead, I shrugged.
"I don't know really. Hopefully, they got this latest thing on video and we can get something done."
He peered at me, bending his neck to look directly in my face. "This latest thing?" His eyebrows drew together as he read whatever I was revealing through my eyes. "Are you okay, Bells? What else has he done to hurt you?"
I sighed and knew it was pointless to try to put on a brave face in front of the man who had known me so well for so many years.
"Physically? I'm fine. He hasn't touched me. He's just—making his presence known, I guess." I sighed again and wiped at my face. "It's really a long story, Jake, and I'd just as soon go home if that's okay with you."
The owners of the restaurant, who had come outside while the police were on their property, gave us one last look before walking slowly back into their place of business. I wondered if I would ever have the guts to eat there again.
"Of course," Jake said, his arm snaking around my shoulders once again. "I'll take you home." He made no move to rise, though, and we remained seated for a few moments, in silence.
"You know if you need anything, you can call me, right?" He was looking at the ground as he asked and I smiled.
"I know," I said, bumping my shoulder against his chest.
"I mean, I may no longer be your husband, but that doesn't mean I don't care about you. Do you need someone to stay with you?"
I laughed then, and it was actually genuine. It almost felt good. "Oh, yeah. That would go over well with the new wife."
He smiled and looked at me. "Rachel would understand, Bella. I mean if I explained..."
I nodded, knowing he could talk his way into or out of anything if he needed to. "That's okay, Jake. I've been staying with Rosalie."
"Really?" He sounded even more alarmed, knowing I'd been essentially kicked out of my home. He knew how much I loved our house. "How long has this been going on?"
"I don't know.” I shrugged. “Several weeks, I guess."
We remained seated in silence, neither of us apparently having the energy to move from our seat on the cold curb. The sky was quite dark by then and most of the cars had vanished from the restaurant's parking lot. I pulled his jacket tighter around my shoulders as a light breeze snaked its way around us.
"Boy, how big was the stick shoved up that cop's ass, anyway?"
I hesitated, my head whipping around toward Jake, my mouth opened slightly in surprise at his word-choice, before I bent forward in laughter, tears of released tension now streaking my cheeks as I looked back at him, gratefully. Jacob's laugh bellowed behind me as he patted my back.
I cried on Rosalie's shoulder for a good half an hour before I finally fell into bed. It was late and I was exhausted, but I needed to talk to Edward before I fell asleep. I only hoped he wasn't already asleep when I called.
"Bella?" He sounded relieved when he answered the phone.
"Hi," I said softly. "Sorry it's so late."
His relief morphed into irritation. "I thought you were going to call me right after dinner. It's after midnight, Bella. I mean, how long does it take to have dinner? Do you know what I–"
I abruptly, and rather loudly, burst into tears again.
"Bella? I—shit! Bella, I'm sorry. God, I'm such a dick."
"No, it's—I'm okay." I almost choked on my tears as I spoke. "I'm sorry. I'm just upset."
"Well, yeah, I can tell. Baby, what happened? Did Jacob do something to you?" I could hear him getting angry again and I quickly tried to put him at ease in that regard.
"No, no. Jake was really great." I took a deep breath. "Can you just hold on for one-second?"
I didn't wait for his response before I put the phone down and grabbed a tissue, blowing my nose and wiping my face, trying to collect myself so that I might speak coherently. I could hear him speaking frantically on the phone as it lay on the bed next to me, though I couldn't make out what he was saying. I took another deep breath before picking up my cell phone and speaking into it again.
"Okay. I'm okay now. Sorry about that."
Edward sounded wary. "Bella ... What's going on over there?"
And so I told him. I couldn't quite get through the entire story without tears again running down my cheeks, but I did fairly well and was able to relate everything, starting with Jacob's unexpected apology, to the discovery of my truck. I ended with his bringing me back to Rosalie's house.
Edward remained silent for several moments after I'd finished. I had no idea what he was thinking or even if he was still on the line.
"I'm coming home, Bella."
I sighed heavily, tears threatening yet again. "You can't do that, Edward."
"I most certainly can. They have flights out of Dallas all the time."
I essentially ignored him. "What time is your meeting tomorrow?"
"Eleven. We're supposed to go to lunch afterward. This guy Walters is supposed to show me what real Texas barbecue is or some nonsense." I could hear the impatience in his voice.
"What time is your flight home?"
It was his turn to sigh. "Not 'til four."
"So you'll be home around six or so, right? With the time change?" I lay down on the bed, cradling the phone in the crook of my neck.
"Bella, I'm coming home. I can meet with Crater's another time."
"Crater's? They're a new customer, Edward. You can't blow them off. Hell, if you come flying home every time I have some new dilemma, at the rate I'm going, you'll never get any work done." I tried to chuckle at my feeble attempt at humor.
"Listen, Edward." I sniffed back the remaining tears and toughened up, closing my eyes. "There is absolutely no point in your coming home right now. We're both tired, we need to sleep, and I'll see you tomorrow anyway. Just come pick me up at Rosalie's on your way home from the airport, okay?"
He sighed again and hesitated a moment before replying. "I took a shuttle. I'll call you when I get home and come pick you up."
"I can just meet you at your place. That would be easier and that way I'll get to see you sooner. Call me when you land."
We were silent for several moments again and I shut my eyes tightly, holding back more tears. I wanted nothing more than to be in his arms at that moment, to feel his warm hands on me and to let him comfort and protect me. But I knew that was not a possibility—not until the following evening. Since his run-in with James, and considering the fact that he was so new, Edward was still walking a fine line at work. He had yet to really prove himself. I wanted him to perform as I knew he could and I didn't want to be the cause of any further work-related problems for him.
"It's only a few hours, really. You'll be home before you know it." I didn't know if I was trying to convince him or myself.
I heard another sigh on his end of the line. "Bella ... I want to be there with you."
"And you will be. Soon. Go charm the pants off of them and eat some yummy barbecue for me and I'll see you tomorrow evening, okay?"
"Bella ... I love you, baby."
I smiled, another small sigh slipping through my lips. "I know, Teddy. I love you too."
I woke with a start, feeling a hand on my shoulder. My heart was in my throat and a scream on my lips, but I caught them at hearing his words.
"Shh." Edward's lips grazed my shoulder, over the T-shirt I wore. "It's just me, baby."
"Ed–" I sat up, halfway. "What the—What? Why are you here?"
He chuckled as I shook my head, trying to wake up enough to fully grasp the situation at hand.
"I headed to the airport after we hung up. Caught the first flight out in the morning." His hand moved down my arm in a caress. "Sorry I startled you. I couldn't stay in Dallas, babe, not after what you told me."
I took a deep breath and smiled. This was the first time I was grateful to him for ignoring me.
"We can't make any noise in here, though, or Rosalie will slit my throat,” he said. “She already hates me for waking her up at six-thirty in the morning." He chuckled again, his hand squeezing my bicep.
"I can imagine." I looked back at him, turning my body to follow my line of vision. "What are you doing here?"
"It's nice to see you, too." He cupped my face in his hand as he chuckled again.
I smiled and sighed, leaning into his caress as I lay back on the pillow. "I'm very glad to see you, Edward. I just ... I mean, what about your meeting with Crater's?"
He shrugged and snuggled in next to me. I heard his shoes drop to the floor as he kicked them off of his feet. "I'll call them later. I'll say I'm sick or whatever. We can reschedule. It's not the end of the world."
I watched his face, as much as I could in the limited light floating through the window shade, and started to giggle. He smiled as he looked down at me.
"Did you practice saying that?"
He chuckled, dipping his head and resting it on my shoulder. "Maybe a little."
"You expected me to give you shit about coming home?"
We were still chuckling as he kissed my shoulder. "Aren't you going to?"
I sighed, still smiling as my hand moved to his hair. "You know, I should ... I mean, I don't want to interfere with your work ... But I'm just so glad to see you right now, I don't really care about Crater's."
He lifted his head and pressed his lips to mine, his fingers trailing lightly across my neck before he rested his hand on my shoulder. I sighed as he broke the kiss and he nudged me over onto my side. He snuggled along my back, spooning with me, his arm wrapped around my torso. His other arm was draped across the pillow, above my head. He kissed my ear, softly.
"Are you okay?" he whispered.
I sighed again, trying to move even closer to him, though it was impossible. I gripped his hand in mine. Our feet tangled together.
"I am so much better now."
I drifted back to sleep in his arms.
"So what now?" Edward voiced the question I had been asking myself all day.
Thursday had been a stressfully busy day and never had I been more appreciative of his company. We'd called Carlisle first thing in the morning and explained what was happening and that we would both be taking the day off, and most likely Friday, as well. As I knew he would be, he was understanding and incredibly concerned for my well-being, offering any assistance he could, including the use of a spare bedroom in his home, should I need it. He even offered to call Crater's and smooth things over with them on Edward's behalf. I was reminded again why I thought of him more as a friend than my boss. Shortly after that conversation came a telephone call from Officer Leah Clearwater, asking that I go down to the police station and look at the videotape from the parking lot.
"Holy fuck," Edward said as we watched James take a can of spray paint to my father's beloved Chevy. He had a baseball cap on his head, but it was, unmistakably, James. No doubt about it. He even wore that smarmy grin of his as he smashed a crowbar against the windshield.
Tears rolled down my face and Officer Call offered me a tissue. I smiled at him, gratefully. Edward's hand caressed my back, lovingly, as he sat in the metal folding chair next to me.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I know it's just a truck, but..."
"It's not just your truck," Officer Call replied, shaking his head. "This man has done a lot to get under your skin. Don't feel the need to apologize." He waited until I got control of myself before he continued.
"Here's the thing," he said. "We'll pick him up for vandalism, but he's gonna be released right away and he'll face a fine. Legally, he could be thrown in jail, but that's not gonna happen. Even if it did, it would be for a very short time. So here's my suggestion: Get yourself an attorney or get down to the courthouse yourself and file a restraining order. It only takes a day to get it through. And I'll serve it to him myself, if you'd like."
"And what good will that do?" Edward asked as I wiped my nose and stared at the officer through wet eyes.
"Honestly?" Officer Call looked at him. I noted that he was being much nicer to Edward this time than the last time they'd met. "Not much. But I will let him know, in no uncertain terms, that I'll be watching him. And at least with an R.O., if he comes anywhere near Ms. Swan or her property, you can call us right away and we can arrest him."
"Why doesn't that make me feel better?" I asked and the officer looked at me, sympathetically.
"I'm really sorry. But ... Well, he hasn't really done anything yet. I mean, nothing that constitutes a serious crime. Not that we can prove, anyway."
As if on autopilot, I signed paperwork and gave the officer any information I had on James. Officer Call immediately contacted other officers who were going to arrest James on the misdemeanor vandalism charge as soon as they found him—most likely at work, that day. That knowledge brought an actual smile to my face for the first time all day. I hoped they found him at work and I hoped he was humiliated.
Edward walked me to his car, his arm around me, and we headed toward the courthouse. In excess of four hours of standing in line and filling out forms later and we were informed that as it was now after 4:00 there would be no judge available to review it all until the following day.
"Fuckin' A!" Edward expressed his irritation by slamming his fist against the steering wheel once we were alone and back in his Volvo. Tears again started slipping silently down my cheeks as I gazed out the passenger window, staring at the grey parking lot. A few pigeons gathered beside a black sedan, pecking at something on the ground.
"Can we just go, Edward?" I felt sick. I knew a Restraining Order wouldn't help all that much, but I still didn't want to wait another day for one to be filed on my behalf. And having to go back to the courthouse the following day to put the matter to rest was just as unattractive.
He sighed heavily and put a hand on my thigh, rubbing it lightly. "Of course. I'm sorry, baby."
He started the car as I looked over at him. "It's okay Edward. I'm upset, too." I tried to smile.
We drove in silence for a few minutes, Edward staring at the road in front of him and me staring at him. I was trying to read his face, but his usually expressive features told me nothing. His jaw was clenched, though, and he appeared deep in thought.
"So what now?" he finally asked, voicing the thought I'd been having all day.
I had no idea what was next. I felt as if a rug was gradually being pulled from under me—slow enough that I knew it was happening, but not slow enough to allow me time to find a soft spot to land.
"Well ... I guess we go back to your place, if that's okay with you. And I wake up tomorrow and come back to the courthouse."
He glanced at me briefly, clutching my hand in his before training his eyes back on the road. "First of all, of course I want you at my place. And secondly, you mean we come back to the courthouse tomorrow."
I didn't argue. I smiled, instead, and tightened my grip on his hand. I wanted him with me and, selfishly, didn't even care about his job at that moment.
"I'm also starving, though."
Just as I said that, I heard Edward's stomach growl and I couldn't help but chuckle.
"Yeah, sorry," he said with a grin. "I'm pretty hungry myself."
In all the craziness of the day, we hadn't found time to eat since the morning.
"Well, if you'll take me back to your place, I'll cook dinner for us."
"You don't have to do that, Bella." He brought by hand to lay it flat against his thigh. His own hand moved across the back of it, his fingers tickling in between my knuckles. "We can pick something up or order in or whatever."
"Honestly Edward, I'd rather cook. It'll take my mind off of ... stuff." I reached over the center console to grasp his forearm with the hand not being held by his. I just couldn't seem to get close enough to him. I wanted the sureness of his touch, the security found in his warmth. "Besides, I have really had enough take-out for a while."
He grinned. "Well, I'm all for a home-cooked meal, but I don't know that I have much food at my place."
I shrugged and suggested we stop by a market on the way home.
He was right. Edward had next-to-nothing in his refrigerator and cupboards, apart from what we unloaded after our trip to the grocery store.
"Dude," I said, standing in front of his pantry. "What do you eat when I'm not around?"
He chuckled behind me as he started opening a bottle of red wine. "I'm a single man, babe. I eat a lot of pizza, Chinese and burgers."
I wrinkled my nose and turned to face him, giving him a disapproving look. I bent over a pad of paper, making a shopping list for the next day, as I would be returning to the market.
"You know ... You could always move in here with me and feed me whatever you want."
My cell phone rang, making me jump just as my throat had started to turn dry in response to Edward's statement. He started to chuckle.
"Saved by the bell," he said.
I just stared at him with wide eyes as I spoke into the phone. "Hello?"
Edward was still chuckling as he poured wine into two glasses.
"This is Officer Call from the Long Beach Police Department."
"Of course," I said, suddenly ill at ease. "How are you?"
"Well, I'm fine, ma'am, thanks for asking."
"Officer, have we not had the discussion about calling me ma'am?"
He chuckled and so did Edward, at whom I glared good-naturedly as he took a sip of his wine.
"Sorry ma—uh—Ms. Swan. I just wanted to let you know that we picked up James Legion this afternoon, at his workplace."
Edward looked up at my gasp and I gave him a big smile. He returned it, his eyes lighting up.
"That's great news, Officer," I said into the phone.
"Yeah, well, he's here now, but he won't be for long. We've ... Um ... Had some delays in processing his paperwork." Officer Call chuckled. "But he'll see a night court judge. As I told you, I doubt he'll do any time. Vandalism is a misdemeanor and crimes like these, you know—our jails are too full."
My smile faltered a bit, but I was still fairly happy about how things had turned out. "I understand, Officer. I really appreciate all you've done."
"It's just my job, Ms. Swan. Did you get the R.O.?"
I explained to him that it would have to be be approved and filed the following day.
"Okay well, my offer still stands. I'd be happy to make sure he gets served, if you'd like my help."
"Thank you. Again." I chuckled at the fact that I always seemed to be thanking this man I didn't even know. "I may well take you up on that."
Edward raised his eyebrows at me and I winked at him, smiling again. He looked at me, expectantly, as I disconnected my call. Without a word, I walked over to him and wrapped my arms around his waist, resting my face against his chest. He put his glass down on the counter and wrapped his arms around me, as well.
"Everything okay?" he asked.
"Yes," I said into his chest. "Good, really. They picked up James. They're processing him now."
I felt more than heard his large exhale of breath. "Well, that is good news."
"Mmm..." I closed my eyes and listened to the soft sounds of Edward's breathing and the muted tempo of his heart beating. If I could have fallen asleep standing up, I probably would have.
Before long, I felt his hand in my hair. "You okay, babe?"
"Mmm..." I muttered again. I inhaled deeply, taking in his Edward-scent, and I felt an ache in my chest. Pulling away slightly, I looked up at him, my eyes damp.
"Edward, I'm so sorry."
He looked surprised as he cupped my face in his palm. "What? What are you sorry for?"
"For—for doubting you. For not fully trusting you."
"Ssh." He pulled me to his chest again and wrapped his arms around me tightly. "I don't want to hear another word, Bella."
I tried to pull out of his grasp. "But–"
"But nothing," he said. He was quiet for a moment before he took my face and held it while he looked down into my eyes. "Listen, Bella, I understand why you couldn't really trust me. I hated it, but it's my own fault. And with all of this madness surrounding you—well, I just don't blame you. At all."
He kissed my lips softly and I sighed, shutting my eyes tightly against the tears that threatened yet again. He waited until I opened them before speaking again.
"I love you, Bella. More than my life. And I will do everything in my power to prove to you that you can trust me, from here on out."
"Edward." I gripped him even tighter to me, my hands clasping together behind him. My chin rested against his chest as I looked up at him. "I do trust you, Edward. And I love you, too. I can't believe how much I love you."
"Were you always this beautiful?"
I was laying on the couch, reading, my feet in Edward's lap as he sat with his own book in one of his hands. He absentmindedly caressed and squeezed my foot with the other. I watched him over my glasses. As much as I loved looking at his beautiful eyes and magnetic lips when he looked at me, I often found myself staring at his lovely profile, just as I had the night we met. His chiseled features, the way his sideburns trailed naturally down to that sculpted jaw—his face never ceased to enthrall me.
He turned his head to smirk at me. "Excuse me?"
I put my book and my glasses on the floor and crawled over to him, eventually straddling his lap. He rested his hands on my hips.
"I'm serious," I said. "Growing up—were you always, like, the best-looking kid in class? Did all the little girls have mad crushes on you?" I wiggled a bit as I smiled down at him, teasingly.
He continued to smirk at me, his eyes dancing with amusement. "Truth?"
"Of course." I nodded.
I laughed, expecting his answer to be nothing but the one he'd given me. He laughed along and continued.
"I think I went through an awkward stage for a few months around age twelve."
I rolled my eyes and slapped at his chest. "Oh you poor thing. That must have been torture for you."
"It was, actually. I think I remember getting a pimple."
He laughed again as I again slapped at his chest. His hands moved around behind me and pulled me closer.
"Well, what about you? I'm sure you were always the best-looking, the most popular."
I burst out laughing again as he gazed at me in amusement.
He squeezed the upper part of my ass with his hands. "What do you mean? You haven't had plastic surgery or anything, so I'm sure you were beautiful. You must have left a trail of broken hearts behind you."
I chuckled and ran my fingers through his hair. "Not at all. I was ... Awkward." I shrugged.
Edward stopped chuckling and cupped my face in his hands. "I wish I'd known you as an awkward teenager. I'll bet you were really hot and just didn't know it and you had no idea how many guys were panting all over you behind your back."
"Yeah. I kind of doubt it." I was about to climb off of his lap, but he held onto me.
"When is your high school reunion? I want to go and talk to all the guys, first hand. And I want to be sure they know what they missed out on." He chuckled again and kissed my lips, lightly.
"Oh my god. I really want you to go to a reunion with me!"
He nibbled at my neck and whispered in my ear. "Yeah?"
My hand in his hair gipped him tighter to me. "It would be so cool to flaunt my hot, young boyfriend!"
He chuckled again and the burst of warm air against my neck made me shiver. He suddenly flipped me onto my back and lay on top of me, pinning me beneath him.
"Now I get it," he said, nuzzling again into my neck. "You just want me around so you can show me off." He pulled up and looked down at me, feigning offense. "I'm like a fucking ornament to you. 'Just keep your mouth shut and look pretty, Teddy.'"
I laughed as he again nibbled at my neck and my collar bone. "Oh my god, I'm so glad we had this conversation. Now you completely understand. I was trying to figure out how to say that without sounding rude."
"See? Communication is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship."
The next morning went by quickly, and relatively painlessly. We were at the courthouse when it opened and only had to wait half an hour before seeing the judge, who approved my temporary Restraining Order and gave me a court date to come back and get the real deal. After a stop by the police department and a brief conversation with Officer Call, we were back at Edward's place in no time.
Although I didn't much care, I called Jessica to make sure things were okay at work. I was losing most of the enthusiasm I’d once held for my work, but I felt bad that my personal issues had resulted in extra work for her. She assured me that all was well and that she would call me if she needed me. I knew then that if and when I left my job, I would recommend her as my replacement.
After I threw together a salad for our lunch, both Edward and I decided to read through our emails. "Reading through emails" turned into several telephone calls for Edward, as he got wrapped up in work obligations. At about three, I decided to go to the market and let him work. I had several items I wanted to buy before trying to make dinner and since I had no desire to leave his apartment anytime soon, I wanted to buy enough at the store that I didn't have to continue going every day.
"Well, wait a minute," he said as I explained as much to him. "I'll go with you."
"It's no big deal, Edward. Just finish your work. I'll be back in less than an hour."
"You sure?" Whatever I was, he looked far from sure. "I mean, I don't really like you going alone."
In truth, I was nervous about it as well. But what I said next was the truth, also. "Edward, I can't have a bodyguard everywhere I go. I have to live my life." I bent down to kiss him where he sat at his desk. "Besides, you have work to do."
He reached up to trace my cheekbone with his fingers. "You're sure?"
I nodded and kissed him again. I then grabbed his keys from his desk and grinned. "I am stealing your car, though."
I'd always enjoyed grocery shopping. I love to cook and I love to eat, so I guess it only made sense, but this particular trip was especially enjoyable to me because it was the first time I was shopping for us. For Edward and me—for an apartment we were, at least temporarily, sharing. I smiled my way through the aisles, planning meals I would make over the next few days. I even decided to splurge and buy him some Chunky Monkey ice cream.
I was still smiling as I loaded the grocery bags into the trunk of Edward's Volvo. If anyone had been paying attention, they probably would have thought I had a screw loose. And maybe I did. The fact that I could be so joyful in the midst of such a stressful time in my life was a mystery to me.
I should have known it was an insanity of the temporary kind.
My blood ran like ice through my veins at the sound of his voice as I slammed the trunk shut.
"No way." I said the words aloud. I did not turn around, but I knew who stood close behind me.
"I need to talk to you," he said.
"Actually, you need to get the fuck away from me, James, before I have you arrested."
His dark chuckle sent chills through me.
"Don't you mean arrested, again?"
I turned toward him then, though I was backing toward the Volvo's driver's side door.
"You got yourself arrested last time, James. But I won't hesitate to have it done again." I hit the remote, unlocking the car door.
He held up his hands, as if in surrender. "Bella, I didn't come here to argue with you. I just want to explain."
"I don't want to hear it." I hurriedly slipped into the car, but he was faster and held onto the door as I tried to pull it closed.
"Bella, wait! You don't under– I love you!"
My jaw dropped and I felt my face paling as I looked up at his anguished face beside me.
"You're fucking crazy," I whispered. I tried again to pull the door closed, but he held on tightly.
"Bella, let me explain."
"Leave me alone!"
I yanked on the door and, luckily, it flew from his hands and closed with a bang. In a rush, I locked the doors and shoved the key in the ignition. I reached for my phone as I started the car. James pounded on the trunk. I heard him yell my name as I peeled out of the parking space. Luckily, there was no one parked in front of me and I just hit the gas.
I didn't see much as I careened out of the lot, except that I knew he was following me. I glimpsed what I knew to be his old Mustang in the rearview mirror as a voice I didn't recognize answered the phone.
"Long Beach PD, Officer Morales speaking."
"I'm—I need Embry Call. Officer Call, please." My heart was beating a mile a minute and I barely recognized my panicked voice. I was driving too fast and I didn't even slow down, let alone stop, for a red light as I made a right turn.
"He's not in at the moment. May I help you?"
"I-" I didn't know what to say. I couldn't think clearly. I looked again and saw James' car in my rearview mirror.
I was nearing an intersection. A right turn would take me to the police station and I knew that once I neared it James would back off. At least, he would if he were in any way sane, which I wasn't even sure about at this point. A left would take me toward Edward's apartment.
"Ma'am?" I barely heard the voice on the phone and I dropped it. My mind raced with incoherent thoughts. I could barely see straight, let alone decide what my best course of action might be. Tears streamed down my face, making my vision cloudy. I heard the voice of Charlie in my head, telling me to head toward the police station and so I did. But then I saw Edward's face, I heard his sweet voice in my ear and I knew that was where I wanted to be. At the last minute, I changed my mind.
I watched as a black SUV appeared in front of me. I heard the sound of horns, of tires squealing. And then, nothing.