Do Not Cross
The minute I push the door open after an exhausting day at work, my phone reminds me that I have several voicemails waiting for me. Honestly, I'm in no rush to get to them; Mike's been calling all day, and I'm just not feeling up to meeting up with him tonight.
Having just worked seventeen hours at the precinct, I'm more than ready for my day off tomorrow. With a sigh, I remove my badge and gun and place them down on the table in the pitiful entryway of my apartment. While I would love nothing more than to pass the hell out and not wake up until I have to go back to work, my stomach loudly protests, so I make my way for the kitchen in search of food.
Making herself known with a loud meow, my cat hops down from the top of the fridge and stretches her black and white head toward me. I scratch it, and her eyes lull shut and her purr fills the small kitchen, strangely relaxing me. "Hi, Alice. Did you have a nice day?" I ask her.
Her response isn't unexpected—for a cat: her eyes snap open, she does this half purr-half meow thing, and then hops off the counter and dashes away. "Crazy cat," I mutter after her as I open the fridge.
Unfortunately, my choices are limited, having not been to the store in weeks, but I find some leftovers from earlier in the week and grab the carton. I flip the top and give the lo mein noodles a tentative sniff. They smell edible enough, so I toss them in the microwave, grab a pair of chopsticks and a bottle of water, and make my way to the couch when they're ready.
Alice appears the minute I'm settled, nudging my elbow with her head and looking at me expectantly. "Sorry, kitten. This here's my dinner. Yours is in the kitchen." She looks at me like I'm insane—granted, I'm talking to a cat and analyzing the way she's looking at me, so she's not wrong.
Admitting defeat, Alice curls up next to me. With a smile, I reach over and pick up the remote from beside her and turn on the TV. The news is on, so I change the channel. News, again. This seems to be the case for the next several channels. Being a cop, I know this can't be a good thing, so I settle on a channel to see what's going on.
"As of right now, police don't seem to have any suspects," the female field reporter says from Queens. It doesn't take me long to recognize the area, and I immediately try to force the memory from my mind.
"It's a coincidence," I try to tell myself, sitting forward on my couch and listening intently. "A horrible, nightmarish coincidence."
"Witnesses say that the man was shot," the reporter continues, "but they can't say with certainty where the shots came from. Police are doing everything they can, but in the meantime, they ask that anyone with information please step forward."
The take-out carton slips from my hand, but I'm too stunned to care. "A sniper? Multiple shots?" My head stars shaking as the similarities keep coming, and I can feel my chest tightening, each breath burning my lungs.
Traffic is backed up for as far as the eye can see, but I'm determined to make it there. I have to make it there.
"Shots fired. Officer down." These are the only words I hear…the only words propelling me forward.
I honk my horn, because my flashing lights and sirens go ignored by the dozens of pedestrians littering the crowded streets in hopes of getting a glimpse of what's happening a couple blocks away.
I give up. There's no getting through the massive throng of people, so I throw my black Challenger into park and hop out to run the rest of the way on foot. It doesn't seem to matter—car or on foot—people still tend to get in my way, but I'm a little less afraid of shoving them to the ground than I am of running them over; though with the sheer amount of fear pumping through my veins, it was a tough call to make.
Shoving forcefully through the wall of people, I finally see it: the yellow tape that blocks off the crime scene. It's hard to clearly make out from this distance, but I see a body on the sidewalk, and my stomach rolls.
"NO!" I cry the minute I get far enough to see him. People turn to look at me, and I continue to push them aside. It feels like I'm getting absolutely nowhere, which only makes me more upset.
"Move!" I shout hysterically, using all of the strength I can muster to forcibly move everyone who's gawking at me. "God damn it, people...MOVE!"
After what feels like entirely too long, I make it past the sea of bodies, and am just preparing to launch myself through the yellow tape like it's the finish line to a race, but before I can make it, strong arms encircle my waist and pull me backward. I kick and scream against the person taking me away from...him.
"Bella," the soft, familiar voice whispers in my ear; he's trying to calm me down, but he's failing miserably. "It's too late. He's...I'm sorry, but he's gone."
The shrill ringing of my telephone jars me from the memory of that day. It's been two years, but that doesn't mean the wound is any less fresh. I'm told that it's due to the lack of closure in the case...I guess I'll never know because I applied for a transfer not too long after that.
Blinking the haze from my vision, I look down to see that Alice is greedily eating the spilled noodles off my wood floors, being sure to make quick work of them so I won't be able to take them away. When the phone rings again, I forget all about my spoiled dinner and stand up.
I grab the handheld off the base and bring it to my ear. "Swan here," I answer.
"Oh, good, you're home," the authoritative voice of my old boss, Captain Black, says on the other end.
I take a deep breath and nod. "Yes, sir...What's up?"
"Have you been home long?"
I laugh dryly. "Long enough."
There's a brief moment of silence before he continues. "I take it you've seen the news then?"
"Pretty freaky coincidence, right, Captain?" More silence. "Billy?"
There's a deep, sympathetic sigh from his end. "Bella, the Queens precinct has requested you."
I shake my head manically. "No. No way. What are the chances this is even the same guy?"
"One hundred percent," is his short reply. "Look, Swan, I know this is tough for you, tomorrow being the anniversary and all, but—"
Taking a deep, shuddering breath, I cut him off. "Captain, I don't know what I can do...I was far too emotionally involved in this case. I don't know that I have anything left to offer."
"The lieutenant has specifically requested you. I've already discussed this with your captain." This is no longer him requesting; it's a direct order. "Be in Queens tomorrow morning by nine." He hangs up before I can even fight him on it—not that I'm going to.
Slowly, I drop the phone from my ear and turn it off. "Yes, sir."
POLICE LINE : DO NOT CROSS : POLICE LINE : DO NOT CROSS : POLICE LINEI won't lie and say that standing outside the Queens precinct isn't nerve-wracking. I'm a hot, sweaty mess. It's been almost two years since I've even set foot in there. Two years since I've spoken to any of my old coworkers. Two years since my life changed irrevocably.
And yet, it looks as though nothing has changed.
"Swan!" Captain Black barks from behind me.
Slowly, I turn to face him, smiling slightly when I see he's not really upset. "Hey."
Captain Black changes into Billy Black—my father's oldest friend—the minute he wraps his big strong arms around me. "How you doin', kiddo?"
I hum, squeezing him tightly. "I've been better." He releases me, and we both turn to the building. "Never thought I'd be back here, though."
"Understandably," he says with a curt nod. "Come on. The lieutenant is waiting for you."
Steeling my resolve, I walk inside with the captain. I recognize several faces upon entering, each of them offering me a warm smile and a "good to see you, again." I'm not sure how to respond, so I smile back. It's all I've got.
"Come on," Captain Black says. "He's waiting in his office."
The door to the room that has always been the lieutenant's office—his office—is closed. The captain reaches out and knocks on it three times before opening it without invitation, because, realistically, he's the captain and runs this whole show.
The minute that door swings open, my heart leaps into my throat. Instead of finding Lieutenant McCarty sitting behind that desk, I'm staring into the forest green eyes of my ex-partner, Edward Cullen.
He stares at me, the intensity of his green eyes causing me to shiver. "I love you," he whispers, his lips brushing mine as his breath fans across my skin.
"I love you, too," I reply softly, bringing my hands up to fist his shirt and pull his hard body closer to mine. Without hesitation, he complies, his strong arms wrapping around my waist and lifting me off the ground with ease before pressing my back against the wall. The warmth of having his entire body pressed against mine sends a delightful tingle straight through me, and I find myself craving more of him. I always do.
As if he can read my mind, his hands move up my sides, tugging the thin fabric of my T-shirt up with them so he can remove it. My skin blazes in the wake of his touch as he grazes the sides of my breasts on his ascent, and I sigh, moving forward to kiss him. Smirking, he brushes his lips over mine again before placing soft and firm kisses along my jaw and neck. Goosebumps rise up all over my naked torso, and I moan breathily as he makes his way back up and finally presses his lips to mine.
My entire body trembles with anticipation as he hitches my legs up around his waist and wedges himself firmly between them. In an effort to deepen our already torrid kiss, his tongue sweeps across the crease of my lips insistently, and I thrust my hips toward him, seeking out gratification.
This evokes a very animalistic reaction from him.
With a growl, he clamps his hands down on my ass before pulling me away from the wall. It's a short—albeit torturous—journey down the hall to the bedroom where he tosses me down on the bed and removes the rest of our clothes.
I'm breathing heavily as he joins me, nudging my legs farther apart so he can settle between them...
My head shakes in defiance as I force myself from the memory. "No. No way in hell is this happening," I declare, turning to storm out of the room. "Where the hell is McCarty?"
"Bella, please," Ed—I mean Lieutenant Cullen calls after me. "Wait."
"Damn it, Bella!" he shouts, drawing the attention of the entire unit. I turn to him with wide, disbelieving eyes, and he pinches the bridge of his nose out of frustration. "He left something for you."
I'm confused, but he's succeeded in making me stop. "Wh-what?"
Stepping off to the side, Edward gestures for me to step back into his office. "Please, Bella. We have a lot to talk about."
Why do I get the feeling he's not just talking about the case?
Regardless of his overall meaning, I nod my head in acquiescence and walk stoically back into his office behind the captain. I stand in the office—the one my father used to occupy before he...before he—
"Are you okay?" the lieutenant asks, seeming genuinely concerned as he closes the door.
"Fine," I reply, letting my eyes roam over the wooden blinds that cover the floor-to-ceiling windows and the framed commendations that Edward has received over the years. I smile, because he's hung them in the exact same spots that my dad kept his. A picture of Edward and the captain shaking hands on the day of his promotion catches my eye, and my fingers twitch with the urge to run over it. I avert my eyes, and when they fall to Edward's immaculately organized desk, I see a large stack of files that make my hands tremble.
Edward follows my gaze, his forehead furrowed and his eyes sympathetic. "It is."
Perching himself on the edge of his desk, his eyes meet mine, and I'm instantly transported back to when his stare alone could make my entire body crackle and hum. It would seem he still has this affect on me, and it makes me nervous. "It's why I've asked you here, lo—" He stops himself with a short chuckle, shaking his head roughly as I try to keep my past emotions from my face. "Bella," he corrects. "Sorry. Old habits." In an act of contrition, he grabs the files—all but one—and hands them over.
"And that one?" I ask, even though I'm pretty sure I know what it contains; I'd gone over it enough times in the months following the shooting that I'd recognize the discolored edges from my paper cuts anywhere.
"You know it inside and out," he assures me quietly, his eyes pleading with me not to go there...not yet, anyway.
I've never been one to follow orders, though. "Still..." My voice cracks, and I hold out my hand for it.
Sighing, Edward hands it to me, and the tips of my fingers brush his, eliciting a long-forgotten current that zaps through me and settles heavily in my stomach before flourishing like a jar full of butterflies. I look up to see if he's noticed it too, and the pink tips of his ears tell me he has.
Dropping my eyes, I open the file; paper-clipped to the top of the manila folder is a picture of my father in uniform, and I find myself running my fingertips over it fondly. His medals are pinned to him, the seventies 'stache that he felt "would never go out of style" is neatly groomed, and his smile is so wide that it reaches his eyes, making them reflect his zest for life.
Before some psychopath snuffed it out.
The first few pages are the reports from the medical examiner and crime scene investigators, but I don't need to read them to know what they say; I've got them committed to memory.
Single GSW (gun-shot wound) to the head. Two to the chest. They don't think he suffered, and are pretty sure he was shot in the chest first, and then as he was falling, the sniper finished the job. I'm told it was quick, but that did little to comfort me then, and it does even less to comfort me now.
I ignore his velvety voice, push the feelings I've worked so hard to repress over the years back down into my empty heart, and continue to flip through the pages in this file. When I come across the photos from the crime scene, a sob breaks free at the sight of my father's body lying on the pavement. His eyes—the ones that were so full of life when I first opened this file—stare vacantly ahead at nothing in particular.
"Let me go!" I cry, fighting against Edward's ironclad grip around me. "He needs me!"
Edward lets me go, but only long enough to turn me roughly in his arms and lock eyes with me. "Bella, sweetheart, he's gone."
My head moves back and forth violently. "No. NO," I tell him firmly, unwilling to accept what he's telling me. "I need to see him."
"You can't...not yet. Forensics is currently doing their thing. We can't get in their way if we want to catch the guy that did this."
I know he's being logical, but I can't seem to grasp that right now—not while my father is bleeding out less than twenty feet away from me. "I. Don't. CARE." I yank myself out of his grip, run in the other direction, and duck under the tape. The minute my eyes land on Daddy's broken body, everything falls apart; my heart clenches before it feels like it's being shredded, my stomach rolls as I fight the urge to wretch, a feral howl rips its way out of me, and then everything goes black...all before I even reach him.
Shuddering, I take a deep breath and close the file. "Who's the latest victim?" I ask, handing the file back to Edward.
"His name was Mike Newton." My eyes widen in alarm, and Edward's brows knit together as though he knows what I'm thinking. "You knew him?"
"I, um...that is...we went out a couple of times." Edward's gaze is scrutinizing, so I open the new folder on top to avoid it. "What was he doing there?" I ask quietly, flipping through the pictures only to see Mike suffered the same fate as my father: one GSW to the head and two to the chest. "Is this the first recurrence since..." It's still hard to say the words.
"Since your father?" I nod, and Edward continues, "Yes. As far as we know."
"Why?" I ask, and Edward regards me curiously. "I just mean, why did he wait so long? Before...my dad, this son of a bitch killed nine people in less than two months. He perfected his M.O., his time between victims was becoming shorter...then he just stops? Why?"
Edward thinks about this for a minute, weighing my question. "Maybe something happened in his life that forced him to stop."
"Have you called the profilers?" I ask. "They seemed like they knew what they were talking about two years ago."
Edward looks down at his feet, something he only does when he's trying to keep information from me. "I've got a couple of my best people working on it now."
Accepting this, I go through file after file, the face of each victim sparking memories from the first hundred times I'd gone through them. The first few victims weren't shot quite as cleanly, but as time went on, his aim became increasingly more impressive—in the worst way. With victims five through ten, the bullet patterns were as close to identical as one could get from far away.
And Mike's are no different; proving two years off hasn't made our shooter sloppy.
"You said he left something for me?" I inquire, breaking the long silence between the three of us and looking between Billy and Edward as they share a look. "What was it?"
Edward's lips twitch angrily. I don't feel as though it's directed at me, but because I've been brought back into all of this. Hesitantly, he reaches across his desk and plucks a small envelope up, handing it to me.
The cover of the envelope has my name handwritten on it, and I inspect it. "Have you had the handwriting analyzed?" I inquire.
Edward nods, crossing his arms in front of him. "They're working on it, but you know it won't lead anywhere."
I flip it over and notice that the seal had been broken. "You opened it."
Edward arches an eyebrow. "It's evidence in an ongoing murder investigation," he reminds me. "Of course we opened it...Besides, when I saw your name on it, I became...concerned."
My fingers tremble as I remove the contents of the envelope to find it's a picture of me—a recent one from maybe a week or two ago—in Syracuse. I turn it over and read the words, "Soon, Detective."
"So what?" I ask, both afraid and annoyed. "Is he toying with me now? Why? And why didn't he call me out in Syracuse? Why bring me back here?"
"All great questions, Swan," the captain interjects. "Maybe the profilers will have some insight. We'll be sure to ask them."
"Where did you find the envelope?"
Edward and the captain exchange a glance. "We think that the killer planted it there before the shooting," Edward explains. "It had been secured to a wall in the nearest alley."
I put the picture back in the envelope, stand up, and hand it back to Edward. "I want to see the body."
At first, Edward isn't sure that now is the best time; he wants to go over the case a little more. I assure him I already know it, and that I'd be able to focus better after seeing Mike for myself. Billy consents before excusing himself to check on the progress that Crowley and Mallory are making, and Edward takes me to the M.E.'s office.
"So, how've you been?" he asks softly—hesitantly—as we walk through the building. "You look well."
I offer him the first smile I have all day and hope it conveys a little of how much I've missed him. "I've been good. Busy...you know?"
"Syracuse is treating you all right?"
"They've been very accommodating," I assure him, biting the inside of my cheek lightly. "So, lieutenant, huh? Big change."
He chuckles and swipes his hand through his hair nervously. "Yeah. McCarty's wife had a big career opportunity come up out East, and he didn't want her to pass it up, so he put in for a transfer."
"Well, good for you. I'm glad things are working out for you."
Edward side-eyes me, arching an eyebrow skeptically. "It didn't seem that way when you walked into my office."
I avert my gaze, my cheeks warming. "It caught me off-guard, is all. After how things ended, I just..." I shake my head. "It caught me off-guard."
I don't have to look at him to know that I've disturbed the unresolved issues between us; I can feel his unease rolling off of him in waves. Things between us in the end were complicated, to say the least. Did I wish I had handled things better? Absolutely. But at the time, running away—even if only to Syracuse—seemed like the right thing to do.
Edward opens a door to the narrow hall that leads to the medical examiner and waits for me to pass through. It's all a little too familiar as we walk down the corridor side-by-side, and I take several deep breaths in an effort to calm myself, but it does little to slow my racing heart.
Edward's warm hand on my lower back makes my rigid posture soften, though. "Are you okay?" he asks softly; he's always been able to sense when I'm anxious.
I nod, wrapping my arms around myself as though I feel a chill. "Yup. Just trying not to pass out," I confess. "I'm no stranger to making the trip to the coroner...even after Dad. But this one hallway is, I don't know—"
"Different," Edward finishes for me, his voice soft and forlorn. "I know. I walk this hall more than I'd care to admit, and it never gets easier."
We stop outside the doors where we'll find the body. Through the window, I can see the medical examiner looking over the body and making notes. It's all too familiar, and I can feel my chest begin to tighten as anxiety grips my insides and squeezes.
"You ready?" Edward asks, pressing his hand a little firmer against my back. I hadn't even realized it was still there—that's how natural this feels after two years.
I take a breath and nod once more. "Yeah."
The minute we walk through the double doors, my step falters. The face I originally recognized as Mike's now resembles my father's, and I feel nauseous and dizzy.
"Bella?" Edward sounds far away as I stare at the cold, lifeless face of my dad. "Bella..."
From my seat in the hall, I glance up from my tightly clenched hands in my lap upon hearing my name. Ben Cheney, the medical examiner assigned to my father's case, is looking down at me expectantly.
"I'm sorry, what?" My voice is rough and hoarse.
"I'm ready for you now."
Unclenching my hands, I wipe the wetness from my cheeks before standing up. Next to me, Edward rises, but I hold a hand out and shake my head before following Cheney through the heavy door alone. Less than twenty feet away from me is my father's body. He's no longer in his button down shirt and slacks since they had to be removed and submitted into evidence. Now he's covered in a thick white sheet, which closely resembles the pallor of his complexion.
It's...unnatural to see him like this. I fully expect him to open his eyes and stretch as though he's merely been sleeping these last few hours. He doesn't, though, and my heart breaks just a little bit more.
I move forward slowly, looking him over. Ben's covered Daddy's forehead with a square of medical gauze, and against my better judgment, I remove it. I stare at the wound that killed him and wonder when and where everything went wrong...
All because of a stupid doctor's appointment that morning, Dad went with Edward to investigate a new lead in the sniper case, and I was to meet them after. The call came over the police radio as I was on my way. "Shots fired! Officer down!" I'd heard Edward's voice clear as day, and I swear my heart skipped several beats.
"Detective Swan?" Ben asks softly, and I look up at him through tear-rimmed eyes. "I just need you to sign a few things. I'm sorry."
I offer him something resembling a smile and shake my head. "That's okay."
After taking care of all the papers, I whisper a quiet goodbye to my father and leave the room. Edward is there, pacing the hall, his eyes red-rimmed and puffy from the tears he's shed also. He rushes across the hall and gathers me in his arms, trying to console me. Unfortunately, it doesn't work, and I pull away from him.
The following days are a blur: Edward helps me arrange Dad's funeral, we attend the service, we come back home, and then everything just falls apart...
"Love, you should eat something," Edward tells me, bringing me a sandwich.
I look up at him from my little corner of the couch and blink a few times before exhaling, defeated. "I'm not hungry."
With a sigh, Edward sits on the coffee table and places his hands on either side of my thighs. "I know how hard this is for you." I tilt my head and try to take his words with a grain of salt.
I know he's only trying to be sympathetic, but my brain is far from rational right now. "No you don't. It's not your father we buried two days ago. Your dad's alive and well back in Washington."
Edward's eyes widen in shock, and a little voice in the back of my head tells me to leave it alone...that no good can come of this. I don't, though, and I'm not entirely sure why.
"Bella," he says softly, moving his hands up and down my thighs. "Sweetheart, you're angry. I get that."
"You're damn right I'm angry! Where the hell were you?" I demand, surprising him further. "No, seriously. You were supposed to be watching his back." Deep down, I know this isn't his fault—I do—but it's like word vomit, and it just won't stop.
Tears stain his cheeks, and he drops his face into his hands. "If I could go back and trade places with him, I would." He looks up at me hopefully. "You have to know that."
I can only stare at him, trying to figure out how that scenario would be any better. The truth is, it wouldn't, and this only further upsets me. Unable to get a handle on my emotions, I stand up and leave the room before I say something else I don't mean and know I'll regret.
"Bella...?" I keep walking, even though I know I should talk to him—tell him that I don't blame him like he thinks I do. "Bella...?" I grab my car keys and open the front door. "Bella!"
Warm hands on my cheeks bring me back to the present, and I blink several times to focus through tears that have begun to build. Edward's thumbs wipe them away, and he offers me a sweet smile. It's hard not to reciprocate, and I relax into his touch, bringing one of my hands up to cover his.
"Sorry," I whisper. For leaving. For not returning your calls. The words are there, resting on the tip of my tongue, but I can't seem to say them when they matter.
"It's okay. You knew him—cared for him." I'm momentarily confused until I look back over at Mike's body on the cold, metal slab. "It's only right you'd be upset."
Feeling foolish for even entertaining the idea that maybe Edward could forgive me after how I've behaved, I pull out of his grasp and run my fingers through my hair. "Right. Yeah."
I try to redirect my train of thought by looking over the report the medical examiner has started, but all I can think about is the look in Edward's eyes only a second ago.
"You said something back in my office," Edward reminds me, drawing my eyes back to his. "Wondering why he was there?"
I shake my head, remembering now. "Yeah," I reply in a hoarse voice. "He'd been calling me all day yesterday. I assumed it was to...um...meet up." This seems to make Edward uncomfortable, so I quickly redirect. "But now?" It suddenly occurs to me that I've got missed voice messages, and I impulsively slap Edward's chest, startling him. "Oh my god!"
I reach into the pocket of my leather jacket and pull out my phone. "He left me messages, and I never got around to checking them."
Edward laughs lightly. "Glad to see some things never change."
It's hard not to get pulled into the infectious sound of his laugh, and soon I'm smiling and rolling my eyes as I dial into my voicemail. I've apparently got three messages, and I put my phone on speaker.
"Hey, Bella. It's Mike. I'm here. Waiting. Still not sure why you texted that you wanted to meet in Queens or why you're even here...Call me."
"Me again. It's been a half hour, and I still haven't heard from you. Where are you?"
"Okay, that's it. If this is you jerking me around, then for—"
Suddenly there's mass chaos coming through my phone. There are two loud bangs that I know to be gunfire, followed by screams, and then one more shot is heard before the line goes dead.
I think I've stopped breathing or something because the outer edge of my vision is starting to go black, and my knees begin to tremble. "I could have stopped this...had I just picked up the phone," I mumble, reaching out and leaning on the slab to hold myself upright. Edward is quick to place his hands solidly on my waist to balance me, and my other hand flattens against his strong chest, my fingers curling into his shirt. Then, an even more terrifying thought occurs to me, followed by more rambling and confusion. "I didn't ask him to meet me here, Edward. He was trying to get a hold of me when he got shot. Why is this happening?"
"I don't know," he replies softly, pulling me into his arms. His lips brush the top of my head, and a rush of warmth rolls through me. Seeking the comfort of his embrace, I wrap my arms around him, snaking them up his back and glomming onto his shoulders. "But we're sure as hell going to find out."
POLICE LINE : DO NOT CROSS : POLICE LINE : DO NOT CROSS : POLICE LINEBy the time we arrive back at the precinct, I'm confused about so many things. The first—and biggest—being why all of this is happening, and the next about the few moments between Edward and I where I thought maybe there was still something there.
"Well, there you are!" a loud female voice rings out through the office. I watch as a woman in a grey pantsuit with sandy brown hair and big blue eyes comes traipsing over, smiling wide and looking between Edward and me.
Edward advances a couple of steps, his posture seeming off somehow. "Jessica, hi. This is..." He does that nervous chuckle thing again and scratches the back of his neck. "This is Detective Swan of Syracuse."
I laugh. "So formal," I tease, gaining a confusing and somewhat intimidating look from Jessica. "I'm Bella."
"Bella," she repeats. Her voice holds a slight note of recognition, but I fail to remember ever having met her before. "It's so nice to finally put a face to a name." She turns her attention back to Edward and grabs his tie. "I was wondering if you wanted to go and grab a bite to eat after the briefing."
It doesn't take long for me to make the connection between them. Edward looks toward me, seeming almost nervous, and I drop my eyes to my very interesting feet. "I'm not sure yet. I guess we'll have to see how everything goes. We've got a lot of ground to cover."
Jessica sighs. "All right. Let's go do this, then."
If I wasn't confused before, I definitely am now. I raise my eyes to the two of them, and Edward nods me toward his office. Jessica takes the lead while Edward falls into step with me.
"What's going on?" I ask.
"Jessica Stanley is our lead behavioural analyst. She's had a chance to go through the files and wants to hear from you," he explains before gripping my arm and stopping me. "Look, Bella, before we go in there, I should probably tell you that—"
I smile. "No need. I'm happy you've been able to move on...She seems great." Before he can continue, I nudge him with my elbow. "Come on. We shouldn't keep her waiting."
Before heading inside, Edward calls Detectives Crowley and Mallory in since they'll be working the case with us. I'd never really gotten a chance to get to know them before I left, so after a brief introduction, we get down to business. Jessica perches herself on Edward's desk, Mallory and Crowley sit in the chairs opposite her, and I hang back by the door, leaning against the wall about three feet from where Edward stands with his arms tightly crossed.
"We're so glad you've decided to act as a liaison on this case, Detective Swan," Jessica says, eyeing me from head to toe.
"Decided to...bullied into it," I quip with a shrug. "I guess it all depends on how you look at it."
Laughing dryly, Jessica smirks. "I suppose it feels like that."
"No. It's exactly like that. If the killer hadn't left my picture at the crime scene, then I wouldn't be here," I'm sure to inform her. "My question is why pull me back into the fray at all? The Queens precinct seems to have survived just fine in my absence."
"Indeed it has," Jessica answers quickly, earning her a chastising look from Edward. "If I had to hazard a guess, the killer needs you involved in some way."
"And he couldn't have called me out in Syracuse?"
Jessica contemplates this for a minute. "He wants to remain in control. This is a game to him, and you're one of his main players. Edward too, I assume. He's been out of the game since killing your father—likely due to something major happening in his own life, or maybe you guys were getting too close—and now he wants back in. I think you guys need to revisit your list of suspects."
Mallory opens a file in her lap and starts reading off names. "Well, there was Riley Biers. We suspected him after finding out about his dishonorable discharge from the army and his PTSD."
"No," I interject, shaking my head. "Riley had an ironclad alibi. He was with his fiancée in Chicago, visiting her parents. Next."
"Detective," Jessica says, her tone almost condescending. "We can't afford to discount anyone so early on."
"She said next," Edward speaks up. "She's right. His alibi was confirmed by multiple people. Who's next, Mallory?"
Detective Mallory continues to read through the suspect list, and when she gets to James Chasseur, I nervously glance over at Edward to find he's looking back at me with gloomy eyes.
After driving around for two hours, I can't take it anymore. I turn back around and head for home to apologize to Edward for my behaviour. When I walk back through the door, he's right there, anxiously waiting for me to return and pacing the floor. He immediately pulls me into his arms, and for the first time since before my father died, I melt into his embrace and wrap my arms tightly around his neck.
"I'm sorry," I breathe softly against his skin. "I'm just...so sad and angry and...confused."
"I know, baby," he soothes, kissing me everywhere he can without having to loosen his hold on me. "I know."
"We have to catch him." I pull my face back and look him square in the eye. "I need to catch this son of a bitch."
Edward nods in agreement. "And we will, Bella. I won't rest until we do."
I take the next couple of weeks off for bereavement, but am going stir-crazy at home. Both Edward and the captain are hesitant to have me return to work so soon, but they agree once I offer to continue going to my weekly therapy sessions. It's an offer that unfortunately doesn't get upheld as I spend every waking moment combing the streets for the man responsible for my father's death.
My search leads me to James Chasseur. Edward tells me to wait until we have more against him, but I just have this feeling that he knows something, and I always trust my gut.
For days, I trail him; I wait outside his home and follow him and watch as he kisses his wife and newborn son goodbye before hopping into his BMW and heading to work. He works in an office—an IT tech according to the information we've been able to dig up. Sure, it seems a little odd to consider him a suspect at first, but his past criminal record for aggravated assault and possession of an unregistered firearm screams that this could be our guy. Granted, this was several years earlier, but I fail to acknowledge it. A leopard can't change his spots, after all.
One day, instead of heading directly home after work, James takes a bit of a detour through downtown Queens. He stops two blocks from the area my father was shot and gets out of his car. I park farther away from him and hop out, following him on foot as he turns the corner. I lose him, though, and stop in the middle of the sidewalk, turning frantically when I'm suddenly yanked into the mouth of the alley and shoved roughly against the wall.
"Who are you, and why the fuck are you following me?" he snarls, pressing his forearm into my sternum to keep me against the hard brick wall.
He's a large man—much larger than I'd originally thought having only watched him from afar these last few days. He stands well over six feet and is built much like the brick building he's got me pinned against. It's not exactly the best situation I've ever found myself in.
I open my mouth to speak, but he presses harder, making it difficult to breathe. Knowing I need to gain the upper-hand, I bring my knee up into his groin, making him double over long enough for me to propel myself away from the wall. "Tell me what you know," I demand as he straightens back up.
"About what?" he spits.
He smiles sinisterly. "Cop died. That's about all I know. You got a warrant to be asking me all this?"
"Yeah, that's what I thought, little girl." With a chortle, he moves to walk past me, bumping me purposely.
I react defensively, using the surge of adrenaline coursing through my body to go after him out onto the sidewalk. I grab him and slam his hulking body against a parked car. "You'll tell me," I order angrily.
James's head moves toward the sound of Edward's voice, and he smirks. "Cavalry's here."
Soon, Edward's hands are prying mine from James's shirt and separating us. James starts to blather on about how I've been stalking him for days. Edward looks at him, possibly speculating whether or not I've been right to do so, before turning him loose.
"What the hell?" I demand.
"What do you want me to do? Jesus! We don't even have a warrant, and you're tailing this guy? Do you have any fucking idea what that does to this case if he is the son of a bitch we're looking for?" He's furious, and I know he has every right to be, but all I can see is that he let go of the guy I'm certain killed my father. "They could have your badge for this. Do you even realize how badly you've compromised everything?" Edward falls silent for a minute. "You're not ready to be back on this case. You're too emotionally involved. I'll talk to McCarty and see about assigning someone else."
"The hell you will!" I counter. "You promised we would find this guy. We. Not somebody else."
"Yeah, and I think you've proven that your head's not in the right place." Edward escorts me back to our cars, and we drive to the station where he does as threatened and has McCarty assign someone else.
It feels as though Edward betrayed me the minute he took me off the case, and after everything I've been through, I just need to be...anywhere but here.
"No," Edward says sternly, his eyes hardening as they hold my gaze. "Bella, don't..."
"I don't see why you seem to think he isn't worth looking into," I counter, remembering everything I'd learned about him two years ago. "I mean, Jessica said that something major happening in his life could have made him stop killing, right?"
"I did, but—"
"Well, when I followed him two years ago, he had a newborn baby. Maybe the baby was born around the time of his last attack." I look around the room to see all eyes are on me. "I mean, that's pretty huge, right?"
Edward's face is turning red, and his nostrils are flaring. "Swan, can I speak with you outside, please?" The fact that he only uses my last name can't be good.
He opens the door, and I step through it. After closing it behind us, he ushers me toward the small conference room. "Have you lost your mind? Again?" he demands heatedly, slamming the door behind us. "I'm serious. Do you realize that if we even think about going after Chasseur after what happened two years ago, his lawyers will tear this place apart?"
"He knows something," I tell Edward. "I knew it then, and I know it now. Can we at least consider him? I promise to do things by the book this time. Please. I know you don't owe me anything after the way I left things between us...but you know me. When have I ever been wrong?"
Edward sighs and bows his head. "Fine. But we do this by the book," he agrees, pointing his finger at me. "We gather enough evidence to get a warrant."
Elation and relief rush through me. "Of course," I quickly agree, reaching for the door to go back to the meeting.
I've just begun to turn the knob when Edward's warm hand rests on mine. "I mean it. I can't risk you going off half-cocked like you did last time."
His deep green eyes bore into mine, and his thumb starts moving back and forth over the back of my hand, giving me goosebumps. I watch his gaze drop to my lips, and I lick them out of sheer habit. Being this close to him again, with his hand on mine, only makes me want him—reminds me of what we used to have.
But he's with someone else.
"I promise." I'm still unable to tear my eyes or hand away from him. "I regret how I handled everything, and I'll be sure that it's by the book this time." I pull the door open, and am just stepping through it when Edward grabs my wrist and pulls me close enough to feel the warmth burgeoning between us. It doesn't escape my notice that our bodies are perfectly aligned as he stares down at me, his eyes burning into mine and making my body tingle from head to toe.
"And, just so you know," he whispers, "you're not the only one who has regrets." I inhale sharply, and Edward squeezes my hand, offering me a small smile. "If I could go back, there are a lot of things I'd change."
POLICE LINE : DO NOT CROSS : POLICE LINE : DO NOT CROSS : POLICE LINEAs the days go by, I find myself falling into familiar routines. It's been two years, but it actually feels like I've been here all along—minus the whole Edward and me not being together part. But other than that? Everything feels pretty normal. It's my first time working with Mallory and Crowley—they were both still new recruits back when Edward and I made Detective—and it impresses me just how much they've learned about this case.
We've been talking in circles about the link between the victims, and whenever someone comes up with something, it's immediately shot to hell because the next victim doesn't fit with what we've just discussed. We're all feeling frustrated and like we're being pulled three giant steps back after taking one tiny step forward.
"The only link I see is that I knew both my father and Mike. Other than that? I've got nothing," I declare, exasperated. "He chose them at random."
"You're not wrong," Jessica states. "Which probably means that up until he killed Lieutenant Swan, he was still perfecting his M.O."
"Or maybe," I interject, "when he finally decided to rejoin the game, he hated that his favourite players were apart." Everyone stops talking and looks at me with wide eyes. "What? I'm just saying that it's his fault I left, and maybe this is his twisted way of setting his messed up little universe right."
Edward stands up, keeping his eyes on me and smiling so wide they sparkle. "I think you might be onto something, Bella. What if that's exactly what he's doing?" He goes to where we've hung the victims' pictures and stares at each of them. "Okay, so let's say that's it, then...what's his next move?"
"Well," I begin, slightly wary. "We're back together"—I glance up at Jessica, whose eyes narrow slightly at me—"so to speak. So, my guess is that he'll probably go back to choosing his victims at random."
"Isn't it true that a killer like that is more difficult to find?" Detective Mallory asks.
Jessica nods. "It is—though, not impossible."
Jessica begins to explain how this type of person thinks and behaves when my phone rings. Edward's eyes snap to me; he looks more confused than annoyed. When I pull my phone out, I see the number is blocked.
"Sorry, I'll take this outside so you guys can keep going." I stand up and head for the door. Through the window on the door, I can see Edward watching me as I put the phone to my ear. "Detective Swan." I'm met with silence. "Hello? Is anyone there?"
"How does it feel to be back, Detective?" a deep, almost inhuman, voice asks.
"I'm sorry?" I inquire.
"To be back in Queens," my mystery caller clarifies. I listen to the voice a little more carefully and realize that some sort of electronic device is altering it.
Knowing that it's got to be the shooter, I reach out and begin rapping my knuckles on the door's window before looking directly at Edward and waving frantically for him to join me. "Who is this?" I ask the minute Edward pulls the door open.
I hold the phone out just enough that he can hear, too. "Well, it's not much fun if I give everything away, now is it, Detective?"
This entire situation unnerves me, and the more I think about it, the more I realize I might have been right about being used as a pawn in his sick, twisted game. "How did you get this number?"
The caller laughs, the sinister, distorted sound chilling me to the bone. "You're weren't so hard to find."
"You know, your cryptic answers are really starting to piss me off," I boldly tell him. "How about a straight answer? I think you owe me that much."
"I'll do you one better," he offers, and I don't like the tone of his voice one bit—distorted or not. "I'll give you a heads up on when the next shooting will happen." I gasp and bring my eyes to Edward's, whose are equally as wide.
"I'll give you twenty minutes to go back to where it all began," he tells me. "If you don't make it in time, somebody else will get shot."
The call is disconnected, and I stand there in shock for a minute before Edward snatches my phone from my hands and gives it to Crowley. "Have the tech team trace that last call." Turning to me, he grips my arms in his strong hands and shakes me lightly until I focus on him. "We need to go back to the first crime scene."
Worried, my head moves back and forth, and panic quickly sets in when I realize how far away from the first crime scene we are. "We'll never make it in time. It'll take us thirty minutes or more. And that's if traffic cooperates."
"Then we'd better get going if we're going to at least stand a chance."
Edward barks commands at Mallory to put the call out and have more officers meet us there; he wants them scouring the area for any sign of the shooter. Then he tells Jessica where we're headed before ushering me out of the building and toward his Charger.
Edward quickly grabs two Kevlar vests from the trunk of his car, tosses one to me, and puts the other one on before we both hop in. Flipping the lights and sirens on, he peels out of the lot and onto the streets of Queens. I pull my jacket off and put the vest on over my shirt as we race through the city.
It surprises and relieves me to see that most people are at least considerate and move out of the way—a first in New York I'm sure—but when we make it four blocks from the scene, we're met with a construction crew and roadblocks that brings us to a dead stop.
"Damn it!" Edward roars, throwing the car into reverse. It's no use, though; we've got under five minutes to make it to the scene, and there are cars behind us who didn't realize the roadblock was here either.
"We'll run," I tell him, opening the car door and jumping out.
"Bella, wait!" he calls after me.
"There's no time!" I shout, hopping onto the sidewalk and moving around the few pedestrians that litter the area. They seem pretty compliant as I inform them that I'm with the NYPD, and I can hear Edward behind me doing the same thing as he tries to catch up with me. I check my watch one last time as I round the corner to where this whole thing began and see that we're two minutes late...however, what I don't see is another victim laying in the streets, either.
Panting, I turn to find Edward has caught up, and I shake my head. "He lied," I tell him. "We're two minutes late and nobody's been hurt." As more oxygen fills my lungs, I begin to contemplate other possibilities. "Unless this isn't really where it all started..."
"What do you mean? This is where we found his first victim."
I look around—for what? I'm not exactly sure...clues, maybe? The shooter on a neighbouring rooftop or in a window, perhaps? A sharp glare forces me to squint and avert my eyes as I continue my search. "Maybe the first one we know of. What if there were more before her, though?"
Edward takes this into consideration. "I don't know, I think we'd have known by now if there were victims bef—"
Edward's words are cut off by a loud BANG, and it feels as though all of the air has been knocked out of me. I stumble a few feet back as the bullet hits me below my right breast, and I fall to the ground. Pain radiates throughout my chest as I lay on the pavement, struggling to inhale, and I can hear the panicked cries of witnesses as they run away.
"Bella!" Edward is suddenly on his knees beside me, pulling me into his arms to look me over. His right arm is propping me up while his left hand moves frantically over my torso, tearing the velcro from the vest open and raising it just enough to make sure I'm not bleeding anywhere underneath.
I focus on the stormy green of his eyes as he brings his hand up to cradle my face. "Are you okay?" he asks, his voice trembling and his eyes filled with fear and concern.
Nodding, I inhale a deep breath; it hurts, but that's to be expected after being shot. "Yup," I groan, trying to sit up.
Sirens blare all around us, and tires screech as several patrol cars surround the area. Edward helps me to my feet, and I lean on him until I've gained my bearings. "I forgot just how much that hurts," I tell him, smiling in hopes of alleviating his concern. It doesn't work—not that I really thought it would, but it was worth a shot...pardon the pun.
Now that I'm on my feet, I begin to look around in the direction the shot came from. People are still rushing away, and other cops are policing the area to make sure that no one else was hit. Thankfully, I was the only one. I turn back in the direction I was standing when it happened and survey the buildings facing me. I don't see anything out of the ordinary, though.
"We need men searching those buildings." I indicate four buildings across the street. "Top to bottom. Every unit—including the rooftops." I point to where I saw the glare moments before being shot. "That one in particular," I command, even though it's not really my place. I take a shallow breath and wince, clutching my ribs beneath the vest that's still hanging loose around me. "Find me something I can use to catch this fucker."
POLICE LINE : DO NOT CROSS : POLICE LINE : DO NOT CROSS : POLICE LINEI laugh, which causes my insides to hurt, as I slide the keycard into my hotel room door. "Edward, I told you, I'm fine. You're being far too paranoid."
It's late—well after eleven o'clock—and we just finished up at the station for the day after filing the evidence we found on one of the rooftops. We know the shooter had to have left it on purpose, because in all the times we've been looking for him, we've never found anything before. Granted, he didn't leave us much to go on—a bullet casing and some disruption in the dirt and gravel on the roof. That's it, though. Not a print or anything to go by that could tell us who he is.
"Bella, you were shot today," Edward reminds me, stepping into my room after me and sliding the chain into place. "Forgive me for being...paranoid."
I roll my eyes at him. "I was wearing Kevlar. I wasn't actually shot."
"Still," he argues. "I'd feel better if you just let me—"
"What?" I turn to him with a brow arched in amusement. "Take a look? I don't think your girlfriend would be too happy about that."
Edward sighs. "Why do you always have to be so damn difficult?" he asks.
Carefully, I shrug out of my jacket and sling it over the back of the chair. "Said the pot to the kettle," I retort playfully. Seeing the resolution in his eyes, I smile appreciatively. "Well, if you insist on staying for a bit, can I offer you a drink?"
Smirking, Edward shrugs off his own coat, laying it next to mine, and sits on the end of my bed. It's probably the worst place he could have chosen to sit, because it invites memories of the two of us locked in a torrid embrace, our sweaty skin sliding against each other's, our lips pressed firmly together, and our tongues uniting, hard and insistent. I fight back a sigh, and try to keep myself from blushing as the memory goes further.
With shaking hands, I open my fridge, pulling out the forty of scotch I bought the other night, and I pour some into two of the hotel glasses after checking them for cleanliness. Turning back around, I hand Edward his drink before sitting on the desk across from him. We're both silent, and I stare down at the amber fluid in my half-full glass.
My eyes are forced up when I hear Edward's phone ring. He reaches into his pocket, looking displeased as he glances at the screen. Instead of answering it, he tosses it down on the bed beside him and looks up to me with a sly grin and a shrug, but says nothing.
"That," I say, raising the hand I'm using to hold my drink and pointing at him with my index finger, "looks like avoidance."
Edward chuckles nervously and takes a drink. "Nobody gets me like you do, Swan."
"Well"—I shrug and bring my glass to my lips for a tiny pull—"to be fair, I have known you for ten years—and we dated for the better part of that. I should know all your tells."
Standing, Edward walks toward me. The look in his eyes excites me, but worries me all the same; they're dark with desire, and I'm easily lost in them. "Should?" he inquires, his low and husky voice sending a gentle hum straight through my body all the way to my bones. "Or do?"
He stops right in front of me, his thighs in line to push between my legs if he wants to, and he's staring down into my eyes with an intensity that makes my heart beat faster and my breath shudder. My thigh muscles tighten as I resist the urge to wrap my legs around him and force him to me and reclaim him for my own—remind him of what we used to have…what we could have again. He's so close that I can smell his cologne, and it, too, triggers a flood of memories.
"Bella," he starts, reaching out and taking my glass from me before setting it next to the one I didn't notice him put down. He reaches back up and pushes my hair from my cheek, his eyes moving over my face. "I—"
Edward's phone buzzes again, and I close my eyes, breaking our connection, as I press my hand flat against his chest and try—pitifully—to push him away. "You should get that," I tell him, finally finding the strength to look back up at him, and I know my eyes show just how much I want him. "I'm going to go hop in the shower...see if it helps ease the discomfort in my ribs."
I grab my drink and down the rest of it before heading to the bathroom and turning the water on. While the washroom fills with warm fog, I strip down, cringing when I see my poor, bruised ribcage. It's not an overly large bruise, but it's already really dark, and I know that by morning it will likely be the size of a small plate.
Before I step into the shower, I think I can faintly hear Edward talking, but the spray of water makes it impossible for me to make out what he's saying. I'm tempted to open the door a crack, but ultimately decide against it, instead turning and stepping over the side of the tub and into the warm spray of water. Washing my hair is a little tough, especially given my right side is pretty tender, but I soldier through. After rinsing the soap from my hair and body, I grab the fluffy white hotel towel, wrap it around myself, and reach for the door. I've just begun to turn it when I fully realize that I'm wet and practically naked while my ex is currently out in my hotel room.
Knowing I can't very well stay hidden in here—mainly because I don't know exactly how long he plans to stay and make sure I'm okay...if that's really his reasoning—I take a deep breath and open the door. He turns to me, looking upset...until his eyes start to move south, widening as they do.
"I, um, forgot my clothes out here," I explain nervously, heading for my suitcase and rifling through it for my sweats and a T-shirt. I can feel my towel falling slack around me, so I quickly grip it to my chest and continue my search one-handed. After locating my clothes, I retreat back to the bathroom and quickly dress. When I re-emerge, I find Edward by the window, looking out over the streets of the city.
In the reflection of the window, I can see that Edward's eyebrows are pulled together in concentration, and I can't stop myself from reaching out and placing my hand on his upper back as I move to stand beside him. He looks toward me and smiles, but it feels almost hesitant.
"What is it?" I ask.
His eyes fall, and he runs his fingers roughly through his hair. "You could have died today—and it would have been my fault."
I turn my body to face him completely, looking up at him, perplexed. "How do you figure?"
"I brought you here...I dragged you out into the field today...I let you get shot. Just like—"
"Mmm mmm." I shake my head and turn Edward to face me. "Don't. You can't blame yourself for my father's death. It wasn't your fault. You guys were just doing your job… We were just doing our job."
He refuses to look me in the eye, so, feeling bold, I reach out and cup his jaw in my hands. "Did you hear me?"
"He could have killed you," he points out, his hands suddenly gripping my hips. My stomach does a little flip and my body trembles when his fingers curl into my flesh, his nails digging in deliciously. Every cell in my body screams for me to throw myself into his arms and kiss him, but I fight it.
"No," I tell him firmly. "He knew what he was doing. If he wanted me dead, I would be dead. You know that, right?"
My words finally register with him, and Edward sighs, dropping his forehead to rest against mine. While I know it's wrong, I can't find the strength to step away; I've missed this—missed him. The more I try to remember why I left, the more I realize how stupid and childish it all was—no matter the circumstances surrounding it.
"I could have lost you," he says softly, his eyes opening and pulling me in. "For real...forever."
"But you didn't," I whisper, letting my right hand travel of its own accord over his stubbled jaw and into his hair. All signs of reason have left the building as I tighten my fingers into his hair, and I can clearly see that he feels the same way. My pinky glides over the skin of his neck, and I can feel goosebumps forming as I watch his eyes close halfway. His breathing has changed, deepening and falling into a rhythm with my own.
Lost to the moment, I tilt my face upward to close the very small gap between us, when the shrill ring of his phone on my bed brings us both back down to Earth. I release my hold on him, placing my right hand over my stomach and the other over my mouth. "I'm sorry," I whisper through my fingers. "That was over the line."
Edward doesn't say anything before heading to grab his phone. This only cements my fears that I've royally fucked everything up. I mean, what did I think was going to happen? That we'd kiss, maybe make love, and everything between us would go back to the way it was?
He looks irritated as he looks at his phone before angrily tapping out a message and tossing it back on the bed.
"Was that Jessica?" I ask, wrapping my arms around myself, and Edward nods. "What did you tell her?"
"The truth," he says, sitting back down on the end of my bed.
"Should you...I don't know...go?" My voice shrinks until it's barely a whisper.
His eyes snap up to mine. "I'm not leaving you alone tonight," he states firmly. "Who's to say he won't come looking for you? No. I'm here until morning."
"Oh," I say, my lips twitching with the beginnings of a smile...until I realize one small problem. "There's only one bed."
Edward's lips turn up into a cocky smirk, and he gives me a wink. "We've made do with less."
POLICE LINE : DO NOT CROSS : POLICE LINE : DO NOT CROSS : POLICE LINEThe next morning, Edward and I drive to the station together. When we arrive, Jessica is waiting there, and she doesn't look overly pleased when she spots us smiling, laughing, and carrying coffee from the same coffee house.
"Edward," she interrupts. "A word, please?"
Edward shakes his head and walks toward Mallory and Crowley's desks. "Later, Jess. We need to get started on the case."
"Edward," she admonishes, but he continues on with me right behind him.
"How are you feeling?" Mallory asks, offering me her chair. "Does it hurt?"
"Like hell," I tell her with a laugh, choosing to stay as upright as possible; standing up from a sitting position is going to be a little rough for another day or so yet. "But it looks worse than it feels."
Jessica walks over to the window, eyeing Edward and me with suspicion—analyzing our behaviour. I know she's looking for some kind of unspoken declaration that something happened between us last night, but she won't find anything.
We go over the events of the day before and discuss the evidence left for us on that rooftop after I was shot. Jessica doesn't have much to add—other than several harsh glares in my direction.
"The techs traced the call on Detective Swan's phone yesterday to a cell tower near the shooting," Crowley reports. "Unfortunately, they were unable to put a name to the caller."
Jessica chooses then to interject. "Since he made contact with Detective Swan"—she speaks my name with a certain level of disdain—"we've hooked the tracing equipment directly up to the phone. We suspect he'll probably try to get a hold of you again."
"Sounds perfect," I tell her with a bright smile; I'm not about to let her think she can intimidate me—especially since nothingactually happened.
We go over yesterday's events a little more, and we all agree that this was some kind of warning—or possibly even a welcome back in this psycho's eyes—when we're interrupted by my phone ringing.
We all turn to look at it, and then my eyes roam up to Edward, who nods toward the phone. I don't hesitate; I pick up the headset and connect the call. "Hello?"
"Ah, Detective," the altered voice greets. "Glad to see you're all right after yesterday."
"Are you, though?" I inquire snidely.
He lightly tsks on the other end. "Please, Detective, I wouldn't have brought you back home just to dispose of you so quickly, now would I?"
"Now how would I know what you've got planned? It's not as though I know much about you... I don't even know your first name."
"You will," he says, an air of both threat and promise lacing his distorted tone. "Yesterday was fun, though, wasn't it?"
I laugh wryly. "I'm not sure you understand the true meaning of that word," I say, standing up and wincing beneath the pain of my injury. My eyes roam the faces of each of my teammates, who are all listening intently to the entire conversation.
"Come on, you can't say you didn't enjoy it a little bit?"
"Being shot? No. I can't say that I did." I smirk wickedly, and Edward shakes his head knowingly. "Though, if you're skeptical, show yourself, and I'll return the favour. You can judge the fun level for yourself."
"I just think it's great that everything is how it should be," he continues, ignoring me completely. "You can't deny how good it feels to be back in Queens. Working with your old partner..." He lets his words linger, and I find myself realizing that he's not entirely wrong; working with Edward again has been pretty great. "I mean, the two of you seemed pretty cozy at your hotel last night."
My eyes widen, as do Edward's, and I turn to look at Jessica, who's turning a bright shade of red—no, vermillion. "You were there." It's not a question, and I know it's not going to help the situation between Edward, Jessica, and myself. "So, what? You're going to add stalker and peeping Tom to your resume, now, too? Seems a little beneath you."
He only laughs, and the sound chills me to the bone. "You're a little spitfire when you're riled up, aren't ya?"
"You don't even know the half of it," I snarl into the phone. "Just wait until we finally catch you."
"Better get to work then," he tells me before disconnecting our call.
I rip the headset off and toss it onto the desk. "Tell me we got him? Please, you've gotta give me something."
Crowley looks at the monitor before a frustrated scowl forms on his face. "Damn it."
I fist my hair at my temples and turn to Edward. "I need...to get out of here for a minute before I break something."
"I'll come with you. You shouldn't be alone in case—"
I shake my head after catching the latest dagger Jessica stares in my direction. "No, it's fine. You stay...figure something out. I won't be long."
Turning on my heel, I head for the door. Behind me, I can hear Jessica demanding a minute with Edward, and I know that it's not going to be good for either one of us. While I know I should worry about this, I just can't—not while this guy is still a threat to the city.
I pace on the front step of the precinct, the warm sun beating down on me, and I try to think about what our next course of action should be. He's been calling the shots for the past two years...
I don't know why it took me this long to figure it out, but I suddenly realize that we can't wait for him to make the next move; we need to draw him out—we need to set some kind of trap. Rushing back inside, I find Crowley and Mallory still at their desks, looking toward Edward's office. I can't see anything since the blinds are drawn and the door is shut, but I can hear the muffled voices—I just can't make out everything they're saying.
"What's going on?" I ask, even though I already know.
"Stanley's got her panties in a wad about something," Crowley announces with a nod in their direction. "That relationship has been on a fast course to destruction since before it even began."
I know it's horrible, but hearing that brings a small smile to my face—one that I quickly hide behind my closed fist as I pretend to clear my throat. "That's terrible."
Mallory and Crowley exchange glances before smirking up at me. "Yeah, that was almost believable. We don't need to be super sleuths to pick up on the way you two look at each other," Mallory announces. "He hasn't been happy since you left, you know. And these last few days—having you back—we've all noticed a difference. Especially Jessica."
I'm not sure what to say—not that it really matters because the door to Edward's office opens, and he and Jessica exit. She looks mad, and when her eyes meet mine, I stiffen my posture and refuse to submit under the scrutiny of her glare.
Desperate to change the mood, I clear my throat, drawing everyone else's focus to me as well. "While I was outside, I had an idea." They all continue to stare expectantly. "I'd, um, like to run it by the lieutenant before I say anything more, though...it's kind of risky."
"Of course it is," Edward says with a shake of his head. "Let's talk in my office."
The minute I step into Edward's office, I turn to him. "I didn't mean to cause trouble in your private life," I rush to tell him. "Last night was..." Almost perfect, I mentally add. "Well, I crossed a line I shouldn't have, and I'm sorry. W-what did she say?"
Edward exhales a short laugh, the corners of his eyes creasing when he smiles. "She seems to think I'm still hung up on you." His voice is low and gravelly, and he reaches out until the backs of his fingers stroke my hand.
"Well, that seems a tad presumptuous," I reply breathlessly as the goosebumps begin to form on my arm. "What did you tell her?"
"That I'm sorry she feels that way, and that she's not wrong about our relationship not working...it hasn't been for quite some time—long before you came back to town," he assures me.
There's a moment where we both fall silent, standing less than a foot apart and staring deep into one another's eyes. When he looks at me this way, it's like he's staring straight into my soul; I've never felt more connected to another person in all of my life. His fingers move until they hook around my hand, pressing into my palm, and I allow my hand to close around them as Edward reaches up and strokes my cheek with his other hand. My skin warms in the wake of his touch, and I lean into the sensation with a sigh.
Suddenly, there's a rapid-fire knock on the door, startling me and forcing us apart. It's then that I remember why I actually asked to talk to Edward in here. "I wanted to run this plan by you," I tell him as he reaches for the door. He opens it, telling the officer behind it that he'll be right out, and then turns back to hear my idea. "I think we should set a trap to lure him out."
"And how exactly would this trap work?" he asks, both nervous and intrigued as he crosses his arms in front of him.
"Well," I say, furrowing my brows nervously. "He seems to be overly concerned with my involvement—having brought me all the way from Syracuse and all—so..." I hesitate, because I already know what Edward's reaction to my suggestion is going to be. "I say we use me as bait."
POLICE LINE : DO NOT CROSS : POLICE LINE : DO NOT CROSS : POLICE LINEIt took a while, but eventually I was able to bring Edward around to my idea. While I didn't have a specific plan, what I did have was enough to take to the team. Crowley and Mallory seemed to keep an eye on Edward, probably afraid he'd lose his mind like he did in his office.
"I'm still not comfortable with this," Edward says, turning to me in the front seat of his car after he parks outside my hotel.
"Look, when the time comes to put the plan in action, we'll have the place swarming with cops," I remind him. "I'll be fine...especially since you'll have my back."
He still seems uncertain, and I suspect it's because of my father. I reach out and lay my hand over his. "I trust you with my life...I always have." I pause, seeing that I'm not making any headway. "Look, why don't you come upstairs and have a drink. I mean"—I shrug—"it's not like you have anywhere else to be, right?"
"I suppose not," he replies with a grin. "Sure. I'd love to."
Edward pulls his car around and parks it in the lot before we head inside. We reach the ninth floor and walk the short distance to my room where we remove our jackets and toss them on the same chair as the other night. I pour us both a glass of scotch, and we take our same seats: him on the bed and me against the desk across from him. We drink in silence, occasionally catching the other's eye and smiling. It's awkward, but then, given everything we've gone through, I suppose that's to be expected.
My eyes drop down to stare into my glass as my mind begins to wander, and I find myself growing nervous about the plan. It was easy to put on a brave face and reassure Edward, but the more I think about it, the more my own fears are realized.
"You seem lost in thought," Edward says softly, pulling me back.
I laugh humourlessly. "There's a possibility I might be freaking out a little about all of this," I confess. "The man killed my father...he shot me...and now I come up with an insane plan to use myself as bait to lure him out of hiding? There's a high probability that I might need to be committed."
Chuckling, Edward stands from the bed and sets his glass down next to me. "And here I thought you'd lost all instincts of self-preservation," he teases, leaning against the edge of the desk, his body less than an inch away from mine.
I continue to nervously run my finger along the rim of my empty glass, when suddenly Edward's hand is taking mine and pulling it toward him, our palms both feeling slightly sticky with nervous sweat—or maybe it's just mine. "As much as this plan of yours terrifies me, I think it's the best chance we've got to catch him. But if anything were to happen to you—"
"Or you," I quietly add on, turning my body to his. "Edward, not a day has gone by that I haven't regretted leaving Queens—leaving you," I ramble, the words spilling from my mouth rapidly. This is long overdue, and I only hope he'll hear me out. "I'm not saying you should forgive me...I acted like a child and ran away instead of facing my issues. But the truth is, I wasn't the only one to lose my dad—you did, too. He loved you like a son, and for some reason, I never took that into account in the months following his death…and by the time I did, it was too late.
"I miss you," I continue, looking up into his stormy green eyes and seeing something spark to life. "So much it hurts." Moving to stand before him, I take a chance and lace our fingers together. "Last night? Having you by my side while I slept...How we almost kissed? While I'm sure a lot of it was just the adrenalin from the shooting, I wouldn't take it back. When it comes to you and me—together—I've never had regrets."
Edward sighs, bringing his hand up to tuck a wayward strand of hair behind my ear, and his fingers trace a trail down my neck. "What about Mike? Losing him couldn't have been easy."
"What Mike and I had wasn't serious. He was a distraction, and I was the same to him. That's all. It's always been you, Edward."
I don't say another word, for fear of spoiling the moment, and I tilt my face upward, my nose brushing against his. Our lips barely touch, but I can taste the scotch that lingers on his, tempting me. I hesitate for just a second, giving him the opportunity to put an end to this, but Edward quickly pulls me to his chest and presses his lips to mine in an eager kiss. The slow burn of the last few days together finally explodes, and I wind my arms up around his neck and fist his hair in one of my hands.
I feel alive—like everything in my world finally makes sense again. Warmth spreads beneath my skin, and I moan the minute his hands move down my body and cup my ass firmly, lifting me off the ground. Turning our bodies, he settles me on the desk and pushes his way between my thighs. The tingle that covers my body becomes most pronounced between my legs, and I need to feel him joined with me more than I need the oxygen I currently struggle to take in between kisses.
Edward's hands move down the outsides of my thighs before he slides one between us, undoing my jeans and slipping it behind the denim. He starts moving his fingers slowly, pushing me closer and closer to the precipice of my release. I'm close—teetering right on the edge—but right before I can fall, he removes his hand and moves it to my waist. With a whimper of disapproval, I tighten my legs around him, pulling him impossibly closer and feeling every solid inch of him against me. Sated for the time being with him pressed flush against me, my tongue glides over his soft bottom lip.
He opens his mouth with a groan, deepening the kiss as his own tongue pushes and slides against my own, and he hooks his fingers beneath the hem of my shirt, quickly removing it. This only breaks our kiss for a moment, and I set to work unbuttoning his shirt before pushing it roughly down his arms. Impatiently, he yanks it from around his wrists and brings his hands back to my waist, his eyes moving over my near-naked torso. Gently, he runs his fingertips over my bruised ribs before leaning down and ghosting his lips over them. It makes me shudder, and I gently coax him back up to me.
"Stay with me," he pleads.
"I'll never leave your side again," I promise with tear-filled eyes before Edward reclaims my lips...
And my heart.
Author's End Note:
I know I never resolved the mystery of the shooter . . . but that's because I plan to expand this into a short novella-type story. Possibly longer if time allows for it ;)
Please review and let me know what you thought! I can't respond (yet) but once I can, you bet I will!