A Woman of Conviction Ch 17
The look on her face took the breath out of me. It has kept me awake this past week and a half. After the perfect date and her giving everything to me; fuck I feel like such a dick.
Lucian and Damon have been texting me every day. I miss them so much it hurts. I miss my Bella just as much, even small things like the nervous way she nibbles her soft lips.
I get up from my desk and pace the length of my office. What can I do to show her that it was only to help her and the kids? I just wanted them safe.
“You’re going to wear the carpet down doing that.” Tanya is leaning against the doorframe with her arms crossed.
“How is she, is she okay? Does she need anything?” I find myself in front of her, desperate for anything.
Her eyes go soft and she lets out a sigh. “I think she’s confused. Edward, this woman has had no one to help her besides what she let me and Irina do, and let me tell you, Bella barley let us do shit for her.”
I nod, knowing Bella is the most head-strong, willful woman.
“This is new to her, having someone, a man no less, taking care of her. Doing things for her to give her a better life.”
“I want to give her the world, but I know she wants to earn it.”
“Yeah.” She gives me a small smile.
My cell rings, and I answer it without looking at the caller ID.
“Edward, I need you, please.” I can hear the pure terror in her voice.
“Bella, what’s wrong, where are you?”
Tanya’s face transforms into a look of worry.
I’m already out my door and heading to the elevator, putting the phone on speaker so I can have Garrett get the car.
“I’m at home. Lucian is missing. He left school grounds. Oh, God, Edward. My baby is missing.” A sob echoes out of the phone and into the elevator. I’m trying not to be distracted by Tanya’s fast typing on her phone.
“I’m coming to you, Bella, and we will get everything figured out, baby.”
“I have to go to the school.”
“We’ll go together. I’m sure Lucian is fine.” I try not let my own fear lace my words. How the fuck does a school lose one of its students?
“Please, hurry, Edward.” I hear the click for the end of the call.
“Edward, you go to her. I’ll fill everyone in, and I’ll take care of your office.” Tanya is much like Bella when it comes to knowing what to do and her organizational skills.
“Good.” I didn’t mean for my voice to be so sharp, but, thank God, she didn’t seem to care.
I reach Garrett, who is already geared up, and we head to Bella’s.
I knock on her door quickly and then enter. “Bella!” I call out to her.
She rounds the corner, her face blotchy and her eyes puffy. I can see the pain in her eyes.
“Thank God, Edward.” She collapses in my arms and sobs shake though her.
“I got you, and we’re going to figure this all out. I will get you Lucian back, okay?”
I can feel her nod her head. She doesn’t let me go as we get into the car and drive to the school. There’s a flurry of activity when we arrive. The school is on lock-down and the security team is there with Mike and Damon, who both look guilty as hell.
“Ms. Swan. We have a few leads; we know for certain that he has indeed left the school premises,” a tall, slender man begins speaking to Bella.
“How did he manage that?” Anger laces my words.
The man looks over at me. “I’m sorry, this only concerns Ms. Swan.”
“Well, then give me the answer,” Bella growls. “And for future reference, if he asks a question I expect it to be answered.” Mama bear is out and is ready to fuck some people up.
“It seems that he had some help, and was also timing the cameras,” the man sputters out quickly.
I look over to Mike and Damon, who are having a silent conversation with their eyes. I walk over, crouching down, and look between them. I can hear the conversation behind me about calling the authorities and sending out an amber alert.
“What do you guys know?” I ask the boys.
The two look at each other, Mike shaking his head. Damon has picked up his brother’s and mother’s lip biting habit.
“Damon, look at your mom. Do you really want to put her through any more?” I say softly to him. I’m not trying to be harsh, but we have to figure out where Lucian is.
I feel Bella behind me. “Baby, if you know something about your brother you need to speak up. I promise you won’t get into trouble, and neither will Lucian. I’m just very worried about him.”
“He just wanted to confront him.” Damon’s little shoulders seem to have a weight lifted off them.
Bella crouches down with me, putting her hands on Damon’s knees. “Confront who?”
“Jake. Lucian found out where he works, and it isn’t too far to walk, so he just needed Mike and I to help him leave the school. He said no one would notice, and that he would be back in time to have Garrett pick us up.” His eyes well up and he lunges at Bella, who catches him.
Thinking back to the file I have, I know exactly where he was going.
“I know where he is, let’s go.” I pull them up and tell the dean that we’ll be back for Damon.
I have Garrett drive us to the machine shop that Jake works at.
As we pull up, we see Lucian sitting on a bench outside the door.
Bella is out the door before the vehicle is even in park. “Oh, thank God!” She collects him in her arms, rocking back and forth.
I head over and pull them both in my arms, and we sit right on the sidewalk together. “Garret, could you please call Tanya, and then the school, and inform them we‘ve found Lucian.”
We manage to get off the sidewalk and onto the bench where Bella begins to question him.
“Lucian, why would you leave school like that, do you have any idea how scared I was?”
He sniffles. “I’m sorry, but you have been so sad and avoiding everything to do with Edward. I thought you forgot about having a meeting with Jake, so I thought I should just do it myself.”
“Have you gone in?” I ask him gently, praying that he did not go in there alone.
He shakes his head. “I couldn’t do it. I saw him working and smiling and I just thought, what’s the point?”
I look through the window and see him filling out some paperwork. I look down to Lucian and his broken spirit. “I’ll go in with you; it’s not about him. If this is something you need, then let’s do it. If you still think it’ll help you?”
He sat there with furrowed eyebrows. “I think I’ll just give him the letter and can we go home.”
“Okay, sweetie, let’s do it.” Bella pulls him up with her.
I stand behind them for silent support. We open the glass door and enter the shop. I’m shocked at the amount of sophistication the place has. Jacob is behind a big oak desk typing something into the computer.
“Excuse me, Jake.” Bella uses a gentle voice to get his attention.
His head whips up, and he looks at us with narrowed eyes. “How can I help you?” his voice is strained with false niceness.
“Lucian wants to give you something.” Bella’s hands are on Lucian’s shoulders as he pulls the letter out of his back pocket.
Jacob sighs, running his fingers through his hair quickly. Then he walks around to the other side of the desk where we’re standing. He crouches down in front of Lucian. “Is that for me?” he says lightly.
Lucian thrusts the letter in his hand, and Jacob thanks him gently. Lucian then drags Bella out quickly, and I walk behind them.
The ride back to the school is quiet for just a moment before Bella speaks. “You’re in a lot of trouble, young man.” Bell has a death grip on him.
“I’m sorry, Mom, I just didn’t know what to do. You were ignoring Edward and crying again. I just thought I could do this by myself.”
Bella’s puffy but gorgeous brown eyes meet mine. I feel guilt and shame that I had a part in Lucian’s runaway act. I wish Bella would have just talked to me about this instead of running away, but maybe I shouldn’t have listened to her about staying away. I will never apologize for giving them a safe and clean place to live and the job she has. I wouldn’t have given it to her if I thought she wouldn’t be able to do it.
We arrive to the school, who immediately duals out punishments for all three of the kids. Lucian gets a week of in-school suspension and the other two get three days.
When we’re back in the vehicle, Bella texts everyone that Lucian is found and safe along with a shortened version of what happen today. Damon and Lucian are sitting by me chatting my ear off. I missed them so much.
“You’re coming home with us, right?” Damon asks with wide eyes.
I look at Bella. “If that’s what you want?” I wait for her to interject, but the boys answer together.
Bella looks out the window not saying anything. I think it’s okay to assume she’s fine with it.
“Okay.” I ruffle Damon’s hair.
The tension is clear between Bella and I, but we put on a good show for the boys as we eat dinner and watch a movie, almost as if the last week and a half haven’t even happened.
Finally, the boys are in bed and asleep. I shut the door and walk through the apartment to find Bella in the kitchen, her back to me.
“We have to talk about this.” She continues to put dishes in the dishwasher.
“I knew you wouldn’t agree to take the apartment if you knew I owned the building. I’m not going to apologize for helping you get a clean, safe place for you and the boys to live.”
She whips around, her eyes dark and glassy. “You hid it from me, you didn’t give me options.”
“What options was I supposed to give you, Bella?” I ask, raising my voice just a little bit.
“How much I’m paying in rent?” Her voice is shaking in her effort to keep it down.
“And how much do you think you should pay?”
She crosses her arms and nibbles her lip. “Seven hundred.”
I look at her in shock. “Six fifty,” I counter.
“No.” Her voice is solid and unwilling to back down from her idea of rent.
“Fine,” I growl out, knowing full well that she isn’t going to lower her amount.
“Fine.” She lets out some air.
I watch her lower her arms and keep her eyes on me. The air changes around us, and I grab her up and kiss her with a force that nearly unbalances us. Her fingers intertwine in my hair, trying to bring me closer. After so long we pull apart, needing air.
Bella’s hand falls to my chest. “Is there anything else you’re hiding from me?”
I sigh, knowing that I need to come clean now so that we can move forward and avoid this type of fight in the future. “I got my PI to dig up anything and everything on Charlie and Jacob.” She pulls away, and I sigh, “Then after I got what I needed, I called Charlie and told him that he needed to get Jacob to agree to everything you wanted or I was going to not only humiliate Jacob, but I was going to make his life hell, also.” I watch her hands turn to fists. “I just wanted Damon to get what he wanted. You deserve the world, and I want to be the one to give it to you.”
She is facing away from me, but now I can see her shoulders moving before a sob comes out. “Thank you.”
I’m still frozen at her words. “For what?”
“You did everything in your power to grant my son the one thing he wanted. All you were trying to do is help me. To have my sons and I live in a safe place. All you do is help me. And I throw a tantrum, because, God, I don’t even really know.”
I turn her to face me, wiping the tears from her cheeks. “Don’t cry, baby. I should have talked to you. From now on, I‘ll always talk to you about everything.” She nods and I pull her into a hug. “I’m not going anywhere. Me and you are forever.”
After a few minutes, her breathing calms down and she asks me to stay the night. “Absolutely. I have to go grab some clothes and I’ll be right back.”
I never moved so quickly in my life, grabbing something to sleep in and to wear tomorrow.
I get back to the apartment and see her curled up on the couch. I set my overnight bag on the floor next to her. “Hey.”
She looks up, and I notice she has circles under her eyes, and they’re red and puffy. I take a seat next to her. “Baby, don’t cry, we made mistakes but we’re talking now and everything is okay,” I try to reassure her.
“I know, but I can’t help but feel guilty for taking you away from my boys. They love you so much.”
“You can’t take them away completely, they texted me every day. Come on, love, let’s get you to bed. It’s been a long day.”
She agrees and we go to bed. It might take a bit to get back to where we were, but I know that we’ll be okay.