I am totally having a Cameron Diaz, high on energy pills moment and screaming... OMG, SERIOUSLY YOU GUISE! I am absolutely floored by the response to this story! If I could, I would give each and every one of you a hug.
Much love to Nicki, bellamarie117, cosmogirl7481 and ltlerthqak ... without whom this wouldn't be what it is. Thank you, girls.
No copyright infringement is intended, Stephenie Meyer owns these characters.
"Come on," I growl to no one. I exhale sharply, blowing my once-smooth bangs out of my eyes.
I'm already cranky and tired by the time I make it back to my hotel, and this stupid lock (which, coincidentally, looks like it should have been replaced before I was born) is pissing me off. Wriggling the key, I jiggle the knob and push as hard as I can. Finally the lock gives, and I lean down to grab the fresh copy of the Peninsula Daily News that's been left on my 'doorstep' to bring it inside.
I toss the paper across the bed and lean down to pull my heels off, dropping them to the floor with two careless thunks. I fight the urge to bend over and straighten them as I reach for the back of my dress. I just want to put something more comfortable on. I stare down at the shoes as my dress falls into a puddle on the floor and laugh to myself. After a weeks' worth of sleepless nights, I simply don't have the energy for anything right now, not even my own compulsive tendencies.
After the crowd dispersed from the funeral, I chose not to linger. I wasn't prepared to speak to anyone; really, what could I say? I can only imagine the awkwardness of someone casually asking who I am and how I knew him. I've really got no way to answer that other than to shrug. Besides, I want answers, and the last thing I need is to look like one of those creepers who only goes to funerals to watch others mourn because it makes them feel better about themselves.
I move over to the dresser where my clothes are to pull out a pair of yoga pants and a tank-top. In the bathroom, I crank the leaky faucet to the left and wait for the water to get warm before running a washcloth across my face; freeing it of the small clutter of mascara and lipgloss that's left over from this morning. I don't wear much makeup, and it comes off quickly as I swipe the cloth across my lips and eyes.
The trip back to the hotel – or the inn, as the owners call it – took much longer than I expected. The traffic leaving the funeral was unreal. There were sirens, lights and people walking between vehicles here, there and everywhere. I smiled politely as they cut in front of me, trying to stay patient as I made my way down the crowded street. I know at a time like that I should have been anything but frustrated. I know that I should have been forgiving of their rudeness by shrugging it off, but it was really difficult not to graciously show them my middle finger.
I probably should have stayed out of the room, made an effort to see more than just the cemetery – something at least to get my mind off things. But, after fighting the jumble of cars and pedestrians just to get back here, I'm drained. Add to that the sleeplessness of the night before, and I really need a nap.
My phone beeps from the other room. I grab it on my way back to my bed, really fucking hoping there will be a message from one of my parents. I came here so suddenly that I'm now beginning to question what I was thinking. I sigh when there are no messages from mom or dad, but there is one from Jacob Black.
"Miss Dwyer, I'm sorry to have missed you. I was hoping we could have made arrangements to meet before tomorrow and that my wife and I could escort you today. If you get this message before you return, please give me a call."
With a sigh, I press seven to delete it and lie back against the pillows.
When I'm comfortable, I shut my eyes and try to sleep. My brain, however, has other ideas.
Tomorrow. The reading of the will. The reason I came here.
Giving up on the sleep I desperately need, I run my fingers through my hair and bite my lip. I really don't want to think about tomorrow; I want to be distracted. I want this to all be over and for everything to just... make sense again. And I'd really like to know how this man knew my name and why he thought I was part of his life.
Anxiety floods through me, and the weariness I've been feeling these past few days seems to dissipate. I don't feel tired anymore. I know what my problem is: I'm antsy, I'm nervous and I can't sit still. I sit up and look around, noticing the shoes and dress I left on the floor. Desperate for something to keep my hands busy, I stand up and rush to straighten them. I should have done it earlier.
My stomach growls at me, asking for food, but I don't want to eat. Nothing sounds good, and I know I'll regret it later. Still wanting a distraction, I grab the newspaper from the bed and shake it open, sighing when I realize that no matter what I do, where I go, or where I look, this situation is going to stare me right in the face.
Today, of course, it's on the front page.
Slain Police Chief to be laid to Rest
Nearly one week following the death of Police Chief Charles Swan, the department continues to search for the suspect they believe is responsible. Port Angeles Police Department spokesperson Michael Newton made a statement on Monday citing that they believe they are close to apprehending Lonnie Vance, who after a standoff with police, fired the shot that sent Chief Swan to a local hospital. Despite best efforts made by hospital employees, Mr. Swan later died from injuries sustained in the incident.
As quoted by interim chief Sam Uley, the city of Port Angeles is in mourning. "Charlie was one of a kind; he will be greatly missed by all of us. We will do whatever we can to bring this man to justice."
Police Chief Charles Swan was a twenty year veteran of the department and leaves behind an adopted son. He will be laid to rest today at Mt. Angeles Memorial Park, US Highway 101 at Monroe Road, in a ceremony set to begin at twelve PM.
Front. Back. News. Weather. Comics. I read everything, trying to clear my head of tomorrow and the 'what if's' that keep popping into my mind. The words are useless, though, and I can't help wondering who else will be there, who else might know who I am, and what exactly I'm going to learn.
I groan out loud and throw the paper in the trash before looking at my sketchbook on the bedside table. A sigh escapes my lips and I smile; if anything can calm me, it's this.
For the rest of the night, my sketchbook is draped across my lap. My lucky pencil is between my fingers, tracing out images from my mind in as much detail as I can recall. With each pass across the page my body and mind loses some of its anxiety, and my tension channels out of me and onto the page. This has always been my way – putting my energy into something tangible helps me think. I'm focused, relaxed, as page after page fills with ghostly hands, straight shoulders and a sad woman with Kleenex.
When my head hits the pillow and my eyes finally close in the early morning hours, I dream of strong hands, straight shoulders and warm, warm, warm.
My dream from the night before is still fresh in my mind when I wake up. As I move to get out of bed, I catch sight of my sketchbook lying open on the table and smile at the picture. Those hands... I can't help the shiver that spreads through me when I think of how warm they were. In places that haven't been that warm in a really, really long time. Closing my eyes, I sigh and finally – reluctantly – pull myself from the bed to get ready. There's a nervous flutter in my stomach, and not even the reminder of that warmth is enough to stop it. Nor is the heat of the shower.
The outfit I chose before coming out here is conservative: straight leg black slacks and a button down blouse. I know I don't need to impress anyone, but I don't want to look like a slob, either. My hands shake as I try to dress and when my stomach grumbles, reminding me that I haven't eaten since the previous morning, I write it off as hunger.
When I arrived in town two nights ago, I remember seeing a little coffee shop just down the street from the hotel. Since I seem to have a habit of being perpetually early for everything, I know I'll have plenty of time to grab some coffee and maybe something small to eat before I need to be at Jacob Black's office.
A small coffee, a polite conversation with a handsome old man named Joe and a bagel later, I'm back in the car and navigating what some might consider traffic. It's nothing compared to California, but at least it's better than yesterday. I scan the buildings around me, waiting for the GPS to tell me which way to go. After I make my final turn, I spot the sign advertising the sale of 'Insurance and Bonds' that Jacob told me to look for and search for a parking spot.
I'm nervous as I make my way to the entrance and pull the door open. Needing some semblance of normal, some sign that things aren't as out of control as they feel right now, I look down to make sure I haven't forgotten anything in the car that I may need. My keys, wallet, room key and a pack of gum are there. My sketchbook isn't. My heartbeat picks up and I stop to compose myself, remembering where it is and that it's safe; that I haven't lost it.
In front of me is a staircase and I step forward, trying to calm my rapidly beating heart. I navigate my way up the flight of stairs, still following the directions of Jacob's message so I don't get lost and end up arriving late.
There's a small reception desk at the top of the stairs, but it's empty. I can hear the boom of a voice behind a door on the right, but I don't want to knock and interrupt. Instead, I walk closer to the desk and lean against it, checking for a bell or something to announce my arrival.
As I'm searching, I hear more voices and footsteps drifting up the stairs behind me. I turn and see first the sour faced girl from the funeral. She looks at me and, if possible, her face twists even more. Behind her is the woman with the Kleenex. She looks better today, though her face is still drawn and tired, like she hasn't been sleeping.
I want to pull out my sketchbook, to take in the slope of her nose and the puff under her eyes and make sure the details I pulled from memory match what my eyes see at this very second. I have to fight the compulsion I feel to ask her to sit for me and remain very still.
At her heels is the big kid who held the umbrella. Unsure of what else to do, I smile politely and nod, dipping my head in greeting as I bury my hands in the tiny pockets of my slacks. The boy...man— whatever. He's big; much bigger than I noticed yesterday. He waves to me and grins toothily. Despite the dark color of his eyes, they're really bright. Friendly. His smile is infectious and I return with one of my own, grateful for the small gesture.
I kind of expect one of them to say something, but they don't. The silence around us feels like it's growing with each second that passes as they stare at me. It feels like they want me to say something, but I'm just as much at a loss of what to say as they are. In order to avoid staring back, I bite my lip and take my hands from my pockets, clutching my purse tighter to my side before lowering my eyes to the ground.
This entire situation is just...uncomfortable, and I begin to wonder where Jacob Black is. I also really wish I had thought to sit down when I got here. I don't know what to do with my hands and feet, so I'm just alternating crossing my feet and putting my hands in and out of my pocket.
Before I can freak myself out too much, the office door behind us flies open and I jump in surprise. A man walks out, and he has to be one of the biggest men I've ever seen. He towers over the other kid, and, while I was convinced earlier the guy from the funeral was a giant, I'm rethinking that now. This new guy's shoulders are wide, giving an entirely new meaning to the term 'big and tall.' I wonder where he bought the suit he's wearing – Colossus"R"Us? His black hair is pulled back into a ponytail at the nape of his neck, and his skin, like the others in the room, is a deep russet brown.
This must be Mr. Black.
He's smiling, and I watch as his eyes dance between all of us. When they fall on me, I see them soften and his smile grows even bigger. I don't understand how he can smile like that knowing what he's about to do. But, from the deep creases I see embedded in his cheeks, I can tell it's something he does often. I'm a perfect testament to people who have their own coping mechanisms in uncomfortable situations, and if I had to guess, I would say that Jacob's is his smile.
With a clap of his hands, he looks back at the others. "Good morning Sue, Seth, Leah. Why don't you all go into my office and have a seat?"
My fingers tap the counter of the desk in front of me and I try my best to appear casual. I remain in place as they move to his door. He didn't say my name, and I'm not quite sure what else to do. After seeing them yesterday I'm certain they're here for the same reason as me, and I wonder why it is that we're not all in the office together.
As the others disappear, the gigantic lawyer's hands find their way into the pockets of his slacks and he walks toward me slowly, like he's trying not to scare away a lost kitten.
It's actually a pretty apt description – my nervous tapping is starting to sound like claws skidding across a wooden floor.
"You have got to be Isabella," he says quietly. His eyes roam my face, searching for... what, I don't know.
Nervously, I clear my throat and try to nod. "Uh, yes. I'm Isabella. Bella, really... people call me Bella," I stammer, tapping my fingers again before drawing a small circle into the fake wood desk.
"Bella," he says, holding his hand out for mine. "I'm Jake. I was... Charlie was like family to me. I'm very sorry for your loss."
I want to feel bad for him, that he's lost this man who he was close to, but I don't know how.
"Mr. Black?" I question. "I've told you before that I didn't know this man. I haven't been able to get in touch with my mother, but... What I mean in, are you sure that it's my name listed? I had to come and be sure, I don't..." I trail off, reaching up to toy with one of my earrings. Even I realize how ridiculous I must sound. "I'm not sure why I'm here," I admit, defeated.
He looks perplexed as he stares at me. Before he can respond, footsteps sound out behind, and our heads turn in the direction of the noise. The steps are heavy in the enclosed hallway, and then a man in uniform appears at the top of the stairs, somewhat out of breath.
"Jake," he says, not noticing me as I look him over.
My eyes roam as he struggles to catch his breath. The heavy boots that pounded the stairs are covered at the bottom by well-fitted, tight black slacks on long legs. Above them, a neatly tucked and pressed shirt is wrapped around his torso, accentuating his frame nicely. There's a gold badge pinned to his chest that catches the light hanging above us. His boots thud, echoing across the hardwood as he walks a few more steps and his hand lifts to remove his hat. In what looks like a completely practiced motion, he tucks it beneath his arm.
My mouth falls open at what's underneath. A mess of brownish hair (that honestly makes me a little jealous with the way it looks so perfectly unkempt) falls forward into his eyes. He reaches up to run his fingers through it, pulling it back. I can't help but stare, and I recognize those hands.
…I dreamed about them. Warm, warm, warm.
I feel like I'm in a movie, where everything moves in slow motion. His hand falls from his hair and my eyes are glued to it as he moves to the holster wrapped around his waist and he grips the top of his weapon casually.
Finally, I lick my lips and move my gaze to settle on his face. Amazingly (and quite possibly unfairly to boot), it's not just the hair and the hands and the long legs. He's got a nice jaw and lips that look kissable, too.
My eyes are everywhere, taking in as much detail as they can. I can't help them from returning to his hand, and I become momentarily lost in the thought of what it would be like to have his long fingers wrapped around me the way they're wrapped around that weapon.
"I'm sorry I'm late. I just got off shift and Sam is still being a dick."
And goodness, his voice is just as nice as the rest of him. Yep, just like I thought: completely unfair.
As if just noticing me, he looks over and his mouth falls open, his perfect jaw tensing as he speaks slowly. "Holy shit."
"I know, right?" Jacob remarks with a bit of a snort as he glances at me from the corner of his eye.
Looking down, I wonder why they're looking at me like that and what their little exchange could possibly mean. I search to make sure I haven't forgotten to button a button or zip a zipper. Or that I didn't trail toilet paper into the office on the bottom of my shoe. I find nothing.
When I look back up, the officer is still staring at me and I want to ask him why. Instead, I stare back, unable to help noticing again just how soft his lips look, even pursed in a way that makes him look angry.
"Masen," Jacob says then, interrupting our staring. "Why don't you go into my office with Sue and the kids?"
"Yeah, okay," the man in the uniform replies, turning and walking over to pull open the door to Jake's office. Just before he steps inside, he turns his head and looks at me again. This time I bite my lip and avert my eyes from his hard stare.
"Bella?" Jacob asks. "We need to talk. I just have a few small things I have to straighten out with these folks, and then you and I can sit down and speak, okay?"
I open my eyes to look at him, giving a small nod as he motions with his hand for me to have a seat.
Ten minutes pass, and I sit there, listening to the soft murmur of voices behind Mr. Black's closed door. When I check the clock again at the twenty minute mark, the murmurs have grown increasingly louder. After thirty minutes I'm a little freaked out, wondering if they're arguing, and, if so, does it have anything to do with me? I'm pretty sure they're here because of Mr. Swan after the display at the funeral, but I can't figure out why the beautiful man in the uniform, Masen, looked at me the way he did.
What reason could he possibly have to be angry at me?
The anxiety from last night returns tenfold, and nerves creep into my bones. The bagel and coffee from earlier this morning feel like a ten pound ball in the pit of my stomach. What the hell am I even doing here? I don't just do things like this. Ever. I have absolutely no idea why I ever thought it was a good idea to rock my own boat and shake up my life this way. My compulsive need to know the truth, even when I knew it might not be what I wanted to hear, had really put me in a uncomfortable position this time.
The door opens, breaking me from the endless cycle of questions. People begin filing out, and I look down, concentrating on a pattern in the hardwood as I try to avoid their gazes. Though I'm trying not to, I hear a sniffle that makes my heart clench and I get lost in the sounds of the goodbyes behind me, listening the hardest for a heavy echo of boots. When I hear them thumping down the stairs my shoulders slump and I relax, knowing that the scrutiny around me is now significantly lower.
Mr. Black's voice startles me and I jump. "Would you like to come into the office with me now, Bella? I think that once we begin, everything will make a whole lot more sense."
"Uh," I mumble, looking around to confirm that everyone else has disappeared. "I guess."
"Trust me," he pleads with a soft smile and holds out his hand.
"I really don't know why I'm here," I say, but he just shakes his head and turns to the side, motioning with his hand for me to go ahead of him.
He steps to my side and allows me to walk ahead of him. After a few seconds of hesitation, I step forward and walk to the door and he follows behind me.
"Please have a seat," he says as he rounds the room toward a large oak desk and takes a seat.
Shuffling forward, I lower myself into one the chairs that faces him and watch as he digs through some papers. He looks up at me and smiles.
"Now, I know it's not a requirement for this kind of thing. Honestly, it's something you usually only see in the movies, but it was a request of my client. About ten years ago – before my father passed away – he and Charlie set everything up with regards to what would happen in the event of his death and I'm required by law, as his lawyer, to follow through with them."
He taps the papers on his desk, straightening them. "I believe everything is in order—"
"Mr. Black?" I interrupt curiously. "Who were those people?"
He shakes his head, a sad smile creeping onto his face. "There were others named in the will. They were here for the same reason as you."
"But why would you..." I start.
"I thought after what you said, that this might be easier for us to speak one-on-one. Anyhow, to answer your question, those people were others close to Charlie. Sue was his girlfriend, and the two younger ones are her children."
"And the officer?" I ask, because he really is the one I'm most curious about.
"That's Officer Masen. They were all very close to Charlie," Jacob replies, but offers nothing more. I nod, biting my lip as I look down at my hands.
"Your fa— Charlie," he stops, and my head snaps up. My eyes narrow in question at his words; he just shakes his head slightly, and then continues, "Charlie not only had a life insurance policy, but a pension through the department."
He stares at me as if I should understand. As if this isn't new information for me.
"The beneficiary named in both documents is of course, Charlie's next of kin. In addition to these two things, there's a matter of his house here in Port Angeles, and a few other small assets. I just need some signatures and we should be able to wrap everything here up easily. I've taken the liberty of filing all necessary documents with the courts, so you shouldn't have any trouble."
My eyes widen and I just stare at him without saying a word. I don't know what to say. The things he's telling me are impossible. I heard his slip, and I want to tell him how wrong his is. I can't let this man give me a house and money and things that don't belong to me. Jacob watches me, sighing as he reaches up and rests his palm on his forehead. He looks confused and somewhat sad.
His mouth opens and closes and then opens again. "You really don't know do you?" he asks.
"I did not want to be the one to have to tell you this, Miss Dwyer," he says. "But, you are listed as Charlie's next of kin."
So... I hope some of your questions have been answered here, and now we've met smexy Officer Masen. And Bella's world just got officially turned upside down. What comes next? Any theories? I love hearing them!
Thank you thank you thank you again for everyone who alerted, favorited, reviewed, and tweeted. This week, I might just come out and jump on the couch Tom Cruise style!
Reviewers will receive a teaser for Chapter 3! And as always, a bonus teaser will be posted on The Fictionators!