We last left with Edward meeting this 'ghost'. Sorry for the cliffhanger. We won't leave you hanging for long. As always, none of this is ours. We just like to play with the creations Stephenie Meyer dreamt up.
Bella wondered what the hell was going on when the handsome man rushed past her like he had seen a ghost. She also noticed a clean, masculine scent in his wake, too. "Who was that? Is he okay?"
"He's my son, Edward," Esme answered. She couldn't figure out what caused Edward to act like this, but the look he had in his eyes was the exact same one he had when he was in the hospital the night of the fire. He was upset, caught in a nightmare.
"Is there something wrong?" Bella asked.
"I don't know. However, he has been dealing with some issues caused by a fire from some time ago. He moved away in the wake of that fire and he just recently moved back to help with my recovery. But, being back here has reopened some … old … wounds." Esme internally smacked her head as she spoke to Bella. Angela and Bella … damn it!
"Oh, I can understand that. Would you like me to go see if I can find him for you?" Bella asked.
"Please," Esme begged, knowing she didn't have the strength at the moment. She was a little woozy, needing something to settle her stomach. She also felt guilty about not telling Edward about her doctor.
"I'll send Charlotte in to take some blood, but everything looks good. There's evidence that we got everything when we performed the surgery and chemo is getting any residual cells. According to the tests, it's all positive and going in the right direction, Esme. I still want to continue with the treatments, but only every other week," Bella explained. "Do you need anything else?"
"Do you think we're winning this battle?" Esme asked, her hands wringing in her lap. "Other than being tired, the nausea and queasiness, I feel okay."
"The cancer is raising its white flag and soon we'll capture it for good."
Esme stood on shaky limbs and gave Bella a tight hug. "Thank you. You have no idea how much this means to me, Dr. Swan. You're truly an angel."
"You've done all the work, I'm only here to help you along the way," Bella said, hugging Esme back. "I'll just go find, Edward."
Bella gave Charlotte the chart, telling her the instructions for Esme, and went off in search of Edward. She had met Esme's other sons, Jasper and Emmett, during her surgery and at various treatments. They were both very pleasant to be around and she could tell they were a close-knit family. Bella knew that Esme had another son and had been told that he worked in Boston. She also didn't know he had returned to Seattle. From what she saw, his presence meant a lot to Esme. She looked good, happy with a sparkle in her eyes that she hadn't really seen.
Walking into the waiting room, she saw Edward sitting in one of the chairs next to the fireplace, staring sightlessly at the flames. Bella went over to the chair next to him and sat down, leaning forward and looking at him. "Are you okay?"
Edward ignored her and continued to watch as the flames dancing hypnotically over the logs. He faintly heard a voice next to him, but he was afraid that it was her - Angela. He closed his eyes, remembering as her tiny hand slipped from his and she fell away, to her death on the concrete below. Why was this happening to him? Was he going to have to go back to the psychiatrist and back on those mind-numbing medications to regulate his emotions? He took sleeping pills in the past to help him get rest at night, blocking out the nightmares at the best of times and keeping him stuck in them at the worst.
As he sat in front of that fake fire, he felt something that he never felt before in his nightmares. The hand on his arm was warm, tender, comforting. He felt alive with that warm palm on his arm. Turning his head, he looked at the person who was touching him. She looked exactly like Angela, but how was that possible?
She smiled sweetly, her grin slightly crooked, but kind, gentle. "My name is Bella. Let's go into my office and get you a cup of coffee. Coffee cures everything. Or is that beer?"
"Bella?" Edward questioned, his mind still foggy from seeing his ghost in the flesh. He rubbed his eyes, trying to make sense at the woman sitting in front of him.
"Yes, come on Edward," Bella said as she stood, holding out her hand for him to take.
Numbly, he took her hand and instead of it being cold and lifeless, like he had felt the night of the fire, it was so full of life. She led him to a door and when he looked at the door, it said, Dr. Isabella Swan. Swan, as in Charlie Swan? She opened the door and they walked in together. Much like her hand, which was still in his, it was warm with dark cherry desk and cabinets. She gestured to a seat and she walked to a Keurig, popping in a container.
"How do you like your coffee?" Bella asked, hoping to pull Edward out of the shock he was in at the moment.
"Black," Edward whispered, as he continued to look around the office. He got up from his seat, unable to sit still. Walking over to the bookcase, he looked at the photos that she had placed on the shelves. There were pictures of Charlie and Renee, and some of Charlie in his uniform. Then, he saw the silver frame and the image compelled him to pick it up for a closer look. It was Angela, but also another girl who looked just like her. "You're a twin?"
Bella had just finished getting their coffee when she heard Edward's question. She turned around, seeing that he was looking at the picture of her and Angela from a summer a long time ago. "Yes, but my sister was killed about five years ago in a fire. She was a world-renowned violinist for the Seattle Symphony. She was everything to me, my best friend, the other half of my soul. I miss her more than words can say."
Edward looked between the photo and Bella. Angela was dead, but her sister was alive, standing beside him. There were subtle differences between the two. Bella's hair was long and curly, where Angela's hair was shorter and smoother. However, they both had the same graceful, lithe form, womanly curves and long fingers. Shaking his head, he put the frame back on the shelf and took the cup, drinking big gulp of the hot liquid, then handing the cup back to Bella. Standing in a room with a woman who looked like the woman he'd inadvertently killed, it was too much. "Thanks for the coffee, Dr. Swan, but I need to take my mom home."
"Okay. Just to let you know, she's doing great and her tenacious spirit is winning this battle. We're running some blood tests now, just to check her levels."
Edward nodded his head, then walked out of the office, getting his bearings before he went to the exam room where he'd left his mom. When he walked back in, she was sitting in the chair, sipping from a cup. Shit, he'd left her and she got sick again. "Mom?"
"I'm fine, sweetheart," she smiled. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, just had a moment. Come, let me get you home. You need some rest, Mom."
"Can we stop at the Pink Door for lunch?" Esme asked, thinking about their wonderful lunch menu and her mouth practically salivating over trying to eat real food.
Edward helped Esme out of the exam room and out to valet station, where they waited for their car to be brought to them. They made their way through the noon time traffic and arrived at the Pink Door. With a smile, they were seated by the hostess and handed menus. "It smells good in here," Esme said. "I miss eating real food."
"I think that maybe, we can split something. Italian food is not exactly 'bland', but we can try," Edward suggested. "Some appetizers? Maybe some pizza?"
"I like the idea of appetizers," Esme smiled, waving down a server. They placed an order of arancini, a cheese board deluxe, bruschetta and some individual pizzas. They also got some Italian sodas. Esme got a ginger flavor and Edward chose strawberry since it reminded him of the fragrance he smelled when he was in Dr. Swan's office. "What do you think of my doctor?"
"Dr. Swan?" he replied.
"She was the only doctor we met with, smart ass," Esme snickered. "Of course, her."
"Dr. Swan was okay, I guess. What did she say to you?" he asked.
"I'm more concerned for you, right now. What happened? What freaked you out, sweetheart?" Esme whispered, taking his hand. "Talk to me, baby."
"Mom, I'm not a baby," Edward snorted. "And it's nothing."
"Right, sure, and I'm the Queen of Sheba," Esme deadpanned. Edward rolled his eyes. "You looked like that night in Virginia Mason, haunted and terrified."
"Dr. Swan … she looked exactly like Angela," he hissed. "She's her twin. They look exactly alike and I thought I was fucking losing my mind, Mom. The woman who plummeted to her death five years ago was the spitting image of the woman who is your doctor. Identical twins, Mom. You met Angela, right? Why didn't you tell me that your doctor was Charlie Swan's daughter? Fuck, Mom, not just his daughter but a fucking identical twin."
"Oh, Edward, I really didn't think about it. Your father and I only met Angela once. We went to the symphony when she had her debut as a violin soloist," Esme explained. "Honestly, I saw a similarity, but Bella's amazing and she's so different from her sister. Renee never said they were twins."
"Well, to be honest, seeing the face of the woman haunting my dreams for the past five years, standing in front of you, in the flesh, kind of freaks out a guy," Edward said, scrubbing his face. "You could have warned me, Mom."
"I'm sorry, Edward," Esme whispered, squeezing his hand. "She's a phenomenal doctor. She's smart and empathetic. I've never felt more at ease with a doctor than I do with Bella."
"The fact you call her 'Bella' says something, too," Edward shrugged. "I thought that doctors were insistent on being called 'doctor.' They have this God-complex."
"Not her. Why are you being so harsh on her?" Esme asked.
"I'm not, Mom," Edward sighed as their appetizers came. He blew out a breath. "I was just blindsided by seeing her. She's good, though?"
"She was amazing, is amazing. After I had the biopsy, Bella spoke to me and gave me all of my options. She explained what the risks were and the best option for my treatment. We both agreed on the aggressive treatment. It was a calculated risk, but from what Bella told me, it's working."
Edward grasped her hand and gave it a small squeeze. "I know, Mom. While I was having my 'moment', she did tell me the same thing about your treatment," Edward nodded. "I'm glad that it's working. I'll be grateful when you get the good news that you're officially cancer free."
"I'll be happy when my hair grows back. The wigs are fun. I'd never get this haircut with my own hair, but it's cute. I also have an adorable blonde wig, too. Blondes really do have more fun," Esme quipped. Edward rolled his eyes as he put some of the appetizers onto a small plate, handing it to his mother. "Thank you, sweetie. I don't know if I'll be able to eat all of this."
"Eat what you can, Mom," Edward said. "Do you have your Zofran in case your stomach gets upset?"
"I do." Esme replied as she began to cut into the bruschetta. With a coy grin, Esme said, "She is beautiful."
Edward had his mouth full when Esme said it, which made him look around to see who she was talking about. Not seeing anyone he covered his mouth and mumbled. "Who?"
"Bella," she sang before nibbled on the bruschetta.
Edward's thoughts went back to the small amount of time they had spent together in her office. Once he got over the initial shock of seeing his ghost in real life, he realized how stunning she was, with those deep soulful eyes and her graceful body. Her voice was a tad rough, with a sexy rasp, but it was oddly soothing, comforting. But, he was drawn to her eyes. They were the most beautiful shade of espresso, filled with kindness and an ancient sadness. Understandably so. Bella had lost her twin sister.
"Edward?" Esme whispered. "You didn't answer my question, sweetheart."
"I'm sorry," he chuckled, cutting into an arancini. "But, yes, she's quite lovely. And it's obvious that she cares a great deal about you. A little heads up, again, would have been nice, Mom. I walk into the doctor's office and the woman I watched fall to her death walks into the office. Total mindfuck."
"I'm so sorry about that, Edward. But, you don't like her, though?" Esme answered, feeling slightly guilty about not giving him prior notice about Bella. "And language. I don't appreciate hearing that language."
He rolled his eyes. "I don't know her well enough to like or dislike her, Mom," he sighed. "And don't even think about trying to set me up. I don't know if I'm capable … of a relationship. I need to focus on you. I came home for you, to help you."
"You are, sweetie. You're capable of so much," Esme said, reaching over and weakly squeezing his hand. "And Bella said I'm on the mend."
Before he could respond, his cell phone rang from his pocket. He saw Uncle Eleazar's number on the display. "I'm going to answer this, Mom. It's Uncle El."
"Oh, I want to talk to him when you're done," she smiled. "He's been checking on me, but I know he's been worried."
He nodded, swiping his finger across the screen. "Hello, Uncle El," he smiled.
"You got into Seattle safely, I presumed," Eleazar said gruffly. "It would have been nice if you'd called, Edward."
"My apologies, Uncle El," Edward snickered. "I was more concerned about checking on my mom. Priorities, old man."
"She's also on my list," Eleazar grumbled, but chuckling quietly. "But, you're back home and safe?"
"I'm good and settled at the house," he answered. "What's up, Uncle El?"
"I sent over your accreditations, letters of recommendation and such to the Seattle Fire Department, care of Charlie Swan," Eleazar said. Edward could hear the grimace in Eleazar's voice.
"El, I said I'd call you when I was ready to start working," Edward sighed. "I'm not. I need more time with my mom."
"Okay, let me rephrase. My new, overly eager assistant sent over everything. It was sitting on my desk with the fax number of the Seattle Fire Department on a post-it note. My assistant, who was being extra helpful, sent it all off. Within minutes of the fax going through, Charlie called my office."
"He did?" Edward asked.
"He did. He asked if you were applying. I said that you had moved back. Charlie also asked for copies of your reports, calculations and findings. I sent the most recent reports that had been emailed to me prior to your departure and he was very impressed. He asked me for your phone number and you should be getting a call from him at some point within the next few days. I just wanted to give you a heads up. It's not necessarily a bad thing," Eleazar said. "Now, can I talk to my sister?"
"Yeah, sure," Edward nodded, handing the cell phone to his mom. She smiled, talking to Eleazar for a few moments, explaining what the doctor said and the good news about her prognosis. She hung up the phone, handing it back to her son. "Everything's okay with Uncle El?"
"He's coming to visit soon. He'll send you his itinerary because he knows how technologically illiterate I am," Esme laughed. "He'll also send it to your father, too." She pushed her plate away, folding her hands in front of her. "What do you think about what El said about your resume?"
"I don't know, Mom. I was hoping for more time, but I'll cross that bridge when …" His cell phone rang and he saw a Seattle number he didn't recognize. "Damn it." Arching a brow, Edward slid his finger across and answered his phone. "Hello?"
"May I speak to Lieutenant Edward Cullen?" came a female voice. "This is Rosalie Hale of the Seattle Fire Department, the Fire Investigation Unit. Do you have a moment?"
"Can you give me a minute, please?" Edward said, then looked over at Esme and motioned that he was going outside to take the call. She waved him off, sipping her soda. He walked out the door and stepped to the side of the building, leaning heavily against the brick wall. "Thank you for holding on. How can I help you?"
"Lieutenant Cullen, Chief Swan wanted me to give you a call to see if you could come into the department this afternoon? We received a packet from Eleazar Platt with your credentials, letters of recommendation and a sample of your investigative reports."
"This afternoon?" Edward questioned in shock that they had called so quickly. Did he really want this to happen so fast? "I'm out with my mother after her doctor's appointment."
"Oh really? I hope it went well. Esme is an exceptional person, so loving and caring to so many different causes in the community. I met her on a couple of occasions through Renee and her assistant, Alice. I've been praying for her during this difficult time," Rosalie gushed. "Anyway, Chief Swan would really like to meet with you and discuss your possible employment at the Seattle Fire Department."
"Um, I need to finish my meal with my mom and drive her home. I could be at headquarters by half-past two, three at the latest?" Edward said. "Does that work?"
"Charlie and I will be looking over some samples this afternoon. We won't be called out unless is an extra-alarm fire," Rosalie explained. "We're not at HQ. There's an arson lab at Station Ten. Do you need directions?"
"No, I know where it's at. Thanks," Edward said. "I'll call you when I'm on my way. Can I reach you at this number?"
"You can. Extension 1918 if you get the voicemail," Rosalie said. "We'll see you soon, Lieutenant Cullen."
She hung up before he could respond. He pulled the phone away, looking at the screen, confused at what had just happened. To be honest, it was happening too quickly. There was no harm in meeting with them but hold off starting until later. Shaking his head, he went back into the restaurant, sitting down at the table. "Everything alright?" Esme asked.
"I've got a meeting with Rosalie Hale and Charlie Swan today," Edward replied.
Esme waved down the server. "Well, we should probably wrap this up."
"Mom, we've got time," Edward argued. "We don't need to hurry. Or, are you feeling …? Do you need to go?"
"No, I'm fine. For the first time, I feel really, really good," Esme smiled.
"Okay, then, I want to spend time with my mom. I've missed you," Edward breathed, reaching over to her tiny hands, squeezing them gently.
They enjoyed the rest of their meal. Esme ate most of her appetizers and even drank a cup of decaf coffee. Edward settled the bill, much to Esme's chagrin and picked up the car. After dropping her off at the house and saying a brief hello to his brother, Jasper, who was raiding the fridge, Edward drove to Fire Station Ten. Parking behind the station, he went inside. He was greeted by a receptionist. "I'm here to see Chief Charlie Swan and Rosalie Hale. I'm Lieutenant Edward Cullen," he said.
"They're expecting you, Lieutenant Cullen," she replied. "They're down in the arson lab. Down the hall to the stairs. Head down and it's the first door on your right."
"Thanks," he smiled as he took the visitor's pass. He put it on his shirt, walking down the hall. When he got to the stairs, he blew out a breath and pushed his way into the stairwell. Reaching the bottom step, he made his way to the arson lab. Knocking on the door, the same female voice who'd called him beckoned him inside. He slid into the lab, seeing a tall, beautiful blonde. "Rosalie Hale?"
"Lieutenant Cullen?" she nodded. She wiped her hands and reached out to him. "It's nice to meet you in person. I've read up about you. You've done some amazing work in Boston."
"I wouldn't call it amazing," Edward shrugged. "Is the chief here?"
"Went to take a piss," Rosalie snorted. "Come on. I want to give you a tour." She pointed out the state-of-the-art lab equipment, computer programs and briefly discussed an open case they were investigating. As Rosalie was discussing the case, Charlie walked in. Edward blanched, blinking over to the man who he respected almost as much as his own father, the man he felt that he'd failed when he couldn't save his daughter. "He came in while you stepped out, Charlie."
"Rose, can you give me a moment?" Charlie asked. "I'd like to speak to Lieutenant Cullen."
"Sure, Chief," she nodded. "Do you want something to drink? Coffee?"
"No, I'm good," Charlie answered.
"Lieutenant?" Rosalie asked.
"I just came from lunch. I'm okay," Edward smiled. Rosalie nodded, skirting past the two men and out the door. Charlie gestured to an office and they walked to it. "It's been a long time, Chief."
"It has, Lieutenant," Charlie said, sitting down.
"Before we start, I apologize for what happened …" Edward muttered.
"Thank you," Charlie said curtly, but mentally chided his abrupt response. Shaking his head, he continued, "When I received your information from Boston, I was surprised. I thought you were happy there."
"I was, sir. But, when I found out my mom was sick, I couldn't stay in Boston. I had to come home," Edward explained. "And my uncle's assistant was jumping the gun in sending in my information, sir."
"I was glad she did," Charlie sighed. "Look, we've had an influx of fires of unknown origin. I need another seasoned investigator. From the information that was sent over, you're almost as good as me. Almost." He smirked at the younger man sitting in front of him. "Edward, we need more people. We've got a couple of guys in classes, but they would need to be paired up with experienced investigators. I need you, Edward."
"Then, I'm happy to be a part of the team," Edward said, knowing that he wanted to stop the people who were starting fires, causing damage to buildings and ruining lives. "But, I'm here to be with my family, too. My mom, she needs me."
"That's great. And I understand your personal issues. We can be flexible with your schedule so you can help with your mother's recovery. Esme has become a close friend to me and my wife. Now, Rose is going to be your partner. She is highly trained and is a real bloodhound when it comes to finding the smallest piece of evidence," Charlie bragged. Rose had returned and was working in the lab while Edward and Charlie were talking.
When Charlie first saw Rose, he thought that there was no way this tall, and extremely beautiful, blonde woman would want to get covered in black slime that came from an extinguished fire to look for clues. However, he was happily shocked to witness it first-hand. Rose didn't mind getting covered in it, as long as she could find what caused the fire.
Charlie and Edward exited his office, heading out to the main lab. Rose walked over and shook Edward's hand. "Glad to be partnering with you. I've heard and read so much about you, that I think I already know you."
"Thank you. I'm sure we'll be able to do some good for the city," Edward said then looked towards Charlie. "When do you need me to start?"
"I want to say yesterday," Charlie joked. "But, how does Monday sound?"
"That sounds good. It will give me time to finished getting settled and spend some more time with my mom."
"Great. I will place the order for your uniforms and identification and here are your tax papers, insurance forms," Charlie explained, handing the documents to Edward. "I'll give you call this week if your uniforms come in, that way you can stop by and pick them up before your first shift. However, if we get another suspicious call or a case that completely baffles us, would you be available to assist?"
"Sure, Chief," Edward answered. "I'll go ahead and fill these out."
As Edward filled out his paperwork, Charlie couldn't help but stare at him from his office. Edward was thinner than he was five years ago. Granted, he was still cut like a firefighter, with muscles, but he was trimmer, leaner. Edward also had dark circles under his eyes from lack of sleep. Carlisle had told him that Edward still blamed himself for Angela's death.
Was Edward to blame?
No, he wasn't to blame, but it didn't make it any easier to look at him without thinking the what if's. He was lost in his thoughts and memories of Angela when his phone rang.
"Chief Swan," he barked.
"We have a fire at Ludwig's Fine Rug Store," the dispatcher stated.
"How many crews are on site?" Charlie asked.
"We have two stations on site and they have it under control, but there was something off about the fire, Chief."
"Alright, we'll head that way," Charlie said, then hung up with the dispatcher and pressed Rose's extension. "Rose, we have another fire."
Rose came into Charlie's office. "Where is it at, Chief?"
"Fuck, that's a great place," she sighed.
"I know. Renee used them all the time for her designs. They gave her clients great deals."
"Do you have a spare set of uniforms?" Edward asked. He had heard about the fire while he was filling out his paperwork and wanted to help.
"Are you sure?" Charlie asked.
"Yes, sir. Let me just call my family to let them know to not hold dinner," Edward said, picking up his phone.
"Rose, let's suit him up," Charlie ordered. "Call your family. I hope you got good news about Esme. We've all been praying for her. She's a wonderful woman in more ways than one."
"I appreciate that, Chief," Edward nodded, a small smile spreading over his features.
"Can you be ready to roll in ten?" Charlie asked.
"Maybe fifteen, Charlie. We need to get him changed," Rose said.
"You know what? Get him a shirt and some boots. We've got to go," Charlie said. "Oh, and one of my turn-out coats. Edward, there's a kit in the store room." He tossed Edward a set of keys. Rose handed him a polo shirt and a pair of boots. Within ten minutes, he was changed and in the front seat of the SUV, driving to Ludwig's Fine Rug Store. When they pulled up, it was a smoldering pile of rubble.
"Time to get to work," Charlie said, slinging his bag over his shoulder.
A/N: So, a lot happened. We hope that you liked it. There are some pictures for this chapter. You can find them both Clo's website and Tufano's blog. If you want to find links for those, check out our Facebook pages: HeartForTwilight Productions and Tufano79's Twilight Fanfiction Appreciation. We'd also love if you want to come hang out with us there. Information about updates and extra teasers will be posted on there.
Speaking of updates, Josie is heading back to work in couple of weeks and for both of us working full-time, it might be difficult for us to maintain our current update schedule. You may get updates every other week, but it's dependent on OUR schedules. We appreciate your patience and we'll see you next time!
Thanks for reading!
HeartForTwilight and Tufano79