Let's see what our lovebirds are up to.
I had to figure out a way to lessen my load. I was constantly running back and forth between the office's law library and my desk, I had court three times this week, and a depo on Thursday. I was supposed to meet with my father Wednesday, but I was thinking he was going to have to be the one to get cut. I simply didn't have time.
What I did make time for was going to the university to introduce Edward to Lara. He was excited to be doing something useful and she was eager to meet him. I had Ben drive me over there, as he did for all of my meetings that were too far to walk. He stayed outside the building in an attempt to let me look like a normal woman going about her day, but I knew he was there. Reporting my every move to Dad.
Edward met me by the bank of elevators, and though he didn't kiss me in public, he did take my hand and raise it to his lips. It was such an old fashioned gesture that my heart melted more than a tiny bit. He grinned, and I grinned back as the elevator dinged. The cars were mirrored, and I found myself lost in a fantasy as he stood across from me, watching me. I wondered what we would look like if he pushed me against the mirrored wall and did naughty things to me.
I let out a shaky sigh as the doors slid open, then walked out first at his gesture for me to precede him. The office of Lara Zarowsky was dead ahead, the glass walls making it so I could see her as she caught my eye and stood. She reached the door first and opened it for us.
"You must be Edward," she said kindly as she shook his hand. "Bella has talked about you, as have Leah and Liam. We are so pleased here at the Innocence Project that we could help to get you released. It's always such an honor to meet someone that we were able to get a reversal for. You just never know which way a case is going to turn out, and it's a morale boost for the staff when it goes right."
"It reminds us of why we're here in the first place," I piped up.
Edward was blushing to the tips of his ears, and I thought he was completely endearing. "I know that thank you is not really enough; you gave me my life back. I just want to help someone else experience the miracle of feeling like they have a chance to start over, hopefully without the stigma that comes with simply serving your time. I know I'm grateful to not have to register as a sex offender."
"That's really good to hear. We have volunteers in many positions, from researchers to file clerks, to errand runners. From what I hear, you obtained a business degree online. I would love to place you as a researcher, and if you do well, we might be able to hire you on as a full time employee. We only have a small handful of paid positions, but I think if you're good at the job, you'll be a candidate for permanency."
His eyebrows shot into his hairline. "I would be incredibly honored if that was the case, Ms. Zarowsky. Truly honored."
She smiled and waved away the compliment. "That really is what we're here for, so don't hesitate if you have remaining questions about yourself and your case. I know Bella has filed for compensation, but there are a few other services as well, such as counseling. It can be tough to find your way on this side of the bars, and we understand that."
"I have taken that advice from Bella, and I started therapy yesterday. I appreciate the offer, very much so."
Lara turned to me. "If you could show him where the researchers work, I would love that. I have a meeting to get to."
"Of course. Thank you again, Lara." She walked away, and Edward looked to me.
"She wouldn't offer me a job out of a sense of obligation, would she?"
The lines between his eyes were quite cute. I wanted to smooth them with my fingers, but I refrained. "Of course not. She's looked at your resume and knows exactly how smart you are, what your grades were ten years ago and when you earned your degree online." He looked at me doubtfully, the line increasing as his frown deepened. "Admit it, you deserve it."
Now he grinned, a boyish looking smug smile. "If she gives me the position, it will be because I deserve it based on my accomplishments."
"There you go."
I showed him the workspace, a handful of desks pushed together in the middle of the open space, and he met some of the other volunteers as they hunched over their work.
"I really do have to get back to my office. Are you good from here?"
"I borrowed my mother's car, so I'm good. Are you? Do you have a person?"
"A person?" I laughed. "Ben is my protective detail during most days. He's outside." I thought about the side of Edward that was protective of me, and I liked it.
We walked out together, and Edward greeted Ben as he came up to me. He gave me an awkward handshake before loping away towards the parking lot. I took a moment to admire his long legs and lean form and then resolutely turned toward Ben and the waiting car.
My days may have been blurring together, but I wouldn't miss Sunday dinner for anything. Jasper greeted me at the door, and I was struck by how much he took after our mother. They had the same sandy blonde hair and blue eyes, while I took after Dad with his thick hair and dark eyes.
As Emmett rounded the corner, I stifled a giggle. His large form took after our mom's brother, who was a pro football player in the seventies. Without that piece of information, strangers often would ask if he was adopted. Jasper would tease him off and on as the adopted outsider, but Emmett would say that at least he was wanted, while Jasper was an accident.
"Boys, how have you been?" I asked as we sat down in the living room.
"I just saw you Friday night, sis. Nothing much happened yesterday worth noting."
I rolled my eyes. "Okay, Jasper, how are you? Alice says you had a busy week."
He smiled my way as the football game went to a commercial. "More than just kittens up trees if that's what you mean. There was a warehouse fire Wednesday that kept me away overnight. It was large enough that it took three companies to put it out."
"Alice was on the phone with me much of the time you were gone. I'm just glad you were safe." It was hard on the family members of those working in positions of danger, to be left behind to pray that their loved one would come home safe at the end of the day. We grew up around it our whole lives, with every member of Dad's side of the family being in law enforcement. Jasper had been the only one to choose the fire department, something we loved to rib him for.
"Bella, do you have a minute?"
I turned my head to see Charlie in the doorway. "Yeah, Dad."
When I followed him into his office, he closed the door behind us before speaking. "I'm adding a third man to your detail. We need to keep someone around the clock, and it's just too much for only two people."
"I can understand that," I answered as I leaned back against his desk.
"He'll be at your door tomorrow morning, and Emmett will brief him before he escorts you to work. He will stay outside your office building unless you need to leave, then I expect you to call him before doing so. He will be relieved by Ben at four, who will stay outside your apartment door until Emmett relieves him at midnight."
"Ah, is he good with coming in for the late night shift?" I would miss having my brother's company at dinner.
"Honestly, that was so I could give Rose her husband back in the evenings. It seemed fair, considering that this is looking to be long term."
I closed my eyes. "Long term? How long are we talking here, Dad?"
I felt his hand on my shoulder and opened my eyes. "Until I can figure out how deep this runs, and put those responsible in jail where they belong."
I looked into eyes that matched my own. "He has to be put away. I'll do whatever I can to stay out of
the way and let you do that."
He kissed my forehead. "That's my girl. Jake will be there at seven."
So, before you bring out the pitchforks, Jake is not at all going to be the third wheel. He's just going to be a useful tool throughout the story.