Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Heart of Stone Chapter Eleven

The next day passed slowly for Edward. He was itching to get out, to get Maggie and run from that place. He was sick of the hospital, sick of the machines and the constant stream of people. He realized that he needed to go, to be out in the world before he lost his mind. Guilt ate at him for having those feelings. Maggie needed him. She was awake more and more, and she would want him by her side. His emotions warred within him as he tried to determine the right thing to do. His dad was going to be there in less than an hour, and he thought that he’d see the others later, too. All of his friends and family had been there the day before when Maggie stayed awake for a solid hour. They’d listened intently to the diagnosis that she was regaining her memory. She knew she’d been in a well, and she knew that there had been someone there. The doctor predicted that it was just a matter of days before the rest came back to her.

Sergeant Whitlock was supposed to arrive later in the afternoon to tell Edward everything they’d learned. He was confident they were close to piecing together what happened, and the only missing link was who the perpetrator had been. Edward was positive he was right and that it was going to be one of the Quileute men. He was looking forward to taking them on, whoever it was. He had learned to keep his thoughts on the matter to himself though. He didn't want to worry Rose, and he certainly didn't want Emmett to get involved. They had a baby coming very soon and they would have enough on their plates without adding Edward to their list of worries. His parents could take care of Maggie if Edward put himself in a bind. The idea of getting retribution warmed him from the inside out.

Maggie woke early in the morning. She smiled at her father and chattered about being hungry. She’d been allowed pudding, which was no hardship at all, and since it stayed down, they were slowly going to introduce more soft foods.

“Daddy, when is Grandpa going to be here?”

He smiled at her. “In about thirty minutes. See the clock? When the little hand is at the six.”

She bounced a little in the bed. “I miss him.”

“You’ve only seen him for a tiny bit, huh?”

She nodded. “I’m happy he’s coming and I’m awake.”

“I know, sweetie.”

He turned the TV on for her, trying to find something to occupy her until his dad came. Edward was determined to go home and get some things for her, like books and her favorite stuffed horse. He felt certain his dad could handle staying with her.

The door opened and Carlisle poked his head in. His face lit up when he saw that Maggie was awake. “Margaret May! I love seeing your eyes open.”

He hurried to the bed, and Maggie squealed in her excitement. He set down the box of donuts he’d been carrying and enveloped her in a bear hug. “Grandpa, I missed you!”

“I missed you, too, pumpkin.”

Edward stood to give them a few minutes together. He stretched his legs a bit and stood at the small window that overlooked the parking lot. He was restless, suddenly dying to leave the room.

“Dad.” He turned to face his father and daughter. “I’m going to go home for a little bit. I promise I won’t be long.”

He kissed Maggie on the top of the head before grabbing his coat and the car keys his father offered him. He jogged down the hallway and felt his heart racing in his throat. If something happened while he was gone, he would never forgive himself. He simply couldn't spend one more second cooped up. He walked through visitor parking, clicking the lock button on the key fob he held until he found his dad’s car. Forks being such a small town, Edward’s house was only a seven-minute drive from the hospital and he was soon pulling into the driveway.

He hadn't been home since the night she went missing. He’d spent his time at his parents' house after that, and then lived at the hospital. He had loved that house from the second Beth picked it, but as he let himself inside, he suddenly hated it. He didn't want to be there anymore. He didn't like the reminders of Beth, the paint colors she’d picked, or the fact that he and Maggie were alone. He wanted to be closer to his parents; in their house, for now. He knew Maggie would agree with him once she was released. He made a note to call the only realtor he knew once he had a minute.

He was rather shocked to discover that he felt uncomfortable in his house as he walked through the living room to the stairs. There was a pile of cards and letters on the kitchen island that he could see on his way up to the landing. As he neared the second floor, he spotted Maggie’s open door. There was a huge mound of stuffed animals on the floor of her room, but he only wanted her constant companion. He picked Horsey up off the bed and tucked it under his arm. Maggie had a bag somewhere in the closet, and he dug it out to drop the horse in and find her some more things.

He stared at the bookshelf, finally picking a few books and placing them in the bag hanging from his arm. He picked through her clothes drawer next, adding two nightgowns. When he was satisfied, he brought the bag into his room. He decided to take a shower in his own bathroom for a change and then added clean clothes to the bag he was packing. He looked longingly at his bed and figured a nap would be in his best interest. He let out a groan of satisfaction as he stretched out.

He was startled awake by his cell phone ringing. Groaning, he plucked it from the bedside table. “Hello.”

“Mr. Cullen, it’s Whitlock.”

“Hi.” He sat up and rubbed his face.

“I’ve got some information for you. The tire tracks at the well match tracks from the area surrounding your shop. We’ve narrowed it down to one of your company vehicles, and I can pretty much guarantee I know who it was.”

The sound of rushing water filled his head as Jasper proceeded to share his suspicions. He heard Jasper, but he might as well have been speaking from very far away. The words registered, but he couldn't comprehend them.

“Edward! Did you hear me?”

“He’s at the hospital,” Edward choked out. “He’s with her right now.” Fury, fear, and panic grabbed him in a stranglehold. “You have to get there right now! There’s no way to know what he’ll do to her if he thinks she’ll remember.”

“I’m nowhere near the hospital, Edward, but Bella is supposed to be there. I’ll call her and have her go to Maggie’s room. I’ll call hospital security. Everything will be fine, I promise!”

It was the cold wash of betrayal that made Edward numb. He couldn't believe it, didn't want to believe it was true. “Are you positive, Jasper?”

“I’m positive, Edward. I’m sorry.”

He forgot everything at the house as he ran out and got in the car. He didn't lock the door; he didn't put on his jacket. He sped down the street to the hospital with the dread in his gut pushing up the small amount of food he’d consumed earlier in the day. He barely made it to the lot before he had to stop the car and push his way out to puke on the pavement. The second he finished, he was racing as fast as his feet would take him. It was very much like the night she’d been brought in, except that he was terrified of what that monster would do to her if he was left alone with her. He knew she was remembering, and he knew how close he was to being ratted out by a five-year-old. Edward choked on a sob as he ran, agony over the possibility of what might happen warring with the sharp stab of deceit. The elevator would never be fast enough; he ran for the sign that indicated the stairs. He took them two at a time, bolting through the door on her floor and plowing directly into someone on the other side.

“Sorry!” was the best he could manage.

He tore off down the hall in the direction of Maggie’s room. He desperately hoped that she was safe. He couldn't focus on anything else until he discovered that one thing was true. When he rounded the corner and could see her door, he was so relieved to see a security guard outside her room that he almost stopped breathing. He drew to a stop in front of the man in uniform and panted heavily.

“I’m her father, Edward Cullen. Please, is she okay?”

“I’m sorry, sir, I need to see your ID if I’m going to answer questions or allow you inside.”

“Shit.” He squeezed his eyes closed as his head spun. “My wallet is at home. I was in such a hurry. Please, the nurses know me. Please let me in.”

“Edward?”

He wept at the sound of Bella’s voice. She stood in the doorway behind the officer who turned to look at her. “You’ll vouch for him, Miss Swan?”

“Yes, Frank, he’s the girl’s father.”

Edward didn’t wait for any pleasantries, he just pushed past Bella and into the darkened room. The sky was overcast and the lights were mostly off. The little girl in the bed was very still, and Edward froze as he waited for her chest to rise. When it did, he dropped into the nearest chair. He was empty. Cold. Lost.

“Edward?”

He didn't look up. “Did you speak to Jasper?”

“I did, but he merely told me to get to her room immediately. What’s going on?” She kneeled in front of his chair so she could see his face. The misery she saw there was too much for her to bear.

“Was anyone in here with her?”

“No, Edward.” She touched his hand. “What’s going on?”

“Jasper knows who it is.”

“Oh.” Bella pressed a hand to her stomach. “I take it that it’s bad?”

Edward stared at her then. She saw the results of his trauma, the creases of worry and lack of sleep. She saw the way his eyes were full of tears and anguish. She felt her heart flop into her stomach.

“It’s beyond bad, Bella. It’s more than I can even fathom. It’s—I can’t—”

His words cut off with a strangled cry. He dropped his head into his hands, trying to decide what the right thing to do was. He wanted revenge now more than ever. It wasn't some stranger that tried to kill his baby girl. No, that would have hurt less than this crushing sensation. How had he not seen it when it was right there in front of him the whole time? Worse, he’d been a comfort to Edward when he’d known the whole time what he’d done. What a farce!

“I’m going to kill him.”

Edward said it so quietly that Bella thought she hadn't heard him correctly. He stood abruptly, and she braced herself on the foot of the bed to keep from falling on the floor as he moved past her. He stopped outside the door.

“You’ll make certain no one goes in or out? No one but Sergeant Whitlock or Chief Swan and his daughter.”

“Yes, sir, those are my orders.”

Satisfied that Maggie would be taken care of, Edward made his way back down and outside. He knew what he had to do.

He heard her before she spoke. She was running after him, and she was noisy as her shoes hit the pavement. “Edward!”

He ignored her. He walked, taking the shortest route through the forest. He knew what he was going to do. He was going to find the proof first and then he was going to drag him out and beat the shit out of him. His blood was boiling with the duplicity.

“Edward!”

He picked up his pace. Where was the loyalty? Where was the bond, the ties that he thought bound them together? There was no getting past this. Not something this heinous. He was more than mad; he was furious, he was pissed, and the rage built until he was hot and breathing harshly as he jogged to his destination.

He found the truck first. There was mud on the tires, as was to be expected. That didn't mean anything. He looked inside the cab, finding nothing out of the ordinary. It was when he looked in the bed of the truck that he found what he’d been looking for; proof that Jasper was right. Overlooked because he wasn't a suspect, Edward was sure of it. He knew Jasper wanted the truck, knew that he would have found Maggie’s hair clip soon.

With it in his hand, he spun toward the shop and pushed his way inside. A rampage was brewing and it was clear on his face.

He came around the counter. “Edward, what are you doing here?”

“Looking for you, motherfucker,” he seethed.

His eyes widened. “What?”

“I know. I know it was you.”

“No, Edward.” He stopped walking, shock evident on his face.

“It was you!” Edward roared. “Don’t try to deny it!” He held up the hair clip. “Guess where I found this?”

He ran.

Edward wasn't surprised in the least, and he took off after him. He was a coward, the lowest form of scum, covering his own ass. Edward was faster.

They crashed, rolled, and dirt flew. Edward’s fist connected with flesh, and he sent up a howl full of heartbreak.

“You fucking bastard! You betrayed me!”

He punched him again. And again. His knuckles were slick with blood, and yet he continued to whale on the man on the ground. Tears ran down his face to mix with the blood and soak the earth.

“How could you do it? How could you?” he repeated with each strike.

“Edward!”

The scream was shrill enough to split the sky. Bella’s hands were on him, yanking him off his victim and to the ground. “Enough! You’ll kill him, and then you can’t be there for Maggie!”

“He deserves it!” Edward shouted up at her. He couldn't see her face for the tears as he lay in the mud.

You don't! You deserve to live by her side instead of in prison! There’s no coming back from this if you continue.”

He brought his arms up and crossed them over his face. He couldn't take it anymore. His heart had been broken too many times. He felt the panic attack coming and let it consume him.

He welcomed the oblivion.

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