“How many people have you killed?” she asked.
“Twenty-two,” I answered. “All of them very bad people, murderers, rapists and …”
“Have you ever killed someone who didn’t deserve it?”
“No,” I replied.
“Can you protect me? Protect my family?” she asked, her eyes looking up at me. “I don’t want to feel what I felt last night. That fear. I don’t want Uncle Jimmy to …”
“I’d die for you, Bella,” I said honestly.
“One year,” she murmured. “Married for one year.”
“After an engagement, of course,” I chuckled. “I’m the oldest son and my mom wants to plan a wedding.”
With a sigh, she eyed me and made a face. “It looks like I’m marrying into the mob.”
I wanted to kiss her, but she was scowling, unhappy with the agreement. “I know that you made this decision under duress. However, with being my fiancée, you’ll get protection and you will not have a repeat of last night, dolce,” I whispered.
“What does that mean? Dolce?” Bella asked.
“Sweet,” I answered. “It’s Italian and you are so very sweet.”
“Don’t try to butter me up, Cullen,” she snapped. “I was brutally attacked because of my association with you. I’m agreeing to this because I don’t want my family, the small amount of family that I have left, to be hurt because of our relationship. I want my uncle protected, too.”
“It’s done, Bella,” I said. “It’ll be subtle, but he will be protected.”
She nodded, looking at the clock. “Shit! I have to go to class!” Bella tried to get up and nearly fell in the tangle of sheets. I caught her before she collapsed. “Edward, I have to go.”
“Bella, you have a concussion,” I said, holding her squirming, writhing body. She gasped, collapsing against me. “And damage to your ribs.” She cried, her entire body shaking from her sobs. “Dolce, you need to calm down.”
“I’ve got too much to do … my classes, my job … FUCK! My apartment,” she said, her voice hysterical. I swept her into my arms and sat down on the overstuffed chair in the corner. I held her in my lap, cradling her tenderly. She eventually sagged against me, exhaustion washing over her. “What am I going to do?”
“Let’s talk about all of it,” I said, tucking her head under my chin. She melted against me, idly playing with the buttons of my wrinkled dress shirt. “With that asshole who attacked you, I think it’s best that you stop working for your uncle.”
“I need my paycheck to pay for my classes, Edward,” she muttered.
“Which brings me to my next point … since we’re engaged …”
“Without a ring,” she deadpanned.
“That will be remedied, I promise you,” I vowed, cupping her chin and looking into her espresso depths. “I want to get you something that represents your beauty, your strength and your tenacity.” She blinked, her bruised face breaking my heart. “Back to what I was saying. I’m not going to renege on my promise to pay for your education. I will pay your tuition.”
“Edward …” she argued.
“No, dolce,” I argued back. “I don’t want you pulling insane hours and being out unprotected. So, I’ll pay for your graduate classes. My fiancée is going to get a top-notch education. And you will be protected. I am going to have interviews for your body guard today or tomorrow. I want you to sit in on the interviews. I want you to feel safe with the man I’m entrusting your safety to.”
“I have classes tomorrow, too,” she whispered.
“Send an email to your professors and explain that you were in an accident. You will be out the rest of the week, Bella,” I said.
“I think my laptop was ruined in the struggle,” she grumbled. “Another expense.”
I took out my cell phone. Angela, I need a MacBook, completely tricked out, insured and password protected by the end of the day today ~ E.C.
I’ll get it from IT, boss. You coming in today? ~ Angela
Family emergency … I’ll be back tomorrow. Thanks, Ang. You’re awesome ~ E.C.
“You’ve got a laptop,” I said, arching a brow. She opened her mouth to argue. “Isabella … what’s mine is yours.”
“You don’t even know me,” she said, getting up and stumbling toward. She opened a door, finding my closet. Turning to another door, she saw my safe. “For fuck’s sake … where’s the bathroom?” I opened the door next to the chair and she slipped inside. I could hear her crying, again my heart shattering.