A secret and mysterious cult is stealing artifacts across Europe, all with a goal made in the middle ages in mind. And that goal deals with only one thing. Vampires. Bella Swan is the only person in the world with the full knowledge of vampires, and is joined by her fellow agents of Zeta to try and stop the cult from spreading. But when a run in with her past occurs, will her duty be the only thing pushing her to fight?
All things from Twilight are Stephenie Meyers. All things from the Sigma Force novels (like the idea of Zeta) are by James Rollins. Everything else is by me.
3. Champagne on the Eve
Rating 5/5 Word Count 3511 Review this Chapter
Champagne on the Eve
I Caught Myself—Paramore
“I’m sorry for ruining your birthday for this assignment,” the man accompanying me into the gala said. “But you know why I had to send you. You’re one of the few people who work well with historical situations, and you know the history of the Guardians of the Shadow as well.”
“It’s fine. I wasn’t planning on doing anything anyway. I think you saved me from Meka trying to take me from Canada and getting drunk,” I said with a laugh. Director Brown laughed as well.
Jason Brown was a half Asian, half Caucasian man who stood an impressive six foot two. He had an incredibly sharp mind, and fast reflexes. He had been amazing in the field, but was even better now at coordinating our entire department. He had been given the spot as director after the previous director retired after getting Alzheimer’s. Zeta now was an international force to be reckoned with.
“Well, try not to do that tonight. Your ID may say you’re twenty-one, but you’re only nineteen. Don’t get a hangover to celebrate your birthday,” he warned, though his smile slightly ruined the severity of his comment.
I shook my head with a chuckle. “A glass of champagne is as much as I’ll have tonight, sir. You don’t have to worry.”
He nodded. “Good,” he said. Then something flickered on his face. I looked in the direction he was facing and saw the Attorney General, talking to a tall man with blond hair whose back was to us. “Will you excuse me for a moment?” he asked. I nodded, and he strode over to the high ranking man, also shaking hands with the blond man, who seemed slightly familiar.
I shook my head. I could have seen him anywhere here in Washington D.C. I walked over to where I saw Meka and Jen standing, a glass of champagne in both their hands.
“Is that good?” I asked doubtfully, eyeing the amber drink doubtfully.
“It’s an acquired taste,” Jen said before her fiancée could say anything. She smiled at him, and he scowled back.
“Ah Meka, you have a whole plane trip to make fun of Bella,” Morgan said from behind me. I glared at him, and he raised his eyes at me. “You know he would have anyways even if I didn’t say anything.”
Jen and Meka both laughed at the way my face fell. “I know,” I sighed. “But you think he would be more mature than me, seeing as he’s ten years older than me,” I said sadly, winking at Jen, who laughed even harder now, setting down her drink on a table so it wouldn’t spill.
Morgan chuckled lightly next to me. “She’s got you there,” he said to Meka, mock punching him. Meka gave a sadistic smile to me, raising his eyes to tell me with wasn’t over yet. I gulped.
“Bella!” A voice called to me. I turned to see Director Brown waving me over. I came over, walking past an open window as I did. The blond next to him tensed slightly, and I began to walk slower, as if I knew what was happening before it really clicked.
I came to stand behind Brown, who was smiling with his little group. “Everyone, this is Isabella Swan, one of my prodigies. Bella, this is Chase Hurtwin, the Attorney General, and this is Dr. Carlisle Cullen, who works in Ithaca. He’s a very skilled surgeon.”
I froze, but didn’t let myself show the sudden turmoil and pain that erupted inside of me. I kept my face benign, and I smiled to Hurtwin, and I smiled at Carlisle as well, acting as if I didn’t know him. He wasn’t as good at hiding his emotions as me, shock filling his eyes.
“It’s nice to meet all of you,” I said, looking away from the golden eyes that reminded me so much of the ones that I missed. “Though I’m not sure why Jason wants me to,” I added, raising an eyebrow at my boss.
He chuckled. “Nothing slips past you, does it Bella?” he asked rhetorically. I smirked, and Carlisle coughed to hide a small laugh. He put his arm on my shoulder. “You’re just a very special girl. I bet you’ll have my job when I retire.”
I shook my head with a laugh. “I’m sorry sir, but I like my work too much I think.”
“What is it exactly that you do?” Carlisle asked, curiosity burning in his tone. He was staring at me oddly now, as if he was over the shock and now was confused to find me here, with the people I was.
I smiled at him. “My job’s really not too exciting. I just help Interpol with stolen artifacts, looking up histories and likely reasons behind the thefts. Nothing too difficult.” And the almost getting killed part, and the vampire part, I really didn’t want to mention.
Carlisle appraised me for a moment, and then nodded. I knew at once that he knew that I was lying. And that he probably would want to talk to me later. I would have to be very careful for the rest of the evening. I had kept his secret; I was allowed to keep mine.
“So Chase, did you bring your kids here tonight?” Director Brown asked after a short silence.
“No, I didn’t think they would have too much fun here. How about you, Dr. Cullen?” Hurtwin asked, bringing the vampire back into the conversation. “You have any family here tonight?”
I stared at him anxiously, praying he would say no. Seeing him was already ripping my heart apart. I didn’t know what I would do if anyone else was here. I couldn’t have a meltdown, or else I couldn’t go to Europe, and I was the only one who really knew what was going on. Being an emotional wreck wouldn’t help with that.
He nodded, and my heart plummeted to the ground. He must have noticed the color leaving my face, since he was staring at me in concern as he answered. “My wife Esme and my daughter Rosalie came here, as well as her brothers Emmett and,” please, please don’t say it “Edward. I think Esme and Rosalie are on the other end of the room, and Edward and Emmett will be coming later. They were having car troubles, I believe.”
Okay. Not so bad. If I leave soon I might not see any of them, and be able to remain sane when I go to the airport in the morning. Then I can just forget that this ever happened. I definitely had plenty to distract me.
“Well, I hope they have a good time, and that your sons can fix their car,” I said with a smile to Carlisle. I wondered briefly whose car it was. It probably wasn’t the jeep or the Volvo, considering the event. Most likely the Aston Martin. “I hope you all have good evening gentlemen,” I said, nodding to all of them.
Jason looked at me funny. “Morgan and Meka should probably leave right now too so they can get some rest before we all leave,” I murmured to him so the other humans couldn’t hear me. I wasn’t sure about Carlisle. He nodded and excused himself as well to go talk to his other agents going with me.
I went and got my coat from the rack, and then stepped outside into the cool night. I frowned slightly at the wind spreading the cold air, odd for this time of year.
“Have a good night, Miss,” the person at the door said, holding the guest list in his hand.
“You too,” I said with a smile. He nodded at me, and looked away towards a small group of people entering. I sighed, and stepped into the cool night air.
I walked down the steps of the building the gala was hosted in, and then down the street to where I parked my car. It was only a block down, so I didn’t have to go too far.
As I walked, I became aware of someone near me. I looked around, carefully scanning the dark street. I didn’t see anybody, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t there. I continued walking, my ears alert but my posture relaxed. I was going to play a little game.
Still aware of someone following me, I got the keys to my car from my purse, while the wind whipped my hair away from the people I thought were following me.
“You know, if you want to try and follow someone, try to make it so they don’t notice,” I called out in a clear voice. My voice echoed down the street for a moment as the only sound. And then there was a loud, audible gasp and a quick scuffling, and then I saw a large figure coming at me before I was embraced in a tight hug that pulled me off my feet. The arms around me were cold, and I knew who they belonged to at once.
“Squirt! Wow, I’ve missed you!” Emmett said happily, spinning me around in a circle. Though I felt glass shards in my chest, I managed to laugh with the little air I had left.
“I’ve missed you too Emmett!” I gasped. “Now, I sort of need to breathe…” I added, my lungs burning for air. He laughed and set me down, grinning as I took some deep breaths. Then he looked me over, and his face became confused.
“You know, if you’re going to the party, it’s in the other direction,” he said with a jerk of the head.
“Yes, I would go that way if I was going back to the party,” I replied in a dry voice, not wanting to have the argument I knew was seconds away. This was the reason I had left, and now it was slapping me in the face.
Emmett sighed. “Bella, you do not leave a party before midnight. That is what grandma’s do, and you are definitely not a grandma,” he said, looking me over again. “You know, I think Alice might approve of that dress.”
Ah, another name to help rip my heart up. Was somebody determined to have me die of heartache tonight? Because I was getting really close. But for now, I had to act normal.
“I bet she would. This is an original and one of a kind,” I said smugly.
“How did you manage that?” Emmett asked. I was aware of another presence moving in closer now through the darkness, brought in by his own curiosity. Fine then. I started this mess by playing a game; I would end it by playing a game.
“Oh, I got it from a very rich and very grateful person I helped out last spring,” I said causally, shrugging my shoulders as if it wasn’t a big deal.
The shadow hissed, and Emmett blinked, too surprised to say anything. The shadow was what infuriated me though. Why does he have to torture me? He almost killed me when he left, and now acting like he cares what I do? It wasn’t fair!
Emmett began laughing. “So you actually got some?” He asked. “Wow Edward, she’s only eighteen and she beat you to it!” A low growl came from the shadows, which I ignored. I wanted him to stay right where he was, so I wasn’t going to do anything to provoke him to step into any light.
“That’s not what I meant Emmett,” I said, raising my eyes at him. “It was a person whose life I had saved and he threw a party and me and some of my friends were invited.”
“How did you save his life?” Emmett laughed, clearly thinking of when I had almost been killed by James. I lightly fingered the scar on my hand from the memory, making it look like I was thinking of something else so I wouldn’t have to answer. I slightly stepped over to my car as well.
“Oh my god! You have a Mustang?” Emmett said almost reverently now, running over to my car and staring at it with lust filled eyes. He reached out to touch it and I swatted his hand away.
“Don’t touch my baby,” I snapped.
“Why is everyone so protective of their cars?” Emmett asked. “I’m not going to break any!”
I cocked my head to the side. “So what was this car trouble Carlisle told me about then?” I asked, a small smile playing on my lips. This game was getting fun now. Emmett was too easy.
“Edward’s fault,” he muttered. I tensed every so slightly as he spoke his brothers name, and even more when said brother stepped forward into the light so I could see him.
Every memory of him seemed like a cheap replica of the Mona Lisa. They were so flawed compared to his real beauty. His bronze hair glowed in the sparse light, still the untidy mess it always was. His strong jaw, his full lips and wide eyes, the paleness of his skin. It was all perfect. His eyes seemed to burn, a glowing gold, as they stared at me briefly, before turning to Emmett. My heart pounded in my chest, though I controlled my face. I just made myself look slightly surprised instead of overwhelmed like I felt.
“Actually, you are the one that changed the tires on my Aston Martin before telling me it was time to go. You are the one that didn’t listen to Rosalie when she said not to touch it.” He said, his voice almost a growl.
As he spoke, I began to realize there was something…off. He looked more haggard, his voice worn and tired. Had something bad happened to him? Did he get hurt?
Emmett put his hands up. “Whatever, man.” He then turned to me, but my phone rang before he could say anything. As I fished it out of my purse, I heard him mutter “And a phone. I want her job.”
“Swan here,” I said into the phone, ignoring the two vampires next to me who both were now staring intensely at me.
“Where are you?” a voice asked hurriedly. I recognized Morgan’s voice at once, and the slightly wave of panic in it.
“I’m about a block from the gala, right outside my car. I ran into some old friends who were coming to the party too,” I said, my voice slightly questioning. Was there a problem? “Did something happen?”
“Jen got into a car accident.”
Horror washed through me. “Oh my god…” I completely forgot about the two people standing by me, both watching me, though one much more intense than the other. “Was Meka with her in the car?”
“No, he was coming home with me before we went to the airport. But he would have been, and he would have been in the passenger seat, which is where the car was hit.”
“Has anyone tried to attack you yet?” Training was kicking in now.
“No, we were already at command when the attack happened, getting our supplies early so we could adjust it.” A loud sigh. “You know Meka. His toys have to be perfect.”
I laughed, but it came out slightly strangled. “Well, I would stay there if I were you. I’ll watch my back as well. I’ll just pop home, get my bags, and we can leave for the airport in a about two hours or so.”
“That sounds good to me. Call me if you have any problems,” Morgan said before hanging up. I frowned as I shut my phone, quickly scanning the streets, an old habit born from paranoia.
“What do you mean someone might attack you?” Edward said, crossing his arms. His eyes were narrowed as he stared me down, reminding me of the promise I had made him that was blown away only a month after I made it.
“I mean that someone might come and try and kill me because I did something to piss them off,” I said nonchalantly, folding my arms as well and staring at him with raised eyes.
“Wait a minute,” Emmett said, looking me over again. Edward broke his stare from me and rolled his eyes, turning away. I looked from him to Emmett, who had an oddly thoughtful look to his eyes. “Nice dress, fancy party, sweet car, cell phone, death threats…” My eyes widened as he stared at me. Could he have figured out what I did? “Oh my god Bella, you’re a drug dealer!” Apparently not.
I rolled my eyes with a sigh. “No Emmett, I am not a drug dealer. The only drugs I even carry around are generally aspirin and cough drops. And whatever is in a first aide kit.”
Even Edward chuckled slightly, though it seemed strained. He turned back towards us and seemed about to say something when all three of us froze, him a second before Emmett and I.
As I heard the crack, I immediately threw myself backwards, throwing my hand into my purse again, this time looking for a small gun I carried on me. It only had three shots in it, and I had no other ammo on me. I pulled it just as Emmett and Edward moved towards me, and raised it in the direction the shot had come from, across the street. I scanned the windows, and Edward and Emmett surrounded me protectively. Neither of them noticed the small gun I held.
I shifted the direction of my gun as I saw a flicker of movement. I pulled the trigger and it shot a bullet at the person who was just shifted their gun to meet mine. I hit him in the shoulder, and he fell forward from the two story window.
“Catch him,” I whispered, grateful for the two lightning fast vampires by me. I wanted this man alive to bring back to headquarters.
Edward nodded, more willing to help than Emmett seemed, who had stiffened as the man fell. I glanced at him and saw his eyes were darker than a moment ago. The blood must be getting to him.
Edward caught the man and instantly lowered him to the ground, stepping back carefully, not risking temptation. Something flickered in my mind, but I shoved it away, not wanting to deal with anything but the present.
I went over to the man and took his ski mask off, not being as careful as I should have been. This man could have been the reason for my death. He wasn’t exactly on my good list.
He had eastern European features. His skin was pale and he had short, icy blond hair. I imagined that if his eyes were open, they would be blue. I had a feeling that a little too much information had been leaked to our contact. And that meant we had to avoid him in Europe.
I reached into the man’s pocket, causing Edward’s eyes to widen and Emmett to cough. I rolled my eyes at their typical male behavior, and pulled out the man’s ID and a wad of cash. Very sloppy. You never have your ID on you while trying to assassinate someone. It made your client get into more trouble than they would wish for.
Looking at the ID though, I could tell it was fake. But the money wasn’t, and it would help more than the ID anyway. I put the things into my purse, and stood up.
“Well, it’s been nice seeing you both,” I said, looking at the ground. For some odd reason, I was feeling lighter right now, no pain coursing in me like normal. I felt healed, whole. Just from being in his presence.
“Where are you going?” Edward asked softly, and I lifted my head to his face. His eyes were very warm, and I knew at once he didn’t want me to go. I had to beat back the intuition again, trying to stay focused.
I nodded down to the unconscious assassin. “I have to take him to my…superiors for questioning. See if he belongs to a cult we’ve been following.” I said. I didn’t even need to hide anything from them. Edward just needed to go into the gala, read one of my fellow agent’s thoughts, and he would know everything anyway.
Emmett seemed to be having more trouble than he was letting on. Edward suddenly nodded to him. “Yes Emmett, you can go. Tell Carlisle what happened, and that I’ll see him later.” He paused and looked at me for a moment. He seemed encouraged by something in my face, and seemed to decide something. “I’m going to help Bella with that,” he said, looking down at the bloody man in disgust.
I startled slightly. “What?”
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