Bookworm Express: The Governess Affair – Courtney Milan

Hi there! Welcome to another week of Bookworm Express on Scribbler Alliance! This week, I was in a dilemma on which book to review for you. So I decided to go back to one of my absolute favorite romance authors, Courtney Milan.

Like the warmth of a steaming coffee mug held between your palms on a rainy day as you curl up with a good book, Courtney has a way to make you feel the warmth of love through her writing.

The Governess Affair

Today’s featured book is a novella, The Governess Affair. It is said to be the prequel for Courtney Milan’s The Brothers Sinister series. With the author’s lovely depiction of the Victorian era London and the lively characters, Courtney Milan brings us a tale of historical romance.

First we meet Hugo Marshall—previously a prizefighter and currently the right-hand man of the Duke of Clermont. With his past of abuse at the hands of his father, he’s a hardened man; often called merciless even. He has only one weakness—he doesn’t hurt women. Enter Miss Serena Barton. Once a lady, reduced to become a governess thanks to poverty, she has just lost her position. Why? Because of Hugo’s liege, the Duke.

While Serena fights to get justice, Hugo is commanded to be rid of her. However, when Hugo decides to confront her, he finds himself being charmed by her despite his orders. What starts as a battle of wills between the two quickly escalates to a battle of hearts. Soon, Hugo who is a problem-solver finds himself unable to solve the problem of the governess affair.

As is her style of writing, Courtney manages to tell a tale of love so unique and yet as old as the time. This book is sensual without crossing the border to being overly sexualized. It makes you yearn for more, and without meaning to, you’ll find yourself crossing your fingers for this unlikely couple to make it to a happily ever after.

Here’s an excerpt from the book to entice you:

 

Miss Serena Barton, she read. It will behoove you to calm yourself. Convincing Frederica’s landlord to toss the two of you out was the work of a moment. Consider it a warning only.

As you have little to do with your days, the inconvenience of moving houses is, I am sure, nothing. A woman of your fortitude will find the task poses little problem. If, however, I am forced to inconvenience myself to the extent of ruining Daughtry’s Bank—where your sister draws her annuity—you can rest assured I will not remain so pleasant.

My offer still stands: fifty pounds and a reference. I can, perhaps, increase the monetary compensation somewhat.

I’d rather not cause you any further disruption, but I will not hesitate, should it prove necessary.

As always, I am

Yours.

There was no signature.

Serena stared at the offending missive, anger growing in her heart. She’d been prepared to have any threat levelled at her. But to threaten Freddy once again? It was like abusing baby squirrels.

She flipped the paper over, and on the blank reverse, scrawled her response.

Cut line, sir. My sister and I have scarcely a hundred pounds to lose between the two of us. Such infinitesimal reserves will hardly be missed.

Not true, but in her experience, wealthy men never understood the value of money. She nodded fiercely at that, and then played the card that she’d been holding in abeyance for this moment.

But you know—and I know—and all of Mayfair knows—that the duchess will not be pleased if she hears my story. I am not frightened of you; how could I be? I have nothing to lose. I am already ruined.

Clermont, on the other hand… Do remind me. Is it twenty thousand pounds at stake if his wife deserts him, or forty? The gossips never get the figures clear.

I address one final thing. You are not mine, and I’ll thank you not to address me in so familiar a fashion.

S. Barton

 

Now tell me that last line doesn’t tickle your fancy. If it does, pick up a copy and get reading already! In Anne’s scale this book gets 5 stars out of 5 stars. Why? Because it deserves it. I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the series. Judging by the prequel, the rest is sure to be amazing.

Thank you for visiting. If there’s any book you’d like us to review, let us know in your comments.

Love,

A

 

Image Source: http://www.courtneymilan.com

Anne Express: Virtuoso ~ Chapter-15

A/N: Hey guys! I’m excited to tell you that I’ve started working on a new research paper to publish. Sadly, that also means that my writing time will be cut short because of it. So I have to reduce the posting to twice a week from thrice a week. New posting schedule will be Fridays and Tuesdays.

Now, get reading!

Chp15

 


Chapter-15: Calm


BPOV


It’s only after making Tony and I promise that we won’t take any unnecessary risks that dad allows us to leave for work while he decides to take Rosalie to the police to file an official complaint just to ensure her protection.

When we walk through the doors of Inside Out, there’s an uncharacteristic calm around us … as if someone died. My guess is me, judging by the “rampant bull” look Leah is aiming at me. “So now you decide to show up for work,” she says in a way of greeting.

“What?” I feign innocence and lift Tony’s hand to check the time. “We’re barely twenty minutes late. That’s almost on time, boss.”

She heaves a sigh. “So what should I do to congratulate you, Ms. Barone? Shall I give you my desk here to thank you for gracing us with your presence?”

“Nah, I’m good, Boss,” I say, waving her off. “Besides, your desk gets way too much sun. I’ll get wrinkles if I sit here. I’m okay at my desk.”

“You, brat!” she slaps her hands on her desk as she struggles to stand up.

I pretend to be hurt and sniffle to add more effect to it. “Sure, you hate me. Why won’t you? After all, I dared to publish an article without your approval. No matter if it’s our most searched article ever or if we’re the only webloid with the exclusive news, I, a measly reporter dared to think of by myself.”

She groans. “Zip it with the theatrics, Barone.” She picks up a legal looking sheet of paper from her desk and holds it up to my face. “Guess what this is?”

“Your maternity leave announcement?” I ask rather hopefully.

“No!” she barks out. “It’s court summons. Jacob Black is suing Inside Out for defamation.”

I gape at her. “What defamation? I never named him!”

“You didn’t?” she challenges me. “Let’s see what you wrote. Here — A powerful member of the senate, having the initials of J.B. … that’s almost as good as plastering his photograph along with his name!”

I cringe. I shouldn’t be allowed to drink.

“Now,” Leah says taking a deep breath. “There’s only two options open to you. First …”

“Don’t tell me to resign. I can’t resign!” I blurt out. “Telling me to resign from my post is so unfair, Leah. I didn’t write a single word of lie …”

Leah holds a hand up to stop my word vomit. “Second …”

I straighten my back and offer her a salute. “I’ll do whatever you ask me to do.”

“Do it properly,” she says in a clear voice.

For a moment, all I can do is blink, pretty sure that I’ve heard her wrong. “What did you just say?” I finally manage to ask.

“Do it properly,” she repeats. “Whether it’s submitting evidence to back up your story or writing follow ups to the first article, do it right. Find something that we can use against Jacob Black. That’s the only way we can survive this legal battle … by proving that what we reported is the truth.”

With a smile on my face, I salute her. “Yes, ma’am.” When I turn, there’s an identical smile lighting up Tony’s face as he nods to me.

It’s on, Jacob Black.


EPOV


I almost drop the coffee cup I’m holding when a voice says in my ear, “So I guess you’re going to continue with this pretence of being Superman, huh?”

Placing the cup on the counter of the break room, I swear under my breath as I press on the minuscule earpiece attached to my ear. “Jesus, Esme! Are you trying to make me crap my pants?”

She laughs. “I bet that will make Isabella fall head over heels for you, Skid marks.”

I hurramph. “Very funny.”

She seems to sober at my unamused tone and says, “Play all you want, kid, but keep one thing in mind. If you get caught by the police, I’ll ditch you.”

I can’t help but roll my eyes. “Esme, first, I’ve never seen you personally. You’re just a disembodied voice in my head. So how am I going to get you in trouble? Besides, I don’t even know where you live or what you look like. Hell, I don’t even know if your name really is Esme or not!”

She’s quiet for a moment before saying, “I’m sorry, Kid. I promise we’ll meet before you sail off to that island.”

The thought of retiring brings something up to me and pulling out my cell phone, I email the photograph to Esme before speaking again. “Es, I’ve just emailed you a photo. It’s got my dad and the teacher and some other people. I need you to find out whatever you can on the others.”

“Won’t it be easier to ask your teacher about them?”

I sigh. “It would, but he’s still unreachable. I’ve tried his number a million times.”

“Figures,” she answered. “He’s a crazy old bastard. Anyway, I’ve got it, Kid. Don’t you worry.”

“Thanks, Es …”

“Tony! Hey, Tony!” I barely manage to disconnect the call when Bella storms into the break room. “There you are! What are doing here alone?”

I hold up my coffee cup. “Just getting a coffee.”

She nods before asking excitedly, “You have a driving license, right?”

“Yeah …”

“Great!” She grabs my hand and starts to pull me out of the room. “You’re coming with me.”


Esme Platt hangs up on Virtuoso and dials a number on her phone, her eyes focused on the screen before her where the photograph Virtuoso sent is displayed. After three rings, the call connects to an answering machine. There’s no welcoming message with directions though, just a silent beep.

“Hey Mr. Biers,” she says. “Your student has grown up a lot lately. He’s now interested in your friends. What should I do? Should I help him, or should I divert him? Please tell me what to do, Teacher.” She takes a deep breath and decides to share another worry of hers with him. “Also, he’s getting rather attached to this girl. I think she’s starting to mess with his head and his work. If he continues this, we might need to let him go, Teacher. Do you have any other successors? Someone else who can be Virtuoso?” She sighs. “Call me, please. I need your guidance.”

With that she disconnects the call, hoping she hears something from the teacher soon.


A/N: And the mystery returns. *Grins toothily*

Share your thoughts with me and leave a review.

Thanks for reading.

Be sure to check the blog for book reviews on Sundays.

Have a good weekend.

Love,

A

 

Image Source: Pinterest

Anne Express: Virtuoso ~ Chapter-14

A/N: So ready for more? Read on!

Chp14


Chapter-14: The Law


EPOV


“I hope you know how foolish that was. You could’ve been made! You’re lucky they didn’t get a look at your face.”

I don’t answer to her; instead, I sit in my black leather couch with my head clutched in my hands. I feel a shudder roll down my body as I imagine what would’ve happened if I hadn’t gotten to her on time.

“Edward!” Esme calls out, sounding irritated. “Are you even listening to me? Say something!”

Unable to take her nagging anymore, I burst out. “What do you want me to say, Esme? That I’m sorry for jeopardizing my identity? That I shouldn’t have gone after her and should have called 911 and be done with it? With her? I’m sorry, Esme, but I’m not sorry.”

“But the Volturi Guards know your mask as Virtuoso’s. Don’t you think they recognized who the masked stranger was who saved Bella Barone?”

I yank at a handful of my hair, the burning of my scalp numbing my senses. “So what if they do? That’s more reason for them to leave her alone.”

“Really? Are you that dumb, Kid? Don’t you know how ruthless they are? They’ll be circling around Isabella now more than ever like a wake of vultures.”

I frown. “So you’re saying I’ve endangered her by saving her?”

“No, you endangered her by exposing your weak spot to your enemies.”

“Weak spot?” I repeat. Is that what she is? My weakness?

Esme chuckles. “Oh my dear boy! You really don’t know, do you?”

“Know what?” I ask dumbly.

“I sure hope she’s coming to that island with you because you’re falling, Ed … fast.”

Falling? For Isabella? Shit! What do I do?

After hanging up with Esme, I contemplate to sift through my feelings. It’s true that before, every person I met was just that … a person … a mere human being … nothing special. And then, I met her.

Isabella Barone is different … unique. As if in a group of tigers, she’s a lioness. She’s beautiful, I know believe me, I’m not blind to it. But it’s more than her beauty that calls to me. It’s just … her. She is what calls out to my heart.

Most people who see her might think she’s brave in a clueless way … like she doesn’t realize what she’s getting herself into. But I’ve seen her. First time was when she followed me to get her bag back and then tonight. Every time, she knew it was scary dangerous, but even then, her steps never faltered to face it head-on. She’s brave like a warrior, I realize. And that’s when I decide that maybe falling for my personal Xena wouldn’t be the end of the world.


BPOV


Should I tell Dad?

He’ll make a huge fuss.

I’m not even harmed … not really.

I know that he’ll want to bring my abductors to the law, but if what I’m guessing is true then they weren sent by Jacob Black to find Rose. That means they have high connections. Should I even drag my dad into all this?

My train of thought is broken when Rosalie rushes into my room and runs to the window. I reach out just in time and yank her back before whispering severely, “Are you out of your mind? Don’t you know Jake Black has his men sniffing around for you? Why are you going to the window?”

Her face pales at the mention of the pig that is Black, and she carefully steps away from the window before mumbling, “It’s just … that man in outside.”

“What man?” I ask.

“The man you brought home.”

Mystified, I walk out of my room and down the stairs to find exactly who she’s referring to. By the time I reach the porch leading to dad’s café, I find dad and Eric crowding over a slumbering figure on the bench outside.

“Do you think he’s alive?” I hear Eric ask my dad with a contemplative expression on his face.

Dad leans down and takes a closer look at their object of investigation, then he nods. “He’s breathing. Maybe he’s just asleep?”

I decide to intervene and take a few tentative steps out of the door and that’s when I see it. A head full of penny colored hair. Tony!

“TONY!” I cry out and rush up to him, pushing through my dad and Eric. “Tony?” I call him again, softer this time.

He stirs a little.

“Anthony?” I call again.

He blinks open his eyes, they widen, and then he jumps up into a sitting position on the bench. “Ms. Bella!”

I reach out to place a hand on his shoulder to stabilize him. “How did you get here?”

“After I ran away, I didn’t know how to help you so I came here.”

“Then why didn’t you come inside?”

He looks sheepish as he answers, “I didn’t know how to face your father. I was supposed to protect you and I didn’t. Instead, I ran away like a coward. I’m so sorry.”

“No, Tony, it’s okay …”

Help you?”

I close my eyes and mutter a curse under my breath. Here goes nothing. “Dad …”

Dad holds a hand up to silence me. “What happened?” he asks Anthony.

Anthony blinks, apparently realizing that I hadn’t shared the events of the night before with my dad. “It’s nothing really … just …”

“What happened to my daughter, Boy?” Dad’s voice shakes a little with anger as he glowers at me and then back at Tony. “Tell me!”

I decide to step in before he makes poor Tony wet himself and say, “Jacob Black sent goons after me to try and find Rose’s location.” When dad’s eyes widen, I hasten to add, “Nothing happened though. I didn’t tell them anything and I was saved by the cops thanks to Tony here who had the presence of mind to call for them.”

For a moment, I think Dad is going to shout at the two of us for being so careless, but then the strangest of things happen. Instead of screaming his head off, he pulls us both … yes, both … into a fierce hug.

“Si-r …” Tony’s words are cut off as dad pulls away from us and then looks sternly at both of us. “I hope you know how lucky you were.”

Hanging our heads, we nod simultaneously.

“Carmen!” he calls for my mom and when mom comes down the stairs, he points to us. “Your daughter has found a sidekick,” he says accusingly.

Mom smiles encouragingly at Tony. “Good for her.”

“No!” he protests. “Now they’re both running into strange people and getting kidnapped.”

Mom’s mouth falls open as she whirls around to look at me questioningly. “You were kidnapped?”

I shake my head vehemently. “Not really.”

Tony clears his throat. “Technically, Ms. Bella …” I step on his toes to shut him up and exclaim loudly, “Have you noticed the time? We need to get going, Tony.”

“Not so fast, young lady,” dad says, holding a hand out to stop me. “What’s the law in Barone House?”

“Never skip a meal.”

He nods, steering me upstairs to the family dining area. “Up you go.”

“Um …” Tony starts, clearing his throat again. “I guess I’ll see you at work then, Ms. Bella.”

This time, dad grabs his arm to stop him. “Where do you think you’re going, young man?”

“Wo-work?” His answer comes out sounding more like a question.

“Breakfast first,” dad decrees, pushing him along with me. I can’t help but laugh at the thunderstruck expression on Tony’s face. Poor guy!


A/N: So … thoughts?

Share them with me and leave a review.

A special thanks to Tarbecca for letting me know that Virtuoso has been voted as one of the Top Favorite Fic Dive Stories for March/April at ADF. It’s a huge honor to be noted for this little story of mine. 🙂

 

See you on Friday.

Love,
A

 

Image Source: Pinterest

Anne Express: Virtuoso ~ Chapter-13

A/N: Hi! It’s been so long since I updated. I didn’t want to risk you guys missing out on this chapter due to the notification issue on ffn. So I’m finally going to post. Hope you enjoy it.

Also, this chapter has description of seizure in it. So I’d love to dedicate this one to one of the persons closest to my heart who suffers from this ailment. You know who you are and how much I love you, right? 😉

chp13.jpg


Chapter-13: Unwritten


Carlisle watches in silence as she methodically puts the leftover food in separate tupperwares. She must feel his gaze on her because she lifts her head and smiles embarrassedly at him. “All these leftovers are your brother’s fault, you know? If he hadn’t missed dinner tonight then there wouldn’t be so much left.”

Unbeknownst to him, the words escape him. “You always cook for one more person though.”

Her hands still for a moment, and then she looks away from him. “Let’s pretend you didn’t notice.”

Carlisle reaches out to place a hand over hers and decides to break the unwritten rule Phil has in the house. “What do you think she would be like? If she was alive?” he asks, wanting to tell her the truth. “What profession would she have picked for herself?”

Reneé closes her eyes, and he feels her hand start to tremble underneath his. “She would’ve been twenty six this year,” she tells him in a shaky voice. “She would’ve been free to choose her career.”

“Hypothetically speaking,” Carlisle presses on. “Don’t you think she’d want to become a journalist like you and Charlie?”

Reneé pulls her hand out of his in a sudden motion. “I don’t know, Carlisle,” she says in a strange voice. “I don’t know what my Mary would’ve chosen as her career if she was alive. I don’t know how she’d have looked if she was alive. I don’t know anything. All I know is that she’s in heaven with her father.”

“What if she survived? What if she …”

Carlisle’s words are cut off when she turns around sharply and pierces him with her gaze. “My daughter is not alive. If she was, I would’ve felt it. I would’ve gone to her. I wouldn’t be the monster who abandoned her daughter. I …” she stops to take a shuddering breath as her back straightens. Her hands clench around the handrests of her wheelchair as she struggles to control herself.

The moment her eyes grow cloudy Carlisle knows what’s coming. “Reneé!” he cries out, grabbing a spoon from the kitchen counter and slipping it between her clenched teeth to prevent her from biting her tongue. “I’m sorry, Reneé. I’m so sorry. Please forgive me,” he begs as the woman he cared for as a sister convulses vigorously, her mouth frothing slightly. “Reneé, please … no! RENEÉ!!!”

At the sound of his screams the housekeeper runs in. One look at the scene in the kitchen and she joins Carlisle’s screams, calling for her mistress to be alright.

Phil Dwyer rushes into the kitchen when he hears the sound of his cousin’s cries the moment he gets home. When he gets to them, his eyes fall on his wife and he feels his heart drop. “Ren!” he calls out and runs to scoop her up in his arms. Without sparing a second glance at their company, he carries her to her bedroom and places her in her bed all the while whispering reassuringly in her ears.


Carlisle waits while the doctor looks at Reneé and only when he’s sure that she’s going to be alright, he starts to walk out of the room. Phil, however, grabs his hand to stop him. “May I have a word?” he asks Carlisle.

When he nods, Phil leads him to his study. Once they’re behind closed doors, Phil allows his anger to flow. “What the fuck did you do?” he asks.

Carlisle blinks. “I … I didn’t …”

“Save your breath,” his cousin spits at him. “She has been fine for weeks, Carl. WEEKS. Not a single seizure. And then you decide to show up for dinner and now she’s like this. So let me ask you again, what the fuck did you do?”

“She invited me to dinner,” Carlisle points out.

“Carl!” Phil shouts, getting into his face. “I swear to God, Kid, if I could raise you like my own, I can chop you into little pieces if you hurt my Reneé.”

“Fine,” Carlisle bursts out then. “We talked about Mary.”

“Mary!” Phil takes a few staggering steps away from him, making Carlisle nod.

“Yes, Brother,” he says, his eyes flashing angrily at his cousin. “You were the one who found and buried her body, weren’t you? Do you think if we dug up the grave it’ll be as empty as I expect it to be?”

Phils eyes widen. “I …”

“Don’t waste your breath, Phil,” Carlisle returns his own words to him. “I know you faked her death. I knew you loved your friend’s wife, but to fake her daughter’s death right after she’d lost her husband? What was that for? Just so you could get her?” As he utters the words he’d kept hidden deep in his heart, Carlisle feels something for his cousin brother that he never had before … hatred.

Phil stumbles back to fall into an armchair and then looks up at his brother. “How long have you known?”

“Long enough.”

“How?”

Carlisle barks a mirthless laugh. “I grew up with you, Phil,” he says. “I know exactly how you look when you lie. Your eyes blink rapidly. I was there when you informed Reneé of Mary’s death. I knew that you were lying. Besides, if you had buried her, why didn’t you take me to the burial? To spare my teen heart of the pain of watching my niece’s dead body? I don’t believe that.”

“Then why haven’t you said anything till now?”

“I didn’t have proof … till now.”

Phil’s mouth falls open. “You’ve found her?”

Carlisle shrugs, deciding he didn’t deserve to know that. Instead he says, “You’ve stooped so low in my eyes, Phil. I pity you.” He starts to walk to the door to exit the room, not wanting to breathe the same air as his cousin.

When his hand wraps around the doorknob, Phil asks, “Why do you care anyway? It’s not like she’s your niece by birth or anything.”

Carlisle turns his head to look at him. “Unlike you, Phil,” he tells him. “I cherish the relationships I had with your friends. She called me Uncle since the moment she could speak so no matter what you say, I’m her uncle.”

With that, he leaves, slamming the door shut behind him.


A/N: So … does that answer a few of your questions?

It’s a mystery, guys. I’ve got lot more to weave for you before we untangle it all. So sit tight.

Share your thoughts with me and leave a review.

Thanks for reading.

 

See you on Monday.

Love,

A

 

Image Source: Pinterest

Bookworm Express: Squall – Sean Costello

Hi there! Welcome back to the Bookworm Express on Scribbler Alliance! Today I’ve got something different for you. Instead of my usual preferred genre of Romance, today, I bring you suspense, crime and thrill.

Squall

Today’s featured book is Squall by Sean Costello. Even though this book has been rated R by the publisher due to strong language and is not suitable for young readers, I hope that those of you who are of age will give this a try.

The story of Squall is of just that—a squall which is a violent storm and its after effects. Before you think it’s a tale of tragedy, think again. It’s a story of struggle, determination and retribution.

The book opens with Dale Knight and his fiancée, Ronnie; both stoners and both in the business of selling heroine. Their troubles begin when Ronnie kills their would-be customers and turns Dale into a fugitive … from both the law and a ruthless drug lord who also is his brother. It’s when Dale goes into hiding that he meets Tom who crashes into the party … literally.

Tom Stokes is a bush pilot who lives a happy and content life with his little family. When his plane crashes into the cottage where Dale is hiding, it takes him some time to find his footing. And that time is exactly what takes the assassins sent to kill Dale to find the duo. What follows is a story of this unlikely pair’s struggle to stay alive and get back home.

With his brilliant way of narrative, Sean Costello manages to draw perfectly synchronized pictures of the happenings in our minds. The immaculate flow of the story will keep you gripping the edge of your seats as you storm through the book.

Here’s an excerpt for you from the book:

 

THE WEATHER BROKE ALL of a sudden, six in the morning, just south of Parry Sound. An hour earlier they’d been sitting at a dead stop behind a tractor-trailer jackknifed across the highway, flares everywhere, an O.P.P. officer coming right up to Dale’s window and asking him where they were headed. Dale only stared at the man and Ronnie said, “Kukagami eventually, but we’d be happy to make Parry Sound tonight, find a hotel and get out of this weather.” The cop said that was a good idea, flashed Ronnie a smile and went on to the next vehicle. Dale saw Ronnie tuck her handgun—a nickel-plated Colt .380 she carried with her everywhere—back into her bag and thought, This is a nightmare, somebody wake me up.

 The drive in the snow, slow and hypnotic, had settled Dale’s nerves a little; but seeing that cop stroll up to the window like that, and then Ronnie, ready to shoot the man in the face, brought it all back hard. He was a fugitive now, running not only from the most ruthless crime boss in the country but from his own brother. The law, too, if the cops got involved. Christ, three dead Asians.

 

Intrigued? Pick up a copy and get reading, folks! In Anne’s scale this book gets 4.5 stars out of 5 stars. I’m deducting half a star because I wanted more of their HEA in the end, but all in all, it’s perfect just the way it is.

Thank you for visiting. If there’s any book you’d like us to review, let us know in your comments. On a quick note, Anne Express is suspended due to the posting issue on fanfiction.net. I’ll post Virtuoso as soon as it’s fixed.

Love,

A

 

Image Source: Amazon

Anne Express: Virtuoso ~ Chapter-12

A/N: So you better fasten your seatbelts, guys. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. 😉

Chp12


Chapter-12: My BFF


BPOV


After a gruesome day of hunting down any and all information I could find on Laurent and passing on my vast knowledge of tailing people to my sidekick, aka, Anthony, I finally get to step out of the office.

“Ahh!” I spread my arms and take in a deep breath. Then I turn my head to look at Anthony. “Is the life of a journalist all you dreamt it to be, Tony?”

He squints at the sky, as if waiting for the heavens to open up and swallow him and sighs. “Not really. But it’s fun working with you, Ms. Bella.”

I roll my eyes as I try to correct him for the umpteenth time. “Only Bella, please. But don’t start thinking that you’re my BFF, mister. I’m your supervisor and you’re my junior, understood?”

He looks at me and nods, looking like he’s holding back a smile. “Yes, Ms. Bella.”

I can’t help but smile at his too innocent-for-his-own-good-face and start walking toward the subway station. He follows me dutifully because his car is parked at a lot somewhere near the station. I appreciate the company even if I don’t tell him that.

It happens when we enter a dark alley to take a shortcut.

A car drives up to block our way. I frown and turn to find Anthony only to see that a group of four men standing behind him, surrounding us both. I turn around and bravely take a step toward the car. The car doors open then, revealing four more men, all clad in black.

“Excuse me,” I address the man right in front of me. Behind me I feel Anthony grip my hand tightly. The poor guy must be scared out of his wits. I squeeze his hand and say loudly, “If you could move your car a little, my friend and I could get out of your way.”

The men don’t respond as they take a few steps to form a tight knot around us. “Look here, mister,” I start, opting for playing my journalist card. “I’m a journalist. We both are. So if you don’t want your faces plastered on the evening news, please move out of our way.”

The guy right in front of me laughs then; the look on his eyes challenging as he tilts his head at me. “Isabella Barone?”

I narrow my eyes at him. “Who’s asking?”

He pretends to not have heard me and addresses the men behind us. “Leave the lackey and take her with us.”

Anthony seems to have woken from his daze as he starts shoving the men away from us. “W-who t-t-the hell are you?” he stutters and my heart aches for him.

Giving his hand another quick squeeze, I take a step back to him and look right at the man in the front who seems to be the leader. “I’m not going anywhere,” I tell him.

“But our boss wants to meet you,” he says.

“Too bad he can’t come to the office to meet me,” I reply sarcastically. “I’m sure he has my office address.”

“Ms. Bella,” Anthony whispers in warning as the leader grabs my other hand. I try to wrench my hand out of his grip, but he’s too strong for me.

Before I know what’s happening, the rest of his guys come forward and one of them takes Anthony in a chokehold. “B-Bellaaa” Anthony whimpers. One of the guys land a punch to his gut, making him cough hard.

“Wait!” I cry out. “Don’t hurt him. Please!” I look beseechingly to the leader. “Please, make them stop. He’s innocent. Let him go please.”

“You’ll go with us then?” he asks, his eyes contemplative.

I nod, a sob escaping me. “Yes, yes, I’ll go. Just don’t hurt him.”

He signals his goons to leave Anthony and they still aim a few kicks at him, making him crumble into a ball as he sobs. “Tony,” I call his name. “Tony, it’s okay. Tony, are you hurt?”

He doesn’t answer me as he continues to sob in pain. All I manage is a pitiful glance at him when the men pull me into the car with them. We drive away from the alley and the last thing I see before they put a blindfold on my eyes is Anthony … alone and in pain.


EPOV


I wait till the car has left before sitting up and putting on my earpiece. “Es?” I ask.

“What happened, kid?”

I spit out a mouthful of blood. “You tell me. They’ve got Bella.”

Esme lets slip an uncharacteristic curse word and is silent for a whole second before she starts speed-talking. “Okay. So I picked up their license plate number thanks to my foresight of the camera in your glasses … and I’ve tracked them through traffic cameras. They’re headed east from where you are.”

I start running toward the direction she indicated while still talking to her. “Who were they? Can you find out?”

“Already have,” she answers. “The leader is actually one of Volturi’s top henchmen.”

“Volturi?” I ask, shocked.

“Turn left here,” she directs me. “They’ve stopped at a red light.” Then she adds, “I don’t know why or who got the Volturi involved in this. They’re ruthless, Virtuoso … way more than us.”

I nod, pushing myself to run faster. “I know. I think it’s about the article she wrote.”

“Virtuoso,” Esme says all of a sudden, her voice filled with warning. “Be careful. The car has turned toward the deserted industrial area. You’re almost there.”

Why are they taking her there? I feel a chill run through my spine as I worry, wondering whether I should have gone to get my car before chasing them.

As if she can hear my thoughts, Esme tells me, “You did the right thing, Virtuoso. If you had taken your car, they’d have found out about you coming to get her. This way, you’ll have the element of surprise.”

“Yeah,” I respond absently as I tiptoe around the perimeter of the abandoned building they’ve taken her into. I see their cars lying there – deserted. Sticking to the shadows, I quickly exchange my work clothes for my dark clothes to disguise myself and then put on my mask, pushing my work clothes back into the backpack Esme had begged me to carry when I decided to work with Isabella.

Once I’m done, I slip into the building, climbing the stairs three at a time to reach Isabella. It’s the sound of raised voices coming from an open space in the second floor that reels me in. I hide just out of sight and watch as the ring leader circles around a figure crouched on the ground. Bella!

“Where is she?” the leader asks.

“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” Isabella says in a pseudo-calm voice. The slight tremor in her voice tells me how scared she must be.

“Don’t lie to me,” he growls. “Actress named R, you said in your article. Where’s that slut?”

“Do I look like a pimp to you?” Isabella asks bravely and I can’t help but smile a little at her words. My brave girl. “Besides,” she says, “There are probably at least a hundred actresses with names starting with R. Reese Witherspoon? Rachel McAdams? How am I to know who you’re talking about?”

“I’m talking about Rosalie Hale, you bitch!” he screams, getting into her face and slapping her.

White hot anger burns through me the moment I hear her cry out in pain. Forgetting any plans about being stealthy, I barge into the room, heading right for the asshole who dared to raise his hand on her. “Didn’t you mother tell you to never hit a woman?” I ask as I land a punch square to his jaw.

“Oooff!” he howls in pain as he’s taken by surprise with my sudden appearance. It takes a moment for his men to realize what had happened and then they’re all upon me.

“Run!” I shout in the general direction of Isabella while kicking and punching anything and anyone I can get my hands on. The next few moments are a blur of limbs as I fight with her captors to protect Isabella. When I stop to take a breath, I see with satisfaction that all the bad guys are groaning and moaning in pain thanks to my fighting skills.

The moment my eyes fall on her though, everyone else evaporates. There, kneeling just out of the door from the room we’re in, is Isabella; her hand clutching at her heart. I run to her, hoping like hell that she’s alright.

When I reach her, she looks up at me, her eyes filled with a mixture of surprise and fear.

I crouch down next to her and ask in a deeper voice, “Are you hurt?”

She shakes her head, breathing hard. First, I wonder if she’s recognized me from the day I collected her DNA and is afraid. I hold my hands up and say, “I’ll not harm you.”

She shakes her head again, her hands motioning to where the scoundrels must’ve dropped her bag.

“Your bag?” I ask to clarify.

She nods vigorously, closing her eyes as if in pain.

I bring the bag to her and unzip it for her. When I see her reach for a blue inhaler, it all clicks. Taking the machine from her hands, I shake it and then hold it to her mouth. “How many puffs?”

“T-tttwo” she mumbles before opening her mouth.

I follow her direction and wait till her breathing goes down to normal. “Better?” I ask.

“Yes.”

I lift her up in my arms and then walk down the stairs, taking her far away from the villainous creatures that wanted to hurt her.

Esme, who had been silent throughout the fight finally speaks into the earpiece I’m wearing. “Virtuoso, I’ve called the police. They’re reaching soon.” Even as she speaks, I can hear sirens from afar.

Isabella looks relieved when she hears the sirens too.

I put her down on her feet and say, “You’ll be safe now.” Then, before she can speak another word, I run out of there and into the darkness where I belong.


BPOV


Dazedly, I watch him run away into the night. I let out a sigh and then start walking toward the direction the sirens are coming from.

By the time I bring the cops back to the place, it’s empty. The police keep asking me whether I was kidnapped or not because apparently, someone informed them of my abduction. Must be Tony! I realize, feeling thankful that he had the presence of mind to do so.

Not wanting to get into any legal matters without my dad present there, I neither accept or deny any such claims. Instead, I request them to drop me home, hoping and praying that Anthony is okay.


A/N: Share your thoughts with me and leave a review.

Thanks for reading.

Chapter pic is on the ScribblerAlliance blog.

See you on Wednesday.

Love,

A

 

Image Source: Pinterest

Anne Express: Virtuoso ~ Chapter:11

A/N: A quick note. I have an English Language proficiency test on next Saturday. So till then, I’ll be locking myself out of my thinking chamber to study. So next update will be on Monday, May 1. Hope to see you then.

Another long chapter for you. Enjoy!

Beauty girl cry

 


Chapter-11: Rehab


EPOV


It happens when I’m exiting the office of Inside Out at the end of the day. Maybe I’m just that attuned to the shadows, or maybe it’s a stroke of luck, but the moment I step outside, my eyes spy a black Mercedes parked a few feet away from the building in a seemingly inconspicuous manner. One closer look at the man sitting inside, and I recognize who it is. It’s easier to pick out Carlisle Cullen’s profile thanks to all the photographs of him available on the internet.

“Ms. Bella,” I say, touching the elbow of the girl standing next to me.

“Just Bella, please, Tony,” she tells me in exasperation.

I offer a mortified smile and ask, “May I walk you home?”

She laughs, the sound of her tinkling laughter making my heart do a little somersault in my chest. “Tony, I’m a big girl,” she says once she quietens. “I can take the subway myself.”

“But I …”

She ruffles my hair sweetly and then walks away, waving her hand at me. “See you tomorrow, Tony!”

I cannot help but sigh. DNAgirl is just a bait, I realize as Cullen’s car comes to life immediately after her departure. What remains to be seen is whether the fish circling around is the one who’s trying to frame me for murder, or if there’s a bigger fish out there.


I follow Cullen through the shadows, always watching him while staying out of sight. When he turns to a driveway that’s miles away from his listed address, I know something is up. Briefly, I wonder whether he’s meeting the bigger fish here. Reaching up, I switch off the tracker Esme has on me in case of emergencies because I know she’ll freak out if she finds out where I am, and then I walk the way Cullen has gone.

Hidden behind the bushes, I watch Cullen park his vehicle and walk into the manor-like house . I don’t have to wait for long to find out who he’s there to meet. From the light spilling out of one of the downstair windows, I watch him hug a woman sitting on a bed. For a moment, I wonder if he’s got a wife hidden from the world or something, but when I zoom in with my binoculars, I find that the woman definitely looks older than him. I watch as he helps her sit in a wheelchair and then wheels her out of the room, switching off the lights as he leaves.

I don’t know what makes me do it, but before my brain can tell me to get out of there, I’m sneaking around the perimeter of the house and then climbing through the window I saw Cullen through. “Esme’s gonna freak out, Ed,” I murmur to myself as I shine my flashlight around the room, trying to get a clue as to who the woman might be. That’s when two photos standing on the bedside table catch my eyes.

First photo is of the woman I just saw in this room with Phil Dwyer, who according to wikipedia is a well-connected politician and also, Carlisle Cullen’s cousin. The way Dwyer has his arms wrapped around the woman suggests that they share a personal relationship. Maybe she’s his wife? I wonder.

I don’t get to ponder on the first photo for long because when my eyes fall on the second photograph, I feel my throat dry up. It’s a photograph of five people—four men and one woman in the middle. The woman is obviously the lady in wheelchair and the man on her left side looks like a younger version of Phil Dwyer. There’s a man I’ve never seen on her right, hugging her close. It’s the men on far sides that make me stop breathing. On the far right, next to Dwyer is Riley Biers, my mentor and on the far left, next to the unknown man … is my father.

Silently, I take the photograph out of the photo frame and slip it into my pocket. I know there’s much more to find out.

“Have you become an adrenaline junkie? Is that it? Is that why you turned off your tracker so that you can get off of the adrenaline rush of getting caught without me covering your ass?” I hold the earpiece away from my head while Esme screams her lungs off at me.

When the sound of screaming quietens, I bring it back to my ear. “Hi, Es.”

“Don’t you Hi, Es, me, young man! You’re in big big trouble,” she threatens but then asks, “Are you okay? Your heart rate is faster than usual.”

I nod even though I’m sure she can’t see me now because I’m standing in the middle of the road. “I wanna go see my mom tomorrow.”

She’s silent after my admission. Then she says, “You sure you can handle it? She has another family now.”

“Yeah, I know,” I say before admitting quietly, “I’ve tracked her down and watched her with her other son from afar.”

Esme sighs. “Whatever you feel is right, buddy,” she tells me. “Just don’t give me a heart attack like you did today.”

“I won’t,” I promise as I put my car in drive and head toward my loft.


That night, I sleep fitfully. The old nightmares coming back to haunt me in my sleep. I dream about the night my four-year-old-self went to bed and then woke up the next morning to find my grandmother crying over my mother’s empty bed. I relive the moment Grammy hugged me and told me that it’s because I looked too much like my dad that mom had to get away from me all the while reassuring me that I was loved.

When the first rays of sunlight hit my window, I throw the covers from my bed and sit up. It’s time I got some answers.

Finding the school where my stepbrother studies is a piece of cake for Esme. By the time I get dressed for the day, she even has the time when mom is going to drop her son off at school noted down for me.

When I get to the school, I don’t locate my mother immediately, but her son is another matter. With hair the same shade of red as her, my stepbrother looks the spitting image of my mother. It’s only when I find him that my eyes fall on the woman helping him put on his backpack. Mom. She doesn’t notice me of course. She’s busy brushing her son’s hair with her fingers and hugging him one last time before the boy rushes off to school and away from her clutches.

Pulling out my cell phone from my pocket, I dial the number Esme had gotten for me. I watch as she fishes around her purse when the phone starts ringing and then puts the phone to her ear. “Hello?” she answers in her sweet voice.

“Mom, it’s me,” I say quietly. “Edward Masen Jr.” It feels awkward to have to introduce myself by my full name to my own mother but it’s better than to have her question who I was.

Even from across the street I see her face pale at the sound of my name and her hands start to shake. “E-edward? My Edward?” she asks in a broken whisper.

“Yes,” I answer. “Look across the street, Mom.” I hold a hand up for her to see. The moment her eyes find me, tears start rolling down her cheeks and she’s running across the street to me. And then she’s right there with me, hugging me tight and sobbing hard, hiding her face in my chest. “Shh, Mom,” I say as I rub her back, glad that she remembers me.

I must have said the words out loud because she looks up and cups my chin in her hand in a way only mothers can and then offers me a watery smile. “Of course I remember you,” she tells me. “How could I forget my own son? I’d have come to find you, but you told me not to go looking for you, remember?”

I nod, remembering the day I came to tell her that I had graduated from college … six years ago. “I’m sorry, it took so long for me to come,” I say.

She shakes her head and hugs me again. “I’m just glad you’re okay.” She lifts her head and then smiles. “My baby boy has grown up so much.”

I smile back at her and ask, “Do you have time for a cup of coffee?”

She hooks her arm around mine and nods. “For my son, always.”


We both play catch up while sipping on our coffees for a few minutes. Mom asks me about what I do, I answer that I can’t tell her. She doesn’t pry, maybe because she still feels guilty for leaving me the way she did. I ask her about her other son and husband. She answers that it’s no picnic living with a pre-teen and a drunkard husband, but that’s life. I want to tell her that she should leave her drunkard husband to a rehab and come live with me, but I don’t. What’s the point, anyway?

Once there’s a lull in our conversation, she looks at me and smiles sadly. “You look even more like your dad now that you’ve grown up,” she says softly.

That reminds me the reason behind this little family reunion. I reach into my wallet and bring out the folded photograph I took from the house I later found out belongs to Phil Dwyer and put it between us. “Mom, I found this,” I start. “Can you tell me anything about this?”

She gasps and then a look of melancholy crosses her face as she runs a finger over my father’s image. “I can’t believe you still have this,” she says. “It was one of your dad’s most favorite photos in our house.”

I don’t have the heart to tell her that it’s not dad’s copy but rather a stolen property of a woman. So I don’t.

“Do you know who these people are with dad?” I ask instead.

She nods. “Yes, they’re his college friends.” She taps the picture of the man next to dad and says, “This is Charlie Swan, your dad’s best friend. And the woman next to him is Reneé, his wife.” She turns to the other men on the picture and frowns. “The man next to Reneé was another of their friends, Phil, I think his name was, and the last man is called Riley Biers, another of their friends.”

“Did you know them well?” I ask, wondering what their connection with Bella must be. Was she related to one of them? Is this why Carlisle hired me to collect her DNA? Myriad of questions swarm in my head as I try to figure it all out.

Mom shakes her head. “Not really, we met at some house parties here and there, but that’s it. I remember that Charlie used to work with your dad though.”

I feel my eyebrows pull together. “Didn’t dad use to work for a news station?”

“Yes, Charlie used to do the reports while your dad manned the camera.”

Before I can ask her anything else, my phone beeps, letting me know that I was due to my new work soon. “Mom,” I say, standing up and placing a few dollar bills on the table. “I have to go. Thank you for meeting with me.”

Mom follows my suit and pulls me into a hug. “Son,” she says in a whispered tone. “I know I ran out on you when you most needed me, but I want us to be a family now. Please don’t make me be a stranger.”

“We’ll see each other again,” I promise as I hug her back, hoping that I can forgive her enough to tell her that I love her one day.


Meanwhile … somewhere in Seattle …


The beeping noise of her microwave almost drowns out the alarm that rings throughout her lair, signalling an outgoing email from the Seattle Police Department with the keywords Virtuoso and David Simmons in it.

Dropping her plate of leftover tuna casserole, Esme Platt runs over to her computer connected to multiple monitors, glad that she had the foresight of hacking into the SPD’s system. A few strokes of keys and she finds out the outgoing email contains a video clip.

She swallows as she clicks the play button and then closes her eyes tightly. Opening her eyes in small slits, she watches the video play out. It’s a video captured on someone’s phone. The video shows David Simmons standing inside the subway train with his head bowed low. The subway doors open all on a sudden and a man clad in black hoodie and a black mask claps on his shoulder, signalling him to jump. Simmons jumps and then the masked man turns back to look around at the other passengers before jumping off the train. Even the crappy quality of the video doesn’t fail catch a clear image of the masked man’s eyes and forehead and Esme feels her legs start to shake.

“Vir–virtuoso!” she gasps. That’s when she notices the name of the recipient of the email and curses out loud. It reads: jwhitlock@fbi.org. She closes her eyes and lets her head fall to her hands because she knows. She knows that if there’s one man sharp enough to find out who Virtuoso is, it’s FBI Special Agent, Jasper Whitlock.


A/N: So … thoughts?

Share them with me and leave a review.

Thanks for reading.

 

Love,

Ann

Bookworm Express: Finding Cinderella – Colleen Hoover

Finding Cinderella

 

Hello again! Welcome back to the Bookworm Express on Scribbler Alliance! Today I’ve got a novella to review for you … something that will keep you turning those pages until you see the “The End” written in cursive.

Today’s featured book is Finding Cinderlla by Colleen Hoover. It’s a novella written as a part of her Hopeless series which can also be read as a standalone. Before you scrunch up your noses at the thought of the short span of a novella, let me tell you something. This book got me so hooked that I had to take more frequent bathroom breaks during a work day just to get a few more lines read. Yes, it’s that addictive!

In the prologue, we meet Daniel, our protagonist, a typical teen high schooler who prefers to hide out in an empty school closet in his free period. One day, the closet doors open and in falls a girl—right into his arms. In the dark, they don’t get to see each other. So instead they feel. When the bell rings like the strike of twelve, she runs away from him … just like Cinderella from the fairytales.

A year later, Daniel meets his best friend’s girlfriend’s best friend, Six. She’s beautiful, intelligent, flamboyant, spritely and totally forbidden for him … thanks to his best friend calling him out on his playboy ways. It’s the attraction of the forbidden that brings them closer and then before he knows, he’s falling … hard and fast.

What about Six though? Does she feel the same for him? What about the girl he made love to in that dark closet a year ago … his Cinderella? Will he be able to find his Cinderella? Read to see a tale of searching for a happily ever after unfold before you.

Here’s one of my favorite parts from the book to pique your interest:

 

I feel her whole body sigh on top of me and even though I have no idea who she is or what she looks like, I can feel the sadness in her and it makes me a little sad in return. I’m not sure how it happens, but my arms go around her and her cheek falls against my chest. In the course of five seconds we go from extremely awkward to kind of comfortable, like we do this all the time.

It’s weird and normal and hot and sad and strange and I don’t really want to let go. It feels sort of euphoric, like we’re in some sort of fairytale. Like she’s Tinkerbell and I’m Peter Pan.

No, wait. I don’t want to be Peter Pan.

Maybe she can be like Cinderella and I’ll be her Prince Charming.

Yeah, I like that fantasy better. Cinderella’s hot when she’s all poor and sweaty and slaving over the stove. She also looks good in her ball gown. It also doesn’t hurt that we’re meeting in a broom closet. Very fitting.

I feel her pull a hand up to her face, more than likely wiping away a tear. “I hate them,” she says softly.

“Who?”

“Everybody,” she says. “I hate everybody.”

I close my eyes and lift my hand, then run it down her hair, doing my best to comfort her. Finally, someone who actually gets it. I’m not sure why she hates everybody but I have a feeling she’s got a pretty valid reason.

“I hate everybody too, Cinderella.”

 

So if you want to see whether our Prince Charming finds his way back to his Cinderella or not, grab a copy and start reading. All in all, if I was to rate this book, it’ll get 4 out of 5 stars easily. Yes, it’s that good. 🙂

Thank you for visiting. If there’s any book you’d like us to review, let us know in your comments. See you tomorrow with next installment of Virtuoso in Anne Express.

Love,

A


Image Source: Pinterest

Anne Express: Virtuoso ~ Chapter:10

A/N: I’m so sorry about missing Wednesday posting. Didn’t have internet services all night. To make up for that, here’s the longest chapter yet.

9541103fa3372cd2848bcf4e0d94d1bb


Chapter-10: Fire


“Here you go, buddy.” The little boy of eight looks up to find his cousin brother holding out a small bouquet of dandelions to him. “Give this to her when you see her.”

“But Phil …” he protests. “The baby is just a … baby. She won’t know flowers.”

His cousin smiles. “I know, Carl. That’s why you’ll give them to Reneé.”

The boy points to the bigger bouquet of red roses held in his cousin’s hands and asks, “Is that for Reneé too?”

Phil nods, his smile fading. “It’s from Charlie.”

“But you bought it, not Charlie.”

Phil ruffles his hair with a sad curve on his lips and motions toward the hospital doors that has just opened up. As the brothers approach the door, Charlie Swan and Edward Masen, two of Phil’s best friends come strolling out of there. Charlie’s face lights up as soon as his eyes fall on them. “Phil, my man!” he comes forward to hug him and then takes the bouquet from Phil’s hands. “You’re a lifesaver.”

Then his eyes catch the little boy and he reaches to cup his chubby cheeks. “Wanna meet your new niece?” he whispers to the boy. When the boy eagerly nods, he leads him into the hospital room.

“Carlisle!” A sweet feminine voice calls out as soon as he enters the room. He looks up to find Reneé sitting on the bed with a pink bundle held close to her chest. Reneé seems to spy the bouquet in his hands and exclaims, “Look, Mary! Your uncle Carlisle has brought flowers for you.”

Little Carlisle steps closer the the bundle so he can get a peek at it and a gasp leaves him. So pretty … and pink. Unbeknownst to him, he reaches out to touch one of the baby’s fingers. When a tiny hand wraps around his finger in a tiny fist, his shock turns into awe.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” Reneé asks in a whispered voice. All Carlisle manages to do is nod.

The magic of the moment is broken when Charlie steps forward with the rose bouquet and places it on the bed next to Reneé. “A token of love for my bride for giving me the most priceless present of all.”

Reneé giggles, shaking her head at her husband. Her flushed cheeks tell the story of how pleased she is. “Although Phil got this for you, I’ll thank you, Mr. Swan,” she says with a smirk. “Since you endured all my bone-crushing squeezing of your hand during childbirth without a protest.”

“Anything for my girls,” Charlie says, hugging his wife and child together, making Carlisle awkwardly step away.

Apparently, Reneé wasn’t having any of that. She reaches out to pull Carlisle into the hug and when Charlie wraps an arm around Carlisle’s shoulders, the boy feels like he’s a part of their family now.

“Phil?” Reneé calls out when their moment is over. “What are you doing over there? Come here and greet our little Mary Swan.”

As Phil walks forward to join the group, Edward says from behind them all, “Carlisle has double responsibility now.”

When Carlisle turns around with a puzzled look on his face, Edward taps the tip of his nose. “You’re Uncle Carlisle to both Ed and Mary now. You have to protect them from the world.”

The boy’s eyes widen at the thought of taking care of two persons, but before he can say anything, Reneé says proudly, “Carlisle is going to be the best uncle to our children. I’m sure of it. Won’t you, Carlisle?”

The look of expectation on her face makes him nod. Yes, he’ll protect them with everything he has. He’ll be the best uncle ever!

Beep … Beep … BEEP!!!

The harsh sound of his alarm clock wakes Carlisle up from the recurring dream that haunts his every unconscious moment.

Like always, he closes his eyes and imagines Mary’s sweet face. “I’m so sorry, Mary,” he whispers into the empty room. “I’m sorry I let you down.”

Just then his phone starts to ring, bring him out of his stupor. One look at the caller id makes him regain his composure. Just a little more, Mary, and then Uncle Carlisle will protect you, he thinks as he pick up the call.


EPOV


My first day working undercover as Anthony Scott couldn’t be further from what I expected it to be. Instead of being shunted because of the shy and timorous newbie I was trying to portray myself as, Isabella allows me to trail after her as she rushes about the office like a spitfire. And I cannot help but feel more and more interested toward her despite Esme’s warning from the morning.

“Tony!” Isabella, or Bella as she asked me to address her as, calls my attention to herself.

“Me?” I ask, widening my eyes to magnify the effect of my clueless act.

She rolls her eyes. “No, I was calling for Tony Blair actually.” I cannot help but lift the corners of my mouth. She nods appreciatively. “That’s better. Now what are your plans for lunch?”

“Lunch?” I repeat confusedly.

Before I can say anything more, she lifts her hands in the universal signal for surrender and blurts out, “I’m not asking you out on a date. God no!”

God no!? I feel a little hurt by her way of saying that. Did she have someone else?

She of course reads into my silence and adds quickly, “Not that you’re not good looking or anything … it’s the opposite actually. You’re very handsome. It’s just … Um …” she looks panicked and then slaps a hand over her mouth. “I should stop speaking,” she mumbles from behind her hand.

When I continue to stare at her, wondering how the hell did we get here, she removes her hand from her mouth and says, “I was just offering to buy you lunch … as your supervisor or whatever.”

I decide to put her out of her misery and offer her a shy smile. “That would be great, Bella.”

She sighs in relief and suddenly, all awkwardness is gone and she’s grabbing my hand to lead me out of the office.

I know I shouldn’t, but I realize that I’m enjoying this new job way too much.


My impression of the perks of my new job evaporates into thin air when Bella takes me to lunch … at her father’s café.

“This here is my dad’s café,” she says, spreading her arms out. “You’re welcome to come over at any time.”

“No, no, he is not,” a stoic middle-aged man replies from behind her. The sight of his eyes narrowing at me, makes me feel flustered. I’m not used to having people stare at me since I spend most of my time working in the shadow. “Who are you, young man? And what are you doing with our Bells?” he asks me, walking past Bella and getting into my face.

“Eriiiiic,” Bella says, trying in vain to pull the man back. “Eric, cut it out. This is Tony.”

“Tony who?” another voice which I recognize as Eleazar Barone’s calls out from the direction of the staircase that connects the café to their home.

“Tony Scott,” Bella answers in an exasperated tone. She motions at me and says, “Tony joined Inside Out today, as a junior reporter.”

“Reporter and this matchstick?” The man name Eric snorts. “The boy’s hardly got muscles on his bones, Bells.”

Bella glowers at him. “Last time I checked, Eric, you don’t have to have muscles on your bones to be a reporter, only need muscles on your brain.”

Eric opens his mouth, but his retort dies down when Mr. Barone speaks. “Enough! Anthony, may I see you in my office?”

“But Dad,” Bella protests. “We have to get back to work soon.”

“We won’t be a minute, honey,” he says sweetly before turning his gaze onto me. “Come. Eric, you too.”

 


I watch like a deer caught in headlights as Eleazar Barone paces the room like an agitated lion. I wait for him to open his mouth and breath fire for he obviously seems angry at my association with his daughter.

“Hmph,” he huffs before coming to stand before me. I have to tilt my head up to get a good look at his face thanks to the low chairs in his office. “So you’re her partner now?” he asks at last.

“P-partner?” I repeat, keeping up with my act. “No, no, Sir, you’re mistaken. Ms. Barone is my mentor. She’s training me.”

“Good,” Eric says from somewhere to my left. “Ms. Barone, you say? Eleazar, the kid’s got manners, I gotta give him that.”

“Sush, Eric,” Eleazar says, his eyes focused on me. “So, boy,” he starts, “What I’m asking is will you be spending a lot of time with my daughter?”

“Yes,” I say before I catch the look of shock on Eric’s face and quickly change my answer. “Not really.”

“I’m guessing yes is the right answer,” Eleazar tells me knowingly. “Now then, if you’ll promise me a few things, we’ll get along just fine.”

“Of course, Sir.”

“First, you’ll make sure Bella doesn’t take any unnecessary risks. My daughter is a magnet for troubles, you can say. And I want you to promise me that you’ll protect her from herself.”

I nod. “I will, Sir.”

“Next, you’ll always treat her with respect.”

I nod again.

“Finally, you’ll not try to sweet talk your way into her heart because I want a strong man for my daughter.”

I blink. Why do they think I’m such a weakling? I wonder before I realize that I’ve purposefully chosen loose-fitting wardrobe to ensure my profile doesn’t match that of Virtuoso’s.

I gulp and then nod. “Sir, yes, Sir.”

He nods back. “As long as we understand each other, nice to meet you, boy. I’m Eleazar Barone.” He points to Eric and continues, “That’s Eric Yorkie, former pick-pocket whom I graciously saved from his previous livelihood and gave the job of a waiter in my café.”

“I’m Anthony Scott, Sir,” I introduce myself, pretending to be rightfully perplexed by Eric’s shady past. “Nice to meet you too.”

By the time I get back down to find Bella sitting at a table, I find out that despite his attempt at scaring me, I’m glad that Bella has Eleazar Barone as her father because the man truly loves his daughter.


A/N: Share your thoughts with me and leave a review.

Thanks for reading.

Take care.

A

 

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Anne Express: Virtuoso ~ Chapter:9

A/N: Thank you for your condolences. Please keep my family in your prayers, whichever religion you follow.

 


Chapter-9: Phones


Chp9

EPOV


“This doesn’t feel right.”

Silently, I place a dollop of hair gel on the palm of my hand and start applying it on my hair, trying to calm the perpetual chaotic mess it is.

“This is so wrong.”

As I start brushing my fingers through my hair, I finally break down and say, “You can admit you’re worried about me, Es.”

A huffing noise comes through the speaker. “Oh please! Why would I be worried for your sorry ass? You can go and get yourself in trouble as you like, just don’t expect me to come save you.” A few seconds pass before she bursts out, “Of course I worry about you, you silly boy! We may have a business relationship but you’re like my little brother … like the only family I’ve got.”

I can’t help the smile that comes over my face. “Now now, Esme Platt. Don’t go soft on me.”

“Shut it, Masen,” she snarks, calling me by my real name. “Let someone care for you for once!”

Holding my hands up in surrender, I nod. “Care away, ma’am.”

Once my hair looks completely different from its natural state, I pick up the earpiece from its case and start to put it in when I ask Esme, “Will you be listening to everything that happens at the newspaper office?”

“You’re damn right I will,” she responds. “Don’t forget the glasses. They’ll let me see through the camera installed in them.”

Heaving a sigh, I carefully put on the glasses and then grin. “This feels very Clark Kent, you know?”

“As long as you don’t go and fall for Lois Lane.”

I don’t answer to her teasing as my mind goes to the mysterious DNA girl. What would it be like to work with her … to not have to hide in the shadows? To actually show her my face?

“Virtuoso …” Esme calls my name, a warning clear in her voice. “Don’t even think of it.”

“Think of what?”

“Our work isn’t right for having a social life, kid,” she says, there’s sympathy in her tone. “Unless she’ll go to the island you want to retire to, don’t go and get your heart broken. It’s not worth it.”

Closing my eyes, I picture my angel from my dream and nod. “Yeah. I understand.”

“You’re a good guy, Edward,” Esme tells me. “Go and find out who wanted to get you in trouble, Kid.”

I offer her a mock salute and sling the bag containing my usual change of black clothes on my shoulder to pull off my nerdy look. “Aye aye, ma’am.”

It’s show time. Anthony Scott is about to make his appearance.


BPOV


The morning after my report about Rosalie hit the world, the office of Inside Out keeps buzzing with the sound of ringing phones. Angela, our receptionist glowers at me as I walk in. “You owe us a lot, Bella,” she says.

I cringe. “Is it that bad?”

She nods somberly. “It’s the webstory with the highest number of hits till date. Ben’s going crazy trying to keep the server from collapsing.” Then she grins at me. “You won’t believe how many hits you got, girl. You’re the superstar journalist who got the scoop first.”

I pull a face. “Bet Leah doesn’t feel that way.”

“No, she doesn’t …” a voice says from behind me that turns out to be Leah. Our Editor stands there with her hands on either sides of her hips and continues, “I’m still wondering whether to punish you for going behind my back or applaud you for having the balls to do so.”

“Well …” I start. “You know … because of this the tabloid is getting good exposure …”

She holds one finger up to my face. “Zip it, Barone. I’ve already got a job for you as a form of punishment.” She moves a little to the left to reveal a man standing behind her. Bespectacled and with his autumn-colored hair brushed back, he looks like a male model … for the geek magazine, maybe, but definitely a model.

“This is Anthony Scott,” Leah says, gesturing to him with her hand. “Anthony, this is Isabella Barone, sadly one of the brightest reporters we have.” She pretends to ignore the 100-watt smile I offer her and continues, “Isabella will be in charge of training you. And you …” she turns to me. “Train him well. He’s our newest member.”

I nod and hold a hand out to Anthony. “Nice to meet you.”

He takes my hand and shakes it vigorously. “Nice to meet you too, ma’am.”

I can’t help but blush at the formal tone of his greeting. “Isabella or Bella is fine,” I tell him. “May I call you Tony?”

He nods. “Yes, ma’am … I mean Ms. Bella.” I watch as the tips of his ears reddens and I can’t hold back my smile. “We’re going to get along great,” I tell him. “Welcome to Inside Out.” As I’m leading him inside to introduce him to the rest of the staff, I can’t help but hope that behind his recruitment is Leah’s interest to expand our business beyond the realms of entertainment.

A girl can hope, right?

 


A/N: A shorter chapter this time, but I promise the next one will make up for it.

Share your thoughts with me and leave a review.

Thanks for reading.

 

See you on Wednesday.

Love,

A

 

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