Well, that explained why J didn't know what Alice looked like.

"Hold on," I said.

This was luck. I had several family pictures shoved in my wallet, and the perfect one - Jacob holding Renesmee on the front porch steps - was only a month old. Alice had given it to me just a few days before... Oh. Maybe there wasn't that much luck involved after all. Alice knew I had this picture. Maybe she'd even had some dim flash that I would need it before she gave it to me.

"Here you go."

J examined the picture for a moment. "Your daughter is very like you."

I tensed. "She's more like her father."

"Who is not this man." He touched Jacob's face.

My eyes narrowed, and new sweat beads popped out on J's shiny head.

"No. That is a very close friend of the family."

"Forgive me," he mumbled, and the pen began scratching again. "How soon will you need the documents?"

"Can I get them in a week?"

"That's a rush order. It will cost twice as - but forgive me. I forgot with whom I was speaking."

Clearly, he knew Jasper.

"Just give me a number."

He seemed hesitant to say it aloud, though I was sure, having dealt with Jasper, he must have known that price wasn't really an object. Not even taking into consideration the bloated accounts that existed all over the world with the Cullens' various names on them, there was enough cash stashed all over the house to keep a small country afloat for a decade; it reminded me of the way there were always a hundred fishhooks in the back of any drawer at Charlie's house. I doubted anyone would even notice the small stack I'd removed in preparation for today.

J wrote the price down on the bottom of the legal pad.

I nodded calmly. I had more than that with me. I unclasped my bag again and counted out the right amount - I had it all paper-clipped into five-thousand-dollar increments, so it took no time at all.

"There."

"Ah, Bella, you don't really have to give me the entire sum now. It's customary for you to save half to ensure delivery."

I smiled wanly at the nervous man. "But I trust you, J. Besides, I'll give you a bonus - the same again when I get the documents."

"That's not necessary, I assure you."

"Don't worry about it." It wasn't like I could take it with me. "So HI meet you here next week at the same time?"

He gave me a pained look. "Actually, I prefer to make such transactions in places unrelated to my various businesses."

"Of course. I'm sure I'm not doing this the way you expect."

"I'm used to having no expectations when it comes to the Cullen family." He grimaced and then quickly composed his face again. "Shall we meet at eight o'clock a week from tonight at The Pacifico? It's on Union Lake, and the food is exquisite."

"Perfect." Not that I would be joining him for dinner. He actually wouldn't like it much if I did.

I rose and shook his hand again. This time he didn't flinch. But he did seem to have some new worry on his mind. His mouth was pinched up, his back tense.

"Will you have trouble with that deadline?" I asked.

"What?" He looked up, taken off guard by my question. "The deadline? Oh, no. No worries at all. I will certainly have your documents done on time."

It would have been nice to have Edward here, so that I would know what J's real worries were. I sighed. Keeping secrets from Edward was bad enough; having to be away from him was almost too much.

"Then HI see you in one week."

34. DECLARED

I heard the music before I was out of the car. Edward hadn't touched his piano since the night Alice left. Now, as I shut the car door, I heard the song morph through a bridge and change into my lullaby. Edward was welcoming me home.

I moved slowly as I pulled Renesmee - fast asleep; we'd been gone all day - from the car. We'd left Jacob at Charlie's - he'd said he was going to catch a ride home with Sue. I wondered if he was trying to fill his head with enough trivia to crowd out the image of the way my face had looked when I'd walked through Charlie's door.

As I walked slowly to the Cullen house now, I recognized that the hope and uplift that seemed almost a visible aura around the big white house had been mine this morning, too. It felt alien to me now.

I wanted to cry again, hearing Edward play for me. But I pulled it together. I didn't want him to be suspicious. I would leave no clues in his mind for Aro if I could help it.

Edward turned his head and smiled when I came in the door, but kept playing.

"Welcome home," he said, as if this was just any normal day. As if there weren't twelve other vampires in the room involved in various pursuits, and a dozen more scattered around somewhere. "Did you have a good time with Charlie today?"

"Yes. Sorry I was gone so long. I stepped out to do a little Christmas shopping for Renesmee. I know it won't be much of an event, but..." I shrugged.

Edward's lips turned down. He quit playing and spun around on the bench so that his whole body was facing me. He put one hand on my waist and pulled me closer. "I hadn't thought much about it. If you want to make an event of it - "

"No," I interrupted him. I flinched internally at the idea of trying to fake more enthusiasm than the bare minimum. "I just didn't want to let it pass without giving her something."

"Do I get to see?"

"If you want. It's only a little thing."

Renesmee was completely unconscious, snoring delicately against my neck. I envied her. It would have been nice to escape reality, even for just a few hours.

Carefully, I fished the little velvet jewelry bag from my clutch without opening the purse enough for Edward to see the cash I was still carrying.

P/S: Copyright -->www_Novel12_Com

***