DISCLAIMER: ALL THINGS TWILIGHT BELONG TO STEPHENIE MEYER.
A/N: Thank you so much to my beta, JustineNicole and my ore-reader, SherLynn.
Chapter 8: First Steps
The sun in my eye rouses me to consciousness. I'm used to waking up before dawn, so sleeping in is a rare treat.
Edward is still asleep next to me as I stretch my arms above my head.
I slip quietly from bed and head to the bathroom. Physically, I look the same as I gaze at my reflection in the mirror, but on the inside I feel so different—light...like I'm smiling from deep within.
I creep out of the bathroom once I'm finished and find my clothes where I dropped them last night.
Edward is still asleep, stretched out on his stomach, one arm hanging off the bed and blankets pulled just up over his behind.
I can't help but smile as I pull on my clothes, being as quiet as I can.
I feel odd as I tiptoe down the stairs to the kitchen.
I try to make as little sound as I can as I open the cupboards and refrigerator, looking for something to make for breakfast.
Edward doesn't have a large variety of food, but he does have eggs, milk, and bread. French toast and eggs it is.
It only takes me a few minutes to get food going and have the kitchen filled with the smells of cinnamon, vanilla, and brewing coffee.
I hear the telltale sound of feet on the stairs and soon see Edward rounding the corner in to the kitchen.
"Wow...smells great down here," he says with a yawn, scrubbing a hand through his hair.
"Coffee?" I ask him, reaching for a mug.
"Umm, no thanks, I don't really care for it. I'll make some tea."
"I can make it. Where are the tea bags?" I ask, starting to open cupboards.
"No tea bags," he says with a chuckle, taking the kettle from the stove, filling it with water and turning on the heat.
I start dishing up the food as I watch him pull a small canister from the pantry.
He sets the canister down and pulls a small metal mesh ball on a delicate chain from the dish drainer.
I have seen it many times, but never knew what it was for.
I set the plates of food at the breakfast bar while he packs loose tea leaves into the little ball and pops it into a plain brown teapot that he pulls from the cupboard.
I have always thought of tea as being such an elegant thing, a pursuit of ladies in dresses. Edward is in no way elegant as he shuffles barefoot around the kitchen, but there is a certain Zen to what he is doing, a calming process to his motions.
When the kettle on the stove whistles he pours the steaming water into the teapot and sits on the stool next to me.
"This is great," he says with a smile, taking a huge bite of French toast.
I return his smile; it feels good to be appreciated.
When he's half finished with his food, he rises and takes a cup from the cupboard and pours the tea from the pot.
"You want some?" he asks.
I'm not usually one for tea, but since he made some, I'll give it a try. I feel bad for wasting all that coffee, though. I wonder why he has it if he doesn't drink it.
"How would you like yours?" he asks, filling a second cup.
"However you have yours."
He puts a cube of sugar in each cup and then pulls cream from the fridge, adding a splash.
He returns to his stool, handing me the cup of tea. I have never seen tea made in this way. I always thought it was just a microwaved cup of water with a teabag floating in it, and the slightly stale taste of it never appealed to me.
I took a sip of the steaming liquid and am surprised at how good it is. This is nothing like any tea I've ever had before.
"This is delicious. What kind of tea is this?"
"Earl Grey…it's my favorite."
"I'll have to remember that," I tell him, smiling over my cup as I take another sip.
"Tea is about the only thing I make well," he says.
"I know. I remember your grilled cheese."
I look over at him and can't help but laugh at the look of mock offense on his face.
A loud knock on the door pulls our eyes from each other.
Edward looks up at the clock on the stove and swears quietly as he heads to the door.
I feel a bit uncomfortable as I sit pushing my food around my plate. Perhaps he's regretting that I'm still here.
"You forgot, didn't you?" I hear an unfamiliar voice say.
"Yeah, I did. Come on in. I've got to shower real quick and then I'll be ready," Edward responds.
I hear the door close and footsteps nearing me.
"I smell coffee."
The new voice is very deep and a bit louder than Edward's soft voice.
"You lucked out today, you don't have to make your own. Bella made a pot this morning."
The man following Edward dwarfs him in size. He's a head taller then him and twice as wide, and it doesn't appear he has an inch of fat on him.
"Bella, this is Emmett McCarty, my bodyguard. Emmett, this is Bella, my girlfriend."
A smile crosses his face at the word girlfriend and I can't help but return his smile.
"Nice to meet you, Bella," Emmett says, shaking my hand quickly before going to pour himself a cup of coffee.
"I completely forgot I have an interview today," Edward says, taking my hand.
"No problem, I'll hurry up and get out of here," I tell him, standing up immediately.
"Hey," he says sliding his arms around my waist, "take your time, finish your breakfast. There's no rush. Obviously I trust you in my house."
"I don't want to be a both-"
Edward's hand clamps over my mouth. "You could never be a bother, Bella."
His lips replace his hand and he pulls me closer to him.
Emmett clears his throat loudly.
"Still here," he says.
Edward pulls away chuckling and I bury my face against his chest. Edward is far too easy to get lost in. I completely forgot Emmett was here.
"Do you have plans tonight?" Edward asks me.
It feels nice to have no plans - I can't even remember the last time that happened.
"Riley and I are going out tonight, will you come with us?"
"Oh...um...are you sure? I...don't want to intrude on your time with your friend."
"Bella, we're dating now, you'll never be an intrusion."
"Okay, sure. How nice do I need to dress?"
"What you're wearing now is fine," he says.
"I have a hole in my jeans and I wore this shirt all yesterday."
"I think you look great. I'll just be in jeans and a tee, maybe a jacket."
"I think I can handle that," I tell him with a smile.
Edward leans in again, placing a soft kiss on my lips before pulling away and heading upstairs.
I move back to my stool, poking awkwardly at my food.
"I don't bite, you know," Emmett says after several moments of silence.
I nod, not sure how to follow that up. My lameness knows no bounds.
"So, you're the maid, huh?" Emmett says, amusement clear on his face.
"I was...I'm not anymore."
"You're from Washington State, right?" he asks.
"That's where I moved from."
"Never been up there, heard it's real pretty, though," he says, swallowing the last of his coffee and setting the cup in the sink.
"It is...I miss it," I say quietly, my mind drifting to what Dad and the kids must be doing now.
I imagine they're finished with breakfast now and I'm sure Charlie and Billy are probably taking them fishing.
"I'm going to head back out to the car, send him out when he's dressed. Nice to meet you, Bella, I'll be seeing you around."
I set to cleaning up the kitchen as soon as the door shuts.
It's only a few minutes until I heard Edward's footsteps on the stairs.
"So Riley, Garrett, and I will see you later. Pick you up at your place about nine—that work?" Edward says, walking into the kitchen.
"Yeah, he's my driver too. Probably best if I don't drive myself. After last night, I'm more than happy to leave that chore in Garrett's capable hands. He's good with evasion."
Obviously, I knew Garrett worked for Edward, but I never really thought about what he did for him, besides shuttle me back and forth.
"Yeah, nine works. Where are we going?"
"It's a surprise," he says, pulling me to him once again.
I can't help but smile up at him, his thinly veiled enthusiasm for his planned surprise is really adorable.
"Yeah, he said he'll be waiting in the car."
"Alright, I better get going before Emmett comes and drags me out the door," he says, stepping closer to give me one more kiss.
"Bye." I wave as he heads for the door.
"I'll send Garrett back with the car after he drops me off," Edward says right before he walks out.
When the door shuts, I jog up the stairs to the bedroom.
Even though my time as Edward's housekeeper is over, I still go ahead and make the bed and throw his clothes in the washing machine.
I decide to run the vacuum while the washer runs and by the time I'm putting the clothes in the dryer, I hear a tentative knock on the door.
I hesitate a moment, unsure if I should answer.
The knock sounds again, accompanied by a voice this time. It's Garrett.
"Why are you knocking?" I ask him when I open the door.
"Edward told me to make sure I knock and not go in until you answer...in case you were in the shower."
"Oh, ok...um, just let me grab my purse real quick."
"I'll be in the car; take your time," Garrett says.
It only takes me a few minutes to collect my purse and leave Edward a note telling him where he can find his laundry.
The ride back to my car is quiet. I'm not really sure what to say, so I opt to say nothing.
"I'll see you later, Bella," Garrett says once he's seen me safely to my van.
My mind is turning as I make my way home. What do I tell Mrs. Cope?
I suppose the truth is the best option, I just hope she won't think less of me for the particulars of losing this client.
Shelly meets me in the driveway as soon as I step out of the car. She must have been watching at the window.
"I've been so worried. Are you okay?"
After apologizing repeatedly for not calling, I explain what happened last night.
Her reaction is the last thing I expect. She laughs out loud, doubling over and grasping the car for support.
"Oh, honey, I'm so sorry to laugh, but I wish you could see your face. You're about to piss yourself with nerves. Sweetheart, as long as he's good to you, that's all that matters."
"I hope this doesn't make a big problem for you," I say, feeling relief slowly replace my shock.
"We'll get it figured out, and I'll find a new client for you."
After giving her a hug, I head up to my place and straight for the shower.
Once finished with my shower I look for something to wear, and I swear it takes me an hour to find something I'm satisfied with.
I turn around several times, studying my reflection in the mirror. I've had these pants for awhile and never wore them before. They're tight, with a sheen to the material. I smooth my hand over the black, cottony material, hoping they aren't to much. I can't even say what possessed me to buy them in the first place, but I'm glad now I have them.
My top is a dark gray tank, covered in silver sequins, not something I would have picked for myself, but the kids got it for me for my birthday.
Thinking of the kids sets my mind to wondering exactly how I will tell them about Edward.
Obviously, over the phone won't do, so I'll have to think of the best way to tell them when they get home on Saturday.
I'm sure Seth will be thrilled, he already likes Edward, but I'm not as sure of Leah's reaction.
Nine pm arrives before I know it. I decide to wait outside on the stairs so I can see them coming.
Not two minutes after my rear hits the step, headlights advance up the driveway.
I know it's Edward; no one comes to the house this late.
He steps out of the car as I make my way down the stairs.
"Wow, Bella! You look...stunning."
I whisper my thanks as I take his offered hand and step into the waiting vehicle.
Climbing inside, I see this isn't the typical SUV. The two additional rows of seating are facing each other, more like a limousine.
Riley is stretched out on one seat and I take the seat across from him as Edward slides in next to me.
Riley has a slight smirk on his lips when I tell him hello—obviously Edward's and my relationship is no secret to him.
Edward slips his arm around my shoulder, pulling me even closer to him. I can't even remember the last time I was on a date. Heck, I'm not sure if Jake ever took me on a proper date.
I try my best not to feel completely out of place as Garrett winds his way through the streets, heading back towards the mountains of Santa Monica.
Riley pulls us out of the awkward silence filling the car.
"So, can I ask a personal question, Bella?"
"How old are you? I'm guessing mid-thirties."
"You're a little off," I tell him with a laugh. "I'm thirty-one, so not quite mid-thirties."
The smirk on Riley's face is telling, and I get the impression he and Edward have discussed our age difference.
"Ignore him," Edward whispers, though loudly enough for Riley to hear.
Riley is unfazed, casually flipping Edward the bird as the SUV comes to a stop.
The place we're stopped in front of is a little three-story dive in what appears to be a regular business district. A small flower shop and a packaging store flank the door Garrett stops in front of.
"I'll call you when we're ready to leave," Edward says to Garrett.
"Sure thing, boss."
Riley leads the way out followed by me and then Edward, his hand resting softly at the small of my back.
Walking inside, I expect to see a dingy, rundown place. What meets my eyes is a complete shock.
Past the ordinary door is a large, wooden reception counter with a well-dressed man behind it. The dusty blue walls are covered in exquisite art and the herringbone wood floor is decorated with plush rugs.
Edward guides us to the reception counter and hands the man a red card with a black palm tree on it.
"Welcome back, Mr. Cullen. Please sign for your guests," the man says after he runs Edward's card through a reader.
Edward scribbles his name where indicated and we are directed to proceed at our leisure.
I gawk openly as Edward leads me up the opulent staircase just past the reception desk.
The next floor is equally impressive. Cozy tables with overstuffed arm chairs are scattered throughout the room, as well as groupings of plump couches.
We weave our way through the room; I recognize a few people and I make a point of not staring.
Edward leads us to an elevator and we ride up to the third floor.
My breath is taken away as we step from the elevator. The previous two floors were light and airy, this floor is darker and thumping with music.
A bar stretches across one wall, the two remaining walls are made of glass, affording a view of both the ocean and the twinkling lights of Los Angeles in the distance.
Beyond one of the glass walls lies an absolutely beautiful rooftop garden that we head straight for.
Olive trees are scattered across the space with wicker globe lights hanging from the branches.
Small wooden tables dot the area, tea candles flickering on the tabletops.
Edward picks a table in the corner and holds my chair as I sit down.
"This place is amazing," I say looking around me. "Where are we?"
"The famed and exclusive Palm Room," Riley says, pulling a cigarette from his jacket pocket and sliding it in his mouth and lighting it.
I've heard of the Palm Room in celebrity interviews I've read.
"Is this place okay?" Edward asks nervously.
"Are you kidding? It's like out of a movie, I've never seen a more beautiful place."
He reaches for my hand as a waitress approaches the table.
"What would you like?" Edward asks me.
"I don't know what they have," I tell him, seeing no menu on the table.
"They'll have anything you want, Bella."
This many options has me feeling a bit overwhelmed and I just tell him I'll have whatever he's having.
He orders all of us a round of lagers and also some waters.
"How did the interview go?" I ask him.
"Okay, I guess," he says with a deep sigh.
"That's not convincing."
"It went the same as they all go—idiot questions about who I'm with, my favorite clubs, what I like to eat, and maybe one question about the movie I'm currently filming and nothing about James Bond."
I was so curious what he said to the dating question, but I don't have the guts to ask.
"I'm sorry. Do you have any choice in the interviews you do? Or the questions they ask?"
"Some choice in in the ones I go to, not really any choice in the questions they ask. Maria tends to schedule me for more interviews than I would like to give, sometimes it feels like I've repeated the same things a thousand times."
"Can't you just refuse? She does work for you, after all."
Riley starts to applaud, drawing the gaze of the few people in the garden.
"Thank you! I've been telling him that for awhile."
Edward looks a bit sheepish as he fiddles with his phone.
"She's just trying to help my career."
"She's just trying to make you into a puppet she can make money off of," Riley says.
This is clearly a subject that has come up before.
The waitress comes back with our drinks and Edward takes a long pull from his bottle of beer.
"So, other than dumb questions, it went alright?
"Yeah, and there was a photo shoot. I hated the clothes they put me in—I looked stupid."
I can't help but laugh at the expression on his face.
"Will I get to see them?"
"They'll be in Rolling Stone next month."
"I can't wait," I tell him, taking a swig of my beer.
"I can. It mortifies me that the whole world will see them."
"Are they really that bad?"
"The article is called 'The Making of a Sex Symbol."
"You don't see yourself that way?" I ask, legitimately curious.
Both Edward and Riley snort with laughter.
"Umm, not even a little. I'm not in good enough shape to be a sex symbol, that's going to have to change a bit, though—they want me in better shape to play Bond."
"For what it's worth, I think you look great."
Edward blushes and Riley laughs.
"I'm going to head up to the bar...leave you two love birds alone," Riley says, pushing his chair back and grabbing his beer.
As soon as Riley is gone Edward scoots his chair closer to mine and takes my hand in his.
"I missed you today."
His words make me smile—it's nice to be missed.
"I missed you, too."
"I've been thinking about you all day. I think I've literally been counting the minutes until tonight."
I'm sure how to respond to that, but it feels great to be wanted.
"How was the rest of your day?" he asks, as his fingers stroke the back of my hand.
"Good, didn't really do much. It felt kinda weird having free time, I don't get that often."
"I've never done it before, but I can watch your kids for you if you ever need some alone time or something."
Wow, is he for real?
"Thanks, I think I'm okay in that regard."
"I don't mind. Besides, I want to know your kids better."
Seriously, am I dreaming? All the years I spent trying to get Jake to care to no avail, and Edward is a natural.
"Maybe dinner together when they get back from Washington?"
"Great! You can bring them out to the house for the day, they can swim, hang out—whatever they want."
"They'll love that, thank you."
"Are you hungry?" he asks.
"I could eat."
Edward waves the waitress over and orders a Pizza Margherita.
"Oh, I almost forgot to tell you—I think I found a job for you," Edward tells me excitedly.
"Really? That was quick. I didn't know if you were really serious about that."
"I don't say things I don't mean, Bella."
I feel a bit embarrassed; it wasn't my intent to imply he is anything but honest.
"I called a script writer friend of mine. He's been talking about needing help, so I asked if he would be willing to talk to you."
"Wow, thank you...really, it means a lot. I need to work...I need the money."
"I have plenty, you know."
"I know," I tell him. "I wouldn't feel comfortable asking."
"I respect that, but if you ever need anything - it's there."
I nod, knowing I'll never ask.
The waitress returns with our pizza, serving us each a slice.
It looks and smells wonderful and when I take a bite I can't help but moan just a little bit. It's, hands down, the best slice of pizza I've ever had.
Riley wanders back to the table when we're almost finished, but there's still plenty of pizza left for him.
"You ready to go, or do you want to stick around?" Edward asks me as Riley wolfs down two slices of pizza.
"I'm ready whenever you are," I tell him.
"Same here, mate—lead the way."
"Let me call Garrett," Edward says pulling out his phone. "We're ready to go."
His expression changes as he listens and he mumbles, "Fuck."
"Paparazzi?" Riley questions.
"Yeah. I have no idea how they knew we were here."
Edward reaches for my hand, looking me in the eye. "There is no way to the car except past the cameras. I'll warn you, they are rude and they are pushy. Best thing you can do is hold tight to my hand, keep your head down and don't respond to anything they might say."
I nod as he starts walking us back inside. We wind our way back down to the reception area and Edward calls Garrett again to confirm he's right outside.
"Have the door open, we'll be running. I'll go first," Edward tells me, shoving his phone back in his pocket. "Riley will be right behind you."
He opens the door and the flash of the cameras is blinding.
Edward pulls me along behind him, and I can feel Riley's hand on my back, keeping me moving forward.
Questions are being yelled out in rapid succession, voice over voice, but some definitely stand out.
"What's your name?"
"Are you a prostitute?"
"Are you dating Edward?"
"Are you sleeping with both of them?"
I try not to listen as I keep my head down, watching my step. It's hard to ignore it all, though, they're so close, pushing right up against us, trying to block Edward's way to the car.
It feels like it takes forever before we're climbing in the car, though I know it can only be a matter of moments.
The cameras don't stop even after Garrett shuts the door.
Faces are pressed against the window - it's overwhelming and all I want to do is hide. I can feel Edward's hand rubbing along my back as Garrett begins to maneuver the car away, horn blaring at paparazzi standing in the road.
"Are you okay?" Edward asks.
I take a deep breath to steady myself.
"Yeah. That was just...scary."
"I know. I'm sorry."
Garrett weaves expertly through the streets, doubling back and twisting through side streets. I assume he's trying to assure we aren't followed.
"You know paparazzi are kind of a normal thing with me - I'll understand if you don't think you can deal with that."
I place my hand over his and look up to meet his eyes, saddened by the defeated look he's trying to hide.
"You're not going to scare me away that easy."
Edward smiles widely before leaning in to kiss me softly.
"You're staying with me tonight, right?" he asks, a hint of begging in his voice.
I nod, loving the twinkle in his eye and the smirk on his lips. I'm looking forward to not getting much sleep tonight.
It's almost a half hour later before we're pulling up to Edward's house.
Riley follows us inside and heads straight for the guest room as Edward pulls me toward the stairs.
Edward's lifestyle will take some getting used to, but I'm so glad I said yes to him. I already feel special and, more importantly, I feel wanted. It's a new and wonderful feeling.