Something's Gotta Give
Bella tapped her fingers on the steering wheel in time with the song on the radio. Bertha, her big, blue truck, roared down the town's main street, cutting a path through the rain-slickened asphalt. Summer rain was her favorite kind of weather, but it made for dangerous conditions. The four-lane road wasn't too busy due to the late hour.
The mountain community wasn't a large city, but tourists demanded that they accommodate during the season.
The crinkle from the plastic bag on the passenger seat reminded her of the reward she would receive once she got home. When she realized she'd run out of all flavors of creamy gelato she had, a late night run down the mountain was a necessity since the local place closed at eight.
After working all afternoon on a project, she needed the icy goodness the same way she needed air. She also wanted the sugar rush to enable her to work the rest of the night so she could load all the pictures she'd taken onto her laptop and her cloud drive.
Running beside her on the left was a sleek black car, some fancy brand that she hardly paid attention to—a BMW maybe—but she was clueless. It looked expensive. The windows weren't tinted, and inside, she saw a handsome, older man, chowing down on a meatball sandwich. It was only a second or two, but it was enough of a glimpse to see he had sauce all over his mouth.
The sight almost made her honk her horn to tell the idiot to pay attention. She'd seen too many serious accidents since she lived on Dead Man's Corner back home, a nickname earned after several fatal accidents over the years.
She rolled her eyes at herself.
Even after all this time, six years since her dad died, she still was the Chief's daughter, through and through. The traffic picked up as she neared the intersection of Cross Street and Jackson Ave.
The light overhead turned a brilliant red.
She had moved from a big city out to the middle of nowhere California. In the three months since then, she'd gotten to know many locals. Since she'd been traveling for the last month, she hadn't met them all, but eventually, she would.
She started to slow down, but the fancy car beside her kept on going. After a two-second glance at the driver, she saw that he was distracted. His gaze was on her, and his once crisp white shirt was now stained red with sauce.
His hands reached for his throat.
"For the love of God!" she cried out. "You're choking now! Now! This is what happens when you eat while driving!" His eyes nearly bugged out as he noticed her shaking a fist at him. She turned her attention to the road and realized he was about to head right into Demetri, a local truck driver whose semi was now in the intersection.
She cursed as she swerved, thanking her godfather, Marcus, for the laps at the track whenever she visited in her youth. Her tires burned rubber streaks onto the asphalt, the brakes screeching an unholy wail as her life practically flashed before her eyes.
She realized something as it happened.
She needed to have more sex.
Her lack of a love life was all Paul's fault. The three-minute wonder left her always wanting more…though, not from him. The three months they dated over a year ago, now seemed like such a waste of time and money, once the cost of the condoms he made her buy was added in.
As her hair whipped across her face, she caught up to the present, and suddenly, the sound of metal against metal bounced around in her ears. Glass exploded on her right and her entire back window shattered, forcing her shoulders to curl forward and up for protection. She cried out as the black bitch of a car threatened to push her into the intersection's traffic. It halted after a foot or so, her truck coming back to a full stop, bouncing once as her tires hit the ground. She groaned as her head throbbed to an equivalent of an oncoming migraine. It took another second or two for her to get her bearings and see that the man was still choking.
"Why do I have to be such a nice person?" she whined.
She crawled along the seat to the passenger side and had to shove hard to get it opened. Huffing and puffing, cursing something awful, she ran toward Mr. Fancy Car and threw open the driver's door.
He was unconscious.
She was positive he was still choking when she was in her truck. Using two fingers, she checked for a pulse and found it to be thready. She looked down and noticed that his chest wasn't moving. She patted around him gently and felt no broken bones; the airbags had done their job well.
"Shit," she hissed and worked his seatbelt off. She apologized aloud when his head hit the side of the doorjamb, but he was heavy. Bella barely weighed a buck and a quarter. Though lean, the man in her arms had to be at least six feet tall. The nearest hospital was thirty minutes away, and she had no clue how long it would be for an ambulance.
"Omph," she said as she plopped on the ground, cushioning his fall. Her ass was going to bruise, no doubt about it. "You better live so I can slap you stupid for this!" She worked to shift him onto his back, and though a few bystanders joined her, no one knew how to Heimlich him.
She prayed she remembered.
It had been years since Mrs. Newtown insisted she take a CPR course before she took care of her two precious children. Bella had lovingly nicknamed them Thing 1 and Thing 2.
She bent over the man's prone form and breathed twice into his mouth.
"He's not getting the air, honey," a woman dressed in a waitress uniform said from behind her. "I think you're right, he's still got something lodged inside there."
Bella agreed and stuck her fingers in the man's mouth, ignoring that this was the most action she'd gotten in months. At least he was hot, despite the marinara all over his chin. She found the culprit, a golf ball, sized meatball, and pulled only half of it out.
She pushed in behind him and attempted a half-assed maneuver that popped the rest of the sucker out, but the man was still not breathing.
Someone had already called for an ambulance, but it seemed to be taking forever. However, in reality, it had been only three minutes since she had gotten him out of the car in an effort to save his life. A man helped her move Mr. Fancy Car onto his back again, and with Bella's instructions, helped her begin CPR.
The wail of the approaching ambulance was a relief. If they had arrived a few moments earlier, then Mr. Fancy Car wouldn't have started coughing after the seventh set of compressions, and vomited all over her chest.
Esme Cullen had hugged Bella as if she walked on water. There were many tears, some thankful words, several pats on the back, and an awkward, "I'm sorry I leaked all over your shirt."
Mr. Fancy Car turned out to be Carlisle Cullen, an ER doctor at the hospital Bella was in right then, and apparently, some sort of God there. All his colleagues shook her hand so much, she wondered if a teenage boy felt that way once he figured out Rosy Palmer could take care of his needs.
Her wrist actually hurt!
If that Dr. Aro Donatello patted her ass one more time while she waited for news, she was going to kick him in the shins and punch him in the nuts. The dude was creepy as hell with his shoulder length, dark hair styled in a widow's peak. He spoke as though he was from the fifteenth century, but giggled like a child.
She shuddered at the thought of him.
She wiped her hand on her thigh, hoping to find one of those hand sanitizer things most hospitals had everywhere. They'd been there for an hour, and still no word on Mr. Fancy Car's condition. Though he had started breathing on the scene, after vomiting, he had yet to wake up.
She began to tear up the tissues she had handy, something she did when she was anxious. There was now a mess on her lap, which she tossed in the trash and returned to the chair. She crossed her legs like a pretzel and tried to find her happy place. With her eyes closed, she hummed, but her happy place was nowhere to be found. She'd been all over the world, and yet, she couldn't think of one gorgeous, scenic place.
Bella attempted to lose herself in a memory of her last trip to Fiji, but a gruff voice interrupted her process. It was rough, as if he didn't use it often, but the tenor of it made a shiver run down her spine, and tiny bumps raise along her arms. He was asking about Dr. Cullen at the nurse's station agitated for some reason. Then she remembered that Esme had said something about her son coming down from his cabin, almost an hour away from civilization.
She ran her fingers through her long brown hair, thankful that a couple of nurses helped her clean it up. Her thick curls saved her from the auto glass, managing to escape the accident with a few minor cuts and bruises. Her ass hurt, though, so she took a moment to rub it.
Under the cover of meditating, she peeked at the man who had a set of gorgeous parents. She needed to look at him for no other reason than to curb her curiosity. She had to know what Dr. Hot Fancy Car and Mama Mia created with their beautiful love.
Did he look like an angel?
Would the cloudy sky open up and sun shine down directly over him?
Bella took a moment to make sure she hadn't hit her head. She was losing it! A quick rub down of her scalp confirmed she couldn't blame her craziness on a concussion. She had an unusually odd and quirky personality; her father used to say she got from her grandmother. The truth was, it the artist in them.
The man stood at the high counter, glaring down at a tiny blonde nurse, hands on the surface, almost breathing fire at her. He was about six-three, with broad shoulders and a trim waist and hips. Thick thighs dressed in well-worn jeans, muddied from the work boots that came up to his knees. His biceps tested the stretching capability of the thermal, grey shirt he wore to its limits. She had a thing for nice arms and thighs.
"Can you tell me anything?" he asked briskly.
Bella's gaze finally reached his face and was surprised to find a thick beard covering most of his jawline. Various colors adorned it, ranging from dark brown to auburn, and he looked like the perfect model for Mountain Man Magazine if there was such a thing. His hair was long on top, but shorter along the sides and back. It curled around his ears, and some of it fell over his left eye, giving him one hell of a sexy, manly quality.
He was the last thing she expected, considering the suit-wearing doctor and his sexy, designer-wearing wife. Yet, he was beautiful in his own way.
"That's the woman that hit your father's car," the nurse said, pointing toward Bella. The bitch was toast, Bella thought, silently cursing her. Gypsy blood ran in her veins and Nurse Jane would rue the day she set the bull on her.
The man at the counter, whose name Bella couldn't remember, turned his sea-glass, green eyes in her direction. They turned into dark shards, pissed as hell and aimed directly at her.
She felt as if she was the waving red cape used in a bullfight as a bull readied to charge its enemy. The man slowly turned his body around to face her, and ensnared her with his stare. She felt trapped in it, and the look simultaneously hardened her nipples and chilled her to the bone.
She had a gift for words.
His stride was long, and in four of them, he reached her, towering overhead like a majestic oak tree.
"You need to leave," he hissed through clenched teeth. Confused, and a little too stunned by the smell of him, she didn't say a word. He smelled of pine needle soap, musk, and just male. She wanted to bottle the scent and steal the thermal he wore right off his body. "Are you fucking deaf, too? Clearly, you don't have your wits about you considering you hit my father's car!"
Shaking her head to clear her it, she returned his glare, though she doubted it amounted to much considering she was sitting in a chair with her legs folded, staring at his crotch.
It was right in front of her face! That was her defense, and she was sticking to it.
Her eyes ran up the length of him. She noticed the twitch of his muscles underneath the soft looking, grey cotton. His eyes narrowed when she finally met his glare with one of her own.
"I'm not going anywhere until I know if Dr. Fancy Car is okay."
His nostrils flared, a sign the bull was about to charge. She kinda wanted to let him. "Why the hell should you care, considering you're the one that put him here?"
Bella was confused. Didn't Esme tell him about the accident?
"Did you just call my father Dr. Fancy Car?" His arms crossed over his chest, and guiltily, she peeked to watch the play of his arms.
She snapped her head back up to his face and couldn't help but notice a vein starting to throb on his forehead. It shouldn't have been hot, but it was.
"I see. You figured out he's rich and now you think you can hit my father with a lawsuit," he sneered, bending down until his face was level with her. "Think again."
"You smell good."
Now, in Bella's defense, people often told her she spoke her mind. It didn't help that the man was radioactive in his hotness.
She was a sucker for a pretty face and beard, and great hair, and she couldn't forget the arms. As she thought of all that, her gaze took inventory again, memorizing every feature.
He had a scar above his left eyebrow, and there was a hint of one near his ear, but his beard covered it up. She wanted to lick it.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?"
That was a loaded question.
"Get up." He didn't give her a chance to protest, taking her arm and lifting her straight off the chair. Her mind chose that precise moment to become defensive, and she kicked his shin. "Fucking hell, woman. Are you certifiable?"
She tugged her arm from his grasp, putting her hands on her hips. "It depends on who you ask."
He got right up in her face again. "I don't find that hard to believe."
"Oh, you're just a piece of work, aren't you," she said, shaking her head. "I'm trying to tell you—"
"I don't care what you have to say, get the hell out of this hospital and stay away from my parents. You won't see a goddamn dime. Are you hearing me now, little girl?"
Too upset to gather her thoughts, she huffed, spun around, and stalked away. She even left him a parting word in the form of a bird behind her back.
Edward watched the crazy woman with part admiration and disgust. He'd seen the heap of blue metal that was her truck and how it managed to survive the accident while his father's front end hadn't made it. He'd seen it on the tow truck on the drive to the hospital. It was practically a total loss since it went against her tank.
Dressed in blue scrubs and denim cutoffs, she was cute and sexy. Petite, too; she barely reached his shoulder. It wouldn't save her ass, though. "I'll see you in court, brown eyes. I'll make sure of that, I promise."
The woman with the long, multi-faceted, brown hair and equally intriguing eyes spun back around and stomped her foot. Before she could say something, her demeanor changed. Going from anger to a look of fear as her eyes softened, and her hands rose to cover her mouth. Edward was an asshole, no sense in denying that fact. It kept people at a distance, just the way he liked it. However, he didn't like to frighten women, though his friend, Emmett, said he was scary looking.
"I thought I heard you, Edward," his mother said from behind him, followed by a sniffle. Any thought of remorse for scaring the stranger left him at that sound.
"Esme," the scorned woman said as Edward turned to speak with his mother. He sent the pint-sized terror a withering glare that had her retreating a step back. She got a hold of herself, though, and held her chin up high. "How's Carlisle doing?"
What the hell was going on? His mother was on a first name basis with the woman who caused the accident.
"He's fine, dear," his mother said softly, lifting a tissue to wipe her eyes. "He should be discharged by morning. I'm so glad you stayed. Have you met my son yet, Bella?"
"Oh, we've met," Bella said heatedly. "He told me to leave."
His mother's eyes widened, her hands settling on her hips. "Edward Anthony William Cullen, what did you say to her?"
Aware that the woman that tattled on him stood nearby, he answered his mother honestly. "She hit Dad with her truck."
"Of course she did," Esme answered, seemingly grateful for the fact. "It's more than anyone else would do in a situation like this."
"It was nothing," Bella said, shrugging it off as if putting his father in the hospital meant little to her. "Is Hot Doc all right?"
"Hot Doc?" his mother asked with a little amusement in her tone.
"Um, sorry," Bella said, blushing up to the tips of her ears. "It's what the nurses call him."
Frustrated that their conversation was leading them nowhere, Edward nearly growled. "I don't want this woman…"
"Hey, I'm right here!"
He thrust a finger in her direction to emphasize his point. "I don't want this woman anywhere near Dad. She put him in the hospital, so she shouldn't be here. I don't care if she sweet talked you into believing that she cares, she's leaving."
"You're right, I am," Bella said, swirling around again and walking out. She heard Esme protest, and as she turned the corner, she heard her lay it on him. Served the asshole right for making assumptions about why she hit his father's car. She hoped she never saw the hot mountain man again.
Bella's cell phone rang incessantly as she drove away, but she ignored it. Not many people had the new number besides her handler and Esme Cullen. She wouldn't receive a call, but a text from her handler, so that left Esme, but she wasn't in the mood to listen to her apologize for her rude son.
She stripped down to her birthday suit the moment she walked into her house, climbed the stairs, and flopped onto her bed. Her hand reached for a pillow, her body curling around it. She would not dream about Mountain Man, or hot green eyes, or of Edward chopping wood.
She would not, and as her eyes closed, she cursed the motherfucker for already being there, waiting, and offering a hand for her to take. He led her to a nearby creek, and with a wink, her clothes disappeared. After that, she slipped further into the dream and forgot about all the reasons she was angry with him.
Someone was going to die.
Whomever it was pounding outside, would die a thousand deaths.
Bella wasn't a normally violent person, unless you were a six-foot-three bearded God with arms of steel. Him, she'd like to kick again. Even in her dreams, the man pissed her off, never allowing her to get off.
She was hot and bothered with no man around. At that point, she considered making Edward a caution sign he could wear around his neck; Warning: all available and unavailable women and men to avoid staring into those eyes of his, or else you'll dream about him forever.
The man had only touched her arm, and though she was mad at the time, she hadn't forgotten how she felt at that moment. Heat curled her toes, desire sent her heart rate spiraling, and that look combined with his touch, obliterated the usefulness of her underwear.
She liked the yellow polka dot boy shorts.
Bam, bam, bam
She turned onto her back and screamed. "I need to sleep, asshole!" The pounding stopped for a few seconds and restarted just as loud, and now even faster. She screamed again, and tossed the blankets off walking over to her window.
She couldn't see who it was. Since the asshole contractor that stole her money was long gone, there shouldn't be anyone working on her home that week. Jacob Black was another one on her shit list, that she now realized she had an actual need for.
Bella's Shit List
Edward Cullen- for being too hot for his own good and an asshole
Jacob Black- for stealing $25,000 for materials and then disappearing
Paul Lahote- for having a five-inch dick he didn't know how to use
There were others, so Bella memorized her mental list as she continued to add to it and the ways she'd pay them all back for the shit they'd done to her. Okay, she could forgive Edward, and ask him to stay for breakfast the next morning. Damn, her mind was perpetually in the gutter lately.
Opening the window, she found the noisy culprit and shook her fist at the asshole hammering away on her porch.
"What the hell are you doing on my property?"
The figure on the ladder turned, and even under the thick, auburn shield of hair and beard, she saw Edward's eyes widen.
Then he fell off the ladder.
She stepped away from the window grimacing as she realized she was naked.
"You have a damn screw loose," Edward hissed at Bella. She was patching up a cut over his eyebrow after slapping an ice pack on his cheek. He swore his brain rattled in his head when he hit the railing. If anyone had seen that, he'd never live that shit down. At least the pain helped to remind him that he was angry with her.
He couldn't even look at her without the image of her completely naked superimposing itself over her clothed body. Not that the barely there shorts and tank top helped the damn situation.
"Insulting me while I'm fixin' you up is stupid," she said in a sickeningly sweet voice that should've annoyed him. It didn't. She emphasized her point by pressing much harder than needed on his forehead.
He bit back the need to grunt, his teeth clenched as tight as his fists. Twice, he had to adjust himself as he sat on the porch chair. More often than that, he had to avert his eyes from her ludicrously soft-looking skin.
"I wouldn't need fixing if you…Fuck!" She flicked the wound. Glaring at her, he noticed she was as surprised as he was by the action.
"It's your fault," she whispered in a voice that said he was treading on a thin line. She tore open more butterfly strips, and roughly applied them with no finesse. "I'm not violent. I'm a genuinely nice person. Every time you open your mouth, I want to hurt you or jump you."
Edward choked on the glass of water she'd given him when she ordered him to the chair so she could play nurse. She smacked his back a few times with the strength of a lion. That was surprising, considering she looked like a kitten.
He pushed her hands away and shook his head. "Enough. If you keep touching me, you're going to end up killing me."
Her lips and eyes dominated her classic face, making her naturally beautiful in the not-so-typical way. Brown eyes stared at him, rimmed with a darker color, which made them stand out against her peach colored skin. The lips, his gaze dipped down to admire, were full, perfect little arches, and in a soft pink color that lured a man in.
"That's a shame," she said, sighing. She turned away from him and cleaned up the mess she made with the rather large first aid kit.
"What's a shame?" Edward checked the cut using the reflection in the window nearby, surprised to find she did a good job.
"That if I keep touching you, it might kill you," she stated.
She could've said she was an alien and sent to procreate with humans, and it wouldn't have shocked him more. He shook it off.
"Do you always speak your mind?" he asked, wiping his brow on his sleeve. It was early, but with the sun high enough in the sky, it was already eighty degrees, and in the mountain community, it was hot. That was the reason why he came as early as he had.
"I say what I think, and I mean what I say." She shrugged. "What are you doing here at this ungodly hour?"
Edward stood up, needing to keep his distance from the crazy woman. Leaning on the railing, he crossed his arms over his chest and eyed her. "You could've told me what happened instead of allowing me to yell at you."
"As if you let me say a single word," she hissed, rolling her eyes. "I kept trying but you kept coming at me. That's your fault. Next time, take a moment to listen to what someone has to say before you jump to conclusions."
"A midnight call from my mother telling me that my father was in an accident and some woman hit his car on purpose would send anyone running without hearing the details."
"Can you not cross your arms like that?" she asked. Her eyes, he noticed, were not on his face, but his arms.
"Why?" He flexed, just to see if his suspicions were right.
"Never mind," she said, turning around and walking into her house. The screen door slammed closed behind her, but he never let a flimsy barrier keep him from having the last word. "Come on in, welcome." The sarcasm in her voice nearly stopped him in his tracks. She had a fiery temper.
He followed her toward the kitchen, noticing a few of her clothes strewn on the floor leading up the stairs. He nearly swallowed his tongue at the sight of black, sheer underwear.
Clearing his throat, he got it over with while he had the chance. "I came to apologize, thank you, and offer my assistance with the problem my mother said you had."
"By waking me up before seven in the morning on a Saturday?" she said firmly. She opened her fridge, bending to grab a carton of eggs. He needed the support of the kitchen island that stood between them after the view she gave him. "Besides, I didn't hear any apologies or offers to work for me."
He wasn't one to apologize ever. "Thank you for saving my father. Twice."
She eyed him as she beat the eggs in a bowl, throwing in a few spices. "You're welcome, but that's not an apology."
With that attitude, he wouldn't give her one. "My buddy, Emmett, is looking for that asshole, Jacob, to get your money back. For now, I'll start the repairs and cover the costs of materials and labor until then."
"Is this some kind of a joke?" She tossed the fork she was using in the sink and threw a pan on the six-burner cooktop in the kitchen island. "You think you can come here and repay me for saving your father. That's not how it works. I did what I had to do. I'm not a damn monster. I didn't do it for money or reward of any kind. Now leave. I can take care of the work myself."
He glared at her, spun on his heels, and left the house. Walking over to his truck, he grabbed his pack of smokes from the dash. After a look back at the house, he noticed Bella hadn't done much since Jake took off with her cash. The porch was ready to fall apart, and every time she slammed the damn door closed, most of it shook down to the foundation. There weren't many contractors in the area, and anyone from out of town would charge her an extra ten to fifteen dollars an hour, at least.
With a cigarette dangling from his lips, he climbed up the ladder to finish removing the rotting fascia. It didn't take long for her to come out, but instead of telling him off as he anticipated, she got into her blue tank of a truck. She sent him a heated look, put the truck into gear, and sped away, spitting gravel behind her.
Bella wanted to dislike Esme, she honestly wanted to, but the woman made it impossible. She managed to pull out some of her secrets, the fact that she had no family left, and one of the reasons she bought a money pit cabin on the mountain.
"Just let him take care of the repairs until Emmett gets your money back." Emmett was the local sheriff, and apparently, had been waiting for a reason to hunt Jacob down like the dog he was.
"Fine, but money isn't the problem," she said and took a sip of the lemonade Esme gave her. "Nobody has time, and with fall and winter nearly around the corner, I don't want to be stuck with a drafty, cold house."
Esme nodded and drank deeply from her own glass. "Understandable, honey. Why don't you stay for dinner and then you can talk business with Edward, if you're so determined to pay for his services."
Bella tried not to think of what kind of services she'd like Edward to perform, but she wasn't successful, at all. Not that she'd ever had to pay for that kind of thing.
"Mom?" Bella heard the deep, rough voice come from the back kitchen door. "Don't tell me you gave her your homemade lemonade."
"Of course, I did," Esme said, hiccupping. Her glazed eyes widened, and from the way she swayed in her seat, Bella thought she was well on the way to being drunk.
She looked at her drink, shrugged, and drank the rest. "Yeah! Of course, she did. What's wrong with that?"
"Yes, son, what's wrong with that?" Esme stood up and walked, more like stumbled her way to the subzero freezer in the kitchen.
Bella eyed Edward, noticing that time had certainly escaped her. The sun was setting behind him, silhouetting him to perfection. He was tall, on the lean side, but built like her dream. She had left the house soon after Edward decided to go against her wishes and work on her damn porch anyway. Her intention was to see Esme and to check on Carlisle; maybe even talk some sense into them.
That visit had turned into a lovely lunch after they sprung Carlisle from the hospital. Other than bruises and a sore throat, he was doing well. Last time Esme checked, he was still sleeping. Personally, Bella thought he likely quickened his release since all the nurses were clamoring for a shift on his floor. Esme, for all her poise and grace, had a bit of a jealous and possessive streak. Same with Carlisle; that man was handsy, too, when he was loopy.
"What's the matter?" Bella asked a little too firmly. "Ain't I good enough for your mom's prized lemonade?"
"You're drunk." He walked over to the sink, washed his hands, and carefully led his mother to the chair she had vacated. "I'll get you another one, Mom."
Esme looked lovingly up at her son, patting his hand. Bella felt an ache twinge in her heart at the picture, reminding her of long ago memories. "That's a good boy."
Bella snorted, earning a glare from the good boy. "What?" She held up her drink. "Don't blame me for the state your mother is in. I had no idea there was alcohol in the lemonade." Edward took her glass as he rolled his eyes. She ogled his butt.
It was right there!
That's her story, and she's sticking to it.
His ass was perfect and something that looked chiseled and firm. She wanted to bite it.
"Bite what?" Esme asked, offering Bella some cheese and apples, all on a fancy plate.
"Your son's ass."
The sound of glass breaking reverberated around the room, followed by a series of expletives that made her blush, and Esme's eyes widened comically. Bella winced as the kitchen door slammed closed.
"Oh dear," Esme whispered. "You didn't warn him about your tendency to say what's on your mind, did you?"
Esme sighed and pouted, propping her chin on her hand. She blew out a deep breath, one that sent a caramel colored curl covering her hazel eye up, only to fall right back into place. "Who is going to serve us now?"
Bella looked at the mess that Edward left behind and then down at Esme's bare feet. "Your son's an ass. He could've cleaned up at least."
"I can do it." Esme tried to rise to her feet, but swayed. With only one finger on her shoulder, Bella was able to push Esme back into the chair.
"I'll get it."
By the time Bella finished, Esme was snoring at the table. From the kitchen window, she saw a glowing, red spot in the driveway that moved higher, and burned brighter.
She tossed the towel aside and helped Esme to her room. The woman seemed coherent enough to greet her husband with a sloppy kiss, and changed clothes on her own. Thank God, since Bella had her limits. She grabbed her purse and keys, heading outside and toward where she'd seen that glowing ember.
From the look of it, he was on another cigarette. "You irritate me." He was such a romantic.
"I put your mother to bed," she said by way of a decent reply. "Your father needs meds in about an hour, so don't forget to wake him up. I left the two pills on the nightstand. Your mother didn't have dinner. We nibbled on a few things throughout the afternoon, but time got away."
"Didn't you hear me?"
"As for the work, go for it. It's obvious that it's important to your parents to help in any way they can. But I will be paying you."
He tossed the spent butt on the ground, grinding it with his boot. "I don't want your money."
"I don't want you to feel that you owe me for saving your father."
"You stopped his car with your truck, putting your own life at risk knowing that there was the distinct possibility of ending up in the intersection yourself. Then you pulled him out of the car and saved his life again, from what I hear."
"That doesn't mean you owe me anything."
"You're right, but I'm thankful for that," he said, shaking his head. "I'm doing the work because that asshole, Jake, used to work for me, before I closed shop last year."
"And because I made an ass of myself for accusing you of being after my parents' money."
It was the best she was going to get, so why not try to make him smile. "You made me cry." She pouted. He cursed, and damn, if it didn't make her smile. She liked riling him up.
"But if you don't stop with that damn mouth of yours, I'll end up tossing you over my shoulder, and you wouldn't see daylight for days until we come up for air."
He only said it to scare her, but she could see he was considering it anyway. Her thighs clenched, as did other parts of her. "I need a ride home."
"You're out of your damn mind!"
She giggled and skipped to her truck. "Fine, I'll drive myself, Edward."
He shifted from foot to foot but stalked toward her. "Get in," he said, taking her keys before she had a chance to hand them over. "I'll bring your truck back in the morning."
"You can drop it at Sam's," she said, climbing up and crawling across the seat. She was a little drunk, apparently. Edward cursed a lot from behind her, and the way the door slammed closed made the truck rattle. She settled on the seat, tossing her feet onto the dashboard. "He's supposed to put the windows in."
The only window that survived the crash was the front. He nodded and started old Bertha up. Bella remained quiet as she watched him put the truck into drive—how she wished she had a manual transmission. The sight of Edward's arm handling the shift was worthy of paying for admission tickets.
"Christ," he said. "Drunk as you are, you have absolutely no filter. That's saying something."
She shrugged. "I never really had one," she said, looking out the window. The man drove the same way he talked, rough. Her brakes whined twice when he had to make stops, and those were quick and hard. She wondered if he'd ride her like that, too. She shifted in her seat, having to wiggle a bit to relieve a little ache between her thighs. She moaned, and Edward muttered something under his breath.
Several minutes later, dirt kicked up as Edward pulled in front of her out of the way house. She truly loved the cabin; even in the dark, she appreciated how it was nestled in the forest around it as if it had sprouted from the earth just for her.
"There's a delivery of materials coming in around eight, and I'll be here then."
Bella looked over at him. "Is there something wrong with me?"
It was official. She was somewhat drunk and turning into the dreaded, emotional kind.
Confusion furrowed his brow and filled his eyes. "Why would you say that?"
"You've called me crazy more than once." His eyebrows shot up. "And you don't want me." She hopped out of the truck, ran up the porch steps, and slammed the door closed behind her.
Three weeks. That was how long Edward had been working on the house. He pointedly ignored her most of the time, only doing the tasks that were on the contract he drew up. Their only interactions were when they shared lunch in silence. It wasn't bad. At least she could look at him, and it was nice not to be alone.
She knew most of his story, thanks to his mother. Knew why he chose to close himself off from others except family, and realized they were a lot alike while being worlds apart.
While he allowed his past to pull him under, he only surfaced long enough to take care of his family when they needed him. Carlisle said he had a tendency to disappear and hole up on his mountaintop for months at a time.
She chose not to dwell on something she couldn't change, and took life by the horns. If she wanted something, she went for it, plain and simple. Though she wanted Edward, something told her she might not be strong enough to keep him afloat.
She watched as he chopped and whacked at a tree stump that had fallen the week before in a freak storm. That night had been horrible, waking up from a nightmare only to find that it had been real. A limb smashed through her bedroom window, sending her running to Esme. As Esme and Carlisle worked to calm her down, they cleaned up the cuts from the broken glass and branches that scratched like fingernails along her arms.
Edward had been less than pleased.
She knew he was angry that she had become a permanent fixture in his parents' life. He didn't want her to be, only because he didn't want to want her. Half the time, the man looked at her as though he was ready to strip her down and have his way with her, the rest he spent ignoring her.
Muscles moved as he swung down, the sound of metal against wood echoing in the almost enclosed area due to the thick canopy of trees overhead. Sweat dotted his brow and dripped down his chest and back. A smattering of brown hair bisected his abdomen, highlighting the display. His back was as sculpted as his front, though she wouldn't call him bulky.
He had scars all over his back, thick ropes of rough and red skin. A prisoner of war; that was all Esme had to say, for Bella to know what he probably faced every time he closed his eyes.
She wanted to share her story; how she once loved a boy, until his time in the war marred him. Tell him how the blue-eyed man she watched him become and cared for, nearly killed her in his sleep due to his terror.
She couldn't share that part of herself yet, but one day. The rest of her secrets would come up eventually.
She walked out onto her porch with a tray filled with food and drinks, placing it on the tiny table nearby. She stepped off the stairs and approached him, his eyes narrowed and he was quick to toss his shirt on, glaring at her. It had been the first time he removed his shirt while working.
"How long have you been watching?"
"I'm always watching." She didn't dare mention she'd seen the scars.
He grunted and wiped at his face with a rag from his back pocket. "Don't you have a damn job?"
She cocked an eyebrow. "Don't pretend you don't know what I do for a living, your mother probably tells you all about me when she sees you." Bella saw right through the woman's matchmaking attempts.
"She tries," he grumbled, taking the bottle of water she offered him. "Thanks." He guzzled it, wiping his mouth on the red plaid fabric on his arm.
"Come on up, I have some lunch for you."
He nodded and quietly followed her lead up onto the porch. She felt his eyes on her, and something told her they weren't aimed at the back of her head. She shivered a little.
He grabbed a sandwich and leaned against the railing. He never sat beside her. "What do you do?" he asked after he wolfed most of his food down.
"Photography," she said, purposely vague. "Your mom said you have some property I'd probably like to photograph, something about a creek and an old bridge."
"No." He grabbed another sandwich and turned his back to her, kicking at the railing for no good reason.
He was quick to answer in a no nonsense tone. His voice was rough and thick with accusation. "Because its mine."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
He spun around and glared at her. "You already got your hooks into my parents, enough that you'll be invited to holiday dinners forever because they can't let their precious Bella be all alone."
She could've opted for anger, and she even felt a twinge of it. But she was tired of being angry all the time, it exhausted her. How could he stand it?
"They love me. They know I have no other family or friends." None; she lost those she had left in one night.
Bella cocked her head to one side, catching a view of his chest again. He hadn't buttoned his shirt. "That dirty mouth of yours comes out a lot when I'm around."
"That's it!" He stomped toward her, lifted her up until her feet touched the ground. He grabbed the back of her head, and tugged it back by her hair. Staring down at her, he gave her no chance to protest. Not that she intended to anyway; she could happily stare at his face all day. "You should be scared."
"Not even a little bit."
He slanted his mouth over hers in a brutal kiss. It was passion, heat, anger, and a hint of possessiveness. Where that came from, she wasn't sure, but she loved the taste of it, of him. His lips were softer than she expected, as was his beard that he trimmed a little the week before. A bite on her lower lip had her moaning, and he took advantage of it. It was his chance to delve deep inside her mouth, stroking her tongue with his, tasting of sugar, cinnamon and spices.
Other than his hand and his mouth, no other parts of him touched her. He took care of that as he backed them against the wall. His body pressed along hers in a way that she couldn't move, but the heat coming off him was delicious and welcomed. One of his hands still held her head prisoner, directing where he wanted her mouth to go. He deepened the kisses further, his tongue tasting every inch of her mouth. His other hand cupped her breast, hissing when he realized she wore no bra. Her nipple, already tight from desire, was painfully aching for more. He gave it to her with a stroke of the rough pad of his thumb.
It was at that moment that awareness, other than for his lips, made her hands move from her sides. When she tried to reach for him, he pushed away.
"No," she said, pulling him in by his shirt until they were once again flush against each other. His grunt was short, and she swallowed his protest with another kiss. Fight gone, he fisted his hand in her hair, the other manacled her wrists between them. He kissed the way he did everything else.
She loved it.
"More," she pleaded as his mouth trailed down her neck. Her hands, caught in the vice of his, tugged, but he only shook his head. It was the beginning of the end; she felt it as he slowed down, and took a deep breath against her shoulder.
"Not like this," he said, stepping away and putting his hands on his knees to catch his breath. After a minute, he sailed over the railing in a spectacular show of grace and action. He picked up the axe from where he had ebbed it in the stump.
He stalked toward his truck.
"I'll see you soon."
It was a promise.
It was there in the words, in the way he looked at her even as he drove away.
She breathed deeply, rubbing a hand over her mouth. It tingled. Although his beard had surprised her in its softness, the effect of it no doubt marked her skin. She liked that it did and hoped he'd do the same to her thighs and breasts.
He didn't return that night.
"Are you sure?" Edward asked his mother.
"She's gone, son." She shook her head, sipping on her drink. "Emmett searched her house when she disappeared. She didn't tell any of us."
Edward rubbed a hand over his face, pounding a fist on the table. "I only needed a day or two, had to think things over."
"You were gone almost a month, Edward."
He felt guilty for staying up in his cabin for so long. "Now she's gone."
"Edward," his mother said warily. "Her purse was found inside."
"Why would she leave her purse and take no clothes with her?" she asked softly, sniffling.
Dread clawed him on the inside. "That's why you kept calling on Monday." That was two days before.
She nodded. "We think she was taken."
AN: Thanks to kimmie43, Sunflower, and kyla713. I don't see this fic going too long, maybe ten chapters or so. Thanks.