Originally written as a donation piece, I can now share this with you. I hadn't planned on doing so yet, but today is my birthday and I wanted to give something to my readers to say thanks. There is no set schedule for posting but it will be fairly regular - there is about 7 chapters in total as I have added to the orignal piece - the last are still being written. Thanks to MidNight Cougar for her beta work.
Emmett's cellphone rang out with the ringtone for his wife, Rose, and I hid my grin at his groan. At six months pregnant, the calls had been increasing in frequency lately. I continued polishing the chrome on the fire truck as Emmett spoke quietly into the phone. And then his head snapped up. "She did what? You let her do that? How long has she been up there, Rosy?"
He listened for a moment and then sighed. "Don't cry, baby. I'll go talk to the Captain." He jumped up walking toward Carlisle's office. I shrugged, not understanding what was happening or who Rosy let go where or why she'd been there for so long. No doubt he would fill me in when he got back. I'd only been with this fire station for about eight weeks, having moved recently. Emmett and I connected right away and worked a lot of our shifts together. Today had been a quiet one with no calls so far, so we were washing and polishing up the fire trucks, instead of sitting around with the rest of the crew watching TV. Neither of us liked to stay still.
A few minutes later he reappeared. "Edward. I gotta go help Rosy with a situation. Carlisle said it was okay to take you with me. I might need back up. We can take his truck."
I jumped off the rig. "What kind of situation?"
"One of Rosy's girls is caught."
"On a ladder. She can't get down."
I smirked a little. "Seriously, Em? Like a cat caught in a tree? We have to go coax some girl off a ladder?"
I shook my head, chuckling. "Fine. But I get to drive."
"Okay, I'm just going to grab a first aid kit, in case. Rose thinks she's hurt."
My amusement stopped. "How?"
"She said she saw blood."
Now I was serious. "Let's go."
I stood gaping at the above before me. Rose's restaurant had three large peaked window alcoves at the front. The ceilings soared to as least twenty-four feet tall and each alcove housed a huge chandelier, dripping with faceted crystals. Rising up from the floor beside one of the chandeliers was a ladder and perched on the top of it, completely immobile, was a slip of a girl. She was straddling the top of the ladder, perched so close to the edge my heart clenched at her precarious position. One of her hands was pressed against her chest, clenched in a fist so tight I could see the white of her knuckles from where I stood, while the other hand was gripping the top ledge of the metal rungs. A dark, wet line crossed her skin, whatever she was gripping so fiercely obviously cutting into her skin, the blood leaving a trail. Her face was blank, her eyes fixed on a spot on the chandelier, her gaze never wavering.
"What is she doing up there?" I hissed. She looked as though she could fall off any given second, especially the awkward way she was perched on the top, far too close to the edge for my liking. If she passed out or got dizzy…I swallowed heavily at the thought.
"Cleaning the chandelier," Rose offered.
Her eyebrows furrowed. "They were dusty?"
"Couldn't you get a service in for that?"
She shook her head. "We always do it. Bella says she does a better job."
"She always climbs up the ladder? This hasn't happened before?"
"Yes. She did the other two earlier this week, no problem. But today she went up and then just froze. She hasn't moved in like twenty minutes, and I can't get her to say a word!" Her lip started to tremble.
"She should have a safety harness on! If she fell —" I spat, my voice filled with anger.
Rose burst into tears and Emmett shot me a glare as he wrapped his arm around her. "Take it easy on her, Edward. She's pregnant for Christ's sake."
I pointed to the ceiling. "And we have an unresponsive woman who could fall any second. Sorry, to me, that is the priority." I shrugged out of my jacket, grabbed a couple of the rags from the pile on the table, and grasped the ladder. My eyes widened as I felt the slight shake to the metal. "Let go of your wife and hold this, Em. She is shaking so badly the ladder is trembling. I'm going up to get her."
"Her name is Bella," Rose sniffed.
I glanced up, wondering if we should call in the crew. I looked over at Em, who shook his head. He wanted to try this rescue ourselves. I softened my tone. "Okay, Rose. I'm going to go up and get Bella. Em—put Rose somewhere safe and come back and be prepared—in case. Hold the ladder tight for me. Be ready." Sighing, I began to climb the ladder, hoping I could get her down.
If she fell, we both needed to be ready.
Halfway up I started talking, not wanting to startle her, and hoping Bella could hear me. She gave no indication she even noticed me. When I was about three steps from her, I called her name. "Bella…I'm Edward. I'm a friend of Em's. I work with him at the fire station. I'm gonna help you down, okay?"
No response. Her dark eyes never wavered from the spot on the chandelier. I hesitated before climbing another few steps up, which had me hovering over her. She was even shorter than I thought she would be. For a moment I looked at her and then the chandelier. I had no idea what she was so focused on. All I could see was some dust and cobwebs. Slowly, so I didn't startle her, I slipped my hand under her belt at the back, gripping it tightly and sighing with relief that at least I was holding her if she shifted. Leaning closer, I kept my voice gentle. "Bella, can you hear me?" I felt rather than saw the smallest movement of her head. Glancing down, I frowned at her hand pressing into her chest. More blood was pooling around her closed fist, a few drops staining her shirt. I could see a small hook piercing the soft flesh between the thumb and fingers. Gently, I placed my hand over hers. "Bella, you're hurt. I need to get you off the ladder so I can look at your hand, okay? I need you to look at me so I can help you."
One word escaped her lips. "Please," she whispered.
The terror from the one word made my heart clench. She was so pale, her skin almost ashen against her dark hair. Her body shuddered with suppressed shivers and I knew she was struggling to remain still. Whatever was frightening her had put her in a complete meltdown. A surge of unexpected tenderness rushed through me as I gazed at her and the need to protect her filled me. I pressed closer, wanting to offer her the comfort of my body; for her to know I was there and she was safe. I lowered my lips close to her ear. "Show me, Bella. Show me what is scaring you and I'll make it stop. I'll make you safe."
For the first time her eyes wavered, flying to my face before they skittered back to the chandelier. I followed her gaze, trying to see what it was she was fixated on. A slight movement caught my eyes as a spider crawled up its web. Bella's body stiffened even further and the smallest of whimpers broke through her lips.
I looked again. Two cobwebs, two spiders. Not large, but certainly not small. Spinning their webs, working away, not bothered by her at all. But it would seem she was greatly bothered by them. I looked back at Bella and her terrified gaze. That was it. The spiders. I glanced down at how high we were off the floor. She had no problem climbing up and down this ladder unharnessed and perching on top to clean the crystals, but the simple sight of a spider had her in lockdown?
I kept my voice low and soothing as I reach behind me to grab a rag from my back pocket. "Bella, I'm going to get rid of the spiders, okay? They won't hurt you. I won't let them hurt you. I need you to turn your head though. Put it on my shoulder. Close your eyes. Can you do that for me?" I pressed slightly closer. "Please, sweetheart," I asked, surprised how easily that endearment rolled off my tongue for her.
Another tremor raced through her, but slowly she did as I asked. I unhooked my fingers from her belt and wrapped my arm around her, keeping us both steady as I reached out my other arm, quickly knocking down the webs and taking the spiders with them. I rolled the cloth up tightly and dropped it. "Get rid of that Em!" I called to him. "I'm bringing her down now!"
I tightened my arm around Bella. "The spiders are gone now. You can look and see." Her head lifted and she peeked over, her entire body shuddering in relief. She sagged against me and I grabbed the ladder to steady us both. "Okay, we're going down now. I need you to let me move you so we don't fall, okay? Stay relaxed, sweetheart. Don't fight me."
"Okay," she breathed.
I leaned back as far as I could while I shifted her so I stood between her legs. "I need you to hold me, Bella. Wrap your legs and arms around me."
As I felt her unsteady limbs follow my instructions, I wrapped my arm around her tightly and hoisted her off the top step, holding her close. Keeping one hand on the ladder, we began our slow descent.
The feel of her wrapped around me was mind-blowing. I had never experienced anything like it before. She felt…perfect. She didn't feel like someone I was helping and would soon walk away from, as I had done so many times in the past. She felt like she belonged nestled against me. Small and trembling, I wanted to cocoon her and keep her safe in my embrace. I wasn't sure I could let her go.
My feet hit the floor and I stepped back from the ladder, wrapping my other arm around Bella, completely enfolding her in my embrace. Her face was still buried in my chest and I could feel my shirt getting damp from her tears. Both Em and Rose moved forward, Em holding out his arms. "I'll take her."
Bella pressed herself closer, her body shaking, and I shook my head, almost growling at him. "No."
He stopped, his eyes widening.
"She's hurt. I need to look at her hand."
"No." I grabbed the first aid kit off the table and looked at Rose. "Is there somewhere private?"
She nodded in confusion and pointed down the hall. "My office. It has a private bathroom."
"Okay." I started to walk away and turned back. "Get a service to finish that." I indicated above me with my chin and eyes. "She's not going back up there."
I could feel both their stares as I walked away.
I sat the first aid kit on the counter in the bathroom and grabbed the towel off the rack, laying it on the hard counter then slowly depositing Bella on it. I waited a moment before stepping back, hating to release her. Gently, I pulled her arms away and laid her hands on her lap. Bella's head stayed down as she sobbed soundlessly. I threw a facecloth under the running water and cupped her face, forcing her to lift her head. I stroked the damp cloth over her wet cheeks, whispering quietly to her. "Open your eyes for me, Bella. Please."
Blinking and embarrassed, her red-rimmed gaze met mine and I smiled at her. "Hi."
"I'm…so…s… s…sorry," she stammered out.
I shook my head, wiping at the fresh tears. "It's okay. Don't be sorry." I paused. "You have arachnophobia, don't you?"
"Does Rose know?"
"No. I don't like…to talk about it."
"You shouldn't be cleaning things up high then."
"Usually, Alice goes up first and wipes them down. She is off sick. The other… the other two were okay."
My fingers tightened on her face. "No more. Rose can get a service in to do it. It's too dangerous. You could have been seriously hurt."
I had no idea why I said that to her. It was none of my business what she did or didn't do.
Except I wanted to make it my business.
And as I watched her nod in agreement, hope flickered. Maybe she did as well.
I cradled her hand in mine. "I need to look at this—you were bleeding."
I opened her hand, wincing as what I saw. She had been gripping the crystal so tightly, the glass had cut into her flesh and the hook had pierced through her skin. I snapped on a pair of latex gloves and gently extracted the hook from her hand, before helping her off the counter and holding her hand under the running water. We were both quiet as we watched the water turn from red to pink to clear. Bella glanced up at me a couple times, our eyes meeting in the mirror. I towered over her, her head not even reaching my shoulders and I had both arms wrapped around her tiny frame as I stood behind her, cleaning her hand. When I was satisfied the bleeding had stopped, I shut off the water and wrapped her hand back up, before lifting her on to the counter again. It was easier on my back I told myself. It wasn't because this way I was closer to her. I examined the site, glad to see none of the cuts were deep enough to require stitches, even though they were nasty looking gashes. I found salve and bandages and dressed her hand tightly.
"It's going to be sore for a couple days."
"Tylenol will help."
I smiled as I leaned on the counter, my arms resting at her sides. "You heard me. I wasn't sure you could."
"I did. I was just too…scared to talk."
"Your phobia is bad?"
"I try and deal with it. But at times it overwhelms me."
"Have you had it all your life?"
She drew in a deep breath, her eyes closing. "When I was about ten, some boys dumped a whole jar of spiders on me." She shivered as she spoke. "They were everywhere. My face, my hair, under my clothes. Crawling on me. I was so terrified, I passed out."
"I hope the little fuckers were punished," I growled out, my fists tightening in anger.
She nodded. "I think so, but I really don't remember. Except since that day—"
I reached up and brushed a strand of hair off her cheek. "You're terrified of them."
Her eyes opened, filled with fresh tears, and a look of shame clouding them. "I'm so sorry, Edward. I didn't mean to cause all these problems." She shook her head. "God, Rose had to call the fire department!"
"Shhh, it's fine." Without thinking, I pulled her into my arms, holding her shaking form against me once again. "Don't apologize, Bella. We all have fears. I'm glad I was the one to help you."
Her voice was muffled. "Me, too."
I drew back, looking at her. All around us, the air pulsated. The urge to kiss her was strong. Like nothing I'd ever felt in my life.
I shook my head.
What was wrong with me?
Still I looked at her, unable to break her gaze or understand how she could affect me so deeply. A sudden pounding on the door had me pulling back, startled.
"Edward! Carlisle called—we have a call—we gotta go! He'll meet us there!"
I turned to Bella. "Take care of your hand. And I was serious—stay off ladders."
"I will," she whispered. "Thank you."
I couldn't resist bending down and brushing a soft kiss to her forehead.
I hesitated, but I knew I didn't have time to keep talking to her right now. I'd come back. I wanted to check on her and see if perhaps she wanted to see me again.
Still, I hated walking away from her.
Somehow I don't think he will stay away. Hot fireward to the rescue.
And yes... I know the chances of this happening are like...nil. It's fiction.
If she's been wearing a safety harness and been fine there'd be no fic.
Thank you for reading.
See you soon!