Chapter 15

Bella smiled as she clipped the clothes pin on the handmade quilt she'd just hung over the line. It was another bright sunny day, and she figured the quilts would have no problem drying before she left.

"Those are nice," remarked a familiar male voice behind her.

Bella nodded her agreement enthusiastically as she turned to face Officer Riley.

"The lady that donated them said they each took about a month to make," Bella told him. "She probably could have sold them for hella expensive, but she donated them instead, isn't that amazing?"

Riley nodded.

"It's weird that doing what I do and coming here, I see some of the best people in the world, and some of the worst," he said. "It changes your whole perspective on life."

Bella's only reply was a small, sad half-smile. It occurred to her again that Officer Riley and Jasper were the same age. That little fact was always a shock to her system. Jasper still didn't have his shit together. He was an overgrown, overeducated man-child. Officer Riley's job had aged him.

"So how are things today?" he asked

Officer Riley visited the shelter at least twice a week. In the time that Bella had been working there, she had experienced harassing phone calls and one tense visit from the significant other of one of the women who sought shelter there. While the nondescript, multi-locked door did well to keep everyone inside safe, Bella was happy to have the police presence.

"Calm," Bella told him. "There is a lady here named Charlotte. No trouble at all. She's just in the bunkroom sleeping."

Officer Riley nodded.

"I'm on until six. Just give me a call if you need anything," he told her.

Bella agreed and waved goodbye as the officer headed back through the building. It only took her a few more minutes to get the last quilt across the line. She took one more minute to enjoy the sunshine before she picked up the basket and headed inside. Much to her surprise she found Charlotte sitting in the common area. She didn't say anything, but she did smile encouragingly at the other lady. The engaging part was still hard for Bella, she was terrified that she might accidentally say or do something that might cause these broken women more pain. Angela, her boss, ensured her that those skills would come with time.

Charlotte attempted to return the pleasantry but the gesture fell short due to the bruises along the side of her face that clearly made her smile painful. Bella lingered, trying to think of something to say, but before she could, Charlotte sighed. She nodded to the gossip magazine across her lap. The cover was emblazoned with the face of some new starlet who was suddenly turning into a bad girl.

"I thought that was going to be me," Charlotte said, she was looking up at Bella, but also through her. Her voice was barely a whisper. Bella wasn't sure if that was because of emotion or the fingerprints around her throat. "I came to LA thinking I'd be the next Julia Roberts. Stupid, naïve seventeen year old girl from bum-fucked Texas."

She huffed a cynical laugh. Shaking her head, she looked down at the magazine again. Bella didn't know if Charlotte had more to say but her gut told her she did. She quietly put the clothes basket down and moved to sit in the arm chair adjacent to the couch. A moment or two passed before Charlotte spoke again.

"Pete was gorgeous when I met him, all pouty lips and piercings. The lead singer in a punk band. They were going on tour," this time her laugh was sharp and angry. It came out so loud and strong that she winced and pressed her fingers to her throat and swallowed hard. "They never even left the state."

Bella wanted to say fuck him. Fuck Pete for doing this to you. Fuck him for selling you on his shitty dream and taking advantage of your innocence.

"I'm not stupid," Charlotte said suddenly, looking at Bella sharply. Bella shook her head in protest but Charlotte went on. "I know that's what everyone thinks. This dumb bitch should have just walked away. Maybe they're right. Maybe I'm a fucking idiot. But he just got in my head. Slowly but surely. Like the first year was great. He was just drinking and smoking and we got along so good. Then he started the coke. And I stopped going back to see my family because Pete needed me here."

She shrugged. The shrug said a lot. It told Bella how confused the woman was by how wrong her life had went. How she wanted to shrug off everything that had happened and move on. But then the tears started streaming down her face, and that told the other side of the story. Every tear marked pain, regret, and exhaustion down her cheeks.

"I haven't called my mom yet," Charlotte said, swallowing hard again. "I want to. I want to go home. Never thought I'd call that shithole home, but that's all I want to do right now. I just want to go sit on my parent's front porch and watch fucking tractors drive by. Fuck L.A. It eats people. It eats every decent thing about them."

It was Bella's turn to swallow hard. Despite the vast difference in their situations, Bella often had very similar thoughts when out and about with Edward. In the crowds of industry affiliates that surrounded him, Bella saw very little real decency and innocence. On one hand it proved to her that Edward was an amazing man to be surrounded by that and still be such a good person. On the other it made Bella realize just how naïve she had been when she moved here, and that made her just a little bit harder.

"Fuck, I'm tried again," Charlotte said. Then she smiled. "I forgot how awesome it is to get good sleep. Sleep where you're not worried about who or what might be coming through the door."

She stood and tossed the magazine back on the table. As she passed by Bella on her way out the door she stopped and squeezed her arm.

"Thank you," she said.

"I didn't do anything," Bella said, with an apologetic shrug.

"You listened. And you didn't judge," Charlotte told her.

Bella smiled back and Charlotte headed out of the room. As the building settled back into silence, Bella went back to the desk and sat down. There was a message on her phone from Edward. A snippet of the lyrics he was working on. Bella wondered briefly if Pete had written lyrics for Charlotte.

**WIB**

Bella's snap came as a surprise because Edward hadn't even glanced at the time in hours. He had no idea it was after ten. In light of that information, it wasn't surprising that Bella was sending him pictures of her making silly faces, snuggled in bed, saying goodnight. Even though seeing his girl climbing into bed without him wasn't surprising, it was still a little disappointing. Their schedules were so opposite lately that it seemed like he never got to climb in bed with her while she was still awake. Usually he was crawling in, curling around out cold Bella. He had started the night promising himself he'd knock off early and get home to his girl. As usual, he got caught up with the guys. He sighed. His train of thought had pretty much sapped anything that was left of his creative energy.

"Time to call it a night," he told his bandmates.

Garrett finally smiled for the first time that night. If being away from home was weighing on Edward, it was weighing doubly on Garrett. His friend got his shit together and exited the studio so quickly his ass might have been on fire.

"Dude, let's hit Reverb," Alec said to Edward. He had finished wiping down his kit and was looking at his phone. "Some of my boys are there, it's popping tonight."

"Man –" Edward began. He had every intention of begging off.

"No, no fucking way, you always bail these days. Come the fuck out with your boys and have some fun," Alec said holding up his hand firmly. "I'm serious, Edward, I'm gonna go take a piss and you're gonna get your shit together. We're gonna go and get fucked up like good rockstars."

Edward couldn't help but chuckle as Alec left the room.

"Seriously, come with," Ben finally chimed in.

"You're going?" Edward asked.

"Yeah, somebody's gotta keep that fucker out of trouble," he replied, jerking a thumb in the direction Alec had went.

"He on again?" Edward asked. Usually he had a pretty good idea what was going on with his bandmates, including how close Alec was to going off the edge. There was just so much going on in his life lately.

"I don't think so, hard to tell though. It'd be nice to have another set of eyes on him though," Ben told him.

Edward nodded. He sent a text to Bella telling her he was going out with the guys for a bit and that she shouldn't worry if she happened to wake up and he wasn't there. She didn't answer.

**WIB**

Edward poured a slug of Grey Goose over ice and surveyed the club with mild interest. As Alec had promised, the club was packed. Even the VIP was fairly crowded, but the plush round booth kept their experience fairly private.

"Oh, fuck, that's Summer Rain," Alec said excitedly, pulling Edward away from his examination of the club.

Edward responded with a turned hand and a curious look to indicate he had no idea who that was.

Alec rolled his eyes. Ben chuckled.

"Seriously, dude? Summer. Rain. Pretty much the biggest name in porn right now," he explain.

Edward shrugged again.

"I swear to God, you've turned into a middle aged suburbanite. She's the next Sasha Grey," Alec told him.

"Porn queen. Got it," Edward said, raising his glass in a mock toast.

Suddenly, Alec's face lit up.

"She could be in Midnight Call!" he exclaimed. "The girl for the video. She's going mainstream. It'd be perfect for her."

Edward furrowed his brow. Midnight Call was to be the second release off the new album. It was a fun, dirty rock tune reminiscent of the 1980's rockers. While Edward wasn't as excited as Alec about working with a porn star, it seemed she would be a good fit for the role. He looked at Ben and cocked his head to the side questioningly. Ben nodded.

"I'm going to talk to her," Alec said, after seeing his bandmates agreement. He jumped up so quick that some of his drink sloshed onto the table.

"This should be interesting," Ben remarked, sounding amused as Edward attempted to mop up spilled alcohol with tiny bar napkins.

The two of them watched as Alec approached the dark haired girl with gigantic boobs nearly bulging out the top of her dress. Watching his hand gestures and constantly running mouth, Edward could tell Alec was on a roll. At first, she only seemed mildly interested, but then Alec gestured over to the table and an uncomfortable feeling started in the pit of his stomach when her body language changed. Her interest maxed out. Then they started toward the table, Alec following behind the girl with his hand on the small of her back.

"Fuck," Edward, cursed softly.

"Here we go," Ben groaned, taking a long drink from his glass.

"Hi," she said, immediately sliding into the booth next to Edward when they reached the table. Alec slid in on the other side of her, making the quarters incredibly tight. "I'm Summer, it's so great to meet you!"

She squeezed Edward's shoulder and he felt her massive breast pressing against him as she reached across him to give Ben a dainty hand shake. Over the smells of spilled alcohol and fog machine, Edward could smell her overly sweet perfume.

"So, Alec says you guys want me," she said with a wicked smile. Edward's uncomfortable feeling grew as she stared directly at him.

"She says she has some availability," Alec said, encouragingly.

"That's great," Edward said, agreeably. Despite his discomfort, he knew that her audience could bring them fans they hadn't had previously.

"But were not really the ones who make that call, we can get you our agent's info," Ben explained. Edward understood what Ben was doing. He didn't want Alec promising this girl something that they didn't have the power to do. It was a smart call.

"I'm sure we can work something out," she said with a shrug. "I'd love a chance with to get with you though. Seems like a solid move."

Edward picked his drink up and took another sip.

"Can I have a drink?" she asked. Without waiting for an answer she went in for a sip. Instead of brining the glass to her, she leaned in close to it, invading Edward's space. Every inch of him wanted to cringe away from her and her overpoweringly sweet smell. It took every bit of his Alice-sanctioned training to remain neutral. Before she backed away she licked her lips. "Yum."

Edward nodded awkwardly, pressing his lips into a line.

"So, you're an Alter fan?" he asked.

She nodded, emphatically.

"Totally," she said. "I listen to "My Bed" all the time before scenes. Totally gets me in the mood. Your voice on that one goes straight to my vagina."

Next to him Ben laughed so hard he couldn't hold on to his drink. Edward noticed some of the drink splatter on his arm.

"Ok, gonna run to the bathroom," he said, pushing against Ben's shoulder so that his friend, who was now coughing up his lung, would get up and let him out of the booth. At least Edward thought he was coughing, he could have been laughing too. As Edward slid after Ben out of the booth, Summer caught his hand.

"Hurry back," she said with another smile.

Edward tried to smile back, but he was sure he probably just looked like he was in pain.

"Will do," he assured.

After making his way across the crowded club, dodging looks of recognition. In the bathroom he splashed cold water on his face. He really didn't give a shit about the cranberry juice on his sleeve. In fact, he was kind of grateful for it. He stared into the mirror for a moment. He looked tired. It was beyond time to call it a night. He shot a quick text to Ben.

I'm fucking out of here. Have fun with the pornstar.

You're seriously leaving me here with this bullshit?

Yes. Very much yes.

Fuck you.

Fuck you back. Text me tomorrow and let me know you guys lived.

Ben answered with a thumbs up emoji. Edward made his way to door and out to the street. He did his best to ignore the flashing lights of the cameras on his way.

A/N: And we're back. Kinda. We sold our house and since were gluttons for punishment we're going to build another. So sorry about the delay and future delays but I my monster has to have a roof over his head. Thanks for sticking with me. You guys rock my socks.

Chapter Songs: Porn Star Dancing – My Darkest Days

Love the Way You Lie – Eminmen Ft Rihanna