"Cinnamon, in my teeth, from your kiss."
Reaching for my pack, I pulled a cigarette out with the tip of my lips, lighting it with my lucky zippo. The first hit was my nirvana, filling my lungs with poison and releasing from my nostrils to mix with the salt in the air.
Continuing my stroll, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia, Oceana Bay reminding me a lot of home, despite the obvious scenery difference. I would take sea and sunshine over moss and rain. OB was quiet and secluded, like its own little island, even though we were only three hours up the coast from LA.
Three hours away, but it felt like I was being choked by that fucking town.
Seagulls cried from above, waves crashed just on the other side of the line of shops, filling the air with sea brine as I tried to decide which pack I was burning through today. The nicotine addiction wasn't unusual, but my stress drove me into an extreme chain-smoking hobby, one that would fit right into an after-school special.
My trainer, Jacob, encouraged me to replace it with a full glass of water when the urge hit, but that only made me ungodly irritable with the power to piss. All. The. Damn. Time.
He could make me do suicides all day, force me to lift that tractor tire for hours until I was drenched with nothing but sweat and tears, and I still wouldn't give up smoking. Sure, my lungs protested when I did anything remotely vigorous, but the thought of giving it up just kept me going with no complaints, despite my wheezing.
I moseyed around the street, passing locals who barely shot me a glance. The goal was to blend in, and so far the universe was in my favor, but I still felt overdressed in a white V-neck, a baseball cap and jeans. Everyone was either in shorts or swimwear, walking around with their surfboards and sunglasses.
Even Venice Beach wasn't filled with this many beach bums, but the locals of OB all looked like they didn't give a single fuck. They were all suntan and smiles, and not a single one seemed to notice me.
Not that I was banking for that to last, sure enough, someone would wise up and notice.
Production on the new John Moon movie had taken over the south side of Oceana Bay, which in retrospect, was about seventy-five percent of the town. The production's decision to shoot here wasn't just for aesthetics, though that certainly helped. It was perfect for a former hitman's paradise; a place he settles after retirement with his on-again-off-again lover. And when she's murdered, he's pulled back into the game, in the thick of the Caribbean jungle.
God, it was ridiculous.
Predictive and repetitive, like every other action hero movie with an alpha male. Maybe I was jaded, burnt out from this character, but I was bound to finish this last one until my contract was up and I was a free agent. The beach scenes could have been easily filmed in LA, but the producers wanted secrecy, and Oceana Bay could give it to them. The set was tightly sealed to avoid any spoilers because this movie had the biggest spoiler of all.
His lover wasn't actually killed. She was in on his assassination and wanted him dead as a vendetta for him killing her father, the very same villain from the first movie.
Yeah, like I said, it was predictable. But people would still flock to the theaters to see it because it was a cash cow, based off a popular comic book and purely for entertainment, no real thought, reasoning or heart behind it. Despite my feelings now, I was a lucky son of a bitch to land the gig, especially so close to losing everything. Back then, I was scraping for change to buy from the dollar menu, desperate for any work. It was right time, right place sort of shit. That and the fact that the producers decided to go with an unknown actor for the lead.
If I could go back, I'd probably still choose this path. It opened doors for me, but I was deluded from the shit that Hollywood brought with it.
When I realized my cigarette was burnt down to the filter, I lit another, her name branding me as I gritted my teeth, shaking her out of me.
Miles away and she crept under my skin, sinking her cat-like claws into flesh and muscle, tearing it to scraps. I wondered about my old home, gauging how long it took for her to move someone else in my place. The answer made me crazed, my fingers curling into fists as the smoke left my nostrils like a raging bull. I had the urge to find a release tonight, whether it be through alcohol or a woman. If my sister were here, she'd tell me I'm barking up the wrong tree, especially so close after everything that went down back in LA.
I saw the headlines like a vivid memory: Edward Cullen spiraling out of control.
I had lost it. And the paparazzi captured the whole thing. Pictures of me at clubs surfaced only a few days after the incident, and I was doing lines of coke between random chick's tits just before chugging as much Jack Daniels as I could before promptly passing out in my own vomit. I was breaking down, and the whole world got front row seats.
Jazz wanted me to go back this weekend with him to let loose. Let loose. I had to laugh at that. He was comedic for downplaying what actually happened, and I was lucky I still had a job after the shit I pulled. I guess, when you get betrayed in front of the whole world, all sense of reasoning seems to go out the damn window. Doesn't mean I was sheltered from the consequences of my actions.
The production threatened to fire me and replace me with another actor for the third movie of John Moon. I felt indifferent to that. I was the type of guy who liked to finish what he started, so getting fired before the last movie of the series, that irritated me. But, if they had let me go, I would have moved past it and left that town for good. And when they didn't, all I felt was resentment.
Hours after the studio threatened me, an apology video was released online from her. I thought back to it, the image of her crying on our couch in our home with our dog that I bought her for her birthday last year, begging for forgiveness. For her, for me, for everything.
I was semi let off the hook after that, even though I knew that it was Victoria's doing. The devil works hard, but my PR works harder. It was no coincidence that the moment my job was endangered, that video was published. And even though she never admitted it, I was sure Victoria threatened to ruin Heidi if she didn't step in to help.
And if that didn't make me feel castrated, I don't know what did.
My cheating ex had to fake tears in a dramatized video to save my fucking job.
God, help me.
I pinched the bridge of my nose, inhaling the last bit of cigarette before dousing it with the bottom of my shoe and throwing it into a trash can like a decent human being. I had the urge to light another one; that seemed to happen any time Heidi crashed her way into my thoughts, leaving me feeling amped and pissed off.
In order to save my lungs from certain diseases, I found my way to the local café, right at the edge of the street, where the view of the beach broke. Mags was all the rage on the set, the craft service table filled with homemade cakes, pies, and donuts along with troughs of coffee. It kept me energized on fourteen-hour workdays when I had more coffee than I did cigarettes (and that was a shit ton).
When I opened the door, beads flew in my face, my hand shooting out to move the curtain as a bell rung, indicating my arrival. The café was small, littered with wooden tables and chairs through the center, the cushions, a patterned red. Bookshelves cozied up in the corners, exposed beams at the ceiling were draped with green foliage, matching the potted plants that were everywhere. Seriously, who had the time to take care of all of these plants?
I had expected a beach-themed restaurant, like most that called the coast home, but this place was different. It was a café from a small town in the middle of the forest rather on the sandy shores of a beach.
My eyes darted around the room, surveying the other patrons, relief washing through me when the majority of them were older, except for the woman in the back, shielded by her book. The elderly were safe. They didn't have the want or desire to keep up with Hollywood, which meant they probably didn't give a shit who I was.
A throat clearing broke my stream of thought, and I turned to find a woman behind the counter, damn near hidden by plants. She was older, forties maybe, and when our eyes connected, hers widened. I hesitated, not sure if she recognized me, but the look was gone as quickly as it came.
"You're new," Her tone was playful as she eyed me, her gaze lapsing up and down. I noticed her small chalkboard tag, the name Mags printed in curly letters, and surrounded by hibiscus flowers. She was the owner. "Where're ya blowing in from?"
"LA," I told her as she snorted, her gray curls pinned behind her, showing the gold of her dangling earrings.
"Not many LA hotshots come to Oceana Bay." She reproached as I felt my lips tug into a grin.
"Here for work." I was vague, but judging by her expression, she knew exactly what I was talking about; this was a small fucking town. They all knew we were here filming – how could they not? And on top of that, the production company was single-handedly keeping her in business. "What's good on the menu?"
"What are you in the mood for?"
"Anything that will wake my ass up."
"Well, in that case, I recommend the Triple E." She gestured up to the chalkboard that hung just behind her. "Three shots of espresso with a splash of milk. I also recommend a slice of the lemon cake. Loaded with sugar, which will probably get you going where you need to go. And it's homemade." She smiled proudly, pressing her hands to her hips that were encased in a bright green apron, her beaded necklace clinking anytime she moved. I heard Jacob in the back of my head, reminding me of the God-awful no carb diet I was on.
Fuck it. I'd just work it off later. God knows he has me at the gym more than I'm on set.
"I'll do both."
"Great!" Her eyes lit up, lines creasing with her smile to show off her age. I gave her cash, just to avoid her seeing my name on my card and dumped the hefty change into the Mason jar labeled tips. She beamed, backing up and pulling down a ceramic cup from a shelf above, nodding towards the tables. "Go ahead and take a seat dear, these will be right out to you."
I tilted my chin in thanks and turned back to the tables. There were four round ones, two of which were taken up by couples. The woman in back was still engrossed in her book sitting near the window with the seat covered in pillows. I took my chance at the empty table farthest away but was accommodated by the view of the ocean outside the open window.
Soft, indie tunes drafted in from the speakers above, and I leaned back into my chair, taking in the scene. I could feel my phone buzzing in my back pocket, but I had no intention of looking at it. At best, it was Jazz telling me how much of an idiot I was to stay back in OB for the long weekend. At worst, it was her, trying desperately to get a hold of me.
Either of the scenarios would spike my blood pressure and force me to light up right here next to the window. But, I had no plans to get kicked out before I had my coffee, so I settled, running my fingers through my hair as my head dipped back, sunshine warming my skin.
My choice to stay in OB for the weekend was an easy one. Jazz tried to drag me back to LA, but I refused. I needed as much space as I could, and going back meant facing a reality I still wanted to keep behind me.
My manager, Alec, tried to get me to come back. He and Victoria were showing a united front, thinking the best move was to attend a few premieres, go out to dinner, show that I was living a normal life again despite all the bullshit. And with all of those things, they had the perfect girl to go along with it. An up and coming actress, just trying to make her break.
They wanted me to fake a new relationship.
The thought of it made me nauseous, but that's all LA was.
Fake. Plastic. Shiny.
But when you dug passed the pretty exterior, it was rotting on the inside. I'm sure Alec struck a deal with her manager, they'd give him something, and we'd give her acceleration by being associated with me. They were just doing their jobs, I knew this, but it didn't make it easier to chew.
I could handle the playboy status, anything to fill the void I felt. But I couldn't pretend to be in a committed relationship, no matter how much they paid me.
Blinking out of my train of thought, I see Mags, who had already placed the espresso and lemon cake in front of me. It smelled fucking heavenly, and I lifted the corner of my mouth into my signature half-grin, watching as she ate it up.
"Do you do that a lot?" She asked. "Go off into space like that? I was standing here for three minutes before you noticed." Preoccupied with the taste of sugar and lemon on my tongue, and biting back a groan, I looked up to her, a brow, raising in question.
"Haven't had dessert in a long time. Plus, I've been running on only a few hours of sleep, which is why I needed this," I lifted the espresso mug to my lips. "Only thing that would make it better would be if you could turn it Irish."
"Not that type of café, babydoll." She flicked her gray hair behind her, her brown eyes gleaming as she turned away, telling me to enjoy.
Sitting in silence, I finished my breakfast, lost in the tranquility of the beach. My eyes studied the waves as they crashed onto the shore, white bubbles pushing forward before violently ripping away and disappearing back into the sea. My elbows rested on the teakwood table; my chin pinched in my fingers as I closed my eyes, basking in the ease of this small town. I felt like those waves, which were constantly pushed and pulled, back and forth, crashing and falling.
I had worked so damn hard to be where I was, clawed my way to the top, biting and scratching. My reflection made me wonder if it was worth it. What if I hadn't been in the mall that day the model scout found me? Where would I be? Definitely not in LA.
Now I was in Oceana Bay, I was finally catching my breath, and thank fuck for that. I knew if I stayed back in LA a minute longer or even returned for a weekend, I would head straight for self-destruction.
Three-month shoot isn't long enough.
In my thoughts, I didn't even see them. I heard them, before anything, their hushed tones. I was a pro at catching a whisper in the crowd because that meant someone had spotted me. I lifted my mug to my lips, daring a glance to the counter. They were young, still in high school, I assumed, but their low murmurs were anything but discreet, especially when they kept looking back to me.
"Angela, what are you and your friends going on about now?" Mags said from the counter, oblivious to their stares. I get it; I chose this, this was what I agreed to when I started my life as an actor, but fuck, nothing could ever prepare you for the onslaught of fans and spectators alike, watching you as if you're a damn fish in a bowl. Every move you make is on display. I never got comfortable with it. I tolerated it at best.
It always amazed me the lengths people would go to just to breathe the same air of a celebrity. Like they would suck it all up and leave you nothing. It was throttling. And I wasn't in the right state of mind to deal with fans, I was a lucky bastard going unnoticed in the first week, but I knew my time would run out, and apparently, that was today.
Two of them pushed one forward as if egging her on to approach, but she quickly turned and shook her head, playing a game of will she, won't she?
It was the same thing that happened if I went to a restaurant, a basketball game, even in the fucking grocery store, shopping for dinner with Heidi. Fuck, get out of my head.
I was scowling, I knew it, but I didn't want to be rude, I just wanted to be left alone. There were only three of them, no one else here seemed even remotely interested in me. I could give them what they wanted, but then everyone would know where I was.
Though, based off one of the girls furiously typing on her phone, I figured my location was already busted.
In an attempt to be peaceful, I hazarded a smile in their direction. It didn't touch my eyes, but hopefully it sent the message, I see you, thanks for your admiration, but leave me alone.
Yeah … Didn't work out that way.
"What in the world?" Mags said just as my smile dropped when they started to squeal, the bell to the front door ringing as more girls filtered inside. I was bombarded, immediately standing as they circled me, chanting my name like a prayer, throwing their phone out, snapping pictures, trying to get selfies. I was trying to get words out, trying to kindly tell them to fuck off and give me space, but they were swarming me, much to the surprise of the others in the room.
Through the cold chaos, I felt warmth in my hand, pulling me out of the middle of the circle and beelining straight to the counter. I blindly followed a figure with honey brunette locks that were streaked dusty blonde from the sun, cascading in waves down to mid-back.
What the fuck?
If it had been any other moment, I would have snatched my hand away and made a separate exit, but wafting off her was … Cinnamon?
It was magnetic, alluring, and damn, it if it didn't own me the second I smelled it … forcing me to follow recklessly.
We were behind the counter, pushing through a door and suddenly surrounded by a yellow kitchen. Her hand was abruptly gone, and I swallowed at the loss of warmth. Hiding behind her shield of hair, I watched as she turned the deadbolt … Locking us in.
At the sound of it, a part of me seized, realizing I was in an unknown room with a stranger, who, for all I knew, could be wanting to lock me up Misery style. I stepped back, hitting the counter, turning to see another door … an assumed exit, just a few feet away. I strategically made a plan to escape in case this went south.
I watched her just as she turned, finally introducing her face, her honey-brown eyes swiveling to meet my green. She was sun-kissed tan, wearing nothing but frayed jean shorts and a white crochet tank top that was short enough to show a peek of her navel. Freckles adorned her cheeks, splattering across her nose like a messy painting, tinging with pink, as if she'd been outside a little too long. I cataloged every spot, storing it in my memory. I was keen to the one just above her lip, on the arch of her cupid's bow.
Fuck, she was gorgeous.
"Nice disguise." Her voice broke me out of my trance, her eyes trailing as I followed, seeing only the edge of my cap. We were inches from each other, a set of counters keeping our bodies close, the sound of screaming and knocks just on the other side. But it felt fucking muted, like a distant sound, and I couldn't hear anything but her breathing. "There is a back door exit," Her chin jutted out in the opposite direction, but I couldn't look away.
Fucking speak, Cullen. "What?"
"I promise you they will tear this door down." She warned, but I could hear the twinge of humor in her voice. I heard my name from the other side, but I still couldn't move, watching the sweetest smile appear on her rose-tinted lips. "You better get going, rock star."
Cinnamon. It was like it encompassed her.
"You've got less than thirty seconds until they figure out the back exit." She cautioned as her arms crossed over her chest, almost daring me to move, her dark and light locks twisting over her shoulders as she smiled. I stepped back hesitantly, not wanting to leave but knowing I definitely needed to.
"Thank you," I told her as she nodded, watching as I walked backward for the first few steps, stumbling over milk crates. I caught my footing, taking one last glance as she hid a laugh behind those bee-stung lips, and I turned, opening the back door and making my escape, with the smell of cinnamon still draped around me.
AN: Surprise! I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of Cinnamon Girl. This story has been floating around my head since ending Obstacles.
This story will jump back and forth between Edward and Bella POV. The first few chapters are already completed, so I hope to keep it on a regular schedule.
Thanks for Fran for helping me fix my mistakes. I'm so happy I get to take her on this journey with me!
Let me know what you guys think, I am eager to hear your thoughts!
Until next time ...