Disclaimer: Oh boy! If Twilight had been mine, it would have been rated M!!!
A/N: a new one, inspired this time again by pamhalliwell! What can I say? She rocks my world. Enjoy and don't forget to review please.
In case you're wondering it's from Eddie's point of view and the story is told in flashbacks, that's why it keeps coming back to August 2009.
She was breath taking. There were no other words. She took my breath away and it had nothing to do with the designer dress my cousin forced her into, or the way her long deep brown hair cascaded down her back in waves of bright curls. It wasn't the way she captured everyone's attention, mine included, just by walking through the doors or the way she embraced Emmett as if she had known him all her life. I had always been aware, even during our darkest days, that she was something special but tonight as our eyes finally locked across the ballroom and her lips spread in the most beautiful smile I'd ever seen, my breath caught in my throat.
The truth was, a year ago when we first started working together she would have never directed such a smile at me. A frown yes, a scowl definitely, the middle finger for sure but certainly not a smile and even less a smile so genuine it would have made demons melt. A year ago I was her worst nightmare and she was a pain in my... backside.
"Carlisle, you cannot do this to me," the words were spat angrily and forcefully.
We were seating across from each other in his large office. Rays of sunshine were bouncing off the walls jovially as if my boss hadn't just crushed my career. Irony's a bitch, they say. I wish I could have been spared on that particular lesson. The air around us was tense and unstable which was a first between Carlisle and I. We were never in this position, he never played the boss card with me because he simply never had to. I was good at my job, very good in fact. I kept on bringing more and more clients, each more famous and richer than the previous and there wasn't an assignment he had given me that I didn't nail. I was the best and it wasn't arrogance on my behalf it was the simple truth. I was Edward Cullen, The crème de la crème. If you were looking for the best PR in New York then people in the know would automatically lead you to me.
At least, it used to be the case. Now people would give you two names, same agency of course but it wasn't just me anymore. You were given a choice with assurance that the work would be done just as graciously by either one of us. It remained a choice however and even though I used to like the competition back in high school when it consisted of who would get Jessica Stanley's panties down first, now it was just a problem. A pretty big one.
It's not even the fact of having someone trying to take the spotlight away from me because it never really was my thing to be the center of attention. There was a reason I was a PR and not one of my clients; I liked working in the shadows. Making someone shine and yet remain anonymous. There was something very thrilling and powerful about the concept.
The problem didn't come from the competition in itself either. I know how entertaining the possibility of a rival worthy of my abilities could be. The problem was that my rival didn't want anything to do with me whether it was a friendly competition or even a co-worker relationship. She had hated me from the very first time we met six months ago and there was nothing I could do to change that fact.
Who's she, you ask? She's Isabella Swan PR extraordinaire with a list of clients longer than Adriana Karambeu's legs and the charm of a mermaid. She's been working with us for six months now and the speed at which she made herself a name in the business was both amazing and truly annoying.
Why did she hate me?
My working methods. My reputation. My connections. My attitude. My clothes. My car. My hair... And I'm not kidding. I asked her once why did it bother her that she had to put up with me because even though I knew I could be irritating sometimes, I was nothing if not charming and friendly. She turned her furious eyes on me started the list, punctuating every point with a jab of her tiny finger on my chest. She turned away in a huff when she was done and I never talked to her again after that.
My working methods were good, heck they were brilliant if you listened to some of the praise I received. My reputation was only stained with a few (and far between) one night stands which were none of anyone's business. My connections were what they were and there was nothing I could do about it. Yes Carlisle was indeed my uncle, almost as important to me as my own father, but I earned this job. I worked hard and fought long to get where I am now. Carlisle is, first and foremost, a fair man. He wouldn't have given me the job if he thought I wasn't good enough. He was right, I'm more than good enough, I've become the best on my own. As for my attitude, well nobody ever complained. I tend to get arrogant from time to time but that's what the job entails. I try to not let myself get carried away and I think I've got a good hold on things except maybe the way I react to her. She provokes an anger and a desire to be better that I had never felt before. As for my clothes, my hair and my car, I would talk about jealousy but it really isn't my place.
Isabella (because I wasn't allowed to call her Bella) and I weren't on friendly terms and it all boils down to this: she misjudged me and I never tried hard enough to change her opinion of me. I didn't see the point. After all, she's the one with a narrow mind. I was many things but I wasn't one to judge people based on rumors and half-truths only. If it were the case, I wouldn't be where I was today. She despised me without even knowing me and that killed any wish of building any kind of relationship with her. We kept away from each other, only speaking when it was really necessary (most of the times our respective assistants worked through any details together without having to make us interfere). She was good, I knew she was but I had never been witness of her in action and we both liked it that way.
So the comparison, even though based on solid facts, was still hurtful. It wasn't Edward Cullen anymore. It was Edward or Isabella and I hated it. Hence my current anger directed at my boss.
He was looking at me with that typical Carlisle expression. Serene and unchangeable. It was unnerving. I was seething and he was merely staring at me.
"Edward it's the client's desire and we cannot simply ignore it," he said still looking at me.
"Carlisle, we cannot work together."
"Yes you can."
"No we can't. And I'm not talking about our incompatibilities but what they would lead to. If Isabella and I work on Emmett's file together we will lose him," I stated my venomous words filled with conviction.
"You two are the best PRs of the city, we can't lose Emmett."
"She hates me... No let me rephrase. She loathes me and I'd like to say the feeling isn't mutual but-," I was interrupted by an angry voice. I looked around and felt the usual feelings of annoyance and irritation run through my veins.
"But that would be a lie," Isabella stated from the threshold of the door, her eyes tight and her jaw set. I rolled my eyes before turning back to Carlisle, my eyebrows raised.
"And I am not a liar," I said my voice hard.
"Bella," Carlisle smiled and mentioned with his hand for her to come sit next to me. I was still looking straight ahead so I couldn't see her reaction but the huff she made clearly reflected my own feelings. I glared at Carlisle who was still acting like there was nothing wrong with this whole ordeal. "Glad you could make it," he added, clasping his hands together on top of his desk.
"It's not like I had a choice now, did I?" she said crossing her arms and legs. Carlisle's expression finally changed from calm to worried.
"Are you really going to act as if this is the end of the world?" he asked with a deep frown. Suddenly he looked much older than his years. I sighed and shook my head. I was a glutton for punishment and Carlisle knew that.
"Carlisle," Isabella spoke before I could and her voice was softer. "You know how much I like working for you. I really love my job and it's mostly because I'm working for you," I wanted to roll my eyes but her words rung with sincerity, "I'm just... concerned about how this will turn out."
Carlisle took a deep breath and smiled a little. "If you stopped glaring at each other long enough to see the potential I see between you two, then you would understand why Emmett McCarthy was so adamant about working with the both of you," this time neither of us refrained from rolling our eyes. Potential, my arse. Other than potential for disaster, I wasn't seeing anything.
"You do realize this is a 10 million dollar contract?" I asked. He nodded.
"And you understand that if we lose him we will probably lose Rosalie Hale as well?" Bella asked. He nodded again.
"Which is a 5 million dollar contract," I added with a deadpan.
"You won't lose anything," he said so calmly I almost wanted to scream.
"Carlisle," I started but he held up his hand.
"The decision has been made, guys and there's nothing either one of you can do about it," he almost sounded smug. "I've been watching you two for the last six months. I think it's time to grow up," he said with a nod. With glares and half mumbled half screamed threats of quitting we left his office. We stopped once we were in the hall and turned our gazes to each other.
"I guess this means we'll have to be civil around each other," she mumbled with a frown.
"Does it mean I get to call you Bella?" I asked sarcasm dripping from my every word. I was angrier at Carlisle than at her but it was a mechanism I had developed when I dealt with her. I could never let her have the upper hand.
"Whatever," she said with a scowl and left without meeting my gaze. I watched her go with a sigh. This promised to be a long and painful assignment.
She was laughing at one of Jasper's jokes. Her head was thrown back and her small shoulder was shaking with mirth. She was glorious.
"Close your mouth, Cullen," I heard a smug mouth coming from my right. I turned with a frown to face Rosalie Hale. Many people, every human being of the planet, thought of Rose as the personification of beauty. Objectively speaking even I couldn't deny that she was in fact beautiful but after two years of working for her I could only see her as a bugging know it all with too much confidence. It was probably why she liked me and why we could be friends. Oh and there was this little detail of her being Emmett's wife.
"Bugger off," I said with a laugh and she smirked.
"She does look fantastic, doesn't she?"
I didn't respond. Instead I turned back to Bella who was now rolling her eyes at Alice. I tried to not let it show but I couldn't, I grinned.
"Alice! Emmett's a football player!" she was almost shrieking and if I wasn't so annoyed at my cousin, I would be laughing at Bella's aggravated expression.
"I know that," Alice said with a smile and a perky nod.
"Do you?" I asked with a raise of my eyebrow. "Because you don't seem to understand that Sport and Haute Couture aren't the same thing!" the sarcasm was once again a little too strong in my tone but I couldn't help it. As much as I loved my cousin, she had a gift for annoying the heck out of me.
"Silly Eddie, I know that," I glared at her nickname and Bella tried to hide a smile, unsuccessfully. "But I'm bored and I need something to challenge me."
"Yes, because designing dresses for Jennifer Aniston and Megan Fox becomes dull fast," Bella deadpanned and it was my turn to fight a smile.
Alice glared at the both of us then. "Funny how in sync you are with other when you can barely stand to be in the same room."
I narrowed my eyes angrily and Bella blushed. "That is besides the point. You have no experience in the matter and he may not look like it but Emmett is pretty demanding," I explained and to my surprise she smiled.
"Oh I already spoke to Emmett," she grinned and Bella's eyes widened in alarm. She turned to me with a pleading expression.
"Please, tell me this is another example of the legendary Cullen humor."
"I certainly hope so," I said keeping my glaring eyes on my tiny cousin. "Alice, tell me you didn't go behind our backs to talk to one of our most important clients! Tell me you didn't jeopardize both of our careers!"
She smirked then. "Since when do you care about Bella's career?" she quipped.
"Oh for the love of-" I started getting up but Bella stopped me.
"Alice! If this fails, we are both screwed. Whether we like it or not, this isn't about him or me anymore! There is an 'us' now and I swear on my father's fishing stick that if you fucked this up I will kill you with my bare hands," she snapped and Alice and I gaped at her. Alice was probably more concerned about her pretty neck than about the rest of her speech but I was dumbfounded about it. She wanted this to work, she really did.
Ever since that fateful meeting a month ago, things had been tense to say the least. And not the kind of tense we had been used to. It was a new kind of tension, as if we were both waiting for the other to break and leave without ever coming back. We remained professional but the past strains were always between us, keeping us from working as a real team. Separately we were perfect, together... Well we still didn't know to be honest. There were trust issues obviously and we were both wary of the other but Carlisle was keeping a close eye on us so we tried to be as natural as possible. Of course, we were more used to glaring than smiling at each other so it was still hard to act against our habits.
I learned a lot about Miss Swan during these past four weeks, though. I couldn't deny the facts anymore. I didn't like it but she really was brilliant. We signed three deals already and two of them were all her doing. She got Emmett to sign a promotional contract with Nike and another one with Coca Cola. I got us the Armani contract and Emmett was thrilled to learn that he would be modeling for their new underwear line.
While Emmett and I got along because of our common points (sports, cars and complimentary senses of humor) Bella won Emmett's heart with her kind nature. She even managed to befriend Rosalie Hale, Emmett's ice queen of a fiancé who happened to be a rising cinema start and our second most important client.
She always put everything she had in her work. There were no double standards with her. If she said that something would get done, then you could be sure that it would. With Bella, what you saw was what you got.
And, what I was starting to appreciate more and more, she gave credit where credit was due. She never tried to use one of my ideas as her own. It should have surprised me, working in a business like ours, but I knew there was a reason why Carlisle was so fond of the girl.
Whether we liked it or not, we were working together and it was starting to look like it wouldn't end with one of us at the morgue. And now, she just admitted that she would do her best to really make it work. A wave of relief flooded through me and I took a deep breath, my lungs filling with serenity for the first time in a month.
"Did you just use the 'F' word?" Alice brought me back to the present with a giggle. Bella blushed and cleared her throat. I laughed then, unable to shake this new feeling of gratitude out of me. Bella's eyes locked on mine and I thought she would be furious but she must have seen something to placate her because she allowed a small smile to emerge.
"I did not," Bella said squaring her shoulders.
"You did," Alice insisted with mock disappointment.
"You so did!" Alice's giggles were contagious and soon enough we were all laughing uncontrollably.
In the end, Alice won (shocker!) and she designed, with Emmett's inputs, a magnificent clothing line. The sales were almost outrageous. Bella and I would have liked to rejoice in our relief but Alice's constant smirks were making it pretty difficult.
My gaze traveled down her dress and I almost laughed imagining the effort it took Alice to get her to wear it. Bella was a sophisticated young woman, with a classic sense of fashion but her idea of dress code certainly gave my cousin nightmares. Especially when it came to these kinds of events. I would bet my baby-grand that Bella had been planning on wearing her black pencil skirt with her complimentary white button down. It would have been a waste, though. She looked magnificent in the silky garment, flowing around her curves as if it had been designed for her. Knowing Alice, it probably had.
She looked up from a conversation with Mike Newton and threw another smile my way. This time, the intent was clear. She wanted Mike, boring accountant to go get lost. I chuckled to myself and shrugged. She managed to combine a pout and a glare at the same time and I grinned at her. She turned back to Mike who was oblivious to the silent conversation that had just occurred.
We were pretty good at those too.
I hung up the phone and sighed with relief. Last call of the day. Last call of the week; I could go home and sleep until Monday morning. I smiled. The idea sounded wonderful. I quickly turned off my computer and grabbed the rest of my stuff before heading for the elevators, towards freedom. I loved my job, I really did, but sometimes it weighed me down.
It was almost 10 PM so I was surprised to see there was still light coming from Bella's office. I peaked inside and the sight that welcomed me made me smile. Bella was leaning against her chair, her shoe-less feet propped up on the desk, a pen between her lips while she read a file. She was holding it up above her head and squinting up at it with the funniest expression on her face.
"It won't tell you how to fix Emmett's foot in mouth syndrome," I said teasingly and she jumped up, letting the file and the pen drop to the floor. She turned to glare at me but the effect was ruined by her chest heaving up and down with the effort it took her to calm her breathing.
"Ugh, Cullen, haven't you ever heard of knocking?" she asked more than a little annoyed.
"Yeah but what's the fun in that?" I asked with a smirk and she rolled her eyes. She was used to my antics and my tongue by now.
"I thought I was the last one," she said putting her feet down and turning to face me completely. Her hair was loose and it took me longer than I would have thought to detach my eyes from their waves. Then I lowered my eyes and I thought maybe I should have kept my eyes on her hair. The top buttons of her purple blouse were undone and I was greeted with more cleavage than I was used to from her. I quickly averted my eyes from her porcelain skin and cleared my throat, trying to remember the last thing she had said.
"Uh... Yeah I thought so too," I said looking back at her and I winced internally. She was blushing while quickly refastening her buttons. I was less subtle than I gave myself credit for, apparently. I wanted to apologize but I had a feeling it would lead to an even longer awkward silence. Because, Lord knows this one isn't long and painful enough. Just when we started to tolerate each other. She had to be thinking the worse of me all over again.
"You look tired," she stated softly and what surprised me more than her tone were her words. She really seemed concerned.
"Probably because I am," I replied with a dry chuckle. "God, Emmett's not allowed near a microphone ever again," I said with a shake of my head and she laughed. A real full out laugh, full of sunshine and beauty. I grinned, glad I was able to make her laugh that way. When did it become so easy?
"I can't believe he proclaimed that he thought Paris Hilton would look doable if she stopped talking!" she said her voice still shaking with silent giggles.
"I can't believe Rosalie hasn't cut his balls off already," I added entering more fully into the office.
"Oh last thing I heard he was still sleeping on the couch without a pillow," she said with a grin and I shook my head. Poor Emmett.
"Serves him right! In front of the New York governor!"
"I will never forget the Governor's face though," she said with a small smile.
"Forget the Governor! Have you seen Carlisle?" I asked crossing my arms with a smug grin.
"Have I seen it? It's my screen saver!"
"Oh this I have to see!" I said coming around her desk. She opened her laptop and sure enough there he was in all his mortified glory.
"So much for calm and collected, huh?" she asked with another round of giggles. I turned to look at her and when our eyes connected, I realized how close we actually were to each other. Her eyes widened a little and I found it strangely endearing. She did have pretty eyes.
She cleared her throat and sat straighter in her seat. I took it as my cue and straightened out as well before heading back to the door.
"Well, you know what they say, all publicity is good publicity," I said with a shrug and she tried to smile but she seemed in some kind of trance looking at my left shoulder as if it would give the answers to all her problems.
"Everybody loves Emmett," she finally whispered, her eyes meeting mine again. They weren't pretty, they were piercing and intense and deep. They were beautiful. "I wouldn't be surprised if Paris called to arrange a play date," she joked with an arch of her brow and it was as if her previous behavior hadn't occurred.
"And then she would have to flee New York because if Rose hears about it, she'll come running!"
"With an ax," she added with a grin. It was my turn to laugh and she joined me.
"I'll see you on Monday, Swan," I said with a smile and she nodded.
"See you then, Cullen."
That evening, as I made my way to my car, and thought about next week, I realized I was actually looking forward to it. Even more than before last July.
Esme suddenly came rushing toward Bella and engulfed her in a bear hug, saving her from another one of Mike's rants. Bella's laughter echoed through the room and through my heart. Contrarily to our situation, it didn't take long for the Cullen women to adopt and adore Bella. Carlisle soon appeared next to his wife and Bella turned to him with a grin so huge I was afraid it might cut her face in two. They hugged and she whispered something in his ear that had him chuckling for a full minute. She barely had time to breathe before my parents joined them and they were soon engaged in what seemed to be an important discussion. Knowing my parents, they were probably making sure she'd join us for Christmas. Bella was surrounded by my family and my friends, looking more at ease than in her own home. My heart swelled with the thought. The first time we all had been gathered like this wasn't as a pleasant event as tonight was.
"Oh Edward!" Alice's head fell on my shoulder and I tightened my arm around hers. Her heart wrenching tears had been falling freely for the last three hours now. I tried everything to make them stop but there was nothing anyone could do. Jasper had been in a car accident and even though they tried to reassure us, the doctors were skeptical about the outcome of the surgery. I had never seen my cousin so distraught. Her usually tiny face looked even smaller today, her little shoulders were shaking with silent sob and the clothes she was wearing were mismatched and loosely buttoned up.
"What if he doesn't wake up?" she whispered in a shudder and I closed my eyes at the thought. I wished I knew how to respond to that. I wished I could find the word to comfort her and make it all better but I was at loss. For once, the great Edward Cullen didn't have the solution to fix it. I had never felt more useless in my life.
I was trying to come up with something to tell her, anything to stop the trail of tears on her cheeks when the doors of the waiting room burst open and in came Bella. A very disheveled, crazy looking Bella. Half of her hair was up in a lose ponytail while the rest of it was in disaray around her neck and shoulders. She was wearing gray sweatpants with big white wool socks and a dark t shirt far too big for her petite figure. Her black dress coat had been thrown haphazardly across her back but the sleeves were falling and her shoulders were bare except for the short sleeves of her t-shirt. Her eyes were unfocused jumping from each member of my family to the other with worry and concern. They finally stopped on me and Alice. At first, they filled with tears as she took in Alice's appearance but then they flashed with anger as they met mine.
"Why didn't you call me?" she whispered angrily. My eyes widened. I didn't really know how to answer her.
"What do you mean?" I asked with a frown and Alice finally raised her little head to look at Bella.
"Why did I have to hear it from Lauren fucking Mallory?" she spat, her eyes narrowing so much the whites were barely visible anymore. I looked from my parents who were looking anxiously at Bella, to Carlisle and Esme who were looking worriedly at their daughter still and to Rosalie and Emmett who were exchanging winces at Bella's tone. I wouldn't find the help I needed in anyone of them. I looked to my side at Alice who had straightened up in her seat and I felt my jaw fell to the floor. She was still crying silently but a small smile appeared on her features.
"You swore," she rasped to Bella whose eyes snapped back to her friend.
"So what if I did?" she asked defiantly and Alice's smile grew a little before frowning sadly.
"I'm sorry Bella, I asked Edward not to call you before we were sure Jazz was going to be okay," the smile had disappeared at the mention of her husband and tears gathered once again in her eyes. Bella rushed to her side and engulfed her in a hug.
"How come Emmett and Rose are here, then?" she asked with a small smile, still holding on my cousin. She wasn't really mad, just worried sick like the rest of us. My face relaxed completely and I felt a strange tug in my heart.
"I was with Rose when the police called," Alice hiccuped from Bella's shoulder and her arms tightened again.
"It's going to be okay, sweetie, I promise," Bella whispered but her eyes were locked on mine. I let her words wash over me and just like my face did a few moments ago, the rest of my body relaxed. When she said them, the words sounded true.
And they had been. Jasper was across the room from me, nuzzling my cousin's neck as if he had never endured a six hours long surgery and six months of reeducation. As good as new and that traumatic event only brought him and his wife closer together while the Cullens adopted Bella as one of their own. My eyes traveled once again around the room and I smiled at a work once again well done. It took us a little while to get the hang of it but Bella and I were unbeatable together. Completely beyond compare. Forget Edward or Bella, it was Edward AND Bella now and the pride that overtook me every time I thought about it was staggering. The idea of us not working together, not reaching out for the other, not being together was laughable now.
"Have you read this?" she asked as soon as I opened my door, short of breath. She was holding up the latest issue of US Weekly where Emmett's face was plastered. I tried to not let the fact that she was here at 7 in the morning, unannounced, not affect me but it was difficult to overlook that little detail considering it was also the first time ever she dropped by my place. The fact that I was wearing only my sweatpants wasn't lost on me either. Nor her it seemed, because when she realized my lack of clothing, her cheeks turned the cutest shade of pink ever. Yes I started referring to Bella as cute, adorable and sweet in my head. Real trouble will start when those words would start falling out of my mouth. For now it was okay because the truth was, she was all those things and more.
"Bella, you can't start panicking every time a new piece of gossip appears," I said getting aside to let her in. She ducked her head shamefully and passed by me. She was already dressed and made up, ready for work. I took a deep breath and rolled my eyes in agony. She had to smell good too.
"I'm sorry, but this could be a problem," she said coming to stand in the middle of my living room. She opened the magazine and started reading the article. I tunned out the words and concentrated on the soft intonations of her voice, on the way her lips came to press together softly when she pronounced hard consonants, how her little foot tapped the soft carpet, or how her cheeks would flush with anger at the bull she was reading. It was fascinating. I crossed my arms and leaned over the wall, hearing her out. I knew what the article was about, a cheerleader proclaiming she was having an affair with Hot Shot Emmett McCarthy. Pluh-ease! It would take more than big boobs and short skirts to detach Emmett from Rosalie's hip. I was even surprised Bella was making a big deal out of this. Not that I minded having her here.
"Ugh! Crap, this is ridiculous, isn't it?" she asked looking up at me, biting her bottom lip. I wish she would stop doing that, it was too distracting. I nodded and she smiled. "Sorry," she said with a small shrug.
"It's okay. Want some coffee?" I asked pointing behind me to the kitchen.
"Yes, please," she said with a sigh of relief and I smiled.
I lead her through the hallway to my kitchen and she timidly sat down on a stool at the bar. I started the pot and turned to lean against the counter, observing her as she let her eyes travel around my kitchen. She smiled suddenly and I followed her gaze to find her grinning at the the mug my mom offered me a few years ago for Christmas. 'Eddie' it read in capital light green color. I rolled my eyes and she giggled. She shook her head but didn't comment further, thank God for small favors.
The coffee machine beeped and I turned around to pour coffee in two cups. I added the customary two sugars in mine and a touch of cream in hers. When I turned back to her she had put out the magazine again and was scowling at the skanky cheerleader's picture.
"Bella, this is not going to affect Emmett's image whatsoever. Tomorrow, people will wipe their dog's butt with it," I said coming closer to her and putting her coffee on the bar. She smiled at my turn of phrase and I shrugged. She took her coffee in her hands and smiled down at it.
"Thank you," she said and I nodded my welcome. "I know it won't affect Emmett, I mean I've already called Emmett's lawyer and they assured me that a disclaimer was on its way but I can't help but feel bad for Emmett and Rose," she said, fixing her eyes on mine. And she truly felt bad for them; her eyes held such sadness I almost reach out to pull her in my arms.
"Emmett and Rose are used to it. They chose this life, remember?" I said in a soft tone and she nodded with a sigh.
"I know they did, it doesn't mean it doesn't suck," she added petulantly and I smiled a little at her tone.
"Are you kidding? It sucks for those of have to take care of the mess, in other words, you and me. Rose and Emmett have it easy," I said with a wave of my hand before taking a sip at my coffee. She laughed at my joke and it instantly made me feel good.
"You and me," she said then as if testing the words together.
"Who'd have thought, huh?" I tried to make it sound light but the weight of the words wasn't lost on either one of us.
I looked over at Rose and Emmett and couldn't help the smug smile that spread across my cheeks. He had a hand on her bulging stomach and was looking down at it with nothing short of reverence and adoration. The baby was due in four months and the future parents were even more inseparable than before. Long gone and forgotten the cheerleader. If memory serves me right she was fired for muckraking shortly after the publication of the disclaimer. Emmett's eyes suddenly widened and he grabbed Bella's hand to bring it to his wife's bump. Bella's eyes grew wide too and she grinned at Rosalie.
I hadn't seen my mom approach but suddenly she was right beside me a hand on my upper arm.
"Hello, mom," I smiled down at her. My mother, just like her sister Esme and her niece Alice, was a tiny person. I got my tall figure from my father and probably from his brother, Carlisle as well. Oh did I forget to mention that I was related to Alice through both of my parents?
"This is spectacular," she said looking around her in awe.
"Thank you," I replied with a cheeky grin and she laughed. "So you ambushed Bella for another Christmas, haven't you?" I asked with a smirk and she grinned at me.
"Oh don't be coy, she'd have been there anyway, wouldn't she?" she asked with a raise of her eyebrow. I laughed. Yes, she would.
"Mrs Cullen, the supper was amazing," Bella said passing her arms through the sleeves of her coat that I was holding up for her.
"Bella, dear, It's Elizabeth. There are too many Mrs. Cullen around here," my mother smiled before embracing her. A little surprised but happy nonetheless, Bella returned the embrace.
"Thank you, Elizabeth," she said when they released each other and my mother smiled fondly at her.
"The same goes for me," Sue Withlock, Jasper's mother, added before leaning over and pecking Bella's cheek who smiled gratefully and nodded
"We have to get lunch together soon," Esme put in before engulfing her in one of her famous breath taking hugs.
"Okay, I'll call you?" Bella asked unsure and Esme nodded enthusiastically. I shook my head at my aunt who shrugged with an all too innocent expression on her face.
"You shouldn't call her Bella, she's worst than Alice when she wants to be," I said with a smirk and both Bella and Esme swatted my arms. I chuckled and took my aunt into my arms.
"Call me," she asked and I nodded.
"See you soon, Sue." I said before hugging her.
"Parole, parole," she mumbled with a forgiving smile and I laughed.
"Mom, see you next week," I said giving her a kiss.
"Hu huh, drive safe," she said opening the door for us.
"Will do," I nodded while helping Bella out of the house. I was about to ask my mother if I should bring anything for New Year's eve when Sue's gushing interrupted me.
"Aw would you look at that," she started exchanging a look with my mother and my aunt. They looked up and suddenly my smile fell from my lips. I didn't even have to look up to see what they were all smiling about. I'd watched all day long as couples pecked, kissed and made out in this particular spot. That explained Jasper's advice to get out from the back door.
"Mistletoe," Esme almost squealed and I rolled my eyes. I didn't have to look at Bella either to know that she had become the color of a tomato. Not knowing quite what to do, I settled for glaring at the women behind me.
"Come on, Eddie, it's tradition," Mom said and I felt my cheeks flush. I reluctantly tore my eyes from them to look at Bella. As predicted, she was redder than ever and quite to my dismay she was bitting her bottom lip. She locked her gaze on mine and, bless her, she rolled her eyes. I smiled and nodded before shrugging. It was just a kiss. It didn't have to mean anything. I mean, it's Bella and me and even though my imagination got the better of me sometimes we were only friends and sometimes, barely that. So I leaned forward, she tiptoed and we met in the middle for a quick and soft kiss. We kept our hands to each other and our lips closed. It was sweet and nothing of consequence, or so it would have seemed for anybody looking from the outside. I wasn't on the outside, I was on the inside and my reaction to this seemingly meaningless kiss was nothing short of life-altering. When we parted, I was the first one to open my eyes and my already fast heartbeat almost stopped at the soft expression on her face. Her eyes slowly opened and my heart almost exploded when she grinned at me.
"Merry Christmas, Cullen," she mouthed.
I smiled. "Merry Christmas, Swan."
My father came to whisk my mother away after a few seconds and I watched them for a moment as they waltzed joyfully on the dance floor. When I looked back at where the rest of my family was a few seconds ago, I realized that the women had disappeared. I smiled remembering a spring day when something similar had occurred.
"You think they could have cut that out for at least one day," Emmett complained before downing the rest of his drink. I shook my head and shared a smirk with Jasper.
"Emmett, you should be able to survive a few minutes without her," Jasper said mockingly while patting his shoulder.
"But it's my wedding day. I should be able to spend every fucking minute with my wife," he grumbled, not reacting to Jasper's jibe.
"Oh my god, you're so whipped! Where are those damn paparazzi when we need them?" I asked, looking around. Emmett didn't let that one slide and punched my arm. Hard. "What? I'm just stating the truth. Your wife went to the bathroom and your whining as if she had dumped you."
"I am not whining! I just want to enjoy my wedding day... Non stop." I rolled my eyes and he went back to eying the bathroom door. "And why the hell do they have to go in pack?" he asked turning back to us. Jasper and I just shrugged.
After a few moments of silence on our parts and a lot of starring on Emmett's, the song changed and Whatever you Like by T.I started playing. Weird song for a wedding, I knew, but it's one of Emmett's favorites and it suited the newlyweds. His eyes widened when he recognized the song and he jumped to his feet. He quickly made his way to the bathroom and before we knew it, he had dragged his wife out of there and to the dance floor.
"Unbelievable," Jasper mumbled and I laughed. I was used to Emmett's personality by now. Nothing he did surprised me anymore.
A few seconds later, Alice and Bella emerged from the bathroom and all thoughts of Emmett left my mind as I focused on the angel nearing me. It was hard not to stare, it was hard to pretend she didn't rock my world, it was hard to breathe. I was brought back to reality by a low chuckle and returned my gaze to Jasper. I raised one of my eyebrows in question and he grinned.
"You've got nothing on Emmett," he said lowly as the girls finally reached our table. I wanted to slap the smirk away but I couldn't so I settled for glaring.
"Can you believe this guy?" Alice asked with a huff as she sat down next to her husband.
"Alice, it's Emmett! Why do you look so surprised? It's not like he hasn't done far more outrageous things in the past." Bella said with a small smile as she sat down next to me.
"Still, the ladies' room? That's pushing it," Alice replied with a frown and Bella and I laughed.
"Oh so you didn't tell her about the Victoria's secret incident?" Bella turned her dancing eyes at me and I grinned.
"I haven't had the pleasure, no," I deadpanned and she laughed.
"A couple of months ago, we had to pay the entire staff of a Victoria's secret boutique a considerable amount of money and make them sign a confidentiality contract," Bella said leaning over the table, her eyes full of mirth. Jasper and Alice exchanged dumbfounded looks.
"Emmett and Rose were caught doing the deeds in one of their dressing rooms," I explained with a shake of my head and they burst out laughing.
"No way!" Alice giggled.
"Way! Apparently, one of the baby dolls Rose was trying on was, and here I quote, begging to be ripped off," Bella said and although her tone was still light, the cute scrunch of her nose reminded me of the expression she made when we had the chance to watch a certain video the day after the escapade.
"Ugh! Gross!" Alice grimaced as well.
"My thoughts exactly." I said with a nod and we all laughed. Use somebody by Kings of Leon was the next song and I found myself caught in the little gasp and the huge grin coming from Bella.
"She kept it," she murmured to herself. Jasper and Alice must have joined the dancing couples because when I looked at their places across from us, they were empty.
"Who kept what?" I asked, my curiosity almost choking me.
"I gave Rose a list of songs she should play today, you know, just to help. Most of them weren't played but she kept this one," she smiled a little wider.
"Why?" I asked enraptured in the smallest changes on her lovely face.
"Because she knows it's one of my favorite," she answered.
"What are still doing here, then?" I asked getting to my feet and holding my hand out to her. Her smile dropped off her face and she blushed.
"Uh, that's not such a good idea," she said in a small voice and I frowned. "Me, stilettos, dancing, not a good idea at all," she elaborated and I smiled down at her.
"It's all in the leading sweetheart," I said cheekily and she laughed. "Come on," I said taking her hand. I lead her to the dance floor and soon she was in my arms, swaying gently to the music. Her head was laying on my chest while her arms held me close to her body. I could have died then and I would have considered my life complete.
"Did you check the security?" she asked after a few moments and I had to smile.
"Every thing's fine Bella, don't worry. The paparazzi wouldn't find this place if their life depended on it," I assured her.
"Remind me to thank Esme and Carlisle for letting us do the ceremony here," she said with a a frown and I shook my head. Typical Bella, always making sure everybody was content and satisfied. The reception was held in my uncle's secondary residence; Bella's idea.
"You mean for the millionth time?" I asked with a smirk and she blushed.
"There's nothing wrong with being polite... and thorough," she mumbled and I laughed.
"And you're nothing if not thorough and polite."
"I hate you," she declared, her mouth forming a tight line.
"Nah, you don't. Not anymore," I grinned and she rolled her eyes but she blushed and it didn't escape me or my heart.
"Hey," a soft voice called from behind me and I turned around smiling.
"Good evening, Swan."
"Good evening to you too, Cullen. Are you enjoying yourself?" she asked clasping her hand in front of her.
"Surprisingly, yes. Who'd have thought a charity gala could be this much fun?" I asked and she smiled brightly.
"Well, I happen to know the team who organized this particular gala, so I'm not that surprised," she said with a small smile. My heart started to beat faster.
"Really, now? And who're they?"
"They work for Cullen's Agency. Two bright souls that work fantastically together, despite the odds," she said with a shrug. I nodded.
"I've heard of them. The best of the best, these two," I said with a smile of my own.
"Especially together," she added softly and our gaze locked. She slowly brought her hand to my cheek and her thumb traced my cheekbone sweetly. "I'm sorry Edward," she whispered and I closed my eyes.
"You don't have to apologize, Bella. The past is in the past and if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing," I said opening my eyes, trying to convey as much emotions as I could with one look. It was true, I wouldn't change a thing. It took us a little while but if it was the price to pay to get to know this wonderful woman, then I'd gladly pay it.
"Really?" she asked and I nodded.
"Not even the time I called you a arrogant ass in front of all the staff?" she asked with a small smile and I had to laugh.
"Especially not that! Do you know you were the first person to call me on my mistakes? It's what I like the most about you," I explained and she blushed. "On second thought, this is what I like most about you," I said touching her cheek with the tip of my fingers.
She shook her head. "Ugh, it only causes me trouble," she complained lowering her eyes to the floor. I put a finger under her chin and brought her glorious eyes back to mine.
"Cause you trouble? I hadn't been able to focus properly on work for the last thirteen months because of that damned blush," I said with a smirk and she giggled.
"Eh, I can live with that," I said with a shrug and before reason could interfere I lowered my head to hers and kissed her. Really kissed her. A caress of her lips, a brush of mine, a pull, a taste of tongue and an exchange of sighs. All too soon it was over but I brought her into my arms and as she nuzzled the side of my neck, I felt the sweetest pressure under my ear. She had kissed me, again.
"You don't know what you're in for," she smiled against my neck and I laughed.
"I think I've got a pretty good idea," I said with a smile before tightening my arms around her.
A/N: phew!!! 14 pages! I hope you liked them :) Title inspired by Ne-Yo's song.
Please, pretty please, with naked Robert on top, review. Thanks for reading :)