To Andrew: For you, a story that tells you everything you should ever need to know.
The ice clinked satisfyingly into the short, squat glass behind the bar, and I watched with eager restraint as the bartender poured my first vodka cranberry of the evening. It was Friday night, after a long week, and my best friend Bella and I were out on the town to grab a few, much needed, drinks.
Bella and I both worked for the Portland Winterhawks, a junior hockey league team that did surprisingly well in our market. Take the Pacific Northwest location and then add in a fierce rivalry with neighbor Seattle, plus a team that consistently won, and we were a lot more popular than most junior hockey teams could pray to be.
I was the team spokeswoman. Bella worked behind the scenes, drafting our message and marketing materials. We'd met on the job five years ago, and the friendship between us, while not instant, had developed into an incredibly strong one.
This week had been hellish, at best, and even our friendship had been tested. All I wanted was to kick back, have some laughs and down a few drinks. So we'd headed out to one of our favorite bars, the Shanghai Tunnels, in downtown Portland, and I waited for the delightful sound of ice on glass and the sharp bite of good vodka.
Dumping the lime in the glass, I twirled the bright orange straw and perused the room, wondering if there was anyone here that was worth spending even five minutes with.
Bella was outside on her cell, reassuring her husband Edward that we'd be sure to take a cab home. I finish my scan of the room and frowned. I loved this bar, but I hated hipsters, which made it a rather awkward place to do a pickup. Anyway, I was hardly the type of girl that a hipster would even consider dating.
I could mince words, but really, I was unabashedly Barbie come to life. I didn't want to be, really, but since life had handed me the cards, it made no sense not to run with them. So I did, with a vengeance.
I used my beauty like a weapon, but very few people I ran across recognized this. Men, in particular, seemed rather oblivious. Idly, I wondered if I could ever meet someone who would like me for me instead of for my nice rack and head full of blond hair. I sighed; deep down I was beginning to think it was hopeless.
If I ever wanted to date anyone interesting, I'd have to dye my hair brown and wear three sports bras—a step I wasn't exactly willing to take. Besides, it had said more than once that blondes have more fun and I was willing to attest that it was definitely true. But lately, I'd gotten sick of the carousel of men who never stayed and I'd begun to long for one who would stick.
Like Edward had stuck with Bella.
I loved my best friend dearly and I would never, ever, tell her, but I envied her relationship with her husband so much that sometimes the longing and jealousy threatened to consume me. They were deeply in love and utterly convinced of the perfection of their match—and honestly, I was convinced of it too. Bella and Edward fit together like two halves of a whole, and seeing them together only served to remind me of how truly alone I was.
No parents. No siblings. No real relatives. And no husband.
I took a slug of my drink and leaned back in my chair, only to nearly fall out when Bella's work Blackberry began to vibrate on the hardwood of the bar.
The number was unknown but I noted the blinking red flag on the corner of the screen. It was an important call—a really important call, if that was any indication, though half the time people couldn't figure the damn phone out and I knew Bella had sent out high priority texts for a week before she realized what she was doing.
I hesitated for a second, but then I grabbed the phone up before it could go to voicemail and clicked the send button.
"Hello?" I said cautiously, ready to play Bella if I had to. Technically we were off work, but the one thing I'd learned working for this particular organization was that there was no such thing as being truly "off work."
"Is this Bella?" The voice was deep and incredibly male, with just a tinge of a Southern accent. It was a sexy voice—a voice that reminded me of Rhett Butler and staircases and being dragged into bed by my hair. . .
"Uh," I stammered, unsure as to what I should say and even more unsure why my mind had gone so totally south after just hearing the man's voice.
Get it together, Rose, I snapped at myself.
"You don't sound like Bella at all," the man said and this time his voice was friendlier and almost jovial. I breathed a little easier.
"This isn't Bella. I'm Rosalie Hale, her co-worker. Can I help you?"
"Bella called me about an hour ago and left a voicemail saying she needed some advice regarding private plane rental."
Advice? And why did the man sound like he knew Bella? Suspicion grew inside me.
"I remember she was working on that, yes, but I'm unclear as to why she would need your 'advice.'" I kept my tone professional and added a touch of frosty bitch. It had never failed me before and I didn't expect it to fail now.
But it did.
The man simply laughed, long and loud and heartily into the phone. I held the phone slightly away from my ear and frowned.
"This is Emmett. Emmett McCarty. Edward's brother."
"I'm afraid I don't quite understand, sir. I wasn't aware Mr. Cullen had any brothers."
"Frat brother. We go way back."
I glared at the bar, and tried to take back control of the conversation.
"And you have advice on the matter of. . .private plane rental?"
"I fly for one of the companies that does 'em. She wanted to know who she could trust to give her good rates, and I can definitely give her some advice on that."
I groped in my long-term memory for any mention of one of Edward's friends who was a pilot and finally unearthed a long ago conversation in which Bella had briefly mentioned this Emmett.
He'd had to miss the wedding because a last minute commission had come up, and I remembered feeling a slight bit of regret, because Bella had said that she thought we'd hit it off. But instead of having a wedding hookup, I'd had to settle for watching Bella and Edward slow dance their way into nuptial bliss through the fog of vodka instead of a few screaming orgasms.
It wasn't his fault that he hadn't been at the wedding, but I still felt the rankle of that missed opportunity and though I should never have said a word, the alcohol I'd already consumed seemed to have loosened my tongue.
"You missed the wedding," I blurted out.
There was a distinctive pause on the other end, like he couldn't believe I'd mentioned that particular fact in the middle of what should have been a strictly business conversation.
"I did," he drawled. "You must have been the blond 'goddess,' that Bella reassured me would be all over me if I showed up."
I made sure that he heard my sharp intake of breath. Except I wasn't all that offended. In fact, I was rather flattered that even after three years he still remembered who Bella had promised he'd meet.
Except that we'd never met.
Emmett laughed again, and I found myself smiling despite my conflicted feelings on the subject.
"Bella reassured me that you were on tenterhooks to meet me too so need to act the prim maid with me, sweetheart," he drawled and I could almost picture me and him, on a sweltering Southern evening, facing off over a white-flounced canopied bed.
I sucked down more vodka, and prayed that it would clear my head.
"I was hardly on 'tenterhooks,'" I scoffed. "I just like to know I have options at a wedding."
"Aren't you just the little opportunist?" he asked with a chuckle and I wished we weren't on the phone so I could inflict frostbite with my ice cold blue eyes.
"Talk about the pot calling the kettle black," I retorted.
"Oh sweetheart, I'm not going to mince words about it. I was almost more disappointed not to meet you than I was to miss Edward's wedding. Bella's description of you was . . .memorable," he said, drawing out the last word, and I knew he was thinking of what he thought I looked like, and all the fantasies running through my mind froze.
"I'll tell Bella to call you back," I said as frostily as I could. "She's outside calling Edward on her personal cell phone."
And before Emmett could protest and further the conversation, I'd clicked the end button and slid the phone as far down the bar as I could. I eyed it warily and prayed that he wouldn't call back. He didn't.
Bella chose that moment to reappear and I pounced. "You got a call," I said, trying to hide how rattled I was by the conversation. "Emmett McCarty returning your voicemail."
Bella's sweet face lit up in a smile. "Oh good, you got to talk to Emmett, finally."
"Finally?" I deliberately pretended like I had no idea what she was talking about.
"He's the guy I was telling you about that ended up missing the wedding. You know, Edward's frat brother. The pilot."
"Ah, yes," I said noncommittally.
"It's not that important," Bella announced, "I can call him back on Monday."
"Oh," I said weakly, angry that I'd answered the phone even though it could have waited. Damn Blackberrys and their misleading high priority alerts.
"Let's have a drink," Bella said happily and turned toward the bartender. I resolved that I wouldn't think any more about Emmett and our conversation. By tomorrow, he'd be totally forgotten—a minor little blip on my radar.
AN: This will be another short story, kind of like The Accidental Kiss, that I wrote partially for Valentine's Day and partially also for a special someone . . .
Look for updates to show up in the next few days. It'll be entirely posted (fingers crossed) by V Day. Songs for the story are up on my profile.