A/N: All Characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. I just like watching them in tight jeans.
1. Welcome to H-Town!
The heat and the humidity hit me as soon as I walked out of the automatic doors of the airport. Living in Phoenix for most of my life prepared me for the heat but Houston was a different animal altogether. The humidity caused an immediate sticky, sheen of sweat to coat every uncomfortable place on my body. No need to guess what my hair looked like.
I was sticky. I was tired. I was in desperate need of something alcoholic.
For the last several hours, I had been trapped inside a plane traveling from Seattle to Houston next to a woman with a screaming child that finally fell asleep 15 minutes before our descent into Houston. I had tried desperately to concentrate on all the research materials I had gathered for my interview, but I finally gave up and just shoved my headphone jack into my laptop and listened to the choice music I had downloaded and saved for such emergencies.
It had taken forever to retrieve my luggage from the baggage carousel and even longer to circumnavigate the large airport. I was finally able to locate the shuttle to the car rental agency. Frazzled and tired, I waited at the counter while the rental attendant rattled off the final choices I had available to choose from. I waved my hand at her showing I didn't really care and fully left the decision in her capable hands.
30 minutes later and armed with directions from my laptop, I made my way out onto the highways of Houston.
For someone who spent her formative teenage years in Forks, Washington; trying to drive in an unfamiliar city with freeways that wrapped around each other like spaghetti in a bowl was eminently terrifying.
I got lost.
No big surprise there.
I kept taking wrong exits, getting turned around and backtracking from where I had just been. Finally I got smart and stopped at a gas station for directions. Armed with a 64 oz. Mountain Dew and a 5 hour energy shot, I amped myself up to conquer the highways and find my hotel. About 40 minutes later, I had found my destination. I was impressed.
Not only impressed with my highway prowess and determination, but impressed that the magazine I worked for had given me a reservation in such a swanky place! Perhaps they were trying to make sure that Jasper Whitlock would be more comfortable in the surroundings that he had become accustomed to.
I didn't know. I didn't care.
I just wanted a shower, a quick change of clothes and a vodka martini. And maybe not necessarily in that order.
I took the car to the valet and splurged a little extra on the parking. I was driving a joke car but dammit….I was staying at someplace nice for a change. Treat time for Bella!
The bell hop unloaded my entire luggage onto the cart and I was whisked away to the front desk. I retrieved my room key and made my way to the elevator.
Just my luck. Sign posted on elevator door. "OUT OF SERVICE".
I turned and looked over my right shoulder. There were the stairs. I looked at my key card again. Sixth Floor. GAH!!!
I threw my duffle that contained my laptop onto the luggage cart that the bellhop was tugging along.
"I guess it's the stairs for me. I'll meet you up there." I groaned. I would bet cold hard cash money that he was going to use a service elevator.
The sweet, baby faced bellhop smiled his most attentive corporate trained smile and answered "Yes Ma'am!"
Ma'am? What? I'm only 25. When did I become a Ma'am? Geez that flight must have taken more out of me than I thought. I was replaying that comment over and over in my head when the fog suddenly cleared and I realized…it was just polite Southern manners.
I chuckled to myself as I wheezed onto the last set of stairs leading to my floor.
Note to self: Must start working out again. Six flights of stairs have just become major enemy.
I saw the perky little bellboy waiting at my door for me to arrive. I smiled at him wanly and pulled my key card out of the back pocket of my jeans.
He slid the card in, opened the door and I had not been prepared for the sight out of the windows of my room.
I stood for a moment just taking in the lights of Houston. The skyline was amazing. I was lucky enough that it was one of those incredibly clear nights when you could see ribbons of stars until you reached the bright corona of the full moon. I sighed at how beautiful it was.
That is until the bellboy unceremoniously clicked on the overhead light and all I could see was my bedraggled, tired, frizzed out, well traveled self reflected back in the windows. I sighed and fished through my purse for some money to tip the bellboy with. I didn't have a whole lot of singles so I just sucked it up and gave him a twenty dollar bill. His smile broke across his face and I knew I had an instant friend.
"Thank You Miss Swan!" He babbled excitedly. "If you need anything, my name is Seth."
I smiled back at his exuberance and thanked him. He backed himself out the doorway and I plopped backward onto the bed. I stretched myself out and lay there for a minute, challenging myself to get into the shower. As much as it tempted me, I was not going to crack open the mini bar. I begrudgingly pulled myself up and ambled over to the bathroom. I started to turn the shower on but caught a quick glimpse of my reflection in the mirror.
One look at myself and I knew that a shower was just not going to cut it tonight. I needed a bath. One long hot soak in the bath with my favorite freesia scented oil.
Glancing at the huge garden tub in the bathroom I knew I had made the right decision.
I turned the taps on full blast, dug through my suitcase to find my handy travel candles, and turned on the radio in the bathroom. I scoured through the dial until I was able to find a really great old jazz station. The water was filling up into the tub, and I stripped out of the clothes I had been in all day. I tippy toed completely naked, not even worrying about the drapes being wide open, to find some matches to light my candles.
I found them and made my way back into the bathroom. The water was already at the half way level, so I added my favorite bath oil and just slowly breathed in and out as the relaxing scent of freesia and lavender filled the bathroom. I lit the candles and it seemed the flames seemed to flicker and dance in time with the strains of jazz echoing forth from the radio.
I put one foot in tentatively. The water was perfect. I took my time lowering myself down into the deeply fragranced water, leaned my head back and closed my eyes.
This was heaven.
This was hell.
Jasper had dragged me out to another one of his favorite honky tonks to go dancing and I just didn't want to be here. I had flown back to the States to check out his latest foals and geldings to see if I wanted to purchase any to add to the bloodline that I had been so carefully cultivating for the last couple of years.
My stable had become wildly successful and I was reaping the benefits of being a successful horse breeder; coupled with my inheritance and the title of Duke no less. Tonight however, I was not too keen on spending the evening celebrating in a Houston honky tonk with a bunch of cookie cutter debutantes.
I had known Jasper all my life. He was my cousin. His mother was my Aunt Esme. Jasper apparently had inherited her penchant for charm and putting people immediately at ease. Jasper never acted as if he were a descendent of a royal blood line that had run for centuries in the Masen family. He liked his jeans and his boots and the well earned calluses on his hands from raising and training thoroughbred horses to be winners.
Esme had rejected all social norms when it came to being royal and had married a doctor from Houston. Dr. Carlisle Cullen however was celebrated world wide for his research in rare blood diseases and Esme had had the last laugh at English nobility after all. They had ostracized her, but now she was at the top of all the socialites' lists when it came to charities and social functions. She was English nobility, she was rich, and she was married to a world famous doctor. It seemed that she had the best of both worlds. My mother Elizabeth had been married to my father. Edward Anthony Masen. My father had inherited his title from a long line of Masen's that stretched back to the 18th Century. I had been the first male issue in a long time and since both my parents had died young, my title and my trust had been left for keeping in Esme's name.
Esme had taken me in and raised me like her own. The day I turned 17 and inherited both my title and all my family's money had been surreal. I decided at that moment that I would continue to live as I had been. On the ranch outside of Houston, learning about horses with Jasper, we were just like any other teenagers. But whenever duty called, we were dressed up and marched out like puppets on display. I hated the double life, but it maintained a degree of privacy that I truly enjoyed. I truly appreciated that Esme had let us live most of our lives out of the spotlight and as normal as possible.
But recently there had been a lot of publicity surrounding my cousin Jasper. His latest champion had just won the Triple Crown. Pictures of him at each race had caught the attention of the gossip rags and he was now photographed quite frequently with some new deb on his arm. Unfortunately, word got out about his social status, and now he and I both were constantly hounded by paparazzi. Jasper fed off of it. I hated it.
I decided that I was ready to go home, so I sidled up to Jazz and told him I was going to call for the car and remind him that he had a magazine interview with some hot shot reporter from Seattle in the morning. Jazz glanced at his watch with one eye open and I knew he was close to being three sheets to the wind. I paid our tab, grabbed Jazz tightly and led him to our waiting car outside.
Jazz collapsed into the back seat. His head lolled to the side and he started to lightly snuffle. Ah the sleep of the slightly inebriated! I instructed the driver to take us back to my loft that I kept in town. I'd throw Jasper into the spare bedroom, pull his boots off and let him sleep it off.
We arrived at the loft and I was able to wake Jazz. "You want some help?" I asked him.
Jazz smiled a slow lazy grin and pulled himself out of the car. "No, it's all good. I can make it upstairs. You headin' back out?"
I raked my fingers through my hair, nodded and threw Jazz my keys. "No houseguests!"
I yelled at him. I heard him laugh as he walked away. He wouldn't be alone when I got home.
I was still little keyed up and wanted just one more drink someplace quiet. I instructed the driver to head to one of my favorite hotels in Midtown. They had a nice piano bar and they sometimes let me play. Yeah, a nice single malt scotch and some time at the piano. That is exactly what I needed tonight.
It was amazing just how refreshed I had felt after a long bath. My skin had soaked up all the oil and I was feeling soft and smooth. I thought about just pulling the bed down and sliding into the crisp cool sheets completely naked, but the siren call of a really well made martini kept calling my name.
I put some tinted moisturizer on my face, dabbed a little color on my cheeks and quickly ran the mascara through my lashes. Just a touch of shiny lip gloss and I would be ready to go.
I slid into a fire engine red halter dress thinking about how warm it had been today. I slipped on some high heeled jeweled sandals, grabbed my clutch and warned myself not to think so hard. It was time to relax. I glanced at the time on my mobile phone.
Now I was starting to feel a little giddy. I made sure I had my hotel room key, my purse, my credit card, my insurance cards and everything else I would possibly need in an accident. Course, I was only going down stairs to the piano bar, but uncoordinated as I was at times, it was best that I was fully prepared.
As the hotel door clicked shut behind me, I smiled to myself. "Tonight is going to be different…I can feel it…"
A/N: Okay so this is my first AU story. Hope you like it. I decided to get another story started because this one has been rolling around in my brain for quite sometime. Most of everyone's favorite characters will show up! Just give it time.
Leave me a review and tell me what you think!