This short fic was written for GinnW 31's Twilight gift exchange.
Special Thanks goes to my brilliant beta's mskathy and antiaol for keeping my comma's and facts straight. Plus all the peeps that read this before and helped me plot it out at the last minute. Thanks StarLightSuccubus, Einfach Mich, DeviKalika, TheSpoiltOne, Jayeliewood and of course the person that inspires me everyday…Muggleinlove.
Title: Molto Bella
Summary: Bella is an up-and-coming chef and Edward is a persnickety restaurant reviewer with an axe to grind. Watch out! Things get pretty hot in the kitchen!
I stepped out of my car and took a deep draw of the crisp morning air. I loved the market in the morning. The bakeries were placing their freshly baked breads and pasties out while the evening fisherman were bringing in their fresh catch from their early morning trips. I felt a sense of nostalgia as I made my way to the little coffee shop that I had frequented so often while I was in college.
The bell rang lightly as I pushed open the door and Antonio poked his head out of the back, grinning widely when he saw me.
"Buon giorno, Edward." He came around the counter, wiping his hands on a towel and then grasped my hand in a firm handshake.
"Ciao," I said with a smile.
"Where have you been? I used to see you every morning and now…I hear you're some big wig restaurant reviewer." He walked back around the counter and filled a cup with straight black coffee.
"Yes, I started reviewing for Gourmet Magazine about six months ago." He handed me my coffee and I took a small sip, savoring the perfection that was Tony's coffee.
"What happened with the restaurant?"
"I sold it about a year ago. There was just too much headache. Now I can travel and critique other restaurants."
"I still remember you just out of high school. You had such a passion for food."
I smiled at his comments as I took another sip of my coffee. The market had been very good to me. I learned so much while I worked here in the mornings and weekends, making my way through college. When I finally was accepted into the Culinary Academy, I had to give up working alongside some of the most interesting characters I had ever met.
"So did you hear about Mike?" I shook my head and gave him a questioning look.
"They took the boat up to Alaska," he began. "The Alaskan salmon catch was in abundance this year. Anyway, they got caught in some huge swells and it took the boat down. All eight men aboard lost their lives."
"Wow," I said in stunned disbelief. Mike and I were hardly close. Actually, there was more animosity then friendship, but we were always cordial with one another. "That's too bad. How is his wife taking it?" I asked. Mike's wife, Jessica, was an interesting woman. She worked in the fish market and would always flirt beyond what was appropriate for a married woman. That was mainly the reason why Mike and I didn't get along. It wasn't that I ever invited her advances, but I also never discouraged them. Tony laughed and slapped his knee before he pointed to a small table by the window, asking me to sit down.
"Well that is the funny thing," he said with a chuckle. "She played the diligent, grieving widow for about a week, but then ran off with Mike's partner in the fishing business." I couldn't help but chuckle at the turn of events.
"You are as bad as a gossipy old woman," I accused.
"So, how long are you in town?" Antonio asked with a wave of his hand, dismissing my jibe.
"I moved back last month. I'm going to hang low and do a few reviews on the local eateries and then I'm looking to get out and make some investments in the industry. So keep your eye open for restaurants, looking for a partner." Tony nodded his head.
"Now, whatever happened with that cute blond woman you were seeing?" I groaned inwardly at his question. Tanya turned into a nightmare, she was demanding and controlling and couldn't boil water. After that disastrous affair, I had sworn off women.
"We broke it off a few months before I moved back. She's still in New York and that's where I'd like her to stay."
"What happened?" he asked.
"Nope. You are not adding me to your gossip list," I said with a chuckle. "Let's just say that we wanted different things."
"Hmmm, a nice looking guy like yourself probably doesn't have any problems finding women, but…" he paused and looked thoughtful out the window. "There is this girl that comes in everyday—" I held up my hands and shook my head violently back and forth.
"No thank you, Tony," I said, stopping him before he tried to set me up with some unnamed woman. He chuckled and nodded his head.
"All right, all right. But she's a looker," he said again, trying to persuade me to change my mind. I chuckled and stood up.
"Thanks, but I'm good," I began as I pulled out my wallet. He waved my money away.
"It's on the house," he said as if I offended him by attempting to pay for my coffee. I nodded my thanks and made my way out the front doors with a quick wave. I forgot how much I missed the simplicity of life in Seattle. I stopped at the bakery and bought some baguettes for dinner later, then made my way back to my car. I climbed in and closed the door. Setting my coffee down, I ran through the list of ingredients I needed for dinner and I remembered the produce stand at the end of the market that had the best eggplant. I debated just picking one up at the grocery store when I stopped there on the way home, but then decided I wanted it fresh.
I flung my door open and moved to grab my coffee when I heard a loud crash that made my head snap back to the door. I grabbed the moped just before it crashed into my legs, a small brunette was lying in a heap on the other side. I glanced at my door and the handle was hanging precariously from the inside and the door was bent back further than it was supposed to be, pushing it into the fender enough to make a dent.
"What the hell?" I yelled, as I pushed the moped away and jumped out of the car. It landed with a loud crash, next to the brunette lying in the street and I had a fleeting moment of concern on whether she was okay, before I saw the extent of damage done to my car. I stepped over her and her moped and saw that my door had been pushed back until it had caused a crease in the metal. A low growl began to form in my chest. Why wasn't she paying attention to where she was going?
I glanced down as she rolled over onto her back with a groan, her hair covering her face. She was wearing short shorts that showed off her well formed legs, however, the road rash she was now sporting on her knees was starting to bleed. She had on a little tank top that was filthy from her fall and when she flung her arm over her face I could see that she had scratched up her hands as well. I glanced at my car again and let out a long sigh, feeling guilty that I should have been more concerned for her welfare. I knelt down next to her and held out my hand to help her up.
"Are you okay?" I asked as I tried to drag up some compassion. She laid there for a moment before she pushed back her hair and I came face-to-face with striking brown eyes. Her look was one of surprise, but then I watched as her cheeks tinted with the most beautiful shade of pink and she nodded her head. I stood and pulled her up by her elbow as she hopped on one foot for a moment, trying to make sure all her limbs were functioning.
She quickly pulled away and looked down at her mangled moped. It was an older model and was already well worn. The front tire was tweaked completely and one of the mirrors was dangling precariously. She wouldn't be riding it anytime soon.
"Is this your car?" she asked and I could here the slight disdain in her voice. I narrowed my eyes, wondering where she was going with that question.
"Yes, and you totally messed it up by not watching where you were going." Her head snapped to my face and I watched as her eyes flared with anger.
"Me? You threw your door open without looking to see if anyone was coming," she accused. "You are totally paying to get my scooter fixed." Her arms crossed over her chest and I saw her wince slightly. "Plus I lost all of my morning shopping." She pointed at all of the produce lying haphazardly around her moped. I looked at her in disbelief. Did she honestly think that this was my fault?
"What about my door?" I seethed. I took a step toward her but she held her ground as she glared up at me. I turned around and grabbed the door. As I went to pull it closed, I heard a loud pop as the door disengaged from the fender. Thankfully, when I closed it, it latched, but I could see where it was slightly off its hinges. "This was completely your fault and you will be paying to fix my door," I said, turning back toward her to see her lip turn up in a sneer.
"You are a pompous…arg!" she yelled in frustration. "I can't believe you are pushing this as being my fault," she stepped toward me and her finger shot out and poked me hard, right in the center of my chest. "You're stepping on my honey sticks, move out of the way." I lifted my foot and sure enough, there were little straws filled with honey underneath. I placed my foot back down and ground a few into the concrete before stepping aside. I heard a small gasp and she glared at me once more before shoving me out of her way.
"That was so immature. Did you take a class in being a jerk or does it just come naturally?" I chuckled darkly at her comment while I watched her bend over in front of me. Her shirt rode up her back slightly as her already low cut shorts dipped even lower to reveal the top of pink underwear.
"Scommetto che il tuo sedere sarebbe carino con l'impronta della mia mano sopra," I mumbled to myself in Italian. Her back stiffened and then her head quickly snapped back, catching me ogling her. I shifted my eyes to hers and her eyebrow raised in question.
"What did you say?" I shook my head at her question. There was no way that I was going to tell her where my handprint would look nice. When she realized I wasn't going to answer her, she switched tactics. "Were you staring at my butt?"
"Pshh, please," I denied. She stood up quickly and turned on me and the fire I saw in her eyes set off a little flame of my own. She slammed all of her produce into one of the paper bags and then took a step toward me. I instinctively wanted to step away from her, but I held my ground. She was ticked, but she was utterly beautiful in her rage.
Her hand came up and before I registered what she was doing, she slammed it into my chest and I watched as red goo leaked out from between her fingers and all over my clean shirt. I looked into her face and she had a smug smile as her brown eyes met mine.
"You smooshed all of my strawberries and now I can't make strawberry cheesecake," she accused. What kind of whacked out nutjob does something like that? I grabbed her wrist and pulled it quickly off my chest, but not before I felt a stinging shock move through my hand with the contact. I had a sudden urge to pull her against my chest and wipe that smug smile off of her face with my mouth.
"You're also paying for my shirt," I growled. She glared at me and snatched her hand away. Bending down, she picked up her moped and waved her hand at it.
"You're paying for my scooter." I knew at that moment that we were not going to get anywhere. I could be just as stubborn as she was. I pointed at the dents in my door and then turned on her with the rage I was feeling.
"You will pay for that, too!" I said. We had definitely come to an impasse. I wasn't going to budge and I knew from her stance that neither was she. She looked at my door and shook her head.
"Write down your contact information. This is not over," she said in an even tone that couldn't have been more menacing if she had screamed it.
"If you wanted my phone number, sweetheart, all you had to do was ask not run your piece of crap moped into my car." I watched as her face turned ten shades of red and her teeth ground together as she processed the rude comment I had just made. In any other circumstance, I would have been more agreeable, not such an ass, but I didn't know what it was about this woman, she pushed every button I had and I didn't like it. She glared at me for a moment before turning on her heel and dragging her mutilated motor bike up the street.
"Hey, where are you going?" I called after her. Her little hand flew behind her as she flipped me the bird and continued up the street. I couldn't help a triumphant chuckle, then I contemplated going after her, but decided that the insurance company could deal with it. Besides, the quicker she was away from me, the better.
As soon as I was several steps away from him, I felt the hot tears fall from my eyes. I couldn't believe someone that looked like an angel could be such a selfish, no good jerk. I was so angry and the pain in my knees was hurting so badly, that I needed to get out of there before I cried in front of him. I heard him call after me and it took everything I had just to tell him with my hands what I thought of him. There was no way I was going to turn around and have him witness my weakness.
I pushed my beat up scooter to the restaurant, thankful it was only a couple of blocks away. I was going to have to have Jake look at it and see if he could fix it. It was my only mode of transportation until the restaurant took off. I had poured every ounce of money I inherited from my parent's death into the restaurant. I bought the moped in hopes that things would look better by the time the rainy months were upon us. I sighed and swiped at my tears, suddenly feeling angry I had let that creep get to me.
I reached the restaurant and pulled out the keys to unlock it and felt my lips pull up slightly. This was my pride and joy. I had worked my way through culinary school and then was a sous chef for a year in Italy before I came home to start my own restaurant. That idiot didn't think I understood every word he muttered. How dare he? My mind went back to him and I groaned as I heaved it into the restaurant and let it drop onto the tile floor.
I grabbed the first aid kit as I went to the bathroom. Once inside, I propped myself onto the counter and went to work at patching myself up. All of my scratches were superficial and looked worse than they actually were, but I was sure I would be sore for the next few days. I was lucky I didn't break anything. I couldn't afford to close down the restaurant because we didn't have a chef. I knew that Alice could take over if need be, but lately I had her out waiting tables since I had to lay off three of our wait staff. I sighed at all of the complications that came from owning your own business.
The big dreams I had of being a restaurant owner were quickly dashed away when I ran into one headache after the other. I always thought I would be able to just do what I loved…cook. However, the tediousness of the everyday operations was slowly wearing on me. I had run out of money and was now hoping that things would pick up, or I was going to be finding myself in the unemployment line. I quickly bandaged my knees, then made my way back out to the bag of produce I had dumped on a table when I walked in.
Rummaging through it, I found a few things I could use to try the new dish that I wanted to have ready when Alice and Jake came in. I valued both of their opinions; Alice's because she was currently making her way through culinary school and Jake's because he was always the one with a hearty appetite. I felt lucky to have them both as my best friends and even though Jake had hinted at wanting more, I hoped his obsession with me was finally over now that he found a cute little red head named Rennie that he started dating last month.
It was a huge relief when he started dating her because I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but I had never been interested in him as anything more than a friend. I hadn't had any type of relationship since I left Italy and I was perfectly happy with it that way. Molto Bella was my life right now and I was happy with the new challenge and being able to do what I loved, even if it was the hardest thing I had ever done.
"Bells?" I heard Jake's slightly panicky voice as he came into the restaurant. I had just finished pulling out the homemade noodles from the pot and called him into the kitchen.
"What the heck happened to your moped?" he asked. His eyes scanned my bloodied bandages and he was quickly at my side. "What happened to you? Are you okay?" he asked as he pulled me away from the counter and bent down to get a better look at my knees. I rolled my eyes and tugged him back up by his hair.
"I'm fine. Come taste the new sauce I just made." He stood back up, but looked skeptically at my wrapped up injuries.
"Are you sure? You look awful and your moped is a mess," he stated. I held out the spoon for him to taste and he swallowed it down quickly. "Mmmmm, yep, that's really good."
"Good. Now, can you fix my scooter so I can ride it home?" I asked. He glared at me and shook his head.
"Not until you tell me what happened," he said stubbornly. I sighed and wiped my hands on my apron as I came around the island.
"Some jerk opened his car door and I ran into it." Jake's eyes held concern and I just wanted to hug him for caring, which was more than the he had done.
"Did you get his information?" Jake asked.
"No, I just wanted to get out of there after he said some stupid stuff to me."
I groaned, not wanting to get into the details. "He was just more concerned about his car than me." The words I spoke rang true. I was more upset over his blatant disregard for my welfare than my scooter. Where did gentlemanly conduct go? I shook my head and dished up a plate of my new homemade noodles and sauce before handing it to Jake.
"It doesn't matter, he's gone and I won't see him again," I remarked as I started to prep for the evening dinner rush.