This story was written for the Twilight Gift Exchange at LiveJournal and is complete in two parts, the second of which will post tomorrow. Thank you, dollegirl, for the fabulous prompts! A huge thanks, as well, to GinnyW and DeeMichelle for beta reading ... and all the hand-holding.
This is not my first fanfic, but it is my first in Twilight. I will admit to being all sorts of nervous.
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns all recognizable characters and settings. No copyright infringement is intended.
"Damn that man!" I fumed as I stormed into the shop, pausing my tirade only so that I could lock the door behind me. "I hate him. I hate him, I hate him, I hate him!"
I threw myself into a chair at one of the small tables where Angela was currently sitting. Papers were scattered about the surface, as were a calculator and a dozen or so pencils that were so sharp they could be considered deadly weapons. Great—she was doing the books. Just what I needed right now.
Could my day possibly get any worse? And it was only eight in the freaking morning!
Angela glanced up at me over the top of her glasses, then resumed the bookkeeping. "I take it you ran into the neighborhood hottie?"
I rolled my eyes and slouched down in my chair, folding my arms across my nonexistent chest. "Does anyone even say 'hottie' anymore?" I grumbled.
She just looked at me again, one eyebrow arched. "Focus, Bella."
"Okay, fine," I said with a huff, plucking at a loose string that was unraveling from the hem of my t-shirt. "No, I didn't run into him, the no good bastard. I can't believe the nerve of that man. He has no conscience, I swear!"
"He's just a man trying to run a business … same as you," Angela replied calmly as she punched numbers into the calculator.
I was going to be sick; I knew it. Swallowing back the panic that threatened to overtake me at any moment, I tried to concentrate on the topic at hand. "I'm not a man, and whose side are you on, anyway?"
Angela sighed, pushing back a lock of hair that had swung into her eyes before scribbling down numbers in the ledger. "I'm on your side, of course."
"Shouldn't you be using a computer for that? Isn't that the 'normal' way to do … that?" I asked suddenly, my knee bouncing up and down.
"We can't afford the software," Angela muttered, her forehead wrinkling as she continued her calculations or whatever it was she was doing. I didn't have a clue what it was called. All I knew was that she crunched the numbers while I freaked out about the bottom line. "And I can do it easily enough by hand," she continued. "People did manage without computers for entire millennia, you know. I'm pretty sure we can manage."
"Or you can, anyway," I said, the corner of my mouth curving into small smile. Math was not my strongpoint. "Anyway, to get back to the dorkwad next door, the man is a menace to the neighborhood—well, maybe not the neighborhood, but he is to me! Did you see the signs he's got up this morning? Un-fucking-believable!"
"Sorry," I apologized to the top of Angela's head. "I forget about your virgin ears sometimes." Angela was the daughter of a reverend, and I tried my best to remember that she really didn't care for curse words. Of course, she'd known me for ten years, and while my language was marginally better than it had been, I occasionally slipped in front of her … accidentally, of course. She didn't seem to mind too much; I guessed she kept me around because she liked me. I smiled at that.
Angela rolled her eyes and waved a dismissive hand, still concentrating on the ledger in front of her. "To answer your question, no, I didn't see the signs. Tell me, what has our illustrious neighbor done now?"
"They're having a live band … tonight!" I wailed, dramatically flinging myself from the chair so that I could pace the floor. "Not only will it be utter chaos over there, but we'll hear everything like we're sitting in the front row!" I shoved my hands in my hair and tugged in frustration. "I'm telling you, he did this on purpose. We've had posters up for months that Jasper is coming to read from his latest book tonight!"
Jasper Whitlock was an award-winning author; his last book was even being made into a movie. I'd met Jasper and his cousin Rosalie Hale when we were in college, and we'd soon become fast friends. His newest work was highly anticipated, and when Rose had told him that he could help give my business a boost, he'd volunteered to do a reading and book signing a few days before his new release came out. I'd been shocked, to say the least; Jasper was notoriously shy, almost to the point of reclusive, even. Fans would go nuts anytime he was in public, so he'd moved to an exclusive neighborhood in Victoria, British Columbia, where he could maintain his privacy. He rarely attended such public events, so I knew it would be a huge deal for my little shop to have him do a reading. Knowing how uncomfortable he would be, I'd asked him if he was sure he wanted to do it, and he'd laughed it off, saying that I should know by know that he'd do just about anything for me.
How lucky was I to have such loyal and giving friends? Angela did my books for free, Rosalie was an interior designer and had given her services at no cost when I'd opened the shop, Jasper was willing to face the public despite his overwhelming shyness …
And that jackass, Edward Cullen, was going to ruin everything.
"I'm telling you, Ang, he knew … he knew, and now he's sabotaging me. You know what? I don't just hate him … I loathe him."
I was so angry, I could have spit nails. If he'd come into the shop right then, I would have … I don't know. I glanced around and eyed the bakery counter. I'd have thrown a muffin at him or something. No, wait. Those were far too yummy to waste on him, and besides, he'd been trying to get me to sell him one for weeks. With my luck, he'd catch it, and I couldn't give him the satisfaction of getting one for free. Hmm, maybe I could throw coffee in his face. I sighed. Okay, maybe not. It would be a crime against humanity to burn that gorgeous face … Mmm. He was just too delicious-looking, with his chiseled jaw, angular features, and bright green eyes. And he was tall, lean but muscular … sex on legs is what Rosalie had called him. Oh, and the hair. I nearly swooned just thinking about running my fingers through those tousled bronze locks.
If he didn't have the personality of a PMS-ing goat, I'd have been sorely tempted to jump him at every given opportunity.
"How did you know …? Whatever. The point is, I really, really need tonight to be perfect, and now it's all gone to hell." I slumped back into the chair. Biting my lip, I glanced at Angela and her ledgers. Dread settled in my stomach like a lead weight. "How bad is it?"
She sighed and put down her pencil, then took off her glasses and rubbed her face with one hand.
Uh-oh. That didn't bode well.
"It's not good, hon. You were barely making ends meet before the store opened next door. And now …" She closed her eyes briefly and then sighed again. "If things keep going like they have been, I'd guess you have a few more months tops before you'll have to shut down. I'm sorry, sweetie. I know how much this place means to you."
My eyes welled with tears, but I blinked them back. "Damn it," I whispered, not knowing what else to say.
I looked around the shop, seeing the culmination of years of hard work and, literally, my blood, sweat, and tears. It was perfect. From the books to the bakery counter to the buttery leather sofas to the café tables and chairs … it was all I'd ever wanted. Ever since I'd been a kid, I'd dreamed of having my own bookshop. I'd worked my ass off to raise the capital to get this place started. The location in downtown Seattle had been perfect, and when it had become available, I'd immediately snatched it up and got to work on making my dreams a reality. I'd helped gut the place and rebuilt it from the ground up all by myself. Okay, so maybe not by myself. I hadn't done the electrical or anything like that, but I had done a lot of the less dangerous things, even though I'd still managed to smash my thumb with a hammer once or twice a day. And Rose had helped a lot, too. Of course, so had Angela … The point was, I'd poured everything I had into this shop, and I would never forget the feeling of accomplishment and pride I'd felt when the doors to A Likely Story had opened.
I'd wanted a place where people could come, buy a book, and sit down and have some coffee or a muffin. Rosalie had helped with the decorating, so the whole place was inviting and cozy—someplace where you'd want to hang out for a while. I'd installed WiFi, so people could bring their laptops. I'd envisioned authors coming to my shop and sitting at one of my tables, eating one of my muffins, and writing a novel that would be the next hot craze—I'd started dreaming about that when I'd heard that J.K. Rowling had written Harry Potter in a café. I knew it probably wouldn't happen, but a girl could dream, right?
We had just started gaining a regular clientele when the travel agency next door had gone out of business. Initially, I'd been excited when I'd heard another independent business owner like me was moving in. Indies, unite! Right? And music? That was freaking awesome. I'd even envisioned us doing promos together, helping each other build our businesses. Music was a passion of mine—second only to reading and directly above cooking—so why wouldn't I have been thrilled?
I'd been even more thrilled after I'd met the owner, Edward Cullen, and his siblings, Emmett and Alice. Alice was almost obscenely enthusiastic, but I couldn't help but love her energy and vivaciousness. Her exuberance and positive outlook were contagious, and I loved being around her. She was awesomeness personified. Emmett was pretty much everyone's big brother. And I did mean BIG brother—the man was huge, over a foot taller than me and with muscles that looked like he was training for Mr. Olympia or something. He would have been very intimidating … if it weren't for his infectious smile, with those adorable dimples, and his twinkling blue eyes. He was a total teddy bear, and I adored him.
Then there was Edward. Now, just the thought of him made me want to punch something, but it hadn't always been that way. When we'd first met—before his store's grand opening—it had been instant attraction. We'd flirted and teased and talked business—his and mine. We had surprisingly similar interests, and while he was so insanely attractive I could have gazed at him for hours, I'd also found him to be smart, funny, and kind.
I snorted. Apparently first impressions weren't everything.
All my idealistic plans had soon gone out the proverbial window, because the next thing I'd known, rock music was blaring through the walls into my shop, ruining all the ambiance we'd worked so hard to create … and chasing off the clientele that we'd just started to build.
Not that I minded rock music. Not at all. I loved all sorts of music.
Maybe not country. Well, I did like some of that one blonde girl's stuff, but she had such emotion-laden lyrics, which is probably why I liked her.
I shook my head and refocused my thoughts. It wasn't the kind of music that bothered me, it was the decibel level. He should have had soundproofing installed when he'd refitted the place, but for some imbecilic reason that completely escaped me, he hadn't. And when I'd gone over to explain the situation …
Okay, so I'd been a little bit bitchy, but I'd been upset! And Edward had been so dismissive of my concerns. Yeah, I probably could have been a little calmer in the way I'd approached him—all right, a lot calmer—but this was threatening my livelihood, my dream. Everything I'd ever worked for was on the line, and he couldn't have cared less. Told me that if I wanted soundproofing, I could install it on my side. He hadn't cared when I'd incredulously asked if he had any idea how expensive that would be for me to do. Just the thought of tearing down all the work we'd done made me want to curl up in a ball on the floor and cry. Rosalie and I had put up the drywall ourselves to save money, and it had been tedious and dirty and awful and I'd hated every single moment. There was no way I was doing that again. Not to mention the fact that I couldn't afford it. I would have needed to shut down the shop for several days—couldn't afford—and pay for the materials—couldn't afford—and hire contractors—could … not … afford.
Needless to say, I'd dissolved into full ranting bitch mode, and it hadn't been pretty. Whatever relationship we might have had ended then and there, and I swore Edward Cullen had been out to get me ever since.
He cranked up the music in the evenings when I had the majority of my business; I'd finally gotten fed up one night and called the cops, claiming he was violating the noise ordinance. He hadn't been, of course, but it was never good for business when the cops showed up. It had started a prank war between us that was still ongoing.
Most of it was small stuff, like me bringing over muffins for Alice and Emmett but none for him, or Edward signing for a shipment of books that was accidentally delivered to his store and then conveniently "forgetting" to bring it over for a week. The worst was the day he'd made up coupons that he'd passed out to the first twenty-five people who made a purchase at Cullen Music. The problem was that the coupon sent them over to my shop, saying that they got a free muffin with a purchase from his store. I'd been horrified but gave all of them their "free" muffin anyway. I'd had no choice; it would have made me look bad if I'd refused to honor the stupid coupon, and I was trying to build a reputation. I'd retaliated, of course, by passing out my own coupons the next day for fifty percent off any CD in his store with every muffin purchase. He had not been amused.
I grinned at the memory.
So, I wasn't innocent in all this by any means—even if he'd started it—but this, well, this was the last straw.
I slammed my palm on the tabletop and stood. "You know what, Ang? This is ridiculous. I'm going over there."
Angela looked at me like I'd sprouted a second head. "What? What for?"
"Tonight will make or break us. Maybe … maybe he can be reasoned with." Angela looked skeptical. I knew how she felt; I was pretty skeptical myself. "I know it's a long shot, but I've got to try. What have I got to lose?"
Before Angela could tell me exactly what I had left to lose, I pushed away from the table and stood. Then I marched out the door and over to Cullen Music. I wanted to get this done before I freaked out and changed my mind. I rapped my knuckles harshly against the glass door and then took a step back, straightening my spine. I would not be intimidated by this Adonis-like creature. Absolutely would not.
Less than thirty seconds passed before I saw him exit his back office and head toward the front of the store. My breath caught in my throat, and my heart hammered against my ribcage. It wasn't the faded jeans that clung in all the right places or the green t-shirt that molded to his muscular chest like a second skin that got to me, though those were nice, too. It was that smile. It wasn't just any smile; it was that crooked one … the one where only one side of his mouth curved upward … the one that dazzled me senseless and left my mind completely befuddled.
Crap. I was starting to sound like a Harlequin Regency-period romance.
I'd been reading quite a few of those trashy novels lately, probably because I hadn't had a date in what felt like years and the books were a cheap form of escape from the realities of my mundane life, not to mention from the troubles of my failing bookstore. Really, some of them weren't all that bad. If there were a little more character and plot development, they'd be much better, but from what I'd heard, the editors for those types of publishers often cut out a lot of the meat, wanting to keep storylines as simple as possible in order to appeal to a variety of reading levels. But, hey, how many times had I shelled out twenty bucks to watch a mediocre movie and eat stale popcorn, just to have an evening's entertainment? At least my books were a cheap date.
Shit. Focus, Bella!
I pulled myself to full height—which, admittedly did not take much—and stared him straight in the eye; there would be no intimidating Bella Swan today. "We need to talk."
His eyebrows arched inquisitively, and his green eyes narrowed slightly before he shrugged and opened the door to allow me to enter the store.
I brushed past him, struggling to steady my now quivering legs as I inhaled his delicious scent. I wanted to kick myself for having to fight the urge to bury my face in his chest and sniff. It really wasn't fair that such a jerk should be so devastatingly handsome. I toyed with the hem of my t-shirt and glanced around the room, noticing that he already had things set up for tonight. One section of shelving had been moved, probably into the storage closet, revealing a small stage area in the corner. There was no seating, but then from what I recalled of Edward's plans, it wasn't really a concert but more like having live music while customers shopped. He wanted to provide local artists with a chance for some exposure and his customers with a chance to hear music they might not have ever heard otherwise. It was a great idea, really.
Or at least I'd thought so when he'd first talked about it. Now that it was negatively affecting my shop, I thought it was the worst idea ever.
"What can I do for you, Bella?" he drawled from behind me, my skin prickling as his velvety voice washed over me.
With a deep, hopefully calming breath, I turned around to face him, forcing myself to maintain eye contact no matter what. "You can cancel the live band tonight."
His smirk morphed into a curious expression. "Now why would I want to do that?"
I ground my teeth together. I was willing to ask, but I refused to grovel. "You know perfectly well why."
"No, I really don't."
I took another deep breath and counted to ten as I slowly exhaled, reminding myself that I had no choice but to do this; my entire future might depend on it. "I've had signs in my windows for months about the Jasper Whitlock book reading I'm hosting tonight."
His brow furrowed for a moment, his eyes clouded in thought, and then it was as if something clicked in his brain. Emotion flashed across his face, but it was gone so quickly that I didn't have time to recognize it. He raked a hand through his unruly hair, causing it to stick up in even further disarray; it still looked sexy, damn it. "I'm sorry, Bella. When we selected the date, it seemed like I was forgetting something, but my calendar was clear—so were Emmett's and Alice's. I thought I'd confused the date with something else, so we went ahead and scheduled the band."
My teeth worried my lower lip as I studied him, trying to assess if he was being truthful. He sounded sincere, so I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
"Oh. Well, now that you know, I'm …" I swallowed my pride. "I'm asking you to please cancel tonight."
We stood in silence for a long moment, Edward's expression blank; he wouldn't look at me.
My stomach sank.
"I'm sorry," he finally said, "but we signed a contract with the band. I can't just cancel it."
I closed my eyes, feeling the threat of tears prickle my eyelids, and tried to retain my composure. It was time to pull out the big guns.
"If you cancel it, I'll bring you a muffin everyday for the next month. No charge." My eyes pleaded with him to agree. I knew it wasn't much, but I didn't have anything else to offer him.
He gave me a small smile. "That's a very tempting offer, Bella, but I can't accept. Like I said, there's a contract. It's a done deal."
Anger surged, and my temper snapped. "You bastard," I seethed; he flinched so briefly I would have missed it if I had blinked. "If you had installed the soundproofing like you should have in the first place, this wouldn't be a problem."
He sighed and, once again, ran a hand through his hair. "Are we back to that again? I thought you were over that."
I stared at him, my jaw dropping, incredulous. "Are you kidding me? You are ruining me. I don't understand why you're doing this," I said, mortified as my eyes filled with tears. "I've worked my ass off trying to run that store and build something for myself, and it was all going perfectly fine until you showed up."
"Bella, I'm not—"
"No!" I yelled over him, and he stopped speaking but folded his arms across his chest in obvious frustration. "It's all fun and games to you, isn't it? 'Put your own soundproofing in, Bella.' Like I could afford that! Even back then, I was barely making it! And then there's all your little pranks, like the muffin coupons. Do you know how much that cost me?"
"About a hundred dollars," he inserted, and I blinked.
Only a hundred dollars? I quickly added it up in my head. Oh. It had seemed like it should have been a lot more than that, but math and I … yeah.
I shrugged that revelation off and kept going. I was on a roll now, and nothing was going to stop me. "Whatever. It still wasn't nice, and that's not the worst of it. I thought we were … friends," I finished lamely but then pressed forward, attempting to ignore the hurt I felt at his betrayal and focusing on my anger. "You crank up your music at night, you don't take anything I say seriously, and now this! Why do you hate me?"
The tears that I was working so hard at holding in spilled down my cheeks. Edward's eyes widened, and he took a step toward me, but I moved away. "Don't. Don't come near me. I can't … I can't …"
I couldn't tell him I was afraid that if he touched me, I'd sink into his arms and cry like a baby. I was angry with him, and yet I knew I would seek comfort from him if I could. And that would be a huge mistake.
I sniffled and wiped the tears from my cheeks. I took a deep breath and met his eyes once more. "You won't cancel," I said matter-of-factly, my tone flat and emotionless.
His jaw clenched, his hands resting on his hips. His lips thinned into an angry line, and he sighed loudly. "I can't."
I nodded. "I have nothing more to say to you."
I had to leave, had to get out, right then. Brushing past him, I knocked his arm with my shoulder as I headed toward the door; I ignored the electric tingle his touch wrought and attempted a grand, dramatic exit.
Too bad, then, that my inborn clumsiness kicked in and I tripped.
Before my face could smack into the floor, Edward caught me and helped me to stand, one hand cupping my elbow as if waiting for me to steady myself. I jerked my arm from his hand, and with my cheeks a fiery red, I resumed storming to the door.
"I really am sorry," I heard him say as I opened the door. I paused for a moment and then looked over my shoulder. He was facing away from me, his head bowed, his hands clenched into fists at his sides.
"Obviously not sorry enough," I choked out, and then I left.
If I never saw Edward Cullen again, it would be too soon.
And he could kiss goodbye any chance of getting one of my muffins; they were far too good for the likes of him.
The turnout for Jasper's reading was more than I could have ever hoped for. The bookstore was filled to capacity, so much so that we'd had to turn people away. Hours before the scheduled start time, people had been lined up around the block, hoping for one of the thirty seats. After those were filled, we had planned on allowing people in, standing room only, until we reached building capacity, as determined by the fire marshal. Every last person had been counted, and when we'd reached the magic number, we closed the doors. Angela's boyfriend, Ben, was now stationed at the front, sending away any stragglers—the last thing I needed was a fire code violation.
I stayed behind the counter as the evening got started, not wanting to hover over Jasper and make him even more nervous than he already was. At least the band wasn't due to start playing for another half-hour. Maybe … maybe it wouldn't be so bad. Jasper would probably be done with his reading by that point, and people might not mind the music while waiting in line for an autograph. Everything might be okay after all.
At precisely seven o'clock, Jasper picked up the microphone and began to speak, welcoming the audience and telling them how awed he was by the large turnout. Thank goodness for that microphone—his quiet voice would have been difficult to hear without it, and that was without any music blaring from next door.
That morning, after my pleas with Edward had fallen on deaf ears, I'd pretty much given up on anything short of a miracle. But later in the afternoon, Alice had shown up, lugging a box of equipment with her. She'd heard what happened, presumably from Edward, and brought over a portable PA system, hoping it would help Jasper's notoriously soft-spoken voice be heard over the music from next door. I'd announced then and there that I was going to marry Alice Cullen and have her babies. She'd laughed at that, the sound tinkling like bells, and informed me that she was still waiting for her Prince Charming, but if he didn't show up soon, she'd give me a call. She'd hugged me tightly—she was awfully strong for such a tiny person—and then left as quickly as she'd come.
As Jasper's quiet voice carried through the shop, thanks to Alice's PA system, I couldn't have been happier. It was going so perfectly, and all I could feel was an enormous sense of relief.
And then …
The sound of a big, open guitar chord.
The thunderous vibrations of the bass.
The pounding rhythms on the drums.
The soaring voice of the lead singer.
"Testing. 1, 2, 3. Testing. 1, 2, 3."
The squeal of an amp that was turned up too loud.
I wanted to bang my head on the counter and whimper. "So close," I all but sobbed to myself as I dropped my head into my hands. I peeked between my fingers to see how Jasper's audience was taking the interruption. Several were already irritated, unable to hear Jasper clearly over the band's sound check.
And that's when I decided that enough was enough. Edward Cullen thought he could screw with me, well, I'd show him. Calmly, I edged around the counter and, with far more composure than I truly felt, walked to the table where Jasper was seated. I smiled apologetically at the audience and then turned up the volume.
There. That would do it.
And it worked … until the band decided to start their little concert early.
I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Either that or take a nice long soak in a steaming hot bath filled with vanilla-scented bubbles. Both sounded like pretty good options right about then.
Instead, I turned control knob again, cranking up the volume once more. Was it just my imagination, or did the band get louder? I wanted to punch something—namely Edward Cullen's face. I yanked the knob even higher. Jasper ran a nervous finger under his collar and tried talking louder, bless his little heart. He just kept going, doing his best to be witty and entertaining, despite his natural, opposing inclination and the music that seemed determined to drown him out.
It was a fucking nightmare.
There was no other word for it. The music from next door was at an insane level, and the PA system was turned up so high, you could literally feel the vibrations from the speakers as Jasper read from his new novel. The people who had seats were getting restless, leaning forward in their chairs as they strained to make out was Jasper was saying, despite the volume level, and some of those standing began whispering amongst themselves or casting annoyed glares at the wall separating A Likely Story from Cullen Music. A few people got fed up and left, covering their ears with their hands.
Forget the bath. Where was that hole I could crawl into?
A blur of motion near the door caught my attention; it was Alice. She was jumping up and down and waving her hands in an attempt to gain my attention. I groaned—this was just what I needed—and eyed the volume control. It was as high as it could go. No more to do here, I thought, so I headed over to the door, motioning to Ben to let Alice inside. Might as well see what she wanted.
She practically fell in when Ben opened the door and made a beeline straight for me, dragging me toward the bakery counter. Her hands were all over the place, gesticulating wildly as she talked a mile a minute—at least I assumed she was. I couldn't make out everything she was saying, just snippets here and there.
"… didn't realize … so loud! … PA … not working … so sorry!"
I nodded, catching the gist of what she was saying. "I know!" I practically yelled. She looked so disappointed that the PA system hadn't been enough that I ended up wrapping my arms around her in a hug, comforting her instead of her comforting me. Oh, well. The second I released her, she was trying to talk to me again.
"… Edward … band … turning up … mad!"
"What?" I screamed, then shook my head at her. There was no point in even trying to have a conversation right now, not with all this noise. I pointed to Jasper and then to the clock and mouthed, "Later," before I waved my hand between her and me. Alice nodded, her eyes sad. She was turning to leave when she stopped suddenly, her eyes riveted at the back of the store. I followed her gaze to see what had caught her attention. She was staring right at Jasper. She watched him with glazed eyes for several long seconds, her expression oddly blank, before her whole face lit up in a bright smile. Then she waved at me and practically skipped past Ben as she left the store.
Huh. That was weird.
I turned around to face the area where Jasper was seated and sighed. My head was pounding, and it seemed like the music from next door was growing louder every second. I knew that couldn't possibly be true—how loud could they get? It didn't help that I'd turned up the sound on the PA system to the point that it sounded like Jasper was screaming through a bullhorn.
Deciding to step outside for a minute, I rubbed my temples with my fingers as I walked to the door and prayed that it would all be over soon. After all, it couldn't possibly get any worse.
One glance at my main door told me I couldn't have been more wrong.
I swallowed as I watched the police officer talking with Ben, who gestured in my direction. Shit. My legs were shaking as I walked over to join them.
"Yes, officer?" I squeaked, knowing he probably couldn't hear me.
The officer motioned for me to join him outside. With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I nodded and followed him. Not surprisingly, it wasn't much quieter outside than it had been inside.
"What can I do for you, officer?" I asked, wincing at the inanity of my question. It wasn't all that hard to figure out why he was here.
"You need to turn it down in there, ma'am. You're in violation of the noise ordinance—we've had a complaint."
A complaint, huh? I was sure I knew exactly who called it in, too. Still, what could I do? The officer was probably—okay, definitely—right; between the music from Edward's store and Jasper's voice from mine, it was deafening, even outside.
"What about them?" I asked, irritated that Edward wasn't being asked to tone down things on his side.
The officer frowned. "We'll take care of them. You just mind your own business." He seemed rather pleased with his play on words. Jerk.
"Of course," I said. "I'll turn it down right now. Sorry, officer." I was hoping to avoid a fine by staying polite and respectful. My dad was a small-town police chief, so I knew how these guys worked.
With no other option—or at least none that wouldn't be accompanied by a hefty fine—I opened the door and asked Ben to turn down the volume on the PA system. I sighed as I watched with dismay people's reactions when they could no longer hear Jasper over the music. For many, it was the final straw; almost everyone in the store was on their feet, gathering their things and then streaming outside, complaining the entire time.
I just stood there and let them shove past me. I was going to cry; I knew it. It would be the loud, sloppy, ugly cry, too. I didn't have a pretty cry, not like Rosalie. Her blue eyes would glow almost luminescent as tears quietly tracked down her cheeks, and I swore somehow she looked even more beautiful. I just looked like a sobbing, snot-nosed, red-eyed, splotchy mess. It wasn't fair.
But I couldn't break down yet; the police were still here. I turned around to see if there was anything else the officer needed, when the door to Cullen Music opened, revealing another police officer, followed by a clearly agitated Edward.
Just then, the music from inside Edward's store came to an abrupt stop. I suddenly felt a million times better! Hah! He'd gotten in trouble, too. If I wasn't so mature, I would have stuck my tongue out at him. Then I shrugged and stuck my tongue out anyway. He deserved it.
Edward's eyes narrowed. "You. You did this … again?"
I smirked but answered honestly. "I don't know what you're talking about."
His jaw tightened, and his face turned red; he looked like he could breathe fire. I just smiled at him. If my event had to be ruined, than at least his was, too. Seemed fair to me.
Someone bumped into me, but I just kept smiling at Edward. It was either that or go straight to the ugly cry, and there was no way in hell I was going to go there in front of Edward Cullen. I'd already lost it in front of him once that day, and that was more than enough. There was no need to humiliate myself even further. Besides, the ugly cry would make my little mini-breakdown that morning look tame in comparison. Nope. Definitely was not going there in front of him.
It was then that I noticed a group of guys, dressed all in black, exit Cullen Music; they did not look happy. Suddenly, I was glad the police hadn't left yet.
I tried to back away as they began arguing with Edward over their contract, but it was too crowded; people were now streaming out of both businesses. Then people who had been at my place for Jasper's reading started yelling about their evening be ruined thanks to the loud music, while members of the band pressed forward, angry that the opportunity for their music to be heard had been taken away.
And then all hell broke loose.