A/N So, I wrote a new chapter. I'm not sure how often I'll post. Not making any promises. I'll let actions speak instead.
Bella looked up at Edward. She knew she must look a mess. "I need you to place a few calls. You have to call my college campus. Get Jasper and Alice's phone numbers from administration." She was practically babbling she was talking so fast. But this was so important and she didn't know how much time there was.
"Tell them anything. That you need them to call you regarding a family emergency about me. I don't care what you have to say. Jasper threatened Alice and broke my phone. I don't remember their numbers."
His green eyes were filled with concern as he held her in his lap, one arm around her, another carefully brushing her hair away from her face. "Shhh. Alright Bella babe. Calm down. I promise. I'll get it handled. Now let me take care of you, alright?"
He got out his phone and pressed a speed dial. "Yeah, it's me. I need you get me the number for administration at Bella's College. Right. Text it to me. I gotta take her to the hospital, she needs Carlisle. Yeah, Later."
Then he picked her up and carried her to his car.
Carlisle turned out to be one of the kindest men she'd ever met. Something about him just screamed, "I'd never hurt you, you can trust me." She wondered if that's where Edward and Emmett got it from. He turned out to be Edward's uncle. Edward had just introduced her as Bella Swan, not mentioning a relationship.
Edward had made calls to Alice and Jasper while he waited for Carlisle to finish assessing her.
Her final diagnosis was numerous contusions, a concussion, hairline fracture in her cranium, and 2 cracked ribs. He asked permission to take pictures for documentation so she could press charges. She wasn't sure she wanted to. She was used to hiding everything James had done for so long, but Edward had talked her into it.
Edward asked Carlisle to give them a moment alone, then he'd turned on the heat. He put one hand on the rails on either side of the hospital bed and leaned in, giving her a hard stare, his green eyes fixed on hers. He was frustrated and angry and invading her space. She leaned back, but her bed was raised and there was nowhere to go. Her hands fisted in the sheets and her breathing sped up, the heart monitor beats increasing as Edward began to speak, his voice firm and intense.
"Bella, if you want me to protect you, to marry you, then that means listening when I tell you you need to make a smart decision. Pressing charges is the smart decision here. It will keep a dangerous criminal away from you, possibly for years, and give him a criminal record if he doesn't already have one. All of which make my job of protecting you far easier.
You want me to consider marrying you? Make smart decisions. Show me it's worth it to tie my life to yours. Show me you'll listen to me when I tell you I know what I'm talking about, when I'm doing my best to protect you!
She cried, putting her hands over her face to hide behind and pulling her knees up for good measure. If Edward wouldn't help her she had no where else to go.
He sighed. She heard the side rail lower and he sat on the bed next to her, gathering her in his arms. She was shaking like a leaf, her palms wet with tears. Large hands stroked her back and hair. "It'll be okay Bella. You'll be okay. Shhh, baby."
She wanted to stop crying. She really wanted to stop crying but her body was wracked with sobs.
Carlisle came back in, she peaked through her fingers over Edward's shoulder. "She going to be ok?" He asked softly.
"I hope so. She's kept it a secret for a long time. It escalated today. Couldn't take it anymore. She's done, but she had to leave her school and she wants to leave town, get away for a while."
Carlisle gave a heavy sigh. "I'm sorry to hear that. Terribly sorry, Bella. If you need somewhere to stay for a while, Esme and I have room. We'd enjoy having your company for a while if you'd like."
That shocked her enough that she calmed down some. She sniffled. Wiped her eyes. Looked up over Edward's shoulder. Carlisle was holding up a box of tissues for her with a sympathetic smile.
"Thank you." Her voice was thick. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose.
"Have you reached a decision?" He asked.
She raised her brows. About what she wondered.
"About pressing charges?" Carlisle prompted.
She grimaced looking at him, and at Edward, whose green eyes stared at her with calm intent. His arms still held her loosely. He backed away and stood. Leaving her alone. Alone. She'd be alone...should she trust him? Trusting men hadn't worked out so well for her lately.
She studied Carlisle and Edward in turns. They seemed trustworthy. She knew what she'd had. She prayed they were better. Hopefully they wouldn't be worse.
She stared at the tissue in her hands and couldn't seem to make her voice more than a whisper. "I'll press charges."
Edward took her back to his and Emmett's apartment. He explained that the two of them shared ownership with a diner and sports bar with Carlisle, who was more financial backer and silent partner. It was small but busy, serving breakfast, lunch and then drinks and dinner with large tv's and sports, a pool table set up in back. There were twenty good sized tables plus the bar.
The plan at the moment was to put it up for sale, wait to cash in, then give Carlisle back his percentage from his original investment and use the rest to get started on the ranch. Fortunately they were in the middle of the real estate boom so prices were high. This being New York, whatever it sold for should buy a whole heck of a lot of cattle plus fix up the house and garden in Texas.
So for the time being at least, she would be staying with Edward and Emmett in their two bedroom apartment. Edward said he'd sleep on the pull out couch. He'd called Alice again when they'd gotten home after he'd put Bella to bed with some pain meds that would knock her out, updating Alice on her condition. Alice promised to come up as soon as possible with a couple suitcases of clothes and things Bella would want.
Edward told Alice "As banged up as she is, she's going to be sleeping a lot for now and wanting to wear loose fitting clothes. She'll be fine borrowing some of my things until you make it up. I've got her covered for now. I can buy her a few extras of whatever she needs until y'all make it up here."
The apartment was nearly right on top of the bar, so while Bella slept, healed, and watched TV, Edward or Emmett brought her food from the restaurant next door. Esme dropped by that afternoon and again later that week to check on her and see how she was doing, bringing her toiletries, a few clothes, books, and getting to know her a little. Bella was feeling pretty shy though, and very embarrassed about the situation she was in, so chose to ask more questions than she answered.
Esme and Carlisle had raised the boys since they were young men, 14 and 16. They'd taken some business courses but rather than getting a full degree, they'd just gone into business, knowing they'd always wanted to get back into ranching. Their hearts had always been back in Texas on the Ranch. It's good to know what you want, Esme had said. The boys were driven. They probably could have bought a ranch before now, but hadn't found one that had felt like home to them. They'd opened up the diner and bar, keeping busy and staying near family until they could get back to what they really wanted to be doing.
About two weeks later, Alice and Jasper had visited and gone again, Alice angrily telling her in a voice that sounded like bells, "I can't believe you never told us James was hurting you! How could you Bella?!" She'd had tears in her eyes. Poor Alice. They'd made up though, promising to stay in touch, though Edward's phone until Bella got a new one. Now Bella was feeling more like herself, had a phone, and was sick and tired of Edward's apartment.
After the men got back from work one day, Bella asked if she couldn't help out at the Bar. The guys had looked like they weren't sure it was such a good idea. "Do you have any experience?" Emmett asked.
"I don't actually. I'm one of those rich girls who's daddies never let her work. I was pretty much told, 'Just go to school and get good grades, honey. You can get a job when you finish school.' But there's got to be something helpful I can do! Anything. Chop fruit or veggies. Take orders at one table. Mix pancake batter. I don't know. Anything. I'm going stir crazy up here."
They both grinned and Edward laughed. "Alright," Edward said, "Tomorrow you can come down with us and help out. Come in at 9:30 after the breakfast rush so we'll have some lull time to talk about where you can be 'helpful,' and we'll see what you can do. We'll just try a starter day, if you like it, and we like you there, we can talk about you filling out forms."
"Oh! You don't need to pay me. I'm already eating your food, not paying rent, and those hospital bills...I owe you so much! I wouldn't know where to begin! I just want to help out and keep busy is all."
They opened their mouths to object and she went on, "Besides, I've been thinking about it and I want to have something I can do on the ranch. Maybe I could help out in the kitchen? Watch the cooking, learn some recipes and practice up here. That way, when we move on to Texas, I'll have something I already know how to do, to be useful." Then a horrible thought occurred to her. "As long as they're not trade secrets I'm learning or anything. I won't tell anyone! I swear!"
Emmett laughed at her. "There are a couple of secrets, but mostly it's just good cookin'." He looked at Edward. "It's a good idea Ed. Rose don't like cookin' and you an' I are gonna be busy on the ranch. The cook will likely be stayin' on for the new owner. He might not mind having an extra sous chef if she's teachable."
Edward eyed her. "Alright. It's a plan. How would you feel about an earlier start? Breakfast is the best meal of the day and the easiest to learn."
Now she was excited. "Sounds fine. What time?"
Ummm...she was a little less excited now...
She went to bed early, before the boys had come home. She set her alarm for 4:15, getting a shower to wake up, then doing hair and makeup. It was way dark outside. It was absurd. But on the other hand, she was leaving the apartment for the first time in two weeks. So Yea! They'd told her she could be casual and comfortable since she'd be in the kitchen, but to wear close fitting clothes and that she needed her hair braided and up out of the way for the health code. So she wore comfortable jeans and a long sleeve cotton fashion green T-shirt with black flats. Then she parted her hair on the far right side and braided a loose dutch braid across the top of her head and down. Then she braided the other side, around the back of her neck to meet the other side. She braided the two sides together. Then she took a long emerald green ribbon and wove it into the braid all around from the tail, to the top of her head, around the back and back down the braid, ending with a bow. There. Meeting sanitary and cute requirements. She added emerald stud earrings and a silver necklace with an emerald pendant.
The men had a restaurant that they worked hard at and was open long hours so she didn't blame them for not having time to take her anywhere. She'd just dropped into their lives. She was inconveniencing them. They'd taken her to the hospital and given her free room and board for two weeks. Time to be useful.
She left her room and found Edward awake and waiting for her. "You look nice!"
She smiled shyly. "Thanks."
"I'm your escort this morning. One of us is usually at the restaurant at all times. I'm on this morning and Emmett has the night. You're ready?" She nodded. "Let's go."
They left the apartment, turned the corner, and there was Cullen Bro's Brunch and Bar, the sign was above the door in Neon Green. Basically meaning they served it all. There were three large glass window panes, the door set off the pane farthest to the left. It had a western, rustic, mom and pop's feel to it. Comfortable, unpretentious. Rough and scuffed wood floors. Wood booths on platforms lined the walls. Square tables in the middle of the floor, raised up high with chairs to match. The bar was at the same height. Being only a little over five foot four inches, I felt a little dwarfed. The place was trying to be taller than I was.
I told Edward, "I think I'd need stilts to be a waitress here! I'm glad I offered to be kitchen help."
He boomed out laughter that echoed around the place. He had a great laugh. It came from the gut. "What would you do if you had offered to be a waitress?"
I told him honestly, "I'd have had to renege. Heels hate me."
He chuckled and put his arm around my back, one hand on my waist, guiding me back through the tables to the back of the restaurant. There were flat screened TV's placed and angled around the tops of the room in various places all around. There was a pool table in a corner at the back of the restaurant with a bar and stools.
Through a swinging door and another hallway lined with various boxes and items was another long silver bar with lights where it looked like plates of food might sit. Edward took me through these doors and we were in an industrial kitchen. Huge gleaming silver table in the middle with a giant sink,pots pans and skillets hung from above, along with large gleaming knives and ladles and things I didn't have names for yet but I wanted to learn. There were dozens of cooking implements and several sinks. There was a big brawny man amid it all. Edward introduced him to me as Raoul, ruler of the kitchen. He was about 5' 10" and had black hair and brown eyes. He seemed to enjoy slamming things around the kitchen, enjoying making noise as though it was a weird sort of music he was creating.
He also had a sous chef, who was Diego. He was almost pretty, curly hair, big wide eyes and really full lips that smiled a lot. He told me as we worked together that we had the job of "cleaning up Raoul's messes".
I learned prep-work and cleaning today. I mixed pancake and waffle batter. I cleaned plates and cups. I cut fruit. I did no cooking or final preparation. That's because I was taking, as Diego put it, "baby steps little sister."
That was fine. I was out of the apartment, being useful, and actually having fun. I liked being in the kitchen. I was actually having fun. Edward came to check on me after an hour and seemed surprised to see me smiling while I was doing dishes. He asked the men how things were going. "Just fine Boss. The girl's good company and a good worker. Let her stay a while longer." He said that was fine but I should eat something before the rush started. That seemed like a good idea, since it was 6:30. I got my order in and ate at the bar. Edward kept me company in between helping other customers though the place was still pretty quiet. I took my own dishes back to the kitchen and washed them, then got back to work, joking around a little with Diego, though mostly listening to he and Raoul banter. They were pretty funny. It was almost like they were putting on a comedy show just for me, and they seemed to enjoy making me laugh, like it was more fun with an audience.
So I stayed. Edward came back at 7:30 when the breakfast rush was on to "check in." I was still doing well and the men said it was great having the extra help. Edward told me to drink some water and take a five minute break to put my feet up if I needed. "Don't let those men run you into the ground!"
"Who, us?" My cooking companions both said at once with matching innocent looks.
"Uh-huh. Sure." He said with a sceptical raised brow. He came closer, standing next to me where I had a pile of strawberries and oranges, slicing the fruit to go out on orders. "How are you doing, seriously?" His look was all compassionate concern.
I rested my hands on the counter and looked back at him, "Honestly, I'm having a great time! I like kitchen work. Wish I'd known before now."
He looked at my face, judging my honesty, then smiled softly. "I'm glad you found something you like to do. Have a good time then, but remember to rest when you're tired. Don't feel bad about it either. You're just now recovered and you're not used to standing on your feet all day. It'll make your back hurt tomorrow as well as your feet. So enjoy yourself, but after the breakfast rush is over, I'll walk you back to the apartment for a rest. This afternoon, you can come back and help out during the lunch rush. I think by then, your muscles will have had enough exercise for the day.
She thought about protesting and he must have seen it in her face because he stared hard into her eyes. She thought again and said, "This is one of those things you were talking about isn't it, where you want to protect me, and you want me to listen to you because you know what you're talking about?"
His eyes softened and he gave her a nod. She sighed. She really wanted to stay. And she was really tired of the apartment.
"Alright Edward. I will."
Maybe she could talk him into letting her stay longer tomorrow...
I hope you enjoyed the update.
And now, something different
I've started writing a different fanfic in the Arcana Chronicles as some of you may know. I've written it in novel form instead of fanfiction form, rewriting the first chapter since I last posted so that hopefully everyone can enjoy the fic whether or not you've read the books. I've written over 70K and have another 30K or more that I'm still working through (beta stuff, doing myself).
Below is an introduction to that fic from the love interest. His name is Jack. The majority of the novel is written from Evie's POV but Jack is so interesting I thought maybe he might be a good way to introduce the fic.
Jack POV Day 6BF
I left my home, such as it was, in the bayou and met up with my podna's at the new levee bridge. The fucking bridge. It had just been finished this summer, connecting the town of Sterling to the Basin, where I lived. Before the bridge was built, we would have had to drive fifty miles around the lake to get to Sterling High, but now, because of this bridge, we had to switch schools. It was a joke, and the joke was on us.
The Basin was Cajun. Cajun is a shortened version of Canadian or Acadian. We were descended from the Canadian Catholics who had been force migrated to the swamps of Louisiana hundreds of years ago, their wealth stolen and left behind. Since then the poverty stricken Cajuns had intermarried with Native American, Hispanic, Irish, and Black and White Creoles, we had never become wealthy or middle class. Most of us were firmly at or below poverty level and always would be.. The Sterling population was made up of mostly White Protestants. We couldn't be more different. Our people went over there to work, not socialize. We were their farm workers, their wait staff, their maids, lawn care, whatever. To go to school with them...this was just asking for trouble.
The five of us were closest to the levee, so the district was sending us to Sterling. Once all three of our bikes were at the bridge we left together. I was riding solo, Clotile, my sister in all but name, was riding with Lionell. Tee-bo and Gaston together on the last. Lionell was my podna in crime more often than not, but I'd just finished doing time in juvie.
I wasn't sorry for what I'd done either. The man I'd turned into cane pulp had hurt my Maman. When I'd gotten in his way, he'd gone after me. When I'd finished with him, I knew he wouldn't hurt another woman again. Judge hadn't seen things my way though. Fuck him. Story just added to my reputation which meant more safety for me and my mere. She had the worst taste in men, including my father, who'd never given us time or a dime, more interested in spoiling his own family in Sterling.
I grinned when I saw Clotile's shirt, clearly seeing our theme for the day. It was a hot pink crop T-shirt which said in bold black letters, "I GOT BURBON-FACED ON SHIT STREET." She was obviously taking no prisoners today. She was also wearing a mini-skirt that flared out when she walked. The boys would be having trouble keeping their tongues in their mouths.
We roared off the bridge and onto the highway. I lead the pack, roaring along, but slowed as we came upon a cherry red Porsche with the top down. A babe was leaning over, her ass up high, kissing the driver's cheek. I cruised to maintain speed, getting a good look at that oh so fine ass. She had on a short blue dress and those pale legs of hers may have gone on forever, oh, but that ass. She had long, thick blond hair blowing in the wind. I loved that she seemed not to care that her hairstyle was ruined. I hated she was kissing him. But then, she must have felt the heat of my stare, because she turned around and looked at me over her shoulder. Her hair was in the way. Pull it out of the way beauty, let me see that face. Yes!
With one arm, she held her hair away from her face, and her cornflower blue eyes met mine. I swore, she was gorgeous. Red lips, petite features, nearly pixie. Something so small and needing to be protected, but so luscious that I desperately wanted her. She looked younger than me. She wouldn't be in my year. I was 18, nearly 19 and a Junior. Juvie took time, so did hospital stays when I was younger. Mom's boyfriends had really sucked. The boyishly good looking driver was probably her boyfriend. If I couldn't have, I could sure look. My heated gaze raked her form. She flushed, and sat her fine ass down in her seat, her eyes still on mine. Probably wondering what I looked like behind my tinted visor.
I gave her a chin jerk in acknowledgment, and in thanks for the viewing pleasure, then looked at the road just in time. Huge pothole. I dodged it just in time. Adrenaline rush! If I hadn't looked up when I had, I would've tumbled off my bike head first. I couldn't get that girl out of my head. I'd better though, if I didn't want to end up like my mere, drunk all the time, wanting what I couldn't have.
The three of us pulled off a little ways away from the school, talking over strategy. Lionell said it best. "They're never goan to accept us. Why even try? We'll go in, show them we're not meant to be messed with, and keep our own company. End of story."
Clotile looked sad about this but she was no fool. She knew girls were cruel bitches. Rich bitches were no different. She'd never be able to dress like them, look like them, or talk like them. They'd hate her for who she was even if she tried to fit in. Why try?
Tee-bo was a good sort, but he'd go along with the group. Gaston, he figured Lionell was right and I did too. We loaded back up and made our entrance: Loud and obnoxious. The entire parking lot went dead quiet when we entered, just watching. The Cajuns were here and we could give a shit what they thought.
We parked and dismounted, I took off my helmet and shook out my hair. It was longer than fashionable but cheaper that way. I liked it and the babes liked it so it was all good. Lionell gave his bike a roar and startled some of the preppy students walking by. They shrieked. We laughed. Good to know they scared easy. It meant no one would be dicking around with us for the top dog spot.
I clocked the fille I'd had the staring match with. Gorgeous blue eyes in a gorgeous blue sundress was standing in a huddle with three other girls. Some thought that staring match shit died in elementary school. What they didn't know, was all women wanted to think they were beautiful. What they wanted even more than that, was for a man to show he thought they were beautiful. Best way to do that? A good, long, heated stare. She and her friends started heading our way. I gave her another one, head to toe and back again. She blushed. Excellent. Receptive. I caught my podnas' attention as they neared.
You could have knocked me over with a feather when blue eyes introduced herself as Evie. She seemed genuinely welcoming. She even smiled at each of us, particularly Clotile. I wondered if she was playing a game. It seemed too good to be true. But on the other hand, if someone was going to be welcoming, I wasn't goan to knock it.
Lionell nearly messed the whole thing up but I told him to shut it and made the introductions. I wanted an in with Evie. If there was even a sliver of a chance that I could get her, I wanted it. And I was goan to take it.
After they left, I told Lionell and the others that we were going to change our game plan. Lionell didn't like it none, but he listened. We would be cordial to Miss Evie and her friends. If anyone gave us shit we could always dish it out twice over, but these fille's seemed to have the top dog position among the ladies of the school. They might could smooth our way in. Might as well accept what was offered. It wouldn't be offered twice. If they were playing a game, we could screw them harder. Stay cautious, don't tell any secrets, but play the game. See how it goes. When we were agreed, we entered Sterling High.
A/n Thanks for reading.