AN: This took place at Breeze, in Chapter 1 of the story. Exposure will be told solely in BPOV, but we thought that perhaps a little EPOV to explain his and Rose's history and what happened that night before Bella would be interesting.
"I'll take a vodka tonic and a Tokyo Rose," I said to the bartender. He was a big guy, and nice enough. "Grey Goose in both, please."
"Tokyo Rose…vodka, sake rice wine, and Midori, right?" The bartender was already pulling a shaker out and filling it with ice. Clearly, the guy was a professional and experienced.
I nodded and flattened a twenty-dollar bill on the bar. "That's it. I'm almost surprised you've heard of it," I replied.
He grinned at me. "I'm uh…well-rounded," he laughed. He mixed the drink and then poured my vodka tonic and pushed both glasses toward me.
"Keep the change," I said. "Thanks a lot."
I always insisted Rose allow me to buy her drinks. It wasn't because she couldn't spend the money; Rose was the number two real estate broker in the downtown Chicago area and owned a loft that was so posh, even I had to stand back and gawk when she originally made the purchase. The view was spectacular - it was a mix of the downtown cityscape and Lake Michigan. No, I made her let me pay for her drinks because she was my closest friend and confidant, and I loved her for it. Besides, money was something I didn't ever have to think about, so why not take care of my friend in this way?
And it's not like I have to worry about a girlfriend being jealous, I thought wryly.
I made my way back to our booth and placed her cocktail before her on the table. "Grey Goose, right?" she asked.
I shook my head. "Nope, they were out. It's Absolut. I hope that's okay," I said, somehow appearing completely serious.
"God damn it, Edward. Are you kidding me? You know I won't drink vodka unless…"
Before she got too far into her little tirade, I moved into my seat, leaned against the wall and held up a hand as I sipped my drink. "Rose, you know I'm kidding. Come on, now."
She only shook her head at me. "I really should know better by now. You and your odd sense of humor…" She flashed a smile at me.
We small-talked for a while. That was one thing about Rose and me - we'd been friends for five years, and in those five years, we'd experienced everything together: bad break ups, deaths in the family, sickness, and even career crises. There was a time, about six months after we met, that Rose actually considered giving up on real estate. For weeks, she would call me every night complaining about how hard showing condos was in the current market and telling me about all the men who made their intentions very well-known. I talked her out of quitting every day because some people are just born to do what they do, and Rose is one of them. When you take all of that into consideration, it's easy to see why conversation was so natural and free-flowing for us.
Our first meeting was entertaining to say the least. She came to showcase my complex to a possible buyer, and when her client left, I asked her what she thought about the condos. She looked me straight in the eye and said, "They're okay. I wouldn't be caught dead without a lake view."
I knew then that Rosalie Hale and I were meant to be friends. No one was ever blunt with me. They were always too concerned with my family name. The Cullens were known for their philanthropic ways around Chicago, and like it or not, we held quite a bit of power in the city. Therefore, Rose's outright dismissal of the location of our condominiums despite their being prime property was impressive, and I immediately wanted to take her to lunch.
She was gorgeous, of course. Long, blonde hair. Big blue eyes. Beautiful, intelligent, witty, and successful? It's safe to say that I was interested, despite having always had a preference for brunettes. Sometimes you can't have everything.
I hinted at spending some time together several times before I said, "Look, I'm just asking as a friend. So how about it?"
It was then that she finally agreed to that lunch. Of course I'd been lying; I wanted to take her to lunch to gauge whether she was at all interested in me.
"What are you going to order?" I asked after we'd been seated at Deleece.
She crossed her arms over her chest and grinned. "Eh. Probably a Szechwan Steak Salad, but I'll take most of it home. I'm not very hungry today."
We chatted some more, and I learned that she was a transplant to Chicago by way of Rochester, New York, was six months younger than I was, and had no siblings. Though I was still uncertain whether she was at all into me, I was just about to ask her what she was doing later that evening when the waitress stopped by to deposit our iced teas. "Here you are," she said. "Are you ready to order?"
Rose and I ordered our food. As the waitress walked away, Rose watched her and then turned to me. "She's cute."
"Yeah, I guess…" I started. The waitress wasn't really my type…but then again, with that long blonde hair, neither was Rose really.
Rose's eyes narrowed. "I think I'll get her number."
I blinked before my eyes widened and, finally, I shook my head with a chuckle. Rose grinned and winked at me before taking a sip of her tea.
After that, I never asked Rose out that way again. That had been her way of very directly telling me I didn't have a snowball's chance in Hell. Shortly thereafter, I was glad of that fact. We became fast friends - she came to me with her girl problems, and I did the same with her. My few guy friends never wanted to believe that there was nothing going on between us, even after Rose announced that she was a lesbian to them all.
Every Friday, she came over to hang at my condo, and we watched old movies and drank wine. Our Friday nights were almost ritualistic. They were something we always made sure to explain when either of us began a relationship because our significant others were never invited. It was intended to be the two of us, relaxing and catching up.
Of course, I thought as I finished my drink, all the relationships for the past couple of years have been Rose's.
I sighed, running my fingers through my hair. After my last girlfriend two-and-a-half years ago, I'd realized the press and rumors really weren't worth the half-assed relationships my job usually allowed. I was very conscious of my family's reputation – ironically, we were constantly under attack because of our philanthropic activities. I'd been amazed when I understood that the majority of the people wanted to believe the worst of their fellow man. It was much easier to stomach the headlines about whose heart playboy Edward Cullen had broken than those about the hours that same Edward Cullen had spent tutoring math – not that work allowed me time for that anymore either.
My stressful job – that I just happened to love – was one of the reasons we found ourselves out for a few drinks that Friday before heading back to my apartment. We sat there in Breeze, and she sipped on her Tokyo Rose as conversation came naturally, the way it always did with us. As she finished her cocktail, a quiet came over the table, and I found myself staring into the crowd. I could hear the overtones of Rose's humming as I stood to go buy another round from the bar.
"I'll br…" I began, but I stopped as I watched the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen walk in. It took a lot to stop me in my tracks. I was by no means the playboy the trashy papers had claimed – my parents had raised me to be a gentleman - but I knew I was charming when I wanted to be. But this girl…
She had long, mahogany hair that hung straight down her back. A slight side part made her hair fall over one eye as she smiled and moved through the crowd.
Even from across the room, I could tell she had an amazing shape. That tight little skirt left just enough to the imagination, and paired with the heels she was wearing, I literally stopped speaking, mid-word.
I abruptly sat back down. "What is it, Edward?" Rose asked. She grinned as she teased me. "You've only had one drink…such a lightweight these days?" When I didn't answer, I saw her frown from the corner of my eye. "Hey…are you okay?"
Nodding my head, I said, "Yeah, yeah. I'm fine. This girl just walked in…"
"Do you know her?" Rose asked.
"No, no. She's stunning. I mean, really stunning, Rosie. She stopped me right in my tracks." I took a deep breath. "I…I'll be right back. I was going to go get another round..."
Rose grabbed my belt loop. "Wait, where is she?"
"In that booth directly across from us," I answered her. "I'll be right back."
I went to order our second round. Because the bar was filled nearly to capacity, it took about fifteen minutes of standing at the bar, glancing occasionally over my shoulder at the exquisite woman who was now sitting alone. Finally the bartender saw me, asked if I wanted a round of the same, and when I affirmed that that was the case, I had our drinks in hand in record time. Quickly, I returned to our booth. Rose said nothing as I handed her drink to her and took my seat. It wasn't until I took my first sip that she opened her mouth. "She is gorgeous, Edward."
"Yeah, I know."
She spoke quickly and with emphasis on every word. "No, Edward. I mean she's really attractive."
"Yeah, I know," I said, raising my eyebrow. I looked over at her, and she was making the same kind of expression toward me. "What?"
"Jesus, Edward. I know you're not that obtuse. What have we been talking about the last few weeks?"
Realization dawned on me. For years, Rosalie had preferred blondes like herself, but that had been changing over the last year or so. She'd found herself attracted more and more to dark-haired women with dark eyes. Ironically, exactly the same type of woman that aroused me most. We had always made a game of pointing out women we knew the other would find attractive, and we were damn good at it, too. We'd even had a few success stories where one or the other of us had found a woman to date for a time from our little hobby.
That game had become more complicated about fourteen months ago, when I first noticed Rosalie's shifting preference.
We were sitting at the sushi bar of our favorite Japanese restaurant, sharing an appetizer of sashimi as we waited for our table. Glancing around as I sipped my sake, I spotted a blonde bombshell – amazing body, very pretty face with high cheekbones, blue eyes that sparkled even from across the room, and that long, luxurious, wavy blonde hair that Rose loved to run her fingers through. I tapped my best friend on the upper arm and winked, nodding toward the woman I was sure she'd love.
"You're welcome," I murmured with a cheeky grin.
She rolled her eyes and shrugged. "She's alright."
I frowned at her. "What's wrong with you? Feeling okay?"
"I'm fine, Edward." She delicately maneuvered her chopsticks, enjoying a piece of hotate-gai. When I didn't say anything, she finally shrugged and sighed, balancing her chopsticks on the side of her dish. "I'm a little tired of the same old thing, you know?"
My brow was furrowed as I dipped my sashimi in a sauce and brought it to my lips.
"Now her, on the other hand…" I glanced up at the sound of Rose's voice and followed her gaze to see a curvy brunette laughing as she brushed back her straight hair.
"Just a minute, Hale…" I hid my amusement behind what I hoped was a serious-looking frown. "Are you encroaching on my territory?"
She just grinned at me. "Wonder who would win."
From that night, our tastes had steadily merged until I was now quite sure that any woman I found particularly attractive, Rose would, too. Our jokes about having to share if we found someone we were really attracted to had started out playful but steadily grown slightly more serious in some strange way. I occasionally cringed at the thought of what would happen if any of the socialite press caught wind of such a relationship, but I wasn't too worried.
I still didn't think it would ever happen. Not really.
For the previous month, Rose and I had been joking about how if we found some girl we were both really attracted to, we'd have to have a threesome. After all, we'd done most everything else together, and between nude beaches, the sauna, and even the occasional shower, we definitely knew the sight of each others' bodies. So what if we wouldn't touch one another? That would just make it easier, and that way, neither of us would miss out on whatever ravishing woman we'd both spotted.
From there, we'd moved on to the more practical aspects in the idle time we spent drinking. We decided it would have to be someone we didn't know, and she'd probably have to be a bit shorter than Rose because she liked to be taller than her girlfriends and therefore any girl she was involved with; it was just a thing she had. We also decided this would have to be a one-time deal because our friendship was too important to screw up over a woman.
It had all been said in jest.
At least I thought it was.
"Wait," I said, casting a glance at the girl across the way and then bringing my attention back to Rose. "Are you serious? With her?"
She nodded. "Why not? She's hot; we're hot. We can ask, right?"
I couldn't argue with that, not really. I was not a conceited man, but I knew I was attractive, well-dressed and had a lot to offer a woman. I just hadn't found the right one yet. Those same traits could be attributed to Rose, if I was honest.
I let myself stare at the dark-haired beauty.
Even from across the room, her eyes were large and obviously expressive. Her lips were just full enough to appear pouty but not overly so. As I was watching her, she sipped her water through a straw, and to my surprise, my manhood decided to say hello. It was just a twitch, but if this was already happening while we were fully clothed and across the room from one another…
I tore my eyes away from my gorgeous brunette. "You're serious."
Rosalie took a long draught of her cocktail and grinned at me. "You're not wimping out on me, are you Cullen?" she asked.
My eyes moved from Rose to the girl again, and I watched as she threw her cell phone down and then yanked it away. Apparently, it had fallen in water. I watched her for another moment and then looked back at Rose.
"Not a chance," I replied, following suit and taking a swig of my drink. I realized I couldn't say no to the idea of bedding this woman…and I didn't even know her name. I was already rationalizing, listing all the reasons this was a good idea. We'll be up front; no strings attached. We'll be clear; one-time thing only. So nice not to have to worry about calling if she's a complete ditz. Been way too long since I was with a woman, and she is beyond beautiful. Can just imagine those lips of hers around my… I cleared my throat. Yeah, so I'll admit it – it was that last one that decided things for me. "So how do we do it?"
"Well, we can't just walk up to her and as …" Rosalie's voice fell away.
I glanced over at the girl. She looked angry - or at the very least incredibly frustrated - and was talking to her waitress. As I watched, she shot a small, tight smile at the waitress and stood up. She straightened her skirt and began moving toward the bar. "Let's go," I said, and slid to the end of my seat. "Come on."
Rose moved quickly after downing the last of her drink but grabbed my arm, her nerves suddenly apparent. "What are we going to say?"
"I don't know. We'll wing it. Be charming," I teased.
She narrowed her eyes at me. "Fine."
We moved behind her in the crowd, and she stood waiting for the bartender to return. Rosalie managed to get to her before me and leaned forward as she whispered into the brunette's ear. The woman turned to her, no doubt surprised at the proximity of this mysterious voice. I watched from a few paces behind and to Rosalie's left as they began to speak to each other.
From this new, closer vantage point, I could see her body - she was petite and thin with a perfect ass and slender legs. Our mystery girl turned around as the bartender arrived. I watched him appraise Rose, and when his eyes returned to our mystery girl, my friend motioned over at me to come closer.
"Just a tequila, please. Make it a double," the girl said to him as I stood a foot or so behind her.
"Let me get that," I said.
She turned around and swallowed hard. I smiled at her and watched as she followed my right hand as I lightly scratched my head behind my ear. Her eyes focused on my hair - in its usual state of disarray - and then came back to my face. It appeared that perhaps I was her type. That was good to know. "You don't have to. Really." Her voice was nice - a little lower than I expected, and sexy.
Rose piped in. "You should let him." I smiled and agreed with her. The girl nodded, and I reached past her and handed the bartender a ten. He poured her shot and slid it to her, and then went happily on his way further down the bar.
"Thanks. What's your name?" she asked me.
With some vague sense of protecting the family's reputation, I gave her my first name and hoped that she wouldn't recognize me as I acknowledged that she'd met Rose already. I smiled at the fact that Rosalie was standing mere inches away from the girl. "Bells? Is that a nickname for Bella?" Rose asked her.
When she said her name was actually Isabella and I complimented the name, I watched as a slight blush appeared on her cheeks. To ensure that it stayed there, I let her see my eyes work their way down her form and back up. I almost laughed when she had to clear her throat before she could speak again. Surely this won't be this easy… I let Rosalie handle the introductory information until Bella asked if we were dating. My laugh was loud and unplanned. "Oh, no. We're not dating. That's an impossibility."
Bella was confused but let the topic go. She chatted amiably about her job, and when I found out she was a writer and copy editor for The Common Appeal, my personal interest was somehow ever more piqued.
"My mother writes for an architectural magazine," I said. "She's done it my entire life." I kept it to myself that she'd designed the condos I now owned and managed. "I have a very healthy respect for anyone who can manipulate the written word and do it well."
She was pleased with that, and her soft smile showed it.
More conversation flowed easily between us, and Rose cast a look at me. I nodded, knowing what was coming next.
"So, Bella. We have a question for you." Rose announced.
"Shoot," Bella replied, and downed her shot. I noticed that she flicked her tongue into the glass and felt my cock twitch, again. I pulled my chin closer to my chest as she swallowed, and Rose leaned in to her ear yet again.
I kept calm, despite the many emotions that seemed about to burst forth, when Bella sputtered her initial response. "I…What? What?"
Rose took a half-step back, and I moved toward her. As I placed my left hand on Bella's upper arm and told her the truth - that this was new for us, too - I found myself praying that she wouldn't deny me. That she wouldn't deny us.
Her lips parted, and she just stared at me for a moment before speaking.
I hardly listened to Rose's response to Bella's question about how the…threesome…would work. I watched as Rose took Bella's chin between her fingers and whispered in her ear again. I found myself jealous, if only slightly, that the only contact with Bella I'd had was this one hand on her arm.
I'd remedy that soon.
Bella's shock in response to Rose's whisper told me that Rose had just let her know that she was a lesbian. I lightly held her hand and glided my fingers over her knuckles. I kept my focus on our hands as I questioned her simply. "Bella?"
She looked up at me. "Yes."
She said yes?
She said yes!
I stared into her eyes and heard Rose take a breath. I figured I could either embarrass myself by revealing my elation – and possibly ruin the whole thing – or I could play it cool and get the hell out of there as soon as possible. After all, the less time we gave her to change her mind, the better, right? "So, I live four blocks from here, at 8th and Congress. Meet us there in half an hour?"
When she mentioned my family by name, relief and amusement washed over me. She didn't recognize me from the papers and therefore didn't know who I was. I was glad for that - we could bring that up later. I wasn't keen on using my name to obtain the things I wanted – and if she didn't know, I wanted to be sure she was trustworthy before that sort of information was just handed out.
Rose announced she was going home to pick up a few things, and when Bella turned around to place her glass on the bar, Rose slid her hand over Bella's abdomen and said, "See you very soon," before pulling away.
When she stepped away, I took Bella's hand in mine and pulled her to me, determined to have at least my fair share of contact with her. She was pressed firmly against my leg and hip, and I could feel the warmth radiate from her body. God, she was beautiful. I couldn't get over it. I looked her in the eye as I memorized the way her eyes appeared - wide and alive and mesmerized - as I leaned down to whisper in her ear myself. "Thank you," I said, and then nibbled lightly on her earlobe. I felt a slight shiver move down her spine. I let my mind's eye see her lying on my bed beneath me. I saw her hair splayed on the pillow above her head. I felt her petite, feminine fingers scratching my back lightly as we moved together.
It was all I could do not to groan.
"I'll…I'll see you in a few," she said, a slight stammer in her voice as she pulled away from me.
"We'll be waiting," Rose replied, and Bella stepped out into the crowd.
Once she'd disappeared, I glanced down at Rose and took a deep breath. "We're really doing this, aren't we?"
She cocked an eyebrow at me haughtily. "I am absolutely going to be with her tonight. I guess it's up to you if you want to join us or not."
I narrowed my eyes at her playfully – at least, I think it was playfully – and said, "Oh, you better believe I'll be there. It's my condo, after all."
She laughed softly and turned away, slipping her arm through mine as we walked out of the bar together. "God, she's amazing, isn't she?" she murmured so lowly I could just hear her above the noise in the room.
"That she is indeed…" I answered softly.
AN: Just a quick note to apologize for the delay on this. We wanted to wait, and post this at the same time here at FFn and Twilighted, but chapter 6 is still in queue to be validated, and we didn't want to make you wait any longer.
Reviews are fab. So are you.