DISCLAIMER: ALL THINGS TWILIGHT BELONG TO STEPHANIE MEYER.
A/N: Thank you to my dear friend and beta, Justine, for turning my words into something that makes sense…smooches to you Twiny! To all my reader, thank you so much for your awesome support!
"Jasper Whitlock, I swear to God I will kick your ass if you don't get out of my kitchen now!"
Why the hell is he in here bothering me anyway?
He knows I hate it when he gets in my space without my permission. No sex for him tonight. Well…maybe nothing that drastic.
I can hear Emmett's loud voice coming from the bar, "I'd get outta there if I were you, man. She punches hard; don't let that tiny frame fool you."
I feel Jasper snake his arms around me from behind, his breath on my neck, "I love you, Bella," and then he's gone.
Now my evening is ruined. Dammit! The first time he said it, I let it slide because he was drunk. Not this time.
And he has been such a good lay. I sigh heavily. Why did he have to ruin it with his love crap? I do not allow people to love me anymore – period.
It has been five years since I have allowed anyone to love me.
I remember well the last time a man had told me he loved me; it's actually a happy memory.
My husband was huddled in the corner, crying like a little girl.
Begging me for his life.
Telling me how much he loved me.
Swearing to me he would change.
Then, I shot the fucker.
I feel the satisfied grin spread across my face at the memory of him bleeding on the floor. Everything I used to be died the night I shot my husband. Good riddance. That Bella needed to die. How could I have let him beat me for three years? I feel the familiar burn of anger as it bubbles under the surface. Anger at him…anger at my parents…but mostly anger at myself. The only piece of my former life that remained was my education. I have been trained as a chef. I'm now the head chef at Elite, one of the hottest weekend spots in Seattle.
It has been another packed night. Thank God we're only open three days a week. Now I need to unwind. First stop: the bar. I collapse on a stool near where Emmett is still tending a few stragglers.
"Hey Bells," he greets me. "You want your usual?"
"You better make it a double tonight, Em."
Emmett crooks an eyebrow as he pours me two shots of vodka. I throw one back immediately, relishing in the warmth that begins to spread through my body.
"You gonna tell me what happened?" Emmett asks.
"Jasper told me loved me."
Shock spreads across Emmett's features. "What the hell did he do that for?"
"I don't know." And I really don't. We had good thing going, he knows what I expect of him and he's complied with my wishes – until now.
"Hey, cheer up, baby, you'll find a new fuck buddy." I just roll my eyes at Emmett; he is so ridiculous.
My navy blue mustang roars into the parking lot of the hotel and into the valet line.
I step from my car, flipping my keys to the valet, barely pausing to take my valet ticket as I walk into the lobby. My stride is all business – no feeling – I don't allow it. I only feel one emotion now.
I should never have kept Jasper around as long as I did. But he is just so hot and easy going I can't help myself. I know Jasper will be here tonight, we always meet here on Saturday night. I am relieved to see that he isn't in the bar. I don't want to waste time with talk. I burst into my usual suite like a tornado, pulling my clothes off as I walk.
"Whitlock! Pants off – now!"
I'm pleased to see he is already on the bed waiting for me…more then ready. I impale myself on him, riding him hard till both of us cum and are exhausted. I remove myself from him immediately. I never allow a man to hold me, and there is no point in delaying the inevitable.
I dress quickly and tell Jasper to follow me to the living room. I pour a drink and stand, swirling it in my glass. "We have to talk, Jasper." His face tells me he is expecting these words from me. "We won't be meeting here anymore," I tell him.
His hazel eyes flood with emotion. "I know and I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said it, but that doesn't make it untrue."
My jaw is clenched in anger as I speak, "You shouldn't be wasting your love on me. Give it to someone who can return it. I don't have that ability."
He gives me a small, hopeful smile before speaking, "Can we still be friends?"
"Of course, Jasper."
I'm in a reminiscent mood as I speed across town to my apartment. I think back to the life I used to have – the Bella I used to be.
She wouldn't recognize the woman I am now. My passion for cooking is the only thing that remains of my old life. I remember well the first day I realized I wanted to be a chef. I was fourteen and had spent the summer in France with my parents. I loved the food in France and was completely obsessed with learning the art of fine cooking.
I begged and begged my parents to pay for me to attend culinary school after prep school. They weren't happy about it. They wanted me to be a lawyer or something – something better for their high society friends. To them, being a chef was like being a servant. It was not something well bred, well educated ladies did.
I stuck to my convictions though, and continued to pester them for the next year. I finally convinced my mother by telling her I could be the next Martha Stewart. I started culinary school at eighteen and I loved it!
I loved the experimenting….I loved the creating….I think that was the last time I was truly happy. I am relieved to be back at my place and gladly slip into my shower, washing Jasper off me for the last time.
I hope for a dreamless sleep as I climb into bed. It has been a while since my last nightmare and I hope they stay away again tonight.
I love that my life has a very predictable routine.
Sunday is my brunch day. Every Sunday I have brunch with my friends Felix and Demetri. They are the sweetest couple.
Felix is as enthusiastic as always when he opens the door to me standing on the stoop, "Darling! You look hideous! What happened to you last night? Oh my God! Are those scones? Come on, get your self in here, you crazy bitch!"
All I can do is smile at the barrage of questions Felix throws at me. He has so much zest for life it is infectious. It amazes me how quickly I've become friends with Felix and Demetri. But, I've come to learn they make it impossible to be anything but comfortable with them.
Felix works at the restaurant with me as the seating host.
He is the sweetest man ever – you can't help but like him. It is easy to see why Demetri loves him. Demetri welcomes me in his quiet manner, embracing me lightly and ushers me into their vibrantly colorful kitchen.
I love these Sunday afternoons. It is so relaxing to be the one sitting at the table and not the one cooking. Normally I don't like men doting on me, but Felix and Demetri are more like overbearing aunts. They fuss over me. They give me advice. I don't really mind.
Monday is my boxing day. I love the physical release that comes from punching something as hard as I can.
"Bella, you ready to get started?"
"Always, Emmett, always."
Emmett is my boxing buddy and he is the perfect one for me. He is so much bigger than me I can lash out all my anger on him and it barely even fazes him.
I'm so glad I found Emmett. We met in the laundry room of our building where he was trying to torture a load of clothes. I offered to give him a hand, and from there we were fast friends. It was through Emmett I found my job. His adopted mother, Esme, owns the restaurant where I am now head chef.
There has never been anything sexual between us; he is more like the big brother I never had. I really feel that I can tell him almost anything. Emmett is one of the few people who knows about my past and still wants to be my friend.
There aren't a lot of people out there who want to be friends with a woman who had been in a nut house.
My muscles are rejoicing with the burning contractions as I swing at Emmett, my gloved fist making contact with his rock hard abs.
"How did things go with Jasper?" Emmett asks.
We don't miss a step, bobbing and weaving as we talk. "Don't worry I didn't damage your best friend; we're cool," I assure him.
Emmett's booming laugh echoes off the walls, "No worries, baby. He's a big boy, he'll find someone new. We need to find you a new boy toy though."
I continue my punching as I talk, "I don't know, Em. I'm not feeling in the mood to be looking right now. Besides, I'm picky." I sigh, "Sometimes it's more trouble then it's worth."
Emmett circles and my punch grazes his chest. Damn he is light on his feet for such a big guy.
"So you ever gonna hook me up with one of your friends, or just leave me with my own company all the time?" Emmett jokes and I roll my eyes at him. He has been trying for months to get me to set him up with my friend Rose.
He has only heard about her, but he is very interested. "Hmmm, I suppose I can see if Rose is game," I muse aloud. "What do I get in return?"
Emmett's face lights up. I can almost see him mentally flipping through his friends, thinking of someone he can set me up with. "I could hook you up with one of my boys. I can think of several—"
I cut him off abruptly. "No way am I hooking up with any more of your boys! Riley was a complete idiot. He was like a damn puppy, practically humping my leg in the bar. And hello! Look what happened with Jasper." I pause for a moment before continuing, "Maybe I should take a break from men or something."
Emmett stops, and he is grinning devilishly at me. "So are you gonna start batting for the other team?"
I roll my eyes again. "In your dreams, McCarty." I give him one last punch and head to the locker room.
"Please, please video tape it if you make the switch!" Emmett calls to me and I ignore him, flashing the bird before I push the locker room door open.
Tuesday is my least favorite day of the week.
I hate the fact I have to go to this damn anger management class.
Talking doesn't help. Beating the shit out of things helps.
I like my advisor though, she's cool. She never pushes me too hard, even though she only knows the very basics of why I'm so angry.
She knows my ex-husband had been abusive, but she doesn't know how bad it got.
I feel calm today and it is easier for me to talk when I'm calm. I spot Rose as soon as I walk into the room. She spots me at the same time and begins her slow glide toward me. Her face is kind as she approaches, and I see the genuine concern on her face. "Hey, Bella, how are you doing this week?"
I answer as honestly as I can, "I think I'm pretty good this week."
We head over to a couple of comfy chairs to start our session.
Rose looks at me expectantly, her expression emotionless, and she gives nothing away. "Tell me about your week."
"Well, I spent last Wednesday with Alice. We got our nails done. Of course Thursday, Friday and Saturday I was at work—"
Rose cuts me off, "Did you see Jasper on Saturday night?"
I had been hoping to avoid this; Rose doesn't approve of my dating habits.
"Yes." My voice is a low growl.
"Are you still sleeping with him?"
I can't help the smile crossing my face. "We never quite got around to the sleeping part."
Rose rolls her eyes and ignores my comment. "How do you feel about Jasper?"
I hate talking about my feelings. I sigh, irritated.
"Nothing, Rose, I feel nothing for him."
Rose's blank demeanor slips and she is talking as my friend now, "What the hell, Bella! How can you have sex with someone for three months and say you feel nothing for them."
This line of questioning is really beginning to annoy me.
"I just don't, Rose, but if it makes you feel better I won't be having sex with him anymore."
I can tell Rose is surprised by this news when she cocks an eyebrow at me, waiting for my answer.
"He told me he loved me," I throw the words out there as though they're something smelly and rotten and I want them as far from me as possible.
"And you are still unwilling to let someone love you?"
"Yes." I can feel my ire building like slow moving flames.
I can hear the hiss and pop of the flames in my mind as my temper increases. "You know why, Rose."
She begins speaking in an overly patient tone – like she's talking to a child.
I hate that voice.
"You need to say it again, Bella, so you can deal with your feelings."
This is always the worst part of the sessions. I'm being forced along a cliff of anger – desperately clinging to the edge of the abyss of sanity – praying I don't fall in.
"Every proclamation of love I have ever received has come with conditions or pain. The ability to love was beaten out of me. How the fuck can I trust anyone again, Rose! How! How can I trust myself?" I'm shaking by this point; the flames of fury are coursing through my mind. I can barely see or hear or think.
Rose is calling me back to sanity, "Breathe, Bella, just breathe." Her words are calm and soothing, helping me douse the flames, pulling me back from the edge. Her voice is whisper soft now. "It's okay if you want to cry, Bella, you know that right?"
I acknowledge her words, but I do not allow myself tears. Crying is for the weak. I prefer to cling to my anger. It makes me feel in control.
A few more deep breaths, in...out...in...out, the air is washing through me, cooling the flames. "I'm good, Rose, no need for any water works."
Rose is serious when she looks at me, her blue eyes piercing my brown ones. "You're going to need to give into the tears at some point, Bella. Crying it out will help you in a way that all the boxing in the world can't. Trust me, I know. Crying doesn't make you weak. It takes a strong person to admit to being hurt and betrayed by people who loved them. You don't have to do it alone though…I'm here whenever you are ready."
We drop it for now and I tell her about the rest of my week. She doesn't ask any more about my feelings and I keep my anger under control.
As soon as my session is over Rose, my friend, reappears. We don't have the typical relationship that most people have with their advisers. We became friends quickly after the first time we met. Rose and I have a lot in common, both having been abused and betrayed by those we loved. Although, she is way ahead of me in being able to deal with, and talk about, her anger issues.
"So, you dating anyone right now, Rose?"
"You know I'm not, Bella. Why?"
"I was wondering if you would let me introduce you to a friend of mine."
Rose smiles at me. "Is he nice?" she asks.
"No, he's actually the devil," I scoff, "Yes, of course he's nice. I've told you about him before."
She looks a bit wary. "Oh God, it's not Jasper is it?"
I roll my eyes at her. "No, jerk, not Jasper…Emmett, my boxing partner."
Her smile lights up her face and she almost looks like teenager. "Really? From everything you've told me about him, he sounds great."
I just smile back at her and loop my arm through hers. "Come on, let's go get lunch."
Wednesday is always a good day. I spend almost every Wednesday with Alice.
Alice is the tiny little whirlwind of a woman who owns the boutique across the street from my restaurant. She is a regular at our bar and you just can't help but like her, even if she annoys you into liking her. We always do something very girly and today is no exception. Alice is dragging me with her while she gets her tongue pierced.
"Bella, won't you please reconsider getting something pierced?"
"I don't know, Alice. I don't know if that's me."
"Please, Bella, please, please, please! Do it for me! You would look so cute with a ring or something through the corner of your bottom lip."
I look at her with doubt, but I know she can see my will fading. How could someone so small bend the will of everyone they encounter? Alice is a force of nature, like a tsunami, she can move anything.
Much to Alice's delight I decide on a small, silver barbell in the left lower corner of my mouth. It doesn't hurt as much as I thought it would and Alice was right…I do look cute. I hate it when Alice is right, which is most of the time.
Thursday is turning out to be a great day.
Jasper is being really cool about everything, which makes me really happy because Emmett would have been pissed if I had made things weird with his best friend.
Before I know it, it's Saturday night again – well actually, it's two-thirty in the morning on Sunday and I'm sitting at the bar watching Emmett and Jasper cleaning up after a long night. I always enjoy hearing their banter after three crazy nights at the restaurant.
I sigh in satisfaction, content in my routine, ready for another week in my tightly controlled world.
A/N: Thank you for reading and please review, I always enjoy feedback.