A/N: This story was written for the Twifans 4 Haiti fundraising initiative. I posted it today as a show of appreciation for my wonderful readers who keep me motivated and make all the late nights and struggles with writers' block worth it in the end. I thank you for continually humbling me with your kindness.
Thank you so much to MsKathy for masterminding this wonderful project, and to everyone who helped bring it to life! It was a complete honor and joy to be able to write for it.
Thank you to Hopeful Wager for being my beta through thick and thin.
And thank you to juliebutterfly, my soulmate, who inspired every single word of this story.
Disclaimer: All copyright and trademarked items mentioned herein belong to their respective owners. The remaining content is all mine. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without my express written authorization.
The Cupcake Girl and the Tatooed Boy
Rosalie Hale was a girl of many layers. The top layer, the one which was on display to the general public, was that of sweet and friendly cupcake girl by day and hard working, dynamic law student by night. She worked at Cope's Cupcake Corner, a quaint little cupcake store in a small shopping centre in Suburban Seattle.
Rosalie loved working at the cupcake store because she took great pleasure in being surrounded by the joy that selling these tasty baked treats provided her customers. The smile that brightened the face of a small child who was being consoled over a scraped knee or a suburban housewife who was fed up with her monotonous routine, never failed to warm Rosalie's caring heart.
What Rosalie had recently come to love even more than the cupcake-flavored delight she spread every day, was the view she enjoyed from the cupcake store window. For the past two months, Rosalie's heart had yearned for the elusive tattoo artist who had taken over the formerly dilapidated tattoo shop nestled in a distant corner of the shopping centre.
Every day, the brawny, dark-haired guy whose skin displayed every imaginable inked color and shape would stroll past the cupcake shop in his obscure band t-shirts and Bermuda shorts, and Rosalie's heart would go into a flutter of epic proportions. Every day she wished he would make a detour to her counter so she could see his twinkling green eyes up close. Every day he casually continued past her, only acknowledging her with the occasional glance in her direction. And every day Rosalie's heart would simultaneously grow warmer and colder for this guy who had evolved in her mind to be the most perfect male specimen in existence.
But why did this particular male intrigue Rosalie to such an overwhelming extent? This particular male stirred Rosalie's innermost layer. Buried beneath many different layers of tastes and interests, was the layer Rosalie kept most hidden from the world. This layer ached to have just an ounce of the courage and flamboyance that this man appeared to possess and which allowed him to display his true self so blatantly on his most visible layer. He clearly felt no need to keep his layers hidden away. Rosalie envied that above all else.
Rosalie was not what one would call shy, conservative or introverted by any measure. She enjoyed wearing vintage clothes, including high-waisted, full-skirted dresses, eight-inch polka dot high heels and cherry red lip gloss. Her silky, platinum blonde hair was frequently arranged into a whimsical coif, reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe herself. When customers entered Cope's Cupcake Corner and saw Rosalie standing in the middle of the pastel-colored, retro decor store, they instantly felt as if they were transported back to a different, simpler time. This was one of the reasons why Mrs. Cope, the store's owner and baker, insisted on keeping Rosalie on as, what she secretly liked to think of, the "face" of Cope's Cupcake Corner.
It was a perfect spring day when the winds started to change in Rosalie's favor. She had her head stuck in one of the display cases, busily organizing the elaborately decorated baked treats within when she heard the low rumble of a man clearing his throat. From behind the glass of the display case, she caught a glimpse of a muscular calf colored with intricate design, and all sense of reason left her. In her rush to stand up straight, her head connected sharply with the edge of the case, rattling its contents dangerously. She heard a hearty chuckle as she appeared from behind the display, rubbing the back of her head vigorously.
"You okay?" His voice was deep and soothing. He tried to stifle his grin when he saw the near outrage on her face, but his green eyes continued to twinkle with humor.
Rosalie found herself at an uncharacteristic loss for words. After a few moments in which she continued to gawk, she managed to compose her expression into the friendly one she always used for customers and squeaked, "Welcome to Rosalie's Cupcake Corner. I'm Mrs. Cope." Her cheeks started to flame as she realized her mistake and his grin grew all the more amused. "Uh, let me try that again. Welcome to Cope's Cupcake Corner. I'm Rosalie and I'm not married."
By now, the gorgeous specimen of man was shaking with the effort of keeping his laughter in, and all Rosalie wanted to do was crawl under the counter next to the cupcake boxes, and forget that this meeting ever took place. Instead, Rosalie gave herself a quick, much-needed mental pep talk, reminding herself that Rosalie Hale would never allow herself to be flustered by any man. She stood up straight and spoke again, this time with confidence and composure.
"One last time: Welcome to Cope's Cupcake corner. I am, in fact, not Mrs. Cope or Mrs. Anyone-Else, for that matter. My name is Rosalie. How may I help you?" There, much better,Rosalie thought to herself.
"Well, Rosalie-Not-Mrs.-Anyone-Else, my name is Emmett and I sure could use a cupcake today."
He had a subtle drawl that made tingles dance down Rosalie's spine and she had to concentrate very hard to keep her voice level when she replied, "You seem to have come to the right place." Rosalie gave a dazzling smile and gestured to the tiny shop that was packed with cupcakes of every shape, size and flavor imaginable. Mrs. Cope prided herself on her creativity when it came to baking.
"Score one for me," Emmett joked.
Rosalie's cheeks lit up with a ruby hue once more. The uncharacteristic blushing was starting to annoy her. "What flavor can I get you?"
"What flavors have you got?"
This exchange, while seemingly innocuous to an impartial observer, had actually caused each party's heart rate and body temperature to increase by an unnatural percentage.
"Any combination of cake and frosting you could imagine." Rosalie's irrationally bright smile displayed her sparkling white teeth to perfection.
Emmet's eyes narrowed and his lips pursed in thought for a moment. His grin returned with an excited snap of his fingers. "How's about, I start at one edge of the cupcake spectrum and work my way through. A cupcake a day should do nicely to keep the blues away, don't ya think?"
Rosalie was sure that a swarm of tiny birds had started to nest in her tummy. The thought of seeing him up close every day seemed like too much of a dream to actually be true. "Sounds like a great plan. Let's see what I have to start you off."
Rosalie was grinning like a fool when she ducked her head back into the display case in search of the cupcake that would make the perfect first impression. She finally settled on chocolate cake with mint-flavored butter cream frosting and chocolate chips on top. She placed it in one of their custom designed, glitter-covered Cope's Cupcake Corner boxes and presented it proudly to Emmett.
Emmett watched intently as she proceeded to ring up the sale, enjoying the self-assured way she handled herself behind the counter. Her glossy blonde curls bounced around her shoulders as she worked and her perfectly manicured, bright pink fingernails flew over the buttons of the old-school cash register with ease. Her radiant cerulean eyes met his for a split second as she handed him his change and a bolt of lightning shot down his spine.
As Emmett walked back to his little tattoo parlor, the spectacularly beautiful pin-up girl of his dreams watched him, already eagerly awaiting his next visit.
Emmett returned to the cupcake shop daily without fail to sample the baked treats that Rosalie would undoubtedly have ready for him: coconut cake with blue vanilla frosting and coconut sprinkles, lemon cake with lemon butter cream and a wedge of lemon candy on top, red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and pink glitter, marble cake with peanut butter frosting and crushed peanut sprinkles.
Every day the cupcakes became tastier and more elaborately decorated, and every day their conversations became longer and more involved.
As it turned out, Emmett had studied ancient civilizations at college and spent the three years thereafter touring the globe, researching the amalgamation of his two passions: ancient civilizations and tattoo art. This endeavor had led him from the most remote reaches of South America, Africa and Asia, to the most urban parts of Europe and North America. The inked art that covered his body was an homage to his journey. His departure point, Atlanta, was symbolized by a black dot and a tiny Georgia peach on his left index finger. A fine black line connected the various black dots and accompanying symbols that traveled up his left arm, across his back and down his right arm. The last dot, situated on his right index finger depicted a miniature version of the Seattle Space Needle, completing the map of his journey. Emmett had decided to settle down in Seattle because it felt the most like home to him out of any of the places in the world he had traveled.
Rosalie listened to the tales of his travels with rapt attention, marveling at all he had already experienced at the tender age of twenty-five. Rosalie knew that she would probably never experience even a single day of the kind of excitement and rich cultural diversity that Emmett had encountered for three years. But, instead of letting this notion make her sad, Rosalie decided that she would live vicariously through these stories while being content with the lot that life had dealt her. She had made her choices and was sticking to them. Even so, there was no harm in dreaming...
Upon his eighteenth visit to the cupcake store, Emmett commented on the wide variety of cupcakes that were available. There hadn't yet been a day on which he'd sampled the same cupcake twice. What he didn't know, was that Rosalie had started asking Mrs. Cope to bake new and special combinations of cake and frosting so she would be able to surprise Emmett every day.
On his thirty-second visit to the cupcake store, Rosalie caught Emmett examining the unblemished, perfectly porcelain skin of her left arm with curious concentration.
"What?" Rosalie giggled after he had been staring for longer than was appropriate or necessary.
"Rosie, I think it's time that you got some ink on that pretty skin of yours." Emmett was the only person that Rosalie allowed to call her anything besides her full name. She kind of liked it when he did.
"Well, I have been thinking about it for a while..."
"It's settled, then. In exchange for your cupcake-related services, I will offer my services to you, free of charge."
"Emmett, that's hardly a fair exchange. I would have to give you a cupcake a day for months before making up for it."
"I'm not going anywhere anytime soon," he said with a wink that melted Rosalie from the inside out.
"I do still have two years of law school ahead of me, so I guess I'll be sticking around for a while yet…"
"It seems we have ourselves a deal, Rosie." He stuck his hand out in an official manner and gave hers a gentle squeeze. "You think about what you want and stop by the shop after closing time so we can get started."
Rosalie didn't need to think about what she wanted her tattoo to be. She'd been thinking about it since the first day she had laid her eyes on Emmett and, although it may have seemed silly to many others, what she had in mind had very special meaning to her.
Before heading over to Emmett's shop after closing up the cupcake store, Rosalie gave herself a good once over in the mirror of the back room. Her red tank top was adorned with black roses, her dark, cropped jeans fit her long, slender legs perfectly, and her golden curls were tied back with a vintage bandana. A touch of cherry lip gloss and a spritz of perfume, and Rosalie was ready to go.
Emmett was drawing in his sketchbook when Rosalie rapped lightly on the glass door. He jumped up to open it for her immediately and let her inside his little tattoo parlor for the very first time. Before today, their interactions had been limited to their daily cupcake exchange. Rosalie marveled at the different artifacts that adorned the walls. There were shields and masks and paintings and swords of all sizes, from all eras. She had never seen anything like it.
"Whadya think?" he asked, gesturing to the cluttered walls around him.
"Wow," was all Rosalie could manage for a moment before regaining her composure. "If I thought you were making it all up before, I can't really dispute it now."
"Rosie, I'm hurt," he exclaimed in mock indignation.
"No, you're not," she replied, poking him in the ribs and wandering over to examine a huge sword engraved with some kind of Asian lettering more closely.
This was the first time Rosalie and Emmett didn't have a counter between them. They both found it odd and exhilarating at the same time.
Emmett came to stand behind her. "I got that in Japan where I learned Irezumi, the art of Japanese tattooing."
Rosalie could barely breathe with Emmett in such close proximity to her. His breath tickled her ear as he spoke. "You know, in ancient times, the Japanese used tattoos to depict their spiritual beliefs. As time went on, though, only the lowest of the low class citizens had tattoos- so you knew exactly who the prostitutes were. Eventually tattoos became so immoral in Japanese culture that criminals were tattooed as punishment. It got so bad that tattoos were completely outlawed in Japan and the art wasn't preserved by many. I got this sword from one of the few Horishi who still practice Irezumi in Japan today. Those engravings are instructions, carried down for generations so the art would never be lost. He had no children to pass it on to, so he gave it to me, and I would one day like to pass it on to my children, too."
"That's a wonderful story," Rosalie murmured thoughtfully as she ran her fingers lightly over the engravings.
Emmett inhaled Rosalie's deliciously sweet, cupcakey scent and wondered what she would taste like if he were to press his lips to hers. Instead, he took a step backward, easing the silent tension that was buzzing between them.
"So, what did you have in mind for your tat, Rosie dearest?" he asked, stepping in behind the counter like he always did when he was consulting with a client.
"It's going to sound pretty stupid now," Rosalie replied, grimacing slightly.
"I highly doubt that anything you could come up with would be stupid." He raised his eyebrow and playfully crossed his arms over his chest.
Rosalie sat down on the faux leather bar stool in front of the counter and pulled a wrinkled piece of paper from her bag. She straightened it out nervously. "I think I should tell you a story of my own before I show this to you. Maybe it will make more sense then."
"I love hearing stories just as much as I enjoy telling them, Rosie." His green eyes were so kind and inviting, she felt the last bit of anxiety dissolving instantly.
"I don't know if I've told you this, but I'm an only child. Both my mother and father were only children as well. Their parents had all died when I was small, so my mom and dad were the only family I had in the whole world. When I was barely eighteen, in my senior year of high school, I was in a car accident with my parents. I was the only one that survived." Rosalie swallowed heavily, unaccustomed to telling this particular story. Emmett reached out to cover her hand with his, causing tingles to travel up her arms. "I had no extended family and I was too old to be put into foster care, so I was basically given my inheritance by the family lawyer and told to go fend for myself."
"What?" Emmett demanded, his eyes wide with surprise and outrage.
"That was my reaction," Rosalie replied with a strange choke of a laugh. "I went home and cried for hours in the big, empty house, not really knowing what to do with myself. But then I realized that I was smart and resourceful and there was no reason why I couldn't take care of myself. That was the day I decided to become a lawyer, so I could do things differently than that blunt asshole who handled my parents' estate. The next day, I called my friend, Vera's mother who was an estate agent to help me sell my parents' house. I moved into the apartment I'm still living in today, and got my job at the cupcake store. I always used to love that place as a kid and Mrs. Cope knew me, so she was only too happy for the help. I finished high school and put myself through college, and here I am today: on my way to becoming the kind of lawyer I think the world needs."
Rosalie's matter-of-fact shrug tugged at Emmett's heartstrings. He had already thought that Rosalie was the most beautiful, caring, sweet person he'd ever met, but knowing the struggles she'd been through in her life just cemented the fact that Rosalie was the girl he'd been dreaming of his whole life. She was strong and fearless, even though she didn't always see herself that way. She was an angel in Mrs. Cope's life and the life of every customer that walked through the door of the cupcake store. She had also become a personal angel in Emmett's life in the month that he had been visiting the cupcake store.
Emmett swallowed down the lump in his throat and gave Rosalie's hand a tight squeeze. "You're amazing, Rosie."
His voice was husky and deep and it made Rosalie slightly uncomfortable. "I just made lemonade, ya know?" she replied, smiling shyly.
Emmett sensed that Rosalie wasn't enjoying the serious turn the conversation had taken and decided to change the topic. "So, show me this tattoo you had in mind."
Rosalie released her hand from Emmett's grip and unfolded the piece of paper she had placed on the counter. In the middle was a colorful picture of a cupcake with a bright red bow on top. A purple and green butterfly sat on the edge of it and several stars twinkled above it.
Emmett smiled brightly when he saw what Rose had drawn. It seemed so bright and cheerful, exactly the way he thought of Rosalie. "Well, this certainly fits."
"I figured if it wasn't for the cupcake store, I wouldn't have had as much happiness in my life as I do today. The butterfly symbolizes my mother, because she was beautiful and carefree. The red bow is my father, because he loved to wear bow ties. And each one of the stars symbolizes one year I've been without them. For now, it's six stars, and I'll add one every year."
"It's perfect." Emmett smiled warmly at Rosalie, whose cheeks were flaming a shade of red that befitted her name. "Would you like to get started?"
Rosalie nodded and let Emmett lead her through a set of heavy curtains to the back room where he kept a surgical table and his tools. They discussed for a while where Rosalie wanted the tattoo and eventually settled on her left bicep, the same one that Emmett had been eyeing intently earlier that day.
Emmett sat Rosalie down on a stool next to him, and he sat facing her arm. "Do you want to do just the outline tonight?"
"Are you afraid I can't handle a bit of pain?" Rosalie asked, challenging him with her gaze.
"Should I be?"
"I laugh in the face of pain."
"If you say so." He chuckled and started to draw the outline on her skin with a fine tip pen.
After Emmett had finished the outline and Rosalie approved it, they took a break to order pizza for dinner and sat on a blanket in the front of the shop, eating and joking and enjoying each other's company.
After their dinner, Emmett he started to ink the outline with his needle. Rosalie bit down painfully on her lip when he began, not wanting to display to him what kind of agony she was in. She had known the tattoo would hurt, but she hadn't known that it would hurt like hell. Emmett did notice her slight grimace of pain, but was immensely impressed by her courage. After a while, the constant pressure of the needle seemed to numb the immense pain she was feeling, making the experience more bearable. It was then that Rosalie could start to enjoy the touch of Emmett's strong hands on her skin, which made her glow with delight, even if they were covered in latex gloves. His warm breath tickled her skin and neck as he worked, causing traitorous goose bumps to flare up.
They engaged in light conversation while Emmett colored and shaded the rest of the design, enjoying being alone and away from the bustle of the outside world for once. With each second that ticked by, Emmett and Rosalie felt their attraction for one another growing and blossoming. The intimate setting made them forget that anything or anyone else existed.
Emmett was finally done a few hours later, and he let Rosalie survey the cheerful cupcake which now adorned her bicep, complete with pink frosting, bright red bow, butterfly and stars on top.
A reckless tear escaped Rosalie's eye as she examined Emmett's handiwork on her skin. She wiped the tear away quickly. "Sorry, I'm being silly. It's just even better than I ever thought it would be."
"Hey," Emmett said softly, turning Rosalie gently to face him, "you never need to apologize or make excuses around me, okay? I love you for who you are."
Rosalie's head whipped up immediately, unsure whether she had heard right. She searched his eyes for assurance, and knew she had found it when her eyes met an intense blaze of green.
"You heard me right. I love you, Rosie. From the first day I set my feet in the cupcake shop... probably from the very first day I ever set my eyes on you. It was like you had stepped right out of my dreams and into that cupcake store to wait for me."
Rosalie's heart was thundering in hear chest. Every thump-thump seemed to be calling Emmett's name but she couldn't seem to make any of the words that were swirling around in her head exit from her mouth.
"Are you speechless with horror?" he asked worriedly.
The adorable crinkle between his eyebrows was enough to snap Rosalie from her state of shock and amazement. She started to laugh heartily. "Of course I love you, you silly boy. All that ink must be going to your brain."
"I resent that comment," he replied in mock indignation.
"Okay, you seriously need to shut up and kiss me now."
Emmett took her face in his hands with every ounce of the tenderness that he felt for her, and as their lips met, he finally got his answer:
She really did taste like cupcakes.