I don't own these characters. They are the sole property of Stephanie Meyers. I only borrow them. No humans are permanently harmed through my actions, though I do confess to harassing, annoying, torturing, and exasperating them – just because it's fun. I make no money from my little stories, sad day. I only play in the sandbox, I didn't build it.
Author's Note: I promise that, though things might seem confusing now, all of it DOES tie together. Swear. Pinky swear. Also, I decided to go with what I know, so this is set in Jacksonville, Florida (which happily also happens to be part of Ms. Meyers Twilight 'verse). I've spent approximately 25 years of my life here, having just moved back after spending 15 years moving around the country (12 moves in 15 years). So, for the most part, places are real. The Hope is not, though there are several worthy establishments in the city that provide the same services. Also, I tend to juggle several stories at the same time. That's just how I write. I write a story when the muse prods me, and since she's all over the map, I write various stories at the same time. I read books the same way – three or four at a time. Thank you for your patience, LOL!
"Hate leaves ugly scars, love leaves beautiful ones." ~Mignon McLaughlin
The first thing she remembered was waking up and seeing the white. White. White. It hurt her eyes. It surrounded her, reached for her, gouging into her brain, making her body throb and ache. The white… She sensed that some realization waited for her in the white, but she turned away from it, resolute and determined. It would be too painful. She was not ready.
From far away she heard screaming. And then she realized it was her.
Chapter 1: Do Bad Things with You
I sighed as I brushed my hair and considered the day ahead of me. I was starting a new job today, a much needed new job. Hopefully I would be able to make the bills out of my paycheck and could keep the tiny little nest egg, painfully and slowly tucked away one paycheck at a time, intact. Here's to hope, a small voice inside my head mocked. Then I smiled because at least I knew I'd like my job. It suited me, though the hours would be long, the pay pretty much sucked, and my office was the size of a closet (and not a walk-in). I needed the money, for sure. I needed a job, obviously. But most of all I needed a change. And that's why I was here.
Still, at least I would feel like I was making a difference, doing something worthwhile with my time and energy and I was pretty sure that the small paycheck was a good trade for feeling like that. Besides, my needs and tastes were simple. I had a lovely little apartment in the Riverside area. It was an old house renovated into four apartments; mine was the smallest but boasted a bay window with a window seat that was perfect for reading.
I sighed, wondering what Charlie was up to, and knowing I should call him tonight. He'd want to know how my first day of work had gone. And my mother… I'd have to call her too or she'd end up on my doorstep and that was not a habit I wanted to start. My mother was much easier to love when there was still some distance between us – and in small doses. I pulled my hair back in a ponytail, laced up my short boots, and applied a bit of mascara. There. Beauty routine accomplished, I thought with a snort. There were benefits to not caring what I looked like. I shrugged, threw on a lightweight cotton hoodie and locked the door behind me – ready to start a new life. And this was the start, the very first day of a brand new life.
I could only hope it would be better than the last one.
Mrs. Riley was waiting for me with a big smile on her face. "Bella," she said. "We're so happy to have you join the team."
"I'm glad to be here, Mrs. Riley." The team was the staff of the Hope and Helping Hands Shelter, a place for the homeless and hungry to find shelter and nourishment. There were three of us on the paid staff, Mrs. Riley, Mr. Ortega, and myself. I was the newest addition, the low man on the totem pole, so to speak. There were dozens of volunteers, however, and I had yet to meet but a handful of them. As Mrs. Riley had warned me, the volunteer roster tended to change quickly and often. The work here was grueling, often discouraging, and never seemed to end. And it seemed there was a never ending supply in Jacksonville of those who needed what we offered at the shelter. It was here that I hoped to build a new life.
"Now," Mrs. Riley said. "The first thing is that we can't have you calling me Mrs. Riley." She laughed. "We're an informal group here. We work hard and we work together, so everyone's friendly. You prefer Bella, right?"
I nodded, grateful that she seemed to accept me with open arms. She had not hired me, and in fact had only met me after the fact. I had been apprehensive that it could cause problems. So far, so good. She seemed genuinely enthusiastic about my arrival.
"All right then, you must call me Marion." She pointed to the kitchen were I could see Mr. Ortega supervising the cooking of the morning meal. "And he's Raul."
"Got it," I said with a grin.
"I know you've been given a tour, but of course our residents have changed since then and I want to start introducing you around." We passed a young girl in the hallway, and Marion stopped for a moment to tuck a strand of hair behind her ears and compliment her on her new shoes. The girl beamed at Marion, who was obviously a very hands-on administrator. There was no room for prima donnas in The Hope, as it was commonly called. "Chasey, this is Bella," Marion said. "She'll be working here."
Chasey shot me a shy smile and a quick wave and then ran down the hallway toward the dorm for women and children. Marion watched her leave and gave a sad shake of her head. "Chasey's mom just left her abusive boyfriend." She leaned in close. "Again. We're hoping to convince her to stay this time, and then get her settled into a women's shelter, preferably out the city, maybe even the state."
Sadly, I knew that this was a common story in The Hope. "Just remember, a lot of our residents aren't very open with newcomers. Don't let it get you down. They'll figure out you're on their side and they'll start coming around."
"I know it'll be a process," I said. My job title was Community Liaison, which was really just a fancy term for the person who would be responsible for tracking down available services, resources, and programs for the appropriate residents. As Marion had said during my first meeting with her, I would have to learn to bully the community into providing what was needed. I was looking forward to it. I needed something toward which I could channel all of my frustration and rage. At least here it would serve a purpose, as long as I kept it all carefully controlled.
"We've got volunteers of course, The Hope couldn't run without them," Marion said. "Unfortunately, sometimes we run into a bit of a problem. Our location is perfect for those who need us, but occasionally there are those who are afraid to come to this side of town." Marion rolled her eyes. It was true that Pearl Street was not anywhere near a higher income area. Public housing and small, mom-n-pop business, as well as older homes, some in a state of significant disrepair, surrounded us. A few blocks away, Shands Hospital provided the bulk of medical care for those who came to and lived near The Hope. It was not a glamorous area, but the people here needed the shelter and the services we provided.
Marion approached a small group of women. "Ladies, this is Bella Swan," she introduced me. "She's our new Community Liaison."
"So you're the new ball buster, huh?" an older woman said.
"That's what they tell me," I replied with a grin. "But actually, I consider myself more of a ball squeezer, they're no good if you bust them to pieces," I went on. "And if I squeeze just right, then they start opening those tight wallets of theirs."
The women started roaring with laughter and Marion gave me a quick smile of approval. "I can see they made the right choice when they hired you," she murmured.
I heard a choked laugh behind me and whirled around to see…a god. A sex god. A sex god that made me think of dirty, naughty things. He had bright green eyes that were alight with laughter. He had long brown hair that was perfectly messy and just brushed his shoulders with surprising hints of copper that glinted under the horrible fluorescent lights, and a jaw line that made me want to lick him. Literally. He was wearing dark button-fly jeans that hung low on his hips and a grey Henley. Briefly, I wondered if his feet would be as long and elegant as his hands. I had a thing for nice feet. In fact, I was pretty sure I had a thing for him. My mouth felt dry, but other parts of me… Stop it. Suddenly, the theme song from True Blood drifted through my thoughts. I want to do bad things with you…
The sex god had heard me talking about squeezing balls. And I was suddenly overwhelmed with curiosity, wondering what he was hiding behind that button-fly. It was inevitable I suppose. Fuck. I just looked.
Fuckity, fuck. He had just caught me looking. At his package.
I really, really hope I didn't drool. Or lick my lips. Or pant. Yeah, panting would definitely be bad.
I want to do really bad things with you… Naughty things…possibly illegal things…they might involve handcuffs and blind folds, too…I'm not averse to some spanking either – you spanking me, me spanking you, I'm open to suggestions…Can I keep you?
"It's nice to meet you too, Miss Swan." He winked at me. The fucker. And then he walked away.
I have to admit that the view going was just as good as the view coming.
Shit. I just thought of coming.
Damn the sex god and his mind-altering powers of attractiveness.
Thank heavens he couldn't read minds.