The Next Contestant

Vampire Edward can't stay away from gorgeous human waitress Bella.


Part 2

A/N: This takes place in Seattle, and is sort of canon. The Cullens and Bella never went to Forks High together, but they are vampires, and she is a human, etc. etc. etc. The song "The Next Contestant" belongs to Nickelback, and Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer. I own nothing except for Edward's dirty thoughts/tortured mind, Bella's cute outfit, and the nightclub Eclipse. Hugs and kisses to my beta, Misty!


EPOV

"Is that your hand on my girlfriend?
Is that your hand?
I wish you'd do it again;
I'll watch you leave here limping.
I wish you'd do it again;
I'll watch you leave here limping.
There goes the next contestant."

She kept me anchored. If it weren't for the fact that I wanted to stay and watch her, observe her, learn something new about her, then I would have left. I would have followed the punk rocker asshole with the spiked red hair out into the parking lot not thirty seconds ago. He'd left with his girlfriend, but his thoughts were all Bella. He'd undressed her in his mind, put his hands all over her, tied her up, gagged her, and done the sort of things a gentleman would never dream of doing. Not that my reaction was all that gentlemanly, either. I'd let myself imagine for a moment that I'd stalked him to his car, then leapt out from the dark, faster than he or his girlfriend could sense, and snapped his neck with a simple twist of my hands.

But I'd managed to resist cold-blooded murder for what seemed to be the millionth time since I'd started watching Bella. Although it was mostly because I wanted to be near her, there was another reason as well. I didn't want to lapse back into the ways that had led me astray from Carlisle so many years ago. Having justified and carried out those actions in the past, I knew what it would feel like if I did so again. Disappointment, horror, self-loathing. I didn't want any of those emotions flooding my psyche, especially now that Bella was in my world.

Pushing my remnant anger about the dominant-minded red-haired dick out of my mind, I listened in on what was happening across the club. Lauren the Slut and Mike the Sleaze had been murmuring to each other a moment ago, agreeing that Lauren would skip out on work early so that they could go out. The conversation had amused me to no end, both of their thought processes hilarious. Neither was attracted to the other, but so anxious were they for sexual gratification that they would settle for the person they liked the least. I'd been drinking in Bella's reaction to the situation, until I was distracted by the punk's mental assault; pictures of her, bound and helpless, her glistening pus—focus!

"What tables do you want to take?" Jessica was asking Bella.

Bella glanced at our table, her eyes lingering on me. Her weak human eyes wouldn't be able to see my intense gaze from so far across the club, with the low flashing lights, and yet she stared…she stared and hesitated.

"Is it cool if I take thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen?" she finally answered.

Fourteen. That was our table.

Jessica responded, but I didn't hear. My mind was buzzing, and I struggled to concentrate.

"Eric, can you make me five mojitos?" Bella asked the young man who had replaced Mike as bartender.

Was she really going to bring the mojitos here? Naturally, I'd overheard the thoughts and conversation from table six regarding 'that fucking hot stud and his friends—they have to be models…maybe Chanel and Hugo Boss?' as the girl with too much lipstick had so nicely put it. But Mike's leap at Lauren had changed things for the evening, certainly. This would be the first time that Bella would wait on us, let alone be remotely close to our corner, not counting our very first visit to Eclipse.

I watched her as she moved around the club, distributing drinks and taking orders as she waited for Eric to finish the mojitos. She was glancing at our corner much more than usual, and I wished yet again that I could read her mind. Was she apprehensive? Was she excited? Did she really want to come over here?

The only emotion bouncing off of Jasper at the moment was curiosity, and I knew by his thoughts that it was solely from Bella. All consuming, flat out, killing-the-cat curiosity. I gritted my teeth, my own jumble of emotions distracting me. I felt Jasper push my mess right back at me; he was trying to focus on her curiosity, trying to figure her out.

"Why is she dying to come over here?" Alice muttered to herself in a low tone, having overheard everything, and having picked up on Jasper's vibe. She glanced at me, her thoughts going a million miles an hour.

I tried to block her from my mind, tried to make sense of what could happen. Will Bella's scent be too overwhelming for me if she's that close? What if I attack the woman I love?

Whoa! Hold your horses, Edward! Jasper's thoughts shouted at me as he turned in my direction, gently pushing Alice off of his lap and into the vacant chair next to him. For a split second, I wasn't sure what he was going on about, but then I saw my face as it had been a moment ago reflected in his mind, and felt my own burst of powerful protectiveness and love as he had received it from me. You love her?

I sat quietly as Alice looked back and forth between us, trying to break into our silent conversation. I sat, mute and frozen. Do I love her? Is it possible to love a girl I've never spoken to?

My eyes wandered back to Bella, who was moving slowly back to the bar. As she passed a table where two bulky men sat guzzling the beers she had dropped off not two minutes ago, their lusty words assaulted my mental barrier. Their dirty, desirous, and morally unrestrained thoughts were like mud streaks across a pristinely clean glass window, and I couldn't restrain the terribly human reaction of a shudder.

Then I knew. Yes. Yes, it was possible to love her, despite our lack of proximity. Despite our differences, it was right there, honestly expressed in Jasper's empathy: deep devotion, unconditional love, the desire to protect my mate.

Except that she wasn't my mate, and never could be. Staggered and mystified by my own feelings, I was almost scared. When had my fascination and obsession for the clumsy, adorable waitress turned into something so intense? No, it must be a mistake…I love her?

Giving up on getting any words out of me, Alice's face became composed and peaceful as she tried to look into the future. I saw flashes from her foresight about the remainder of the night, but most of it was hazy and strange; apparently, no one's decisions were set in stone.

Bella gave Eric her slip of paper with new orders, and was carefully balancing the tray of mojitos just as Emmett and Rosalie came back from the dance floor. Rose was humming along with the current song, something that I vaguely recognized as a remix of Kaci Battaglia's "Crazy Possessive," while Emmett was grinning from ear to ear. "What did we miss?" he asked as they took their seats. "Is Eddie still giving us that silent shit?"

I huffed under my breath, and stared down at the table. "She's coming over here," I whispered, my mix of awe and frustration making itself known in my tone.

"What?" Rose perked up, her eyes darting to Bella, who was already half-way to us. "No way…"

"Yes way!" Alice said excitedly. "But I can't see what's going to happen. It's very irritating." She shot me a side look. Can't you just make up your mind?

Ten steps. Five steps. Oh my God… My family shut up for the time being, but their thoughts were all basically the same. I tried to compose myself, but she was already here, and I held my breath, refusing to let her freesia blood, strawberry shampoo, and sweet pea lotion scents attack my sanity.

Her heart was pounding viciously, thick and wet, nervous and panicky. Her hands were shaking slightly, but apart from that, her outward appearance seemed rather unruffled. Her face, usually an open book, betrayed nothing except for anticipation; her bottom lip was caught between her teeth, and a light blush crept over her cheeks. She was gorgeous.

Bella opened her mouth to speak, and all I could do was stare. She made the mistake of looking straight at me, and, caught in my gaze, turned the most interesting shade of tomato juice red. Her words stuck in her throat, and as her brown eyes laced with mine, a terribly awkward silence surrounded the six of us.

My eyes ravaged her face, loving the fact that she was so incredibly close to me. Her eyelashes were long, and far darker than her hair and eyebrows. They were still as she gazed at me, but fluttered when Emmett coughed loudly, interrupting our staring match.

"Those for us, honey?" he asked kindly; that is, as kindly as is possible for Emmett. It sort of came out as a laughing bark, but I knew he meant well.

Jarred out of her momentary daze, Bella turned even redder, her pulse speeding up with her embarrassment. "Yes, I'm sorry…" she finally spoke, distributing the drinks. "Um…th—these are from table six," she stammered. It wasn't lost on me that she was so flustered that she forgot to introduce herself and give her mandatory speech.

"Thanks darlin'," Jasper said as he and Alice smiled at her. Rose's skeptical mood bombarded my love-struck study of Bella's visage. What the hell? her mental tone was bitter. 'Honey'? 'Darling'? I tore my eyes away from our enchantingly self-conscious waitress, and saw that my sister's nose was wrinkled, as though she'd smelled something disgusting.

My eyes were automatically drawn back to Bella, as though by a magnet. Her breathing was shallow, growing more erratic by the second; when she felt my gaze on her, her head ducked down a little, and it was more than obvious that she was trying very hard not to look at me again. "If I can get anything else, just let me know," her voice was softer, and she held the tray in front of her, almost in a defensive gesture. And yet, she wasn't exactly scared, like most normal humans would have been at this propinquity.

"Hold on a second," Emmett held a hand up, anticipating that she was getting ready to walk away. Enjoy the view, Eddie. You can thank me later for buying you some time. His thoughts were cocky. "Boys," he turned to me and Jasper, "I think it's time we resume our bet."

"Resume?" Jasper laughed. "It's only been 20 minutes since your last drink. I beat your ass. Just accept it, Em."

"Not a chance, Jazz. Can you tell us the specials tonight?" he asked Bella, winking slyly.

I bit back a cough as Bella started going through the bar's specialty offers. As if Emmett didn't have the list memorized. Psh. There was no way Bella could have known that, however, and she recited the list dutifully, only stammering a little. My eyes fixated on her lips, watching them move.

Say something! Alice screamed at me in her head. "Shut up," I murmured, too fast and too low for Bella to hear. No! This is getting ridiculous. It wouldn't hurt you to say something. She likes you too, you know.

I shook my head infinitesimally, but Bella caught the movement, tripping over her last words of "Blue Kamikaze, V—Vampire's Kiss with Cinzano Dry Vermouth, and the San Francisco Cock—cocktail…er…with Extra Dry Vermouth."

She glanced at me out of the corner of her eye as Emmett said, "Well, why don't you bring me a Brandy Sour, neat. Jazz?"

"If you insist…I'll try that Blue Kamikaze," he smirked, and Alice rubbed his leg under the table.

"That's my boy," she said in a low undertone.

"Eddie?" Emmett prompted. I heard him sling his arm over the back of Rose's chair, but my eyes were busy watching Bella scrawl the drinks down on her notepad, the tray tucked under her arm.

"Disaronno.," I blurted out the first thing that came to mind, and her eyes snapped up to mine.

The blush which had been slowly dissipating since her close call with the word cocktail returned full force, and I finally let myself inhale.

Oh. My. God. I'd forgotten how intoxicatingly good she smelled up close. I closed my eyes in the pure ecstasy of it, barely noticing that I had no desire to drink her blood: only to inhale her natural perfume. The thought pinpricked the back of my mind, and a part of me knew that it was relevant, but I was dominated by her aroma.

"Neat or on the rocks?" Bella's soft question made my eyes pop open. She was focusing on the notepad intently.

"On the rocks," I answered, not really caring. Emmett would probably drink it anyway.

Aw, man, on the rocks? You know I hate ice! Frozen water…it's so unnatural. I bit back a smile; Emmett's thoughts were rather predictable.

"Okay, I'll get those right out for you," Bella put her notepad in her back pocket, and clipped the pen to the hem of her shirt. "Enjoy the mojitos," she glanced at me.

Emmett thanked her, but her eyes still caressed my face. For a split second, I saw the picture of us reflected in Alice's mind. Me sitting, her standing: the pair of us making silly goo-goo eyes at each other.

Shit. Since when do I use phrases like "goo-goo eyes"?

But then she was gone. She'd turned and gone, and I stared at her ass as she walked back to place our drink orders.

"Mm, Eddie's got it bad," Emmett cooed in a sing-song voice.

"You don't know the half of it," Alice squealed, turning in her chair. "If I interpreted the emotions Jazz was radiating a minute ago correctly, our boy is in love."

"That's impossible," I countered, trying to ignore the revelation I'd had.

Jasper leaned forward. "I don't think so. You're just…intimidated by your own feelings," he said as he tried to analyze me.

I rolled my eyes, getting ready for what I knew was coming. "But…she's human." Rosalie. Of course. "He can't love her. It's just…wrong."

"Wait!" Alice's face froze, and she stared at me as the unexpected vision played out in her head. I knew that it would be completed only seconds later, and I jumped up out of my chair, not even waiting to see the rest. Everything was shut out of my mind, except for the desperate need to rescue Bella from something that hadn't even happened yet.

Adrenaline—or at least, my vampiric equivalent—coursed through me. A man who had stepped into the club just a few moments before Bella had arrived, had made a few decisions. Wrong decisions. Decisions that were going to get him killed.

"Edward!"

The warnings of my siblings deflected right off of me, both the verbal and thought-borne ones. I'd never understood the saying 'seeing red' until now, and it felt as though every muscle in my body was tugging me towards the bar, where Bella was fetching drinks, blood still pooling in her cheeks from her first encounter with us. She was completely unaware of the blond man who was waiting for just the right opportunity for everyone to be distracted so that he could duck behind the bar, grab Bella, and drag her out the back way.

My mind told me that it was ridiculous for me to go after her. I shouldn't risk being seen; I shouldn't risk the path between our table and the bar, especially because the bright disco-reminiscent lights might illuminate my sparkling skin. But if I dart around and go the long way, I could make it in…1.59 seconds. No one will see…

Don't. Don't do it, the rational part of me said in a deep, warning tone.

Go. Go now, the part of me that thought with my heart instead of my head prodded me, sticking knives into my gut and heart and mind, and even into the very soul I didn't believe I'd had until right now.

I moved as fast as the wind, faster than any human eye could follow. I vaguely felt and heard snippets of Alice's fear, Jasper's concern, Emmett's confusion, and Rose's disdain, but all those were quickly pushed aside by my need to get to Bella. To rescue this accident prone, human girl, who meant more to me than anything had...ever. And in the two minutes when she'd actually stood in front of me, all I had done was gawk at her, and say the four stupidest, shittiest words a man could say: Disaronno…on the rocks. And if I didn't hurry, I might never get to say the four words that actually mattered. Bella, I love you.

I came to a screeching halt in the shadows by the door. The bar was only a few steps away, but it wouldn't do very well for me to appear out of nowhere, and slug the guy, would it? I scanned his thoughts swiftly, and decided it didn't matter. I had to do something before he did.

A split second before I was about to move, I felt a soft thump against my side, and froze.

"Oh my God, I'm so sorry!"

A girl with long, lank black hair stared up at me in morbid fascination, her thoughts breaking through the barrier that my need to save Bella had constructed around my currently fragile and preoccupied mind. Holy shit, this must be my lucky day. He's gorgeous! What I wouldn't give for one night with his cock...who'd have known I would literally bump into such a stud, tonight of all nights.

"It's all right," I mumbled, trying to turn away. She turned with me, following me, and I clenched my jaw, looking at her with as much disdain as I could muster. It must have worked, because her mind was wiped clean of every thought save holy fucking hell! and a sudden, inexplicable need to get as far away from me as was humanly possible.

She disappeared into the shadows, as I looked back at the bar. But my dead heart sunk into my stomach, and rose up into my throat at the same time. My gut twisted in a way it hadn't since I was human, and I suddenly felt as though it was time to purge my system of the alcohol that I'd drunk with my brothers, whether I liked it or not.

I'm too late.

The blond man was gone. Bella was gone. How could I have missed it? I hadn't been that distracted by the girl who'd run into me.

Jogging as slowly as I dared, I dodged the people in my way. My mind raced, although my body moved at a heart-wrenchingly sluggish human pace. Following Bella's scent, I snuck through the back door when no one was watching; the hanging beads hardly even made a sound. If it hadn't been for the fact that I was currently occupied with saving my girl from the dick-headed bastard, it would have been something to brag to Emmett about. Emmett's bulk never would have made it past the bar, unless the surrounding humans happened to be so intoxicated that they couldn't tell left from right.

The hallway was dark, and I passed the offices and employee lounge in less than a second. Just before pushing through the door that led to the back parking lot, my ears were assaulted by the sounds of struggle and pain. Low, mocking laughter accompanied it.

My mind buzzed with anger, and I shoved the door aside. It crashed open, banging against the wall. Spotting them immediately, my silent heart ached painfully in my hollow chest. A rubber band ten times stronger than steel seemed to be wrapped around it, constricting, binding, and almost forcing it to beat again from sheer terror and love and all the crazy, fucked up emotions running around inside me.

The blond man—I gathered that his name was James from his thoughts…what sort of idiot uses his own name when thinking about himself?—was pushing Bella against the door of a car. The frantic sobs that started in her chest were being obstructed by his hand over her mouth. She was kicking and pushing against him, writhing and squirming to the best of her ability, breathing furiously through her nose. Her eyes were wild and scared.

My own breath hitched in my lungs, but I only hesitated for approximately 2.3 seconds before I could make my body move again.

"Each time she bats an eyelash
Somebody's grabbing her ass.
Everyone keeps coming on to her.
This time somebody's getting hurt:

Here comes the next contestant."


A/N: One more chapter coming up, and that'll be it for this little story. I hope you're enjoying it! Reviews are love. =) For more information about this, and my other stories, check out my blog at eglantines-ramblings(dot)blogspot(dot)com.