Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today 2 get through this thing called life. Electric word, life. It means forever and that's a mighty long time, but I'm here 2 tell u, there's something else…writing a chapter in less than a month. How crazy is that?
HappyMess: If you were a lipstick, you would be the most stunning shade of all.
*Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns twilight…I'm just a girl mourning my Prince.
Whenever I'm all alone, and even if I hit the wrong notes, she's always in my boat, she's always there, Tellin' me how much she cares, She's always in my hair
Rolling up to work in a limo with your boss on Monday morning is exactly what not to do if you want to keep the gossip mill at bay.
Yet, there I sat in my boss's limo, parked front and center at Cullen Publishing. Clusters of employees looked on curiously as they walked into the main entrance of the building. Edward didn't usually take a limo to work. He generally parked one of his many luxury cars in his personal parking spot in the garage.
He insisted we take the limo today so he could work during the ride in. Generally, Edward worked all weekend, but I managed to pull him away from that. As usual he didn't make it easy on me, but honestly I wouldn't change that about him for anything in the world. It was my nature to fight for what I wanted in life.
"We're here, Mr. Cullen," his driver announced.
Edward pulled his attention away from his paperwork and met the driver's eyes in the rear view mirror. "Help Ms. Swan into the Building."
"No, I'm fine. If you could just open the door for me I can get my crutches out and then I'll be good to go." I gave a thumbs up to the driver with a bright smile.
My boss sighed, still looking down at his work. "Would you prefer I carry you into the building?"
"Oh yes, I would love that actually." I rolled my eyes. "Maybe you could shout 'WE SPENT THE WEEKEND TOGETHER!' as you're walking in to make sure everyone knows."
His eyes darted up to mine. "You nearly died in front of the entire company Friday night. I can't understand why you insist on coming to work today. You need more time to recover."
"It's a sprained ankle. I'm not using sick time for that." I waved him off. "Everyone knows you save those days for playing hookie."
My door opened and the driver helped me onto my crutches. I thanked him and then turned to Edward, awkwardly waving with my arms wrapped around the crutches. I turned and tottered away, making it about halfway when my handbag slid down my shoulder and hung from my elbow, causing me to fight to keep my balance.
"Shit!" My body swayed heavily to the right.
Just as I prepared to kiss the pavement, strong arms wrapped around my waist and held me steady. Edward took my crutches from under my arms and handed them to the driver that now stood dutifully beside him. He lifted me up in his arms and pulled me to his chest.
His wicked smirk appeared with the devilish gleam that spelled trouble. "What was it you wanted me to shout?" He pretended to ponder. "Ah yes. Now I remem- "
My hand clamped down firmly over his mouth before he could finish his sentence. Shocked gasps and stunned faces greeted us as Edward glided into the building with me cradled in his arms. His driver walked a few paces behind us carrying my crutches and my handbag.
He marched into the health club with my hand still placed over his mouth. Jessica sat at the reception desk. Her bright pink lips formed a surprised 'O' at the sight of us. She dropped the neon pink lipstick she'd been applying.
Rose and Mike stood in front of the yoga studio, chatting. The moment they saw us their conversation abruptly halted. They froze, stiff as statues.
As we passed by Miked yelled, "What in the James Brown is going on around here?"
Rose shushed him as we entered the massage room. Edward put me down carefully on the table. His driver handed him the crutches and my handbag, which he placed beside me.
"That will be all, Henry." He dismissed the driver without even looking over his shoulder to acknowledge his presence.
"Thanks, Henry." I smiled and waved at the man.
He bowed at me in response and left the room, closing the door behind him.
"Are you insane?" I whisper shouted in the soundproof room. "Do you have any idea what people will be saying about us now?"
His eyes landed on my foot. "Keep off your ankle today. I have a busy morning, so I won't need a massage until this afternoon," he ordered, ignoring my words completely.
"Mr. Cullen." I tapped his shoulder, drawing his attention to my face. "Do you remember what we agreed on last night?"
He thought over the question. "I do." His head titled to the right. "Ice cream is meant to be licked off your body." Edward moved in so close our noses touched lightly. "Dessert bowls are completely unnecessary."
"You know that's not what I mea –"
His lips pressed against mine, cutting off my words. He held them there a moment before deepening the kiss. Must he be so damn good at everything?
By the time he released my mouth I completely forgot that I wanted to kill him. He smirked, knowingly. His hands cupped my face gently as he stared into my eyes.
"How are you feeling?" He asked with genuine concern.
"Like your puppet," I answered, my head still in a daze.
He shook his head. "You are many things, Ms. Swan. My puppet is definitely not one of them." He removed his hands from my face and stepped back.
"You broke the rules." I waved my finger back and forth in a scolding teacher manner.
Edward smiled at me. His real smile, the one that made me melt the moment I saw it. He put his hands in his pockets and let out a sigh.
"Someone once told me I need to lighten up." He paused. "They called me a control freak."
My hand went to my hip and I narrowed my eyes at his smug expression. "I knew it. You can't resist me. I'm your kryptonite."
He laughed at the thought. "You are not my kryptonite."
"I'm just saying." I shrugged. "If you were Superman, I would be your kryptonite."
He folded his arms and stared down his nose at me. "Life is not a comic book, Bella."
My arms folded, mimicking his arrogant stance. "We agreed last night that it would be best to keep from being intimate in any way at work and you can't do it. Your pull to me is too strong. I'm irresistible."
He put an arm down on either side of me on the table, boxing me in. His crisp, clean scent infiltrated my senses. I didn't make a habit of smelling people. However, being a massage therapist it often went with the job.
Most people had their own, unique scent.
Edward's suited him perfectly. I inhaled lightly, just below his jaw. As everything else about the man his scent was complicated. Masculine and strong. Crisp and clean. Perhaps a minty, woodsy fragrance with a splash of danger.
"Did you just smell me?" His brow quirked.
"Just gathering information." I inhaled again, deeper this time.
He shook his head, a twinge of a smile flickered across his lips. "I'll be back this afternoon. Stay off your feet." His face lowered toward mine slowly as he spoke.
My eyes closed in anticipation of his kiss.
Edward's lips brushed against my ear instead, he inhaled lightly. "Hard boiled eggs," he whispered, seductively.
"Hard boiled eggs?" My eyes flew open.
"Yes." He stepped away from me and nodded. "That's what I want for breakfast this morning."
"Hardee har har har." I shot him a glare. "You slay me."
He threw me a smirk before turning and striding across the room. Edward opened the door, pausing in the frame.
"Sugar Cookies. Fresh out of the oven, soft, warm and sweet. Mouth wateringly delicious." He said with his back to me, then walked off leaving me smiling like a schoolgirl.
Being alone in a soundproof room in complete silence is only peaceful when you're in a creative zone. Staring out the window counting the leaves on the ground gets old real fast. Obviously I needed a change of scenery.
Grabbing my crutches, I heaved myself into a standing position and staggered out of the room, heading to Jessica's desk for a quick chat and a good laugh.
I mean…it's Jessica.
A heavy fit of laughter was pretty much guaranteed. Except the closer I got the clearer it became that might not be the case.
Rose paced back and forth with a grave look on her face. Mike, wearing bright orange spandex pants with skulls all over them, perched on top of the desk in an odd gargoyle position chanting something that included the words, 'evil spirits'.
Yet, it was Jessica that worried me the most. I nearly fell of my crutches when I saw her sitting behind her desk, wearing no makeup. No neon pink lips. No bright pink sparkly eye shadow. Not even a fake lash could be found on her face. I saw her less than an hour before, fully made up.
What in God's name happened?
"Is everything okay?" I asked cautiously, glancing back and forth between the three of them.
"Oh, Bella, how are you feeling?" Rose asked. "I'm so sorry we didn't come in to see you. It's been a crazy morning." She stopped pacing, but her fingers were wringing together frantically.
"BELLA!" Jessica wailed, her shrill voice pierced my ears in a strangled cry. "THE PROPHECY IS UPON US! THE SAVIOR HAS ARRIVED!"
At that point Mike stopped chanting and glared down at me from his perch. "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in spinster clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." He pointed his finger at me accusingly.
"So I guess that's a no on the everything being okay?" I noted, throwing Mike the middle finger.
Rose let out an anguished sigh. "Emmett just got fired. Alice called to let us know. We wanted to go up there and try to somehow help him, but that would end with all of us being unemployed. There has to be something we can do. Emmett's been a loyal employee for years. He deserves a second chance," her voice cracked at the end of the sentence.
I did my best to wipe the shock from my face. "Is he still here?"
Even though Edward warned me about this, I convinced myself he changed his mind. I wanted to believe he would take pity on Emmett and realize it was a mistake.
People make mistakes.
Rose shook her head. "He was escorted out by security guards a few minutes ago. Alice said Emmett didn't even defend himself. He feels awful about what happened, Bella. He looks like hell. I doubt he slept all weekend."
"SAVE HIM!" Jessica screeched. "BELLA IS THE SAVIOR!"
Mike's incessant chanting halted once again. He sneered at me and then sprung down to the floor, standing before me.
He threw a hand on his hip and looked me up and down in that bitchy diva way of his. "You expect her to save him?" His eyes narrowed. "She's sleeping with the enemy."
"Mike, that's not any of our business. I'm certainly sure Bella had no idea this was going to happen." Rose put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.
He huffed at her words. "Everyone in the company saw you pull up in his limo this morning. He carried you into the massage room like his most prized possession. I underestimated you. You're not a lonely spinster. You're a cunning witch." His palm went up in front of my face. "Don't even try your black magic on me, Agnes. It won't work."
"Agnes?" I asked, then let out a frustrated groan. "You know what, forget it. I don't want to know." I glanced from Mike to Rose standing beside him. "I'm so sorry to hear about Emmett. You're right. He deserved a second chance."
My first instinct was to storm up to Edward's office and demand he hire Emmett back immediately. Then I remembered Edward's words. What made me think I had the right to tell him what to do with his employees at his company?
As much as I wanted to save Emmett's job, I couldn't interfere. In the few months I worked at Cullen Publishing Edward fired people for much less. This would be a test for us, no doubt. I knew he had every right to fire any employee he wanted, but could I keep my mouth shut and respect his decision or would I burst out in a passionate protest of his lack of empathy toward a loyal employee?
"I know we have no right to ask you this," Rose paused, swallowing hard as tears formed in her eyes. "But you're the only one in this company that can talk to Mr. Cullen and keep their job. Would you ask him to give Emmett another chance?"
"PLEASE BELLA! YOU'RE OUR ONLY HOPE!" Jessica screeched, her hands joined together in silent prayer.
"To be honest guys, I tried persuading him to give Emmett another chance this weekend." I shook my head at the memory of how that conversation went. "As you can see it didn't work. I'm really sorry."
Rose's eyes widened. "Are you telling us…you knew?" Her features hardened. "You actually knew he was planning to fire Emmett all weekend and didn't warn him, warn us?"
"I didn't know for sure. I held out hope he might have changed his mind, but he's just not that type of man. Don't worry, it will be alright. We'll help him find a new job." I looked from face to face.
Jessica's jaw dropped, Mike raised his nose up in disgust and Rose turned her face completely away from mine.
"You are no longer part of 'We.'" Mike drew an invisible circle, excluding me. "You are a 'Them' now." He slapped the air dismissively with his hand. "So you can take your phony words of support to 'Them' and see if they buy it, because I see you for who you really are, a Jezebel."
"Mike," Rose spoke without a trace of the warmth I had come to know. "Please don't talk to Bella that way." She looked me dead in the face. "You don't want to get fired."
"WE'RE DOOMED!" Jessica broke out in a dramatic Lucy Ricardo sob.
"Are you guys seriously going to blame this on me?" I felt my temper flaring. "Newsflash, last time I checked this place wasn't called Swan Publishing. If being a 'We'," I shot a glare at Mike, "requires me to run a company I don't own, then I'll gladly be a 'Them.'" My steely gaze roamed over the three of them before I turned to shuffle away.
They were completely silent which was highly unusual.
I stopped, turning my head to the right. "Maybe if you quit cowering in fear whenever your boss was around you could actually talk to him for yourselves. I guess I didn't see you for what you really are, cowards."
My crutches moved so fast back to the massage room I was surprised I didn't' set the carpet on fire.
Edward strolled into the room after lunch stopping in his tracks the moment our eyes met. "Are you okay?" he asked, approaching me slower.
"I'm fine." I hobbled away from him, toward the door. "Get undressed. I'll be back in five minutes."
"That won't be necessary." He lowered his head a notch. "Stay here," he ordered. Always so bossy that man.
"Trust me, after the morning I've had it's necessary," I told him and left the room managing to close the door behind me. Not to brag, but I was starting to get the hang of crutch life.
Normally I would go talk with Jessica while giving Edward time to undress, but I needed to cool off before seeing any of them.
Were they serious? Why would I tell Emmett or anyone else that he was getting fired when I didn't know for sure what Edward decided to do? Not to mention it was confidential information he trusted me with.
Yes, I was a snoop, but I was not a blabbermouth. There was a difference. If you told me something in confidence I did my best to keep it between us. Just like that damn underground book they wrote about Edward. I never told him about it because they trusted me not to.
Sometimes I felt bad he didn't know it existed, which was why I never showed any interest in seeing it. The less I knew about it the better. I'm protective of the people I care about. Edward's become someone I care a lot about. An image of Mike's bitchy face flashed in my mind.
"If that makes me a Jezabel then so be it," I said to an empty hallway.
Emmett would find a new job. I'd do everything in my power to help him. Changing Edward's mind was not in my power. Why couldn't they understand that?
I opened the door to the massage room and shuffled back in, closing the door behind me.
"Come here," Edward demanded in his Tyrant voice.
"Yes, Sir." I rolled my eyes, he hated that, but sometimes it was just unavoidable.
He waited patiently for me to reach his side. "Tell me what happened to upset you."
"Don't worry about it." I laid my crutches against the wall. "I can handle it."
His eyes flickered with fire. "Are you mad at me for firing Emmett?"
"You already know I don't agree with that decision, but I respect your right to make it." My lips closed tightly as I took a moment before adding, "I'm not mad at you," unintentionally drawing out the word 'you'.
Edward leaned back on the table and folded his arms, his brow rose inquisitively. "You're mad at someone other than me? This is new."
"I don't get mad at you," I patted the table for him to lay down on the bed. "Without good reason," I said with a wise ass grin.
He shot me an intense stare. "I'm not sure I like the idea of you being mad at someone else."
That made me laugh. "You're jealous that I'm mad at someone other than you?"
He laid down on the massage table on his stomach. His arms folded in front of him, he rested his head on them and turned his face to me. "It just doesn't feel right. I thought I was the only one. How many others are there?" His sly smirk appeared, but something in his tone told me he wasn't entirely teasing.
"There have been a few," I admitted as though it was a serious confession of infidelity. "But no one makes me as mad as you. No one ever could." That was the truth actually even though I said it jokingly.
"I should hope not." The smirk left his face. He wasn't kidding. Oh, Edward. Would I ever figure this man out?
"I'm not even going to ask how many others there are for you." I removed the lid on the massage cream. "I bet you lost count. There have been so many."
He closed his eyes at that, remaining quiet so long I thought the conversation had ended.
Just as my fingers touched down on his skin he said, "They mean nothing to me. No one compares to you." His eyes were still closed.
My hands froze. Literally froze, like in a movie when a superhero has the ability to stop time. It might not seem like much to most people, but it was the closest he'd come to verbally communicating real emotion and I knew how hard that was for him to do.
I couldn't help it.
Leaning down I kissed his soft, warm lips. My intention was for it to be a light peck of appreciation, but he reached up and placed his hand on the back of my head, drawing me in deeper. For a man that was so closed off from emotions he gave the most sensual kisses I've ever known.
Just as I was about to crawl up on the table he released me and pulled his face from mine. He licked his lips with a seductive smile. "Now who's the irresistible one?"
I blinked three times, still in a daze, then raked my gooey cream filled fingers straight through his hair making it a greasy Mohawk, giggling the entire time.
He grabbed me by the wrists and leveled me with a fierce look. "You really shouldn't have done that, Ms. Swan."
I couldn't stop giggling. His hardened expression and dark tone was in direct contrast to his crazy hair. Tears rolled down my face as I gasped for air. My laughing fits always came on stronger when I was stressed out. It had always been a release for me. Some people cried. I laughed. Hard.
He sat up, still holding me by the wrists and pulled me in between his legs. Our faces were a breath apart. Finally, I stopped laughing. I fought to get my breathing under control, sucking in large amounts of air.
"You…ask...ed…for…it," I managed to pant out.
He released my wrists and wiped the tears from my face. "Tell me who upset you?"
It took me a few moments more to get control of myself. My skin burned hot, it must have been red as a tomato. Laughing fits were exhausting, but therapeutic in their own way.
"Forget about it." I placed my goopy hands on his knees to keep my balance. He had the sheet wrapped around his lower body, but it hung low, making him quite an inviting site.
I ogled Edward shamelessly, drinking him in like a fine wine. The man really did have a perfect body, superficial things like that never mattered much to me, but it damn sure couldn't be overlooked.
"My eyes are up here," he said, wrapping his arms around my waist.
"I know." I raised my gaze to his. "Just taking in the view."
His cocky smirk appeared. "Like a hungry wolf."
"I've seen better." I shrugged, mimicking his words to me about my great rack
He chuckled low. "You haven't seen nothing yet, Little Lamb."
That's one of the things I loved about Edward, he could dish it out, Lord knew he could dish it out, but he could take just as much as he gave. If anything I think he enjoyed having someone challenge him.
Me being the freak I was couldn't stop myself from giving it back to him. I mean, I could, but why would I want to?
"I've seen you in a Mohawk." I wiggled my fingers in front of his face. "Not sure it gets any better than that."
"Oh it gets better than that," he promised, hooking a finger under my chin. That bastard looked sexy as hell even with a greasy Mohawk.
The small voice of reason I bitch slapped into submission and locked in a cage rattled its chains in warning. Red alert! Danger ahead! Proceed with Caution!
If I wasn't careful I would fall in love with a man that flat out told me he would never love me. For all the lectures I gave Edward on feeling emotion I'd never fallen in love. It would be new for me.
It didn't scare me as much as it should.
Some might call me an extreme optimist or a severe masochist. Perhaps a bit of both. But honestly, who said you can only give love when you get it in return? Shouldn't it be a selfless emotion? Maybe Edward had his own version of love. He had a way of making me feel valuable and respected.
Why would I ever need more than that?
Angela and Jazz were waiting for me when I got home. Jazz swung the door open before I could even get my key in the lock. Ange stood beside him with her eyes full of concern. Yikes, my loving cat, strutted by, not even glancing at me. He didn't do emotional reunions.
"Bella, how are you feeling? I've been so worried," Angela asked the moment I got through the door.
"I'm fine. A little sore, but I'll survive." I smiled at her. "Thanks for bringing my clothes to Edward's house."
"Why the hell did he make you go to work today?" Jazz snapped as he shut the front door.
"I insisted on going in. He didn't want me to." I made my way into the kitchen with Angela two steps behind me.
Jazz rolled my suitcase into the kitchen. Edward's driver brought it to the door for me. Henry drove me home in the limo since Angela just returned from her business trip and wasn't at the office today.
"How was work? Did the club staff take good care of you?" She helped me into a kitchen chair as Jazz leaned my crutches on the wall beside me.
"Oh yeah, they took care of me alright." I paused. "Mike called me a Jezebel and kicked me out of the Misfits."
"Are you serious? Why would he do that?" Angela asked as she poured a cup of tea, dutifully bringing it over to the table and placing it down in front of me.
"Edward fired Emmett this morning and since I failed at talking him out of it over the weekend they're blaming me." I blew on the hot tea before taking a sip. "They expected me to call Emmett and warn him about it. Why the hell would I do that ? Edward might have changed his mind and even if he didn't it was confidential information. I couldn't betray him like that."
Angela's hands covered her mouth in shock. "Oh my god. Poor Emmett. I hope he's okay."
I glanced at the clock. "We'll soon find out. He should be here any minute. I called him from the limo on the way home. He sounded awful. I tried telling him how sorry I was that he lost his job, but he wouldn't even talk about it. All he cared about was how I was doing. Alice said he didn't even defend himself when he got fired. It's just an awful mess."
Jazz cleared his throat, causing my attention to fall on him. His silence and the look on his face spoke loud and clear. I wouldn't like what he was about to say.
"Are you even listening to yourself?" He snorted in disbelief. "You couldn't betray Edward? You called Emmett from the back of the limo? That Cake Face brainwashed you. He turned you into a cake zombie."
"Don't call him that," I said through clenched teeth. My patience had worn thin. "I'm not a cake zombie. No one will ever control my thoughts, so don't even go there."
Angela placed a steamy bowl of chicken noodle soup in front of me, she mothered when she got nervous. "It's not your fault at all. I can't believe they're blaming you. I've seen Mr. Cullen fire people for smiling. There was nothing you could have done to save Emmett's job."
"Thanks, Ange. That means a lot." My shoulders lowered from the weight of the stress I'd been carrying around. A part of me did blame myself for the whole mess.
"I'm not gonna sugarcoat this." Jazz popped open a cold beer and took a slug from the bottle. "I love you like my fucking sister, but I get why they feel betrayed. You didn't fire him and you probably couldn't stop it from happening, but your alliance shifted now that he's your boyfriend. You can't see things clearly anymore."
"No, actually I see things clearer." I leaned toward Jasper, who sat across the table from me. "Now that I know Edward better I'm able to see both sides of the situation. That doesn't make me a traitor. It shouldn't be an us against them situation. We're all adults."
"When it comes to corporate America it's always an us against them situation." He pointed his beer bottle at me. "I know you can think for yourself. You're lucky enough to have me as a best friend to make sure it stays that way."
The knock on the door ended that conversation. Thank the Lord. It wasn't the first time Jazz and I disagreed about something. We always kept things real. He let me be me and I let him be him. In the end we always had each other's back. No matter what. That's what best friends do.
Angela opened the front door. Emmett made a beeline straight for me. Rose didn't lie. He looked awful; he hadn't shaved, his eyes were bloodshot and his clothes were rumpled and mismatched. My heart broke at the sight of him.
"I'm so sorry, Bella. I keep seeing you fall down those stairs. I almost killed you." He handed me a strange looking gadget and dropped to his knees beside me. "Are you in a lot of pain?"
"I'm fine." I frowned down at him. "You're the one I'm worried about. Stop blaming yourself over an accident. You would never intentionally hurt me. There's nothing to apologize for. I'm the one that's sorry you lost your job over this. I wish there was some way I could have stopped that from happening."
He shook his head. "I deserved to lose my job after what I did. I keep rethinking my steps from that night. I just don't know where I went wrong." His sad eyes got glassy. "I wanted to beat the mailroom so bad this year that I put your life in danger. I'll never forgive myself."
I wasn't going to be the one to tell him, but I heard that morning they won the competition and were taking their act to Vegas. Instead I hugged him from an awkward angle and then pulled far enough away to look into his eyes.
"You listen to me Emmett McCarty, we all wanted to beat those damn mail people. This was an accident, that was no one's fault. I'm not in any pain. I'll be completely healed and good as new before you know it and if you don't get your act together by then you'll be in pain, because I'm gonna kick your ass, Powerpuff Girl style."
That got me a smile from him. He looked totally exhausted.
Jasper Stood and walked over to Emmett. "Dude, you need to go home and take a goddamn shower. I'm setting up an interview for you at the health club in the casino I work for, but they don't hire hobos, so you're gonna need to get your shit together."
Emmett stood and faced Jazz. "Thanks, man." He ran a hand through his greasy hair. "I couldn't function until I saw Bella was okay. The second I walked into the main lobby at work this morning they told me to report to Mr. Cullen's office, then they wouldn't let me see her."
"Well, now you've seen her," He punched Emmett's arm lightly. "Trust me, she's one tough bitch. So stop freaking out bro and get right. You hear me?"
Emmett nodded. "Yeah, I hear you."
I held out my gadget. "Thanks for the gift. Can I use this to strangle Mike?"
He laughed at that. "No, it's a reacher." He took it from me and pulled the handle and the claw closed and reopened. "It's for you to pick up things, so you don't have to get up."
"Oh, wow!" I smiled as he handed it back to me. "That's the perfect gift. Thank you."
"It's the deluxe model. It's got a killer grip." He looked at the gadget with pride. "I'll get going so you can rest. When you're feeling up to it maybe we can go out with the gang? We'll always be the Misfits even if we don't work in the same place anymore."
"That sounds great." I nodded. No way was I telling him about my falling out with the gang today. He would blame himself over that too.
"Awesome!" He gave me a hug. "Call me if you need anything at all. I can be here in less than ten minutes anytime day or night."
"Stop worrying about me. I'm fine." I hugged him back and then smacked him on the head. "I mean it! Go home and shower and get that job. I'm counting on you."
Emmett nodded. "Yes, ma'am." He gave me a boyish grin before heading for the door. Jazz walked him out, getting his cell phone number before he left.
In life, accidents happen.
You can't control that. Hopefully I convinced Emmett he shouldn't feel guilty about my fall. He had such a kind heart. The man wouldn't hurt a fly. I looked down at my gift and smiled, imagining Mike's scrawny neck in the claw as I pulled it closed.
It really was the perfect gift.
Friday morning I scuffled into work like a pro.
One week of crutch life down. My ankle felt stronger, but not enough to ditch the wooden sticks. Five long days of stealthy avoidance kept me from speaking to the gang. I made sure I got to work extra early each day to dodge Jessica at the reception desk. Lunch breaks I spent alone in the massage room.
Obviously I couldn't avoid them forever.
I just needed some space from the chaos. Even though I cooled down, I still had a severe urge to strangle the Spandex Satan with my reacher, so I kept my distance, trying to avoid a homicide.
Alice remained Switzerland.
She popped down to check in on me a few times throughout the week. She invited me to go out after work for drinks with the gang Wednesday night, but I turned her down. Usually she would use her Alice powers to get her way. This time she didn't push it.
As I made my way past Jessica's empty desk I glanced at the clock.
Emmett's interview at the casino would be in a few hours. I texted him good luck last night. Jazz said the staff there were good eggs, just not scrambled eggs like they were at my job.
That we could agree on.
Before I rounded the corner to the hall I heard footsteps behind me. I glanced back expecting to see Jess or one of the other eggs.
"Morning," a deep voice greeted with a smile on his face. Hey, I knew that face.
"Nelson?" I turned toward him.
"Bella?" He walked over to me still smiling.
Nelson Rogers was a local musician. We weren't good friends, but we ran in the same circles. Socially that is. Musically I couldn't even come close.
The man was a genius.
Jazz agreed and he never used that word. He thought it was relative, except with Nelson. It was just a plain fact.
He wasn't a tall man, shorter than Edward with light brown skin and dark hair, cut neatly in a fade.
He had a charisma about him, most musicians do, at least to me. Nelson always stood out in a room, even in a room filled with other people that stood out in a room.
He was just that cool.
"What are you doing here?" Did we have a music event going on that no one told me about? No, Alice would have let me know.
"First day on the job." He rubbed his hands together looking around the lobby of the empty health club and then turned his gaze back to me. "What happened to your leg?" He glanced down at my bandaged ankle.
"Oh, this." I huffed out a puff of air. "Fell down a flight of stairs in front of the entire company during a performance at our talent show last week. It was quite the showstopper."
"Ouch!" He flinched. "That's taking throwing yourself into your performance to a higher level."
"Lower level," I laughed at my pain. "I ended up on the floor."
"I've been there a time or two myself," he chuckled with me. "That's nothing to be ashamed of, as long as you keep getting back up."
The telltale rattling of Jessica's bracelets could be heard before she reached the entrance to the club.
Her stiletto heels clicked on the tile floor. She stopped at the entrance, surprise showing on her face to see me. Jessica's mouth formed a wide 'O' and she froze.
"Hey, Jess." I waved and smiled lightly at her. You couldn't stay mad at the girl. Come to think of it I was never mad at her. She got piled into the group.
Her face broke out in a giant grin. She jumped up and down, her arms flailing like a bird.
"YAAY!" She screeched. "MISFITS FOREVER!"
Nelson shot me a concerned look. I guess no one warned him that the club staff was…unique. He would learn today.
Before I could say anything Jessica charged straight for us, stopping way too close to my personal space. Her brows scrunched in deep thought.
"How on earth do you hug someone on crutches?" Her arms reached out wide, palms up.
"You don't," Nelson and I replied in unison.
She pouted. "So if everyone was on crutches there would be no hugs in the world?"
"Of course there would," I said reassuringly. "Just not standing up."
"But those are the best kind." Her pouty lips pushed out further. "You're living in Hell on Earth," she declared with hands on her hips.
"Right." I nodded and agreed. "Nelson, this is Jessica. She handles the front desk."
Nelson flashed her a killer smile and held out his hand. "Oh, so you're the brains behind this operation."
She flung herself on him, wrapping her arms around his muscular frame. "Finally! Someone noticed. I use my brain here all day." She sighed deeply as she pulled away. "It's exhausting." She snapped her bright pink bubblegum, twirling a long lock of her curly, black hair.
Nelson remained cool during Jessica's outburst of affection. I bet it took a lot to throw him off. Jess amused him, I saw it in his eyes. How could she not?
The Health club staff didn't have a dress code like the rest of the company and Lord did it show. Jessica stuffed herself in a neon pink, cheetah print, metallic bodysuit, matching handbag and, of course, stilettos.
"Well, well, well, what do we have here?" Mike sashayed into the room with Rose beside him.
I had no intention of talking to him. Lord knew just trying not to kill him would take enough strength.
"WE'RE MISFITS AGAIN!" Jessica screeched and started jumping and flailing.
Mike ignored her completely. His eyes were too busy glaring at me as he made his way over to us.
"The Misfits are dead," he announced with the dramatic flair of a soap opera star. "Never to return again."
Jessica's lower lip popped out and tears formed in her eyes.
"Who are you?" Mike asked Nelson, hand on hip, neck back and his feet in an odd pirouette position.
"Nelson Rogers, I'm the new health club manager." He eyed Mike with the sort of morbid curiosity you might find at a freak show. "And you are?"
"Perfect in every way," Mike sassed. "But I'm sure you can see that by now."
"Hello, I'm Rose." She held her hand out to Nelson. "I'm the aerobics instructor here and his name is Mike, he teaches Yoga."
Nelson shook Rose's hand. "I look forward to checking out both classes later today."
"No one told us they replaced Emmett." Mike glared at me for some reason.
"You're replacing Emmett?" Jessica's draw dropped.
"Well, If Emmett was the previous health club manager, then yes I'm replacing him." Nelson used logic…with the gang. We would need to have a talk about that later.
Mike's hands flew up in the air and the chanting began. As usual I had no idea what the hell he was saying except this time the words "Evil, Jezebel," were loud and clear.
Jessica remained frozen with her jaw dropped, blinking rapidly as she stared off into space.
Rose wiped tears from her eyes.
Nelson took a step back and just observed a few moments in stunned disbelief, then he clapped his hands three times loudly.
The gang went silent and all eyes were on him. How the hell did he do that? I looked on in awe.
"Listen, I'm cool with managing a group of misfits or whatever you decide to call yourselves. I have no problem with people marching to the beat of their own drum. Actually, I prefer it, but you all are a train wreck." His big brown eyes roamed each one of their faces. "I can see you're going through a tough time right now. You need to rise above it. No one can do that for you. Can you rise above it?" He asked, pointing a finger at Jessica.
She thought a few moments and then her face broke out in a wide smile. "I CAN!" She squealed.
He pointed to Rose. "Can you rise above it?"
She sniffled and nodded her head. "I can." She grabbed Jessica's hand.
He shot his eyes over to Mike. "Mr. Perfect, how about you?"
Mike dusted off his shoulders. "Done."
Nelson's eyes landed on me. "Bella?"
My eyes widened a bit, unsure of what he was asking.
"Can you rise above it?" He elaborated.
The gang's eyes landed on me.
"Of course," I laughed out the words humorlessly.
Nelson seemed pleased. "That's what I like to hear." He smiled. "Now, who's going to give me a tour?"
Jessica's hand shot up as she bounced up and down. "ME! ME! I WILL!"
"Let's do it." He waved her on and she followed beside him, asking what he thought of cows as they made their way around the corner.
Rose cleared her throat, nervously glancing at me. "Bella, I'm so sorry for the way I acted. I have no excuse other than misplaced anger. I know you had nothing to do with Emmett being fired." She looked exhausted.
I smiled lightly. "I owe you an apology too for calling you a coward. I shouldn't have said that. I'm sorry."
"Shouldn't have said it or didn't mean it?" Mike butted in with his bitchy finger zig zagging in front of my face.
"Both," I managed to hold my smile, though it became strained now that I was talking to Mike. "You guys got kicked out of a hospital for playing charades. It doesn't get more badass than that."
Rose laughed at the memory. "So we're all good here?" She asked looking between me and Mike with hopeful eyes.
"Perfect!" Mike drew out the word. "I'm perfect." He smacked his spandex covered ass.
My eyes rolled at his theatrics. "Yeah, I'm good." I would be better if I could strangle him, but one had to have goals in life.
Edward had important meetings and couldn't come down for his morning massage, which meant he would be far more tense for his afternoon session.
The man held so much stress it was no wonder he had roaring outbursts on a regular basis. A massage therapist wasn't a luxury for him, it was a necessity.
If I had my way I would show him how to repel that negative energy from constantly seeping into his spirit. Edward was a stubborn man, so I had to pace myself with him.
He would be worth it though. I had no doubts about that.
For the first time all week I went to lunch with the gang. We took Nelson out for pizza. I could tell he wasn't quite sure what to make of them. Hell, I wasn't quite sure what to make of them. After we got back I called him into the massage room.
He took in the room nodding his head in approval with a light smile on his face. "Wow. Talk about serenity."
I nodded in agreement. "I know, right." I spent a few moments quietly appreciating the panoramic view of the meadows with him.
"I wanted to give you some care and feeding advice for the gang. They can be a bit unusual at times." I placed my crutches against the wall and pulled myself up on the massage bed.
Nelson leaned against the bed beside me. He turned his face to mine. "Oh, really? I hadn't noticed," he managed to say with a straight face.
"Right. So the pizza poetry game at lunch or the critter karaoke during the car ride back didn't seem odd to you at all?" My eyebrow arched curiously.
He thought it over. "I gotta admit, Jessica does a mean cow rap."
"Please!" I held up a hand. "Don't encourage her."
He side eyed me. "Bella, you of all people should understand music comes in all shapes and sizes. You can't box it in. It's the same with people."
My message wasn't getting through to him. I wanted to keep it vague, but he left me no choice.
"Mike put fungicure in my water bottle without telling me and I sprayed it in Mr. Cullen's face, Jessica sent Jasper to the ER with one of her stiletto heels impaled in his forehead." I tapped a finger with each item I listed. "Mike drugged my roommate Angela with popsicles- "
"Stop," he interrupted with his hand on my shoulder. "Are you making this shit up?"
"I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried," I laughed. No one would ever believe it. I didn't want to scare the man off, but he should know what he was up against.
A throat cleared, drawing my attention to the door. My boss stood there, his eyes zeroed in on Nelson's hand on my shoulder.
He did not look happy.
"Am I interrupting?" Edward asked in a chilling tone.
"Not at all." I smiled at his angry face. Just as I thought his body was wound up tight as a knot. He needed me bad. Well, he needed a massage bad. "Nelson, have you met Mr. Cullen?"
Nelson stood and walked across the room. "So you're the man I hear so much about." He held out his hand.
Edward's stormy gaze focused on his face a few moments before flickering over to me. "Ms. Swan. I'd like so speak to you in private," he commanded, completely ignoring Nelson's outstretched hand.
He seemed surprised by the rude attitude his new boss gave him. Had they told him nothing at all? Talk about a lamb led to slaughter.
Cool as ever, Nelson held his hands up in peace. "Alright then. Looks like I'm the one interrupting here." He shot me a quick grin. "Thanks for lunch, Bella."
As he walked away I glared at Edward. "Was that necessary? You couldn't just shake your new employees hand and tell him it was nice to meet him?"
"No," he replied without giving it a moment's thought. "I couldn't."
"That's unacceptable." I folded my arms firmly. "He did nothing at all to deserve such treatment. You're rude to people for no reason. It's not right."
"He was touching you," he practically growled the words at me.
My eyes widened. "Edward, you cannot be serious right now. I can deal with a lot. I seriously can, but don't think you can go caveman on me like this. That is definitely not acceptable."
"If you walked into my office and found a woman touching me would that be acceptable?" He asked with genuine curiosity.
I thought it over. "If I walked into your office and saw a woman touching you I would be worried for her. You don't let people touch you," except me, I added in my head.
"What if I was smiling at her?" He walked toward me, his eyes locked on mine.
That made me laugh. "I would wake up immediately because that would most definitely be a dream."
He stood in front of me. "So smug, Ms. Swan. Yet, you haven't answered my question."
My eyes rolled. "Because it's not realistic."
"It's not realistic that I would be intimate with a woman?" He grinned wickedly. "Is that what you believe?"
"Well…I'm …you don't let people…do you..." I couldn't get my thoughts straight at first. "Do you have women that touch you?" My eyes flew up to his with fire in them as I finally got the words out.
Edward knew how to kiss the hell out of a woman. He certainly didn't learn that by himself. Who had he been kissing? Not that I thought he was a virgin, but who had he let close enough to touch him, other than me?
I hated jealousy.
It was for insecure relationships and those weren't worth having. Edward was different apparently. He made me realize that hell no I didn't want anyone touching him.
Because. He. Was. Mine.
He turned me into a cavewoman. Damn him. When the did that happen? My head landed in my hands as I took this in.
"What have you done to me?" I mumbled into my palms.
"I could ask the same of you."
My eyes raised to his. "We're cave people now. Fred and Wilma."
He almost laughed at that. "Yes, we're exactly like them."
"Except you have no friends. You need a Barney." I lifted my head and faced him.
"The little man with the loud kid? " He raised his nose in the air. "I'll pass."
"You've watched the Flintstones?" Just the thought of that made me giddy. It was so adorable. I never thought I would use that word for Edward, but it was.
"Quite often." His gaze wandered off, swept up in a memory.
"Me too." My smile grew wider.
"That makes you happy?" He asked, confusion written all over his handsome face.
"Yeah it does." I couldn't stop smiling. That's how happy it made me. I really hoped he didn't ask me why.
"Why?" He still looked perplexed.
I couldn't hold back a giggle. "Because it's…adorable." I had to be honest.
He stiffened, his jaw tightened instantly. "Don't mock me."
My smile disappeared. "I'm not mocking you. That was swooning. You just wooed me, Mr. Cullen."
"A cartoon about low class cave people wooes you?"
"Of course not." I enunciated each word. "You watching a cartoon about low class cave people wooes me."
He moved in closer. "I don't think I'll ever figure you out."
"Me? I'm an open book. You're the one that's impossible to figure out." The man was a human Rubik's cube, covered with spikes to keep anyone from solving his puzzle.
Little did he know I had iron gloves and a whole lot of patience.
Edward took off his suit jacket and placed it on the counter. Then his fingers went to the collar of his perfectly pressed, white shirt, he started unbuttoning, then pulled the bottom of the shirt from inside his pants. He took the shirt off and placed it on top of his jacket.
His fingers went to the waist of his pants.
I raised my hand like a student in class. "Excuse me, Mr. Cullen?"
His eyes landed on mine. "Yes, Ms. Swan."
"Did I miss something?" My gaze ran up and down his body. "Is there a reason you're taking your clothes off?
"There is." He paused as he unhooked the waist of his pants and pulled the zipper down. "I prefer getting a massage without my suit on."
My eyes followed his movements. "I shouldn't be here."
"It won't be much of a massage if you're not. Didn't they teach you that in school?" He kicked off his shoes. "And you call yourself a healer?"
My eyes flared. "I am a healer!"
"Right." He smirked, dropping his pants. The smug bastard.
The man was maddening. First of all, I was a healer damn it. I'd proven that already. Second, he was a God damn tease.
After my 'Our Lips are Sealed' around him performance we were more comfortable with each other sexually, playful even. Of course, being Edward there were demands. His militant and structured world needed rules.
You would think me being a free spirit wouldn't like that aspect of him. That would be true if he didn't enjoy negotiating as much as I did.
Since the day we met it was a form of foreplay for us. The intensity of it heightened as our bond grew stronger.
People might find it strange, but it worked for us and that's what mattered to me. The first rule Edward laid down last weekend was not negotiable, believe me I tried. He didn't trust himself not to hurt me while I was in a 'weakened condition'.
Until I fully recovered from my fall there would be no more…. humming.
So his little strip tease was just that. A tease. The bastard enjoyed toying with me. All weekend we tortured each other. Perhaps we were both masochists? We liked it a bit too much.
Two masochists may be a toxic combination, but it sure as hell wasn't boring. As my boss stood there nearly naked, looking good enough to eat, I wondered what happened when the teasing ended?
When we got to the next level of intimacy what kind of rules would there be then? What kind of rules would I be tempting him to break?
"You are one lucky man," I sighed dramatically, gently sliding my body off the massage table carefully placing my weight on my good foot.
"Am I?" He watched intently.
I nodded slowly. "I'm a woman of my word. I made you a promise that I intend to keep."
He thought over my words carefully. "The last time I saw that look in your eyes I gained a great appreciation for the Go Go's."
"And you said music holds no interest to you." I wiped dust off my shoulders, in diva Mike mode.
"That's still true. Music holds no interest to me at all." He took a step closer. "Unless it's performed by you."
"For a caveman you're quite the charmer." I looked up into his eyes. As always dark stormy undercurrents lurked within, but they still shined bright. If a girl wasn't careful she could get lost in those eyes.
He placed his hands on my hips. "I'm being honest."
"I know. That's what makes it so charming." I held his stare, unable to look away. "Do you have plans for Thanksgiving?"
His brow crunched. "Thanksgiving?"
"Yeah. It's a holiday Americans celebrate by eating turk-"
"I know what it is," he interrupted, impatiently. "Why are you asking me about it?"
"Well." I smiled up at him. "I want to cook Thanksgiving dinner for you to fulfill my promise."
"You never promised to cook me Thanksgiving dinner," he said as though I had lost my mind.
"I promised to feed you a full meal. Thanksgiving is a pretty full meal, so I figured let's go big. Do you eat turkey?" I didn't know much about his eating preferences, except for my boobs.
"You cook?" His tone rose in surprise.
"Of course I cook," I huffed, insulted.
He had the nerve to remain doubtful. "I have a chef that can cook for us, you know."
"It's a holiday, Mr. Cullen. Give your chef the day off. I got this." My hands roamed up his bare chest and clasped around the back of his neck.
"Will you be up to it?" He glanced down at my ankle.
"It's three weeks away." I shot my crutches a dirty look. "I'll be fully recovered by then."
He contemplated my offer a few moments. "And you're going to feed me?"
"Every last bite." I chomped my teeth.
Edward nodded. "I like the sound of that."
"You'll like the taste even better." I tapped his full, red lips with my fingertip.
Thanksgiving would be a turning point for us, I just knew it. The perfect time to move to the next level.
I was going to cook Edward a meal he would never forget.
Next up…Thanksgiving. Will that hungry lion FINALLY be fed?
I committed myself to writing 500 words every day. It freaking worked. I can't believe it. Who knew setting rules and forming structure could be a good thing? My goal is to finish Edroar by August…of this year. SO crazy right? If I stick to my outline, there's 5 chapters and an epilogue left. Can I do it?
Don't worry Emmett will still be part of the gang. Edroar can fire him, but nothing can break a scrambled egg. Misfits never die.
Fun Fact: My good friend Zara Connor is publishing her debut novel, Keeping Score, next month. It's HOT as hell. She's a super talented writer. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter for some delicious teasers.
Want more? FFN won't allow the link for my blog on my profile page. Those bastards! The link is on twitter profile tropicalsorbet. I posted a video for the song that goes with this chapter and Fred & Wilma big pimpin.
That's all for now folks. Let me know what you think…it's makes me giddy