DISCLAIMER: I do not own anything Twilight-Saga related, but I wish I own that gorgeous empath.=)
AN: Yeah, yeah, I know. This is a new story and I haven't updated the other two. This is good news! It means I am already having the time to write again! I'm really sorry RL got in the way.
I am updating The Visitor first before Why Best Things Are Free since it just has five chapters. And it will be out soon. I already finished chapter 6. I just need to cut it. I haven't realized it was very long. Will post very soon!
For now. Kindly enjoy.:P
Natalielynn and 1MrsCullen, still up to betaing my stories? Will send you the chapters.:P Thanks, thanks! Please PM or email me.:) Love you both.
"Are you sure you wanted this, Bella?" A sound of a gum being popped from a mouth disturbed Bella's thoughts. She turned towards Alice, her all-too willing best friend. Alice was looking at her innocently, but Bella knows what is going on in that thick skull of hers. Are you sure you are not making a big mistake?
Bella sighed as she continued to inspect the space referred to her by Alice's mother, Aunt B. Even though Aunt B had been enthusiastic about her ocular inspection of the place her friend had owned, Alice had been adamant. And just now, Bella knows why.
It is a strategic location. It was beside a university. The other side of their big university. It'll be a blast. Her café will be a big blast. The famous coffee shop, which had been here when she was in college, about three years ago, had been replaced by a dormitory. Competition will not be a problem.
But the space will be. Bella muttered. It'll be a big problem. She doesn't know if her savings will be enough even to restore this place. She might get a bargain for the cost of this place, but she did not expect for the worst when Alice had warned her that the place is almost in shambles. Alice wasn't lying. She might need at least ten thousand dollars for renovation. And probably another twenty for the furniture and facilities and for the operations for the next few months. Not only will she spend her entire savings for this, but she might also borrow some from her parents. She is taking a big risk here.
"But it'll be worth it," she muttered to herself, thinking about the plans she has for her café.
"Hey, Bella." She turned towards her friend, who was dusting her hands. Alice was looking at her with that I-told-you-so look.
"So? Will you be taking this? We can find another location. Maybe it can be a little more expensive than this, but at least there is no need for total renovation, if you get what I mean."
I do get what you mean, Alice, there is no need to rub it in. She thought. But she looked around her and focused her gaze on Alice.
"I'm buying it, Alice." Bella declared. Her friend's eyes almost popped out of their sockets at her revelation.
"Are you kidding?" Her voice was skeptical. "Where will you get the money for the renovations? You might as well just buy a franchise of a food chain."
Bella rolled her eyes. Alice smirked.
"I know. I am exaggerating. But really," her eyes were suddenly sparkling, "why don't you just forget all about this and focus on your Wedding Planning Business?"
Alice's smile was so wide that Bella had to laugh.
"What's funny, angel-faced devil?"
Bella grinned. Alice is using her nickname for her.
"Look, Bella, I am saving your life here. Even your business partners slash friends will agree with me on this."
Bella frowned at her friend. "Alice, you don't need to remind me. You know this is my dream. I know I can probably do this next year or next next year, but then the space will be gone."
"There can be other spaces."
"But not in here. I love this location."
Alice did not answer her. Instead, she put another piece of gum in her mouth. There was silence between them for a few seconds.
"All right, Bella," Alice said finally. "I'll ask Mom if she can help you. It's her fault anyway that you could not get out of this place without buying it."
Bella's eyes turned watery as she embraced Alice. "Thanks, Alice! I'll tell Aunt I'll make her a business partner too. I just have to have this!"
Alice smirked, but she smiled at her friend. "Mom will say yes, believe me. Where else can she put her money to good use? Let her gamble on you than spend her money on the nonsense weekly parties in our village."
Bella removed her hands off Alice. "Another one this week? Now, why wasn't I invited?" she asked Alice in mock anger. Alice glared at her.
"Bella, you know you are Mom's favorite visitor, and she had been insisting to have me call you, but I didn't. You know why." She said that with a sullen look in her face. Bella nodded.
In fact she understood. Alice used to love the parties her mother gives, but since Aunt B had started to become the party maniac that she is, Alice resented almost every party. Aunt B had been acting like that for almost a year now, since Alice's Dad, Uncle Henrico died. Aunt B poses a graceful and happy façade in her parties, but after, she will act like an abandoned puppy.
Alice's older brother and her only sibling, Emmett, had taken over the business at his young age. He's just two years fresh out of college. He too hated the parties as much as Alice does, but neither stops their mother because they can feel the grief inside her. Though it doesn't stop them from being resentful about the way their mother is trying to cope with the loss. Their mother was keeping it all inside her and the two of them were afraid she'll break down any time.
"So Alice," Bella changed the tone in her voice as a sign that she will change the topic. "What will Emmett think if he asks Aunt B where the money will go?"
Looking grateful for the change of subject, Alice merely shrugged and grinned at her. "You know Em, he loves you."
Bella grimaced. True enough, when they were little, Emmett and she had been paired.
Their families were neighbors in a peaceful neighborhood in Georges Town, Washington. Uncle Henrico suddenly made it big in his software business and the McCarty family transferred to an exclusive village in the same town. Nevertheless, the closeness of the two families had never ceased, making Bella's family, the Swan family, frequent visitors at the McCarty family's modern home.
Emmett is two years older than Bella and Alice, and since the two families are close, Renee and Charlie, Bella's mother and father, and Henrico and B paired Bella and Emmett.
Bella hated him since childhood. Emmett feels the same. Eventually, they gotten over it and as much as Bella hates to admit it, and she loves Emmett as an older brother now. Though he still could not help but to tease her just as he used to do when they were still children.
"Don't even let Rosalie hear that," Bella smirked. Rosalie is Emmett's long-time girlfriend and she is like an older sister for both Alice and Bella. She knew about the 'childhood sweethearts' and is never even bothered by it. It is the reason why Alice and Bella love her. She is the most objective and open-minded person they ever met though she can be a bitch sometimes.
And she is so beautiful that Bella had Emmett regarding Rosalie's sanity because she had fallen in love with him. Rosalie is a goddess from Mt. Olympus, who decided to graze the mere mortals with her presence. She has long, wavy blonde hair with a perfect figure—tall and slender. She has a pert nose, luscious lips, long eyelashes, and the bluest blue eyes Bella has ever seen.
Not that Emmett doesn't have the looks. Bella just loves teasing him back. In fact, for Bella, not one among the McCarty family looks average. Everyone is gorgeous in their own way.
Uncle Henrico had the looks of his ancestors. Curly black hair, light brown skin, dark brown eyes, and tall, lean but muscular physique. The same with Aunt B, who had been the Helen of Troy during her younger years. She is petite with the perfect vital stats, very fair, with soft, delicate features. She has dark brown eyes and long, straight brown hair. In fact, up to know, in her late forties, she can still pass as Emmett and Alice's older sister.
Alice, her childhood friend, inherited both the looks of her parents. Exactly a mixture of both. She has pixie-like, black hair and hazelnut brown eyes. She has fair and flawless skin. Though a little small for her age, Alice never fails to make guys do double turns when they see her.
Emmett, her 'childhood sweetheart', is once of the handsomest men she knows. He can give Kellan Lutz a run for his money any time. He shared his parents' good looks too. Fairly. He is tall with big muscles. Tanned and very fit. Curly brown hair. And there is that pair of dimples. Bella had wondered once in her teenage years why didn't she have even a little crush on him.
Bella rolled her eyes. She knows why definitely. She had been too hung up with his best friend- Jasper Whitlock. The handsome Jasper. The quiet Jasper. The mysterious Jasper. The blonde angel Jasper.
Who used to be her definition of a knight in shining armor.
And his armor's rusty.
Bella tried not to remember the time she had finally given up on her infatuation over Emmett's best friend. She let Alice pull her out of the place to Alice's Black BMW.
"So… what memory had put that sober look on your face, huh?" Alice asked her friend as she made a U-turn. They will go back to their campus, to meet Alice's boyfriend, Seth at Chocoholic Café. The three of them are taking their Masters' degrees at the university. Seth and Alice are taking up Masters in Business Administration while Bella is taking up Masters in Organizational Development. Chocoholic Café is their favorite weekend place. It is a small café inside the campus. Usually it is not enough for the students- the reason why Bella decided with the café right outside the campus.
Bella rolled her eyes at Alice's sensitivity to her simplest facial expressions. "Nothing, Alice."
Alice grinned at her. "Oh no it's not nothing, angel-faced devil. In fact, I think I know that look very well."
"That's a look you pose every time you remember Mr. I'm-too-good-for-gorgeous girls-like-you-I-prefer-oval-faced-bitches."
This time, Bella laughed. "I like that code name, Alice."
Alice glanced at her briefly as she stopped for a traffic light. "You know how I think that Jasper is a fool for not even noticing you have eyes for him, just because he is so damn head over heels in love with that oval-faced bitch."
Bella did not say anything. As much as she knows Lauren is not as pretty as she expected her to be, she still can't change the fact that Lauren has what she wants. Who she wants. Jasper.
The car zoomed along the main avenue and Alice kept on talking. "I know she has nice legs. How many times have we seen her in those very revealing bikinis? But she doesn't have a nice body. She's too thin… with big boobs, definitely. It's… not proportioned. Her body, I mean."
"…and her skin's so flawlessly unblemished and I don't have big boobs," Bella continued, her gaze far.
Alice glared at her friend, though she could not say if Bella even noticed it. Her friend looked preoccupied.
"Those are perks of a rich girl, Bella. You know how rich she is. What do you think is the reason why Jasper's family made sure he was exposed only to her?"
Bella sighed. Alice's words were true. Bella had heard from Emmett before that Lauren and Jasper had known each other for a very long time. Emmett had mentioned that the parents of the couple had made sure that in every occasion, Jasper and Lauren were partners and that they were always surrounded by couples so they won't have a choice but to be a couple.
And they did become a couple. Eleven years to be exact. Jasper would not look at other girls. His parents do not want him to. They are sure, like Lauren's parents, that their son will marry Lauren.
It was proven just last year when Bella heard that Jasper had proposed to Lauren. And they will get married this year. Which literally broke Bella's heart. Bella purposefully avoided seeing Jasper even and heard the news from Alice. Alice felt it was her duty to tell her best friend the news, even though she knows that Bella had been avoiding any news about Jasper for the past two years.
Alice turned left and they entered the campus. Bella was still silent and Alice could not blame her. As much as she knew that literally Bella does not have a right to feel that way because Jasper has not been hers, she could not hurt her friend more. Bella had always been very generous with love. She had always fallen so quickly in the past. Alice knows her heart had been shattered already, that the one functioning now is the bits pasted back in trying to restore the original.
"Really, Aunt B?" Bella's eyes registered surprise, which made Alice roll her eyes. Bella must now that as her closest friend and B's almost-daughter, her mother will wholeheartedly help.
Aunt B beamed at the reaction of Bella. Alice must give it to her mother. Elizabeth McCarty has always been very generous and very kind.
"Bella, you know how much I treat you as my own daughter. It was a simple request. And another thing, I have so much money to give!" She laughed, which made both Bella and Alice join her. "You need not even make me as the owner like you suggested. Consider it as a gift."
"No, Aunt!" Bella protested. "That is so much money. Please don't make this harder? Please tell me you'll sign a paper saying I'll pay you as soon as possible."
Alice had to laugh, but she stopped herself. Alice knows that even if her mother agrees with Bella's condition, she'll never take it seriously. A thousand dollar for B McCarty is like a dollar for an average teenager. Aunt B looked at Bella, studying her.
"Hmm… Bella, why don't you just marry Emmett so you won't feel guilty?"
"Aunt!" A look of horror creased Bella's face. This time, Alice lost it and laughed her heart out. Aunt B smiled innocently as she turned to her daughter. "Alice, what's wrong with my suggestion?"
Alice tried to control her laughter as she answered her mother. "Mom, if Bella marries Emmett, it'll be hell." Then she laughed again. "Hell, Mom. You know how it is between the two of them."
Aunt B just shook her head, but she smiled. She turned back to Bella.
"Seriously, I'll agree to be a business partner, but not the owner. Or else…" she said with a warning tone. "… I'll never lend you the money. And you know I'm only doing this just so you'll agree. I'll be your partner until you paid me off. Okay? Take it or leave it."
Bella sighed. "I'll take it. I'll make the papers, Aunt." She went to Aunt B, who was sitting on the chair behind her study and hugged her. "Thanks, Aunt."
Aunt B smiled as she held Bella's hands. "No problem. I'll say your parents shouldn't know this?"
Alice saved Bella from answering, which made Bella grateful. Alice stood up from her chair and went to Bella and her mother. She hugged them both. "Mom, you wouldn't want me to tell you I asked for the help of others before you, would you?" She looked at Bella thoughtfully through their entwined arms. "Bella just doesn't want to worry Renee and Charlie, you know. With them faraway from her."
Bella's parents had just left a month ago to migrate to Queensland, Australia. They were petitioned by Renee's brother. Bella's older brother Riley and her were left here.
"And Riley doesn't know about this. All he knows is that I'll try to persuade my partners to loan me the money from our business, so please Aunt," Bella begged. "Don't tell my parents or my brother?"
Aunt B grinned. "All right I won't. But there is one condition…"
Alice and Bella looked at each other. Bella was the brave one who asked. "What is that, Aunt?"
There was a manic glint in Aunt B eyes. "Marry Emmett."
Aunt B just shrugged. "I've always thought you two will be together. My Emmett and you."
"Did I hear my name?"
Everyone turned to the owner of the voice. It was Emmett, poking his head on the door and looking confused.
Bella rolled her eyes, but she greeted him nevertheless. "Hi, Em."
Emmett went inside the study and closed the door behind him. He was smiling at Bella. "You missed me badly, don't you? You look super happy to see me," he teased as he kissed his mother and sister on the cheeks.
"Em, Mom was just asking Bella to marry you," Alice answered sounding casual. "And Bella doesn't want to."
Emmett's brows rose. He went to Bella and put an arm around her shoulders. "That's an insult, Bella. I'm one of the most eligible bachelors around and you don't want to marry me?" he asked mockingly.
Bella smiled at him sarcastically. "Why… do you want to marry me?"
"I guess not," Emmett answered. Bella laughed. They exchanged high fives. Emmett removed his hands off Bella's shoulders and replaced it on his mother's shoulders. "So what's with the powwow?"
In five minutes, the three women had explained everything in general to Emmett. No details as to what business it is even though Emmett had insisted to know. And as expected, Bella received his approval too.
"So I'll go," Emmett declared, kissing everyone, including Bella, on the cheeks.
"Where will you go?" Aunt B asked. "You won't have your dinner here? I invited Bella to eat with us. And she's cooking."
Emmett threw Bella a teasing gaze. Bella glared at him. Emmett laughed and turned his attention back to his mother.
"I will, Mom. Can't miss Bella's cooking, can I? But can you add one more plate for dinner? I'm inviting Jasper. I still can't squeeze everything out from him. See you later!" He closed the door behind him.
Bella's mouth was agape when Alice turned to look at her. So her mother won't notice, Alice distracted her with questions while Bella gains composure again. When it's safe, Alice pulled Bella out of the study.
"See you later, Mom. I'll just help Bella in the kitchen. She might cut herself." She injected the last sentence for humor. Fortunately, Aunt B ate it. Alice and Bella were able to escape to the kitchen.
Alice was cutting the boiled baby potatoes in halves, while Bella is preparing the cheesy cream sauce for her famous Mushrooms and Potatoes. Bella looked distracted and Alice noticed she was grating the foil of the cheese too.
"Bella," she called. "We don't eat foil, you know." That seemed to bring Bella back to her reverie. She carefully removed the cheese from its foil and started grating again. Alice sighed.
"Okay, angel-faced devil. Out with it."
"Out with what?" Bella asked her friend absentmindedly.
Alice threw her a potato, which hit her on the chest.
"Ouch!" Bella complained, but she caught it and popped the potato in her mouth. Alice glared at her.
"Bella, I heard Em. I know what is distracting you. Or I know who." Alice finished with the potatoes. She set it aside and started cutting the button mushrooms in halves too. "I haven't seen Jasper in a while too you know, even if Em is my brother. I knew of course that he went to London for a year so he can study a special course. I heard he was back just last week." She looked at Bella for her reaction, but Bella was sporting an impassive facial expression. Alice frowned.
"Out with it. You are very much for catharsis, right? So out with it."
Bella frowned at her. "My problem is simple, Alice. How can I stand dinner with him there? You know I feel awkward around him. And what makes it worse is I think he knows how I feel."
Alice looked sympathetic. "I know, Bella. But you can't back out now. Mom is expecting you for dinner. Besides, you cooked this. Mom loves this recipe of yours. And Em too, remember? You can't go."
"I know. But at least do not let me sit beside him, Alice."
Alice nodded her promise. "I won't."
"So how's London, dude?" Emmett glanced at his best friend, who was sitting on the passenger seat. Jasper looked at him with indifferent eyes and merely shrugged. Emmett took a deep breath as he stopped for a red light.
"What's your problem, Jasper? Your parents had told me you weren't yourself when you got back. I noticed it too. I let it off for the past few days, dude, thinking you are just having jetlag." Emmett said it with pain in his voice. Jasper noticed it. He debated with himself whether he'll tell his best friend what has been bothering him or not. The latter won.
"You're right, Em. I still have jetlag. It's really hard to adjust after living in London for a year. I still feel tired," he said, faking a yawn. Emmett threw another glance at him. Jasper was saved by the green light. He switched the car radio and fiddled with it. When he didn't found a nice station, he opened Emmett's dashboard and got the CD case Emmett brings with him.
"Still into ballads, Emy?" Jasper asked while digging into the case. In irony with Emmett's outgoing personality is his choice of music. No one will guess that he prefers ballads more than alternative or R n B. Sporty and Tough Emmett is just not right with Sweet and Sentimental Emmett.
Emmett adjusted his rearview mirror as he answered Jasper. "Yeah. I don't find any reason to change what I want." He glared at Jasper, which Jasper saw and made him smile. "And don't call me Emy."
"Fine." Jasper smirked at him and continued to sort at the CDs. One CD caught his eye. He picked it up and held it in front of him. It doesn't have any label. "What's in this?"
Emmett took a left turn before glancing at the CD Jasper is holding. A smile formed on Emmett's handsome face. "Believe it or not, Jasper, I love that CD."
"What's in it?"
"Put it on and listen to it."
Jasper inserted the CD into the player and listened. The first song played. He knew the title as Stay. It was sung by Lisa Loeb. But the voice isn't Lisa Loeb's. The voice on the CD was gentler and softer than Lisa Loeb's. It was a beautiful voice.
Jasper looked at Emmett, who was softly singing with the anonymous singer. "Em?"
Emmett nodded. "I love it. That's all."
Jasper shook his head. Emmett grinned.
"Jasper, you guess who sang those songs."
"Do I know her?"
"Well… just tell it to me, dummy. We don't have all afternoon," Jasper announced wearily. Emmett let out a sigh.
"Fine. It's Bella. Alice's best friend."
Jasper did a double take. "Bella? Ms. Snobbish?"
Emmett laughed. Bella had indeed been a little snob with Jasper. "Bella sings? And you like her voice even though you hate her?" Jasper knows Emmett and Bella often fight.
Emmett nodded. "Jasper, buddy, I never hated Bella. We both just happen to think that disagreeing is fun with each other. I love her as my baby sister. Even Rosalie loves her. She adores Bella." Emmett looked at Jasper just after they entered the village.
"I stole that CD from Alice's collection just to annoy those two, but when I listened to it, I fell in love with it. I almost forgot Bella sings. And they gave me that new copy as they forced me to give the original back to Alice." He looked at Jasper again. "And Bella is the one who cooked our dinner for tonight, so chill."
Jasper did not answer. His thoughts came back to his memory of her two years ago. He remembered Bella as the plain, boyish best friend of Alice. He hasn't seen for about two years and could not imagine any change in her. He had always found Bella weird, though the two of them being the McCarty siblings' best friends always find themselves together. He doesn't hate her, though they weren't also close. He could feel Bella doesn't like him. He still thinks Bella's stolen glances were meant to be scrutinizing rather than adoring. Bella had been snobbish.
His hunches for his theory stopped when Bella and he had never seen each other. He had been curious where she was when she failed to attend a number of McCarty functions. Bella had been the fancy of some of his and Emmett's friends- if girl-next-doors are their types. They had always said she was cute. Jasper could not appreciate it much. Maybe because he is very much in love with Lauren he can hardly see straight.
They never saw each other even before he went to London.
AN: Please review. Chapter 2 will be posted soon!