This is my first foray into fiction, so please be honest, but kind!
Thanks to my beta and pre-reader team: nails233, hlnt3mom, cherrypie0192, DrizzleDrop, Lamomo, and WillowDeRosa
COPYRIGHT DISCLAIMER: All characters are the property of the amazingly awesome Stephenie Meyer. I do not own any of these characters-if I did, a certain sexy Texan would be my own personal cabana boy.
**author retreats to a quiet corner with her Jameson's, praying for a return to sanity.
A Place to Call Home
The sun streamed through the cracks in the mini-blinds, warming my face, despite the chill in the room. I muttered; rolling onto my back, pissed that one of the few peaceful nights of sleep I'd had in a long time was being disturbed. Moving with my eyes shut against the sun's persistent rays, I collided with my guitar. I'd forgotten to put it away the night before, or was it morning when I finally crashed? Following the circuit was its own escape, but not without price. Long nights, new cities every weekend, and a continuous round of sun, surf, sand, and parties were my life for the last two years. Not that I was complaining. Now that it was almost over; I could afford to feel nostalgic.
I'd avoided my dad's pleas for two years. He understood at first, accepting my need to drop out of reality and just…be. After what happened in Texas, after what happened with her, I'd had to get away from it all — from the places, from the memories. I'm sure my dad and mom thought I would disappear for a few weeks and fall right back into their plans. Their patience ran out in May. I guess the image of Whitlock Oil Holdings couldn't hold up under the societal disapproval of the appearance of the heir apparent on the cover of Surfer magazine. Sure I did the interview, but hell — it was just for fun and I got to play on my board while some idiot on a boat tried to take pictures. The article wasn't even that good! You would've thought I'd committed a capital offense when Peter called me screaming about family obligations. The ride was over. I hadn't touched the money they'd been putting in my account since I left. My tournament winnings more than supported my nomadic lifestyle. But, I was ready for something, anything to change.
Thank goodness I'd convinced my dad to lay off and let me follow the circuit the rest of the season. Once I told him that I was already enrolled at Old Dominion University for the fall, he even stopped griping about the fact that I hadn't been home since I left two years ago. Hell, he didn't even raise a stink when he realized I wasn't going back to Texas A&M. I guess any college sufficed if it meant I was FINALLY going to "grow up." Really, I didn't care where I went to school, as long as there was an ocean close enough to get to everyday, and I wouldn't have to go back to Texas.
Hearing banging in the hall, I scrubbed my hands over my face and opened my eyes. Before I could even check the time on my iPhone, Emmett banged on the door.
"Jazz," Emmett yelled, "get your ass out of bed, dude! It's almost ten. The sun's awastin' and the girls are awaitin'!"
"Give me a minute, damn it!" I yelled back. "Fuck's sake, Em, don't you ever fucking sleep?" I bitched, crawling out of bed, not even bothering to pull my jeans on over my boxer briefs. I walked over to the hotel room door and jerked it open. Turning back into the room, I didn't wait to see if Emmett was coming in.
"Dude, I told you yesterday, the only reason I was coming to town early was to look for an apartment. I got shit to square away before classes start next Monday. Did you decide if you're gonna hang around after the season, or are you heading back home to Coronado?" I asked, as I headed into the bathroom.
"What the hell am I gonna do in Virginia, Jazz? At least in Cali I can keep hitting the waves. It frigging gets cold here in the winter! Why didn't you take that shit into consideration when you caved into Pete's pressure to go back to school?" Emmett yelled over the water from the shower.
I showered quickly and walked back in the room with a towel slung around my hips. As I shoved my dripping hair out of my eyes, I made my way over to where I'd thrown my bag when we got into town the day before.
"Hell, Emmett, you afraid of a little cold, dude? So what if you gotta put a damn skin on to surf. The storms that move in during the fall and winter will make the cold totally worth it." I replied, digging through my duffle bag looking for clean clothes. "Besides, have you looked around? Three fourths of the guys in this town are in the Navy. They are always leaving their ladies alone. Even your dumb ass could get laid here." I joked, throwing my wet towel at his head.
"Now, I got to find someplace to live. Are you coming with me or are you gonna go hunt down some poor unsuspecting beach bunny to use and abuse for the next five days?" I asked, as I grabbed my keys off the dresser and shoved my wallet in my back pocket.
"Yeah, come on. Let's go so we can get back and hit the boardwalk and find some fun for the night. What was the name of that bar we hung out in last year when we were here? Dirty Dick's or something? I'd like to head there again. Right on the beach and full of choice, tan honeys. We can get something to eat, get our drink on, and find some company," Emmett answered with a wink, bouncing out of the chair he had been lounging in.
I sighed inwardly. Emmett was a great guy, but damn, I had no idea where the hell he got all of his energy from. Nothing ever seemed to slow him down or wear him out. He wouldn't even be on the circuit if I hadn't talked him into coming with me, yet he loved it a hell of a lot more than I did. Emmett liked getting his face in the mags and his name in the news. He ate that shit up. The fact that he was apparently easy on the eyes didn't hurt him any.
Emmett was pushing 6'5"— damn tall for a surfer — and probably close to 220 lbs. He didn't like to work out, but he was always active. He loved running on the beach most of all, probably because it attracted a lot of female attention. His mop of dark, curly hair and his, as one chick described them, "liquid blue eyes," never hurt him when out cruising the bars or the beaches. He never tried to break their hearts. I mean, hell, I'll give the man his props. Emmett always made it clear he was in this shit for the short term - 4 to 5 days in town at the most, but the chicks always fell for him anyway.
As we headed out the hotel, Emmett's cell phone went off. Pulling it out and flipping it open without looking, he answered, "You got me, what do you want to do to me?"
I just shook my head and shoved my Ray-Bans on against the beaming rays as I headed across the parking lot toward my truck. I could see my baby still firmly strapped down in the back and breathed a sigh of relief. My two most prized possessions were Annabelle and Miss Piggy. Annabelle had been a gift from my parents for my tenth birthday, a Southern Resonator with mother-of-pearl inlay. When I left Galveston, she was one of the few things I didn't throw into storage. Miss Piggy, on the other hand, was bought with the prize money from the second tournament I won. She was a Harley-Davidson Softail, the color of fine wine and shiny chrome, without all that shit some bikers throw on to fuck up a perfectly good motorcycle. I had a small set of saddlebags for long trips and that was it. She was streamlined, just like I'd been trying to make my life. I double-checked the tie downs and then climbed into the cab to wait for Emmett.
A few minutes later, the passenger door was yanked open and Emmett's booming voice filled the cab. "Yeah, yeah, I got it. Marriot at Independence. Uh huh. Right. Room 410. Sure, let me talk to Jazz and check our plans. No, not too long, maybe 15 minutes or so. K, I'll see you in a few. Yeah, can't wait either. Later, dude."
I looked at Emmett over the top of my shades, waiting for him to fill me in.
"Dude, check this shit out! Edward is here in Virginia Beach! He got offered a position in the English Lit department at ODU. Esme and Carlisle told him we were here for the tournament, that's why he called. I told him you were looking for a place to live and he mentioned a rental house listing he had seen on campus. It's for a place down here at the beach. He didn't know if we might be interested in going in together and splitting the rent, but I told him I would mention it. Whatya think? A house would be a hell of a lot better than a small-ass apartment, not to mention, no close neighbors to bitch when the music is a little too loud. C'mon, dude, let's do this!"
Luckily, after almost three years of friendship, I'd gotten used to Emmett's babbling. I crooked my eyebrow and smirked while I waited for him to draw a breath. When he did, I raised my hand, signaling for him to wait a minute.
"What is this "we" and "us" shit? I thought it was "frigging cold" in Virginia," I air quoted and continued, "Changed your mind on the walk from the room to the car? Did I miss a hottie in the parking lot that you managed to schmooze a phone number out of while talking to your cousin?"
Emmett slugged my shoulder and said, "Nah, dude, but hell if you and Edward are both going to be here, I'd have no one to hang with at home. I got enough money saved to keep me going til next season. Shit, I might even try to find a job or something. Look, let's just go meet up with Edward and see what he's got for us. We can decide after we talk to him."
I laughed to myself. Emmett and Edward may be cousins, but their bond is much closer, having both been raised by Edward's parents after Emmett's died in a car accident when he was 8 years old. Although Carlisle and Esme Cullen had adopted him, Emmett kept his own last name, McCarty, to honor his parents and carry on the family name. Of course, with Emmett's "extracurricular" activities, I was surprised there wasn't a little McCarty floating around out there somewhere.
On the way to the interstate, I pulled into a convenience store. If I didn't get some coffee, and fast, I wasn't going to be able to think clearly when Emmett and I met up with Edward. Not being on top of my game around the cousins could definitely be hazardous to my health, as I'd found out all too often over the years. A large coffee and a pack of smokes later, we were back on the road.
As I pulled into the hotel lot and found a place to park, Emmett dialed Edward to let him know we were on our way up. I strolled through the lobby, slightly amused by the looks Emmett and I drew when we were together. Where Emmett was the epitome of adorable, I just came off as forbidding. It wasn't as if I tried to look intimidating, but my recklessness must have given off the aura of danger.
I strolled up to the reception desk, shoving my shades up off my eyes, pushing the unruly mop of hair out of my face. As the receptionist looked up, a bemused expression on her face, and attempted to compose herself before talking to me, I sighed and tried to see what women saw when they looked at me. I had shaggy, sun-streaked blonde hair in desperate need of a haircut that I was too lazy to get, green eyes with flecks of yellow in them and surrounded by crinkles from years of squinting in the Texas sun, not very tall - barely making 5'10", and maybe a 170 lbs. I wasn't muscular like Emmett, but years of working with horses and on oil rigs had made me strong, not to mention the years of surfing. All in all, I guessed it wasn't a bad combination, since I also never failed to attract my fair share of attention from women when we went out. Unlike Emmett, though, I just wasn't interested. I hadn't lived like a monk, but I also didn't feel a need to bang every woman that came on to me. When that itch needed to be scratched, I found women that clearly understood that one night was all they were getting. Typically, these women weren't looking for more than I was offering, so there were never any regrets.
"Hello, m-m-may I help you?" the young clerk stammered as I gave her a half-hearted smile.
"Yes, darlin'," I said, "We have a friend in room 420 that we are here to visit, Edward Cullen?" I probably laid the Southern charm on a little thick, but hell it was worth it to see the flush that crept up the mousy receptionist's cheeks. I noticed her name was Angela from the little nameplate she wore on her uniform.
"Uhm, yes, uhm, Mr. Cullen, I will ring his room," she said, a wistful look in her eyes.
Oh yeah, I'd seen that look. Edward was a bronze god in his own right and women also flocked to him. Like his cousin, Edward never seemed lacking for female companionship at any given point in time either. If it weren't for the fact that the cousins were nowhere near being insensitive jerks, I might have suggested they start notching the headboards of their beds. Well, that and the fact that they would have ran out of wood a long time ago.
"Mr. Cullen, this is Angela at reception." Her hands tightened on the receiver as she sighed into the phone, "I wanted to let you know your guests have arrived. Of course, sir, I will send them right up."
I was already stepping away to the elevator before she had even re-cradled the phone.
"Thanks, darlin'," I chuckled, stepping into the open elevator and the doors closed Emmett and me off from the lobby.
As he reached over to push the button for the fourth floor, Emmett let out a laugh.
"Dude, you don't even try and these women are eating out of your hand. I'd hate to see what'd happen if you actually put forth some effort!"
"Don't worry, Em, your slut status on the tour is completely safe. I have no desire to overthrow your title," I replied, slapping him on the back. "Besides, little Miss Angela has apparently already been exposed to your cousin's charms. She all but came at the mention of his name."
"Yeah, Edward does have that effect on women - Wait a minute, I am not a slut! It is not my fault that those women throw themselves at my feet!"
"Maybe not, Em, but it sure as shit does not mean you have to sweep them off of theirs, either. I will make you a bet. I bet you cannot go out tonight without picking up some woman and taking her back to the hotel. If I win, I get your copy of Call of Duty 4 to hold hostage for one week."
"And what's in it for me, Jazz? Oh, I know - I get that shitty Tom Waits CD you play all the time. It will be worth one night of blue balls to not have to listen to that crap for a week!"
"Hey, bro, don't be hating on my music! I'm not worried. You can't last twenty minutes without picking up some chick and having your tongue down her throat. My CD is totally safe."
"Oh, it is on like Donkey Kong, and I am so gonna get to listen to some music with a beat to it for a week!"
We stepped off the elevator and bantered back and forth as we walked down the hall toward Edward's room. Before Emmett could even knock, Edward had pulled open the door.
"Damn, could you guys be any frigging louder? Thank God it's the middle of the morning, or someone would be calling management on you!"
The minute Em saw his cousin; he pulled him into a massive hug that would have crushed a weaker man. As it was, I saw Edward wince slightly at Emmett's exuberance.
I laughed while Edward tried to extricate himself from Emmett's arms and said, "Edward, with the look I just saw on the receptionist's face at the mention of your name, I am not too worried about getting thrown out!"
Emmett stepped back and finally greeted his cousin. "Edward, dude, I can't believe it's been three months since the last time I saw you! How the hell have you been? How long are you here for? How the hell did you land a teaching position at ODU? Is it long term? When was the last time you saw Uncle Carlisle and Aunt Esme? How are they?"
Edward smiled, held up his hand, and laughed out a reply. "Emmett! Breathe! Let me see if I can answer these questions before the next interrogation starts. I'm great, the position is for the fall term, the professor that was supposed to be teaching the class is on emergency maternity leave, I saw my parents two week ago, and they are doing great. Did I get them all?" he queried, looking to me for confirmation.
I nodded my head and waited for Emmett to go for Round Two of the Inquisition. As usual, he didn't disappoint me.
"Tell us about the house. Have you seen it yet? Where is it? Can we go see it now? Is there enough room for all of us? How much is it? Am I really going to have to get a fucking job? When do you start classes? Are you gonna come see us surf this weekend? What…?"
"EMMETT!" Edward and I shouted together in order to be heard over his verbal diarrhea.
"Damn, cuz; shut the hell up for a minute so I can think! I can't answer shit if you won't be quiet long enough for me to talk!"
Emmett looked sheepish and fell into the lounge chair near the window. Flipping my keys around my finger, I sat down at the desk and waited for Edward to speak.
"The house. I talked to the rental agent this morning. It is a block from the oceanfront. The owners are military and are being transferred to Japan for a couple of years. They're not sure what they want to do with the house yet, so are renting it in the meantime. It is two story, four bedrooms, so yeah, plenty of room. The rent is steep, $2400 a month, but if we like it and decide to rent it, it would be no more than each of us getting an apartment on our own and a damn sight nicer than the one bedroom apartment we would get for the price. The agent is meeting me at noon to check it out. I've got the address and directions, and I am supposed to meet her there. So, you guys interested?"
I'd been nodding my head while Edward was talking. It did sound like a good idea and it would be cool to have friends to hang out with in a new city. If nothing else, sharing a house forced me to be social and not hole up by myself, like I'd done back in Galveston.
Before Emmett could get going again with Twenty Questions, I cleared my throat and stood up.
"Well, it's a quarter after 11 now. Maybe we should head out and look at the house?" I turned toward Edward, "I have the truck, and Emmett's Jeep is still at the hotel. We can all squeeze into the cab of the truck if you don't have a car."
"No, Jazz, that's cool. I have my car. I drove down from my parents' house yesterday morning to meet with the dean of my department. I'm guessing you guys are staying near the oceanfront, right? Might as well take the truck and my car, that way you guys don't have to head back here and then turn around and drive right back down again."
Just then, there was a crisp knock on the door, and a woman's voice sung out, "Housekeeping!"
I looked around the immaculate room, hell even the bed was already made, and thought Housekeeping probably loved cleaning up after Edward. Not a thing was out of place. Oh us all living together could get interesting. Emmett was the biggest slob I'd ever met, and while I'm no neat freak, a little clutter never bothered me. If this was gonna work, we were going to need some serious ground rules.
As Edward opened the door so we could head out and Housekeeping could come in, a tiny ball of flying female launched herself at him from the hallway. Emmett and I were both frozen in place, not knowing whether we should save Edward, or wait for the rest of the show. We quickly got our answer when Edward wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her closer, placing a kiss on her smiling mouth.
Emmett coughed loudly. When Edward didn't end his tonsil hockey session, he coughed again, louder.
"Hell, cuz, are you sure you want to find some place to rent? With Housekeeping service like that, why leave the hotel?"
The little pixie in Edward's arms started to giggle. Edward stepped back, and dropping his arm around her shoulder, proceeded to introduce her.
Emmett, Jazz, this is my girlfriend Alice. Alice, the big oaf is my cousin Emmett that you've heard all about, and the brooding cowboy is his best friend, Jasper."
We all greeted each other and then Edward asked Alice, "What are you doing here? I thought you weren't coming until the weekend? We were just heading out to look at a house to rent."
"I wasn't supposed to come down until Saturday morning, but then something came up in this area and Esme sent me down to take care of it," Alice chirped, bouncing on her toes the whole time. "She figured you'd rather be surprised be me than her showing up in town. I am meeting the client here in the coffee shop in about twenty minutes, so I thought I'd pop up and see you first. Are you surprised?"
"Of course I am, and pleasantly so! We can ride down in the elevator with you. Do you have to head back to Richmond or are you staying through?"
Edward and Alice moved out the door and Emmett and I followed them to the elevator. Emmett still looked confused as hell.
Once we got to the lobby, Edward kissed Alice goodbye and told her to call after she finished with the client. As we headed into the parking lot, Emmett threw his arm around his cousin's shoulder and did a poor imitation of Ricky Ricardo, "Eddie, you got some 'splaining to do!"
Edward rolled his eyes and pushed Emmett's arm off his shoulder. "We'll go to lunch after we see the house and I'll tell you all about Alice. Are you riding with me or with Jazz?" he asked, as he stopped next to a new silver Volvo and popped the locks.
"Depends. Can I play with the radio? Between Jazz's Waits and NPR, my brain will be fried. I need to hear some tunes."
Edward rolled his eyes at his cousin and reluctantly agreed, "Okay, but no damn rap. I hate that shit. I can tolerate almost anything else."
Edward gave me the address and the directions in case we got separated. I climbed into my truck and followed him out of the parking lot and back onto the interstate. Fifteen minutes later, after a short trip down a tree covered drive, we stood in front of what could be loosely described as a beach cottage. The two storied house faced the water, with only a stretch of high dunes separating it from the beach. We could hear the ocean behind them and the traffic was muffled by the stand of trees that separated the back of the house from the main road. The house was on pylons, like many around here, to deal with surf issues from the hurricanes and nor'easters that were common to the area. Edward and I looked at each other incredulously. There had to be a catch to the house renting so cheap.
We followed the agent through the house, checking out the space. The kitchen was fit for a gourmet chef. What the hell three men whose cooking skills leaned toward grills and spaghettios were gonna do in there I had no fucking idea. The wide open floor plan offered all kinds of possibilities. There was no defined living room or dining room. There was a wall of windows that looked out over the water, with a huge gas fireplace breaking up the expanse. There were four bedrooms, each with its own bath, plus a half bath off the great room and a shower by the steps leading up from the outside. I wasn't sure how Edward and Emmett felt, but I knew I wanted to live in this house. I just needed to know what the catch was.
When we all gathered back in the living area, Edward took the lead in the conversation with the agent.
"I don't know about the other guys, but I'm definitely interested in the house. I'm curious though, why are the owners renting it so cheap?" he asked, voicing my same concerns.
Siobhan, the agent, looked at the information in her folder and answered, "As I told you on the phone, the owners are military that have been transferred out of the area for two years. They're not sure yet whether or not they're keeping the house, and are looking for a long term tenant. Frequently, in this area, beachfront homes rent for two different prices, depending on the season. In the summer, houses were often rented on a week to week basis, with vacationing families coming in for the tourist season. While it is lucrative, it is not always a guarantee. Then, owners try to find a tenant that will rent the house through the entire winter. Because the owners in this case will be out of the country, they're more interested in finding a long term tenant, preferably until the end of the summer, 2 years from now. This guarantees them the rental income and affords them the time they need to make their decisions."
I spoke up, "Well, I'm in and if it's going to require a two year lease, then so be it. Emmett, Edward? What do you guys think?"
"I feel I must tell you, I have another showing scheduled for this afternoon, as well. As you can see, the house is in move in condition and the owners are hoping to have it occupied by the first of the month."
I turned to look at Edward and we both looked at Emmett. He was the only loose end that needed to be tied off. Emmett put his hand in his jeans pockets, turned in a small circle, looking around. He looked back at me and Edward and smiled.
"Oh, yeah, guys, we need to do this." He looked at Siobhan, "Where do we sign?"
Siobhan pulled out three applications and we filled them out right there. Edward wrote a check for the security deposit and an hour later, we sat at lunch, waiting to hear that the credit check was complete and we could pick up the keys.
"I know we need to talk about furniture and shit like that, but dude, you need to fill us in on the Alice situation." Emmett said, looking pointedly at his cousin, while snatching a few fries off my plate. I shoved his hand away and moved my plate further away from his.
"Hey, man, it's not as big a deal as you think it is. She was working all spring and summer for Mom at the office. I met her one day when I went in to see Mom, and asked her out to lunch. We hit it off and have been dating since the end of May. It'll be a little difficult, with her up near D.C. and me down here, but it'll work out if it's supposed to. Right?"
Just then, Edward's phone chirped and I turned to Emmett while Edward took the call.
"Dude, I claim the bedroom that looks out at the water."
"Wait a minute, how the hell is that fair? We should, like draw straws or something."
"No way man. You weren't even planning on staying. Look, it's not even the biggest room. I like the view, it's peaceful. It will make studying easier."
Emmett huffed for a minute, and then agreed. Edward walked back to the table.
"That was the agent. Want to go sign the lease, get the keys, and figure out how we're going to furnish our new home?" Edward grinned. This was gonna be a fun couple of years, I just knew it.
**Busymommy slams another shot of Jameson's and peeks around the corner-
Oh good, you are still here! Do you love it or hate it? How do you think the "Man cottage" needs to be decorated?
Push the little button below and let me know what you think!