Emmett McCarty was a ladies' man. A manly man. As macho as they come. He was the kind of man who attracted all female eyes in the room as soon as he entered it. He was definitely not the kind of man who dressed up in tight clothes and went willingly to a yoga class. Let alone an entire course, spanning over a month. That, if nothing else, had finally taught him to not bet against his sister-in-law. Particularly not when she teamed up with his brother, who knew exactly what he thought about "sports" such as yoga.
"Emmett?" he was distracted from his mental rant by the sweet, innocent voice of his yoga instructor, one Miss Isabella Swan. "You're tensing your shoulders. Relax them, concentrate only on the here and now, and go deeper into the pose, please."
He struggled to hold back a growl and tried to do as he was told. It was not his instructor's fault if men simply were not meant to bend that way. Now, Isabella was most definitely meant to bend in every single way she showed them when she demonstrated the poses. Particularly the child pose, on her hands and knees… or the supine angle pose, with her thighs spread open as far as they'd go… He had discovered early on that it was better for him to stay towards the back during the lessons, because his body's reactions to Isabella's contortions were much too difficult to hide in his yoga pants.
"Emmett," Isabella's voice came back to him, "you have to bend your knees more or you'll hurt yourself." She dropped to her knees next to him. "Here," she offered, her hand curling around the back of his thigh, right above his knee, and pulling it closer to his body, "just like that. Now, hold that for twelve breaths, ok?"
Emmett grunted his response, avoiding her eyes completely. Couldn't she see his hard-on straining against the fabric of his pants? Didn't she understand she couldn't just touch him like that? He could report her for sexual assault!
"Alright, class, now… let go. Just lay on your backs and breathe. Don't think about the rest of the day or the rest of the week, or anything. All that matters is right here. Concentrate on your breathing," Isabella instructed before falling silent, letting them unwind. After a couple minutes she spoke again, "Namaste. I will see you all next week!"
Everybody started to get up slowly and roll up their yoga mats. Most everyone in the class was a woman, and most of them were in their late 50s. Most of them were in the same group of friends and had signed up for yoga as a group activity. Then there were two or three teen girls who, judging by their clothes and makeup, were in it for the spiritual voodoo, and then two men besides Emmett, both in their mid-twenties, like himself. Their names were Mike and Tyler, and they were both obviously in it for Isabella. Not a single class passed when they did not go harass her afterwards. Emmett was pretty sure he had heard Mike ask her out every single day after class. It was tiring.
"Bella! Bella!" and there he went, Emmett thought, right on cue. "Bella, I was wondering if you wanted to go get a drink now or something. To unwind after class, you know?"
"I thought we'd just unwounded? And I don't drink. It interferes with my chakra and my inner eye," she added in a much-too-serious voice. Emmett snorted as he rolled up his mat, wondering whether Mike could tell she was lying to his face. To him it was pretty obvious.
"Oh. Yea, totally! I get that. Sorry, I'd totally forgotten about my chakras. Yea, man. Woo, thanks for reminding me! Say, we should go back to my place, talk more about it, eh?"
Emmett sighed. Apparently Mike had not gotten it. He stood up and headed towards the door when he caught sight of Isabella's face on the mirror along the studio's wall. She didn't just look annoyed; she looked scared. Emmett closed his eyes, counted to ten, and then looked again. The look of fear was still there. And he could not leave a woman alone with a man who scared her. Not when the man had showed how insistent he could be and not when the studio's walls were sound-proofed. His first girlfriend, Rosalie, had been raped by a friend from her theatre troupe under similar circumstances while they were dating. She had committed suicide not long after. Now he could not help but think that if he had been more careful around her that would never have happened. He could do nothing about that now, but he could be preemptively careful with Isabella.
"Mike, you heard the lady. She's not interested. Right?" he turned to Isabella, who nodded vigorously.
"Oh, and I suppose you would know, big boy?" Mike asked, trying to sound manly.
"Anyone with eyes and a brain would know, pretty face. Now beat it!" Emmett replied, starting to understand Isabella's fear. There was something off in Mike's eyes. He didn't quite know what it was, but it made him feel uneasy. When Mike showed no sign of planning to leave, Emmett stood up straight, his full frame casting a shadow over Mike. Anyone with a sense of self-preservation would run from an angry, ripped man who stood proudly at six foot seven.
It seemed Mike had a sense of self-preservation, even if he felt the need to cuss both him and Isabella out as he left.
"Thank you so much, Emmett. He's just so insistent…" Isabella shivered slightly before turning back to him with a large smile on her face.
"Has he threatened you or anything?" Emmett asked, now in full protective mode. Mike's angry words had left him worried. When he turned back to Isabella, he saw that the relieved and thankful smile on her face had disappeared at his question. "What's he said?"
"I don't even know… I try and forget them. But sometimes, when I turn him down, he says that he'll make me change my mind and that he'll have me yet. But he's just trying to ascertain his manliness, though. Right? I mean… you don't think he'd actually do something?" Bella looked so worried and Emmett realized that, as long as she'd been the only one with such thoughts, she could always dismiss them as an overactive imagination. When a stranger agreed with her, though, it suddenly became so real. He wished he could comfort her, but she had to be aware of the risks.
"There is a possibility he might actually try something, Isabella. He should leave you alone as long as he doesn't catch you by yourself, though. He's a coward at heart."
Isabella nodded, looking pensive and still somewhat frightened. She shook her head as if to clear it, though, and turned to him with a soft smile on her face. "Well, thank you for helping me out. And call me Bella, please."
"That's what the coward calls you," Emmett pointed out.
"Yea… I ran into him the other day while I was out with some friends, and he heard that they called me that."
Emmett tensed up, his eyes trained on Isabella's. "You ran into him? Where?"
"Um… I don't know… oh, wait! I do! It was at the farmer's market. I remember because I was so surprised to see him. He doesn't strike me as the kind to buy his products at the farmer's market. In fact, he didn't have any bags with him, and he left right after talking with us…" she drifted off, her eyes widening. "You don't think he followed me there?"
"I would like to think he didn't, but it sounds so suspect…" Emmett was getting really worried now. Rosalie's situation had been so similar to this… she had even begun to befriend the guy, thinking they just had all those things in common. Then it turned it he had just followed her to all those places. "I'll try and keep an eye out. For now, I think you should probably go home."
The class was in the evenings and ended at 10pm. By this point, it was actually closer to 10:30. When Isabella agreed with his suggestion, Emmett picked up her bag and followed her out to the parking lot. He got her phone number, asked her to call him when she got home, and got in his car, waiting until she had started the car and driven out of the lot before starting up his own car.
As the lessons passed, the two kept up their routine. Mike kept asking Isabella out and she had spotted him at various spots she frequented. There was not enough evidence to take it to the police, though. Emmett was becoming increasingly frustrated with the situation and his inability to help past not leaving Isabella's side and constantly reminding Mike that he was not wanted.
Soon enough, the class came to an end. Isabella was relieved that she would no longer have to see Mike, but Emmett was not so sure the end of the class meant the end of Mike.
"Isabella, you've seen him in your neighborhood, at the pool you frequent, at your gym, in the farmer's market, and even the street your mother lives in. I don't think he's just going to stop now. If anything, I think it'll probably get worse!" he argued, trying to get her to understand his worries over her.
"Well, I'll still be careful, won't I? But now he no longer has an excuse to approach me or be in the same room as me. If he keeps doing it, I might actually have some grounds to file a harassment claim against him," Isabella replied excitedly. Her smile was so wide and sincere and her eyes were sparkling so happily that Emmett did not have the heart to remind her of the danger of the situation. Instead, he just hugged her and kissed the crown of her head.
"Promise me you'll still be careful, though? Don't walk to your car alone after the evening lessons and call me as soon as you even think you saw him, ok?" He hated to sound like such a worry-wart, but Isabella had come to mean so much to him over the past few weeks, it was hard not to worry about her.
Isabella returned his hug tightly and nodded against his chest. She hated that she would no longer be able to see him five nights a week. Sure, they were friends now, and would still meet up often, but she had come to rely on seeing him day in and day out.
Her new classes started up, and things seemed to be going well. She had not seen Mike in quite a while and she still talked with Emmett nightly, checking in when she got home and then just talking about anything and everything. They had met up at least twice a week every week since the course ended, and Emmett was beginning to toy with the idea of asking her to be his girlfriend, but was afraid it would all seem too puerile to her.
"Alright, spill it!"
Emmett looked up from his computer screen to see Alice, his sister-in-law, with an expectant expression on her face. "Spill what?" he asked, confused.
"The girl! Who is it? You're obviously dating someone and you're keeping it all a secret!" she whined. Emmett smiled subconsciously.
"I'm not dating anyone."
"Then why are you smiling like that?" Alice asked, exasperated.
"I'm not smiling!" Emmett insisted, though, now that Alice mentioned it, he could feel a smile taking over his cheeks. That only made him smile wider. "Fine, fine. Her name is Isabella. We're not officially dating, we're just friends but… I think I'm going to ask her to be. She's just…. So amazing, Alice. And so beautiful and kind and intelligent…"
Alice rolled her eyes. "Seems like she's quite the catch. Where did you meet her?"
Emmett blushed, looking away from her. "Yoga," he muttered. Alice's eyes widened and she let out a loud laugh, very incongruent with her small body. "I knew it! I knew I sent you to yoga for a reason! Why didn't you tell me before?"
"Because," he replied dryly, "you would gloat. Kind of like this, really. And because I didn't want to jinx it."
"Don't be silly! I'm just so happy I was right! Oh, and for you, too. Tell me all about her!"
Before Emmett could say anything, however, his phone rang, Bella's ringtone filling the room. His smile this time reached all the way up to his eyes.
"Hey, Isabella," he greeted, his voice softer and gentler than Alice had ever heard it, "are you home?"
The voice on the other end of the line, however, sounded loud and shrill. And Emmett's smile quickly disappeared, turning into a mix of anger and sheer terror.
"Don't move, Isabella, ok? Just stay in the studio. I'll stay on the phone with you, but don't make a noise, ok? We don't want him to know you're there, if he goes looking." Somebody spoke rapidly on the other end. "I know, Isabella. I know. I'm coming to get you. Don't worry, love."
Emmett stood up and put on his coat, grabbing his car keys and keeping the phone still attached to his ear, trying to keep as much of a connection to Isabella as possible.
"What happened?" Alice asked, frightened.
Emmett's eyes were serious as he answered: "I jinxed it."
Then he was out the door, his eyes determined.
Isabella sat in a corner of the studio with all the lights off. She was rocking back and forth gently and humming to herself quietly, trying to calm herself while tears poured from her eyes and down her cheeks. She could hear the noise of Emmett's engine through the phone she had pressed against her ear, and that helped calm her. He was going to get her. He would save her.
A noise outside the studio startled her, and she stilled her movements and stopped humming. She held her breath, waiting to see if it would pass or if Mike had finally found her. The sudden silence on the line must have scared Emmett, because his frantic voice suddenly came through her phone. "Isabella? Are you there? Love? What's wrong?"
He sounded so scared, Isabella wanted nothing more than to comfort him, but until she knew for sure the noise outside hadn't been Mike she couldn't. And so she remained silent, listening to Emmett, whom, she realized, she had come to love so easily and quickly, freak out on the phone, thinking he had lost her. Finally, she couldn't take it anymore.
"Shhh," she whispered, "I'm sorry, I'm here, but I think he's outside."
She could hear Emmett take a breath on his end of the line, and she could swear she heard him say a prayer of thanks.
"Ok, love. Stay quiet, then, I'm almost there, I swear, and I'm going to break that asshole's neck for daring to scare you. You just stay on the line, Isabella. I'm coming to get you."
Isabella focused on her breathing and tried to relax her body; if Mike came in, she needed to be able to move, not to be so tense she was frozen. Suddenly, the light on the hallway outside turned on. Isabella covered her mouth to hold back a scream that would give her away in seconds. She closed her eyes and began her rocking again, praying to gods in which she'd never believed for strength and luck. The shadow of a silhouette fell across the glass of the door, indicating that Mike had finally found her. He began to shove against the door, trying to get it open. Isabella took a deep breath and spoke again, this time sounding utterly calm and aloof. It was as if she had accepted her fate already.
"Emmett? Love? He's here. He's found me. The door won't hold him for much longer, so I'm going to hang up the phone now, alright? Please, just know that I lo— "
"No! Isabella, I'm in the parking lot now. This does not end like this. I'll be there in just five seconds, my love. Just hold on, please, love, I'm almost there!" He sounded so desperate, so raw, in contrast with her calm voice. It was the resignation in her voice that scared him the most.
"Alright, my love. I'm here," Isabella replied, her voice still aloof. Despite her promises, though, she knew she would hang up as soon as Mike tore down the door. She would not torment Emmett by making him listen to that.
"I'm here, love! I just need to go up the stairs. It's going to be alright, I swear!"
Just then, Mike threw the door open. Isabella stood up.
"I love you, Emmett. Goodbye." She hung up the phone and tossed it to the side. She held her head high and looked at Mike straight on, remaining silent. Mike started walking towards her, slowly, as if he were approaching a wild animal.
"ISABELLA!" came a sudden roar down the hallway, snapping Mike's attention away from her. Isabella felt her heart swell with hope. Seconds later, Emmett's large shape appeared at the doorway. His expression was wild and there were tear tracks on his face. Isabella's heart broke for him and what she had put him through.
His eyes landed on her first, and he looked over her quickly to make sure she was unharmed. Then, he turned to Mike and his eyes were murder. He stepped towards Mike, who cowered away from him.
"You will never look at a woman like you looked at my Isabella. You will never scare her like you have Isabella, or even think about her like you have Isabella. You are finished. Do you understand me?" his voice was cold as ice and hard as diamond. Isabella shuddered. Just as she was beginning to wonder how Emmett was planning to deal with him, she heard the sound of approaching sirens. Within minutes the police had come in and arrested Mike. They looked like they wanted to take her and Emmett too, if only for their statements, but one look from Emmett silenced them. They were let go as long as they went by to give their statement the next day. As soon as the last of the police was gone, Emmett turned to Isabella, who was sitting on the ground, shivering.
"What the hell were you thinking?" he asked, his tone harsh. Isabella winced. "What on Earth possessed you to come back to the studio after you had been escorted to your car? How many times have I told you not to go around alone after dark?" Isabella took it all in silence, looking down at the floor. What he was saying was all true; she had taken an unnecessary risk. There was no excuse.
Emmett looked at the broken figure on the ground and fell to his knees by her. He brought one hand up to her face, drying her tears. Suddenly he could not feel enough of her, and so he pulled her into his chest. The loud sobs she'd been containing all along suddenly poured forth and she cried and cried and cried, holding on to his shirt. Emmett cried silently. After a while, he pulled away so as to see her face.
"What I can't understand is why you hung up. You promised you wouldn't. I… Why would you ever give up like that? I told you I was coming! I told you I was right there!" he spat, sounding so embittered and broken that Isabella wanted to do nothing more than to take him into her arms and never let go.
"I couldn't do that to you; make you listen while he… While I… I couldn't make you listen. It would break you, Emmett, and I couldn't let that happen. Not because of me," she finished, burying her face on his chest once more.
"Silly girl," he whispered into her hair, "that was never going to happen. I would never have let it. I would have killed him with my own two hands before he even got to touch you. It was me who could not let anything break you." He couldn't admit the possibility, not even now that the danger had passed.
"I don't break so easily," Isabella promised.
Emmett thought back to her contortions in yoga class. "No, no you don't. And that's part of why I love you."
Isabella blinked away her new tears, looking up at him with a look of utter devotion. "And I love you."
And then, at long last, Emmett leaned in and kissed Isabella firmly on the lips, for the first of many, many times.