Pen Name: emilydmamaof3
Pairing: Emmett & Rosalie
Title: Yuengs & Wings
A/N: Thanks to Iwant2sparkle and teacupsNmints for beta'ing despite busy schedules and their own writing projects. Thanks also to Emily and Kristen for pre-reading and encouragement. Any and all mistakes are mine, commas are not my friend.
Emmett McCarty was a family man. Not a suit and tie, up and out of the house by 7am after having his bowl of grape nuts, stuffy and distant, kind of family man. Rather, he was the kind of man with whom a woman would want to settle down, raise a family and grow old. Loyal. Dependable. Reliable. He was a man that a woman could bring home and introduce to a doting mother or a suspicious father and become a force within the family dynamic. His co-workers respected his work ethic and appreciated his intelligence and opinion. Children flocked to him and his sense of fun. For all intents and purposes, Emmett McCarty was a hell of a catch. Yet, at the age of thirty, Emmett McCarty found himself without a family.
The problem for Emmett wasn't so much that he had no wife or children. He simply had no one at all. Mama McCarty had died suddenly when Emmett was merely a child. He didn't remember much about her life and knew even less about her death. Pops had succumbed to cancer a week after Emmett's twenty-sixth birthday. The memories of his father were plentiful and pleasant. Even while dying, Pops had kept his sense of humor.
The fond memories and respect for his father's hard work were both reasons why Emmett held onto the house he grew up in. He'd considered selling and moving to something more bachelor-friendly. At twenty-six, Emmett was planning for a future and he wanted the wife, the kids, the dog. So he'd held onto the house with more bedrooms than he needed and a fenced-in backyard. At thirty, he had a chocolate labrador retriever, Shorty, who enjoyed chasing squirrels around that big fenced-in yard. But still, no wife or kids to fill his quiet house with sounds of life and love. And he wanted it.
There were neighbors. Lots of people who'd known Emmett since he was just a tiny thing resting on his mama's hip. The same neighbors who grieved for his mama and pitied him for his loss. They'd sent care packages, cooked dinners and watched the boy on nights when his dad worked overtime. When he grew into a man and came home for good, Emmett remembered their kindness. It was why on a cool October Saturday morning, Emmett was raking the leaves that had overtaken Mrs. Cope's yard.
"Shorty," Emmett yelled,. "No jumping in my piles. Go on." The dog's eyes held steady as he studied the path of the tennis ball Emmett had thrown. He broke into a run, wanting to get to the spot where it would land before it fell to the earth. Shorty jumped and caught the ball in his mouth while Emmett cheered.
"That dog is nothing but trouble." Mrs. Cope winked at Emmett as she set down a glass filled with apple cider.
"You love my dog, Mrs. C. Shorty keeps the cats away."
"And thank goodness for that, dear. We do have a terrible feral cat population. How we survived without Shorty around is a mystery."
The old woman's laughter filled Emmett's ears and his heart as he gathered the orange and gold leaves into one last pile.
"No need to be smart. This mutt keeps me company on cold, winter nights."
"That's a woman's job, young man."
"Yes, you've told me all about your nieces. While I appreciate you thinking of me..."
"Oh stop it. One's engaged and the other doesn't seem interested in your type, if you know what I mean." Realizing he wasn't quite ready to quit working, she walked over to him and placed the glass of cider into his hand. "My point is, I'd love to see you find someone."
"And my question is... why?" Emmett shifted the rake to rest on his shoulder as he put his weight on his left leg.
"Because you want it. You deserve it. And we need some new blood around here," Mrs. Cope said as she waved her arms around. Pointing at a house a block away,with a smile on her face, she continued speaking. "That one over there has a nice new family. Sweet couple. You went to school with the husband, I think?" Emmett nodded in affirmation but grimaced realizing Mrs. Cope didn't remember he and the nice new family were close friends. "Aside from them, there isn't a person on the street who isn't old enough to collect social security. How can we stay young if there is nothing but old around us? Find a girl, have some babies that I can dote on. Be happy." She squeezed his side before turning to walk back into the house. Emmett watched as she turned when she got to the door leading to her kitchen and laughed as she reminded him to put everything back the way he found it.
Monday Night Football parties were a ritual for the McCarty men. Granted, they were more gatherings than parties, but still, a tradition nonetheless. For a time, Emmett and his old man had watched the games together just the two of them. When Pops had found out he was dying, he stopped inviting the men over in favor of spending one-on-one time with his grown son. Emmett revived the tradition after the loss of the family patriarch. As more of his friends got married, found girlfriends or moved away, the number of attendees dwindled. Sure, he had the best quality television set-up in the county, but his buddies had other commitments. If the Eagles were playing, his house was packed. If they weren't, he could only count on his best friend. Emmett had stood up for Edward at his wedding to Bella and, in turn, Edward and Bella had moved just down the street and joined him every Monday night during the Fall and Winter months for football.
At first, he'd resented the female intrusion, but after the first season he'd grown to accept her presence in their lives. Admittedly, he enjoyed her company, and her pregnancy had made her quite the interesting female. Emmett realized she'd stopped seeing him as a man and instead viewed him as family when she belched after downing an entire order of buffalo wings.
"The baby likes spicy foods," she shrugged.
"Is there anything the baby doesn't like?" His finger jabbed into her side, only instead of giggling like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, he was met with a glare.
"He doesn't like being poked. Knock it off."
"Alright, I'll stop. Where is this friend of yours, anyway?"
"She should be here any minute. Try to be on good behavior. She's new to the area and kind of... nervous around new people."
"No. I can't put my finger on it exactly. More like she takes a little while to warm up." Before she could say more, the doorbell chimed. Emmett stopped Bella as she wriggled around in the chair while trying to stand up.
"You sit back down, pregnant one. I'll answer the door since your husband disappeared." Emmett stood and stretched before walking toward the door.
"There's some eBay auction he's determined to win," Bella called out to him from the couch. "Something for the baby. He'll be back as soon as it's done."
Emmett unlocked the deadbolt and swung the door open. Upon seeing the woman standing in front of him, he was rendered speechless.
"Is this the right house? Excuse me, buddy, is Bella here?" The blonde woman waved her hands in front of his face. Emmett blinked and shook himself awake. Muttering something about making a "great first impression", he moved to the side to allow her to pass through.
"Sorry. I'm Emmett McCarty. Please come on in and make yourself at home." He said to the back of her head as she made her way down the hallway and into the family room where Edward and Bella were playfully arguing over what else to order for the game. "I believe you know Bella."
He was sure she looked at him as though he'd lost his mind. "Thanks, of course I know Bella. Where's everyone else?" She asked, looking over at her friend.
Bella pointed at the woman and back at Emmett. "Rosalie, this is Emmett. You already know Edward and I think that's it for tonight."
Emmett watched as Rosalie's mouth tightened into a firm line. When her eyes closed, he worried she was about to blow a gasket.
"May I have a word with you?" Rosalie said through clenched teeth. Bella moved to get up, but Emmett once again told her to stay put as he made his way out of the room with Edward trailing behind. The kitchen felt like the right place to go and he flung drawers open while looking for a particular menu.
"Nope, more wings since your wife ate enough to feed a small village. We need beer, too."
"Beer? Did you forget to stock up?"
"Nah, I just figure I might need more than my usual to get through tonight. Ice Princess doesn't seem thrilled it's just the four of us. This better not be an attempt at a set-up." He slammed the drawer shut, pulling out the menu he'd been searching for while fuming at the prospect of being set-up with the woman in the other room.
Emmett called in to place the order then tried to distract himself for ten minutes until it was time to leave. Halfway through his attempt to organize his utensil drawer, Bella and Rosalie entered the kitchen. Bella hopped up on one of the counter stools even less gracefully than usual. Emmett noticed Rosalie was more fluid but deliberate in her movements. She was taller than average and instead of needing to stretch to reach the stool seat, she was able to gently ease herself down. Her back was straight, she had good posture even while sitting, and Emmett had no idea why but he found that attractive about her. It didn't hurt that she was beautiful.
Noticing the time, Emmett announced that he and Edward were going to run out to pick up their recent food order. He noticed the dissatisfied look on Bella's face and the glare that Rosalie was sending Bella's way when she spoke up. "Emmett, would you like me to ride with you? I've been informed that we have some shared interests." Her smile looked lethal and Emmett was tempted to turn down her offer until he noticed how intensely Bella was watching him.
"Sure. I'm dying to find out what we could possibly have in common. Right this way."
The heater was the only sound in the car for the first five minutes of the drive. Emmett was surprised when Rosalie broke the silence.
"I'm not good at talking with new people."
Emmett waited. He glanced to his right and could see her staring straight ahead, hands folded in her lap. Unsure of what to say, he tried to ease the tension.
"I wet my pants at my kindergarten graduation ceremony."
She snorted. Emmett couldn't believe that the sound had actually come from her, but she had definitely snorted.
"Why on earth would you tell me that?"
"You made a personal confession," he stated. "I thought the least I could do was follow up with a confession of my own. That stays between us, by the way." She seemed to relax into the seat and let out a soft sigh.
"I need a car with heated seats," she announced. "Does this have the remote car starter, too?"
He noticed she didn't seem uneasy making conversation but chose not to point that out to her.
"It does, and I highly recommend it. Couldn't live without it in the wintertime."
From there, the conversation between them flowed. Emmett recommended a few different vehicles she might want to consider. Rosalie asked questions about what Emmett did for a living. By the time they arrived back at the house, the tension had dissipated and they were chatting like old friends. He noticed the whispers between Edward and Bella, but Emmett opted to ignore them and focused instead on the game. The Giants-Cowboys match-up turned out to be less interesting than he'd hoped. His fantasy team had locked up a victory so when Rosalie showed him her iPhone, Emmett was glad for the distraction.
Citing a need to be up early for work, Rosalie left as soon as the game finished up. After a quiet promise to return the following Monday, she was out the door. Emmett didn't fail to notice the wink that Edward gave him as he escorted his wife outside for their short walk home.
"Bro, I'm not going to gossip with you like we're sixteen year old girls."
"Em, listen, Bella has been driving me crazy all week. Rosalie isn't saying shit to her about you so, you know, I'm supposed to use some weird guy code to pry it out of you."
"She obviously doesn't understand that guy code means we don't tell our wives and girlfriends about what we discuss. Or am I wrong about that?"
"Bella, uhh..., she has ways. I mean, you know how it is."
Without another word, Emmett ended the phone call. He debated pulling into the Lowe's parking lot but instead turned right into Home Depot. The store just felt more "male". Two Monday nights down, an infinite number to go, he thought as he pushed the truck into park. The looks Bella and Edward shot him during their second Monday night with Rosalie tempted him to end the tradition altogether. After a week working and not getting much accomplished, he'd decided to engage in some manual labor. The master bedroom and bathroom were his final interior projects for the house and as much as he'd put it off, it was time to get started.
He grabbed a cart and headed toward the bath area. The gentleman, Mike, who usually helped him wouldn't clock-in for another thirty minutes, so Emmett decided to wander to see what jumped out at him. He stopped to admire the clawfoot tub that caught his eye every time he found himself in the section. The price wasn't right and it wouldn't fit with the rest of the house, but he was drawn to the feel of it. The curves, the white porcelain, the masculine details on the tub's feet - he liked the old-fashioned feel.
"You don't strike me as the bubble bath type," said a feminine voice behind him. Emmett was sure he knew who it was, and when he turned to see Rosalie's smile, he was happy to have been right.
"You don't strike me as the type to spend your Saturday at Home Depot."'
"I suppose appearances can be deceiving." Rosalie paused. "What are you doing here other than caressing this nice-looking tub?"
"I guess you could say I'm looking to remodel."
"Your bathroom seemed nice enough."
"Not that one. I'm talking about the master bath. And my bedroom... last two rooms and the house is done."
"You've redone all the other rooms? Yourself?" She followed him toward an aisle with sinks, faucets, and cabinetry.
"Nah, I've had some help. All I need is food and beer and I know at least Edward will show up. Bella actually picked out the kitchen appliances."
"Why's that? I like sink over there better, by the way. Pedestal sinks, like this one, are nice but don't give you storage."
"Thanks, I hadn't thought of that. I don't cook much, not inside anyway. I like to grill, but I'm not skilled in baking cakes or whatever it is people do with an oven. So I brought Bella here and let her loose in the kitchen models. She went on and on about Corian versus granite countertops. "
"Your kitchen is nice, though. Good call to have her help you with it. What's the part of the house you're proudest about?"
Emmett took a moment to think it over and as soon as he remembered the blood, sweat, and more blood that went into a certain project, he had his answer. "Definitely the deck off the back of the house."
"Hmmm, I thought it'd be the den."
"Den?" Emmett wasn't sure what she meant until he realized she meant the family room. "Oh, yeah. I love that room, I do. The system is hooked up thanks to a friend who knows his electronics shit, and it's great for watching a game or movie. But the deck is something my dad and I had talked about doing for years. He helped me design it, and we got township approval for it a week before he passed on."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I really had no idea." She kicked at an invisible item on the ground. Emmett noticed her obvious discomfort.
"How could you? Don't worry about it." Emmett paused to check his buzzing phone. "Anyway, Edward and this weird dude, Tyler, who I worked with at the time, spent an entire weekend helping me build the damn thing. We had to rent a two-man auger and even then it took forever to break through. We'd had no idea the land was so rocky out back. After all that work, actually laying the planks was easy compared to the hard labor of drilling the holes for the support beams."
"I bet your Dad would've loved it." Rosalie smiled at him. "Did you need to take that call?"
"No, ah, just a text message. Pops probably would've hated the deck. I ended up splurging and put a hot tub out there when I got my Christmas bonus last year."
"Well, it makes sense then that you'd have to get that bedroom and bathroom finished. The ladies need a place to go after they get out of the hot tub."
Emmett winced. "That's not how it is at all."
"Sure, it's not." Rosalie rolled her eyes before glancing at her watch. "Listen, I need to get going, but I'll see you around."
"Monday?" Emmett called out to her retreating form. He saw her stop, take another step forward and then twirl around.
"We'll see. Busy time of year at work. See ya." She turned and trotted off, leaving Emmett confused. He pulled out his cell phone again to reply to the earlier text:
We need to talk.
"So, what you're telling me is that you can't get a read on the woman? How is this different from any other female?" Edward tipped the Yuengling bottle toward Emmett then downed the rest of his beer while grabbing a wing from the takeout container.
"Damn, save something for me," Emmett smacked Edward's hand away from the pizza box and grinned at his friend. "I don't know why it's different. The first night we all hung out, you saw it, we got along great. Last Monday she didn't say more than two sentences the entire night. And then, yesterday we're talking, I mention the hot tub and she turns cold. Why would mentioning a hot tub be a conversation killer? I know I'm out of practice, but, man, the temperature dropped below freezing."
"Wait." Edward narrowed his eyes. "What exactly did she say after you told her about the hot tub?"
"I don't remember word for word, but she said something about needing to finish the bedroom renovation for all the ladies who use the hot tub."
"So, she called you a womanizing asshole who fucks random women, plying them to your bed using a hot tub as bait?"
"Exactly," Emmet nodded.
"And then she got weird and had to leave?"
"Yep. What's your diagnosis, Dr. Cullen?"
"Well, obviously she sucks at conversation and wants to fuck you."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"She's put herself in hot tub woman's shoes. She's thinking 'If Emmett got me in his hot tub, there's no way I could refuse anything else he might ask of me.' Just like all those other women."
"There are no hot tub women."
"She doesn't believe you. Obviously she doesn't trust you, and from what Bella's said she probably doesn't trust any man. Deny hot tub woman all you want, it's going to take time for her not to imagine other women in your hot tub and in your bed. And for some reason, the thought of you with some wet, sexy woman bothers her so much that she had to end the conversation and leave. So, clearly she wants to fuck you. She wants to be your hot tub woman."
"That makes no sense." Emmett rolled his eyes.
"It makes perfect sense. Now, halftime is over so let's stop acting like teenage girls and watch football like men. And Bella said since I'm here today for Sunday football and you're feeding me, that she'll arrange for food for tomorrow night."
"Of course, preggo loves to go to the beer distributor. They always carry the cases to her car and load them up for her."
"Fucking fabulous, now that's a keeper."
Emmett muttered curses under his breath as he rushed to answer the door. It was too early to be the Monday night crew, and the election was over so it couldn't be any volunteers looking to drum up votes. He'd been in the process of cleaning up the kitchen when the doorbell rang. Apparently, Shorty had smelled something delicious in the garbage and had to check it out for himself.
"Fucking dog, fucking trash, fucking shit." Emmett flung the door open. "Can I help you?"
"Don't you check to see who it is before you open the door? I might've been a serial killer or a crazy stalker ex-girlfriend." Rosalie handed Emmett two bags full of food containers. "Hold on, I need to grab the beer from the car."
Emmett stood dumbfounded as Rosalie ran back to the car and quickly returned with a case.
"It got cold," Rosalie observed as she sauntered past Emmett into the house. "Did you turn the heat on? It feels nice in here." The coat she was wearing slipped down her shoulders and she grabbed it before it fell to the floor.
"Yeah, had to put it on the other night when it dipped below freezing." The closet door clicked shut. "What are you doing here?"
"Yeah, but you're early. I haven't even showered." He bent his head down and angled his nose toward his shoulder, surreptitiously trying to sniff to see just how bad he smelled.
"Bathroom remodel done already? What do you mean I'm early? It's seven o'clock." She offered a beer and grabbed a soda for herself.
"No, Rosalie, daylight savings time ended yesterday. We fall back so it's six o'clock. Didn't your phone update with the time?"
Rosalie shrugged. "Since I worked the last two weekends, boss gave me the day off. My phone's been off since Saturday night."
"Laptop is company-issued. I haven't turned it on since Saturday."
"Listen, what's going on? You're not some flaky chick who'll go two days without noticing a time change. What's with the act?"
"I wanted to apologize," Rosalie mumbled. Emmett laughed at the childish behavior.
"Pardon?" He leaned toward her and tapped his ear. "I couldn't hear you."
"I said," she growled, jabbing the straw on the counter in an attempt to remove the paper, "I wanted to apologize but didn't want to do it in front of a crowd."
"Apologize?" Emmett asked incredulously. "Why, what on earth do you have to apologize for?"
"Not going to make this easy, are you?" She balled up the wrapper and flicked it at him, bouncing off his cheek.
"Never," he laughed.
"I apologize for being rude and abrupt on Saturday when I bumped into you at the store. I was agitated over something else entirely, and it was in no way a reflection of your behavior. There."
"Yes. Can we eat?"
"Not yet. I'll accept your apology even though I don't know your deal. You run hot and cold with me and that's alright. I get it. You don't know me well enough to form an opinion, but I will set the record straight. I'm not parading random women through this house. I have too much respect for myself and for women to do that."
"You don't owe me..."
"No, I don't owe you, but when someone misjudges me I try to set the record straight."
"Does it happen often?"
"Me too," Rosalie whispered. "People think I'm a bitch."
"People think I'm a dumb jock, it's the way the world works. In reality, I'm a thirty year old man with an accounting degree who is an auditor for the largest company in the county, but to most, I'm just the high school athlete who gave up a scholarship to move back home." Emmett grabbed a wing and a slice of pizza and tossed them on his plate. "Why do you think people think you're a bitch?"
"I don't talk much. Groups are overwhelming. A lot of the women my age have children and since I don't, I can't offer much to those conversations. And men don't quite understand why a blonde-haired blue-eyed woman would want to be a logistics manager."
"Maybe someday you'll trust me enough to give me the answer." He turned the pizza box toward her. "Now let's eat before the hungry one comes and finishes off the rest of this pie. Eating for two. Bullshit," Emmett grumbled. "She must have a damn football team in there."
It was significantly colder the second time Emmett spent an afternoon raking leaves for Mrs. Cope. Even Shorty had seemed chilled and instead of burning off energy was lounging in the sunny spot on the patio. Emmett didn't mind the cold, but did wonder why autumn had disappeared suddenly. The crunching of leaves alerted him that someone had decided to join him.
"That dog of yours isn't very helpful today." The thermos Mrs. Cope handed him had steam rising from the vent. Emmett took a sip and could feel the hot chocolate warming his body.
"Say whatever you want about Shorty, just keep refilling this thermos."
"Wouldn't be so cold if you'd bothered to wear gloves. But oh no, had to show what a man you are and do without."
Emmett didn't have the heart to explain that the sueded work gloves he'd owned had been his dad's and that they'd met an unfortunate end the previous winter. "Next time I'm in Home Depot I'll grab a pair."
Shorty lifted his head momentarily when Mrs. C walked over to scratch behind his ears then rolled to his side to allow access to his belly. "That's a good boy. Now, speaking of you being a man," she groaned as she sat down on the bench, "any news on the search for a missus?"
"You doing alright there?"
"My knees, I'm fine. Stop trying to distract me. Tell me about the woman who's been at your house every Monday for over a month?"
Emmett turned around, leaning his chin on the top of the rake's handle. "I didn't know you worked for the CIA."
"Oh, stop. Someone has to keep an eye on who's coming and going around here."
"More like someone has to be the neighborhood busybody."
"Yes, she is." The sound of the leaves being pulled into a pile almost drowned out Emmett's reply.
"She brings food."
"Yep." Again, more noise.
"I understand... you don't want to talk about her."
"I don't know what to say." He shrugged off her comment.
"Is there an attraction? I daresay you'd make a nice-looking couple."
"Any couple Rosalie's a part of would be nice-looking."
"So you do think she's pretty."
"Are you waiting for an engraved invitation? Ask her out already. I need some babies to love." Mrs. Cope shook slightly as she stood up.
"She's a little... skittish." Emmett walked to the patio to help her right herself.
"Well then, break her down little by little. Soon enough, she'll be asking you."
Emmett paced the hallway between his entry and kitchen. The advice Mrs. Cope given had made sense at the time and for the past month he thought he'd been making progress. The evenings they were joined by his other friends, Emmett made sure he stuck close to Rosalie's side. She'd barely said a word the first time Garrett and Peter had stopped by until Peter's wife, Charlotte, had arrived at halftime. He'd been pulling his best high school moves to show that he was interested. A brush of the hand as they arranged food on their plates, a bump of the knee while they sat next to each other on the couch, last week he'd even managed to subtly rest his arm on the back of the couch behind Rosalie's head.
That's where he probably went wrong. She'd left as soon as Baltimore was assured the victory. Even Bella commented when she'd arrived earlier in the evening that she hadn't heard from her friend all week. With the Bears getting set to kickoff, Rosalie was a no-show.
"Em, man, grab me another," Edward's voice rang out from the other room.
Emmett peered through the small window next to his front door one last time before heading back to the kitchen.
"Guess Rosalie couldn't make it." Although he'd tried to conceal it, Emmett knew the disappointment was evident in his voice.
"It's the Monday before Christmas. Kinda makes sense the almighty logistics manager is busy working."
"True, but she could've let you know, Bella. I wouldn't have ordered so much food."
"Don't worry, there won't be leftovers. I have a month left until this child makes an appearance and I'm making the most of it. Besides, this girl at work said the last couple weeks the baby took up so much space that she had no room for food. So for now I'm eating as much as I want."
Emmett smiled to appease the chatty woman and looked over to see Edward's eyes bulging, his head shaking back and forth.
"Didn't the doctor warn you not to gain much more weight, honey?"
Bella's head whipped around and Emmett could tell it wasn't going to be pretty, so he excused himself and hurried from the room with Shorty nipping at his heels.
He pulled the door open in time to see Rosalie hurrying up the driveway. He flicked on the outdoor light and sat down on the porch swing, motioning for her to join him. Pink covered her cheeks and the tip of her nose. Emmett groaned thinking about the other places on her body that would be pink. He shifted in his seat and the movement caused the swing to sway slightly. He'd been so good for so long, but seeing puffs of her breath rising through the night air and the flushing of her cheeks was almost his undoing. He needed to find a way to test the waters, so he slid his hand toward the one she was resting on the seat. At that moment, she shifted too and placed her hand in her lap. Emmett quickly brought his hand back to mirror her position. Shorty also proved to be restless, standing up and turning around three times before settling down in the exact spot as before.
"Is there a reason we're out here?"
"I think Bella may be inside inflicting serious harm upon her husband and I don't want to be called to the witness stand."
"Oh no, what did he do?"
"Inadvertently made a comment about her weight."
Rosalie let out a whoosh. "Well, that's just..."
"Stupid? Moronic? A deathwish?"
"All of the above."
Again it got quiet. Emmett leaned his head and closed his eyes. The scent of a neighbor's woodburning stove made him sigh. "Now it feels like winter."
"Just a few more days until Christmas, thank god."
"Busy month... it'll be awful the next few days but should die down after. At least I get Christmas day off."
"And only one more Monday night of football after tonight. Next thing you know it'll be time to ring in the new year." Emmett wondered if he'd see her much once the season ended. Sure, he could invite Rosalie for the playoffs and the Super Bowl, but she'd declined all weekend invitations he'd previously extended.
"Yeah, I, about the new year..." Rosalie looked down at the finger she was tapping on the armrest. "Do you have any plans?" The look on his face must've worried her because she started to backpedal. "This guy at work is bugging me to attend his wife's party and normally I'd just use Bella as an excuse and invite myself over, but I don't want to intrude. The baby'll be here soon and they probably want some time alone."
"Alright, so you want me to go to this party with you?"
"God, no." She backpedaled again. "I wouldn't wish that on anyone. I just need a legitimate reason to not attend. So, if I have plans... with you... it'd be a great excuse. I don't want to lie to him. I'd feel guilty eating ice cream in my pajamas while watching the ball drop knowing that he's going to ask me how my night was. Know what I mean?"
"Yeah, sure. We can make plans so long as I can surprise you."
"Surprise me?" Rosalie questioned. Emmett could feel her anxiety.
"Yup, I get to decide what we do. I know the area better."
"Do you trust me?"
"I told you before that I hoped one day you would trust me. If you trust me, let me plan this."
There was a hesitation before Rosalie nodded her head, but Emmett felt like he'd scored a victory. Ready to face just about anything, he stood up and offered Rosalie his hand. "Let's go see how much blood I need to get out of the damn carpet."
"You're taking her where?" Edward's voice rose an octave.
"It's not like it's haunted. Will you help me set up?" Emmett had grown frustrated at the multiple requests he'd made for help. Apparently Edward was still in shock about the location Emmett had chosen for the date that he'd yet to give an answer.
"Em, man, I just don't think it's a good idea."
"It'll be fine. Just tell me if you can help out or not."
"Who else would help you do this shit? I'll stop by after lunch."
"Don't give your wife specifics," Emmett warned.
"I'm not that stupid."
"Alright, bro, later."
Emmett spent the morning of New Year's Eve second-guessing his plan. He'd dated before, he'd been in love, but this felt bigger. In his attempt to plan something perfect, Emmett began to wonder if he'd planned someone else's perfect first date. So he changed his mind. Then changed it again. He skipped the wine and picked up beer. The owner of the pub, an old friend of Emmett's father, begrudgingly allowed Emmett to overhaul his order. Laughter on the other end of the line led Emmett to hang up on his best friend. Then more laughter filled his ears when he immediately called Edward back. After begging and promising to assist in the assembly of all baby products, Emmett had Edward's word, once again, that he would assist Emmett before Rosalie arrived.
The two men drove up the mountain as far as they could before parking the car on the side of the road. They marked a trail the remainder of the way to the old pavilion that stood on what once had been resort property. The hotel and its luxury amenities had long-ago burned to the ground. Only the pavilion remained, the name Witch's Hat appropriate given the roof shaped like a cone.
With the set-up done, Emmett returned home and waited until it was time to pick up the food. When the alarm on his phone chimed indicating it was time to leave to complete the rest of his errands, he was grateful for something to do. The pub was crowded and Emmett cursed as he tried to find parking that wasn't metered. Inside was worse,the bar already filled with patrons ready to ring in the New Year. The bartender waved him over, pulled the bags of food out and handed them over, reminding Emmett they were on the house.
Mrs. Cope waved when Emmett drove by her house. He quickly put his hand up to wave back and noticed the wink she sent his way. Noticing the black car parked in front of his house, he realized that Rosalie had arrived while he was out and that Mrs. Cope knew their hanging out was outside the Monday Night Football tradition. The inquisition would not be fun.
She was wearing red and Emmett noticed her picking at her nails, chewing on the pinky occasionally. The smile he saw told him that she was both relieved and happy that he'd pulled into the driveway.
"You been waiting long?" Emmett grabbed the bags of food from his trunk and slammed the door. She was so... pretty sitting on the porch swing all blonde hair and bundled up in cold weather attire.
"No, only a few minutes. Shorty's going crazy inside though. He must've heard my car." Rosalie stood and Emmett's gaze swept over her body. "Is this okay?"
"Perfect. But before we go out, I was thinking we could eat." He held up the bags of food and turned to look behind him. "Can you grab my keys?"
They danced around each other and Emmett felt Rosalie's warm breath flare out over his neck as she retrieved the keys from his back pocket. He took a step closer to her and the door as she fumbled to find the right key. "It's the silver key with three cutouts in the top." She turned to smile at him when she pushed the door open, and Emmett wanted to just lean in and kiss the lips he'd spent months thinking about. Instead, he had to fight off his dog who had jumped up to greet his visitor. After banishing Shorty to his crate, Emmett went about preparing plates of food while Rosalie took care of the drinks. They worked quietly together in the kitchen: opening cabinets, retrieving plates and glasses, taste-testing. When Emmett noticed Rosalie moving into the family room with her plate and glass, he motioned for her to follow him.
The dining room was small and had only enough room for the table and a hutch. There was no floral centerpiece or fancy candelabra adorning the table. A tablecloth, red for the holidays, had been draped over the wooden table. The chair at the head of the table and the one to its right had place-settings and Emmett allowed Rosalie to pick her seat then slid into his. The conversation was light. Emmett talked about the pub where he'd picked up the food and how the bartender had once tried to show him the proper way to pour a Guinness from the tap. It was then and there that Emmett decided bartending was not the career for him. Rosalie filled him in on her Christmas day spent with her college roommate.
Though the conversation flowed effortlessly, Emmett was tense. He hadn't realized how intimate it would feel to share a meal alone with Rosalie. It had been years since he'd actually sat down at the table to eat. He'd done homework there as a boy and used it as his makeshift desk when he paid bills on Tuesday night. But family meals in the dining room had ended when Mama McCarty passed away. After that, the island in the kitchen sufficed. When Rosalie questioned him about their plans for later in the evening, he'd been lost in a memory of his dad's last New Year's Eve. Luckily, Rosalie laughed off his apology.
Their late dinner finished and the food put away, Emmett announced it was time to leave. Bundled up, they made their way to Emmett's truck. Shorty climbed into his backseat and panted from the excitement.
"When I was growing up, my mom and I had a dog and she hated the car. Guess Shorty's different."
"Loves it. That dog lives for car rides."
"I need to know... why is that sweet pup named Shorty?"
"There's a bar up in New York City - I went to school up there for a couple years - and it has these great Philly cheese-steaks. It was also guaranteed to be showing the Phillies or Eagles games. I spent a lot of time there for the two years I was gone. The name of the place is Shorty's, and it just kind of stuck out as a good name for a dog."
Rose looked over at him thoughtfully. "I like it. Now... how about you tell me where we're going?"
Emmett laughed at the topic change. "Alright, since you're trapped here in the car I'll tell you. We're going up the mountain to a place my dad and I spent New Year's Eve every year until I was a teenager and too awesome to spend time with him."
"I'm sure he understood."
"He did. Which is proof that he was far more awesome than I gave him credit for, but that's how it goes."
"So, will it be crowded... tonight?"
Emmett held back a laugh. "No, we'll be the only ones."
"Only? What kind of place is empty on New Year's Eve?"
"A rundown stone pavilion on the top of a mountain." He waited for her reaction, but she remained silent and he started to worry that he'd made a mistake. "You don't seem to be a fan of being around a lot of people and it's perfectly safe. I swear I'm not some psycho serial killer." He noticed her body wasn't quite as rigid.
"You do have an axe in your truck bed."
"Do you think I'd be so cliche? I'm way more creative than just a boring, old axe murderer."
"Please don't tell me you've thought about this."
"Well, this is where we get out of the car and walk."
"Are you serious?"
"Is it a problem?"
"No, I... you're an odd one, you know that? Asking a girl to hike up a mountain in the cold and dark of night."
"Believe me, this is worth it," he said while checking his watch. The hike would take ten minutes given the lack of light that meant they'd arrive half an hour before midnight.
"Better be," she grumbled.
Shorty trotted along beside Rosalie, his tail thumping against her thigh with every other step. Emmett took the lead when the trail narrowed and when he noticed her lagging behind, he offered his hand. "You doing alright?" He smiled when she nodded and placed her hand in his. "We're almost there."
"Good, because someone forget to check my footwear and make sure it was appropriate for a hike," she teased, holding out her boots. Emmett followed the shape of the boot and kept going, appreciating the long leg attached to it. "Would you like to look at my other leg? It's just as nice." He snapped his head up when she said that. Rosalie didn't appear angry. Rather, she looked smug. Going with it, he shrugged and took her up on the invitation. She kicked up some dirt when his gaze reached the top of her leg. "That's enough, keep moving."
Emmett heard her gasp when they reached the pavilion and smiled to himself.
"The view is incredible."
"The city isn't all that big, but when I was six years old my dad brought me up here for the first time, during the day, and I was amazed." He'd never grow tired of the view from atop the mountain.
"So... what do we do now?" Rosalie asked as she walked up the brownstone steps into the pavilion. "Oh wow! When did you do this?" She motioned at the small setup Emmett had put together. It wasn't much, just a small table and two chairs facing east. He pulled two thermoses out of the small pack he'd brought with him and handed one to Rosalie. He saw her questioning look and mouthed "boy scout" while pointing to himself. She rolled her eyes, pulled the chair close to the small wall and placed her boot-covered feet on the pavilion ledge. "Really, what are we doing?"
"You'll see in..." he checked his watch again, "eighteen minutes."
"Alright then, let's chat. We've had sort of a shaky start but I... I want to know you."
"Yeah." Emmett moved his chair so it rested against hers. "I want to know you, too," he sighed. The hot chocolate warmed his mouth and throat but the chill was relentless. He grabbed the fleece blanket out of his pack and set it across their laps. "I told you about my dog, now you tell me why you despise hot tubs."
Rosalie brought her hands up to cover her face and shook her head. "I felt like such a bitch after that. I never apologize, so you must know how bad I felt." He nudged his arm over near her armrest and tickled the palm of her hand. After a moment, she wove her fingers with his and squeezed his hand. She didn't let go. "So, uh, my parents divorced when I was young. Dad wanted a son and mom wasn't getting pregnant. He just assumed that she was the problem. Anyway, he's president of a beer distributor out in the western part of the state and has tons of money. I didn't see him often because he was busy traveling and working. Still, I'd visit during the summer. One night, I think I was fourteen, I couldn't sleep so I figured I'd go for a late night swim..."
"And," Emmett encouraged her to continue.
"And... my dad was out in the hot tub doing all kinds of things with a woman who ended up becoming stepmom number one. She also was unable to produce a son."
"Did you come from eighteenth century England?"
Rosalie snorted, "You'd think that. Anyway, I spent more and more time at my dad's house and after his second divorce it seemed there was just a parade of women. The day we bumped into each other, I'd just had an argument with him about my job and took it out on you."
"If you didn't get along, how come you saw him more when you got older?"
"My mom worked a lot and when my dad realized that I wasn't some prissy princess, he started grooming me to take over the business."
"So, why aren't you working for him?"
"Because after years of trying to please him and thinking I had no choice, I stopped caring about what he wanted."
"Fair enough." Emmett checked his watch again.
"Did you get the renovations finished?"
"No, I put that off again."
"What's stopping you?"
She turned to face him, an angry glint in her eyes. "Me? Just because we had a little thing when you were shopping for paint colors or whatever doesn't mean you can blame me for your procrastinating."
"That's not what I meant."
"What did you mean?" Rosalie demanded.
"The reason I've put that off for so long is I always hoped by the time I got around to it, I'd be sharing the bed with someone who would give me her input. I'd given up on that until recently. You make fun of me and like football. You're content to hang out with friends and aside from the crack about the boots, not once did you complain tonight. You're smart and not at all what I expected the first time I met you. I've never wanted..." He removed his hand from hers and checked his watch again. "Fuck it." Emmett leaned over, placing the hand that had held Rosalie's behind her head and pulled her close. Their cold noses touching, he looked into her eyes and proclaimed, "I've never wanted anyone the way I want you." With slow, deliberate movement, he tilted his head. His mouth met hers just as the clock struck midnight and fireworks exploded across the sky.
Rosalie pulled away quickly, the sudden movement causing the chair to flip and depositing her on the hard pavilion floor.
"Awww, hell. Are you okay?" Emmett jumped out of his chair and hurried to stop Shorty from licking Rosalie's face as she lay on the floor. The fireworks continued going off and he couldn't hear what she was saying. He was kneeling down on the ground beside her, resigned to writing the night off as a disaster, when he felt a tug on his shirt. Rosalie pulled him down and crashed his lips into hers. Their kisses started out slow, but As the explosions grew louder and more frequent, the kisses intensified until finally Emmett couldn't hear anything at all. He slowed the pace until he stopped and brought Rosalie up to sit on his lap.
"Sorry I scared you."
"I'm not," Rosalie replied. "Sorry we didn't get to see the fireworks."
"That's okay." Emmett kissed her forehead and placed her hand over his heart. "I felt them."