AN: Huge damn thanks you to our beta, ysar, for being such a rockstar! Also, big thanks to SammieLynnsMom and AceSunshine for pre-reading!
Special thanks and adoration to VirginiaMay for bouncing ideas around with me!
This upcoming week, I'll be featured on The Southern FanFiction Review's Tantalizing Tuesdays. (www . southernfanfictionreview . com) I've stepped completely out of my comfort zone and written something pretty smutty. I hope you guys check it out!
Chapter 22: #1 Crush
See your face every place that I walk in
Hear your voice every time I am talking
You will believe in me
And I will never be ignored
I will burn for you
Feel pain for you
I will twist the knife and bleed my aching heart
And tear it apart
#1 Crush by Garbage
Bella and Emmett commemorated his unexpected visit with a trip through an In-N-Out drive-thru.
"You know, Em, you're like a giant dog that thinks it's still a puppy."
Edward hid a smile behind his hand and shot Bella a wink through the rearview mirror. Emmett, on the other hand, feigned being hurt.
"You wound me, Scrappy," he whined, placing his hand over his heart.
She tossed a fry at him, which he caught and popped into his mouth, earning a few chuckles from Alistair and Edward in front. She couldn't help but smile as her cousin looked out the window excitedly.
"I've never been to California before," he mused.
Bella glanced at him in surprise. "Really?"
Emmett smiled at her and nodded.
"Well," she replied with a grin, "we'll just have to do something awesome then."
Emmett panted and leaned back against the brick wall. He quickly glanced around the shady alley before deciding it was safe enough and shot a look over at his cousin. Bella was breathing heavily, one hand pressed against the wall opposite to him.
He chuckled breathlessly. "When you said something awesome, Scrappy, I wasn't expecting to be mauled and chased by a group of screaming girls. I thought that only happened to guys, by the way."
She shushed him, stealthily peaking around the corner to check whether anyone had followed them. Seeing no one on the street, she moved back to Emmett's side, slipping off her ball cap and wiping the sweat from her forehead.
"Christ," she muttered. "That scared the shit out of me! One minute we were waiting for the guys to bring back ice cream, the next I'm getting bombarded for autographs, and then we're being chased like dogs. That's never happened to me before. Normally, my bodyguards get me out of that kind of shit."
Emmett smiled sheepishly. "I'm sorry. I should've gone into the store with Ed. I just didn't want to let you out of my sight. That turned out great, right?"
The guilty tone in his voice made her sad, and she patted him on the shoulder.
"Hey, it's all right," she comforted. "We both panicked and ran. Everything is going to be fine."
She felt her pockets and cursed silently that she left her phone in the car.
"Em, do you have your cell?"
He shook his head. "The battery was dead, so I left it at your house to charge."
"Shit," she mumbled.
Bella looked back around the alley's corner, trying to get a sense of where they actually were. She adjusted her hat and glanced back at Emmett.
"Okay, Shaggy. We're going to need to make a break for it. My agent's office is about six blocks away from here. If we can keep a low profile and move quickly, I think we can get there without any problems. Once we're in Tanya's office, I'll call the guys."
Emmett looked at her apprehensively. "Are you sure? You can just give me directions, and I can go while you hide out here."
Bella glanced around the dark and sketchy alley. "Uh, no way," she argued. "I think I'd rather take my chances with those girls."
The pair made their way to Tanya's office without incident. As the elevator climbed to the seventh floor, Emmett reached over and hugged her tightly.
"Are you okay?" he asked quietly.
"I'm fine." She shot her cousin a smile. "Sure, it took a few years off my life expectancy, but I'll survive. You should have seen your dad when we landed at L.A.X. The paparazzi almost made him shit his pants; it was hilarious."
Emmett laughed and shook his head. "I know. After I hung up with him that night, I laughed for a good ten minutes. Poor Rosie had no idea what the hell had gotten into me."
The elevator pinged as they hit their floor, the doors opening almost silently. As they were turning the corner to Maria's desk, Emmett literally bumped into Jane, knocking the folder she was carrying to the floor. Bella immediately dropped to her knees, helping the girl gather up her documents.
When they were finished, Jane smiled brilliantly up at Bella and gave her a swift hug.
"Thank you so much, Izzy. You're so perfect," Jane gushed, releasing Bella to hold the file tight against her chest.
"Um, you're welcome?" Bella said, her reply sounding more like a question than a statement. In two years that she'd known Jane, the girl had never spoken much.
"Are you here to see Tanya? I'm afraid she's not in the office today," Jane offered in an overly saccharine voice, reaching out to touch Bella on the arm.
"No, actually, I-" Bella started before Emmett cut her off.
"We just need to use the phone for a minute. I'm sorry to cut this short, but we're kind of in a hurry." Emmett smiled at the smaller girl, who narrowed her eyes in return.
"Sure, okay," she replied. "Bye, Izzy! I'll see you around," she called out as she headed toward her own office.
Confused by Emmett's actions, Bella turned to him and arched an eyebrow. "What was that about?"
Emmett shrugged apologetically. "She was creepy and touchy-feely. Plus, we need to call your boys before one of them have an aneurysm."
Bella shook her head and chalked Emmett's observations up to paranoia.
Not ten minutes after hanging up with Edward, her knights-in-shining armor walked into the reception room, and she was swept into her boyfriend's arms.
"Damn it, Bella," Edward whispered in her ear, "I was so fucking scared when we came out, and you two were gone."
She fisted his shirt tightly, tears threatening to spill as exhaustion hit her.
"I'm sorry," she choked out.
After a few moments, they pulled away from each other. She glanced at Alistair and cringed slightly at his imposing stance. His arms were crossed and a scowl marred his face.
"Al," she greeted him nervously.
His scowl melted into a reluctant smile. "I knew you were trouble the first time James called me about becoming your bodyguard."
She smiled sheepishly and lightly shrugged. "I'm sorry, we just panicked."
Alistair shook his head and chuckled. "I can imagine." He eyed her speculatively before continuing. "I'll take the blame for today, though. I never should've let you out of my sight. It won't happen again."
Bella immediately felt guilty. "It wasn't your fault," she argued. "I begged you guys to let Emmett stay with me. The blame is mine."
Alistair rolled his eyes. "What do you pay me for, Bella?"
"To be my bodyguard," she replied timidly, already knowing where his line of questioning would go.
"What is the primary goal of my job?"
"To protect me," she whispered, looking down at her feet.
Alistair sighed. He wanted to get his point across, not make her feel bad.
"Look, we'll put aside the blame for this one, but there won't be a next time." His voice was firm, leaving no room for question.
Bella looked up and met his eyes, nodding in understanding. "You have my word, Alistair. I won't go anywhere without you."
Alistair bit his cheek, holding back a smile as he held his hand out for Bella to take. She looked at his nearly closed fist, and then back at his face in confusion.
"You want me to pinky swear?" she asked incredulously.
Her bodyguard grinned and nodded. "Absolutely. Someone once told me that a pinky swear was unbreakable."
He closed his eyes briefly, and a sad look crossed his face. He quickly masked it and wiggled his pinky finger at her.
"Come on, I don't have all day."
She cracked a smile and hooked her finger with his. "Pinky swear," she murmured.
The next day, Bella and Edward were lounging lazily in bed when her phone rang. She sighed at seeing Tanya's name, reluctantly answering.
"Hi babe," Tanya returned cheerfully. "Can you come down to the office today so we can go over some scheduling issues?"
Bella groaned lightly, causing Edward to look at her in concern.
"Can this wait until tomorrow or something? I really wanted to spend the day with my family."
She gazed into his green eyes and suddenly felt apprehensive, not knowing when he was planning on returning home. She'd shied away from asking him point blank, and now she was kicking herself for not getting the conversation over with.
"Look, Izzy—I'm sorry, Bella," Tanya caught herself. "This should just take an hour. It's important that we get everything squared away today."
Bella sighed and agreed before hanging up with her agent. She flopped onto her back and covered her eyes with an arm. Edward stroked her arm lightly.
"What's wrong, Princess?" he asked, his voice tinged with concern.
She uncovered her face and gave him a sad smile. "I'm just frustrated and disappointed. Tanya wants me to come into the office today, and I wanted to hang out with you guys." She swallowed the lump in her throat and pushed through, determined to be open and honest with him. "Plus, I have no idea how long you'll be here, so I don't want to waste a minute."
Edward smiled warmly and cupped her cheek. "I've been waiting for that."
She shot him a confused look. "What are you talking about?"
He leaned down and kissed her softly. "I was waiting for you to ask how long I'd be staying."
"Well?" she asked, after he remained silent. "You're killing me here."
He grinned. "I'm still waiting."
"You ass," she laughed, slapping him lightly on the chest.
He leaned back and rested against the headboard, stretching his arms out across the top. "What? You can't always wear the pants in this relationship."
Sensing a grain of truth in his jesting, she sat up and faced him. She reached down, playing with a loose string on the comforter as she carefully thought through her words. When she was ready, she looked up and met his inquisitive gaze.
"I'm sorry," she murmured softly. "I never meant to hurt you."
Edward sighed and reached for Bella, pulling her into his lap. "I know you are. I'm sorry I made you feel bad; I was just trying to make light of it."
She framed his face with her hands and kissed him passionately. She pulled back, leaving both of them slightly breathless, and laid her head on his chest.
"When are you leaving?" she asked softly, afraid to hear the answer.
"I made arrangements for a two week visit," he replied quietly.
Bella closed her eyes, sadness filling her chest at the realization that she only had about a week and a half left to spend time with him.
"Okay," she whispered hoarsely. She didn't know she was so upset, it wasn't like she didn't know he was only there temporarily.
He gently stroked her hair. "That changed the day after I arrived."
She looked up at him in surprise. "What do you mean?"
He smiled sadly. "I couldn't leave knowing that someone was watching you, potentially waiting for the right time to get to you. So I'm here indefinitely or until you send me away. Although I doubt even you sending me away would actually make me leave."
Her heart pounded furiously, and she straddled his waist. "I'd say I'm sorry, but I wouldn't mean it."
His hands tangled in her hair and brought her mouth close to his. "Good. You should always say what you mean and mean what you say."
Two hours later, Alistair arrived to pick up Bella for her meeting with Tanya. He sat and idly chatted with Mac as he waited for her to finish getting ready. Alistair looked up when Bella came barreling down the stairs, securing a hairband to the end of her wet, braided hair. She slid her phone into her pocket and went to grab her purse, when she noticed Emmett watching her, looking like someone had kicked his puppy.
She walked over, sitting next to him on the couch, and touched his arm.
"What's wrong, Shaggy?" she asked.
Emmett shook his head and looked at his feet. She sighed and leaned back.
"C'mon, Em," she cajoled. "Don't make me break out the purple nurple."
Her cousin let out a chuckle before letting out a sigh of his own. "I feel a little bad about yesterday."
"Oh, Em," she whispered. "You did the best you could."
He snorted and looked back down at the floor.
"I'm serious," she continued. "You were the one who got us away from the crowd and into the alley. You were also the one to pretty much shield me until we got to Tanya's office. Shit happens. We're fine. Don't beat yourself up."
He smiled. "If our situations were reversed, wouldn't you be a bit emo about it?"
She shrugged. "Nah, probably not. I'd say it was your own damn fault."
Emmett laughed and pulled her into a hug. "Thanks, Scrappy."
"Anytime, Em," she replied as she squeezed him tightly.
She stood and walked over to where Alistair was waiting at the door.
"Ready?" he asked.
She smiled and nodded. "Yeah, let's get this over with."
"Bella?" Emmett called.
She turned and saw him standing next to the couch.
"Be careful," he replied solemnly.
"I will." She gave him a reassuring smile before leaving the house.
For the entire fifteen minute ride, as well as the trip up to her agent's floor, Bella pestered Alistair with knock-knock jokes. He rolled his eyes at a particularly terrible one she'd made, just as the elevator doors opened.
"You really need some new material," he teased.
She shook her head and laughed, leading the way to Tanya's office.
"So, what you're saying is that I'd never make it in late night?"
Alistair laughed. "Nah, you'd be fine. As long as someone wrote your jokes for you."
Bella pinched his side lightly just before they stepped into the waiting room. The receptionist looked up and smiled, unabashedly eyeing up Alistair.
"You can go right back," she spoke, sultrily, batting her eyelashes. "Tanya's waiting."
Alistair shot the girl a grin and winked as they walked past.
"You're such a flirt," Bella remarked with a giggle.
Tanya greeted them both with a hug before jumping straight into business. Alistair took a seat in the back of the room and played with his phone for the hour that the ladies spent talking and going over details. It suddenly vibrated, and he was going to let it go to voicemail, but then he saw the number was Bella's house.
"Excuse me, ladies," he interrupted, flipping the phone on and pressing it to his ear. "Treem," he answered briskly.
Bella realized right away that the call must have been important, or else Alistair wouldn't have taken it. She watched his brow furrow as he spoke in hushed tones, barely making out a curt 'yes' or 'no' response.
"I'll be right there," Alistair replied hurriedly, snapping his phone shut.
He stood quickly and walked over to squat down directly into Bella's vision.
"That was Edward," he said hastily. "There was some issue at the house, but it's under control. I'm heading over there to help out. Do not-" He paused for emphasis. "Do not leave this room or Tanya's side until one of us comes for you."
Bella's eyes widened, and she immediately began to protest. "But, Al-"
"No," he replied firmly. "Please, Bella," he pleaded, "just do as I ask. I can't do my job if I'm worried about you. Will you please promise to stay here?"
She swallowed nervously and nodded. She wanted nothing more than to follow him home and find out what was going on, but she'd made a promise to the people she loved that her safety would be her foremost thought.
"I'll stay here, Al. I promise. Don't keep me in the dark, though please," she practically begged.
Alistair smiled. "I promise. I'll call you as soon as I know for sure what's going on."
After he'd left the room, Bella turned to Tanya and sighed. "Well, looks like you're my babysitter today."
Tanya gave her a sympathetic smile and shrugged. "Hopefully, this will all be over soon," she said in a soothing tone. "Let me see if I can get Jane to bring us something to drink."
Fifteen minutes later, the perky blonde walked in with two Starbucks coffee cups.
"Here you go, ladies." She turned to Bella and smiled brightly. "If you need anything else, just let me know."
After she'd left the room, Bella turned to Tanya with a raised eyebrow. "Can you say creepy?"
A concerned look crossed over her friend's face. "That was..." Tanya paused momentarily, "odd. I've never seen Jane act that way before. Very str—"
Bella jumped from her seat and over to Tanya's side as the older woman started to slump down in her chair. Her eyes fluttered for a minute before closing completely.
"Tanya!" she called out, tapping the other woman lightly on the face. "Tanya? What's wrong?" she cried out.
She checked her pulse, finding it slow, but steady. Bella gently lifted one of her eyelids to see that her pupils were dilated and unresponsive. Panicking, she rushed to the door and out into the hall, looking for someone to help. Not paying attention, she ran right into Jane, almost knocking the shorter woman to the ground.
"Izzy," she said with a smile. "Is everything alright? You look flushed."
"No!" Bella cried, on the verge of freaking out. "Something's wrong with Tanya. She's passed out, and I can't wake her, and Alistair's not here. I promised him I'd stay put."
Bella's babbling ceased once she noticed the strange look on the other girl's face. Her eyes trailed down to where Jane's hand was playing with something in her pocket.
"J-Jane?" she asked, apprehension shuddering its way down her spine.
Faster than Bella could react, Jane whipped a small syringe from her pocket and sunk the needle deep into Bella's side.
Jane wrapped her arms around her as she slowly sunk to her knees, quickly becoming drowsy and weak.
"Jaaaane," Bella began to slur. "Wha've you done?"
She felt someone stroke her hair softly, as her eyes drifted shut of their own accord.
"Ssh," Jane whispered in her ear as she drifted into darkness. "It's all going to be fine, Izzy. I love you. I'll take care of you."
AN: Chapter song: #1 Crush by Garbage
On another note, I posted the first chapters of Accidentally in Love and Over My Head the other day. The response has been awesome. Both stories with start in January. I know it's a long wait, but once Rabbit Heart finishes, I have another story that's slated to be posted called The End Where I Begin. TEWIB is my first attempt at writing romance/humor and the best James ever ficced. ;-)
After that, I'm planning on taking a short hiatus in December to get ready/recover from surgery. I'll be back in January with AiL & OMH, which will both be fairly angsty to start off with.
Love you guys and see you with the review reply teasers, or next week in the case of you non-reviewers. =)