To say I'm overwhelmed at the feedback from Chapter 21 is a huge understatement! The amount of alerts/favorite's and reviews I got is unbelievable! Thank you to everyone.
I owe so much to my pre-readers MrsK81 and SparklyMeg and my amazing beta's Marly580 and Mauigirl60. They stamp out my comma error's and my Britishisms.
As always I have to say thanks to Pattinlethr who continues to be my rock.
So…there was A LOT of Bella hate last time…let's see what's happened now…
When I arrive at the club, I decide that I have nothing to say to her—for a little while at least—so I turn my phone off, fighting every urge to turn it back just to see if she's contacted me. As far as I'm concerned, I should have a phone full of texts and voicemails by now. She's the one who ruined our night; I had managed to take the whole day off work and plan our big night, and yet she had to go into the office.
Hours later, I'm unable to forget what happened. I'm still pissed off and can't seem to focus on my work. The only good thing is that it's Saturday and, therefore, busy, making the time pass relatively quickly. As much as I try to get forget this disastrous night, I can't seem to just focus on my work.
Kicking the cellar door open with more force than necessary, I make my way over to the kegs. I quickly change them, pick up some stock for the bar, and go back upstairs.
Since I'm not meant to be in tonight, there isn't really much for me to do. I've been floating between bars, helping out if needed, and working the floor when the glass collectors seem to be lagging behind.
I approach the section of the club Riley is working tonight and put the new stock on the floor behind the bar.
"Thanks, Edward. You definitely saved me a trip later." He reaches down and starts unloading the stock.
"Any time. Do you need anything else?"
He shakes his head. "Nah, I'm good. I think your brother was looking for you, anyway."
"Did he say why?"
"Nope, but he told me to send you to the office when you got back."
"Okay. Well, see you later, I suppose."
He nods his goodbye as he starts serving the next customer.
I enter the office to find my brother leaning back in his seat, looking the perfect picture of ease. His arms are folded behind his head as he leans back as far as he can without tipping over, his feet resting on his desk.
I chuckle at his relaxed posture. "Don't exert yourself or anything, man."
He opens one eye, smiles, and then closes it again. "Just enjoying the fruits of our labor. Isn't it great? A Saturday night—a busy one, no less—and yet we've been so successful, we can sit back and relax while our manager runs the place."
"I have to agree with you there, it does feel good. So, you were looking for me?" I take a seat at my desk and mirror his position.
"Yeah. There's no need for two of us to be here, so why don't you head on home? You might be able to salvage some of your night with Bella."
"There's nothing to salvage, Em." No longer relaxed, I bring my feet down and lean forward, resting my elbows on the desk.
"You're not even going to try?"
I shake my head, resigned to defeat. "I did my part. I took the day off and organized our date. It was Bella who ruined it by going into the office and not coming home."
He holds up his hands in mock defense. "I'm not saying what she did was right, especially since you guys had organized this so far in advance, but you could be making the most of a night off instead of moping around here."
"I'm not moping," I snap.
Emmett points his finger at me. "'Course you aren't."
I sigh. "I'm still angry at her, Em."
"Look, I know this isn't what you want to hear right now, but I'm sure Bella had her reasons—"
"What?" My eyes snap up and meet his. "You're kidding me, right?"
He shakes his head. "I'm not saying I can't see it from your point of view, because I do. But we both know Bella—she wouldn't have cancelled if it wasn't important."
"I know you wouldn't do that to her. Now."
"What do you mean, now?" I ask.
"Think back to this time last year, how busy were we with the club?"
I don't answer, but my silence speaks volumes—I know exactly how busy we were. Around the time of the opening, we were pulling nothing short of twelve-hour shifts and we didn't take days off. If I had been dating Bella back then, it was likely that I would have cancelled on her.
I sigh dejectedly. "You're right."
He grins at me. "Of course I am." I can't help but laugh at him.
"Look, I know you're angry about this all, but when shit like this goes down, you need to talk it out with her. You guys have enough going on with the stalker; you don't need to be creating more drama."
I smirk at him. "Since when did you get so wise about relationships?"
"Have you seen who I'm dating? I had to learn my lessons pretty quickly," he laughs, shaking his head.
We fall silent as I think about what he's said. I really only came to work to take my mind off things and to work off some of the anger, and that seems to have worked. I might still be a little bitter about it all, but I'm nowhere near as annoyed as I was.
"I know you didn't get your dream night tonight. But for what it's worth—when you do tell her, she'll say it back to you."
I roll my eyes at him. "Whatever."
"Listen to me, before you go and fuck this up by acting rashly. For some reason, that great girl loves your stubborn ass, but she knew you needed time to deal with your trust issues, so she never said anything. Stop finding excuses not to say it to her whenever something comes up. Otherwise you're never going to say it, and you'll lose her." He pats me on the shoulder. "You're going to have to man up and say it first."
He stands up, pushing his chair back forcefully. "Lock the door when you leave."
I watch him leave, wincing as the door slams closed behind him. I've watched the relationship between Bella and Emmett develop over the last few months, so this recent outburst doesn't necessarily surprise me. He has always liked her, but ever since the stalker made an appearance in our lives, he has effortlessly slipped into the role of the protective older brother. It would have been good to see if I hadn't just had my ass handed to me.
Today was a total disaster. My first mistake was answering my phone when I saw Angela's name light up the screen. I've come to realize she's not one for socializing outside of work—since she never leaves the office—so I really should've known better.
It only got worse from there.
Since the "breaking news" is included in the entertainment section, it was only Angela, Victoria and I who were called in. Lucky me. When I arrived, both Alec and Angela were already driving themselves crazy.
At the start of the day, I was optimistic I would be home by lunchtime. By lunchtime, that optimism had faded slightly and by six o'clock, I knew I was going to be dealing with a pissed-off boyfriend.
My heart sinks when I come home to an empty apartment. I know Edward is upset with me—I've been expecting a yelling match, and then maybe the silent treatment—but I still thought he would be home waiting so we could talk things through.
I check my phone—even though it's remained silent since he hung up on me hours ago—but I haven't missed any texts. There isn't even a note waiting for me anywhere.
Feeling dejected, I dump my stuff in the bedroom, change into my pajamas and make my way through the house, in search of some food. The cupboards and fridge don't hold much interest; I half-heartedly pick out enough to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Finally, after what feels like the longest day ever, I take my pathetic dinner and head over into the living room.
After I've finished eating, I feel restless. It's after ten-thirty, and I haven't heard anything from Edward. I don't know where he is, who he's with, or when he'll be back. Normally it doesn't bother me, but after our argument today, I really want to see him and clear the air.
I've given up trying to call him. There are only so many times I can hear his voicemail without starting to get pissed off—and worried. Deciding that it will only lead to a wild goose chase if I go looking for him, I stay in the apartment, knowing that he has to come back eventually.
Resigning myself to a night on the couch alone, I grab my duvet from the bedroom and make up a bed in front of the TV and turn the lights out. Tonight calls for girly movies, alcohol, and popcorn.
The room is in darkness when I wake up a little while later, with only the glow from the TV lighting the room. Some movie is playing quietly in the background, long ago forgotten as I drifted off to sleep. I blink a few times, confused as to why I've woken so quickly. My heart is pounding in my chest, and I know something must have startled me. I didn't wake up slowly. I didn't need time to let my eyes adjust to the dark.
Something made a noise loud enough to wake me.
I glance down to the floor, where Jake is lying beside me. He's awake, his ears perked forward as he focuses on the living room door. His tail is wagging, slowly thudding against the coffee table leg as he waits.
Whatever it is, it's clearly nothing to worry about.
I unravel from my blanket as the hallway light comes on. My heart slows down as I hear the unmistakable sound of Edward locking the door. Only he has that many key rings attached to his keys—you can hear him coming a mile away.
As Jake jumps up to welcome him home, I stretch before getting up to meet him. We left everything so up in the air earlier, both of us disappointed and pissed off at how our day had ended.
He's there by the time I reach the doorway, watching me warily.
"Hey," he says quietly, his eyes searching my face.
"Hey," I murmur. I hate this. Both of us are unsure, making the atmosphere awkward and uncomfortable—something we have never been. Jake rushes around Edward's feet, begging for attention as I watch Edward carefully.
His whole posture screams defeat and my heart breaks slowly, knowing I caused it. His eyes are wary, his jaw tight and tense.
"Where were you?" I ask.
"Work. I needed the distraction." His answers are short, his tone flat.
I glance at my watch. If he was working he should still be there for another few hours at least… maybe he wanted to see me?
"Oh, well, you're home early."
He nods slightly. "Emmett made me leave. He said there was no point in me being there."
Ouch. Maybe not.
"Listen, Edward, I—"
"It's been a long day for both of us, Bella. We should go to bed and talk in the morning." He looks in my direction, without actually looking at me. For the first time ever, he refuses to meet my eyes.
"Talk?" A million different scenarios play through my mind—most of them ending with me leaving this apartment, suitcases in hand.
He frowns. "You don't think we should talk about today?"
"Yes, of course I do." I rush to agree. "We can't talk now?"
He shakes his head, turning away from me and walking towards our room. "I need to sleep on it, Bella. If we talk now, I might say something I regret."
And with that, he disappears, leaving me speechless in the hallway.
Tomorrow it is, then.
I wake up alone in bed. It stings, but the blow is not completely unexpected. Last night was nothing short of awkward. There were no sweet whispers before drifting off to sleep, no waking in the middle of the night to find he'd stolen the covers, and definitely no cuddling. Even with Edward lying so close to me, I'd never felt so cold.
With flutters in my stomach, I pull myself out of bed and leave the bedroom. I don't think I can eat breakfast—the thought of the upcoming conversation with Edward is enough to make me want to puke—but I know I have to face him. And, the sooner, the better.
Slowly, I make my way down the hall. I can hear the low buzz of the TV, which means the living room is my first stop. The butterflies in my stomach get stronger as I think about what's waiting for me. It's the unknown that has me on edge. Will he still be pissed at me? Have I pushed him away before we had the chance to even really get going?
As I approach the living room doorway, an excited Jake greets me, circling my feet and begging for attention. Edward looks up from his space on the couch to see what has caused Jake to leave him, and then turns back to the TV.
His silence speaks volumes. This is my fault, and I have to take the first step. I linger in the doorway and decide to break the ice first. "Hey."
The awkward silence consumes us again.
I glance at the clock. "You're up early." Considering that he put in a few hours at the club last night, I thought he would sleep a lot later.
"Yeah, I uh…I couldn't sleep and I didn't want to keep you awake." He briefly glances at me, his eyes meeting mine, before quickly looking away.
"Um…okay. Well, thanks, I obviously needed the sleep." Although this is early for Edward, it's a lot later than I normally sleep.
I fidget in the doorway, eager to continue the conversation, but unsure what to say.
"Um…I haven't made breakfast yet. I wasn't sure if you'd be hungry," he says.
"It's okay, I can do that. What do you feel like?"
He shrugs. "I'm not picky. Whatever you're having will be fine." He leans back in his seat and rests his feet on the coffee table. Just like that, I know the conversation is over for now.
Today is a far cry from our usual laughter-filled mornings. There's no music playing in the background in the kitchen, no funny stories from his shift the night before and—worst of all—no touching.
Normally, we drift toward each other. Tentative fingers brushing thighs, arms wrapping around waists and eager hands wandering. This morning, the distance between us—physically and emotionally—is fierce.
And it's my fault.
It's only this morning, after a night's sleep and time to think things over, that I can see just how much I'm in the wrong. Going into work in the first place, when we had plans, was my first mistake. Staying later and missing our night altogether was the second.
Last night, I was so sure he was overreacting and blowing things way out of proportion. Now that I've thought things through and can look back on it from his perspective, I know his anger is justified. If the shoe had been on the other foot and I was sitting at home waiting for him, I would be in the same foul mood.
Determined to lift the mood between us—and to help me apologize—I decide to make more of an effort with breakfast and cook some pancakes. It's a far stretch from our usual toast and cereal, but after the disaster of last night, I feel like I have some groveling to do.
With a bit more of a bounce in my step, I leave Edward in front of the TV and make a start on breakfast. I turn the radio on, desperate to break the silence.
Thankfully, we do have all the ingredients for blueberry pancakes. I just pray that the milk we have hasn't expired.
As I open the fridge door, my heart drops to my stomach.
A half-finished bottle of champagne sits in the door, and what appears to be a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries sits on one of the shelves.
Leaving the fridge door wide open, I grab the milk and sit down at the kitchen table. Champagne and strawberries are definitely not things that have a permanent home in our fridge, so I know these are the remains of what was supposed to be our date last night.
No wonder he's so pissed at me.
This wasn't some random night to him. He asked me to specifically keep the day free so he could plan a surprise for us and even took the day off himself—on one of the club's busiest nights. Since the club is still new, something like that is a really big deal. Edward had clearly put a lot of thought into our date, and for the first time in months, it was a chance to put us first. No work, no drama, just us.
If he made the effort by getting champagne and strawberries, then who knew what else he had planned.
"Shit," I murmur, leaning forward, resting my head on the table. After all the things we've been through, I can't believe I passed on such an important night without as much as a second thought. I had never even considered how it would make Edward feel.
"What?" My voice is muffled against my arm.
"What are you doing?"
I look up from my spot at the table to see him standing at the kitchen door. "I said, I'm wallowing." I lean my head back on top of my arms on the table.
"Saw the date stuff, huh?" His voice sounds closer to me, but I still refuse to move. The chair next to me scrapes along the floor and I feel him sit down next to me.
We sit in silence for a few minutes and I try to find the right words. I sit up and turn to face Edward, who is watching me intently.
"Edward, I'm so sorry." I reach forward and take one of his hands in mine, my thumb running softly over his knuckles. I focus on our hands, unable to look him in the eye just yet. "I shouldn't have even gone into work yesterday, never mind spend the whole day there. And, I definitely shouldn't have cancelled on you." I pause and he squeezes my hand reassuringly. "I was just worried since I messed up an article and then missed the meeting that I needed to prove myself and get back in Alec's good graces. I let it get too important, more important than us, and I shouldn't have done that."
I gesture to the fridge. "I felt bad knowing you had planned a date night, but seeing it—the strawberries and champagne—makes me feel even worse. You really went all-out, and I ruined it."
"Bella." He waits until I bring my eyes up to meet his and smiles sadly. "Don't forget the petals and tealights."
He nods at something over my shoulder. I turn and groan when I see what he's pointing out. There, on one of the kitchen units, is a disarray of tealights and a bowl, which I'm sure holds the petals he mentioned.
"Oh, my God," I murmur, trying to tug my hand from Edward's. I give up when he continues to grip mine tighter. "I'm so sorry, Edward. I really didn't mean to ruin everything."
"I know you didn't." He grasps both my wrists, pulling me gently toward him. I take the hint and sit sideways on his lap. "I'm sorry, that was a bad attempt at me being funny." He tightens his arm around me as our bodies mold together. He softly kisses my forehead before resting his chin on top of my head.
It's such an intimate moment, and in light of the rocky twenty-four hours we've just shared, it's just what my body craves.
"Thank you for apologizing," he says quietly.
"Thank you for letting me," I whisper. "I didn't think you were going to, you seemed so mad."
He sighs before answering, "I was. Last night was something I was looking forward to and I had this big night planned, yet you treated it like it was no big deal. We hardly get any time together, and when we finally do, you were okay passing on it and spending even more time at work." He sighs again. "I just needed to cool off a bit before we talked."
I remain silent; there are only so many times you can say 'sorry' before it sounds like you don't mean it.
Suddenly, I have an idea—one that I'm hoping helps us forget about the disaster of our argument. He was so excited about last night—I'm determined to see the smile on his face again.
"Do you have plans today?" I ask with a small smile.
"No, Emmett thought I'd need the day off after our night." He pulls back from me, looking down at my face. "Why?"
"Well…could we have a do-over?"
"Yes!" I sit back on his lap, turning so I'm now straddling him. "We still have everything you had planned for last night, and neither of us have plans. Do you think we can do it today instead?"
He smiles and places a soft kiss on my lips. "It won't be exactly the same, but I can definitely work with what I have left."
"It won't be the same?" I ask, surprised.
"Not exactly, but we can still make it work."
I let him pull me close to him, but I can't just let it go.
"How much more was there?" I ask quietly. My previous relationships were nowhere near as serious as my one with Edward, and they certainly didn't treat me as well. To them, spoiling me was letting me take the first slice of pizza from the box. Champagne and strawberries is a definite step up, and to know he had more than that planned makes my heart plummet to my stomach again.
He remains silent, so I sit back up to look at him. "Edward?"
He meets my eyes and shrugs noncommittally, his face a blank mask. "It doesn't matter, Bella. Last night is over. Let's just forget about it and we can focus on the plans for today. Okay?"
His eyes are wary, and I know he's still hiding something from me. "Edward, just tell me, please."
He sighs. "You're not going to let this go, are you?"
I shake my head.
"Ugh…well, yes, there was more."
I wait for him to continue.
"The champagne and strawberries were just the start of the night. I organized a car to pick us up and take us to a restaurant in town." He leans forward and softly kisses me. "I know you're upset, and yes, it would have been a great night, but it's forgotten now. I got mad and you apologized, so let's just forget it and focus on today, please?"
As I look into his eager, honest eyes, I find myself agreeing with him. Part of me is ready to surrender, to wallow and kick myself for being so stupid and bailing on this beautiful man—but I can't. I may have messed up, but he's willing to forget it.
Last night was a total bust, but we have the whole day to ourselves and can easily turn this around.
My mind is speeding in a hundred different directions as I watch Bella leave the kitchen. I have an hour to set up the apartment, while she gets ready in the meantime.
It won't be the same as what I had originally planned, but I'm definitely going to give it a damned good try to make it just as special.
I quickly run to our room and change into the suit I had on last night—ignoring the sound of the shower, and therefore thoughts of a very wet Bella—before making my way back to the kitchen.
Last night I was sure our weekend was ruined. It just felt like some sort of sign. There I was, ready to show and tell her how much I love her, and she was happy to miss our night together without another thought. I was adamant it meant that she didn't feel the same about me.
Now, after taking the time to speak with her—instead of staying lost in my own negative thoughts—I see it was just a simple mistake.
When I arrived home last night, the regret on her face was as clear as day, and I knew then that she really was upset she had messed up our night. That's why I made the decision to go straight to bed. I was still pissed, and I didn't want to get into an argument with her and, no doubt, say something I would regret.
Now, Bella has come up with the great idea that we put last night behind us and focus on today. I get a second chance at our date and a second chance to tell her I love her. The anger and disappointment I felt earlier this morning are nowhere to be found. Instead, they're replaced with the best kind of anticipation and nerves.
Thankful that I didn't throw out everything from last night, I get to work.
I focus my attention on decorating the apartment once again. Similar to last night, I scatter the rose petals in the corridor leading from the bedroom toward the living room. In order to create a more romantic feel in the living room, I close all the blinds, dim the lights, and take the tealights from the kitchen, light them and set them up around the room.
Since I can't take her out for dinner like I had originally planned, I decide to cook a nice breakfast— including the leftover strawberries—and treat her to a picnic. I use some blankets from the hallway cupboards to create a little bed for us on the living room floor.
As I finish setting up, I notice there are a few tealights left over, and I use these to highlight a pathway in the corridor, showing Bella where to come and meet me.
Lastly, I grab two glasses and the open bottle of champagne from the fridge and make my way back to the living room.
Happy that I managed to create our own little bubble in such a short time, there is nothing for me to do now but sit and wait for her.
As I pour us some mimosas, I hear the bedroom door open and I know my time has finally come. A soft gasp echoes in the hallway as Bella sees the tealights and I smile in anticipation. She may say she doesn't need a grand gesture, but I'm sure she still appreciates the extra effort I made.
I wait with bated breath as Bella approaches the room. Her footsteps are soft, almost silent, and it feels like forever before she's finally standing in front of me. She's beaming, giving me confidence for what lies ahead. I take a few steps towards her, my eyes taking in her beauty.
Like me, she has also dressed for the occasion. Gone are the soft curls I'm used to seeing on a daily basis. Today, she's decided to straighten her hair, and my fingers are already itching to run through it. She's chosen to wear a knee-length, one-shouldered red dress that looks like it was designed specifically for her. My eyes follow each curve of her body before focusing on her legs, which lead to a pair of high-heeled black shoes that cause me to salivate.
I fully intend to see her wearing only those later.
I look up to see Bella watching me with a confident smirk. "Is that for me?" She gestures to the glass in my hand.
I close the distance between us and hand her the glass, which she readily accepts.
"This is amazing, Edward," she gushes as she looks around the room.
"You are amazing. You look stunning." I take her hand in mine, bringing it to my lips and kissing it softly.
"Thank you. I bought it to wear last night. I know technically it isn't nighttime, but…" She shrugs. "I thought I could still wear it." She smiles and our hands drop between us.
Neither of us let go.
"So, I've made a little picnic for us, if that's okay?"
It seemed like a good idea at the time—when I was up against a time limit—but now I feel stupid.
Her answering smile helps ease my nerves. "That sounds perfect, Edward."
I lead her further into the room where I've set up the blankets next to the strawberries and the bottle of champagne. Bella sits first, curling her legs beneath her before I take my seat next to her. The need I have to be close to her—to just touch her—simmers over and I sit as close as I can, my thighs brushing hers, relishing the fact that Bella leans into my body.
Conversation flows easily as we both seem eager to forget our disastrous date night. It's fully behind us, with both of us keen to focus on the present. We talk about everything and nothing. Her work comes up—albeit briefly—and I mention our jazz nights to her. Remembering my conversation with my mother, I pass on my parents' invite for lunch or dinner at their house, and we agree to plan something soon.
Our day flows perfectly, and I couldn't ask for anything better. The champagne does its job and helps settle some of my nerves, giving me a nice buzz in the process. Bella seems relaxed; her body is curled up against mine, and my arm's wrapped around her shoulder, keeping her against me.
Soft music from one of my jazz CDs softly plays in the background, the only sound in the room at the moment. Although the conversation has dwindled between us, it doesn't feel forced.
Watching Bella slowly work her way through the small bowl of strawberries has me more focused on taking her to bed than declaring my love for her.
Each strawberry has elicited a soft moan from her, causing my cock to harden in my pants each time. On more than one occasion, she has to use her tongue to gather some extra juice that's gathered around her lips, and I've just about come at the sight.
Every single time.
The smirk on her face tells me she knows exactly what she's doing.
"So, is there more to this date? Or will you be taking me to bed any time soon?" she asks.
I smile at the heat evident in her eyes. "Soon," I murmur, kissing her softly on the forehead.
She pouts. "Why soon? What's wrong with now?" Her hand moves slowly across my body, softly rubbing my hardening cock through my pants.
"I have something else planned."
"Something else? Edward, you don't need to—"
I cut off her protest.
"I love you."
There isn't a big declaration; there is no fanfare or fireworks. Just the two of us, alone together, enjoying each other. I didn't plan to just blurt it out, but I was overthinking things. Bella needs to know how I feel about her. It's as simple as that.
Her hand stills and she moves back from my embrace. She looks me directly in the eyes. "Say it again."
"I love you." Saying it the second time is definitely easier. I smile as a look of wonder flits across her face.
"Really?" She slides back over to me so our thighs are touching once again. "You really mean it?" she whispers.
I turn her so she is facing me fully. "Yes, Bella. I mean it." I take both of her hands in mine. Worried my declaration is too soon for her, I focus my attention on them. "I love you, so much," I murmur.
I have mere seconds to brace myself before Bella launches herself onto my lap. "Edward?" I look up and I'm met with Bella's beautiful smile. She brings up one of her hands to run her fingers up and down my jaw. "I love you, too."