The feedback on the last chapter was awesome – I was expecting some serious hate! Instead you all gave me your theories – thank you! You have no idea how much I loved reading and replying to them!
As always, huge hugs to my pre-readers MrsK1981 and SparklyMeg and my beta's Marly 580 and Mauigirl60. The support I get from these ladies is outstanding – thank you!
Pattinlethr continues to be my rock.
The pounding rain outside matches my miserable mood: dark, dreary and downright depressing.
My tears stopped long ago, but sleep never came. I spent the whole night tossing and turning on Rose's couch, my mind whirling a hundred miles an hour.
Although I didn't sleep well, I'm grateful I came here instead of going back to my empty apartment.
After driving around the city for what felt like hours, I had shown up at Rose's front door, a sobbing mess and in dire need of my girlfriends.
With one look from Rose, Emmett had left—not before throwing a sympathetic look my way—and then she'd called Alice.
I could tell they wanted to ask questions but, instead, they both begged me to tell them what happened as I cried on their shoulders. When it became clear I wasn't ready to talk, they let me sob until sleep took over.
Sleep didn't last long. Green eyes haunted my dreams, making sure that I didn't sleep for the last few hours. I'll never forget the look in Edward's eyes when I arrived at the apartment; they were flat and the sparkle was long gone. There was nothing I could say or do to change his mind.
I startle as Rose enters the living room, bringing me out of my Edward-induced daydream. "Sweetie, are you awake?"
I clear my throat. "Yeah."
Rose walks over to me and I look up to see her standing there with a concerned look on her face. Her hair is scraped back into a ponytail, and she's wearing her favorite pair of jeans with her garage t-shirt.
Waking up at Rose's reminds me of the harsh reality that I actually have to go to work today. The thought of it makes my stomach churn, but I know I have to face the real world. Although, curling up on the sofa and hiding under the duvet is definitely the more preferable option.
"How did you sleep?"
"Sorry, I know the couch isn't very comfortable…"
"No, the couch is fine, Rose." I pull myself up so I'm sitting. "I just couldn't turn my brain off."
She looks sympathetic as she hands me some water. "Here, take this."
"You ready to talk about it yet?" She pats my feet, and I move them so she can sit down.
I sigh. "I don't know what to say, Rose. It's over." My voice catches on the last word. .
Rose wraps her around my shoulder. "What happened?" she asks quietly.
Tears threaten to spill over as I tell her about last night. How coming home to find my stuff packed and waiting for me at the bedroom door was one of the most devastating things I've ever had to experience. How even though I tried to defend myself, he just wouldn't listen to me.
I could see it in his eyes. He'd made up his mind.
"There was no point in arguing, Rose."
"Maybe he just needs a little time."
I nod. "Yeah, maybe." I agree with her, not believing the words as they spill forth.
She pats my shoulder reassuringly. "Okay. Go grab a shower and I'll get you some breakfast."
She cuts me off. "You need to eat something."
And with that, she's gone.
I smile, once again thankful that I decided to come here last night instead of going back to my apartment.
Although spending hours under a stream of hot water and then hiding in bed for the rest of the day sounds like heaven, I know it's not feasible. I shower quickly, dry my hair and hunt for some suitable work clothes. Everything has obviously been thrown quickly into the suitcase, but I manage to find something appropriate.
I hear pots and pans banging as I make my way from the bathroom. The smell of toast and fresh coffee lures me into the kitchen, where I find Rose ready and waiting.
Rose points to a seat at the kitchen table. "Sit."
I do as she says, thanking her for the cup of coffee she hands me. I take a sip, enjoying the warmth as it spreads through my body.
She hands me my purse. "Here. It's been beeping like crazy since you got in the shower."
Right on cue, there's another beep, signalling a text on my cell.
"Well? Are you going to check it?"
Shaking my head, I put the phone back into my purse. "Nah, I'll deal with it when I get home."
"I don't like the idea of you going back there. Are you sure you don't wanna crash here for a while?"
I flinch, remembering how uncomfortable her couch is. "No, thanks. I have to go back there sooner or later."
"You'll be careful?"
"Of course. I got some new locks put on. I'll be fine, Rose."
She smiles softly. "Okay, well you know to call or text if you need me." She picks up her stuff. "I gotta go to work."
"Hold on, I'll leave with you. I need to drop my things home first."
She waits by her car as I grab all my stuff. I throw everything into the backseat and turn back to her.
"Thanks for last night, I really appreciate it."
I watch as she pulls away before I climb into my own car. To be honest, the thought of going back to that apartment scares the hell out of me, but I know now that I have to.
I tentatively approach my front door as Jake pulls on his leash. Any thoughts I had about someone hanging around are gone when I see how excited my dog is to return to his home.
As soon as I open the door, Jake takes up his resident spot in the living room, watching me with his beady eyes as I dump my boxes. I'm tempted to start unpacking now so I don't have to do it tonight, but another ping on my cell reminds me I don't have the time.
As I open my phone, I can't stop the tiny flicker of hope that creeps into my chest when I think it might be Edward contacting me.
"Thirteen missed calls?" I mumble to myself. "And four texts."
I open the most recent text to see it's from Angela, asking me urgently to call her.
My heart drops back to my stomach. Edward's already doing such a good job of forgetting about me.
Without focusing too much on it, I call Angela.
"Bella, where the hell have you been?" she answers, skipping the hello.
"Sorry. I got caught up." I clear my throat. "What's up?"
"Have you checked your emails?" she asks excitedly.
It's not something I've ever heard from Angela, so I rush over to the boxes and pull out my laptop. I cradle the phone between my shoulder and my ear and start up the laptop.
"I'm just trying to get into them now. What's going on?" My feet tap impatiently against the floor as I wait for the damned thing to start up.
"We're being sent away for our next article! You'll have an email from Alec; read that and then start packing," she squeals. "Call me back when you're all caught up."
I run out of the house, praying I've packed everything I need for this trip. I count off the mental check list as I throw my bag onto the backseat, before I climb into the front.
"California! Can you believe it?" Angela squeals. "Got everything?"
I nod, panting and trying to catch my breath. I don't think I've ever moved so fast in my life.
"I know, it's exciting!" I try to muster up some enthusiasm, but the look on Angela's face tells me it didn't work.
"You don't sound very enthusiastic. Is Edward mad?"
I flinch. "Not really…"
I think about telling her but change my mind. "I suppose I'm just nervous. I mean, a premiere is a huge thing."
She beams. "It is. But it's going to be great! Victoria's going to be so bummed she missed this!"
While Angela drives us toward the airport, I remain in a daze. I wasn't quite sure what was going to happen this morning when I opened my emails, but I definitely didn't expect to be told we'd be going to California for the rest of the week to report on a premiere. I had just under an hour to pack before Angela was waiting at my door to drive us to catch our flight. The next few days will be interviews with some of the stars of the film, and then we have the premiere on Thursday night.
Angela continues babbling, but none of what she says actually registers. I quickly fire off a text to Rose and Alice, explaining the situation and promising to call them later. They both seem excited that I have something to do to take my mind off things. It's what I need—my big break to show Angela and Alec that I can do this.
By the time we arrive at Sea-Tac, I've stopped feeling upset over Edward and have moved on to being angry.
I'm pissed that he made his decision before he even spoke to me. He let everything with Lauren cloud his judgment about our relationship, allowing everything to crumble that we'd worked so hard for. He let her cruelty and his insecurity ruin everything.
I startle, not even realizing we've parked, and Angela gets out of the car.
We check in for our flight on schedule and find a spot to wait in the departure lounge. I plan to read a book and lose myself in my thoughts until we're called to board, but Angela has other ideas.
"You okay?" she asks as she sits next to me. "You've been really quiet; you don't seem excited about this at all."
I'm not really ready to talk about this, least of all to Angela. We've gotten close over the last few weeks, but I still don't feel like I know her well enough to talk to her about man troubles.
"Yeah." I nod. "I'm okay, really."
"Is it Edward? You didn't seem happy when I mentioned him earlier."
I sigh. She's not going to let this go.
"I'm going to need wine if we're going to talk about this, Ang," I say softly. Everything is still so fresh, and rehashing it definitely requires something to take the edge off.
Her eyes are soft as she smiles at me sympathetically. "Things are that bad, huh?"
I huff a laugh. "Oh, yeah. Where's the nearest bar?"
"C'mon, I think we passed one earlier."
Without wandering too far, we find one and I take a seat as Angela goes to order our drinks. She returns minutes later with a chilled bottle of Zinfandel and two glasses.
I laugh, remembering the other night, and point at the bottle. "I'm only having one. I could barely function on Saturday!"
She giggles and pours me a glass. "Me either, but it was worth it. I've not had a night like that in such a long time."
I frown. "You don't just go out and chill with your girlfriends?"
She sighs and takes a drink. "I used to. Then I just got so caught up in work that my friends got sick of me cancelling on them all the time. We just drifted apart."
"Wow. I can't imagine my life without my girls. They've pretty much always been there for me. I mean, last night…"
Angela raises an eyebrow. "Yes?"
"Ugh! How do you do that?"
She shrugs and smiles. "You don't have to talk about it, but I'm here if you want to."
I nod. "Maybe later. Right now, I want to think about something - anything - else."
She nods, pulling out her notebook, and I laugh. This thing is seriously a work of art. She has different colored tabs coming out of the side and a number of different Post-it notes popping up at the top. I know from experience that the thing is color coordinated; she even writes in different pens to keep things clear.
She points her red pen at me. "Don't laugh. You know I can't live without this."
I take a sip of my wine, trying to hold back the laughter. "Okay, go. What's our plan of attack?"
We both sleep on the flight, although it has nothing to do with the wine, thankfully. We both stuck to our one glass and discussed the itinerary for the next few days.
A mixture of both exhaustion—from not sleeping the night before —and nerves about this upcoming job means I sleep straight through, waking up only when the stewardess taps me on the shoulder, asking me to put my tray up as we get ready to land.
Work becomes the subject of conversation as we go through security and wait for our luggage, and I'm glad Angela keeps the topic away from Edward. She still has a concerned look on her face, but seems patient enough for me to talk first.
Once we have our luggage, she brings out that god-awful notebook, ignoring my laugh, and walks toward the car rental company.
"There's a car rented for us?" I ask when the guy behind the counter is checking up on our booking.
She sighs and shakes her head. "Bella, didn't you read any of your emails?"
"Not really. I read the most recent one from you and Alec, telling me that you were picking me up within the hour!"
She just looks at me.
I sigh, exasperated. "What was I supposed to do? I was in a rush. It was either pack and be ready on time, or read all eight emails and be late. What do you think I should have done?"
"Good point," she says. She takes the keys from the car guy, and we head in the direction he points us in. "I take it you don't know either where we'll be staying?"
I shake my head. "I imagine some seedy hotel to keep the budget down?"
She laughs. "No, not quite. Alec wants to keep us happy and safe. All the hotels were either full or out of our price range, so we have a two-bed suite in Santa Monica."
"Yep." She points the keys at a car, which beeps. "Here, this is us."
"You're not shitting me? We're really staying in Santa Monica?"
She hands me her notebook. "Put this in the GPS and you'll see."
Sure enough, the address she wants me to put in comes up as Santa Monica.
"What's on your military-style schedule for the rest of the day? Do we have to work, or does that start tomorrow?"
She rolls her eyes, ignoring my insult. "Did you pack your bathing suit?"
I look at her and see that her smile matches the beaming one on my face.
This week just got a whole lot better.
The suite is amazing. I briefly consider asking Alec if I can be based out here permanently. My apartment back home could probably fit inside the kitchen here and there'd still be space left over. The two bedrooms are both huge, with walk-in closets and adjoining bathrooms, both leading out to the living room, which is spacious and homey at the same time. The best thing about it is the terrace, complete with two lounge chairs, that leads to the beach.
I'm in absolute awe as I take in my surroundings. Angela really wasn't lying when she said Alec liked to keep us happy and safe, something I'm thankful for.
"Ugh, it's such a shame we have to work tomorrow. I could quite happily spend the next few days here, just chilling and forgetting about everything back home." I stretch out on the lounger and take a sip of my water. "It's really beautiful here."
Angela is hidden underneath a big hat, which she has covering her face. Her answering "Mmm" tells me she's at least still awake.
My heart no longer flutters when I hear my cell chime. I once thought it might be Edward wanting to apologize—or at least talk—but as the day goes on and I don't hear from him, I resign myself to the fact that he doesn't want to speak to me.
"Is that Edward?" Angela asks.
I close my eyes, fighting the tears that well up at the mere mention of his name. It's an innocent question. If things were normal, then he'd be texting me; maybe telling me how much he misses me, how his work is going, or how he can't wait for me to get home.
"Umm…no, it's Rose. She's…uh…looking after Jake for me." I finish typing my reply to her, thanking her once again, before I put my cell under the lounger.
Out the corner of my eye, I see Angela sit up and turn to face me. She pushes her sunglasses up into her hair and puts her hat back on.
"Edward's not looking after him?" she asks softly.
My heart breaks again before I answer. "No. We…uh…broke up." I try to keep the tears at bay. I don't want to lose it in front of her. That can wait until I'm in the privacy of my own bed tonight.
"What!" she exclaims.
When I just shrug, she continues.
"Ugh…it's a long story. The short version is that he thinks I've done something that I really didn't, and he's being a stubborn ass about it. And since we left first thing this morning, I haven't been able to speak with him."
"Have you tried calling him?"
I huff. "Yeah. He's not answering my calls, and the few texts I've sent have gone unanswered."
"So…umm…what does he think you've done?" she asks.
I turn in my seat to face her. "He thinks I hooked up with Alec."
She looks blankly at me for a couple of seconds before she bursts out laughing. "Alec?"
I nod and can't help giggling a little as she starts another round of laughter.
"Are you serious?" she wheezes between laughs.
She giggles again before composing herself. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to laugh, but…ew!"
I shudder. "I know."
"What made him think something so stupid?"
I groan. I don't want to get into the conversation about the stalker, so I hope she won't ask too many questions.
"Someone sent him pictures of Alec and a girl who looks like me." I think back to them. "There were only a few, but they all appeared compromising."
"I don't understand. If they were clear photos, surely he could see it wasn't you?"
I snort. "You'd think." I lay back on the lounge chair. "They were all taken from a distance and were either of the couple making out or at least close together. There wasn't a clear one of the girl, but she has long dark hair like mine. I guess that automatically means it's me, huh?"
"But surely he'd know you wouldn't do something like that?"
"Ah, yes, that's where the issue of Edward's irrational jealousy comes in," I say sarcastically.
"He's jealous? Of what?"
I look at her pointedly.
I nod. "Yeah…irrational, I know. I thought he was getting better about it but, apparently, he isn't."
"Wow. Are you going to say anything to Alec?"
I nod; it's something I've been thinking about a lot today. "I will when we're home, it's not exactly something I want to bring up in an email. I mean, how would I explain that?
Hey boss, so my boyfriend thinks we're screwing around…can you tell him we're not?"
I roll my eyes, cringing at the thought.
"True. In person would be better." Angela takes a sip of her water. "It's so strange, though. Edward doesn't seem the type to get that jealous."
"Yeah, well we have his fabulous ex to thank for that," I mutter, inwardly cursing Lauren.
"She screwed him over?" Angela guesses.
"Majorly, and she continues to impact our relationship."
"I don't understand," she admits. "Why is he so adamant you would cheat on him?"
I shrug, thinking how I can answer this without launching into a whole new conversation about Lauren and whether she may or may not be behind this whole mess. "He's just insecure, I guess."
I cut her off. "So, what do you want to do for dinner tonight?"
She takes my hint. "There are a few places down by the beach we can check out, if you want?"
I smile gratefully at her. "Sound's perfect."
We gather our things and head back inside. As I make my way to my bedroom, she places her hand on my shoulder.
"I know you don't want to talk about it now, but I'm here if you need to vent."
"Thanks, Ang. I appreciate it."
After the disaster of last night, I was dreading this trip. Being away from Seattle, my friends and—most of all—Edward, sounded like the worst idea. I want girly time—full of tequila, chocolate and bad chick flicks. I want to curl up under my duvet and forget all about the photos. Most of all, I want to have the time to go and see Edward, since he's being a coward and avoiding my calls and texts.
After talking things through with Angela, I figure I can use this experience to my advantage. This is my chance to show them I'm the serious journalist I want to be seen as.
This break is exactly what I needed.
So we have Bella's view on things. What's your thoughts?